McClendon brings with him a monument from the Pirates' past: Bill Virdon, a longtime Pittsburgh player, coach and manager (he started with the team in 1956), was coaxed out of retirement to be McClendon's bench coach, giving instant credibility to the rookie manager. "When I came to Pittsburgh, I was a lousy player, especially in the outfield," says McClendon, who hit .244 with 35 home runs in his career and only twice went deep as many times in a season as he did in his Little League rampage. "By the time Bill was finished with me, I felt pretty good about myself in the outfield, and if I could do it anybody can."
That's the message he has to drill into his young players, some of whom complained last season about a toxic atmosphere and losing attitude in the clubhouse. A roster overhaul is unlikely—the Pirates probably won't substantially increase their $31 million payroll, the fifth smallest in the majors—so McClendon plans to shape the team in his image: fiery, confident and communicative. "That ate at me quite a bit," he says about the players' complaints, from which, out of respect for Lamont, he distanced himself during the season. "We've been getting our butts kicked here for some time. It's going to take that max effort from everybody to be competitive."
What about the inevitable lack-of-experience questions? " Jim Leyland told me something," McClendon says. "He said, 'Mac, always remember how hard this game is and just trust your instincts.' If I do that, and rely on a guy named Bill Virdon, I'll be fine."