BY Steve Rudman 06:30AM 11/01/2013

Mariners Could Do Worse Than Dave Valle

The Mariners’ search for candidates to replace Eric Wedge, who quit in disgust, includes ex-Mariner Dave Valle. A feel-good hire, he can’t hurt, because nothing is left to break.

Dave Valle, who has done a lot of work on Mariners telecasts in recent years,  interviews, left to right, Rick Rizzs, Brandon League and Casper Wells  at FanFest./ flickr.com

After Eric Wedge said he would not return to the Mariners “even if they offered me a five-year contract,” a colleague made the e-mail observation: “Don’t know who will replace Wedge, and I’m not even sure it even matters. Who would want to manage the Mariners, anyway?”

Well, lots of guys, but none who have been major league managers, none who understand the Seattle organization or its history, and none, save one, whose name rings any bells.

According to CBSSports.com, Seattle has interviewed San Francisco Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Athletics bench coach Chip Hale, Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, and Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who is also a candidate to replace Jim Leyland, who retired. There are probably others, but these are the only ones so far identified (not a glitzy press conference in the making).

Thursday, the Washington Nationals filled their vacancy with former All-Star third baseman Matt Williams, who was the third-base coach at Arizona.

The Mariners have also, according to multiple reports, interviewed former Seattle catcher Dave Valle, who toiled for the club during its first Dark Age (1984-93) and is still prominent in the local baseball community due to his frequent appearances on Root Sports during Mariners telecasts.

Valle has never managed nor coached at the professional level. But he played 13 major league seasons, 10 with Seattle, and an additional three with Boston, Milwaukee and Texas. A good defensive catcher, Valle worked with two of the greatest pitchers of his era, Randy Johnson in Seattle and Roger Clemens in Boston.

Valle also is personable and possesses people skills and leadership ability. Of perhaps more importance, Valle is a relentlessly optimistic individual who understands the Mariners turgid past and is apparently not put off, as are millions of former Mariners fans, by 27 losing seasons in 37 years, including the current 12-year playoff absence. Unlike Lou Pinella, Mike Hargrove and Wedge, Valle probably would be able to work under CEO Howard Lincoln without resorting to ulcer medication.

As for Valle having no professional managerial experience, the comparison to Mike Matheny of the St. Louis Cardinals is a good one. Like Valle, Matheny played in the majors for 13 years for four teams. Like Valle, he never hit much, .239 to Valle’s .237. Matheny had the edge defensively, at least in terms of awards, earning four Gold Gloves, three with the Cardinals.

As with Valle’s relationship with the Mariners, Matheny had a significant grounding in his main organization, St. Louis, prior to becoming a manager.

Matheny had no managing experience when the Cardinals hired him. He returned to the Cardinals as a spring training special adviser in January, 2008, two years following his retirement as a player.

Succeeding Tony La Russa, Matheny went 88-74 in his first season (2012) as the Cardinals reached the NLCS, and this year finished 97-65 and went to the World Series that ended in a Boston victory Wednesday night.

Valle, or whomever is tapped to replace Wedge, won’t have that kind of immediate success because the Mariners, unlike the Cardinals, are not built to succeed. Rather, they have been constructed as a fun summertime entertainment/amusement/diversion, usually good enough to make a profit, never good enough to make October.

Mull this: In baseball’s first 90 years, no team has gone from worst to first. But in the past 24, it’s happened 11 times, most recently with this year’s World Series champion Red Sox, who were 69-93 a year ago, 26 games behind the Yankees, and this year finished 97-65, a 28-game improvement.

Since Seattle last experienced a playoff team, 2001, four other clubs have gone from first to worst — Arizona in 2007, the Cubs in 2007, the Rays in 2008, Arizona again in 2011. Over the same span, the Mariners have finished fourth in their division eight times, third three times and second once (2007). They were fourth again this past season, working under their sixth manager, soon their seventh.

