By: Holly Horning
Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. At least that’s how it seems for Detroit’s former managers and coaches.
Trammell and Gibson have found their way back. So have “retired” managers like Jim Leyland. And also former MLB managers Dave Clark and Gene Lamont.
Add to that list now, Lloyd McClendon.
While not an unprecedented move by Detroit, the timing is what is raising fans’ eyebrows. Despite the fact that the Tigers have rehired and retained 3 other former managers, speculation is that Lloyd may be making that drive from Toledo to Detroit this year.
But is there really a master plan to insert Lloyd into a managerial position in Detroit? Let’s look at the reasons for hiring him.
As in the majority of businesses, people most likely to get the job are the ones who have connections with the employer. In this case, McClendon is not only a former employee, but he has ties with Dave Littlefield (who hired him) going back to Pittsburgh. He is also a good friend of “Bull” Durham.
He’s known Al Avila for years and brings with him an already-established level of work experience and communication. He’s a known commodity and will get up to speed more quickly than other candidates, especially important given that Larry Parrish ran Toledo for 15 years. He knows and understands the organization, corporate culture and people. No significant learning curve here.
But Lloyd also has a reputation for handling young talent very well. Perfect for the minor leagues. And given his managerial background, consider his experience with both Pittsburgh and Seattle as “value added.” Who better to manage a AAA team than someone who knows what it takes to make a major league roster?
The Mud Hens finished 2015 in last place and haven’t had a winning record since 2009. Could McClendon possibly see this new job as an opportunity to return the majors down the road if all goes well?
In 7 seasons as a manager, Lloyd had only 1 winning season. He must understand that other managerial jobs will not be forthcoming anytime soon and thus being realistic about his next career move.
Given his managerial record, it’s highly unlikely the Tigers are considering him to replace Brad as manager. If the Front Office had considered him to be a strong candidate, they would have given him the job back in October 2013 instead of hiring a long-shot outsider with no managerial experience.
But maybe, just maybe, Al Avila is also preparing for a worst case scenario in 2016. Ausmus is moving into his lame duck year and it will become apparent halfway through the season whether he will be staying or not. It is a general policy in MLB that GMs will extend a manager’s contract well before the end of the season if they will be retained.
It’s always been my theory that Avila’s decision to retain Brad was primarily based upon establishing his power within the organization and waiting for the right managerial candidate to come along. And this is where McClendon may actually serve an additional purpose.
He could possibly step into an interim managerial position should things go south this year. He’s managed in the Bigs, knows most of the players and could help calm a clubhouse and transition a team should Ausmus leave.
Having options is always a good strategy when situations don’t go as expected. Lloyd could end up being the solution to at least one or more issues Al Avila may have to address this year.