The 2013 World Series is nearing its climax, and that means that the most important part of the off-season for the 28 teams dying to get where Boston and St. Louis are now is about to get underway. Included in that group of 28 also-rans is, of course, the Seattle Mariners. Following 12 seasons without a trip to the playoffs, the World Series seems like a far off dream, but that doesn't mean that the club shouldn't look at those who have made it for guidance.
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|Hale interviewed with Seattle and Zduriencik in 2008.|
Seattle is in the hunt for their 19th managerial hire in franchise history and the third under the current front office. What profile are they looking for and who should they look at for guidance? Both of the World Series competitors -- the Cardinals, with Mike Matheny, and the Red Sox, with John Farrell -- made it to baseball nirvana this year even though they employ managers who are fairly inexperienced; Matheny leading his first baseball club of any professional level in St. Louis. The current regime in Seattle has gone with inexperienced guys in the past, too. But when the M's hired the recently departed Eric Wedge, one of the biggest selling points that they trotted out there for him being the right fit was that he had been there, done that, got the AL Central Champs T-Shirt. But the manager who General Manager Jack Zduriencik and the club originally hitched their wagon to was the inexperienced Wakamatsu, who they lauded as being well respected within the game despite being relatively unknown.
For every Piniella, Terry Francona, Jim Leyland or Clint Hurdle out there, there are as many or more instances of rookie managers getting the jobs. Recent managerial hires such as Ryne Sandberg getting the full-time nod in Philadelphia, Bryan Price with the Reds, Matt Williams (not yet confirmed) in Washington and on down the list just reinforce what we've always seen in the game -- teams often hire managers with no managing experience. Robin Ventura with the White Sox, Walt Weiss in Colorado and Mike Redmond with the Marlins were all new to managing, continuing the trend that has been around as long as the game itself. Baseball's current longest-tenured manager is the Angels' Mike Scoscia, himself brand new to managing when the Angels named him as the head man back at the end of 1999.
|Renteria, an MLB coach since 2008, played for Seattle in the late-80s.|
But the other way of doing things also exists as a path to success. The current Cardinals feature many players that played under Tony LaRussa, who led the Cardinals -- his third team -- to three World Series appearances and two titles in his 16 years in charge. Joe Torre returned greatness to the proud New York Yankees franchise by guiding them to six World Series appearances and four titles in an eight year span as his fourth managerial job. Bobby Cox returned to Atlanta for a second effort as their manager after nine years away -- four of those leading the Toronto Blue Jays -- and led the team to 14-straight 1st place finishes.
Throughout their history the Mariners have had managers with previous MLB managing experience lead them to a .467 winning percentage and a winning record in slightly more than one-third of the seasons they've managed. Those new to managing have guided Seattle to a .464 winning percentage and winning seasons in just over one-fifth of their campaigns. While Lou Piniella's name dominates the top of the record books for Seattle, rookie manager Bob Melvin took over in 2003 and led the club to their 2nd best win total in team history with 93. Don Wakamatsu's first foray into managing resulted in an 85-win season for the M's in 2009. And who can forget that it was Jim Lefebvre -- in his third year at the helm of his first job -- that led the franchise to it's first ever winning season back in 1991. Despite the slight edge in winning percentage to the experienced group here, only one manager in club history -- Piniella -- has ever had a winning record at the helm for Seattle.
So which profile is a better fit for this Mariners team?
|Wotus has 15 years of MLB coaching experience with the Giants.|
One of the real determining factors in answering that question lies in assessing the field. Wedge is obviously not coming back to Seattle, leaving names like Charlie Manuel, Manny Acta, Dusty Baker and Jim Tracy on the open market. The club is reported to have already interviewed a handful of candidates; the experienced Lloyd McClendon and Pete Mackinin along with newbies Chip Hale, Ron Wotus and Rick Renteria. The 54-year-old McClendon has served as the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers most recently, but he was the lead guy for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001 to 2005 when the team was in the midst of its worst years. Mackinin, 62, has had two interim stints at the helm of major league teams -- in Pittsburgh in 2005 and with the Reds in 2007 -- and was recently named as the new third base coach for Sandberg's staff in Philly. Hale, 48, is the bench coach in Oakland and has been a major league coach for the last seven seasons in Oakland, New York and Arizona. The Giants' 52-year-old bench coach, Wotus has been a coach on the big league staff with San Francisco since 1998. Renteria, who played in 43 of his 184 MLB games as a member of the Mariners, is now 51 and has been on the San Diego Padres major league staff since 2008.
|Lovullo is very popular, but the Red Sox are still playing.|
Seattle is also rumored to be very interested in speaking with Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo. Lovullo, 48, has been on Farrell's staff each of the three seasons that the latter has held an MLB manager's position. His name has been very prominent in all of the openings this fall and, obviously, he has yet to speak with any of the teams who have open positions as the Red Sox continue their pursuit of the title.
With the available names and those Seattle has chosen to speak with laid out above, it seems pretty clear that past managerial experience is not something that is high on Jack Zduriencik's list during this search. Wakamatsu didn't have it when Jack hired him, Melvin didn't have it when Armstrong and Lincoln agreed that he was the right hire to succeed Piniella. It seems clear that while Zduriencik likes men who exude a commitment to discipline to lead his teams, he will likely be wary of going down the road to the extreme as they did with Wedge because of the way that relationship ended.
The M's and Zduriencik can still make a good hire here, even if it isn't a splash with a big name. Remember, Bobby Valentine was a very popular name among fans before Wedge's hiring, and while every situation is different, Valentine's tenure in Boston was a circus. Baker is a decade removed from his "pitcher abuse" days in Chicago and is said to be an avid fisherman, but I don't see Seattle going that direction, either.
The two choices who I see as the best potential fits for this franchise at this time would be Hale and Lovullo. Both have experienced winning at the major league level with their current franchises and both seem to fall in line with the personality type which fits the Mariners' desires. They both, obviously, have dealt with the media as players and have been in clubhouses and dealt with the mysterious inner-happenings there, too.
Both also fit the profile of the trend of recent hires by successful clubs. And it is about time that Seattle try to follow in those successful footsteps.
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