Just in case you missed it, on Geoff Baker Live! this evening, at FX McRory’s in Pioneer Square, we gave you a rundown on the Jack Wilson situation and his benching tonight by manager Eric Wedge. A viewer asked whether this means Wilson should go on the trade block right now. Another noted just how quickly GM Jack Zduriencik supported manager Wedge today. Here’s my take on that.
Also, one of the viewers asked me whether the Mariners are what I thought they’d be. And a viewer wanted to know whether the M’s should be alarmed by another slow Chone Figgins start at the plate.
Despite how it may feel, the Mariners lost only one game tonight. It doesn’t count for 10 losses, though some of those who spent money on tickets might want it to as a punitive measure.
No team wants to lose its home opener 12-3 after being down 11-0 in the fourth inning.
But the Mariners did exactly that. When it comes to winning over fans in this rebuilding season, they just knocked themselves five steps backward. All of that effort on the recent road trip, where even the losses weren’t an embarrassment, just went out the window.
Games like this tend to linger. About all that can erase it is a prolonged winning streak, which this team just doesn’t seem capable of.
For the first time, we saw a starting pitcher have real trouble tonight as Jason Vargas just got pounded. And when that happens, it’s game-set-match because this bullpen just doesn’t have enough to keep a score close and the offense certainly can’t score enough to make up a significant deficit.
And then, on top of it all, you’ve got this thing with Jack Wilson.
We’ve written all week about how tough it is to adjust to second base and Wilson, it seems, thought he was a liability to the club playing there.
Here’s what he told reporters pre-game today about his decision to pull himself from Wednesday’s game in Texas after making a pair of second inning errors.
“I think at that point, with that (double-play pivot) being the biggest part of that second-base transition, in a game we needed, how Felix (Hernandez) was pitching, we needed to get someone out there who knows what he was doing out there,” Wilson said. “I still have a lot of work to do to get comfortable and obviously I didn’t look too comfortable with the things I did. Cost us the game. Take a lot of pride in doing the things we need to do to win games, and at that point that’s what I felt was best for us to do.”
Here’s some more of what he said: “It was upsetting to me. The last thing I want to do is pull myself out of the game, but knowing, going into it, t hose were big double plays in a big spot. I said, you know what, I don’t want to do any more damage. This is something I’m learning, and I’m still going to work hard doing it, but that’s a pretty big cost to lose a game, especially when you’ve got a Cy Young guy on the mound. It’s just not getting the job done for him. At that point, I said, you know what, let’s get somebody who has a little more experience out there.
“I want to learn this and I want to do what’s best for the team, but not if it’s going to mean losing games.”
Wilson has since had a chat with manager Eric Wedge, who must have said something profound because Wilson asked to speak to beat reporters post-game in the clubhouse.
After we came over, Wilson let us know he planned to issue an apology to teammates. He took full responsibility for taking himself out of the game, told us he feels terrible about letting his teammates down and making his manager look bad in the process.
“I apologized for everything that happened, obviously,” Wilson said. “A lot of emotions were going on that day, but that’s something that can’t happen. You’ve got to be a man and stick through it.”
Wilson said he wasn’t aware that Wedge had tried to cover for him with reporters after Wednesday’s game, by telling them he took the infielder out of the game because he was “a little hazy” after the errors. Wilson said he didn’t know what the party line was going to be and tried to play along with the suggestion that Wedge had taken him out when reporters first asked him about it.
Today, Wedge was furious that Wilson made it look like the coaching staff yanked him out when it was Wilson who didn’t want to go back in. Wilson chalked it up to a mis-communication and said he’d never deliberately try to make a manager look bad, nor was he trying to duck responsibility for leaving the game. He simply tried to match what he thought was the message Wedge was putting out post-game and it backfired.
So, perhaps this isn’t Wilson being passive-aggressive in forcing a trade out of Seattle. He never really seemed the type to do that.
What this suggests is a player whose confidence at playing second base was shot. And the Mariners have to get on this quickly. They’ve finally gotten Wilson healthy, after two years, but now it’s sounding like he’s a mental mess because of this position switch.
Don’t know what the answer is. But you can’t have players not wanting to play. So, the M’s can move Wilson back to shortstop and put Brendan Ryan at second, but it doesn’t sound like the team is willing to do it.
If that’s so, then all they can do is keep working Wilson out at the double-play pivot and hope a repeat doesn’t happen.
For a team that just laid an egg in its home opener, this type of off-field subplot is the last thing it needs to deal with. But it needs to deal with it, because the rest of the infielders behind Wilson are not nearly as good defensively and Dustin Ackley isn’t ready yet.
In a season quickly spiraling downhill, the M’s need their best players in there to make it right again. Or at least plug the leak for a bit. And right now, their best players aren’t in there.