Quick Reaction To Eric Wedge’s Hiring
I’m traveling through Wednesday, so I don’t have as much time to write as I will towards the end of the week. I don’t want to rush through a post on Eric Wedge just to have something up, but I figured I could sketch out an outline of my thoughts, and then expand on them later. Consider this a Cliff’s Notes version of my feelings on the hiring.
We probably should have seen this coming. Of the five candidates they interviewed, he’s the one who makes the most sense. He got his managing chops in Cleveland, a similarly minded front office, and has experience in dealing with GMs who aren’t putting together traditional rosters. There were problems between the field staff and the front office this year, and I have no doubt that Jack was looking for someone who would be more willing to work with them on things they wanted to accomplish. He might not be a stats guy himself, but knowing how to work with an organization that uses sabermetric thinking was one of the things that Wedge offered that none of the other candidates did.
Also, with Carl Willis finishing the season as the pitching coach, Wedge’s hiring likely provides some continuity at the most important position on the coaching staff. Willis and Wedge worked together in Cleveland, and all signs point to him sticking around in that role. Given the issues they had with Brandon League’s pitch selection this year, I would imagine that having a pitching coach that is on board with the organization’s philosophy is a big priority. Hiring Wedge meant that they didn’t have to give him carte blanch to bring in a pitching coach that they weren’t familiar with, and that had to be a point in his favor.
As for whether this is a good or bad hire, I maintain my position that we have no idea how to evaluate managers, and so much of whether one is good or bad depends on the context of the situation. If Wedge works well with Jack and gets along with this specific group of players, then it was probably a good hire. How would we even begin to know whether that will be the case? I have no clue. We can look back at Wedge’s time in Cleveland and make some guesses about his on-field strategies, but those are a minimal part of a managers job, and they don’t really matter all that much. As long as he doesn’t ask Felix to throw 120 pitches per start or hit Jack Wilson lead-off, his moves won’t matter all that much. What will matter is getting the guys to respect him, and we don’t have any idea whether that will happen or not. Any opinion about his personality and how it will fit here is just a wild guess.
The most interesting question at the press conference, whenever that turns out to be, will almost certainly be about Milton Bradley. His time in Cleveland ended badly when he and Wedge ceased to be able to coexist in 2004. The breaking point was Wedge pulling Bradley from a spring training game for not hustling, but that was hardly the only time they butted heads. You’ve almost certainly heard the infamous story by now, but there are reports that Bradley wore a t-shirt in the clubhouse that read F— Eric Wedge. Maybe Wedge is the most forgiving person ever and the new and improved Milton Bradley is willing to give that relationship another chance, but, I wouldn’t bet on it. Wedge’s hiring almost certainly increases the chances that the M’s just cut Milton loose this winter. Maybe they would have been willing to take a shot at getting some production out of him with another fresh start, but Wedge does not qualify as a fresh start for Bradley.
Overall, I mostly defer to the M’s on this one. They know more about what kind of guy they want to work with than I do.