Thursday, July 05, 2007

...But McLaren's the Right Man for the Job

How amazing is it that the M's could start their road trip losing a series against the Royals, yet still gain a half a game in the division race? After a tough battle for a loss in extras, followed by a Feierabend meltdown for a complete blowout, McLaren had a tough job to do to inspire the troops to avoid the sweep.

Sure, a manager's direct effect on the win-loss totals is likely fairly low. But having a manager that players are excited about playing for might actually inspire the players to perhaps dig a little deeper and give a little more to contribute to the team's overall success. I'd bet that the players had some respect for Hargrove and liked him as a manager. But McLaren's been in there all along drinking a morning coffee w/JJ Putz during the winter, putting "Sisler" on tongue depressors as a makeshift bat holder for Ichiro's special bats, etc. That kind of relationship can help a coach or a manager help connect with his or her underlings so much better, and is more likely to motivate them even slightly to perform more to his/her expectations.

To me, that's huge. He's got the respect of the players, already, and as mentioned in Andriesen's article linked above, the coaches. That sort of thing is very important when transitioning from one manager to another. Especially in the middle of the season, during a winning campaign, with a decent shot of competing for the playoffs. Of course, this current situation, where the manager resigns during a winning streak and the team on a big roll, never happens, so having a guy like McLaren take the reins and make the transition seemless is very important.

From Baker:
McLaren got a post-game beer shower to celebrate his first win since taking over for Hargrove on Monday. Richie Sexson actually gave him a plastic sheet to cover himself and McLaren was allowed to remove his cap, glasses and a sling his arm has been in since shoulder surgery last week. He also got the game ball, lineup card and a bottle of Dom Perignon autographed by the entire team.
I could be wrong, but I would be very surprised if Hargrove got the same treatment after his first victory. Checking the PI archives from April 2005, I'm not seeing any such mention. Maybe it's unfair, since Baker's a n00b and a pretty darn good reporter, and the other beat writers, well, sucked back then, and we didn't really get access to this type of info. And maybe it's unfair to make the comparison between manager types, since Hargrove's always been a quiet, reserved type and McLaren took classes from Lou Piniella's charm school (and skipped his special education courses on how to properly flip out and get ejected). But I'm guessing it's no small thing that McLaren got a bottle of Dom Perignon autographed by the entire team.

It shows, ever so slightly, how the team feels about him. It shows, perhaps, too, that he's already won over the team. He's certainly won over Ichiro, whose latest comment, as LaRue reports in the Tacoma News Tribune, seems less enigmatic or philosophical than other comments Ichiro has made regarding the manager:
"We don’t know what the future holds for manager John McLaren," Ichiro Suzuki said. "But to be part of his first victory was emotional for all of us. I want to help him win a lot of games in his career."
With Ichiro in his corner, McLaren's got clear control over this team from the get-go. He'll keep them loose, but give them the leadership and motivation they need when things aren't going so well.

I don't know about you, but I'm most certainly excited about the Mariners now. I love the little insights that McLaren gives us on why he makes the moves he makes. Sure, we'll all probably second-guess him constantly. But at least we'll be a little more likely to understand the reason behind those decisions.

McLaren's a guy who, through the media, can connect with the fans, too. We haven't had a manager like that for awhile. That will go at least a little way to winning back fan loyalty. As will, of course, winning.

McLaren's gonna help that, too.

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