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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

August 9, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Wakamatsu fired: Quick thoughts, and the first list of possible successors

Our website has been down for awhile, so I apologize that we didn’t get up an immediate blog.

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Mariners cleaned house today by firing manager Don Wakamatsu, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair and performance coach Steve Hecht.

Daren Brown, the Tacoma manager, will be the interim manager for remainder of the season. Roger Hansen, the Mariners’ minor-league catching instructor, will be bench coach. Carl Willis, the organization’s roving pitching coach, will be the new pitching coach.

I’m not surprised that Wakamatsu was fired. I think we could all see that coming. Though I wrote yesterday that I felt Wakamatsu deserved another year, I really didn’t think he’d get one. When teams fail as badly as the Mariners have, there’s almost always a scapegoat, and invariably it’s the manager. The old adage about being easier to fire the manager than 25 players holds true.


The surprise for me, however, is that it happened now – one week after Jack Zduriencik gave him a vote of confidence, and the day after the Mariners completed their first series win in over a month. Or perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, since votes of confidence are traditionally tantamount to kisses of death – and Zduriencik’s was about as tepid a vote of confidence imaginable. When I asked him point blank if he could guarantee that Wakamatsu would manage the remainder of the season, he hemmed and hawed and pretty much avoided the question.
Something must have happened in the last week to make the Mariners lose confidence in Wakamatsu to the point where they felt it was urgent to get rid of him now. I’m not sure what it was. Adair and Van Burkleo, the guys most closely tied to Wakamatsu, went down with him.
Here’s Zduriencik’s quote: “I no longer have confidence that Don, Ty and Rick are the right long-term fit for our organization.”
I’ll do a longer post on this later, but I’m going to toss out some names as possible successors to start the speculation rolling:
Bobby Valentine. He’s got the most stature of all the guys sitting on the sidelines (and I don’t count Tom Kelley, who has shown no inclination to return to managing). Valaentine played for the Mariners, he managed in Japan, and has seemed open in the past to the possibility of managing the Mariners.
Joey Cora. He was a finalist when they hired Wakamatsu, a fan favorite from the golden era, and a nice pedigree as Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach.
Tony La Russa. He’s at the end of his contract in St. Louis, and there have been rumblings in the past of his interest in possibly moving closer to his Bay Area home. But would he want to take on a mess like this? And would the Cardinals let him get away?
Dusty Baker. He’s another guy at the end of his contract. There has been recent talk of an extension, but nothing’s done yet. Much could depend on how a so-far successful Reds season ends. I know there’s a visceral negative reaction to Baker in some quarters, most because of his reputation for over-using pitchers, but that hasn’t been a big issue in Cincinnati, and he has won wherever he’s gone. He has expressed interest in the Seattle job in the past, but Mariners management has never seemed very high on Baker, so put this is in the extreme longshot category.
Bryan Price. The former Mariner pitching coach has long been considered managerial timber, and the success of Bud Black might make the M’s willing to take a chance on a pitching coach without managerial experience. He’s having another great year as Baker’s pitching coach in Cincinnati.
John Farrell. The Red Sox pitching coach is known to be a favorite of Zduriencik’s and turned down a chance to interview here two years ago.
–Rick Sweet. Long-time successful minor-league manager with Mariners roots.
–Wally Backman. He flamed out when hired as Diamondbacks manager because of personal issues, but has returned to be a successful manager in the Mets system. Has Northwest ties and would be a fiery antidote to laid-back Wakamatsu.
Willie Randolph.Good suggestion by Vertigoman. He interviewed for M’s job when Bob Melvin was hired, but has gained managerial experience since then.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more, but now I have to leave for the 2 p.m. press conference.

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