|Walk away: Hargrove quits surging Mariners|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 01 July 2007 17:20|
Hargrove left Sunday, saying his ``passion has begun to fade'' after 37 years in baseball even though his team is the hottest club in the majors.
He managed Sunday's 2-1 victory against Toronto that extended Seattle's winning streak to eight games, then yielded to John McLaren, his bench coach. McLaren's first game will be Monday at Kansas City.
``There are no dark, sinister reasons for this decision. This has been my decision,'' the 57-year-old Hargrove said about 90 minutes before his final game with Seattle. ``I have no reason to lie.''
Then, after his 1,188th and apparently final major league win, he said: ``I don't expect people to understand it, I really don't, because at times I don't understand it myself.''
Hargrove is the first manager since at least 1900 to depart while his team was on a winning streak of at least eight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His announcement was far more stunning than Sunday night's firing of Jerry Narron by the struggling Cincinnati Reds.
``We're not happy about this, not one bit,'' general manager Bill Bavasi said, while stating his was happy for Hargrove personally. ``This is an important, hurtful move for us ... Now, we've got guys who can recover.''
Bavasi said that on a scale of one to 10 on being caught off-guard, Hargrove's departure was ``an 11.'' Hargrove first told Bavasi of his intentions June 20, after a six-game losing streak. The two then agreed to wait and see if Hargrove's inability to muster motivation for the game continued for a couple of weeks.
It did, even though Seattle's longest winning streak since 2003.
``To see a manager step out like this, you kind of still don't understand what's going on,'' said Jose Guillen, who was screaming at his teammates in the dugout to rally for Hargrove - and then hit a tying home run in the eighth and winning single in the ninth.
When asked if he understood Hargrove's reasons, star Ichiro Suzuki said, ``We can all continue to speculate about things like that, but it won't take us anywhere.''
Hargrove insisted he had no disputes with a player or front-office person.
``I've daily challenged my players to give me the best that they've got, 100 percent of what they've got that day - physically and mentally. And they've done that. Without fail, they've done that,'' he said.
``I have never had to work at getting that level myself - ever - until recently. I've found that I've had to work harder in making that same commitment to my bosses, to my players and to my coaches. And that's not right,'' Hargrove said, turning away and choking back tears.
``They deserve better. They are good people. There is a good thing going on here. And it's time for me to leave.''
Hargrove's voice often cracked during a morning new conference. His eyes were moist and red, remnants of a meeting he called with stunned players moments earlier.
They were still red after the game, when the players hugged him on the field and then called Hargrove back into the clubhouse to give him roaring applause.
``I never thought it would end like this. And I am grateful that it has,'' Hargrove said, adding this probably was his last job.
Before spring training, Hargrove said this was the most excited he was for any of his 16 seasons as a major league manager, which included five consecutive division titles and World Series appearances with Cleveland in 1995 and '97.
Mariners chief executive officer Howard Lincoln stated at the end of last season that Hargrove and Bavasi were on his ``hot seat'' after three consecutive last-place finishes in the AL West. But now, after enduring six consecutive losing years leading the Mariners and Baltimore, Hargrove is resigning just as Seattle was beginning to think perhaps its oft-criticized manager might deserve a contract extension. The Mariners are four games behind the Los Angeles Angles for the division lead.
``In my heart, I believe for this thing to take off ... they deserve more than I am able to give them right now,'' Hargrove said.
Hargrove's three-year contract with Seattle ends after this season. Until then, Bavasi said Hargrove will serve as a team adviser - but only after Sharon Hargrove has some long overdue time with her husband.
By the time McLaren assumes his first managerial job since 1985 at Knoxville of the Southern League, the Hargroves will be driving down the Pacific Coast in a new, red pickup truck. They plan to drive to see one of their five children, son Andy (25), play for Seattle's Class-A affiliate at High Desert, in Adelanto, Calif. Then comes relaxation in a newly purchased cabin in rural New Mexico.
``If it feels good, we'll stay. If not, we'll go (back to their home in Cleveland),'' Sharon Hargrove said, holding a battered broom she waved again after one, final series sweep of the Blue Jays, as her husband left the game he's played or managed or coached since 1972.
``We've been married for 37 years. Gone together since junior high,'' she said, fighting back her own tears. ``He's slept in his own bed four days in eight months. I don't know too many people who would sign up for that. And he's done that for 35 years.''
The 55-year-old McLaren, who said the startling events were tough for him ``to comprehend,'' rejoined the Mariners this season, after 15 years working on the staffs of manager Lou Piniella that included 1993-2002 in Seattle.
``This is not a perfect scenario to take over a ballclub,'' the 12th manager in Mariners history said, his right arm in a sling following rotator cuff surgery last week. ``But I'll run with it.''