Mariners manager Eric Wedge has been hearing and reading about his uncertain job status for weeks now. Today, when reporters asked him about it — in the wake of yesterday’s news that GM Jack Zduriencik is indeed coming back in 2014 — Wedge openly verbalized his frustration with how things have been handled.
“It’s tough,” Wedge said. “I feel like I’m hanging out there. That’s the reality of it. But I’m coming here and doing my job. You know how passionate I am about this team and these players in particular and this organization.”
Wedge said the situation is unfair to all of the players watching it unfold, especially the younger ones called up in-season by the team. In many cases, he and the coaches have had to have one-on-one sessions with younger players, trying to keep their confidence up and discuss where the plans are for them down the road. But it’s getting tough, he added, to do so with any sincerity because Wedge says both he and the players know his job status is up-in-the-air.
“It is difficult,” he said. “We shouldn’t be in this situation. But you man up. You handle it. That’s what you do. When you’re leading men, the men want to know who and what they’re being led by and if they’re going to be around tomorrow. So, it does change the dynamic. But I knew that a long time ago. This has not just started. It’s been this way for quite a while and it gets to be in the way.”
Wedge wouldn’t put a timeline on when he feels the Mariners should have clarified his job status.
“I do have my thoughts on that more specifically, but I probably won’t get into that,” he said. “For other reasons.”
But he has clear thoughts about the job he was told he was taking on back in 2011 and how things have unfolded since.
“The big league club was in bad shape when I got here,” he said. “That was told to me directly. We righted the ship. We won six more games the first year. We shored-up our system and won eight more games last year. Came in here this year and felt like we were going to do better.
“Things changed in a hurry,” he added. “With (Jesus) Montero, (Franklin) Gutierrez, (Michael) Morse, (Dustin) Ackley, (Brendan) Ryan. Everybody up the middle. Whether it be because of performance or injury. That’s a quick change at key positions. So, you bring young kids up. So, you take a step backwards to move two steps forward and that’s what we did.
“I still felt like, before I got sick, that we were ramping up. If you look at what we were starting to do, some of the series we were playing and wins we were having, it was all coming together nicely. And then I got sick and was gone for a month. It’s not like I left marching orders. Robby (Thompson) and everybody did a great job, but the program was disrupted. It’s unfortunate and it’s been tough ever since.”
But, he added, the players are fighting and staying close every game, despite the mounting losses against contenders in a 7-16 month of September thus far.
Wedge also isn’t prepared to accept or understand any dismissal based on the stroke he suffered in late July.
“That would be unfair,” he said. “Because it’s been very clear to me from all the doctors that I’m going to be 100 percent. I’m going to have to get into the off-season and then I’ll be fine. They said three-to-six months, but hell, I’m going to be better than I’ve ever been because evidently my brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen at night and I was working all day to catch up from it. So, I’m looking to be fueled and fired the rest of the way.”
Those last lines drew quite a few laughs. But Wedge got serious right after.
“I feel great, man,” he said. “I feel like I’m 33 years old again. My best managing days are ahead of me. Whether it’s here or somewhere else. But I want to be here. I moved my family out here, I committed to the community. I’m all-in. I haven’t done anything wrong except to come out here and try to coach-up these kids, teach them how to play at the big league level. That’s what I do. I don’t bitch about anything. I’m here to help these kids become good solid big league players and hopefully solid citizens here in Seattle.
“If that’s not enough for them, so be it.”
Wedge has long fronted for the organization’s rebuilding plan, touting the team’s line about better times ahead back in 2011 when the Mariners went young, played a bunch of Class AAA call-ups and lost 95 games. He never expected to be back in the exact same situation two years later, with many of those 2011 call-ups now long gone and a new crop of AAA faces again en route to 90 losses or more.
He understands why the organization went young a second time in three seasons.
“It’s either that, or you have to go out and get somebody,” he said. “So, we took the alternative of bringing our younger players up. So, if you do that, you’re not going to win as many games. But you’re going to be better-suited for the future. It has to be a long-term plan.”
Wedge said it isn’t his fault fans and others may be antsy about a rebuilding plan now about to head to a sixth year. Or the fact the franchise hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001.
“I didn’t get here 12 years ago,” he said. “I didn’t get here six years ago. I got here less than three years ago. So, this is what we’re doing. This is what we’re committed to. And you’ve got to have strength. You’ve got to have conviction with what you do. If somebody else is sitting in this seat tomorrow, they’re going to be in a decent situation moving forward.”
Wedge was asked for his reaction to news Zduriencik is coming back.
“Good, I’m happy for him,” Wedge said. “Good for him.”