Losing Streaks

Jeff Sullivan · April 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

On the afternoon of April 15, the Mariners were 7-5, having the day before beaten the Rangers by six runs. Out of the gate, Dustin Ackley was hitting well at the bottom of the order. Lloyd McClendon spoke to the media.

On the afternoon of April 21, the Mariners are 7-11, having over the weekend been swept by the Marlins. Brad Miller hasn’t found his stride at the plate. Lloyd McClendon drafted a lineup.

Is there even a criticism here? I don’t think there’s a criticism here. You could say, okay, maybe Lloyd McClendon is a flip-flopper, but another way of describing a flip-flopper is saying the person has an open mind and is willing to change. McClendon liked the original setup. If he didn’t, it wouldn’t have been the original setup. But now he’s responding to something — maybe it’s just early success and struggles, or maybe there’s more to it, I don’t know. Clearly, McClendon doesn’t think Ackley will be overwhelmed batting higher, and maybe the sense is that Miller has been pressing in front of the lineup core. If you even want to call it a lineup core, but that’s a different story.

The surface point here is that it took Lloyd McClendon one six-game losing streak to change his mind about something he suggested could last all year. The broader point, as Matthew has written about before, is that while managers talk to the media pretty much every day, they’re under no obligation to be entirely truthful, and what a manager says one day might not be what he says the next. They change their minds, because the season’s long and unexpected issues can crop up. McClendon isn’t a liar or a hypocrite or something. He’s a baseball manager who makes decisions, and when managers are asked about their decisions, they explain they were made with conviction, because that’s a part of leading. Leading is making tough choices, and believing in them, and possessing a willingness to do something different if circumstances demand. The Mariners were probably due for a lineup switch, so here’s a lineup switch. It will work or it won’t and there will be a lot more different lineups in the next five and a half months.

Don’t judge a manager by what he says, and don’t freak out if he seems to verbalize too much of a commitment. Judge a manager by what he does, and understand that they know what’s going on. They want to win even more badly than you do, and they’re constantly conceiving of all possible combinations. There were reasons McClendon said he wanted to keep Ackley low. There are reasons now he’s willing to move Ackley up. We don’t even know for sure whether this is better — it could be that Ackley isn’t ready to hit second, that he could really benefit from more time at the bottom like McClendon preferred. But let’s just take this as a sign of open-mindedness. Don’t judge someone as being closed-minded until you have sufficient evidence. It’s easy to say something’s going to last a while before a while happens. The circumstances of a baseball team change literally every single day, and no manager can know what things are going to look like a few days down the road. A manager can only make the best decision he can make at the time, and then, we’ll see. We’ll all see.


6 Responses to “Losing Streaks”

  1. Westside guy on April 21st, 2014 5:22 pm

    Given Almonte continues to lead off, it’s hard to know what Mac is thinking anyway – so no point in second guessing him.

  2. HighlightsAt11 on April 21st, 2014 5:35 pm

    At this point I don’t listen to McClendon. He has not done anything yet in Seattle to earn that respect (that goes for the GM as well). When/if he does, only then will my ears perk up at what he (they) have to say.

  3. PackBob on April 21st, 2014 6:08 pm

    I would also say that there is no real reason for a manager not to feed the media some fodder that will play. For McClendon to *truthfully* answer the question about Ackley might take a long while going through different scenarios that would change his approach. This was quick and easy, and has made for some content.

    Maybe a more truthful answer would have been to say things were going fine so why change, but this is still a getting used to everyone period, and outside circumstances may change, so we’ll see.

    But why bother when the short answer plays just fine?

  4. MrZDevotee on April 21st, 2014 7:52 pm

    Conversations you’ll never here in ANY MLB team’s front office…

    Jack Z: “Wow, swept by the Marlins… Hey Lloyd, what do you think about shaking up the lineup…?”

    McClendon: “Unfortunately I can’t… I told the media so last week.”

  5. dantheman on April 22nd, 2014 1:28 am

    This column brought to you by the “Defending McClendon No Matter What Club”. An official subsidiary of the “Mariners Front Office Can Do No Wrong Club”.

  6. maqman on April 22nd, 2014 2:39 am

    McClendon and GMZ don’t seem to make moves until they are forced to. Frequently after the damage is unavoidably obvious.

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