The Detroit Tigers are in need of a manager, but they shouldn’t consider promoting hitting coach Lloyd McClendon to the position.
Continuity is always something people talk about when a team is in need of a new manager. They believe that hiring someone from within the organization makes the transition smoother, but recent history should show something much different.
Usually, a team is in need of a major shake-up when a manager leaves a team, but the Tigers are in a much more ideal situation. The new manager will be inheriting a team with multiple World Series appearances and AL Central titles under the old regime. The Tigers have expiring contracts in the next few years with some key players, and the new manager will have a lot of say on what happens with Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Omar Infante and Torii Hunter.
If Jim Leyland was unable to win a World Series in eight seasons with the Tigers, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to expect McClendon to do it in a few seasons before the key pieces come off the books.
Leyland is one of many managers in recent history to have success in his first season with a new team. He won the 1997 World Series in his first year with the Florida Marlins. Since 1997, six managers have won a World Series in their first or second year with a team, with a guarantee on one more when this years’ winner is crowned.
John Farrell has the Boston Red Sox up 1-0 in the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in his first season with the team, not to mention the fact he helped them to the best record in baseball. His counterpart, Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny, is in his second year with his club.
Farrell came in from the Toronto Blue Jays, while Matheny was an in-house promotion. The biggest difference between Matheny and McClendon is the fact the Cardinals’ manager had the advantage of watching Tony LaRussa win a championship in 2011 before he stepped down, so fans shouldn’t expect a similar result from McClendon.
McClendon managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for five years from 2001-2005, averaging 92 losses a year and finishing no higher than fourth in the NL Central. He would have much more talent to work with than he did then, but there’s no reason to assume he is ready to run the Tigers.
Leyland always made sure the players were comfortable and knew their situation with the team, and that wasn’t enough. They need someone who can put a fire under them and inspire them to greater things. The Tigers have higher goals than just winning their division and making a couple of deep playoff runs. They have the talent to win championships and shouldn’t settle for less.
The Tigers would be better off with someone with a fresh look. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander set the tone for the Tigers, and they are all the continuity they need.