Uncertain Embarrassment

Jeff Sullivan · September 30, 2013 at 4:54 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

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?


31 Responses to “Uncertain Embarrassment”

  1. Milendriel on September 30th, 2013 5:21 pm

    The only people who should feel embarrassed are the fans who defended this abomination of a roster, and the people who put it together. The rest of us are simply waiting to see if those people will use that embarrassment as an opportunity to pull their heads out of their asses, or if they will stubbornly keep fueling the dumpster fire.

  2. scraps on September 30th, 2013 5:24 pm

    God, thank you, Jeff!

  3. scraps on September 30th, 2013 5:28 pm

    (Eric Wedge had success with the Indians two seasons out of seven. Otherwise, yes yes yes yes.)

  4. diderot on September 30th, 2013 5:36 pm

    Brilliant. The best thing written yet about this.

  5. henryv on September 30th, 2013 6:49 pm

    Eric Wedge had success with the Indians two seasons out of seven.

    And imagine how bad he would have been if Bill Bavasi hadn’t single-handedly built him a better roster.

  6. Sowulo on September 30th, 2013 7:39 pm

    The biggest embarrassment should be for keeping Wedge as long as they did.

  7. ppl on September 30th, 2013 9:52 pm

    Someday we all look back on this and laugh.

  8. wdemetriff on September 30th, 2013 10:30 pm

    I do not feel embarrassed at all. Wedge knew he was getting fired, and with his health problems needed to quit anyway. Instead of waiting to get fired he did the one thing that will ensure he never gets another chance to manage again, quit. He was one of the worst managers I have seen in recent history with running a pitching staff. He left guys in way too long, brought in guys for no reason other times and just never seemed prepared for what could happen next. Look at the 1-run loss and extra inning loss totals in his tenure. It is a big reason why we did not get at least one .500 season.

  9. Slats on September 30th, 2013 10:43 pm

    It’s tough being a Mariners fan.

  10. vertigoman on September 30th, 2013 10:45 pm

    Embarrassed? Sure I guess. But being a Mariners fan is like being the kid that always has a booger in his nose, you get used to it. I certainly don’t think this is any more obvious than the nasal boulder Hargrove left us with. Lou walking(running) to Tampa Bay before they were the “Rays” was more than just rimmer.
    This is more like the fleck caught on a hair. Obvious but not entirely disgusting. It’s even somewhat understandable what with flu season coming up and global warming dealing havoc on the allergy front…. Lost the metaphor

  11. Adam S on September 30th, 2013 11:08 pm

    The process is a bit embarrassing with Wedge not getting a contract extension, him quitting, and the GM saying they planned to retain him and then different stories/lies.

    But the end result, meh? As noted above, Wedge has been a big league manager for 10 years and has two winning seasons. Obviously you can’t pin that all on him but why exactly should anyone care that Eric Wedge won’t be their team’s manager anymore?

  12. Jopa on October 1st, 2013 6:02 am

    All signs of a dysfunctional ownership and management group. First, they drive the winningest GM/Manager combo in franchise history out of town, Gillick and Pinella. Hargrove quits during, if I remember correctly, an eight game winning streak. Then there was the catastrophe that was Bavasi. There’s the rumors of meddling in roster construction by Armstrong and Lincoln. Now Wedge bails on one of the hardest jobs in the world to find in a kind of, “I’d rather never work again and retire a poor man that work another day with those idiots.”

    I don’t think this ends until there’s a change in ownership followed by the dismissal of Lincoln and Armstrong.

  13. furlong on October 1st, 2013 6:03 am

    Here is my beef with the Mariners. Dave Sims who is the absolute worse announcer in baseball. I have for years turned off the sound on the tv and listened to the radio side or nothing at all. I have a feeling that a lot of fans turn Sims off and of course that means I don’t hear the commercials either or buy any of the products.Root Sports and the Mariners management wake up and smell the coffee.

