Mariners Insider

It’s the baseball way – find a scapegoat, fire him

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on Sep. 30, 2011 at 9:33 am with 7 Comments »
September 30, 2011 9:35 am

The Boston Red Sox were supposed to do more than contend in 2011 – one Northeast beat writer humbly dubbed them the best team ever.

Fast forward to the final game of the season, and Boston lost to Baltimore, missing the post-season entirely. I tweeted from Safeco Field that night: “‘Tonight might have cost Terry Francona is job.” Now, it appears the Red Sox are about to cut their manager loose.

It’s the baseball way.

Managers I have respected, from Sparky Anderson to Lou Piniella to Jack McKeon, have all boiled down the art of their job with this: It’s putting players into situations where they’re suited to best succeed.

Francona had Jonathon Papelbon on the mound when the Sox lost. In the weeks prior, as his club collapsed, Franconca didn’t panic. He stayed with the players who were the ‘best ever’ in March.

In Seattle, the Mariners have long upheld baseball’s scapegoat tradition. It hasn’t usually been the general manager, but managers and hitting coaches? Open season never seems to close on them. Since Piniella’s decade-long run, the Mariners have been managed by Bob Melvin, Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Don Wakamatsu, Darren Brown and Eric Wedge.

Five of those managers were fired. One quit.

As for hitting coaches, you need a scorecard. Lamar Johnson, Lee Elia, Don Baylor, Paul Molitor, Jeff Pentland,  Alan Cockrell, Alonzo Powell preceded Chris Chambliss in the post-Piniella era.  All fired – and most helped produce better team averages than the dismal .233 of 2011, which ranked 30th amongst the 30 big-league teams.

The Mariners seem loathe to fire Chambliss, the perfect scapegoat. Aside from a team batting average, most fans aren’t certain what a hitting coach does, anyway.  Did Chambliss cause Ichiro to bat .272? No. Ichiro has never listened to a hitting coach in Seattle.

GM Jack Zduriencik seems willing to let the season speak for itself and not fire any one coach as a sacrifice to public relations. By baseball’s low bar, that is almost saintly.

In Boston, Francona appears to be gone. He won’t be the only manager fired – Ozzie Guillen was hammered with a few White Sox games left to play. Often, with long-term managers, it comoes down to this: Players have heard their voice so often they no longer listen to them. Guillen has already found a job, apparently, and Francona will likely land on his feet elsewhere.

The theory in baseball is, lose too many games, somebody must be at fault. Those who control the firings often do what must be done to prevent fans from looking any higher up the chain.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. footballscaa says:

    Good for Jack Z if he doesn’t fire any of the coaches. They need a few seasons together to find their way. I’ve been a NW sports fan long enough to be patient. Dump two overpayed players and begin spring anew. See ya then!

  2. mojjonation says:

    Two names: Lincoln. Armstrong. OK. Maybe a third: Bavasi. These three guys pretty much destroyed a team that won 116 games in 2001. Picking up has been players. Signing never wases. Choosing head cases and projects. Since one of them is already gone, all I can say is I hope the other two keep their fumbling hands out of player choices and day to day operations. Just sit back in their respective offices, STFU, let the players play and the skipper manage. When you bring back a broken down home town favorite for the sole reason of puting rears in seats and not putting a quality product on the field, your aim was misguided. Then that same broken player gets a manager fired, again, the aim was misguided. Armstrong and Lincoln are a great example of what is wrong with so many sports teams today. The higher ups think they know more than those in the know. The ones who choose to try and perpetuate that myth usually crash and burn. Paul Allen owns the Seahawks and looks like a sports fan. He owns the team and that’s it. He let’s the players play and the coaches coach. Granted Ruskell looked like a giant tool the last few years he was here, but never once did you hear Allen say anything about anyone. That’s the kind of leadeship that gets you places. There may be one exception to that rule and his name is Mark Cuban. When he makes a mistake, he’s man enough to own up to it. When he’s right, he got himself a ring.

    Hopefully the “stache” and Z will get a couple more years to try and put things right. If not, it’s just another pair of guys who got put through the ringer that is the Mariners organization.

  3. Larry,
    You need to correct your article, I think.

    You state that 6 of the 7 managers were fired or quit. But you don’t mention something similar to that with the hitting coaches. I do not believe that Alonzo Powell was fired. I think he was a interim coach, just like manager Darren Brown, after the firing of Wakamatsu.

  4. alaskafan says:

    Z brought us Bradley and Figgins, got rid of Ibanez and Beltre and Bloomquist. It is nice to see that Fister is doing well in Detroit with 1n 8-1 record and a 1.93 era. Z got rid of him too. The Mariner’s don’t have any outfield power hitters,and Michael Pineda was with the Mariners org. before Z got here. A is the problem, let his contract expire and get a good GM…..

  5. alaskafan says:

    Z is the problem….

  6. stevenrey says:

    “Players have heard their voice so often they no longer listen to them.”

    This is exactly the case with Francona. Part of leading is creativity in keeping things fresh as well as decision making. After 8 years, with the personnel he’s given, it’s easy to see how even Francona can mail it in. He’ll go somewhere else and get a fresh start for himself and probably be successful.

    Professional players are all very good and coaches are very good. Finding the perfect mix of managers, coaches and players is very difficult. I don’t really believe in scapegoats. Whether or not a coach or manager deserves to be fired is beyond my capability of understanding without seeing the inner workings of an organization but a fresh look at someone else might indicate where the real problem lies.

    I’m willing to take a firing at face value as long as the result is improvement. As you fire up the chain and the results appear to be the same, I think it’s time to look at the top of the chain. The Mariners fans have shown their displeasure by their attendance in the stadium. How long can Lincoln and Armstrong sustain their profitability stance at the cost of creating an entertaining corporation? That is, after all, what it is. If it was a television show, it would have been off the air years ago.

  7. alaskafan, you forgot to mention another loser trade: Morse for Langerhans.

    Z only looks good in comparison to Billo (Bavasi) the clown.

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