|John McLaren's Mariners had the worst record in the majors when he was let go. (FILE/John Froschauer/Associated Press)|
SEATTLE - John McLaren was fired yesterday as manager of the Seattle Mariners, who began the season with playoff aspirations and now have the worst record in the major leagues.
Bench coach Jim Riggleman will run the Mariners for the rest of their lost season, beginning tonight in Atlanta.
The Mariners made the announcement before the team left on its road trip and three days after general manager Bill Bavasi was fired. McLaren, a former Red Sox coach, was the second manager in the majors to be fired this season - the New York Mets dismissed Willie Randolph this week.
Seattle is 25-47 and 17 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.
"We hadn't shown any improvement for the last couple of months. In fact, we were probably regressing," interim GM Lee Pelekoudas said.
This season, the revamped Mariners expected to reach their first postseason since 2001. Instead, they are on pace to become the first team to lose 100 games with a $100 million player payroll.
"John worked extremely hard to try to make this club better . . . and did everything he could to try to make us win games," said Pelekoudas, who called the decision "emotional" for both because they have been close friends since their days with Seattle in the 1990s.
"But compared to our expectations going into the season, it was clear we were underperforming on a lot of levels."
Pelekoudas said with the July 31 trading deadline approaching, the team has decisions to make on who may go next.
"To give the players a chance to improve . . . we thought a different voice was needed," he said.
The likable, folksy McLaren was an assistant for 21 1/2 years in the majors before he took over as Seattle's manager last July when Mike Hargrove abruptly quit. McLaren went 68-88 in less than a full season on the job.
McLaren did not return a message left on his cellphone by the Associated Press.
When asked Wednesday night if he was worried about his future before yet another loss, to Florida, the mostly sunny McLaren laughed.
"You know, it's business as usual for me," he said, with a hint of emotion in his voice and eyes. "I come out here with the positive attitude, ready to grind. It's a new day. Not happy with where we are, but I know where we want to go. And I'm here just to work hard.
"I'm here to win this game tonight. That's the attitude I will always have."
Seattle players, many of whom consider McLaren a friend, hadn't been informed before the morning announcement. Before leaving for Atlanta, they held a meeting in a closed clubhouse with Riggleman, a former manager of the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
Riggleman is Seattle's fifth manager since Lou Piniella ended the best tenure in franchise history following the 2002 season.
Riggleman has more than 1,000 games of managerial experience in the majors. He managed the Cubs from 1995-99, leading them to the National League wild card in '98, and spent two full seasons managing San Diego.