  14. casey on October 1st, 2013 6:18 am

    my complaint with Wedge is that he seemed to have no clue how to grow our players. I look at the A’s Melvin and players like Donaldson, Moss, Reddick (last year), the young starters – and how many have been able to move to a different level of play.

    With the exception of Kuma and probably Seager we have had next to none of this in the Wedge years (okay Ibanez hit about 10 more dingers than expected but also had about 200 more ab’s than expected). Some good arms in the bullpen – but really a season long disaster. Guys like Ackley, Saunders, Franklin, Zunino all seemed to perform a few ticks under where we expected. Even the veteran pressence (which I still think is a Wedge roster strategy) – well Saunders, Bay, Morse, the various catchers were all just awful.

    The one thing I do agree with Wedge on is that you just can’t keep churning your roster the way the Mariners have – this has been a huge failure for Z – the dime store players are okay for your last 3 roster spots but the churn has been about 10 deep every year.

    Hoping our next coach comes with a set of keys that sees some of our guys becoming what most coaches seem so adept at getting from players young and old.

  15. islandan on October 1st, 2013 6:22 am

    I guess I’m not as pessimistic here, although the year after year mediocrity (at best) from the Mariners is certainly grating, especially for the most devoted fans.

    The kids on the team (position players) are good value with upside, and the pitching staff should be fine. The farm system is paying off.

    But, the ownership group needs to ditch the Ibanez’ (thank you Raul, but you’re 42), Chavez’, Saunders (Joe) etc, and drop some real money on valuable free agents to complement the youngsters. Even adding a rotation free agent of good value would be wise.

    With a SMART GM and ownership group, this team could be very good, very quickly, but that’s asking for a lot!

  16. Westside guy on October 1st, 2013 7:52 am

    “Root Sports and the Mariners management wake up and smell the coffee.”

    I thought you said you didn’t hear the commercials. 😉

  17. refusetolose on October 1st, 2013 8:05 am

    No, the biggest embarrassment of all is trading Shin Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera and Adam Jones (although at the time I drank the cool-aid and was happy with Bedard).

    Consistently trading away the team’s young talent and leaving the cupboard so barren for years is what set this franchise back.

    Now I hope they just keep the young, useful pieces they have in place.

  18. smb on October 1st, 2013 8:15 am

    I’d love to use the Orioles post-2011 as a comp for what could’ve or even still could be in the M’s future, but the main difference I see is they had a moronic team like the Mariners to trade them all their top-end club controlled talent. Add Adam Jones and Chris Tillman to this Mariners team and suddenly they seem a sight better. I doubt we’ll have such a willingly self-desctructive trade partner as part of our rebuilding, unless through a similar stroke of blind luck as the Orioles had in running into The Great Rube Bill Bavasi.

  19. ripperlv on October 1st, 2013 8:40 am

    How do you spell dysfunctional?

  20. bermanator on October 1st, 2013 9:07 am

    “Add Adam Jones and Chris Tillman to this Mariners team and suddenly they seem a sight better.”

    Chris Tillman struggled in Baltimore from 2009-11. Based on what I see here, plenty of people would have been clamoring to dump Tillman at that point in favor of The Next Big Young Prospect.

  21. CCW on October 1st, 2013 10:03 am

    Amen. I just want the team to be good. I don’t feel like Eric Wedge had a whole lot to do with that. If the circumstances of his departure eventually result in a complete turn-over of the front office, then I think that would be a good thing.

  22. raul_podzednick on October 1st, 2013 10:38 am

    I never like the Wedge signing. I felt that he philosophically clashed with the roster Z was constructing. I didn’t like a lot of the decisions he made also. Bunting for example, I am not completely opposed to moving the runners over but you have to look at the situation more. If you are against a front line starter and you got lucky with a bloop single and an infield hit and Brendan Ryan is up, then bunt them over and bring your lead off guy to the plate. But if some middle of the rotation guy walks the first 2 batters of the inning don’t give him a free out.

