Mike Hargrove, your 2005 manager

DMZ · October 21, 2004 at 7:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

“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.”
–Mike Hargrove

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.


24 Responses to “Mike Hargrove, your 2005 manager”

  1. J on October 21st, 2004 7:48 pm

    I’m not entirely clear on the comment about Hargrove’s pitching coach being terrible… I’m assuming you’re referring to his other pitching coaches as terrible and then Mark Wiley as the guy who was telling him to “Lay off that guy”, etc?

    BTW, great analysis. I have much appreciation for flexible roles, especially after some of what’s happened in the past two years.

  2. Elliott on October 21st, 2004 7:50 pm

    “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.”

    What are those reasons?

  3. dave on October 21st, 2004 7:52 pm

    That’s a great read! I’d been waiting for a nice overview exactly like that.

    I haven’t heard a lot about Hargove and am curious what you mean by “…in the post-season, Hargrove did not do well for a number of reasons and it got him fired in Cleveland.” Anyone care to elaborate?

  4. tede on October 21st, 2004 8:41 pm

    Good post DMZ.

    Yeah, I kinda agree that his post-season managerial moves weren’t always the best. I still can’t get over how dumb a team the ’95 Tribe were despite their regular season record, but that’s mostly sour grapes on my part. In ’97, the Tribe continue to vilify Jose Mesa for blowing a 1 run lead in the 9th inning on the road, but that’s what Mariano Rivera did in ’01 and twice in the past week to the Sox. A one run lead in the 9th is never a sure thing. It was up to the team to add on the lead or at least score in extra innings.

    I guess the one thing that worries me most is Hargrove’s record with the O’s. It smells like burnout or malaise setting in. Didn’t the O’s go just about 3 years before they even won a game at Safeco? The contrast is Piniella’s effort in Tampa though he may just be pushing a truck uphill and heading towards an early grave. I just wonder why Hargrove didn’t stir the pot more with ownership in Baltimore like Lou has tried to in Tampa.

    I understand his deal is 3 years at $1 miilion per year. Do we know if the last year is guaranteed?

    The staff he puts together will be interesting. I understand in Baltimore he really only brought over only Jeff Newman and Mark Wiley from the Tribe; the remaining staff members were ex-Orioles hacks (Elrod Hendricks, Terry Crowley, Rick Dempsey etc.) Perhaps this means Dan Rohn will get a decent shot at being on the staff.

  5. The Ancient Mariner on October 21st, 2004 8:52 pm

    Re #1: Mark Wiley is likely included in the “terrible” category (though Derek might just have meant Phil Regan, I don’t know), and the hope is that BP can/will be the one to tell him, “Lay off that guy.”

  6. The Ancient Mariner on October 21st, 2004 8:55 pm

    And for my part, much as I like Rohn, I’d rather see Brundage on Grover’s staff–it seems to me he’d make a better complement.

  7. Elliott on October 21st, 2004 8:57 pm

    Right, but what were his mistakes in the postseason?

  8. Ryan on October 21st, 2004 9:28 pm

    Actually, in 1995 and 1996, the Indians’ pitching staff was the best in the AL. After that, it got much worse, but to say he never had any good pitching to work with isn’t true.

  9. Jared on October 21st, 2004 9:45 pm

    Having observed Hargrove manage in Baltimore, I have to disagree with some of the points being made. Hargrove certainly cannot be blamed for the losing given the poor talent level of all those teams. However, he really was not flexible with his lineup. His willingness to move Mora around is the only exception to this, and even this was based more around injuries to other players (he really only played short in 2001 and 2002 due to Mike Bordick being out). Jack Cust, Carlos Mendez, and Jose Leon were just some of the players brought up from Triple A and then left to rot on the bench for weeks at a time. Cust was the most egregious example of this, as in 2003 he spent a good deal of the time on the O’s roster and accumulated an 878 OPS. Of course, he was only given 87 bats in that time, while BJ Surhoff racked up regular playing time.

    Hargrove also comes from the LaRussa school of using matchups almost all of the time. And in 2002 and 2003 the Orioles completely fell apart down the stretch (losting 32 of the final 36 in 2002, and going 14-32 to finish 2003). Once again, he had little talent to work with, but it was still disconcerting.

    I don’t mean to make Hargrove out to be the worst manager in the world, because he wasn’t. No one could have succeeded with what he was given in Baltimore. However, he simply does not seem like a good fit for a team like the Mariners. His hiring only seems logical in the sense that he is a “character” guy and the Mariners still seem to be committed to those type of people in their organization.

  10. tyler on October 22nd, 2004 6:52 am

    Jared… I haven’t heard any of those names from the AAA players from Baltimore. Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge, or perhaps the reason he didn’t play them is– they weren’t good.

    It’s not like they’ve gone on to be all-stars w/o him.

