It’s not Hargrove’s fault, Guillen is the new Everett

DMZ · February 27, 2007 at 8:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Jerry Brewer at the Times offers a horrible, horrible column that looks at Hargrove through the rosiest lenses ever put on a reporter.

Let’s say this now: It’s not Hargrove.

If the Mariners have a laundry basket full of problems, clean Hargrove last. His seat may be hot enough to make fajitas on, but this season shouldn’t be about him.

Really. How come?

The quiet truth is that, during this string of losing, Hargrove hasn’t had one team good enough to be a winner. The chronically mismanaged Orioles were a mess during his four seasons in Baltimore. And in 2005, he inherited a Seattle club that had bottomed out.

Bad teams will expose any manager. In professional sports, we always overplay the magic-making abilities of the strategist. Talented teams win. Untalented teams lose. The concept is as clear as Felix Hernandez’s potential.

This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I’ve ever read in the Seattle Times in all the years I’ve lived here, in all the mocking I’ve ever done of that sports section.

Mike Hargrove may be the worst active manager in baseball. You don’t have to take my word for it – we’ve cited work on this before. He’s a horrible, horrible talent evaluator on a team trying to build around young players he’s entirely unsuited to manage.

But it’s not his fault, why? Because his teams aren’t good enough.

Of course. Every blue-haired old lady that drives 15 down major arterials, the problem is they don’t have Formula 1 race cars. The reason great managers have been able to win consistently with teams made of up different kinds of players, building, contending, and on their way down? All of those teams were supertalented.

The easiest thing would’ve been for the Mariners to succumb to public pressure and fire Hargrove and Bavasi. Their loudest skeptics wanted it. Their quiet, loyal fans wouldn’t have cared. And searches for new leadership usually generate excitement.

But Lincoln stood still. The public groaned. Now we’ve arrived at what could be one contentious season of perpetual innuendo.

Yes, all bow to the steely resolve of Howard Lincoln.

First, no it wouldn’t. The easiest thing was inaction, and that’s what they did. Firing them would have been controversial, they would have to find replacements, but most of all, it would have been an admission of failure. Better to hold on.

Second, even if you buy that argument, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right move to fire him. But, as Brewer asserts earlier, Hargrove’s fine. It’s his teams that have been bad. He’s just a figurehead.

But then why not fire him? Steely resolve?

Question: How might we view Hargrove right now, in Seattle, if his Indians had gotten those final two outs?

Would we be more patient? Would we have more respect? Would we trust him?

The 2007 Hargrove isn’t much different than the 1997 Hargrove. He has six months to prove that.

I don’t care if Earl Weaver himself managed this team, if he made the constant boneheaded decisions we’ve seen from Hargrove, if he’d so ineptly managed his roster, if he mismanaged his pitching, we would absolutely savage him. That Hargrove did or did not manage a World Series winner in 1997 wouldn’t excuse his constant lobbying for Carl Everett, to name one example. It wouldn’t conceal over his record of dismissing promising players like Adam Jones because he sees some imaginary flaw in their defense. It wouldn’t make him understand that Julio Mateo isn’t a particularly good reliever any more, much less that he’s not the guy to call in when you desperately require a ground ball. And on, and on, and on.

We judge Hargrove by his works, and his works have been wretched. As was that column.

Rey Ordonez is happy to be at camp.

And other news of today and yesterday. Lowe’s surgery supposedly went well, which is cool.

From the Times

You also sense management wouldn’t mind if a small dose of Guillen’s fire singed a tepid team. That’s a dangerous hope. But that’s how desperate the Mariners are for some form of passionate leadership.

“Trust me, if I see something wrong with what’s going on with this team during the season, if somebody’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing, I don’t care who it is — I’m going to step up and get in your face and tell you whatever I need to tell you,” Guillen said. “Like it or don’t like it. Get mad at me, whatever. But I’m going to tell you. And if we need to get into an argument, we’ll get into an argument.”

Hey, remember the last time we brought in passionate veteran leadership? That’s not mentioned in the article.

Mike Wilson hit a monster blast off Juan Sandoval in a intrasquad practice game. Batista consoled Sandoval.


