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Lloyd in Space
2003-05-16 00:49
by Mike Carminati

Lloyd McClendon had the typical meltdown that presages a manager being fired. His target? Kris Benson, who had the temerity to lose a game:

"You don't get those tags off potential," McClendon said. "You earn that distinction. This game isn't based on potential, it's based on results. There comes a time when you've got to go out and get it done."

"When you get a couple of runs, you've got to go back out and go 1-2-3 in the next inning," McClendon said. "You've just gotten two runs off one of the best pitchers in the league (Roy Oswalt), you can't give those runs back.

"You've got your No. 1 starter against their No. 1 starter. Sometimes you've got to step up, execute, make your pitches. Sometimes you've got to win a game 2-0."

When informed of his manager's comments, Benson seemed miffed but somewhat non-plussed: "Giving up two runs there is definitely not what I wanted to do." Well, of course not, but did Benson really want to get the job done?

Why should McClendon plumb the depths of his pitching ace's soul? Why isn't he made at Matt Stairs, who killed the only scoring rally the Bucs had all day by getting thrown out at the plate? Benson gave up three runs in six innings, not a stellar performance but it would qualify as a quality start if that stat still existed.

The problem with Pirates is not the starting rotation. Benson now has a 3.81 ERA and he is fourth in that stat among the starters. The Pittsburgh starters have a 2.48 ERA overall. That's fifth in the majors.

Their relievers have a 5.42 ERA, which second to last inthe majors. The Pirates are third to last in the majors in runs scored, second to last in OPS, and second to last in batting average.

McClendon has cause to be upset, but the last place he should be venting his spleen is at the starters. This leads me to believe that McClendon, who is in the last year of his contract, sees the writing on the wall and is now lashing out indiscriminately on whomsoever does anything to annoy him.

His pitcher gave up a lead. Big deal! Hall-of-Famers give up leads. It happens. The last thing you want to do is put more pressure on your players to be perfect. If Benson is on the mound with a 2-0 lead worrying only about keeping that lead, then he is doomed for failure, most likely.

In the coming days/weeks it appears McClendon will be fired. It's just a fait accompli at this point. Given the fallout from the Marlins mid-season hire of Jack McKeon without interviewing minority candidates and given that McClendon is African-American, it appears that baseball will withstand another blackeye when McClendon's replacement, a dubious distinction at best, is announced.

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