Mariners ready to pick themselves up, rebuild
Club ends disappointing season with victory over A's
SEATTLE -- A disappointing Mariners season came to an end with Sunday's 3-2 victory over the A's, and now comes an offseason that begins with some significant questions swirling overhead.
By finishing 76-86 -- a drop of 11 wins from last year's club -- the Mariners created a situation that already led to firing general manager Jack Zduriencik and replacing him with former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto.
Certainly more changes await and Dipoto will soon decide if manager Lloyd McClendon and his staff are the right fit to move forward under his new regime.
"We continue to talk," McClendon said Sunday. "I think our talks have been very productive and very good. I don't think there's any particular timetable for that. We'll see. Hopefully in the next week to 10 days, something will be taken care of one way or the other."
The rumor mill has already begun churning, with former Padres manager Bud Black and Angels assistant GM Tim Bogar prominently mentioned. Bogar was a teammate of Dipoto's with the Mets for two years during their playing days and Dipoto hired him as a special assistant earlier this year in Anaheim after Bogar impressed many in his short stint as the Rangers interim manager at the end of last season when he took over following Ron Washington's departure.
Whether Dipoto opts for Bogar, a more experienced managerial candidate like Black or sticks with McClendon remains to be seen, but McClendon said he's not fretting over his performance.
"I look in the mirror every night and know I gave it everything I had every day," McClendon said. "And my players gave me everything they had every day. Some nights it was good enough, some nights it wasn't very good. But the effort was always there. Obviously we have to shore some things up from a talent standpoint."
McClendon agrees with Dipoto's assessment that the top offseason needs are improving the bullpen and getting more athletic in the lineup.
A relief crew that had the lowest ERA in the Majors last year at 2.59 and suffered just 12 blown saves slipped badly this season, with 24 blown saves and the MLB's 25th-highest ERA at 4.15 ERA. Many of last year's mainstays -- closer Fernando Rodney, Dominic Leone, Yoervis Medina, Brandon Maurer -- were traded or released, while Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen struggled at times.
"I never thought we'd be as good as we were last year from a bullpen standpoint, but I certainly didn't think we'd be as bad [this year]," McClendon said. "To think Leone is in the Minor Leagues, Medina is in the Minor Leagues, Farquhar spent significant time in the Minor Leagues, Wilhelmsen. Rodney was released. You can go on and on and on. The new faces in the bullpen now for the most part aren't quite ready. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen."
As for the lineup, Opening Day starters Austin Jackson and Dustin Ackley were traded and Mike Zunino ended the year in the Minors, while Brad Miller shifted from shortstop to center field, with rookie Ketel Marte inserted at short. The team hit well in the second half, but still needs upgrades.
"We didn't have a lot of track stars out there," McClendon said. "Going into next year, we probably need to get a little more athletic on the connecting ends of our lineup to help produce runs."
Still, McClendon sees positives amid the disappointment of 2015.
"There are a lot of good things going on with this club," he said. "They have an emerging superstar in Taijuan Walker. I think he's going to be anchoring this staff for a long time. We have a nice group of core players that are championship-quality players. Now there are pieces that we need around the edges to make us better, but that's a work in progress and I'm proud of where this club is now from when I took it over.
"This journey this year was disappointing, there's no question about it, but each and every season has a different journey to it and, like I told each and every one of my players, we'll be better because of this. You learn from your past and sometimes when you're on the verge of winning, most clubs take a step back. It's unfortunate, but I think this club is in a position to win going forward."