42 Responses to “It’s not Hargrove’s fault, Guillen is the new Everett”

  1. Gomez on February 28th, 2007 12:25 am


    — In the first “situational hitting” occasion of the spring, with none out and a runner on second in the fourth, Jeremy Reed came through with a grounder to the right side to move the runner over.

    Somebody tell Geoff Baker that grounding out is not “coming through.”

  2. David* on February 28th, 2007 12:36 am

    Willie Boom Boom comes through every at bat with a gritty ground out to second.

    It’s what he does to get the ladies.

  3. Tak on February 28th, 2007 12:59 am


    well, it is for Reed apparently.

  4. mln on February 28th, 2007 1:05 am

    Does this mean that we can look forward to Jose Guillen getting in fights with his own teammates? Oh, joy.

  5. Replacement level poster on February 28th, 2007 1:55 am

    Does this mean that we can look forward to Jose Guillen getting in fights with his own teammates? Oh, joy.

    I’m hoping for a fight with his manager personally.

  6. gk91 on February 28th, 2007 6:15 am

    Shouldn’t Cleveland have automatically won the ’97 Series, since they had more talent?

  7. louder on February 28th, 2007 6:31 am

    Yeah, Grover was really great during the most important road trip last year — how many games did the Mariners win on that one? ZERO. That’s what I thought. This guy is a tool, get rid of him before it’s too late.

  8. billT on February 28th, 2007 7:45 am

    I’m not sure you can blame Hargrove-the-field-manager for not making the playoffs last year. It’s been said on this blog before and I agree that managers make very little difference. Hargrove might be the worst on-field manager, but he couldn’t have been the sole reason this team missed the playoffs last year. I do actually buy that the team was not as talented as the whole FO thought it was, which leads us to….

    Now, we can certainly blame Hargrove-the-talent-evaluator. He recommended bringing in Everett, kept playing despite poor results, apparently refuses to see Jose Lopez’s strengths, is in love with Bloomquist, etc…

  9. eponymous coward on February 28th, 2007 8:14 am

    Hargrove might be the worst on-field manager, but he couldn’t have been the sole reason this team missed the playoffs last year.

    So? If your car has a blown tire and broken headlights, you replace them both, even if you can drive the car easier with a broken headlight than with a blown tire.

    And yeah, I remember Dick Williams coming here, with a pretty good resume… and flopping miserably. He had more World Series appearances AND wins then Hargrove ever had. The idea that we should care more about the resume than the results is just silly.

  10. msb on February 28th, 2007 8:29 am

    contentious season of perpetual innuendo

    you know, that line deserves to be spoken by Howard Cosell.

    Brewer was on KJR last night (apparently he is going to be a tuesday regular) and it sounded like thas was the sort of column he was going to pop out today– lots of talk about the lack of talent on the field.

  11. junglist215 on February 28th, 2007 8:33 am

    Making the playoffs isn’t even a suitable benchmark for a competent franchise. Just ask Ken Macha. Any success the M’s have will be in spite of Hargrove not because of him.

  12. msb on February 28th, 2007 8:55 am

    Larue talks to Meche in Surprise, and has another description of The Homerun

    on the KOMO radio program we learned that Batista has slid into the clubhouse like a hand into a glove; McLaren loves Clement & Johnson and is very impressed by having two catchers be so close at the same time; Chaves is preaching throwing hard down & in and if you hit a batter, well, thems the breaks; Willie feels the Fantasy Football Commissioner (Sexson) allowed questionable trades to go through; JJ has been very impressed by Morrow (who worked out in Peoria all winter), and that Moyer has asked JJ to be the face of the Moyer Foundation during the season, when he can’t be here himself.

    oh, and Beltre has a big enough ‘fro going that he can walk around with a plastic fork stuck in it for about 30 minutes without even realizing it …

  13. Slica on February 28th, 2007 9:00 am

    Oh man, everytime you guys commonly do these Hargrove-mocking columns, if makes my day. Please keep them coming, it gives me some entertainment during a very low anticipated season for me.

  14. DMZ on February 28th, 2007 9:03 am

    The hate mail we get’s pretty interesting, too.

  15. argh on February 28th, 2007 9:46 am

    It would be interesting if you were to post excerpts from the pro and con mail you receive.

  16. Grizz on February 28th, 2007 9:48 am

    Hate mail over Hargrove? I am surprised that Hargrove has sufficiently endeared himself to somone for that person to feel compelled to spend the time actually writing you.

