Mike Hargrove, your 2005 manager
“You keep getting hit on the head with a hammer, after a while you start looking for the hammer whether it’s there or not.”
What’s your hammer’s name? Bob Melvin? Willie Bloomquist? Scott Spiezio? The sacrifice bunt? The three-reliever inning?
We have so many choices.
So here’s what I want to toss out about Hargrove, and I’d love to hear dissenting opinions, additions, contradictions, and whatnot. This is me looking through notes and junk while I watch the Astros-Cardinals game (Rolen HR! Woooo!), so understand this isn’t intended as the definitive or even a reasonably accurate Hargrove rundown.
Hargrove has had two stints as a manager coming into this one. First, he had several years with the Indians. During this time the Indians had some great young talent, and some serious pitching problems you might have heard about. Part of Hargrove’s problem was his pitching coach was pretty terrible. The team suffered a lot of problems with pitchers not admitting they were hurt, particularly, and the pitching coach didn’t pick up on it, either.
That aside, he did work Colon hard, didn’t like Colon’s approach, and didn’t go that easy on Jaret Wright either, and Jaret Wright’s only now come back around.
Bryan Price might serve Hargrove well, at that. Especially if Price hasn’t converted to worshipping crazy old-school craven pitcher idols from rational workload management. But it’s been clear from his managerial history that he needs a good pitching coach who communicates well with his staff and can also tell Hargrove things he may not want to hear (“Lay off that guy.”)
I’m also encouraged that even given players that could have been used to go little-ball crazy, Hargrove didn’t really do that.
In Baltimore, there are some hopeful signs. Hargrove displayed a flexibility in role management we haven’t really seen here… uh, ever. We saw a little of, say, the crazy multi-headed Leone-Spiezio-Bucky-Edgar DH machinations, but Hargrove was willing to do things like play Melvin Mora in left field and short to get him in the lineup every day, depending on who else he was subbing into short and left against who. So like instead of a regular platoon, he’d set up a platoon of two guys around Mora to get Mora playing time. He’s demonstrated releatedly that he’s willing to experiment with trying players at other positions, even if initially ugly, for long-term gains. That’s pretty cool.
What else? Despite that, he’s never been particularly aggressive about getting his bench into the game, which given the M’s historical benches, might be just fine. He also rarely pinch-hit during games, and so was okay with a short bench.
He’s shown some proclivity for the kind of role-fitting in relievers that we saw (and disliked) in Melvin, particularly in seeing lefties as situational relievers (ala Rhodes). He’s liked carrying 12 pitchers on a roster, which isn’t that bad with a short bench, but really a waste of a roster spot. Especially considering that the team’s going to have a surplus of decent long-relief candidates and not many situational guys, while in the field they could probably use some versatility.
In what may be a good sign for us, though, Hargrove also seemed to have a keen eye in Cleveland for looking out for tiring starters and pulling them before they could wreck a good start, and relying on a deep bullpen (which the Mariners could have, if they assemble things well next year).
I don’t blame Hargrove at all for the failure of the Russ Branyan Experiment. There was at the time a huge stathead contingent that belived his massive power, walks, and career-eating strikeout virus meant he was the next Rob Deer. I figured he was worth a shot, but Branyan never controlled the strikeouts and has never had the career so many thought he would, under Hargrove or anyone else.
Similarly, I don’t blame him at all for the failure of the Orioles. That team put the retch in wretched, and had all kinds of lineup problems. As much as the Indians never seemed to put together a pitching staff for him, the Orioles never provided a decent lineup for them.
The really bad thing is that in the post-season, Hargrove did not do well for a number of reasons and it got him fired in Cleveland. I’m not sure he’s going to have to worry about that for a while in Seattle.
Having written this, I’m a lot more positive about the hire than I was when I started. But as Dave said, managers do their jobs differently with different teams, and we’re not really going to know how Hargrove does here until he’s doing it.
Hope this was helpful in some way.