On Eric Wedge, players-only meetings and whatever's next

Otto Greule Jr

It's looking less and less likely Eric Wedge will return next season. A managerial search doesn't have to be all doom-and-gloom, but there's much uncertainty ahead.

The Houston Astros, as we're all aware, were supposed to bolster the Mariners' win-loss record and give them a nice little nudge in their quest to return to mediocrity and, eventually, better things. That didn't happen. While some expected a record along the lines of, say, 15-4 in their 19 games against the Astros—the Mariners ended up going just a single game over .500 against one of the worst teams in decades.

And, of course, that was punctuated by a three-game sweep in a near-empty Safeco Field, with the M's being outscored  25-7.

After the second game, a sorry 13-2 defeat, the Mariners veterans called a players-only meeting. Here's what Raul Ibanez had to say on that:

(Quick aside, congrats to Dybas on locking down the Seahawks beat. Should be a lot of fun.)

I'm not sure why, but this meeting caught my attention. Actually, well, that's a lie, I know why—who calls a players-only meeting for an awful team with a couple weeks left in the season?

The joke with Raul Ibanez when he was first signed was, if you're bringing him in to provide mentorship for the young players, a bit of coaching and genereal leadership, why do you even have a coaching staff? Don't you already have guys with that exact same job description? Well, we may be finding out where a player like Raul fits in.

I'm not saying it was a good decision; I won't come anywhere near advocating doing something like that. No, my general point is this: how horrible do things have to get for the veterans, who must be ready to get home to their wives and families too, to call a meeting like this with a little more than two weeks left in the season? How pervasive, crummy and untempered is the "we've checked out" attitude that it takes Raul to step in—not because there's something real still to be gained—but because it's so bad he can't even put up with it for a few more series?

The question should be now as it was when Raul was signed: isn't this the coaching staff's job?

And then, in a tweet about everyone's seen by now, we start to see why about everyone's done with 2013:

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Sandmeyer but, if he knows, Eric Wedge probably does too.

And honestly, it doesn't bother me. How could it bother anyone, the dismissal of Wedge? I understand the frustration expressed by many, Dave especially, for Zduriencik and whoever above him appointing Wedge as the 2013 scapegoat but no one's going to argue that this team is worse off in 2014 without the return of Eric Wedge. I wish him the best, but it didn't work.

I also understand those wishing Zduriencik would depart too, as one of my biggest fears—that a new regime would take another couple years to turn things around—is quickly quashed by the fact that new front office can turn things around quickly; even Zduriencik won in year one. But, as things stand, that's probably not going to happen and we should start to deal with it now.

It is true that the Mariners' likely managerial opening comes with the unique "ya' best win in year one" challenge, but let's run down what Seattle has to offer:

  • There are only thirty of these jobs, and they're dream jobs. It's within the realm of possibility the Mariners' gig is the only one open. Pass on the job if you want, but there's no guarantee of a future one.
  • With somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million in committed salary for 2014, the team has $50-$70 million (yes, the latter's possible) to spend this offseason. If they want to make a massive splash and provide the incoming manager with fancy new toys, they have the means to do so.
  • While there are varying levels of promise among them, there's a good deal of young talent as well. A manager adept in player development at the Major League level would reap the rewards.
  • Have you been to Seattle during the summer? It's paradise.
  • Here's the biggest: if you win 85 games in your first season, your make-or-break campaign, you will be a hero. It's a risk, but if you assume the Mariners add the free agent pieces they need to add, is a barely-above .500 pseudo-interesting campaign that hard to pull off? And really, after all that's happened during the Zduriencik campaign, is there any chance Mariners fans, or anyone, don't give all the credit to the skipper? Not seeing it. Hello, contract extension.

While they aren't the perks of the job, it's also worth noting that if the Mariners are limited in their managerial choices, it doesn't necessarily doom them. You know a couple of re-tread managers who have been kicked around baseball? Bob Melvin. Clint Hurdle. Dusty Baker. They're doing okay.

And maybe, just maybe, the Mariners will be so limited they're forced to look at those who have been passed over, maybe a young managerial candidate a bit too forward-thinking for everyone else. Nothing has given us the indication Zduriencik would go that way, but who knows.

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In looking at things shallowly, you get the sense we all know what's next. Wedge will be gone, someone new will come in, Zduriencik will try to kick down the doors in free agency and everyone gets one shot to get this thing right.

In taking a more nuanced look, we have no idea. We don't know who will manage. We don't know who will be signed—and even if we liked who's signed and the deals they're signed to, we don't know if they'll live up to them.  We don't even know if the young players who are here now will be here in 2014.

I don't know what's next. No one does. The only thing we can hope for now is something different, and there's a good chance we'll get that one way or another.

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