BY Steve Rudman 11:30AM 10/10/2013

Mariners bosses clueless, and don’t know it

The Mariners are seeking their seventh manager since 2003. When they hire him, the franchise will tie the Miami Marlins for most managers hired in the last decade.

Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and John Ellis, left to right, have presided over a Mariners franchise that has missed the playoffs for 12 consecutive years. / Wiki Commons

The Mariners have employed a gamut of personality types to manage the club over the past four decades, ranging from tacticians (Darrell Johnson, John McLaren) and cranks (Dick Williams) to Clouseaus (Maury Wills, Del Crandall), to tyrants (Lou Piniella) and even one (Bob Melvin) who had a fear of clowns (coulrophobia). Seattle is in the market for its 16th skipper, 19th if you count the interims, the last, Daren Brown, in 2010.

Since Pinella departed in 2002 following a 10-year run (1993-02) with a winning record (840-711) and four playoff appearances, the Mariners have had six full-time managers and one half-season, interim manager (Brown). The six full-timers collaborated for a 792-858 record and no playoff appearances, a decay that sent 50 percent of their fans, based on average annual attendance, scattering to the wind.

When the Mariners locate their seventh manager since 2002, they will tie the Miami Marlins for most managers employed over the past decade.

Minnesota recently announced a two-year contract extension for Ron Gardenhire, giving the Twins the fewest managers in the majors since 1986 at three, including Ray Miller and Tom Kelly. By contrast, the Chicago Cubs have employed the most over that span at 17, soon to be 18 when the club hires a replacement for recently evicted Dave Sveum.

While the Twins have had three managers in 27 years, the Mariners will have more than twice as many in the last 10 after the most recent one, Eric Wedge, announced he wouldn’t manage the club again even if offered a five-year contract. Although the Cubs are about to hire their 18th manager in 27 years, the replacement for Sveum will only be their fifth in 10, two behind Seattle, as the following shows:

Teams With The Most Managers Since 2003

Team No. Managers
Marlins 7 Jack McKeon, Jeff Torborg, Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Edwin Rodriguez, Ozzie Guillen, Mike Redmond
Mariners 7 Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, TBD
Orioles 5 Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazilli, Sam Perlozzo, Dave Trembley, Buck Showalter
Cubs 5 Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum, TBD
Red Sox 4 Grady Little, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, John Farrell
Royals 4 Tony Pena, Buddy Bell, Trey Hillman, Ned Yost
Blue Jays 4 Carlos Tosca, John Gibbons, Cito Gaston, John Farrell
Nationals 4 Frank Robinson, Manny Acta, Jim Riggleman, Davey Johnson
Mets 4 Art Howe, Willie Randolph, Jerry Manuel, Terry Collins
Pirates 4 Lloyd McClendon, Jim Tracy, John Russell, Clint Hurdle
Reds 4 Bob Boone, Dave Miley, Jerry Narron, Dusty Baker
Diamondbacks 4 Bob Brenley, Bob Melvin, A.J. Hinch, Kirk Gibson

Consider the drastic nature of Piniella’s departure, ostensibly because he wanted to be “closer to home.” Piniella walked away from a franchise that had won 90+ games three times and made two playoff appearances in the three previous seasons in order to manage the Tampa Bay Rays, coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons (2001-02) and 90+ defeats in the three years before that.

It was not so much that Piniella wanted to go home as it was that he grew weary of working under Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.

That duo did not believe Melvin had the stuff to manage the Mariners, firing him one year following a 93-win season in October, 2004, after Lincoln famously said in June that year, “He’s our manager and we’re riding him all the way.”

Since leaving, Melvin has won three division titles, had two-runnerup finishes and been Manager of the Year in both leagues, 2007 for the Arizona Diamondbacks and 2012 for the Oakland Athletics. He’s got a shot to make it three Manager of the Year awards this season after leading the low-budget A’s (96-66) to another AL West title. Getting axed by the Mariners is probably the best thing that ever happened in Melvin’s managerial career.

