Thursday, June 19, 2008

Seattle Mariners Fire McLaren; Riggleman To Manage Rest of Season (And Why I Don't Like The Five Man Infield)

With the worst record in MLB of 25-47, the Seattle Mariners have fired manager John McLaren. His firing the second of this week. Of course, the New York Mets fired manager Willie Randolph earlier this week replacing him with Mets bench coach and former Chicago White Sox manager Jerry Manuel. McLaren had been on the job for less than a year after being hired last July when Mike Hargrove abruptly resigned. The Mariners were the hottest team in baseball when McLaren took over but they failed to make the post-season. Many (myself included) expected the Mariners to contend again in 2008, especially with the additions of Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva to the starting rotation. But the Mariners are 17 and a half games behind the Los Angels of Anaheim in the AL West.

Mariners bench coach Jim Riggleman will manage the team for the rest of the season. Riggleman managed the San Diego Padres from late 1992 through 1994 and the Chicago Cubs from 1995 through 1999. Riggleman guided the Cubs to the NL Wild Card in 1998, the same season Sammy Sosa hit 66 homeruns. I watched a lot of Cubs baseball that season. Riggleman used to drive me crazy with his obsession with the five man infield.

So what is the five man infield? A five man infield is employed when an outfielder is brought into the infield usually if there are two outs and a runner at third and the game is tied or the defensive team is up by a run. The logic is with an extra infielder it would be more difficult for a batter to hit the ball out of the infield and thus there's a play at the plate. But more often than not the play doesn't work. I saw Riggleman use the play at least six times and it worked once. Usually, the batter would find a way to hit through the shift. The ball doesn't have to be hit hard. A little Texas leaguer bloop and it's all over.

I even saw the Oakland Athletics try it against Manny Ramirez in an extra inning game at Fenway on my birthday in 2005. They had the bases loaded. Manny ended up being hit by the pitch and the Sox won the game.

My guess is that if we see a lot of five man infields in Seattle they will continue to lose.

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