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McLaren moves on without the Mariners

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By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer
The Seattle Mariners played on without manager John McLaren after they fired him June 19, but it took McLaren much longer to continue without the Mariners.
He went home to Peoria, Ariz., and tried to decompress, but it wasn't easy. He'd do chores around the house or run an errand or play a round of golf, but his head and his heart remained with the team.
At 3 o'clock every afternoon, he knew that the Mariners would be on the field for voluntary early work, and if things had turned out differently he'd be standing behind the cage watching them.
At 4:30, he'd be talking with reporters. Then there was batting practice, pregame meetings, the game and the euphoria of victory or the disgust of defeat.
A guy doesn't purge this in a couple of days, not after he'd spent nearly every waking hour with it since early February.
"I was so attached to the team," McLaren said. "Emotionally, I was still into it."
All he could do was watch every game on TV. He did that intently and it wasn't healthy.
"I realized I had to take a step back," he said. "At first, I was watching all the games. Then I kind of got a grip on myself and said, 'I can't do this. I can't watch every night.' It was wearing on me and I had to separate myself. I wasn't with them anymore and, at some point, I knew I had to let it go."
Nearly two months later, McLaren has done that. To an extent.
He's still vitally interested in the Mariners. He still aches along with everyone else who thought this would be a contending team, not a last-place letdown.
But McLaren says he has moved on emotionally.
"I'll still watch them on occasion, but I don't watch the whole game," he said. "I'll surf and watch some other games, the Devil Rays, the Dodgers. I've done some chores and projects around the house and I've played some golf.
"I've taken a deep breath, so to speak."
McLaren also has stayed involved with the Mariners, just as he promised after they fired him. He spent three weeks at the Mariners' academy in Venezuela and a week at their academy in the Dominican Republic.
"When they made the move with me, I told the club that I still wanted to work for my money," McLaren said.
The time in Venezuela brought back memories because McLaren managed winter ball there early in his career.
He dined with many coaches he'd worked with over the years, including former Mariners coach Sam Mejias, and enjoyed working with teenage players at the lowest level of the minor league chain.
"I was really impressed with the way things were run down there," he said. "They have nice uniforms, they fed the kids well, there's good talent and they've really got some nice things going on. I realize (the big leagues) are down the road, but they've got skill and athleticism down there. They're working with these kids every day, teaching bunt plays, rundowns, cutoffs and relays. When they come to the United States, they'll have an idea what's going on."
McLaren plans to look for another job this fall, hopefully in the big leagues.
"I'll take a look at what's out there and see if there's the right situation in whatever position makes sense," he said.
Until then, he'll remain at peace with the dismal events of 2008.
"I've got no hard feelings," McLaren said. "I'm the one who said at spring training that we could win the division and I believed it. I was blind-sided by it. Everybody was, but it just didn't happen. I don't think you can point at one thing, but I'll certainly take my share of the responsibility.
"Maybe the 88 wins last year didn't make as much sense as we thought. We won 88 games and then we added (Erik) Bedard and (Carlos) Silva and thought that would put us on our way. But maybe we over-achieved. Because of the run differential, the 88 wins didn't make a lot of sense, but we still had 88 wins. We thought things would be better."
Instead, the Mariners became a team in the middle of significant change. McLaren is out, as are general manager Bill Bavasi, hitting coach Jeff Pentland, first baseman Richie Sexson and DH Jose Vidro.
"There are some good people who lost their jobs," McLaren said. "That's the sad part about this, but that's the way it is."
He can accept it now.
Story tags » Mariners

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