Starkey: McClendon earned second chance
By Joe Starkey
Published: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 10:40 p.m.
Lloyd McClendon still owns the “412” cell phone number he had when he managed the Pirates.
Not because he has any particular ties to the city, though he retains a fondness, and certainly not because the number approximates his winning percentage as Pirates manager (.430, through little fault of his own).
No, just because.
“I just never thought about changing,” McClendon said.
The same could be said of McClendon's approach to life, which should serve him well in his new job as manager of the drifting Seattle Mariners.
This is the man, remember, who tore first base out of the ground because he believed umpires routinely disrespected his Pirates. He will give his heart and soul to Seattle. Pieces of both still can be found at PNC Park if you look hard enough.
He will approach each day with bravado. He will mix authority with humanity. He will command respect.
McClendon knows a thing or two about hitting, as well, and if the Mariners find him some more players, he will win.
If they don't, he won't. He'll be jobless in Seattle.
That is true for every manager in baseball. Joe Torre was a joke at Shea Stadium managing the Mets. He became a legend at Yankee Stadium.
McClendon knows. Check the wisdom in this answer when I asked what he thought of the Pirates' resurgence.
“I think it was fantastic, and it proves what I've always said: You don't win the Kentucky Derby with donkeys. You win with Thoroughbreds,” he said. “They had some thoroughbreds.”
It's about time “Mac” got another chance. He never had a prayer here. His tenure (2001-05) was epitomized by the Aramis Ramirez deal — a move forced upon the Pirates because they couldn't keep their finances in order.
Spending the past eight years working for Jim Leyland — mostly as Detroit's hitting coach — bolstered his resume.
Like Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, McClendon has opened his mind to the wide world of analytics (it has advanced beyond the point where a computer program would advise batting Tike Redman third. Remember that?).
“With experience, you should get better,” McClendon said. “You're a fool if you don't.”
McClendon figured he might be in line to replace the retired Leyland, but that job went to Brad Ausmus. His next move was to interview in Seattle, where he'd lost out to Eric Wedge three years ago.
This time, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik hired McClendon, who was a player when Zduriencik was the Pirates' scouting director in the early 1990s.
The Mariners change coaches more than Pitt football. McClendon, 54, will be their seventh manager in six years, if you can believe that. He enters the fray with Leyland's words ringing in his ears.
“He taught me to love life, to not be afraid of anything, to never be afraid of failure,” McClendon said. “One thing he says: ‘If you're afraid to lose, you'll never win.' I understand and cherish that now.”
Though he inherits some talented 20-something arms, beginning with Felix Hernandez, McClendon also has a lineup riddled with question marks. The franchise is marked by volatility. Wedge quit late in the season and claimed he wouldn't have stayed even if offered a five-year contract.
McClendon has tremendous respect for Wedge, but he let out that familiar, hardy laugh when I brought up Wedge's remark.
“Let me just say this: I wouldn't believe everything you read in the paper,” he said. “Hey, it is what it is. I've always said: One man's loss is another man's gain.”
Where some might see Seattle's managerial post as a death sentence, McClendon sees it as a life raft. There are only 30 of these jobs on the planet. Mac finally has one again.
Here's hoping Seattle finds him some more thoroughbreds.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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