    Its a little disconcerting to hear DMZ comment negatively on the pitching coach that it sounds like Grover would bring over. I would like a little more info on this as well as the oft-commented “post-season mistakes”

  11. jc on October 22nd, 2004 8:29 am

    Have you ever seen brundage coach?Its wild and out of control not something that will work in majors!!!!

  12. Adam S on October 22nd, 2004 9:21 am

    Jared, any insight on why those two Oriole teams finished so poorly. I’ve always thought a 4-32 finish (for a team that was about .500 if memory serves) was one of the more amazing statistical “accomplishments” of my lifetime — even more unlikely than the Red Sox comeback.

    We’re there injuries that added up? Did the team quit on him? Did they suddenly start playing a lot of AAA players combined with a bunch of games against NY and Boston?

  13. Adam S on October 22nd, 2004 9:28 am

    Just looked it up and Cust and Leon didn’t exactly light it up in 2004 under Mazilli, either in the majors or at AAA. I count their not playing in 2003 as a positive for Hargrove.

  14. PositivePaul on October 22nd, 2004 10:38 am

    I guess it really boils down to two things, and hinges on the last:

    1) Did we hire the best manager available?
    My thoughts: time will tell, but the more I think about him the more I think we did

    2) (Again, the crux of the decision) Is he a significant upgrade over Bob Melvin?
    My thoughts: YES!

  15. paul on October 22nd, 2004 11:38 am

    You know what’s weird? This post is number 1995.

    There was no quit in that ballclub.

  16. bob mong on October 22nd, 2004 11:55 am

    Just for kicks, I compiled the SB/CS numbers for the full seasons that Hargrove managed (1992-1999, 2000-2003):

    1992: 144 SB, 67 CS, 68%
    1993: 159 SB, 55 CS, 74%
    1994: 131 SB, 48 CS, 73%
    1995: 132 SB, 53 CS, 71%
    1996: 160 SB, 50 CS, 76%
    1997: 118 SB, 59 CS, 67% (Kenny Lofton gone this year)
    1998: 143 SB, 60 CS, 70% (Lofton back)
    1999: 147 SB, 50 CS, 75%
    2000: 126 SB, 65 CS, 66%
    2001: 133 SB, 53 CS, 72%
    2002: 110 SB, 48 CS, 70%
    2003: 89 SB, 36 CS, 71%

    Total: 1592 SB, 644 CS, 71%

    For whatever that’s worth.

  17. Red F & F on October 22nd, 2004 1:20 pm

    Has Cleveland done so badly in the postseason? In 6 postseason appearances they won 29 games (getting to WS game 6 with a 100-44 team – their only 100-win team, although they did go 99-62 the next year – and WS game 7 with an 86-75 team).

    While Cleveland has gone to the WS 2 out of 6 playoff appearances, both under Hargrove, the group of teams which have made 3-5 playoff appearances from 1995-2004 (Oak, Sea, Tex, Min, Bos, StL, Hou, Ariz, SF, LA) are 4 for 39 (2 coming this year), with only 2 titles (2001 and 2004).

    Of course there’s the oddity that the teams making just 1 or 2 post-season appearances from 1995-2004 are 5 for 15 getting to the WS compared to that 4 for 39. (And LCS 9/15 vs. 14/39).

    I’d say Cleveland even looks good compared to the Braves (5 of 8 NL 100-win seasons from 1996-2003, 0 of 3 titles). Maybe not the Yankees….

  18. Adam S on October 22nd, 2004 2:29 pm

    I think it’s results relative to expectations. Say that over a four year stretch a team won it’s division all four years, made it to the World Series twice, but didn’t win a World Series. If the Mariners did that (or had done it in the past years), we’d be elated. The Yankees having just done it qualifies as a poor postseason performance.

    The sense was that the Indians were headed the wrong way — from almost winning the World Series to just being a division winner and that they should have done better. I think Hargrove got scapegoated.

  19. Evan on October 22nd, 2004 3:56 pm

    After reading Jim Moore’s piece on Hargrove, I like him.

    I don’t really think any manager is going to have a huge effect on the team, so I just want someone fun. Hargrove sounds fun (and he drinks Canadian beer, which counts for a lot).

  20. Paul Molitor Cocktail on October 22nd, 2004 5:40 pm

    From rotoworld:
    Olerud does seem to have some interest in staying with the Yankees. “It’s definitely a lot more fun playing on a winning team,” he said. “That’s for sure.”

  21. Alex on October 22nd, 2004 7:38 pm

    Have there been any rumblings about who Hargrove’s coaches are going to be?

  22. David J Corcoran on October 24th, 2004 6:52 pm

    Real glad to see a guy willing to try guys at different positions. All Melvin did was let Bloomquist start in 1st and Centre field.

    *Insert Sarcasm*
    Real bold (and smart), that is!

  23. J on October 24th, 2004 10:03 pm

    Other than the possibility of Mark Wiley taking over as pitching coach over Price, no news yet.

  24. J on October 28th, 2004 6:00 pm