“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.”
-L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
If continuity is what Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are after, the search for the next manager may lead back to the clubhouse. Lloyd McClendon and Gene Lamont both have managerial experience in the major leagues, and Tom Brookens has managed across a few levels in the minor leagues.
Lamont and Brookens are both on the “wrong” side of 60, so McClendon’s combination of experience (six years at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates) and relative age (he’s 54 years old) may make him the top internal candidate.
McClendon, the current hitting coach, has drawn the ire of Tigers fas over the years for failing to magically turn any hitter from awful to great (except maybe Austin Jakson from 2011 to 2012), but I doubt any hitting coach can last even two years without a sizeable portion of the fan base thinking he’s terrible. But we as fans, of course, know nothing about what hitting coaches actually do or don’t do.
I’ll admit that McClendon doesn’t exceite me as a candidate, but that’s probably more to the fact that I’ve heard him actually speak only a handful of times in his eight years on the Tigers staff than an actual opinion of mine as to what his managerial style would actually be. The only thing I really know about his time as the Pirates’ skipper is this:
Other than that, I don’t really know how he would manage. His record wasn’t very good in Pittsburgh, 336-446 with the best finish being 75-87, but those Pirates teams weren’t supposed to be very good to begin with. We had similar concerns about Jim Leyland, who came to Detroit with a sub-.500 career record, but the 90+ losses he had suffered in each of his last two seasons (one with Colorado, one with Florida) didn’t stop him from winning 95 games and making a World Series appearance in his first year with the Tigers.
It feels odd that McClendon has been with the Tigers for eight years now, but I still have no feeling for how he’d perform if given the job. He was always the guy to take over when Jim Leyland would get ejected, but he would still be managing Leyland’s way under Leyland’s instructions. I don’t get a sense that he would be any sort of new wave analytical saber champion, but maybe that’s not really what this team needs.
The players know him and he might be inclined to keep much of the staff together – so continuity would be maintained – and the players presumably would like him (I bet Dombrowski will seek input from some of his star players), and perhaps that is what this team needs the most. I really want my team’s manager to thoughtfully construct a lineup, eschew most sacrifice bunt attempts, and properly manage a bullpen, but it could be that managing personalities is the bigger part of the job for this particular team.