Detroit Tigers: McClendon Hire Raises Questions
In an odd move, the former manager of the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates is now the manager of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.
Lloyd McClendon was a hitting coach, bullpen coach, and bench coach with the Detroit Tigers under Jim Leyland. When Leyland retired, McClendon wanted to manage the Tigers, but the job was given to Brad Ausmus. Instead, McClendon moved out to Seattle to manage the Mariners. He was fired at the end of the season finishing in Seattle with 162-161 record without any trips to the post-season.
Sep 29, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon (21) talks with designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) during batting practice before a game against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
While the move is a good one for the Mud Hens, it seems like an odd move for a man who apparently wants to manage a major league team to go from the Seattle Mariners to a Triple-A team. Could there be something more to this move? Possibly, especially with McClendon’s history with the Tigers organization. McClendon remains a friend of former manager, Jim Leyland, who still has his fingers deeply entrenched in the team. There are several signs that show Leyland is still influencing the decision making on the field that should be under the complete control of Brad Ausmus.
The signs that Leyland is managing from afar comes from the fact that Gene Lamont is still the bench coach and from the way that the bullpen is run. Throughout his tenure as the official manager, Leyland stayed true to the pitching pattern of pushing starters to the 6th or 7th inning, bringing in the 8th inning guy, and then the closer. Ausmus follows the same pattern, resulting in similar outcomes, despite the fact that he was touted as a sabermetrics expert who would bring new ideas to the organization. Lamont is one of Leyland’s best friends and stayed in his spot in the dugout, even though his dear friend retired from the role of manager. Usually, when a new manager comes in, he gets to pick his assistants. This has not been the case with Ausmus.
The question lies in what the real purpose of McClendon’s job is. Yes, he will be the manager of the Mud Hens, but Toledo is awfully close to Detroit and McClendon is still a close friend of Jim Leyland. It is common knowledge that Brad Ausmus was Dave Dombrowski’s guy and despite this Al Avila kept him in the managerial role for 2016 to finish out his contract with the team. Could McClendon be waiting in the wings to take over Ausmus’s spot if he does not perform well? It sure would be easy to move the Triple-A manager into Detroit, especially if he is a buddy to the special assistant to the manager. No one knows exactly what role Leyland plays, but it seems to be an important one.