I knew, immediately, it was all embarrassing for the organization. There are, at any one time, 30 managers in Major League Baseball. Many of them are safe, not at all fearing for their job. It’s a tough gig to land, not unlike being a major-league broadcaster, and so when you have one of those positions, it seems like it would take an awful lot to be compelled to give it up. Eric Wedge was managing the Mariners, and because of his experience, he removed himself from the running for managing this team in a year. He probably wasn’t going to get the chance anyway, but Wedge went out because he wanted to. The Mariners, essentially, were rejected by their own manager, a manager who had so confidently bought in. There’s no way for that to not make the organization look bad, and now this is all people want to talk about. Wedge quit the Mariners, they say. It’s just the latest turbo boost as the Mariners rocket toward irrelevance.
I know this is embarrassing. What I can’t figure out, though, is how embarrassed to feel. So the Mariners and Eric Wedge didn’t see eye-to-eye. What reason is there to believe Wedge had the right ideas? What more have we really learned about how the Mariners are run?
It seems like maybe there were failures of communication. Yeah, that’s kind of a part of this team. It seems like there are some accountability issues up top. Yeah, same. Maybe the Mariners don’t come off committed enough to trying to succeed. People have been saying this for years. Where did Wedge and the Mariners disagree, beyond just the Mariners’ confidence in Wedge himself?
Obviously, Wedge and the front office would’ve shared in the goal of seeing the Mariners get good. Differences must’ve been in how to get there, and to be honest, as much as I’m skeptical about the front office, it’s not like Wedge is a roster-management mastermind. His job isn’t to build a team — his job is to manage a team, and we can’t speak to the respective plans without knowing what they are. Wedge talked about committing to development, implying the Mariners might’ve been wavering, but he also alluded to a need to spend more, implying the Mariners might’ve wanted to stick with youth. I don’t know, and I suspect we won’t know. We don’t know where they disagreed — we just have an idea the Mariners aren’t losing a brilliant strategist.
As for the Mariners not committing to Wedge, well, what has he done? He most certainly hasn’t been the problem, but the team hasn’t gotten better. Wedge managed for three seasons, and it’s not like this roster feels like it’s on the verge of something special. Maybe, a year ago, Wedge wanted a longer commitment, and the Mariners were reluctant to make it, and maybe it would be better to have Wedge still around, but just as Wedge wasn’t the biggest issue, is the manager going to be the Mariners’ biggest solution? Ultimately, it’s the players who play the game. They get instruction from coaches, teammates, opponents, and experience, and it’s up to the players to make themselves better.
Wedge talked about the need for personnel continuity, consistency. Said it was extra important for a developing team like these Mariners. The Indians switched managers and now they’re a wild-card team. The A’s took off not under Bob Geren, but under Bob Melvin. Wedge has a vested interest in asserting that consistency is important. Consistency means a kept job. What he actually needs, now, is inconsistency somewhere else, so he can get a job there. Because, you know, Eric Wedge is a free agent.
Wedge was all-in with these Mariners, and you could genuinely see it in his eyes, and now he’s lost faith in the organization. He did what he could to leave on his own terms, not quite quitting, but conveying the idea. That doesn’t look good, and we all have reason to believe the Mariners are headed in the wrong direction. But then, that doesn’t mean Wedge was right, and it doesn’t mean the Mariners are worse off without him, and it doesn’t mean the Mariners are any further from success. I don’t know what Wedge envisioned, and I don’t know what the Mariners envision, but I don’t want either building a roster. Endy Chavez just batted 279 times. Wedge went out like a man, but he very well might not have been the man for the Mariners. He didn’t quite seem like the man for the Indians, although there at least he had success, and again, a manager can get only so much blame.
The Mariners might have a hard time finding their next manager, given the situation with their next manager’s boss. What the Mariners need more than a good manager are good baseball players, and that’s going to drive everything. Talent means wins and fans and success and respect and appeal, and everything would be helped rather considerably if the Mariners just stopped being bad. I suspect Wedge would’ve had relatively little to do with that. I think Wedge now has some personal issues with Zduriencik and Armstrong and Lincoln, but we all already did. So. I think we were kind of already embarrassed, and losing Wedge seems a hell of a lot better than overspending on Josh Hamilton.
After 2011, the Orioles had a hell of a time trying to find a general manager. Nobody wanted the job. They gave it to Dan Duquette, who wasn’t even involved in the game beforehand. It seemed like it must’ve been humiliating. Last year, the Orioles won 93 games, and this year they were involved in the race until the final one or two weeks. They seem to be in pretty good shape, and no one thinks of them as being a laughingstock anymore, at least. People don’t laugh at the Pirates, either. Maybe soon the Royals won’t be a joke.
And maybe soon, the Mariners won’t be, either. I know I’m supposed to be embarrassed by what’s happened, and I think I am, a little bit, but I have a stronger sensation of how I’m supposed to feel than with my actual feelings. Just how black is this black eye?