Parsing Mike Hargrove

What the columnists are saying about the departure of the Mariners manager, including an upside for those interested in seeing Ichiro stay in Seattle.
What the columnists are saying about the departure of the Mariners manager, including an upside for those interested in seeing Ichiro stay in Seattle.

It's a very slow news day, this being a summer week bisected by July 4, so the mysterious resignation of Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove is getting bigger play than it might if, say, we had had an earthquake late Sunday and the Alaskan Way Viaduct had collapsed. At least I think an earthquake would have would have bumped Hargrove from page one. I'm not actually sure. The problem with a story like this one, though, is that it's big because of an absence of information. How do you write about that? Had Ichiro ordered Hargrove's firing and agreed to re-sign with the Mariners if they brought his hero, Ken Griffey Jr., back from Cincinnati, that would have been pretty straightforward: "Ichiro fires Grover, hires Griffey." And it would have moved a lot of papers, and the angles for sidebars and columns would have been endless. Instead, we get "Hargrove resigns: M's 'deserve more,' he says." The headline writer did the best with what he or she had, which was not much. You can scour all the stories therein and learn little more. This being a baseball town, though, we'd be remiss if we didn't help you find all the columns that don't contain what you want to know. And some of the psychoanalysis is pretty good. So here's the Hargrove commentary in a nutshell. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Art Thiel notes that during spring training Hargrove said he was more pumped up about the coming season than he had been in a long time. That doesn't square with him no longer being able to give 100 percent. One thing is clear: The preseason rumble that new/old bench coach John McLaren would be the next manager has come true. That means the Mariners are in a better position today to resolve the issue that transcends the seasonal outcome – the re-signing of Ichiro. The superstar outfielder admitted early differences with Hargrove, but acknowledged no current grudge. "At the beginning, there were complications between us," he said post-game through an interpreter. "Since then, I've honestly expressed my feelings to him. He listened to them honorably and very gentlemanlike. That's a strong memory I'll have." So it's not Ichiro. But that doesn't mean this change isn't a plus for the franchise player and his fans here. Writes beat reporter John Hickey: McLaren and Ichiro have been close from well before Ichiro's first spring with the club in 2001. McLaren, who lives near the club's Peoria, Ariz., spring training complex, came out every day for almost four weeks to hit fly balls and throw batting practice to Ichiro as the longtime Japanese star prepared for his first big league season. The two men bonded during that stretch, and they remained in touch even when McLaren left the organization to go with Lou Piniella to Tampa Bay after the 2002 season. They renewed their friendship this season when McLaren came back to be the bench coach under Hargrove. Now that McLaren is the man in charge, and the Mariners are winning, Seattle may look that much better to Ichiro. Ted Miller, meanwhile, writes that Hargrove is a quitter. "This assessment is undeniably harsh. Uncharitable even." But, "If everyone associated with the team is legitimately fine with Hargrove's decision, then why should anybody on the outside fault him?" In The Seattle Times, Jerry Brewer asks, "So, um, why's he quitting again? He says he hasn't lost his passion, but he talks like he's lost his passion. He says this team has an incredible future, but he doesn't want to be a part of it." Brewer says that this conflicted explanation is more interesting than if Hargrove had been secretly fired. Steve Kelley notes "nothing about this makes sense," but Hargrove never seemed completely comfortable in Seattle and the fans never really embraced him because he wasn't Lou Piniella. But he's no quitter. If he were a quitter, Hargrove would have run from that crabcake circus in Baltimore. He managed there for four seasons through personnel decisions by meddlesome owner Peter Angelos that grew curiouser and curiouser. He wouldn't have kept fighting that good fight with those really bad teams. Beat writer Geoff Baker says he doesn't think the timing will be good for the team: "Disrupting a team the day before an all-star break is one thing. Doing it in the midst of that team's hottest stretch, before a very important road trip, quite another." As for the why, he thinks back to when Hargrove was supposedly making the decision to do this. It was another four-city road swing, the kind that sucks the life out of you. I described it amply a couple of weeks back when seeking a reason for why the M's had dropped the last five games of the trip. Hargrove could very well have been feeling burned out at that point. Don't forget, the team was still slipping well behind the Angels (making up four games so quickly is extremely rare) and was a good distance behind in the wild-card race. All of that has changed in a hurry, with Seattle doing the unexpected of sweeping the Boston Red Sox and taking two games out of two from the Toronto Blue Jays to start this current series. In the News Tribune, John McGrath says Hargrove's resignation was smart and well-timed. As scintillating as the Mariners' transformation was in June, the Book of Probabilities insists they'll be one of 29 teams that doesn't win the World Series. At this promising juncture between spring and summer, it's easy to forget that the dog days await. Injuries, tough breaks, crazy bounces - it doesn't take much for the pendulum to swing the other way. Hargrove arranged a farewell that was simple to the point of regal, and how many managers get to do that? Finally, this bit of reality check from Dave Cameron of the USS Mariner: What does this mean to the team? Well, for the most part, I think managers just don't make as much of a difference as most people believe. There are a few exceptionally good and bad ones, but in general, good teams win in spite of bad managers and bad teams lose in spite of good managers. We've laid out our issues with some of Hargrove's beliefs, and a couple of days ago, we actually complimented how he's handled the bullpen. So he has done some good things and some bad things. The new era begins today at 5 p.m. Pacific time.


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