Thursday, June 19, 2008

M'What M'Next?

Stupid title, I know; but the missus and cubs took off for two weeks in Yellowstone with Nana and Papa and I've had a few celebration beers... I'm not even going to bother with pictures.

So the M's are officially cleaning house. John McLaren is out and Jim Riggleman is in.

You always feel bad for a "company man" like McLaren. He's been around a long time - So long in fact, that I remember rubbing elbows with him back when I was an employee of the M's in 98 and 99. The other nobodies and I used to grab dinner at Mac's Smokehouse right across Occidental from the Dome. The coaches used to do the same and Mac (I can call him that because we ate BBQ together, even though he didn't know my name. God, I feel so cheap...) was always really nice to us. That had to have been a really tough pink slip to write for Lee Pelekoudas, who has been around about as long as Mac (I think he preferred the pork butt with beans and slaw...) - but it did give him an excellent opportunity to show off his jet black businessman's special. (Seriously, if he fails at this GM gig, he can team up with Keith Hernandez and Clyde Frazier in those Just for Men commercials.)

So here's what I'm thinking, and maybe later, I'll actually do some research to see if my theory is right...

That whole John McLaren situation sounds pretty familiar to us doesn't it? (The company-man part, not the me eating BBQ near him part.) Ol' Dobes and Johnny Mac are birds of a feather. Highly-regarded, long time assistants who were handed the reigns when the old coach/manager unexpectedly bolted; and then promptly pissed down their legs.

Here's why it's not their fault: They're long-time assistant coaches. Keyword: assistant. They have been the good cop to the head-man's bad cop for too long; and while they may have the respect of their players, it's more like the respect you have for your grandpa who served in the war - you respect him, but you'd still sneak a beer or two from him whenever you felt like it. They're not like your ball-busting dad, that you actually fear because you know he measures the booze in his bottles and counts every Schmidt in the 'fridge. Get my drift? Longball, you got me?

The reason why Jim Riggleman may actually work is that he's new to the organization. The players still don't know that much about him - but they do know that he's managed in the majors and been a successful minor league manager. If Riggleman sheds the good cop hat and puts a little fear in these guys as their manager, they may very well start playing with more of a sense of urgency to perform. I think this could work especially well, if we cut and/or trade a couple veterans and replace them on the roster with the clubhouse leaders from Tacoma and maybe even West Tenn. Bring up a couple kids who have proven themselves to have strong character and leadership abilities. Ala Dick Bennett, the kind of guys you think you can lose with for a year or two - but will be better for it in the long run.

Get rid of the dead weight that you know is hurting the team and replace them with youngsters that believe in each other. You may take your lumps for a while but they'll battle hard and come out of it battle-tested and ready for all comers. I always go back to the example of the Braves turning their team over to Glavine, Smoltz, Justice and Gant - but there are many more examples over the years, including the Marlins, a couple times over.

So back to the manager thing. Because the M's management is old school, I'd suspect that they'll encourage Riggleman to shake things up a bit. They've already hinted at that with the promotion of Clement. I'd be surprised if this isn't followed in the next few days by another player or two being cut - especially if there happens to be one or two guys on the team who don't feel like buying into a youth movement. Let him put his stamp on the team and see how the guys react. If it works? Great - keep him around and see if he can sustain it - but don't accept mediocrity. If the players don't respond well to him this year, get the roster even younger next year and bring in a young manager that will command the players' respect.

I wonder if they'll be tempted to go the former player route like the Cougs? Joey Cora is getting a lot of attention right now. What about The Sherriff? I'd pass on little Joey, but Norm could be fun, don't you think? Bring in Dibble as pitching coach to guilt Putz off of the DL... OK, probably not going to happen.

Personally, I'd love to get an Eric Wedge-type guy. He's young, hard-nosed and respected in the clubhouse. The M's may have a guy or two like this in the system right now. Guys that the young players will maybe have a little history with - like Gary Thurman or... how about former Coug Jim Horner? Like Wedge, Horner is the prototypical Crash Davis (minus the home runs and the belief that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.) He's a long-time minor league catcher, turned minor league manager. He hasn't been at it long, but given a little time, and hopefully a little success, he may be a great candidate. Truth be told, I don't know a thing about Horner's short career as a manager. My point is to bring in a guy who's young but is an ass-kicker and a proven leader of young players.

Want one last Cougar tie-in for the road? How about promoting former Coug Greg Hunter from Director of Player Development, to GM?

Next, we can replace that God-awful teal with Crimson...

Go Cougs. Go M's.


longball said...

I got ya, Hooty.

Its always sad when things dont work out for a coach that you really, really wanted things to work out for. Doba and McClaren are perfect examples of this, Paul Grahm is a good example of the opposite. Still, i root for my teams, not their coaches at the end of the day. So i think i'll crack a beer too, Hooty. Farewell Mac, I hope you catch a lot of fish and hit lots of holes in one.

Hooty McBoob said...

I just had the random thought of the night...

I just saw that Pacman Jones has requested to be referred to, only as the name his Momma gave him - Adam Jones. (Sucks for you, "the other" Adam Jones.)

The first thing I thought of when I saw this, was the young troublemaker Joey "call me Albert" Belle.

You can run - or in your case, wokkawokkawokkawokka from your past, Adam - but you can't hide!

I hope you're able to play long enough to keep us entertained, just like Joey used to!

Sedihawk said...

Outstanding perspective my man. Mac = Doba is pretty damn good. I saw him in a post-game deal a few weeks ago (not the tirade) and couldn't help but think "now where have I heard this before?" and Doba's mug instantly flashed in my mind. Good call. And good points.

The best the M's ever did was with a guy who would rip off your head and go #2 down your neck. Then the next day he'd give you a bear-hug, swat you on the behind and tell you he believes in you. But the bottom line? LOVE AND FEAR. Those guys respected and loved Lou, but also were scared to death of disappointing him. They knew there was very little BS he would put up with.

Sure, he hated rookie pitchers who were afraid to throw strikes, but he got the most out of what he had. And, I know Lou failed miserably in Tampa, but that was a sick organization all the way around when he was there. It was only after they dumped their GM that they went 100% young and got a GM who knew how to build on the cheap. Only today are they finally seeing the fruits of that labor. But anyway, look at Lou in Chi-town? Playoffs first year, neck-and-neck for best record in the NL this year. It's not a coincidence. Love and fear is the right combo.

I am with you in that I don't think a reunion with Cora is the right thing. Cora might be Guillen-lite, just without the insanity. I think they need a piss-n-vinegar manager who will have them dying to please and afraid of letting him down.

And most of all, a GM who embraces the new tools of analysis. Hey, Theo Epstein is a free agent after this year, as quietly his contract expires after the season. Hmmm??

Hooty McBoob said...

This just in: Xavier Hicks is an idiot. Driving home from jail on a suspended license. Not smart.

According to the Time, he was ratted out by jail personnel and then ticketed by Pullman Police.

The part of the story that's missing is whether or not the jail personnel said anything to him before he drove off. "Uh Xavier, you really shouldn't drive home on a suspended license. That's against the law too and you might get in trouble."

OR - did they know; not say anything to him; and then high-five each other as he drove off, knowing they were going to bust him?