There's no official confirmation on this just yet, since it's playoff time and Bud Selig doesn't like to see non-playoff teams in the news while playoff teams are playing, but by reports all over Twitter and elsewhere, thehave decided to hire Eric Wedge to take over in the dugout. Wedge wins out over Bobby Valentine and the other four guys you won't be able to remember three years from now.
It's fitting that Wedge is the guy. Since the Zduriencik front office took over in Seattle,fans have been telling us how many parallels there are between the two organizations. In a lot of ways, the Indians were the new Mariners before the new Mariners. They had a sharp front office that blended excellent scouting with advanced statistical analysis. They were said to be among the best-run organizations in baseball, a team in good hands that should be able to compete year after year for quite some time. And then they enjoyed only moderate success while cracks began to form and the team greatly underachieved. All along, everybody figured the Indians had the right process, but they struggled to get the results.
The Indians from earlier in the decade were a lot like the Mariners from later in the decade. And now the Mariners have hired the Indians' old manager.
As we've been writing throughout this entire interview and hiring process, we can't say whether this is a good move or not, and no amount of research will reveal the answer. Wedge, obviously, has some very good qualities. He also has some bad ones, and things certainly didn't end up very good for him in Cleveland. The trouble is that a manager's primary responsibilities concern things like morale and accountability and communication. These all fall under the broader term of "chemistry," and as the entire 2010 season just proved to us, you can't predict how chemistry is going to work out.
It's quite different from actual laboratory chemistry when you think about it. In the lab, you can mix a bunch of known compounds and end up with a known product (and several side products in appropriate molar ratios). In the clubhouse, you can mix a bunch of known compounds, but you have no idea ahead of time how it's going to work. The Mariners, I assume, have a pretty good understanding of who Eric Wedge is. They also have a pretty good understanding of who their players are. But you just don't know how they'll come together. One wrong statement can spoil a relationship. We saw this with Wakamatsu and the whole Griffey ordeal. Through the simple action of benching Griffey without properly communicating the message, Wak lost the entire team. Those things can happen, and you can't see them coming.
From here, Wedge seems to be a fine choice. He's managed teams like this - teams that are at least pseudo-rebuilding, with a blend of experienced veterans and wide-eyed little kids. A number of former players seemed to like him, and those that didn't like him at least respected him. Wedge has been a good communicator. Wedge has been a leader without being an overmanager. Wedge has been respectful and protective of his players, and his players have been respectful and protective of him back. Wedge's track record is encouraging. It's just - again, it comes down to what we can't predict. Every Mariners player in 2009 would've said good things about Wak. It's funny how moods change when things go sour.
A lot will be made of the fact that former Indian Milton Bradley once walked around the clubhouse wearing a shirt that said "fuck Eric Wedge". It's definitely weird, and a funny if unsettling story. But Milton Bradley last played for Eric Wedge in March 2004. It's been six and a half years. Bradley was a young player who hadn't yet turned 25. Wedge was about to begin only his second season managing. People change. Who were you six and a half years ago? Who were you when you were 24? Who were you when you were 30? People mellow out. They become more understanding. They become more forgiving, and less sensitive. It's possible that Milton Bradley may still hate Eric Wedge. But six and a half years ago, I hated grapefruit. Now I have one every morning.
Additionally, it ultimately doesn't really matter what Milton Bradley thinks anyway since Milton Bradley isn't a part of the future, while Wedge, ideally, is.
So this is the guy. The Mariners have been managed by the guy who argued to cancel the snow game, and the Mariners will now be managed by the guy who argued to keep playing. It's exciting to have a new hire. Even a new hire as seemingly bland as Wedge, at least when compared to Bobby Valentine. That excitement will die down after a while, and once the season's underway, most everyone's feelings for Wedge should settle somewhere around "mild dislike". He'll bat players where you don't want him to bat players. He might call for too many bunts or hit-and-runs or bad sinkerballers out of the bullpen. Eric Wedge is no sabermetric hero. He'll have his annoying managerial ticks, just like they always do.
But the true test of how good a manager he is - that won't be quite so visible. We'll only know if Wedge was the right guy when the season's nearly over. And even then, we won't know if he's the right guy for 2012. Everything changes. Everything is hard to predict.
Hopefully Eric Wedge pans out. Hopefully, he sticks.