Apr 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (23) walks back to the dugout during the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Cryptic or Confusing: Lloyd McClendon’s Odd Approach to Managing the 2014 Mariners


Lloyd McClendon remains a mystery. Sure, he had a rough stretch as the Pittsburgh Pirates manager in the early 2000′s, but that team was in serious rebuilding mode. He was a hitting coach for a team that sported the first triple crown winner in decades with 2 American League Championships to boot.

Then, on November 5th, 2013, Lloyd McClendon was named the new manager of the Seattle Mariners.

Fans weren’t necessarily thrilled about the hiring, but then again Seattle has yet to become a desirable destination for Major League managers. No one really knew what to expect from the second time skipper. Would he be a Sweet Lou: Throwing bases and turning cherry red and fighting for everything– important and unimportant– during the course of a game and a season? Or would he be like the resigned Eric Wedge: remaining quiet behind an array of facial hair stylings, twitching facially while making no decisive moves with the team?

Not a month into the season I can’t tell you exactly what kind of manager McClendon is.

The first week of Spring Training he vehemently defending Robinson Cano against accusations of being a lazy runner down the first base line on routine ground outs.

After the M’s signed and traded for Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, respectively, McClendon called first baseman Justin Smoak to tell him the job was his to lose.

He named Dustin Ackley his leftfielder in Spring Training. Why? Because that’s where the skipper said he wanted him to play.

McClendon looked to be a player’s manager, defending his boys, giving them opportunities to play, and showing them the confidence and the patience they needed to succeed.

Then a few befuddling things started to rise to the surface. Abraham Almonte– a fast but unproven centerfielder– was given the leadoff role day one of Spring Training and holds it today, 25 days into the season. He didn’t hit during the spring, and is now tied with Justin Upton for the MLB lead in strikeouts. The MLB LEAD, from  a leadoff hitter… yet there are no signs of McClendon moving the young, unproven player out of such a crucial position in the lineup.

Brad Miller, who handily won the shortstop job with a torrid spring, has been floundering during the season but remains in the 2-hole. He is striking out more than 25% of his at-bats.

And let’s not get started on the bullpen. McClendon has been treating Tom Wilhelmsen– affectionately called Choke by some– like a sure-fire thing and 8th inning setup man. Did he not watch film? Has he not seen scouting reports? Even the most casual of Mariners fans has seen the Bartender implode and lose all of his moxie and confidence over the last two seasons.

Why isn’t Danny Farquhar the 8th inning guy? Since when did he get relegated to a low-pressure situational reliever?

No, the injuries to the rotation aren’t McClendon’s fault, how could they be? (Unless…) However, he must have had a hand in putting Hector Noesi on the Opening Day 25-man roster. I don’t know what else needs to be said about that.

Even just a few days ago McClendon said he wanted to keep Ackley and catcher Mike Zunino at the bottom of the lineup for the whole season. Because he thought that was something they needed. Then, days later, he moved Ackley up to the 2-hole as if his previous words meant nothing.

What I can’t seem to figure out, is his game. His M.O. With a manager you want consistency– even if that consistency is Ozzie Guillen crazy. As long as you know what you’re getting.

But so far this season we, as Mariners fans, don’t know what we are getting. Is McClendon simply being cryptic while his plans and his influence are working their magic behind closed doors? Or is he lost and uncertain and unfit to be managing a rebuilding ballclub?

My best guess is that he falls somewhere in the middle. But after an 8-game losing streak, including 6 losses against two of the worst teams in baseball, I am not interested in playing the guessing game with McClendon’s approach.

Whether he knows what he’s doing or not, he better get his act together soon so the team can follow suit.

We knew this was going to be a brutal and formative April. And if it gets any worse from here, this team will be left for dead by the many fans who were so hopeful and excited after the first week of baseball.

But, hey, it’s a long long season.

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  • Jeff

    I have no issue with any decision LMc has made to this point.. quite frankly it reflects the reality of the roster. Who else is there to lead off on this team? You saw Ackley wet the bed in a few days at #2, and hitting barely over .200 is pretty decent for this squad, and his strikeout _rate_ isn’t much worse than other potential whiffers in a leadoff role. As for Bartender, his stuff is probably the best in the pen, but control wise he’s lost. LMc gave him a shot, but I suspect his role has been knocked down. It’s a new manager, give him a couple months to figure out his roster and their respective roles. This article is ridiculous.

  • Dave Erhardt

    I too can’t figure out why Almonte leads off and why he doesn’t play Saunders more. I hope the M’s and the manager better figure it out soon before it’s too late. It should help a little when Walker and Iwakuma get back; but the offense is in a shamble right now. I can see the M’s in 4th place in the division again.

  • kzka

    Hmm…it almost seems as if McClendon has a certain someone micro-managing his every line-up decision and is forcing him to be the fall-guy. Now who would do that? Jay-Z? But why? Well, conspiracy theorists, here’s why: The Yankees have thoroughly pwned our Scout Master/GM not once but twice. We all know about Pineda for Montero, but who did we trade for Almonte? Shawn Kelley, who is the Yankees current closer, sporting a 1.86 ERA and 4 saves already this young season. But why the intentional sabotage?
    Perhaps Jay-Z knows his GM days are numbered and he wants to get Almonte some ABs and generate at least a few stats to save face. Pineda/Kelley for a jelly doughnut/can of sardines certainly doesn’t look good for someone whose fallback profession is “scouting genius.” Like I said, conspiracies and most likely without a grain of truth, but what else is there to do being a Mariner fan in 2014?