After one year out of the game, Eric Wedge has landed on his feet and will be bringing his grindy style of managing to the Pacific Northwest. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported last night that the Seattle Mariners had chosen Wedge to be their new manager. With an emphasis on defense and UZR, the Mariners were a trendy preseason pick to win the AL West in 2010 but finished with the worst record in the league at 61-101. Wedge’s name had come up throughout the season for other positions with fellow cellar dwellers in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. While no official announcement has been made, it appears the Mariners have the man that they believe can lead them out of the abyss.
Wedge is no stranger to reclamation projects. He was chosen by Mark Shapiro as the man to lead the transition from the glory years of Tribe baseball to the rebuilding years under the cost cutting reign of Dolan darkness. Wedge started as Tribe skipper in ’03 – a time that many of us thought would be rock bottom on the climb back to contention. He did slowly develop the new generation of prospects into a contending club, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2007 along with Mark Shapiro who was Executive of the Year. It’s amazing to think that just 3 years ago this week, the Tribe was battling Boston for a chance to go to the World Series. But as we all know, it came quickly tumbling down in a series of on the field failures and subsequent payroll reductions.
Wedge falls under that ambiguous cliche of “players manager.” It’s hard to find many people who either work for the Indians or are around them on a daily basis, who have many negative things to say about Wedge – both on and off the record. He was admired by players, front office execs, and most of the local media. He rarely had run-ins with his players and never spoke poorly of one of his players in public, save for a few exceptions at the end when things got desperate.
But a “players manager” is often not a fans manager. The public, myself included, grew tired of the steady and monotonous approach, especially as Rome burned each and every April. Most fans want to see emotion and outbursts from their manager – aside from pitching changes, it’s one of the few areas that lends itself to general critique and examination from the public. Wedge was constant and boring while the fans were incensed and outraged.
While Clevelanders were panicky and pessimistic, Wedge often refused to recognize, at least publicly, any issues or problems with individual players or with the club’s performance as a whole. Therefore, Wedge was never able to maintain a positive image amongst the fanbase, especially as the team crumbled down the stretch in ’05 and consistently erased any spring training optimism by May 1st. Despite his good standing with the organization, with the fans disapproval and dwindling results on the field, Wedge’s tenure ended after 7 seasons leading the club.
Wedge is undoubtedly a major league manager. There are obviously many questions on how much a manager actually effects a team’s performance but both the Cleveland and Seattle situations are not the most ideal. Seattle’s Japanese ownership group is demanding and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik often clashed with former manager Don Wakamatsu. I expect the Mariners to improve dramatically under Wedge – they really can’t get worse. There is definitely a willingness in Seattle to spend money on free agents and also retain young talent, something that was not always available here in Cleveland. One thing is for sure, Milton Bradley, who is owed $12 million in 2011, is likely to be bought out or traded.
(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)