Pirates dismiss McClendon

Pirates dismiss McClendon

PITTSBURGH -- After watching a once-promising season slowly devolve into a likely last-place finish, Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield decided that a change was in order.

As a result, Lloyd McClendon, the Bucs manager since Oct. 23, 2000, was relieved of his duties on Tuesday, thus ending months of speculation that McClendon's position within the organization was tenuous, at best. Bench coach Pete Mackanin was named as the interim manager for the remainder of the season.

Littlefield pointed to the Pirates' 25-51 record since reaching the .500 mark on June 11 as the primary factor in his decision to fire McClendon.

"Ultimately, what it came down to is we just weren't playing well," said Littlefield. "We certainly have not been winning as regularly as we thought we could. As the games unfold, I thought that our execution wasn't improving.

"We were 30-30 at 60 games into the season. Sixty games is a fairly good sample size. To fall off to the degree that we have record-wise ... it got us to the point where we're at and led me to make the decision that I did."

Littlefield was also dissatisfied with the developmental progress made by the team's core of inexperienced players.

"I think we've got a talented group of younger players that are going to be around here for three, four or five more years. Part of what we've got to do is continue to show improvement," said Littlefield. "I think it became apparent over time that we weren't seeing that to the degree that I thought we should."

McClendon began his association with the Pirates as a player from 1990-94. He spent the '96 season as a Minor League hitting coordinator and the '97-2000 seasons as the Bucs' big league hitting coach. McClendon compiled 336-446 record during his tenure as the Pittsburgh manager.

"Any time your boss tells you that your services are no longer needed it's obviously disappointing," said McClendon. "But I am very grateful what the Pirates organization did for me and my family. I was there for 15 years and I wish them the best of success."

"I feel very bad for Lloyd McClendon. I know he has been in the organization for a good 15 years," said Mackanin. "He's devoted a lot of hard work, time and effort to making the Pirates a better organization. Things just haven't worked out. Very often, when a team is underperforming, these things happen.

"I feel terrible for Mac. However, I'm not worried about Mac. I know he is going to rebound. He's going to end up somewhere next year."

Mackanin, 53, managed for 13 seasons in the Minor Leagues, compiling a 917-849 record, before joining the Pirates as a bench coach in 2002. Mackanin has seven years of Major League coaching experience with the Pirates and Montreal Expos. This will be his first opportunity as a big league manager.

"I feel confident that Pete will handle things fine for the rest of the season," said Littlefield.

"I look forward to the last 26 games. I want to emphasize that there is a lot of baseball left. We're looking to improve and reach more potential than we have at this point in time. Pete will be leading us to do that."

While Mackanin did not attempt to hide his interest in removing the interim label from his title, he did not profess to have all of the answers to lead the team out of its slide.

"I don't have a magic bullet," said Mackanin. "I'm going to do the best that I can to try to right the ship, as it were, to get something positive out of the last three weeks of the season so that we can build for the future.

"Hopefully the change might, just due to pure luck, might get things pointed in the right direction."

Other than to say that Mackanin would be a candidate to return as a full-time manager in 2006, Littlefield would not reveal his plans to fill the vacancy.

"At this point in time, I am really more focused on the final parts of the season and the last 26 games," said Littlefield. "Certainly [the managerial search] will be a focus once the season ends. I'd rather leave it at that."

Pirates CEO and managing general partner Kevin McClatchy shed more light on the qualifications that the team would be looking for in a future manager. However, he was quick to note that final choice would be Littlefield's to make.

"I think what we need is somebody with Major League managing experience," said McClatchy. "This is just my opinion and Dave might think differently. And like I've said, it's his choice. But we've gone down the road last time with somebody who didn't have Major League managing experience."

McClatchy confirmed that the team would be willing to provide Littlefield with the resources he would need to bring in perhaps a more high-profile manager. McClatchy considered McClendon's dismissal as the first of several moves to improve the team before 2006, including increasing the payroll and adding a much-needed power bat to the offense.

"I've put a lot of focus on 2006. I think we have to improve next year," said McClatchy. "I think we are going to put ourselves in the best position that we have been in a long time."

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.