Every year heading into spring training, the idea for most teams is that a championship awaits, or is at least possible. That is never the case with the Mariners, and will never be until there is a change at the top of the organization. As Art Thiel argued in “Mariners Nearly a $1 Billion Enterprise,” the Mariners, from a business perspective, have no incentive to win.

For that reason, the new manager isn’t going to matter much because he will not be given the opportunity to do what he believes is needed He will also be working for a lame-duck GM, at least as of the moment, in Jack Zduriencik.

Valle would be a familiar, feel-good hire for a franchise that has invested heavily in “feel good” as a way of conducting business. Valle, or whomever the Mariners pick, isn’t going to fix anything, but he won’t break anything, either, there being nothing left to break.


YourThoughts

  • Rujax

    I always start with Don’tCareDon’tCareDon’tCare when I read about the Mariners, but I DO care, dammit. Don’t these numbskulls realize they can make money AND win, too? Cripes…I’m so sick of this.

  • Matt712

    I have an even better idea than Dave Valle:
    I was thinking the M’s should make a deal with Lou Piniella – not actually Lou in person, just his likeness for a cardbaord cutout – as our next manager. This version of Lou would be less expensive, more compliant, less temperamental, wouldn’t say much (maybe just a recorded message taped to the back of him: “Hi, this is Lou Piniella. Let’s go M’s!”). Just stand him up at the end of the dugout, maybe sprinkle a few sunflower seeds at his feet…

    • Jamo57

      Good idea, though with the Ms marketing flare, I would humbly offer that they could create a life sized bobble head of Lou who would just sit at the end of the bench and smile, bobbling away all the time.

  • just passing thru

    No, please, not Dave Valle. He’s bad enough on TV.

  • K.j. Hinton

    And they likely will do worse.

  • Jamo57

    I guess they could technically do worse than Dave Valle. Bobby Valentine is available.

    And citing your analysis of Dave’s qualifications, I suppose the optimistic and familiar with the organization qualities in his background would also apply to Rick Rizzs. But given Rick hasn’t played since HS or LL, Rick would technically be an inferior candidate to Valle.

    I’m thinking back through Valle’s playing career. Did he ever win anything? I think he may have made the playoffs with the Rangers as a backup but the Rangers didn’t win any series until their most recent run.

    Would hiring someone with a history of winning be too much to ask? Well, this is the Ms. I guess it is (or at least anyone with such a history would be unlikely to come here under a lame duck GM).

    In any event, I can’t think of anyone who would provide less excitement as a hire than this.

  • Tom C.

    I think the Mariner Moose would be the best choice. The team is a joke anyway, competitively speaking. What better fit than a cartoon character as a manager for a caricature of a MLB team?

  • tedsfrozenhead

    They should force GMZ to manage this team.

  • jafabian

    I don’t know if Matheny is a good comparison. He got to take over the Cardinals. Valley would be taking over the Mariners coming of another 60+ season. Big difference there.

    The key to getting hired by the M’s is the interview. Howard and Chuck have to be comfortable with you. Despite the fact that Kim Ng had a stronger resume than Jack Z. he got the hire to be GM. Dusty Baker was passed over to be the M’s manager, look at his success in Cincy. So he never got past the first round of the playoffs? Heck, I’ll take it.

    From the list here Wotus is the most qualified. I’d love to see Willie Randolph get an interview but I see Robbie Thompson getting the job if he wants it. I can see Val if he’s cheap, understands it’s probably for just one year and is willing to down some beers with Howard and Chuck every so often.

  • outdoorlifer

    “Valle has never managed nor coached at the professional level. But he played 13 major league seasons”
    That is the MAIN REASON not to hire a person that was an average at BEST player. Another COMPANY MAN. Just what this team DOES NOT NEED! another YES MAN. Good catcher, not great, below average hitter at best.

