Eric Wedge has a career winning percentage of .478. With the M's, it was even lower, at .438. Between his two years at the helm of the Seattle Mariners, his teams finished a combined 57 games out of first place.
Now, not all—most?—of that was his fault. But, throughout the fan base, people quickly grew tired of his in-game strategy, his philosophy towards the game and his coaching staff's inability to turn top-flight prospects into Major League regulars, let alone the stars many believed they had the potential to be.
I wish Eric Wedge and his family the best in the future, but if you had told these fans in September of last year that Eric Wedge would not be returning to manage the team in 2014, no one would've been upset. It likely would've been celebrated.
And yet, when it was decided—by Wedge, kind of—that he wouldn't be returning as manager, there was almost universal uproar. Through what seemed at the time to be a lack of clear and deliberate communication, Eric Wedge felt like he was being left out in the wind and decided to bring his dirty laundry out there with him.
Were the Mariners wrong to leave a manager like Wedge out there without certainty on his future, wanting instead to wait until the end of the season to decide? No, but they left open the potential for circumstances to go sideways, and they did.
That's exactly what we have with this Randy Wolf situation.
Neither what happened with Eric Wedge nor Randy Wolf has any significant impact on this organization's on-field product. With the former, it was probably a positive step. With the latter, it's highly probable it was—at least—a lateral move. The Mariners can find another Randy Wolf, or Blake Beavan or—gulp—Hector Noesi can fill in to the point that a clear gap in talent between them and the veteran starter is negligible.
What happened with Wolf is simple. Randy Wolf was told that if he made the Mariners' starting rotation, he would be given a contract. Randy Wolf made the starting rotation, conditionally—and was given a conditional contract.
As has been clearly explained and noted many times, these types of contracts are not uncommon. Ken Rosenthal's COLUMN on what happened even called them "'much more widespread' in recent years." Randy Wolf should've either already been aware of this possibility, or been briefed by his agent, and not overreacted if it were to play out. But he wasn't, and then he did.
Did the Mariners act in bad faith? No, I don't think so. The Mariners signed him to a non-guaranteed deal back in February, and they couldn't attach this kind of waiver until 10 days before Opening Day.
But like with the Eric Wedge situation, they didn't take into account the possibility of things going sideways. Though the Mariners couldn't have offered the waiver back in February, they should've made sure Wolf was aware this would be a possibility. Because when he was told by someone, I assume a coach, that he had indeed made the starting rotation, it doesn't sound like he was. And that's the second part of this.
I don't blame Randy Wolf for being upset. He was told, by someone, that he had made the starting rotation. He'd battled all the way back from Tommy John surgery at the age of 37. You probably remember what your dad was like at 37. Can you imagine him pitching at baseball's highest level? No, of course not. But anyway, Randy Wolf probably called up his wife, as elated as he'd been in a long time, and told her he'd made the big club—told her he'd have that full $1 million they'd been hoping for. What a story.
But then came the hitch, the "licking a D cell battery." Again, Wolf should've been aware of the waiver being a possibility, especially considering the conditions under which he was making the starting rotation. But, obviously, he wasn't.
The Mariners didn't do anything wrong here, they just didn't do enough right. And with the position they're currently in, as a franchise, they need to do more than other teams to make sure situations like this don't go sideways. At this point, the bar for what they need to do to protect themselves seems to be nothing short of "everything possible."
We talked about this back in December, the confirmation bias many people and outlets will buy into with regards to the Mariners, when an off-hand comment by one Texas writer turned into the full-on Deadspin treatment for "THE MARINERS BID AGAINST THEMSELVES FOR ROBINSON CANO." The same thing has happened here as Deadspin cries wolf (oh snap) over something that's commonplace in Major League Baseball.
Does what disgruntled employees, Deadspin or outraged fans say really mean anything? Is it going to make the Seattle Mariners a worse baseball team? No, it's not.
But like I said, why look bad when you don't have to?