SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners fired manager Lloyd McClendon on Friday after two seasons as new general manager Jerry Dipoto looks to bring in his own field boss.
Seattle announced the decision less than a week after the Mariners concluded a disappointing 76-86 season. Seattle started the year with expectations of contending in the AL West and reaching the postseason, but instead finished in fourth place in the division.
Dipoto was hired during the final week of the regular season to replace Jack Zduriencik and said he would take his time evaluating whether McClendon would return. McClendon was under contract for the 2016 season.
Dipoto said he has great respect for McClendon but realized in meetings this week and last that their baseball philosophies would not be the best match going forward.
“This was an opportunity to come into an organization and create a vision and I feel like this is the best way to do that,” Dipoto said.
The Mariners said hitting coach Edgar Martinez and infield coach Chris Woodward have been invited to remain with the Mariners staff. Pitching coach Rick Waits and coach Chris Prieto have been invited to remain with the organization in different roles. All other coaches on the major league staff will not return.
Dipoto said he wants a manager who is energetic, a good teacher and has experience in a major league clubhouse but previous coaching or managing experience isn’t necessary. And he has a few names in mind.
“I do. I’m not likely to share it anytime soon,” Dipoto said.
McClendon raised hopes of a turnaround in Seattle after the Mariners went 87-75 in his first season and missed the playoffs by one game. But Seattle could not sustain the success from the first season and, combined with Zduriencik’s firing, McClendon’s status was in doubt once Dipoto took charge.
McClendon was 163-161 in his two seasons with the Mariners and was the only black manager in baseball. Dipoto’s decision means Seattle will have its 10th manager — full-time and interim — since the club’s last playoff appearance in 2001.
“I look in the mirror every night and I know I gave it everything I had every day,” McClendon said on the final day of the regular season. “And, I said this earlier, my players gave me everything they had every day. Some nights it was good enough, some nights it wasn’t very good. But, the effort was always there.”
Dipoto came to Seattle after leaving behind a rocky relationship with the Angels and manager Mike Scioscia, who was already entrenched when Dipoto was hired in Los Angeles. Rather than try to force a relationship in Seattle, Dipoto will now be able to bring in someone he wants to work with, although he said the situation with the Angels didn’t play heavily into his decision with McClendon.
“I thought through all the different angles, the way the clubhouse would be affected, the way the organization would be affected,” Dipoto said. “I incorporated a number of people in making the decision and I’m comfortable with it.”
McClendon was well-liked by his players in Seattle, specifically Robinson Cano. But the success of the first season — when Seattle had a lackluster offense but outstanding pitching — couldn’t carry into the second year. Seattle’s bullpen regressed significantly, the offense slogged through the first half of the season led by the struggles of Cano, and the Mariners could never recover from a 2-9 homestand in late May and early June.
Seattle was McClendon’s second chance as a manager. McClendon was the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-05, going 336-446. Pittsburgh never won more than 75 games or finished higher than fourth in the NL Central during his tenure and he was fired in early September of the 2005 season.