Critiquing some of Lloyd McClendon's greatest ejections/performance art pieces
There are those that bring art to everyday life. Oscar Wilde made art of conversation. Andy Warhol brought art to the masses with factory precision and an eye for pop culture. Kylie Jenner made art of thick-lipped Instagrams.
And Lloyd McClendon elevates the managerial ejection to a masterpiece ready to be displayed in fine galleries across the land. While the Mariners manager has seemingly calmed with age since his days helming the Pirates, he still is the poet laureate of the boot-out.
On Tuesday night, following two check-swing walks in the third inning that saw catcher Mike Zunino ejected for the first time in his career, McClendon raced out of the dugout to argue the call. After the game, the skipper said:
But where does this ejection one rank in his career's oeuvre? Today we give an artist's critique to some of his more recent works. Though, of course, we must begin with his most famous performance.
Mixed Media, 2001
The ejection that put McClendon on the map. A younger man just making his mark in the baseball/art world, McClendon uses his youthful energy and vigor to make up for a lack of refined choreography and smooth lines.
His kick barely stirs up any dirt, perhaps an error, but perhaps a comment on the lack of control man feels in the face of existential despair. Lifting the base out of its spot, McClendon then deconstructs the sport, forcing the viewer to confront their very ideas on what the game of "baseball" really is. For can the game go on without its most important base?
Polyester and Wool, 2014
In his first season as the Mariners manager, McClendon took on the promotions that are a part of the lifeblood game. Rushing out to argue with the umpire, McClendon hurls his hat out of frame, mirroring the famous hot dog guns and T-shirt girls that dot the Major League landscape. While those are done joyfully and in sponsor-friendly situations, McClendon shows that every human has a dark side just broiling underneath. Yes, even the hot dog guy.
One of McClendon's weaker efforts. While we applaud the manager for trying something different as an artist and pushing his boundaries, the overall effect is weakened. Is McClendon trying to spotlight the role of social strata in day-to-day interactions? The impact of words between peers? The subtle subversion of authority?
In the end, it's a messy work that leaves the viewer as confused as the man putting on the performance.
Mixed Media, 2015
Here we see a maturing artist. McClendon approaches slowly and calmly -- hardly the type of entrance that the manager is known for. Even then, he finds himself quickly tossed, fated for something he never chose.
McClendon then must make the long, slow trot all the way across the field and to the exit, a solitary man ushering him out of view. It mirrors a human's path on this planet: We are given free will, but so often, we follow the one path that was laid out for us long before we were ever born. As for what lays beyond that door, from which no traveler returns? We can only guess. (I'm assuming there are peanuts and a cold beverage.)
The fact that this was done in an otherwise meaningless Spring Training game is also part of McClendon's genius. He is surely reflecting on Jean-Paul Sartre's claim that there is no inherent meaning in the universe. It is up to us -- the viewer, the player, the manager, whomever -- to decide when and where to find that purpose.
"The Dinner Party"
Mixed media, 2015
And that brings us to Tuesday night and, without question, McClendon's finest work. Drawing on all of the skills he has learned over the years, the Mariners skipper uses all of his tools for something that is far more than the sum of its parts. Drawing inspiration from orchestral music, the first swells come as Zunino is ejected from the game, leading to a rising crescendo as McClendon comes out of the dugout.
It soon becomes something akin to an interpretive dance number, the beat becoming fast and furious as McClendon hurls his hat, runs across the field to talk to three different umpires and even shows off his very own version of the check swing to the umpire.
As he bloviates with the Men in Blue in nearly farcical fashion, we see a man at the edge of reason. And yet, through it all, we are treated to an entertaining "dinner party." There is conversation. There is music. There is dance. And yet, for all the talking at each other, no one is talking with each other. It's a brilliant piece of social satire -- a knowing wink to the audience that we hadn't seen before.
There is little more rewarding than watching an artist grow and reach new heights. Lloyd McClendon showed the world a new side to his ejections on Tuesday night. We can't wait to see what he has in store for us next.
(Additional reporting by Greg Johns / MLB.com)