Jack Zduriencik’s hand-written list of managerial candidates had more than 60 names on it.
He assembled eight members of the Seattle baseball operations staff in a room and held a draft. Each member of the operations staff picked their top choice from the list of names. They went around until all the names were eliminated.
They dispersed. Each left with a list of names. They were supposed to research and build a case for their candidates. A couple of days later, they presented their arguments to Zduriencik knowing the new manager would ultimately be his call.
The list was down to 12, then 10. Meetings were held in Arizona before a final four made it to Seattle for another round of discussions.
Wednesday, Zduriencik sat in the main interview room at Safeco Field to introduce the third manager of his five-year tenure as general manager: Lloyd McClendon.
McClendon failed in one of the first things he set out to do as the new manager of the Mariners. He cried.
McClendon had told his old boss, recently retired Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, he wouldn’t do such a thing. But, before he reached the dais, tears filled his eyes.
There wasn’t much more emotion from McClendon the rest of the day as he presented his vision for the Mariners with stern, sincere statements.
“I respect my opponents, but I fear nobody,” McClendon said.
He’s from Gary, Ind., where, on Monday, a dead body was found in the trunk of a burned out car. That’s a harrowing synopsis of the strife in the city that produced McClendon.
During his introduction, there was consistent talk about toughness and work. McClendon, who was a hitting coach with the Tigers the past seven seasons and managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-05, will be taking over a team that had three rookies in its final-day lineup.
The Mariners’ offense, flooded with young players once again last season, fluctuated. Asked how to counter those waves, McClendon turned back to his basic tenet.
“You work, then you work some more, then you work a little bit more and you become a creature of habit,” McClendon said.
Three years ago, McClendon was interviewed for the managerial position in Seattle. The Mariners hired Eric Wedge instead.
This time, McClendon, who was also interviewed in Detroit to succeed Leyland, won the job.
He said he had no concerns that Wedge chose to leave or that he was the Mariners’ third manager in five years.
McClendon also said there was one thing in particular to like about the current Mariners roster.
“Felix, Felix and Felix,” McClendon said.
Staff ace Felix Hernandez is on the list of players McClendon expects to speak with soon. Unlike the prior two managers under Zduriencik, Don Wakamatsu and Wedge, McClendon will be going to the players to introduce himself.
His contention that it’s the players’ game, not his or anyone else’s on the staff, was a point McClendon went back to frequently. That’s why he will be piling up frequent flyer miles to Florida for a visit with youngsters Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. He’ll head to Arizona to check in with players who are working out there. Hernandez has a house in Bellevue, which should make that meeting the easiest to set up.
“Players first,” McClendon said. “I don’t want players to get out of their comfort zone. I think it’s my responsibility to go to them. If you want to call yourself a leader and a guy capable of leading young men, you better learn how to serve them. It takes some humility, some understanding and some patience.”
McClendon, 54, will start assembling his staff quickly. There are multiple reasons to do so. Four other managers have been recently hired, so they will be pursuing staff members. The winter meetings take place Dec. 9-12 in Orlando, Fla. The sooner a group is put together, the sooner the Mariners will move with continuity into the offseason.
With any manager, there are questions about his leadership ability. McClendon said he has that under control.
“When you talk about leadership, it should come from the top and that starts with me. In the clubhouse, hell, I’ll do all the leading,” McClendon said. “On the field, I need guys to hit three-run homers.”email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @Todd_Dybas