Friday, December 2, 2016

#336 Rene Lachemann Seattle Mariners

This is Rene Lachemann's first Topps base card as a manager. I've said it before and I'll say it agian, I hate the pink borders on the Mariners cards.

Although he played just three years in the majors he appeared on four Topps cards as a player.  His 1965 rookie card is worth some money, probably because that Jim Hunter guy that is also on the card.

Player:  Lachemann, like many managers, was a catcher in his playing days, playing parts of three seasons for the A's, two in KC and one in Oakland.  As a 19 year old in his first pro season he hit 25 homers at three different levels.  Production like that got A's management excited and Lachemann on a Topps card as a teen. 

He made his MLB debut on his 20th birthday in '65 and hit nine dingers in 92 games, displaying the power that was so rare for catchers of that era.  Alas, those would be the only blasts he would hit in the majors as he had just five at bats in '66, spent all of '67 in the minors, and fizzled in 60 at bats in '68.  One downfall may have been his throwing arm since he only threw out 10 would be base stealers in 66 career attempts.

Manager:  At just 28 years old Lachemann found his playing career over after the '72 season.  He would go on to manage in the A's chain for four years until moving on to the new Mariners franchise in 1977 at AAA San Jose. 

Lachemann managed San Jose for two years, then followed the squad to Spokane in '79.  In 1981 the big league Mariners started the year 6-18 and they fired Maury Wills and hired the 36 year-old Lachemann.  

Following the disastrous Wills' tenure, Lachemann and the Mariners went 38-47 the rest of the way during the strike shortened campaign.   1982 would prove to be the best season in Seattle's young history when they won 76 games besting their previous high by nine games.  A 26-47 start was Lachemann's undoing in 1983 when he was canned after an eight game losing streak.  According to Seattle reporter Tracy Ringolsby Seattle owner "George Argyros also wasn't pleased in early May when he phoned Lachemann in the dugout and demanded a pitching change and Lachemann threw the dugout phone".  

The Mariners gig was a great opportunity at the start and ended with what seemed like a raw deal from a meddling owner. Lachemann wasn't out of work long and was hired by the Brewers to run the team in 1984.

Lachemann only spent one year in Milwaukee as the team struggled to a 94-loss, 7th place finish.   Once again Lachemann seemed to get hosed.  He was notified that he was fired in the last week of the season yet asked to finish out managing the last three games. The Brewers were without Paul Molitor for all but 13 games, sluggers Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, and Ted Simmons combined for a measly 27 homers, and the pitching staff was unremarkable aside from aging stars Don Sutton and Rollie Fingers.

Lachemann seemed to find success as a coach in Boston '85-'86 and Oakland '87-'92 winning four pennants in total and a championship ring with the A's in '89.  

Lachemann, by now a well respected coach, was given another shot as a manager with the expansion Florida Marlins.  As their inaugural skipper he was given a longer leash than he had in Seattle and definitely more than Milwaukee.  After winning just 64 games their first year the Fish improved in '94, playing at a .443 clip when the season ended early due to the strike.  1995 marked another shortened season and Florida showed a little more improvement, playing .469 ball.  The following season the Marlins brass canned Lachemann mid-year after a 39-47 mark.  

Since then Lachemann had a few coaching stops in various roles with the Cardinals, Cubs, and back with the A's.  From 2008 to 2012 Lachemann served as hitting coach for the Rockies AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs.  He was back in the bigs serving on Walt Weiss' staff from 2013 through this past season. Lachemann was among three coaches also let go when Weiss got the axe at the end of the year.

Flipside:  With all those minor league seasons split into a first and second half it looks like Lachemann was managing in the minors for a long time when in reality it was eight years and change.

Oddball:  Growing up in Los Angeles, Lachemann was a bat boy for the Dodgers where he picked up after many stars including Maury Wills who he eventually replaced in Seattle.

In his later coaching days Lachemann has been known to dispense in-your-face advice to youngsters when giving them a souvenir ball.  

History:  Lachemann is a true baseball lifer, spending every one of the past 53 seasons either playing, coaching or managing in professional ball.  Lachemann came from a family of ball players having played and coached with his brother Marcel in a few different stops.  He also has another brother Bill who played in the minors.  
Lachemann's major league managerial winning percentage is only .433 but he seems very well regarded by those who have worked with him.  It would have been interesting to see how he would have done with more talented team than the one's he had to work with.  No word on whether the 71 year-old will retire or be serving on someone's bench in 2017.

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