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July 31, 2010 at 8:37 PM

No bottom in sight for Mariners, but maybe one coming for Don Wakamatsu

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Not much left to say after this 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The Mariners are a team in freefall. There appear to be no answers to what has ailed them all season. Tonight, against a so-so starting pitcher, the Mariners had three hits in eight innings. They got one more in the ninth.
In the eighth, Michael Saunders managed to bloop a double between some fielders. The next guy, Josh Bard, flied out to left without advancing the runner. Then, Matt Tuiasosopo grounded out to third without advancing the runner. And Jack Wilson ended the inning on a flyout.
“Words don’t really describe what’s going on right now,” Saunders said of the team’s July play. “Obviously, we’re not winning ballgames right now. We’re doing our best to keep what’s past in the past and trying to move forward.”
Yeah, but “turning the page” when it comes to this team is like doing it with a bad book. The plot doesn’t get any better. It just keeps going downhill.
Granted, down by three runs at the time Saunders doubled, the M’s weren’t exactly looking to advance the runner there. They needed a few more hits. But it’s kind of the way it’s gone all season for them, in three-run games, ten-run games and one-run games.
“I think we had two hits through seven and four total,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I don’t know if we threatened at all, all night.”
Nope. The M’s usually don’t threaten much early. And they don’t tend to do much damage late either unless some really bad bullpens are in there.
The team is 6-22 since July 1. They just fired their Felix Hernandez bullet, now must go three more games without him — mercifully being spared a fourth by the off-day. Continue at their .214 winning rate since July 1 and the M’s will finish with 111 losses.
No, not 101 losses like in 2008. We’re talking 111 losses. Ten more than in one of their worst seasons ever.
So, yeah. There really is no bottom in sight here.
Which brings us to manager Wakamatsu. Somebody wrote on the previous post that I sound like I want to see Wakamatsu fired. No, that’s not it. I really don’t like to frivolously speculate about somebody’s livelihood just on a whim. I’m merely putting all the pieces together of what we’ve seen. And haven’t seen. We’ve all speculated since the Chone Figgins dugout flareup eight days ago that Wakamatsu does not appear to be getting backed by GM Jack Zduriencik and the front office.
Some of you speculated that today when I told you of how the organization decided to ship Justin Smoak to Class AAA less than 24 hours after Wakamatsu had outlined a course for him that involved remaining with the major league club. Wakamatsu said the move was “an organizational decision.”
Some of you mused, rightfully so, about how the organziation keeps making Wakamatsu look bad. Whether intentional or not. Look, I understand the front office was busy today in all kinds of trade discussions that didn’t bear fruit. Zduriencik doesn’t have time to read every blog post about what Wakamatsu said on the Smoak situation yesterday.
But Zduriencik knows exactly what has been said on his non-support of the manager — at least in public — since the Figgins argument in the dugout. Travel from city to city, as we have this week to Chicago and now Minneapolis, and the people who work in baseball cannot understand how Wakamatsu is being allowed to twist in the wind like this.


They can’t comprehend why Figgins was not made to apologize, if not to his manager, then at least to the fans for what happened in the dugout. Nor can they comprehend why Zduriencik has yet to come out in support of the manager on this.
All you need to say, if you’re Zduriencik, is, “The manager’s decision is final. All players have to respect and abide by it.”
This is crisis management 101 in baseball and any sport. Say it, and the speculation about Wakamatsu eases a bit. But it’s too late now. Zduriencik didn’t even give him that.
Do you think Mike Scioscia would have tolerated a dugout incident like that in Anaheim? Do you think Angels management would have allowed that to happen without stepping up to support Scioscia?
Here’s a hint.
Check out what happened to Jose Guillen when he mouthed off and questioned that team’s pitching staff’s willingness to stick up for hitters by retaliating on plunked batters.
Yeah, Figgins does not have the reputation Guillen did back then. But Guillen was a much better hitter than Figgins at the time. And that was two weeks before the playoffs. Guillen was suspended for the rest of the season. Scioscia made the call and the organization stood behind him.
Nobody is saying Figgins should be suspended the rest of the year, but the fact is, in Seattle, Wakamatsu has yet to even receive a statement of backing from his GM in the episode. Suspension? We’re a universe away from that. Words are all we’re looking for here and none are to be found.
Figgins may even have a valid case for why he shouldn’t have been pulled from the game. But it doesn’t matter. That question of “right or wrong” got lost in the dugout pandemonium he helped create. A manager has to be able to run his team without being openly challenged. And when it leads to a situation where bodies are being pulled off one another and a jersey yanked over Jose Lopez’s head in the dugout, the situation went too far.
So, what can we conclude?
That the manager does not have the backing of his front office.
And with the team going nowhere on the field, it is now left to appear leaderless, both in the dugout and the front office as well.
That may not be the case. But it’s the appearance that is left around the country. Not just on this blog. Or in Seattle. Find me another example of a case like this in baseball, where a dugout argument disintegrates like this and a manager is not supported by his higher-ups. Where no one apologizes on either side for an incident that tarnished the organization’s reputation on national television.
If this team plans on keeping Wakamatsu beyond 2010, it is doing a real bad job of making it look like he’s their guy. An incompentent job of it.
And really, with the freefall that’s ongoing, it’s tough to see how Wakamatsu is going to be able to keep fronting for this sorry team day-in, day-out for the next two months while the entire country knows that nobody has his back.
It’s also tough for me to see the team allowing this charade to go on for another two months and two days.
And that’s why I suggest that Monday’s off-day, with this team likely to lose a seventh straight game tomorrow, would be about the time you’d expect a non-supportive front office to make a change.
I’m not calling for it by any means. But this front office, through its actions and non actions, appears to be begging for it.

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins

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