The Mariners have employed a gamut of personality types to manage the club over the past four decades, ranging from tacticians (Darrell Johnson, John McLaren) and cranks (Dick Williams) to Clouseaus (Maury Wills, Del Crandall), to tyrants (Lou Piniella) and even one (Bob Melvin) who had a fear of clowns (coulrophobia). Seattle is in the market for its 16th skipper, 19th if you count the interims, the last, Daren Brown, in 2010.
Since Pinella departed in 2002 following a 10-year run (1993-02) with a winning record (840-711) and four playoff appearances, the Mariners have had six full-time managers and one half-season, interim manager (Brown). The six full-timers collaborated for a 792-858 record and no playoff appearances, a decay that sent 50 percent of their fans, based on average annual attendance, scattering to the wind.
When the Mariners locate their seventh manager since 2002, they will tie the Miami Marlins for most managers employed over the past decade.
Minnesota recently announced a two-year contract extension for Ron Gardenhire, giving the Twins the fewest managers in the majors since 1986 at three, including Ray Miller and Tom Kelly. By contrast, the Chicago Cubs have employed the most over that span at 17, soon to be 18 when the club hires a replacement for recently evicted Dave Sveum.
While the Twins have had three managers in 27 years, the Mariners will have more than twice as many in the last 10 after the most recent one, Eric Wedge, announced he wouldn’t manage the club again even if offered a five-year contract. Although the Cubs are about to hire their 18th manager in 27 years, the replacement for Sveum will only be their fifth in 10, two behind Seattle, as the following shows:
Teams With The Most Managers Since 2003
|Jack McKeon, Jeff Torborg, Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Redmond
|Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, TBD
|Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazilli, Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley, Buck Showalter
|Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, TBD
|Grady Little, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, John Farrell
|Tony Pena, Buddy Bell, Trey Hillman, Ned Yost
|Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons, Cito Gaston, John Farrell
|Frank Robinson, Manny Acta, Jim Riggleman, Davey Johnson
|Art Howe, Willie Randolph, Jerry Manuel, Terry Collins
|Lloyd McClendon, Jim Tracy, John Russell, Clint Hurdle
|Bob Boone, Dave Miley, Jerry Narron, Dusty Baker
|Bob Brenley, Bob Melvin, A.J. Hinch, Kirk Gibson
Consider the drastic nature of Piniella’s departure, ostensibly because he wanted to be “closer to home.” Piniella walked away from a franchise that had won 90+ games three times and made two playoff appearances in the three previous seasons in order to manage the Tampa Bay Rays, coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons (2001-02) and 90+ defeats in the three years before that.
It was not so much that Piniella wanted to go home as it was that he grew weary of working under Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.
That duo did not believe Melvin had the stuff to manage the Mariners, firing him one year following a 93-win season in October, 2004, after Lincoln famously said in June that year, “He’s our manager and we’re riding him all the way.”
Since leaving, Melvin has won three division titles, had two-runnerup finishes and been Manager of the Year in both leagues, 2007 for the Arizona Diamondbacks and 2012 for the Oakland Athletics. He’s got a shot to make it three Manager of the Year awards this season after leading the low-budget A’s (96-66) to another AL West title. Getting axed by the Mariners is probably the best thing that ever happened in Melvin’s managerial career.
Melvin’s successor, Hargrove, might be the smartest man to ever work for the franchise, given his good sense to quit with a 45-33 record during an eight-game winning streak in the middle of 2007. Hargrove no doubt figured that in Seattle it would never get any better.
It hasn’t. The Mariners have posted four 90+-loss seasons under four “permanent” and one interim manager since Hargrove left. Wedge, at least made the end of another lost season (71-91) memorable by saying he could no longer work for Lincoln, Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik.
“It got to the point where it was painfully obvious that I was just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said, declining to get into specifics. “We see things differently. We talked about it but it got to the point where I couldn’t continue to move forward.”
To that, we can add that anyone who sees things differently than Lincoln has a major chance at succeeding.
Zduriencik is seeking his third manager in five years. Good luck with that. It’s hard to imagine any competent, experienced manager wanting to cast his lot with Seattle, given Lincoln’s track record. Besides, Mariners fans will have to be suspicious of any new manager — or any hire — endorsed by Lincoln, who signed off on Bill Bavasi, the worst front-office hire in franchise history.
In an end-of-the-season interview with The Seattle Times, the 73-year-old Lincoln said he has no intention of quitting, insisting he wants to be around when the Mariners are good again — quite a statement from a man whose various hires haven’t developed an All-Star position player since Alex Rodriguez 20 years ago.
“I’m determined to get this thing turned around before I go to my grave,” Lincoln told The Times.
I’m sure he’s well-meaning and sincere. Unfortunately for local baseball devotees, Lincoln just doesn’t know how to do it and, worse, doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.