(Photo by Associated Press)
The thing that jumped out most vividly for me at Eric Wedge’s press conference this afternoon was his intensity. This guy has got some fire, and some passion, which I’m sure is what Jack Zduriencik was looking for as a contrast to the more low-key Don Wakamatsu. I’ve already discussed the pendulum theory of managerial hires, where teams invariably look for the opposite of the guy they’ve just fired.
I felt Wedge came off well in the press conference, and also in a followup interviews, as a guy with a clear vision of what he expects from a team, and also someone with a certain charisma and flair that plays well in a clubhouse. I don’t think anyone on the Mariners will have any doubt who’s in charge, yet he seems capable of tempering his toughness with patience and compassion. At least, that’s the impression I got from listening to his words. We’ll see how it plays out on the field.
Here’s a sample of some of Wedge’s comments that paint a picture of the type of manager he hopes to be:
“Preparation is big. This game demands your respect as a player. Every time you put on a big league uniform, a professional uniform for that matter, it’s an honor. Like I tell the kids, the players, ‘Listen, every night you come to the ballpark, there is a family of four up there who’s been saving all year long, mother, father and a couple of kids, and it’s their night. this is their night, this is all their savings, this is everything they’re about, and you owe it to them to show up and play your you know what off. That’s the way we’re going to play.’
“Now, does it just go from 0 to 60 like that? No, it’s a process. Some players are there now, some players are going to take a little longer to get there. Some players are halfway in between. But the consistency we display, the manner we do that, there are certain things that are non-negotiable. Being a good teammate and respecting the game are going to happen here, every single day with all of our players at some point in time. It may not happen from Day One, but at some point in time that’s going to be a big part of what we’re about. Like I said to someone the other day, i could write a masters thesis on what it means to respect the game and everything that goes along with that.
“But that consistency in what we’re going to show is going to allow them to come out and play it all the way through. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the stands, where we’re playing, the time of the year, what the weather is like, what our record is, the way we play and our effort and the way we go about it is going to be there each and every day, and it’s going to be at the point where the other team knows who they’re playing and who they’re fighting against. Those are things that are going to happen here.”
Those are impressive words, but of course talent is going to dictate the Mariners’ ultimate success. Wedge says he believes the Mariners are farther along than the Indians team he inherited in 2003.
“Well, they’re futher along here with some of the things Jack has done behind the scenes and the empowerment of Howard and Chuck as well, they’re further along down the road here than where we started in ’03. So that is encouraging. The fun part about it is as you manuever and you move and shake down the road and have to make these decisions and put this puzzle together, that’s the fun part. i’m looking forward to that. We’ve got some pieces here and it’s our job to continue to develop these pieces and go out and see what we can do beyond that and go from there. i’m looking forward to that.”
Wedge said he and Jack Zduriencik are still in the preliminary stages of assembling his coaching staff, though he heaped praise on his former Cleveland pitching coach, Carl Willis, and said Willis will be under consideration for that job. Look for that to happen. Zduriencik said that Daren Brown has indicated he wants to stay in the organization and may end up either back in Tacoma as manager or on Wedge’s staff.
As for Milton Bradley, here’s Wedge’s answer to the inevitable question about their celebrated confrontation in spring training of 2004: “It was a short conversation in the interview. We talked about it very briefly and left it at that. I look at Milton, it’s 7 1/2 years since I had Milton. I think one of Milton’s biggest obstacles is just staying healthy. Hopefully, he’ll be healthy and help us have an opportunity to win some ballgames here. I’m looking forward to having another opportunity to work with him. I don’t hold any grudges. Milton’s a long ways away from that, too. I’m sure our relationship is going to be fine.
Asked if he was going to reach out to Bradley, Wedge replied, “I’m going to reach out to quite a few of the guys, not just Milton. I think it’s important to understand when we talk about our ballclub, the Seattle Mariners, we’re talking about everybody. I’m going to reach out to most definitely the veteran guys. Jack and I are going to sit down and talk about that. The quicker I can make contact with some of these guys, I’m sure a lot of them are watching today. I know for a fact, when someone comes to our team, the phone calls are out to guys I’ve had before, what this guy is all about. I think they’re going to have a good understanding of what I’m all about. Franklin Gutierrez, obviously we had him for awhile. It’s kind of a tight fraternity. I don’t think there will be any surprises.
“I haven’t talked to anybody yet. I plan on reaching out to these guys sooner than later.”
Finally, here’s how Wedge answer when asked to describe an Eric Wedge player: “Hardnosed, consistent, passionate and prepared. I think there’s not a greater compliment someone can give us as an organization or as a big-league club than when an opposing manager, coach or even player comes up and says, “I love the way you’re ballclub plays.” That’s what we’re shooting for, guys. That’s what we’re shooting for. We want these other teams to have that type of respect for how we play the game.”