  17. Otto on February 28th, 2007 9:52 am

    Reading the hate mail reguading Hargrove has got to be the topper to a boring day!

  18. argh on February 28th, 2007 9:54 am

    When you criticize Hargrove you embolden the rest of the Western Division.

  19. CCW on February 28th, 2007 10:10 am

    I actually agree with Brewer’s basic premise that “it’s not Hargrove”. He’s right. Hargrove is the easiest in the management ranks to make fun of, because he not only does dumb things, but he says dumb things, too… all the time. But, Bavasi, Lincoln, and the people above him are much more to blame for the M’s failures than Hargrove. They’re the ones who let him be the talent evaluator, when it clearly isn’t his forte. They’re the ones who listen to him when they build the team each year, even though he’s cheaper and easier to replace than any of the guys they’re signing on his advice. The Ms, as an organization, are run ridiculously. Leaving an inept manager in place long past his due date is just one of many pieces of evidence that there needs to be a full-scale house cleaning at the very top of the organization. I don’t disagree that Hargrove is a problem, but he is not THE problem. He is a symptom of THE problem, much like Everett was a symptom of the problem last year.

  20. DMZ on February 28th, 2007 10:14 am

    I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that – I wrote that whole Sisyphus post about how the whole organization’s messed up. I disagree entirely, though, with Brewer’s argument that Hargrove isn’t part of it, that he’s a perfectly good manager who is blameless in all of this.

  21. Evan on February 28th, 2007 10:22 am

    It would be interesting if you were to post excerpts from the pro and con mail you receive.

    Of course, Derek won’t do that. That would be contrary to his feelings on whether private conversations should ever be published unilaterally.

  22. Bender on February 28th, 2007 10:26 am

    Oh please do a post of the most entertaining hate mail you get. That would make my week.

  23. Adam S on February 28th, 2007 10:30 am

    There was a lot of talk like this a couple years ago when Bob Melvin manage the team to a 63-99 record. “But it’s not his fault…”

    Well, it wasn’t Melvin’s fault the team didn’t make the playoffs or have a winning record; that was about talent. But it was his fault they didn’t win three or four more games.

    Same thing with Hargrove. It’s not completely his fault that we weren’t in the playoffs last year or that we aren’t a playoff contender — that’s because despite a huge payroll, a large portion is wasted on Sexson, Washburn, Vidro, and others. But if things go right this year and we win 86 games and the A’s win the division with 88 wins, it will absolutely be Hargrove’s fault that we’re watching the playoffs on TV.

    The fundamental “problem” with the team is talent; it projects us in the 78-82 range rather than the 88-92 range. But whatever the range is, Hargrove’s managing ensures we’ll come out on the lower end of it.

  24. Slica on February 28th, 2007 10:31 am

    Really? Hat mail over Hargrove bashing?

    Did you email Willie back?

  25. Eleven11 on February 28th, 2007 10:33 am

    I get so sick of these “I tell it like it is” guys. I played on a good team with our best player one of those. Would get in your face if you made an error or booted a play. Everyone just thought he was an a__hole. Look, good winning teams have good club houses, crappy teams have crappy ones, gee. Hiring fiery players to motivate is garbage. If Guillen wants to motivate, play hard, hit well and shut up.

  26. Celadus on February 28th, 2007 10:42 am

    Actually, you could argue that Hargrove did a crappy job with the Cleveland Indians too. Given their wall-to-wall All Star lineups, they underachieved.

  27. Bender on February 28th, 2007 10:43 am

    Hat mail?

  28. DMZ on February 28th, 2007 10:49 am

    Of course, Derek won’t do that. That would be contrary to his feelings on whether private conversations should ever be published unilaterally.

    I think I’m being mocked.

  29. msb on February 28th, 2007 12:10 pm

    posted elsewhere in error.

    Is this Evil Mike Hargrove?

  30. Manzanillos Cup on February 28th, 2007 2:18 pm

    I forgot how talented those ’95 Indians were: The team went .291/.360/.479
    I’m reasonably confident that I could have managed that team to the World Series.