    That being said I kind of feel that Wedge might have been the Joe Saunders of Managers. a veteran innings eater who can hold down the spot until the Big 3 are ready and it is time to take a serious shot at things. I know they said they were trying to win this year but what else are they going to say. This was a development year, they brought in a bunch of vets to teach the kids and hopefully flip at the trade deadline and they brought up more of the youth movement.

  23. qwerty on October 1st, 2013 10:46 am

    Any chance that the FO is once again closing the curtains to cover the messy living room and Z really will be replaced?

  24. sawsatch on October 1st, 2013 12:39 pm

    1-Scouting and development—-failure
    2-Front office performance—-failure
    3-Trading or signing for productive 2nd tier veterans instead of holding on to substandard players because they are under contract.—–failure
    Recipe for failure…..but the franchise has doubled in value over the past few years so where is the incentive to change direction?

  25. vertigoman on October 1st, 2013 2:13 pm

    1- are you kidding?

    Final statement- “Behold a Pale Horse”

  26. Dobbs on October 1st, 2013 2:33 pm

    Wedge played it like a teenage girl who thinks her boyfriend is going to dump her, so she dumps him first, just so she can say she’s never been dumped by anyone.

  27. turin07 on October 1st, 2013 3:26 pm

    I get the sense that if we go thru what was said by whom we can logically figure out what transpired. I guess that either a.) the M’s offered Wedge one year and he rejected it for personal reasons but publicly proclaimed the only reason was the club’s vision because it makes him look a little better or b.) the M’s plan on moving Smoak or Ack or Seager and/or ? and Wedge disagreed with the “change in direction”.

  28. Beniitec on October 1st, 2013 3:30 pm

    Wedge isn’t someone that was going to take this team to the next level. He was just posturing for his new job. That much is obvious. This is the best thing that could have happened. We would have had the same results next year. Next man up. Hopefully we can find the next great manager. Because with this talent (while not being great) we should have at least been over .500. This was bad. And don’t tell me his medical issue affected it because it didn’t. Let’s turn the page and look forward to the next page in the Mariners history book. And while you may not like Z, he’s who we have today. He’s made much better decisions. I’ve heard on this blog and others so many exclamations of “YES, great job, in Z we trust” more than ever before. Yet because of the results you are all ready to malign him. Give me a break.

  29. sawsatch on October 1st, 2013 4:19 pm

    It’s prudent to use results with which to project future performance.

  30. Breadbaker on October 1st, 2013 7:14 pm

    I believe managers have more of a role than Jeff does. But the difficulty is that, unlike ballplayers, there is no “best” manager, but rather a right or a wrong manager for a situation. And there is no obvious growth curve for managers. Bob Melvin is an excellent example. He learned from his failure with the 2004 M’s and took that experience with him to Arizona and now to Oakland. That doesn’t mean he would have learned those lessons if he weren’t fired after 2004. Clint Hurdle is a similar example.

    But it’s unlikely our next manager will be any better because it’s unclear that Lincoln, Armstron or Zduriencik have a clue how to deal with a manager. The choice of Wedge in the first instance is an indication of that. Wedge’s experience here is another such indication. Wedge’s departure is hardly an advertisement to someone that this will be just the perfect place to manage.

  31. Captain Lars on October 1st, 2013 8:53 pm

    I don’t view Eric Wedge as either the problem or the solution. Most baseball managers are pretty interchangeable, just look at how many are recycled. My feeling about Wedge is that there probably wasn’t any sort of meaningful communication about his future coming from the front office and he worked himself up into lather, assuming the worst. First he says he wants to “see this thing through” and in the next breath he says he wouldn’t stay even if they offered him a five year contract. I don’t know what the true facts are but I think I see a certain stubborn macho from Wedge that perhaps didn’t serve him very well. I wish him well but the team’s fate will likely not be altered by his departure.

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