  • bobscrat

    As far as the M’s are concerned, I think their qualifications for the next manager will include a pulse, ability to appeal in one of their “famous commercials”, not embarrass him or herself (hey, you never know) too badly with in game management and most importantly, a willingness to work on a one year contract. Based on that, Valle’s the leading candidate

  • pugetpete

    Biggest problem for the M’s is the first criterion cited by the front office for a new manager – he needs to be a teacher. M’s are great at teaching already – look at the players who leave the organization and go on to great things elsewhere. Sweet Lou was the only manager who was obsessed with winning. Dave Valle was a bit hot-headed at times and may be exactly what the team needs. One other thing – playing to make the team is what you do in the minors. Playing to win is what counts in the bigs.

  • GerryM

    Rick Rizzs did play college ball so he too is a fabulous managerial candidate! Noticeably absent from any list of potential managerial victims I’ve seen thus far is Joey Cora. He was on all the previous annual lists…but he’s too smart to get stuck with this shipwreck.
    I don’t believe for a minute that the current statues in the front office do not want to win. But I do believe they just don’t know how. They aren’t taking notes; they probably aren’t even watching those other organizations that are improving – even the Astros are about to blow by that Mariner hull that ran aground many, many years ago.
    This organization has done for me what no other team could – they’ve made me almost disinterested in baseball…after almost 60 years of being a fan, I’m real close to flippin’ off the whole of MLB. I quit watching the M’s years ago; I have definitely stopped buying Mariner merchandise (and I’ve got 3 grandkids to shop for); obviously, I don’t go to their games either. I seldom even read about them, but when I saw the mention of Valle’s name, I had to read it. Dave’s such a good and decent man, I hope he won’t get involved with this suicidal mission. For your own well-being, Val, don’t do it!

  • Will

    I’ve said this before, but Bob, my neighbor has been a decent Little League coach and would be perfect for the m’s. All the kids get innings, lots of sunflower seeds and parents like him and I’m sure he wouldn’t buck Lincoln and his minions.

  • torchy

    hahaha. so the m’s interviewed dave “i’m not paid to hit” valle. who’s next, tom hanks, i’m not a real manager but i played one in a movie?
    the folly of saying that just because there are only 30 of these high profile jobs is not a guarantee that any of the applicants are qualified baseball minds.
    the m’s have three major problems before any on field accomplishments can be achieved. IMHO. one is front office apathy. two would be the uncertainty of the gm. barring divine intervention, his goose is in the oven ready for the sports talk show heat. third would be perception of irrelevance. even a three legged dog can make it to the food bowl. of more importance to the team is how they can sell the sizzle, because if anyone notices, there is not much steak.

  • Da Kid

    Smells like teen Bill Plummer.

  • Will

    Too bad Don Wakamatsu just agreed be the Royals bench coach… What was I thinking? Don’s a career baseball guy and the M’s need something different… someone that’s more of a waqqwe dummy and manageable by the not funny comic team of Lincoln & Armstrong.

    Or, Lincolm & Armstrong could go against logic (typical) and hire guys with less than perfect images … Perhaps Tim McCarver, Barry Bonds or Milton Bradley (when he’s released from the slammer). All would be media magnets, enough so, that no one will notice what the team is doing.

  • RadioGuy

    Hire an ex-player who’s been a Mariners broadcaster? Why not Ron Fairly? He played 21 years in MLB (including two All-Star Games and three World Series), never coached nor managed AND could do play-by-play in the booth. Far more qualified than Valle.

    Seriously, I’m not sure this is the situation to bring in a guy with no managerial experience at any level. Matheny had the good fortune of taking over a team from Tony LaRussa that was already pretty good while working for one of the best organizations in baseball with tremendous fan support year after year. Anyone taking over in Seattle would be dealing with a losing team, a GM working on the last year of his contract, ownership that has proven that winning is not a priority and a very disaffected (and dwindling) fan base.

    The Mariners don’t need Valle. They need someone who can turn water into wine. And I don’t think He’s interested…some miracles just can’t be done.

  • Wheezy

    Here’s a thought: what if the M’s played without a manager next year? Would it really make a difference? Hire George Costanza as the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary for road trips (no cotton uniforms though) and see what happens!