Hargrove does what he must to break from the grind
You've heard of resigning under pressure. Mike Hargrove resigned under pleasure. Finally, he had momentum. He had craved it for two-plus...
Seattle Times staff columnist
You've heard of resigning under pressure. Mike Hargrove resigned under pleasure.
Finally, he had momentum. He had craved it for two-plus years as the Mariners manager. He had craved it for this entire decade, a clump of six losing seasons over two jobs. He was a winner again, and over the past week, he couldn't lose.
Hargrove should've been seeing rainbows in every puddle. Instead, he was just seeing puddles as puddles, and baseball as baseball, and the game didn't dominate his every breath.
So he quit. Just when he was onto something, he quit. Just when he was gaining respect, he quit.
Hargrove, the Texan with a public demeanor falsely identified as indifferent, was never going to be beloved here. But he was approaching be-liked. Now he's just gone.
"I won the first game I ever managed," Hargrove said Sunday, just before walking away. "I won the last game. Pretty good bookends."
That's Hargrove for you. Unwilling to surrender to sentimentality. Unrevealing as the White House press secretary. Always trying to sprinkle in terse humor.
Those characteristics didn't work well in this city, especially while working in the shadow of the wacky and extroverted Lou Piniella. During his first two seasons, Hargrove didn't win enough, didn't show enough managerial creativity and didn't expose himself enough.
This season, though, his way has worked. The Mariners are on an eight-game winning streak. They are 12 games above .500, the highest they've been since 2003.
With mediocre starting pitchers, with impatient hitters, with big-money players still not performing adequately, with youth all around, Hargrove had a team — somehow, a good team, one with playoff scenarios two-stepping in its head.
So, um, why's he quitting again?
He says he hasn't lost his passion, but he talks like he's lost his passion.
He says this team has an incredible future, but he doesn't want to be a part of it.
He says there are no "sinister" reasons for his departure, but he's lived under ominous conditions the past year.
Last year, Hargrove was fighting for his job. Now, he's fighting off his job.
Hargrove said Sunday he didn't expect people to understand why he was quitting.
In spring training, after a 45-minute interview with Hargrove, I came away feeling that he wanted to show he's still got it. He wanted to be seen as the manager he was 10 years ago, when he was chasing championships in Cleveland. And he wanted to show he could handle the rigors of remaking a desolate team.
"I'll tell you what," he said then, "if you were in a fight in an alley, you'd want me on your side."
And, now, dukes down.
"It was totally foreign to me," Hargrove said when asked about first having thoughts of resigning. "I had never thought those thoughts before. Ever."
He left as the favorite for manager of the year. He left just as some of his veteran pitchers were about to come off the disabled list. He left while even the pessimists were wondering, "Could this team be for real?"
Hargrove's hot seat had turned tepid. So he torched it himself.
Maybe, after all these years of climbing back to prominence, Hargrove couldn't see how high he was.
"Probably, he needed to take a step back and see how good of a job he was doing," pitcher Miguel Batista said. "Sometimes, there comes a point in life where you think you're sinking, basically, when you're actually floating."
Baseball, with its everyday demands, owns its participants. The game purchased Hargrove 35 years ago, and ever since then he has been trapped in the grind.
There's this feeling there must be something more to this story, and that's probably the correct assumption. But unless someone confesses, it's all speculation. If you let Hargrove's words stand, then, yes, this tale loses all its sex appeal, but it gives us rare insight into the burdens of athletics.
If the tale is this simple, it's much more interesting than any covert Mariners soap opera.
"This game, there's a human side to it," first baseman Richie Sexson said. "There are things people don't understand. We're not robots. We have families, kids. We have lives outside of what we do. Sometimes, people forget that. We're not just machines that wake up every day and play baseball."
Humans are irrational. They get in ruts. They lose focus. They win eight consecutive games and fail to smell anything, besides the stench from the sweat their job requires.
Hargrove had a chance this season. He could've been more than some guy Mariners fans pestered until the team fired him.
He could've been more than some old-school manager sentenced to a life of hearing people say the game has passed him by. He could've been respected again.
Instead, he fled from success.
Next stop: Happiness?
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or email@example.com.
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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