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Mariners manager Hargrove resigns, McLaren to take over

7/2/2007 - Seattle Mariners

SEATTLE -- Mike Hargrove resigned as manager of the Seattle Mariners -- and then stood in line among all those who don't exactly
understand why.

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 more than seven 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 he 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."