Also posted at Prospect Insider
I received a copy of John McLaren’s interview (thanks Jason) with the press at the winter meetings. McLaren takes a lot of guff from the fans here in Seattle and without a doubt this interview will give plenty of ammo to those who aren’t fans of Mac.
The first piece of information that can be pounced on was a response to question on Jose Lopez:
“I’m a Jose Lopez Fan. A few things got turned sideways for him last year. We just want him to play with passion every night. He’s got good ability. The rap on him was his defense, and I think he was one of the top defenders at 2nd base fielding percentage-wise, and we were very happy these and we just want to maximize his concentration at the plate and it the field to make him the best player he can be, which is going to make us a better team. That’s the only thing I am going to convey to him.”
So McLaren has cited passion and fielding percentage in the same paragraph, awesome. Taken at face value, these comments are horrible. In his defense, McLaren isn’t the kind of guy who is going to call out any of his players out by name. The sin here is not citing fielding percentage, but being too nice to play in a high stakes game.
On running more next season:
I think Betancourt has got the capabilities of being a 20-plus stolen base guy, and I know Adam Jones does too. I know with Ichiro and – I’m going to see if we can get more stolen bases. We had a pretty good percent last year, 81 and 30. We need to get up in the 120’s. Anaheim has more speed than us, we need to utilize our speed more.
McLaren goes on to say that Ichiro could steal 80 bases next year. If the fantasy baseball league you participate in is a 5×5 that uses steals, it might be a good idea to look into someone like Yuni Betancourt for a cheap source of steals. These comments are troubling because unlike many other statements by the skipper this one is lacks qualification. It would have been appropriate to say that he doesn’t want the team being crazy on the base paths but wants them to take the extra base. This also is a clue that McLaren will select a bench with plenty of guys who can steal a base late in the game. Expect the Mariners stolen base totals to spike in 2008 but the percentage to drop. This is not a net gain.
On a Richie Sexson bounce back:
We need him because losing some offense with Guillen and with Adam in rightfield, Richie comes back to being Richie, it takes a lot of pressure off Adam, and it helps us out a lot. And Richie has got something you can’t teach. That’s the power and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. It would be a good sign, seeing him do that again.
John McLaren is a positive guy, but this was not a positive statement. If Richie Sexson returns to the 40 HR range that McLaren says he can, this is a huge opportunity for the team to get better. I don’t believe for a second that McLaren believes in his heart of hearts that Richie is due for a huge improvement.
On Swinging at Strikes:
You know what? We’re going to stress for the first day for Spring Training just to work the count. You know, I mean, I’m not big into taking pitches and all this, that and the other. I want to get into hitters counts and take advantage of it. If you look at some of the hitters stats on like a 2-0 count, (a) couple of them are pretty ugly. These should be hitter’s counts and they should be hitting for a higher batting average. 300 plus in a hitters count because it should be the pitch you are looking for.
Even though the walk is not invoked, it’s hard to find fault in a message of “wait for your pitch and hit it”. These statements were the most encouraging in the entire interview.
Mariner fans should forgive Johnny Mac for not being a Hall of Fame manager. This guy isn’t going to win the Mariners a bunch of games by playing hunches correctly for an entire season. His in-game strategy isn’t going to earn him 5 minute segments on Baseball Tonight to breaking down his “genius”. What McLaren will probably favor is speed and versatility on his bench. Also, lots of aggressive base running which will make the Mariners exciting to watch, but won’t translate into many wins (and probably a few more losses).