Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, here talking with with Miguel Cabrera, previously managed the Pirates from 2001-2005 where had a 336-446 win-loss record. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Detroit — Sometimes what you’re searching for is right under your nose.
If that turns out to be the case with the Tigers in their search for Jim Leyland’s successor, Lloyd McClendon will be the next manager.
In fact, it already could be in the process of happening despite all the other names you’ve heard.
In many ways, including almost all the important ones short of having managed a championship team, McClendon has all the required credentials.
He’s managed before. He’s determined to manage again.
He had a lot to learn after being a manager the first time. But in the last eight years, he has learned a lot.
He knows these players. They know him. They like him, but more important than just liking him, they respect him.
“I’d welcome the opportunity if it comes,” McClendon said Tuesday. “I’ve been preparing for a second chance for quite a while.”
Not unlike Leyland, McClendon has a strong personality. That hasn’t come out publicly in his role as hitting coach, but when the situation calls for no nonsense, he can be as much no nonsense as anyone.
But he’s learned how to balance the business at hand with a gentler approach.
Managers must be able to relate to the modern player, yet not be manipulated by them.
“Lloyd McClendon is a smart individual,” fellow Tigers coach Gene Lamont said. “They don’t try anything with him.”
There are four former managers with the Tigers, including Tom Brookens and Mike Rojas, who’ve served only as minor league managers.
McClendon and Lamont have managed in the majors.
McClendon will be 55 on January 11. Lamont will be 67 in December.
Both have come close to landing other managing jobs during their eight years with the Tigers.
McClendon finished second to Eric Wedge before the 2011 season for the Mariners job. He also interviewed in Miami, but Mike Redmond got that job to succeed Ozzie Guillen.
Lamont finished second to Bobby Valentine before the disastrous 2012 Red Sox season.
McClendon has been on more than one “A” list, though. That’s the point. He’s come close to landing more than one managing job during his years in Detroit.
Not only that, but from Lamont, he gets the endorsement of the fellow coach who’d also like to get the Tigers job, but doesn’t think he will.
“I’d love to,” Lamont said during a phone conversation. “But I don’t think I’m a candidate. Whoever gets it, though, I hope I can stay as bench coach.”
Lamont is a former American League manager of the year (White Sox, 1993) and was a runner-up in the National League with the Pirates (1997).
He’s been a good manager himself and has been around good managers. But in McClendon, he sees a good one in the making.
“Mac is a great candidate,” Lamont said. “He’s managed before. That’s important. But he also learned a lot under Jim the last eight years. For someone, he’ll be a good major league manager again.”
If Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski is determined to overhaul the staff, starting at the top — and believes this is the time to do so — McClendon won’t get the job.
The same is true if that’s the intention of owner Mike Ilitch.
Dombrowski, though, has expressed nothing but satisfaction with the staff during Leyland’s tenure, and never has indicated he believes an overhaul is necessary.
The pitchers have a high regard for Jones, to be sure. They’d like him to return.
The other coaches also are on excellent terms with the players, although it must be said that adaptable as they are, players sometimes seamlessly adjust to new staffs.
Continuity isn’t as important as the selection of the right candidate as manager. But when the right candidate represents continuity, it’s a bonus.
McClendon has strong backers, another reason his candidacy is so strong.
Even so, Dombrowski will conduct a search because he is innately thorough. He probably doesn’t select a pack of gum in a grocery checkout line until weighing all his options.
But the right pack this time could be the one closest to him.