The winningest manager in Tacoma Rainiers history is back.
When the Rainiers begin their season at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in Sacramento it will be under the guidance of Daren Brown. In January, the Seattle Mariners announced Brown would be returning to the Triple-A club in the 2019 season to replace Pat Listach. Brown had managed the Rainiers from 2007-2013, compiling a 433-429 record, including a Pacific Coast League North Division title in 2009.
This is Brown’s 19th season in the Mariners organization and he’s done almost all there is to do. In addition to managing in Single-A before coming to Tacoma, Brown has had stints as the minor league bunting and base running coordinator (2014-15), manager of the Double-A team (2016-18) as well as stints as interim manager of the Mariners (2010) and third base coach (2013).
On Tuesday, The News Tribune caught up with Brown and he talked about the upcoming season, his baseball influences and the changing state of the game.
The News Tribune: Who are some Rainiers players that fans should get excited about this coming season?
Daren Brown: That’s hard for me to put out names because I think a lot of guys bring a lot of things to the table. Obviously a local guy, Braden Bishop, University of Washington alum. I’ve had him for the last year and a half. He’s done a nice job for us and I expect him to play well here, I know he’s excited to play well here. He did well in spring training and went over to Japan with the big league club. He brings speed and power, fun guy to watch but you can go to the J.P. Crawfords, the Shed Longs. We got some young players that will be exciting to watch.
TNT: You’ve had the chance to manage these some of these guys at some point in their careers, whether it be Single-A or Double-A. Does it make this role with the Rainiers in Triple-A a bit easier, knowing that you’ve been around these guys before?
DB: There’s only three or four guys, the (Joey) Curletta, the Bishop, (Ian) Miller. These guys I’ve had the last couple of years, you have some familiarity with those guys. I know what those guys are capable of doing, then we have guys that we’ve acquired through trades. We bring them in, get an idea of what they can do and hopefully we develop them and they can help our big league club.
TNT: What do you want to see out of this team in terms of the offense?
DB: I want us to swing at strikes. You hear that throughout the organization, controlling the strike zone. We’re not looking for walks, we’re looking for pitches we can handle. It’s no different than what they’re doing in the big leagues. I do think we have a lot of guys with speed, I think being able to take extra bases and stolen bases. This is probably the most guys I’ve ever had that can run a little bit so it’ll be fun, it’ll be exciting and I know we’re excited to get going.“
TNT: Analytics are changing almost everything in baseball. It drives strategy, it changes how pitchers are managed, how players on defense are positioned and the angle of hitter’s swings. Do you find yourself adapting to this new information or do you mainly manage similar to how you’ve always done it?
DB: I think you can get a little bit of both. I’ve said this over the last few years, we ask our players to make adjustments and at some point we have to make adjustments, too. That’s some of it but I’m also from the school of that that you can give me as much information as you can and it might help me win a ballgame to it might help a player become a better player, because that’s going to help us as well. The technology, the analytics; trying to put players into better spots and what’s going to give us an advantage on the field and in the dugout each night.
TNT: Who would you consider some of your unsung heroes of baseball, people who were behind the scenes instrumental in your career or just the game in general.
DB: Mine would be family, I had an uncle (Jackie Brown) that spent about 40 years in the game, my dad (Paul) as well. Both those guys played in the big leagues. Didn’t get that opportunity but did get an opportunity to coach in the big leagues a couple of times. There were and are a lot of back and forth phone calls with them. There’s nothing I haven’t gone through in this game that they haven’t gone through.
TNT: If you were in charge of baseball for a day and could change any rule you wanted, what would it be and why?
DB: That’s a hard question cause we’ve got so many new rules with the three batter minimum that we’re going to put in the minor leagues. I don’t know what I would change. You can look at the shifts, when we’re hitting but I also want to use the shifts while where on defense but I can’t change that. It works on one side and not on the other. I think everything they’re doing in the game is trying to improve the game, there’s not a lot I’m trying to put my grips on. I’m just trying to adjust and keep up with the game.