By JOE PEREZ
NORWICH -- Sitting in what had been his office for nearly three seasons, Dave Machemer sat at the desk one last time, looking equal parts tired and relieved.
Three years can seem like an eternity, especially for a minor league baseball manager. Machemer, who has never managed a team for as long as he has the Connecticut Defenders, stepped down Sunday. He was replaced by Shane Turner, who managed the team the two seasons prior to Machemer‘s arrival.
“Sure I’m disappointed in the way the club played this year,” Machemer said. “As a manager, I always tell the guys, it’s the captain of the ship is the guy that’s going to go down with the ship.”
Bobby Evans, the San Francisco Giants Director of Player Personnel, offered Machemer the option of being reassigned as a major league scout or be released. Machemer said he didn’t sleep much Saturday night but after much deliberation, decided to remain employed.
“After some reservations at first, because it is a change,” Machemer said of the new post. “It’s something I had never done. Once I heard what it curtailed and the chance that it guaranteed me another year on my contract, I felt a new chapter in my life needed to begin.”
The move itself wasn’t unexpected. The timing, however, was. With the Defenders mired in last place and 10 ½ games out of a playoff spot, it would seem that the postseason serve as a likely time to change directions. But the Giants thought otherwise.
It had been a difficult week for Machemer and the Defenders. The Giants general manager and vice president of player personnel were present for two games in New Britain where the Defenders gave up 24 runs in two games, including the series finale in which the Defenders allowed 12 runs in the seventh and eighth innings, costing the team a win.
It appears that it was the team’s play over those two days that sealed Machemer’s fate.
After the game, Machemer held a team meeting that Turner was present for.
“I think all of us involved, we’re all a part of this no matter how big or small,” said Turner, who will manage the team through the final month plus of the season, “I felt responsible. I’ve been here enough. I felt like we can get more out of these kids.”
With the Defenders on pace for their worst winning percentage in franchise history, Machemer’s 176-206 record with the team became too much to bear.
“Any time the club struggles, you always look at what your options are to improve the club or help the situation. It’s a difficult situation because we have a lot of confidence in Machemer. Sometimes making change is what’s best for the club.”
Earlier this season Machemer became the team’s all-time leader in wins for a manager and was the fifth among active minor league managers with 1,233 wins over 18 years as a manager.
The players were surprised that the move came when it did and are unsure of how the managerial change will affect the team, especially this late in the season. With the exception of May, when the team was 11 games under .500, the Defenders’ performance had not been horrible, per se, as they have been six games under even in April, June and July combined.
“I feel like I let him down,” shortstop Jake Wald said. “In the end, he’s the head of this team, he’s the leader of this team and the Giants felt a switch would help us. … I do feel a little bad.”
Many of the Defenders are familiar with Turner, who managed Triple-A Fresno and most recently served as a roving outfield/base running instructor within the Giants organization.
“We had no idea,” catcher Steve Holm said. “This is my seventh year playing and I’ve never been involved in anything like this. I guess it’s going to be a learn on the fly thing. We know Shane, so it’s not like they’re bringing in someone you don’t know.”
On his way out, Machemer had few regrets, if any.
“I can still say I came to work with a positive attitude every day and I thought on that given night, we came to play hard and we came to win,” he said. “I think I have given the players an honest shake every night. I really do.”
Reach Joe Perez at 425-4257 or email@example.com
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