SEATTLE -- When Mike Hargrove realized he couldn't give his players what he asked of them, he decided there was only thing he could do -- resign as the Mariners manager. And so, with the team on a seven-game winning streak going into Sunday afternoon's series finale against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, the organization announced that the 57-year-old skipper would be managing his final game with the team and bench coach John McLaren would become the full-time skipper, effective Monday night in Kansas City against the Royals. "It's just time for me to move on," Hargrove said. "I challenge my players every day to give me the best that they've got, 100 percent of what they've got that day, physically and mentally, because as I've said before to many of you, the big separator of this game between so-so players, mediocre players, good players and great players is their mental toughness and their mental ability to focus.
"They've given me what they have every day, and I have never had to work at getting to that level myself, ever, until recently. I've found that I had to work harder at giving that same commitment to my bosses, and to my players, and to my coaches, and that's not right. "They deserve better, they're good people, there's a good thing going on here, and it's time for me to leave." But not before managing Sunday's game, which ended one of the best homestands in franchise history. Known as "Grover" by most of his players, Hargrove sat alongside general manager Bill Bavasi for more than 40 minutes, explaining the reason(s) for walking away with three months remaining on his contract and his team playing its best baseball of the season -- and perhaps his three-plus seasons in Seattle. "There are no dark, sinister reasons for this decision," he said during a hastily called press conference at Safeco Field. "This has been my decision, and I feel very proud of the job, and the work that we've done here, in the last three years. And when I say we, I mean we, because a lot of people have had an important hand in doing this, in getting this club and organization the way it is." Hargrove, 57, was named Seattle's manager on Oct. 20, 2004, and is fifth among active managers with 1,188 career wins, including 192 with the Mariners. He also managed the Cleveland Indians (1991-99) and Baltimore Orioles (2000-03). After the rebuilding Mariners finished last in the AL West during his first two seasons at the helm, this team was the hottest it has been during his tenure. The seven-game winning streak was the longest in more than three years, which made Sunday's stunning announcement even more baffling. But Hargrove has been contemplating this decision for a while. Bavasi disclosed on Sunday that he was told by Hargrove on June 20 -- following the team's sixth consecutive loss -- that a managerial change could be in the works. "Nobody should have to go through six-game losing streaks," Hargrove said. "Any time I see a team, unless it's the Angels, I feel bad for them. But the highs weren't high enough, the lows were too low. That's putting it about as simple as I can." The even keel that he had during the 34 years of his baseball career disappeared and he knew it was time to make a change -- no matter how drastic. "Originally I had told Bill and Chuck [club president Chuck Armstrong] that I would wait until the All-Star break to make a decision," Hargrove said. "As we got closer to the end of this homestand, I felt like I owed it to the players to announce the decision now rather than wait for the All-Star break, because, when [next Sunday's game in Oakland] is over, players have plane connections, and it's a real kind of chaotic time. I felt like this would be a better time for all of us." Efforts were made to talk Hargrove out of his decision, but to no avail. "I could tell 10 days ago that something was on his mind," McLaren said. "After wins, he wasn't Mike. I asked him and some of the other coaches about it and he said he was OK, but I could tell something was bothering him. I just didn't know what. "He never let on to me at all. We talked abut the team, what we needed to do ... as far as something bothering that would lead to this, he never let on." Hargrove called McLaren into the manager's office Saturday afternoon and broke the news. "It caught me off guard and the first thing I asked was if his health was OK. The second thing I tried to talk him out of it." Bavasi said the organization has mixed emotions about the sudden change. "We're real happy for him, but we're not happy about this one bit," he said. "This is not something that we were prepared for, that we wanted, and we did think we had him talked out of it. But also, all of us are big believers in people like Mike, who are in the position to do what the heck they want to do, to do what they want to do, and if you've ever been around his family, you'll understand why he might be doing this." Hargrove has agreed to continue to work with the Mariners as a special assistant to Bavasi, joining John Boles, Dan Evans and Ken Madeja in that role. Though Hargrove would not rule out becoming a manager at some point down the road, he said it was unlikely. "With five kids," he said, "I learned never to say 'never.'" At the same time, even he seemed surprised that he walked away from an unfinished job. "I never thought that it would end like this, I really didn't, and I'm grateful that it has," he said. "The last three or four days, every time I've walked on that field, I've been fortunate enough that our guys are playing really well, to walk out on that field, shake their hands, and believe me, I've taken in the sights. "This is about the players, this game is about the players, we're all here because of the players. That's the way it should be. Other than it being a special day because the sun is out, and it's Sunday, and it's a special place to be, we're playing baseball, and we can't ask for much more than that. "It's still a game. No matter how hard we all, including you guys, try to screw this game up, it's still a great game. The game hasn't changed, the players haven't changed, they're still good people. It has nothing to do with that. It's just an accumulation of 35 years." And those 35 years added up to this Texan riding off into the sunset.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.