And when it didn't happen, when the Seattle Mariners chose Eric Wedge to be their manager back in 2010, McClendon didn't sulk. He made sure to greet Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik every time their paths crossed and waited for a time when his desire to be a manager again would be realized.
"When he didn't get this job I think he was really heartbroken and he was really looking forward to (it)," Zduriencik said. "When we would see each other on the field when we would play Detroit, he would come over to me and was always, 'How are you doing?' And he never wore anything on his sleeve. It was a handshake and a hug .... It's pretty neat. Three years ago and this guy never held it as a negative."
Their paths have come full circle with McClendon being named as the Mariners' new manager earlier this week. He was introduced on Thursday, showing a mix of quiet intensity, a sense of humor and a belief that Seattle can finally return to winning after a dozen years without a postseason appearance.
It's a refrain heard in the past in Seattle that this will be the time the losing ways end and the Mariners become a consistent contender for the first time since an eight-year run, 1995-2002, when the franchise made four postseason appearances.
McClendon spoke Thursday of understanding the challenges ahead with a young roster, unproven in spots, and playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. McClendon said he wasn't dissuaded from going after the job by Wedge's sudden decision to leave at the end of the 2013 season citing differences with the front office, or the fact it's Zduriencik's third managerial hire in his five season as GM.
"This is a result-oriented business," said McClendon, who was 336-446 as the Pirates manager from 2001-05. "I understand the honeymoon process, but the bottom line is winning games, developing young talent, making sure they are moving forward, win games in the process and, hopefully, when it's all said and done, we'll be popping champagne and having a good time."
McClendon showed his sense of humor a number of times during his 30-minute introduction. He joked about now being a good smoker, having worked the past eight years for Jim Leyland in Detroit, the last seven of those years as the Tigers hitting coach. He talked of getting pounded growing up as the youngest in a family of nine boys in Gary, Ind.
Asked what the draw was to Seattle, McClendon was succinct, "Felix, Felix and Felix."
Having aces like former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and AL Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma is a good place to start any rotation, especially for a new manager who believes in the importance of pitching.
"Pitching is the name of the game and if they pitch well, you're going to love me and you'll probably give me the keys to the city," McClendon said. "And if they don't, you'll be kicking my butt out of the door and that's OK if that's the way it goes."
Zduriencik was convinced McClendon wouldn't be coming to Seattle. He believed Detroit was going to promote McClendon to replace Leyland and he would have to look for another option. McClendon interviewed during the 2012 offseason for the job in Miami and was a finalist for the Tigers job that ended up going to Brad Ausmus.
Zduriencik said he was even more studious during this search, hoping to finally find a stabilizing field leader for the franchise. Unlike the first two managerial searches, Zduriencik went beyond speaking with managers, coaches and front-office personnel regarding McClendon, adding players to the mix.
"Guys are going to trust him," Zduriencik said.
Notably absent from the day was any mention of Wedge. He was never referred to by name and when asked to compare the personalities of Wedge and McClendon, Zduriencik chose not to answer the question directly.
"I don't care to talk about what was here before. I would prefer to talk about this," Zduriencik said. "I've talked about his qualities, his personality. I'm not interested in what happened before or anybody else's personality. I don't view that as a negative. My point is this is about him and not what was."