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Hargrove wants no part of 'hot seat' talk

2/15/2007 - MLB Seattle Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- On the first morning of spring training,
Seattle manager Mike Hargrove was fired up about his hot seat.

Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln declared six months ago
that Hargrove and general manager Bill Bavasi "are on my hot
seat" for 2007, following the team's third consecutive last-place
finish in the AL West.

Hargrove was often asked about the comment during the offseason
-- and always answered calmly. But when he was questioned again
Thursday, he became noticeably irritated.

"I've got two words: Good. Bye. How's that?" Hargrove said,
his eyes searing as his stiff right arm chopped sharply in the
direction of a reporter.

"Hot seat? You know what, I'm going to tell you this -- and I
don't want to talk about this not one more time all year long
unless it's the DAY I'm getting fired: This will be the 16th year
of doing this at the big league level. I've been good at what I do.
I'm still good at what I do."

The manager who won five consecutive division championships and
had two World Series appearances in Cleveland from 1995-99 -- but
hasn't finished above fourth in a division since -- wasn't done. He
stayed on the offensive, more than his light-hitting team often has
in recent seasons.

"Any day any manager in the big leagues wakes up, he is on the
'hot seat,"' Hargrove said. "So whether anybody said this, or
what, it doesn't make any difference to me."

His slight Texas drawl stayed pointed. And colorful.

"It gets me fired up a little bit. But it doesn't (tick) me
off, or anything like that," he said, unconvincingly. "There will
be a time to address that, if it comes to that."

Hargrove is entering the final year of a three-year contract. He
has gone 69-93 and 78-84 in his first two seasons with Seattle.

The Mariners have finished last in three straight years for the
first time in the team's 30-year history. Attendance at Safeco
Field has dropped from a record 3.54 million in 2002 to 2.48
million last season, Seattle's lowest since 1995 in the old
Kingdome. An unlikely September rally to the club's first division
title that year sparked a baseball renaissance and a new stadium in
the Northwest.

Lincoln uttered the "hot seat" remark the day after sending
season-ticket holders a letter informing them the team believed
Hargrove and Bavasi were putting the Mariners back on the path to
winning.

"This phrase has gotten blown way out of proportion ... it's
taken on a life of its own," Lincoln said inside his second-floor
office at the team's spring training headquarters, which he
occupies every day each spring.

"What I was trying to do was convey a sense of urgency," said
the former chairman of Nintendo of America, which owns the
Mariners.

Hargrove said he hasn't heard from anyone in the organization
about his "hot seat" since Lincoln turned it on six months ago.

"And you are talking to the wrong person," Hargrove said. "I
didn't say it."

Lincoln said it again Thursday.

"Everybody in the organization is on the hot seat. Mike. Bill.
Myself. Every single person," he said.

Over the winter, Lincoln and his 16-person ownership group spent
a combined $33.4 million for two free-agent starting pitchers --
Miguel Batista and Jeff Weaver. They signed Jose Guillen for $5.5
million to be the new right fielder. They traded to get another
starting pitcher, Horacio Ramirez, and a new designated hitter,
Jose Vidro.

That has pushed Seattle's payroll above $100 million for the
first time. No wonder Lincoln is throwing around hot seats like
they're peanuts at the ballpark.

"I think it is important for our fans to know neither I or
anyone else in the organization were oblivious at their
frustrations that we had finished last three years in a row," he
said. "That we weren't oblivious that our fans, who are very
loyal, had been telling me that they had just about had it."

The result so far, six weeks before the first win or loss?

"There is no question that everyone in the organization has
come down here with a heightened sense of urgency," Lincoln said.

The CEO was on the field Thursday morning, as usual. He talked
to Guillen, an early arrival, as well as Ramirez and Batista, plus
holdovers from last season.

He said many told him, unsolicited, "We are going to get this
turned around."

If they don't, Hargrove's hot seat might eject him out of town
before summer.

"You guys can write about it all you want," Hargrove said. "I
waste my time talking about it."