Friday, September 28, 2007

The Bozo Bus: Hargrove's unconscionable departure from M's transcends cowardice

My jaw dropped when I heard about it the day he announced it. The Mariners manager, on the heels of a seven game winning streak, was suddenly quitting... ON JULY 1, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. He had no real reason, either... no health issues... no family emergency... no crisis of any kind... nothing.

We were just insulted with a bunch of garbage about "how I've lost my passion."

Huh? Excuse me? You're kidding, right?

Come on Mike, you can do better than that. At least make an effort to come up with something that appears to be a creative excuse.

Hargrove's time in Seattle was a failure. It's not like this guy won as a manager in the first place, and he had no presence as a leader anyway, so it was probably better that he left... but not in the middle of the season. Christ, the guy even failed at quitting... or what did Timothy Leary say? "Tune in and drop out." Maybe that's more appropriate, as the use of very very hard drugs is probably not out of the question.

I thought I'd seen it all. Apparently not.

There was zero notice to the Mariners front office also, I might add (Gee Mike, thanks for the heads up---we're really prepared now). It was beyond baffling. If there's a word that goes beyond apathy, I guess that would have to be it... but then there's the shock value element of it all that needs to be described too, so it's pretty much beyond words...

Maybe Wikipedia can shed some light on it, as I'm still confused nearly 3 months later, and everyone I've discussed it with---from Mariners fans in Seattle to Cardinals, Indians, White Sox and Reds fans---all seem to be at a complete loss. Nobody can figure this one out.

On July 1, 2007, Hargrove resigned his position as manager of the Mariners, saying in a prepared statement that his "passion has begun to fade" and it would not be "fair to myself or the team" to continue. The departure was unusual, since the Mariners had been playing quite well at the time. Hargrove became the first big league manager since at least 1900 to depart while on a winning streak of more than seven games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.[1] Bench coach John McLaren was named as Hargrove's replacement, effective July 1. Hargrove managed his final Major League game on that same day, a 2-1 ninth inning comeback victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. On September 14, 2007, it was announced that Hargrove would manage the Liberal BeeJays, a semi-pro summer team in southwest Kansas. Hargrove played for the BeeJays in 1972, while on the roster of Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

I still don't get it. I don't buy the "I lost my passion" rhetoric as any semblance of a valid excuse. If you're a deer caught in the headlights, you splash water on your face. You do something. If you're passion is lacking, you pull the reigns on yourself and power through it. People do it in their jobs every day without complaint. I did it working for two wacko mayors, and in a crazy tribal setting as a planning director, even when I'd lost my passion for the field (as a staff planner, a.k.a. political pawn) way back on the road.

So then I stand corrected... I'm sorry... that was an eight game winning streak the club was having, then they were basically abandoned
to fend on their own. Why couldn't Hargrove finish out the season? Was that too much to ask?

I'm sorry, but when you're the manager of a ballclub---its leader and guiding
light---you don't up and leave in the middle of the year for no reason. It certainly didn't help the club in the long run, as they tanked in the month of August. Did his departure have an affect on the season's outcome? Sure it did. Kudos to bench coach John McLaren for trying to keep things together under very difficult circumstances.

If I ever meet Hargrove face to face, I have only one word to say to him.


...and I think I'm being nice and letting him off the hook in that scenario.

But not today.

I have a huge issue with this man's decision to bail on the club. It basically tells me everything I need to know about his character. Since he has no valid reason for leaving, what am I left with. Let's see... self-absorbed? Spineless? Insensible? Anesthetized? Comfortably Numb? On LSD? How exactly do you put it? I
simply don't know where to go with this, the whole thing is just too bizarre.

I know what comes to mind now... this story of Mariner manager apathy reminds me of an opposite scenario; the story of a manager who held himself together and inspired his team to go all the way to the College World Series while fighting for his life.

I speak of former ASU baseball coach Jim Brock, who led the club for 23 years and to two CWS titles in 1977 and 1981. He coached the Sun Devils to a 1,100-400 record from 1972-1994; an amazing .733 winning percentage.

Jim Brock gives the baseball manager not only a good name, he puts them in the stratosphere next to Godliness. After being diagnosed with liver cancer in 1993, and going through an operation that took 80% of his liver, he powered ahead managing the following season, despite a relapse, and led the Sun Devils to the CWS in 1994. When sitting on the wood bench became too painful, his wife brought him a plastic chair to sit in so he could continue managing on the field. While the team was on a run in Omaha, he collapsed on the field and unfortunately had to be flown back to Arizona to watch his Devils, now in the CWS, from his hospital bed. He passed soon thereafter.

Jim Brock's fight to keep managing, and fight to stay alive to guide the team, only inspired those kids to do better. Brock is the Rock of Gibraltar. For his example, leadership, guts, determination, and passion for those kids---Jim Brock is more than a hero---he's immortal.

Brock's #33 now proudly hangs on the outfield wall in what is now called Packard Stadium at Brock Ballpark. If you're in Phoenix sometime, from Sky Harbor airport take the 202 loop freeway to Tempe, and the Scottsdale Road exit and head south. You'll cross the Tempe lake on the Salt River, and you can't miss it. On the SW corner of Scottsdale /Rural Rd. and the Salt River. Take your first rt. then a left into the parking lot to check it out. #33 proudly hanging on the outfield wall.

So I'll leave all of you with that inspiring story. That's the sort of example a manager should set for his club, that's the making of a true hero. A true winner.

Unlike the apathy of a cowardly quitter.

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