McClendon gets another shot in skipper's chair
Seattle's new manager patiently waits for seat to open up on the carousel
Lloyd McClendon never lost the desire to manage again.
He just wondered if he would get a second chance.
Wonder no more. The opportunity has come.
Lloyd McClendon is the new manager of the Seattle Mariners.
And it's a nice fit. It's a manager who feels he has learned from his past opportunity, ready to take a step forward, and a franchise very much in need of a strong managerial presence that can shake it out of the doldrums of the last decade.
The I's still have to be dotted and the T's have to be crossed in his contract, but the commitment has been made.
He was the first runner-up in Seattle when Eric Wedge was hired for the 2011 season, and he was a finalist when Don Wakamatsu got the job in 2009. He'd been interviewed this year to replace Jim Leyland in Detroit, where he served as hitting coach since '07, and he was interviewed a year ago by Miami.
Not that McClendon ever complained. He's dealt with what life has dealt him as long as he can remember, and he always has chosen to look at the bright side. Life hasn't been easy for McClendon. He grew up in the steel city of Gary, Ind., one of 13 children and the youngest of 10 boys.
He had his initial 15 minutes of fame as a 12-year-old, the star player on the Anderson Little League team that represented Gary in the Little League World Series. He is known to this day as Legendary Lloyd for his heroics in Williamsport, Pa. He swung at five pitches, and hit a home run each time. He was intentionally walked his five other plate appearances.
And nobody says it will be easy for McClendon in Seattle.
The Mariners have finished in fourth place in the AL West in eight of the last 10 years -- and there were only four teams in the division before the move of Houston from the NL Central for 2013. The Mariners have lost 90 or more games six times since 2004 and had a winning record only twice.
But then that's why the Mariners were looking for a manager, again. Seven managers have filled out the lineup card for Seattle during this decade of disappointment.
Now it is McClendon's chance.
He had one once before, with Pittsburgh. It wasn't, however, really much of a chance for success. McClendon was one of the six full-time managers who played a part in the Pirates' professional-team-sports-record 20 consecutive losing seasons.
His composite record in nearly five seasons in Pittsburgh was 336-446, a .430 winning percentage. But he was stuck in the middle of the decline of the franchise. He came after Leyland suffered four consecutive losing seasons -- a .445 winning percentage -- and left, and then four years in which Gene Lamont failed to have a winning season.
And it only got worse after McClendon was dismissed. Jim Tracy was there for two years, 135 wins in 320 games and a .417 winning percentage. John Russell went 186-299, a .384 winning percentage, in three seasons.
Even Clint Hurdle, who finally took the Pirates to the postseason this season and snapped the 20-year drought, saw the Pirates suffer second-half fades and compiled a 151-173 record his first two years in the Steel City.
It is reasonable to feel that McClendon will learn from his past experiences, including being reunited with Leyland in Detroit, working with an explosive lineup and playing a key part in the emergence of young bats to add depth behind veterans Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
The offensive aspect of the game is something the Mariners know has to be addressed, and having a manager with a hitting resume is a plus. The Mariners have had the lowest batting average in the AL each of the last five years, hitting .237 or lower in each of the last four.
The Mariners have a youthful base. By the second half of last season, seven of their nine regulars in the lineup were 26 or younger, including rookies at catcher (Mike Zunino ), second base (Nick Franklin ) and shortstop (Brad Miller ).
And he has a relationship with general manager Jack Zduriencik, who was the scouting director of the Pirates (1991-93), when McClendon was playing on a team that won three consecutive NL East titles. That was an edge he had over the four other finalists for the job -- Joey Cora, Rick Renteria, Tim Wallach and Chip Hale.
It's also something that Zduriencik didn't have with the two previous Mariners managers, Wakamatsu and Eric Wedge.
Having been on the job in Seattle for five years, and having seen the team suffer through losing seasons the last four years, Zduriencik knows his own job is being evaluated on a short-term basis now. It helps to have someone who will be on the same page in the dugout.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.