Melvin’s successor, Hargrove, might be the smartest man to ever work for the franchise, given his good sense to quit with a 45-33 record during an eight-game winning streak in the middle of 2007. Hargrove no doubt figured that in Seattle it would never get any better.

It hasn’t. The Mariners have posted four 90+-loss seasons under four “permanent” and one interim manager since Hargrove left.  Wedge, at least made the end of another lost season (71-91) memorable by saying he could no longer work for Lincoln, Armstrong and GM Jack Zduriencik.

“It got to the point where it was painfully obvious that I was just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said, declining to get into specifics. “We see things differently. We talked about it but it got to the point where I couldn’t continue to move forward.”

To that, we can add that anyone who sees things differently than Lincoln has a major chance at succeeding.

Zduriencik is seeking his third manager in five years. Good luck with that. It’s hard to imagine any competent, experienced manager wanting to cast his lot with Seattle, given Lincoln’s track record. Besides, Mariners fans will have to be suspicious of any new manager — or any hire — endorsed by Lincoln, who signed off on Bill Bavasi, the worst front-office hire in franchise history.

In an end-of-the-season interview with The Seattle Times, the 73-year-old Lincoln said he has no intention of quitting, insisting he wants to be around when the Mariners are good again — quite a statement from a man whose various hires haven’t developed an All-Star position player since Alex Rodriguez 20 years ago.

“I’m determined to get this thing turned around before I go to my grave,” Lincoln told The Times.

I’m sure he’s well-meaning and sincere. Unfortunately for local baseball devotees, Lincoln just doesn’t know how to do it and, worse, doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.


  • thekellygreenandwhite

    Well said. This was painful to read. But sometimes the truth hurts.

  • Effzee

    “I’m determined to get this thing turned around before I go to my grave,” Lincoln told The Times.

    This is unacceptable. Something must be done.

    • Trygvesture

      Well, we lose. I think he is entirely with a clue, but is duplicitous in the extreme and does what he wants– to operate at a profit and ride franchise equity appreciation to financial glory at the taxpayer’s expense– we built his franchise, not he, and we built its home, not he.
      He won’t, can’t and doesn’t want to “turn this thing around” and has said so: the recent interview with the Biz Jrnl showed his stripes when he went back to the ‘safe family fun’ blather when asked about winning; he’s said as much many times, and specifically when asked about winning world series ( …not a goal of the franchise. Making money is the goal. His words, not mine). Since turning it around isn’t possible, we’re stuck with Lincoln until he’s dead and in his grave ( his words, not mine).
      Funny, he feels a strong obligation to the billionaire owners, but not to the equally-invested fan-base that paid for his private, self-aggrandizing palace and profit machine.
      So, so disgusting. A disgusting man, really, all about self enrichment at the taxpayer’s loss. It is a public/private partnership, but to Chowie, it’s just HIS to do with as he wishes. I SO want to believe in karma when I think of these over-entitled thieves.

      • Effzee

        Exactly. He’s a selfish curmudgeon, egomaniacal without cause. He knows full well what he’s doing. He’s willfully holding an entire city’s fanbase hostage, with every intention of doing only what is absolutely necessary to fleece the suckers who continue to come, and no intention of tending to the quality of the product on the field. It is simply not possible for a baseball franchise to be operated with less focus on the actual game of baseball than the Mariners.

        • Trygvesture

          Right. Right. Right. I love your shared outrage.
          It is amazing to me, really, that he has no shame whatsoever. None. (Almost as amazing as the fact that he keeps the utterly useless, high-salaried Chuckles on the leash.) Does is simply not matter to him, the part in the lease about “for the public benefit”?
          Were I an attorney, THAT clause would be prosecuted, with Chowiellis named, personally… but I obviously am not.

