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July 27, 2011 at 9:23 AM

Eric Wedge gets legit vote of confidence; promptly lays it on veteran Mariners to step things up

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Mariners manager Eric Wedge got a real vote of confidence today from GM Jack Zduriencik. Not the type of artificial “things change” kind of stuff Don Wakamatsu received a week before he was fired last year.
It’s been clear from talking to Zduriencik in recent days, as well as today when I put the question to him point-blank, that we’re not about to see a seventh manager in four years take over the team’s helm.
“I think Eric has been a good leader,” Zduriencik said. “I think he’s been very consistent and I’ve liked his demeanor. He’s wearing it right now and it’s tough on him. He’s done everything he could and will continue to do a good job as we go through this.”
In other words, the GM isn’t blaming the manager this time.
One group not getting off easy are the team’s veterans. Moments before Zduriencik spoke, Wedge seemed like a man who’d run out of patience on the subject of some — but not all — of his veterans. I pushed him on the questions a bit. Wedge had told us that because he and his staff members were new, it’s taken them a while to get to know what they have as far as players go. Now, he said, they have a much better idea of who they can go to battle with in the future.
I asked Wedge whether he felt it’s taken his players a while to get to know what kind of manager he is and adapt their demeanor accordingly. He shrugged that off, saying that this team was one of the best stories in baseball three weeks ago today — which is indeed true.
So, I mentioned that several of his veterans were struggling even when this team was winning. Does he think those players have had trouble adapting to his style? That seemed to push the right buttons for an interesting, honest answer.
“With veterans, it’s tougher because they should know themselves better than anyone else,” Wedge said. “If you’re a veteran at this level, you should be your own best coach. Because you’re the only one who’s been with yourself your entire career and you’ve been up here long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. And either it’s declining ability, or there’s something else going on within yourself — physically, mentally, emotionally, mechanically. Whatever it may be.”

Wedeg said it’s different with younger players “who just don’t know” and that coaches have to be there for all players at times, just to make sure they’re good teammates, respect the game and play the game hard.
“But ultimately, the veterans, they have to take a lead role in themselves,” he added. “Because they’ve been too far along, they’ve done too much — both bad and good — to not understand. And you can only help them so much. That’s the fact of the matter. It’s not the same story with the younger kids, obviously, because they just don’t know. They still have to figure it out.
“So, to answer your question about Ichiro, or Figgy or Cust or whoever it may be. Gutierrez. We had to cut ties with Milton. We had to. You know? Look at our opening day lineup and you do the math.
“But again, nobody cares. You win or you lose. That’s what I have to understand and that’s what you understand.”
Interesting that Wedge dropped those names and in the order he did. None of us mentioned anybody by name.
When it comes to snapping this 17-game losing streak, Wedge said: “You can’t expect the kids to lead you out of this. At best, the veterans have underachieved all year long except for maybe one or two guys. So, that’s where we are.”
I asked Wedge whether Felix Hernandez was a veteran or young guy. Wedge said that was a tough question because Hernandez is still so young, despite having the years in that some veterans do.
“But he is a true No. 1,” he added. “These are the types of days you like to see those guys step up.”
Mariners (43-60)
51 Ichiro Suzuki (L) RF
26 Brendan Ryan SS
13 Dustin Ackley (L) 2B
17 Justin Smoak (S) 1B
4 Adam Kennedy (L) 3B
20 Mike Carp (L) LF
21 Franklin Gutierrez CF
29 Jack Cust (L) DH
3 Josh Bard (S) C
34 Felix Hernandez RHP
Yankees (61-40)
11 Brett Gardner (L) LF
2 Derek Jeter SS
14 Curtis Granderson (L) CF
25 Mark Teixeira (S) DH
24 Robinson Cano (L) 2B
33 Nick Swisher (S) RF
55 Russell Martin C
20 Jorge Posada (S) 1B
26 Eduardo Nunez 3B
65 Phil Hughes RHP

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