  31. eponymous coward on February 28th, 2007 3:09 pm

    I forgot how talented those ‘95 Indians were: The team went .291/.360/.479

    They were good, but I would question how historically unique they were, when…

    SEA, 1995: .276/.347/.448
    SEA, 1996: .287/.362/.484
    SEA, 1997: .280/.353/.485

    CLE, 1995 .291/.360/.479
    CLE, 1996 .293/.368/.475
    CLE, 1997 .286/.357/.467

    Seattle beat Cleveland in scoring in 1996 and 1997. And I would think the 1995 numbers would be a little closer if the Mariner CF for half a year was a certain HOF’er instead of Alex Diaz, who was really awful (.248/.286/.333- basically Willie Bloomquist numbers, except worse since Bloomquist plays in a tougher league and park).

  32. eponymous coward on February 28th, 2007 3:25 pm

    Oh, and from 1995 to 1999 Cleveland played in a division where they had exactly ONE other team finish .500 in a five-year span (the White Sox in 1997, 6 games back), and only one other team within 10 games of them (the White Sox in 1998, 9 games back at 80-82).

    I consider what the Yankees did during that timespan to be MUCH more impressive historically (usually fighting through a good Baltimore or Boston team during the season, multiple titles, more well-balanced and well-managed teams).

  33. Dave in Palo Alto on February 28th, 2007 3:38 pm

    It’s not fair to criticeze Brewer for the lameness of his column. The quiet truth is that the Times sends some ignorant, tendentious writers to the Sports Desk. Put the blame where it belongs, and don’t scapegoat Brewer.

  34. SCL on February 28th, 2007 5:31 pm

    From the Baker article:

    Hargrove did say he was thrilled that nobody got hurt and that his hitters took pitches early in the count.

    Is the second part a misprint?

  35. msb on March 1st, 2007 9:45 am

    Brewer continues his ‘it’s the players’ theme today.

  36. eponymous coward on March 1st, 2007 10:44 am

    I interpret it as a slam at Bavasi and the front office that signed the players, actually.

    Of course, the odds that a field manager survives a GM getting canned for very long aren’t great. Just ask Bob Melvin about that one.

  37. DMZ on March 1st, 2007 11:07 am

    I don’t understand how Brewer can criticize these players for their recent injuries, or lack of performance. You can go back in their careers and see that they’ve been good before – clearly, the problem hasn’t been with them, it’s been with their teams, or doctors, or managers.

    Isn’t that what we learned from his last column?

  38. msb on March 1st, 2007 11:56 am

    hey! Niehaus is on the air, doing pre-game!

  39. John D. on March 1st, 2007 12:07 pm

    Mike Wilson hit a monster blast…

    A few words about Mike Wilson – (Remembering that one swallow does not make a summer.) He’s a 23-year old outfielder, was a 2001 second round draft choice out of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington HS (behind Michael Garciapara and Rene Rivera), had 23 homers and 95 RBI last year, while splitting his time between Inland Empire(A)and San Antonio (AA).
    He repeated his rookie year at Peoria, increasing his BA 75 points–from .238 to .311.
    His approximate minor league numbers are: .269/.381/.438. So his approximate OPS is .852. (Last year, he led Mariner minor-leaguers in strikeouts.)
    His slow progress–5 years in the minors, and not to AAA yet–has probably saved him from the ruin that befalls so many Mariner farmhands, as they get rushed to the Majors before they have time to develop.
    (If the Ms continue on this path of benign neglect, we should see him in Tacoma this year.)
    Mike Wilson is not on the 40-man roster. He is listed as a marginal prospect on Dave’s FUTURE FORTY.

  40. f2aler on March 1st, 2007 5:09 pm

    I think what I have learned from Jerry Brewer’s recent column is that much like his counterpart Steve Kelley, he does not know much about sports.

    I think this is what makes professional sports journalism unique. While there are definitely some attorneys who do not know much about the law, most are relatively competent whereas most sports columnists are relatively clueless about topics they should be knowledgable about.

  41. DMZ on March 1st, 2007 5:20 pm

    Also, to practice law you have to pass the bar exam. I don’t think there’s a similar criteria for sports writers.

  42. scraps on March 3rd, 2007 10:26 am

    “Tells it like it is” is one of those labels that might mean something admirable when said of you by someone else, but when said of oneself is an almost infallible indicator of an asshole. It’s like the people who tell you how “honest” they are: what they almost always mean is they feel free to say any damned thing that comes into their heads.

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