Eric Wedge, not Bobby Valentine, and not Joey Cora, will be the next manager for your Seattle Mariners. A lot of fan’s first reaction is probably that once again Chuck and Howard don’t want to pay what it takes to bring in a big name, thus we are stuck with a reincarnation of Bob Melvin or Don Wakamatsu. I’ll be honest, my first reaction was how similar this guy looks to Russell Branyan (see pic below). Fans can have whatever reaction they’d like, and no one is wrong. Seattle has seen 7 managers come and go since Lou left, so at this point, Joe Torre could have been hired and some fans would still react negatively. Personally, I think Wedge is an outstanding pick. Here’s why.
The Mariners made no secret about their desire to have an experienced manager this time around. No more rookies! In addition, it seemed safe to assume that a younger guy might be on their wish list, or at least someone who can relate well with young players, because the M’s will no doubt have a plethora of youth in 2011. Furthermore, following the Wak era, I’m sure Jack Z was looking for a manager that would not take crap from anyone (cough Figgy cough). Wedge meets all of these qualifiers, not to mention a nice track record of successfully taking over a rebuilding situation, as he did in Cleveland, eventually getting them to within 1 win of the World Series. At just age 42, Wedge has quite an impressive resume. In 2002, he was hired at age 35 by the Indians, and in 7 seasons he led the tribe to a .495 win%. Not bad for Cleveland.
Yesterday I listened to both Eduardo Perez (ex-player) and Tom Hamilton (Indians announcer), both give ringing endorsements of Wedge. The interesting point that both men made was that Wedge was fired following the ’09 season for the simple reason that Indians management wanted to turn the page, and enthuse the fan base with a managerial switch. It had little to do with Wedge, and in fact, GM Mark Shapiro fought to keep Wedge. Had Cleveland held onto Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, Franklin Gutierrez, and Brandon Phillips, Hamilton noted that “we would not be talking about Wedge in Seattle, but rather, Wedge and the Indians in the ALCS.”
I doubt Wedge will provide the entertaining soundbites that media and fans love to hear. I’m sure he will have his fair share of pet phrases, like Wak and his “belief system.” But make no mistake, Wedge does have some Piniella-like attributes. Wedge ranked #3 on the list of most ejections for managers from 2004-2009. He was tossed 21 times in that span. Wedge is going to back his players at all times, unless they do not return the respect, ala Milton Bradley. His spat with Milton has been well documented, and it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to co-exist. I think Eric is a great choice for his ability to get the most out of young players, while also keeping a reign on the clubhouse.
The bottom line is the M’s needed to move quick, because Wedge was quickly becoming the hottest manager available in baseball. Valentine has been passed up by many teams, so it’s not just Seattle that isn’t in love with Bobby. In 5 years, maybe we will all laugh at this pro-Wedge post, but if I had to bet, I’d say there is a good chance Eric is still managing the M’s in 5 years. I really think Seattle wants longevity from their manager, and he will be given a longer leash than Wak or others were. Now it’s up to Jack to provide a roster that gives Wedge a chance. Grady Sizemore? V-Mart?