Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MARINERS: Wedge formally Announced as next Mariner manager

In case you hadn’t heard, according to SI.com (Sports Illustrated), and multiple reports, former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge accepted an invitation to manage the Mariners in 2011 last week.

That invitation was followed by a formal announcement and press conference on Tuesday. He becomes the 18th manager in Mariner history, of which Lou Piniella is the sole member of that list to have been to the postseason and have an overall winning record in his tenure here.

All I can say is we can welcome in days of better baseball in Seattle with this new hiring.

To Continue...

Wedge was one of 5 major managerial candidates the Mariners had interviewed earlier this week. The other potential candidates were former Mets and Rangers manager and ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, former Astros skipper Cecil Cooper, former Pirates manager Lloyd McLendon. Interim manager Daren Brown who had managed the Tacoma Rainiers this season before he was promoted, was also considered for the job, but he didn't really fit the M's criteria as someone they wanted to rebuild their and manage the team at this time.

The news of the original decision came less than 2 weeks after the end of the season last Friday. The timing is interesting because the Mariners had previously announced just a couple of days ago that they were willing to take their time to make a managerial choice, deciding to be cautious and, in the words of Jack Zduriencik, “make a decision we [the Mariners] are most comfortable with” (Jim Street, mlb.com). Before this announcement, it was thought that the probable Mariners manager for next year would be Bobby Valentine. Now a baseball analyst for ESPN, Valentine spent 15 years managing in the Majors with the Rangers and Mets, leading the Mets to the 2000 World Series.

But maybe Wedge’s value was just something the Mariners couldn’t wait around for. He is a proven big league manager with experience who has had success and is looking for a job. That’s a resume have to compete with 6 other teams to hire, and the Mariners needed someone like that right now more than ever after coming off their 2nd 100+ loss season in two years.
As I said above, the Mariners front office had openly stated that they were going to choose a manager that had former Major League managing experience, making the 7 year veteran manager Wedge, reportedly one of the most pursued managers, a good fit for the Mariners. The firing of rookie big league manager Don Wakamatsu, after 1 ½ seasons, in which his first season was a feel good 85-77 effort and his second year ½ season was an absolute disaster (42-70) marred by controversy and an unhappy clubhouse, revealed to the Mariners that a manager with experience who knew how to run the show is someone who fits in good with their club at the moment. They need someone who can take the broken parts of the Mariner’s team system and turn it back into a successful producing, and winning team. And that responsibility, ladies and gentlemen, is the daunting task that awaits Mr. Wedge.

Wedge, age 42, is a former Major League player and had spent his entire managerial career in the Cleveland Indians system. When he was 35, he got his first big league managing job and managed the Cleveland Indians from 2003 to 2009. His best years were in 2005 when the Tribe had 93 wins, and 2007, when they totaled 96 wins and a 1st place AL Central finish. Wedge also nabbed the AL Manager of the Year Award that year, as the Indians advanced to the ALCS and came 3 games from going to a World Series (they lost to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox). The Tribe elected not to bring him back after the 2009 season, in which the Indians finished 2nd to last in their division and had a record of 65-97 (his worst season). In all his record with Cleveland was 561-573 with a winning percentage of .495. He has not been managing since then. He had at least 78 wins in 5 of his 7 seasons with the Indians, with two 90+ win seasons, and never had a record as bad as the 2008 or 2010 Mariners.

Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro, who worked with Wedge, has many good things to say about him including:
“You won’t find a manager who works as hard or cares as much and is as driven to succeed as Eric. He was outstanding in every aspect of the game for us.” He also commented that “[Wedge has] clear strengths, toughness, complete preparation and consistency in his approach… He is not afraid to hold someone accountable and the players will understand his expectations.”
In all it seems the Mariners agree with Mr. Shapiro and have done their homework, looked at their options and gone out and gotten the perfect manager that they could find. Now it’s up to Mr. Wedge to do what he can do with the coaching staff, and turn this Seattle Mariners team, with a great fan base into a team that can begin to improve, win, rebuild and start doing well for itself again.