Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu took the high road today, declining to say anything about the tumultuous final months in the dugout prior to his dismissal. Wakamatsu did say he was aware of all that had been written about him. When I asked him whether he was surprised about his dismissal, he said: “Obviously, with the things that were in the paper and the state of the club and everything, I don’t know if I was…I was a little surprised at the time, but I thought there was probably a move coming. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
What Wakamatsu did not do was try to correct or smooth over anything that’s been written the past 24 hours — or even the past two weeks — about his relationship with Ken Griffey Jr., his loss of support from a segment of his clubhouse, or the lack of support by the front office of GM Jack Zduriencik.
“Again, I don’t want to get into all that stuff,” he said.
He repeated that contention when asked whether it was true the Zduriencik front office had bypassed him and the coaching staff when it came to telling him in advance who they were acquiring in the Cliff Lee deal. Don’t forget, the trade was with the Rangers, and Wakamatsu, Rick Adair and other coaches have been with that organization in the recent past.
So, Wakamatsu isn’t going to say anything bad about his former employers, which is a good strategy if he wants to gain employment elsewhere. But he also isn’t about to put a band-aid on any of the bleeding that’s been caused to the organization by the way it has handled this season.
He’s moving on and letting Zduriencik and company pick up the pieces of a situation they helped create.
As far as his coaches go, Wakamatsu had dinner with pitching coach Adair in Seattle last night.
“Obviously, we talked about what transpired,” he said. “Those guys are awfully good at what they do and it is unfortunate that because of relationships, or because of associations, that they had to go with me. That’s unfortunate.”
I asked Wakamatsu to elaborate on that. There has been some curiosity surrounding exactly why Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and performance coach Steve Hecht were dismissed along with the manager.
“I think when a manager gets fired, an organization wants to go in a different direction,” Wakamatsu said. “Some guys are a victim of that. You look, at least statistically, at Rick Adair and what he’s done over the last year and a half with the pitching staff, it’s pretty much been bar none in the American League. As a bench coach, you are going to be associated with what happens to the manager. And my belief in Ty Van Burkleo as a baseball man is bar none.”
Wakamatsu said he decided to speak today because he wanted to thank the organization for giving him a chance to manage. He also wanted to thank his current and former coaches, fans and the media.
He’s staying in Seattle until tomorrow, then heading to Hood River, Ore. to visit with his grandparents.
“Obviously, going through the last year and a half is going to make me a better person,” he said. “And hopefully more intelligent as time goes on. Probably the proudest thing was that last day of last year and the connect we had with the fans. That’s pretty special. I’ve been in the game a long time and that moment will probably stick with me for the rest of my life.”
And now, with Wakamatsu moving on, the organization will have plenty of work ahead of it if it ever hopes to recapture that sentiment.
Wakamatsu says he’s spoken with about three or four players by phone since his firing.
“My goal over the next two weeks is to be able to call all of them and speak to them personally,” he said.
And then, he’ll head back home, watch some of his son’s high school football games and wait for his next job call. He’s already rumored to be off to Baltimore as Buck Showalter’s bench coach. Wherever he winds up, he won’t be unemployed for long.