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November 19, 2008 at 3:21 PM

Wakamatsu: “a young, talented team”

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NOTE: 7:52 p.m.: Thanks to all of you who phoned in today with questions for The Geoff Baker Show. Because of the sheer volume of them, we won’t be posting the finalized show on this blog until tomorrow morning. But the numbers are great. Keep calling in like this, we’ll have enough for three shows per week.
The words in this post’s title, about “a young, talented team” are what Don Wakamatsu used to describe the current state of the Mariners as he sees them. Wakamatsu held up some other words at his introductory news conference at Safeco Field this afternoon, printed on a note given him by his daughter Jadyn, 10, when he first came to Seattle to interview for the managers’ job last week. “Knock ’em dead!” Turns out he did. Somebody had better grab the t-shirt rights pretty quick.
Wakamatsu had been carrying the note around in his briefcase ever since, and decided to pull it out and give her a nod at today’s conference. Down below, you can view some video of today’s news conference. At one point, Wakamatsu makes sure to thank his wife, Laura, for all her support dating back to his minor league playing career. So, he’s sure got the family members covered.

For the record, Wakamatsu does not believe that the team’s terrible showing in 2008 was due primarily to a talent issue. This is a serious issue because it will help determine where the team goes from here. Wakamatsu seemed genuinely against the notion the team will have to seriously rebuild itself. He felt it had the talent to win 95 games last year. At least, he said he and his fellow Oakland A’s coaches thought they’d have to win 95-100 to beat the M’s. Same difference. Listen to the audio clip and judge for yourselves.
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Wakamatsu was asked at the start of the clip whether this was “a rebuilding project” he was taking on.
“Not at all,” he replied. “Again, we’ve talked about the fact that a lot of smart people, some in this room, had predicted that the Mariners were going to be pretty good. Within the game, some of the coaches from different organizations really thought that they’d have to win 95, 100 games to beat the Mariners last year. And in Oakland, we were one of those guys.

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“It’s going to be a little bit different team,” he said. “Jack and I are in the process of talking about that right now.”
Wakamatsu went on to describe the Mariners as “a young, talented team.”
Here is another response you can hear in an audio clip taken during a one-on-one session with reporters after the main press conference was over. Wakamatsu was asked again what he thought of the team and its talent level.
“For me, you’ve asked me several different times, the press has, about whether I think we can win’,” he said. “I think we can win. I’m not sitting here telling veterans that ‘Hey, we’re going to try to rebuild here.’ And Jack’s saying the same thing. We’re going to try to win right away. Whether we can or not, I think it’s going to take a lot of work this winter. Again, it’s twofold. We want to win now, but do you know what? We want to be good for a long time. And everybody knows, probably, the situation in the minor league system where the depth is not where we want it right now. That’s where he (Zduriencik) brings up the player acquisitions. And again, I think history states itself. You look at the Atlanta Braves. You look at Anaheim now from where they are prior to 2002. They built some longevity.”
Zduriencik was asked about whether others high up in the Mariners hierarchy had their own ideas of who the manager should be. We told you yesterday that Joey Cora had support upstairs, but that Zduriencik was allowed complete autonomy over the hiring. And Zduriencik was honest about it not being a completely unanimous decision process. In the end, he said, he went with his gut.
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“It was my decision,” Zduriencik said in an audio clip you can listen to here. “I listened to all those who sat in on the interviews. Don (Wakamatsu) had a brief meeting with Howard. He had spent some time with Chuck. But…when the day was said and done, you go with your gut feeling, you go with your instincts. I listened to everyone’s opinion, but we didn’t put together a voting chart.”



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