  • jafabian

    He’s backtracked off the statement but I’ll never forget that Howard once said that winning the World Series isn’t their main objective for the club. I think it’s on the to do list but there’s a lot in front of it. Unlike half of MLB who make it their main objective and let everything else fall where they may. THAT is the problem. This is a club that settles for mediocrity, if at that.
    Pinella, Hargrove and Wedge have all left for the same reasons. All three are proven managers. Bob Melvin has had an excellent record after finishing 63-99 in his second year with the same roster he inherited the year before, an aging cast that won 93 games the year before. At this point if ownership doesn’t see how the crooked finger is pointing at them it’s all hopeless and it’s like George Argyros is owner of the club again.

    • Trygvesture

      Maybe it IS an unending Argyros nightmare– after all, the two have never been seen in the same room together…

  • Neil

    Wasn’t Riggleman an interim as well?

    • steverudman

      Technically no. The Mariners list three interim managers — Marty Martinez for one game in 1986, Jimmy Snyder for 105 in 1988 and Daren Brown for 50 in 2010. All other managers are designated as “permanent.” Riggleman sure seemed like an interim manager, though.

      • GaryM

        All managers are interim. in Seattle, they’re chum.

        • Da Kid

          I think you forgot the ‘ps.’

      • RadioGuy

        I think Ben “Cananea” Reyes could well be considered an interim manager, too. Wasn’t there one game in 1981 when he ran the Mariners after Maury Wills was suspended for messing with the batters box? Only Mexican to ever “manage” an MLB team…sorta.

  • Joe Fan

    Me thinks that that their heads are up their collective arses. Thanks for the article Steve. Please keep them coming – Howie and Chuckie simply have to GO!!!

    • steverudman

      The 73-year-old Lincoln said he intends to stick around until he gets it right. I guess he intends to become the oldest man ever to walk the earth.

  • WestCoastBias79

    I don’t know why I even pay attention anymore. I live in LA, I might as well do what Angelenos do, ignore my hometown team I grew up with, and hop on the Dodger bandwagon. The Mariners are just too depressing. I’m generally an optimistic person, but there’s really no hope. They can’t even luck into a .500 season, and that’s hard. Poor Felix Hernandez. We should enjoy him until he inevitably loses hope too. Poor guy is like the Cortez Kennedy of baseball, a stud in a hopeless Seattle franchise.

  • Trygvesture

    (Shouldn’t pick on their looks, but those three in the pic look so from another era, another universe, they might as well be from the Old Guard in Portland– the last demographic I saw wearing blue Blazers public, Queen City Yacht Club flag officers excepted)

    • Da Kid

      Shouldn’t necessarily pick on their politics, either, but if that’s not a trio of clueless, I-could-give-a-spit, let them eat garlic fries 1%-ers, them I’m Ronald Reagan. They look like the type who’d still be owning slaves if they could. Oh wait…

  • oldcrimson

    While Chuck probably should’ve been fired before this, the fact of the matter is that he should have fired on the spot over the Leuke fiasco. Once that passed without any accountability at any level, I knew it was hopeless.

  • Kafkaeske

    Steve, you are too easy on these guys.

  • Mike H

    I grew up a die-hard M’s fan, but Chuck & Howard have made it awful hard to care much about what goes on inside the Safe these days. I still love the M’s and I am full of hope every April, but by June it’s tough to watch them struggle day after day. If I had three sports wishes they’d be for the Sonics to return, Hawks to win a Super Bowl and Chuck & Howard to leave town. At least the first two have a chance of coming true in the next few years…

    • RadioGuy

      Mortality will take care of the third, Mike.

      • Trygvesture

        and, sadly, it’s likely that ONLY mortality will solve the problem, grant the wish. Which leaves those with a conscience– unlike Chowie- with the only hope lying in a conscienceless wish.
        Don’t want to urge mortality’s knell for anybody, but don’t want to live with these thieving scoundrels stealing from our community, either. No choice but to hope shame may overtake their arrogance and motivate them to get the hell out of Dodge.

  • Hammtime

    Things that are obvious
    – water is wet
    – 2 + 2 = 4
    – The Mariners will never be winners with Howie and Chuck running the M’s