Mariners Choose Eric Wedge as Manager, Expect Renewed Intensity
Eric Wedge, who managed in Cleveland for seven seasons from 2002-09, and who has interviewed for almost every available managerial job that has come open since, is the man general manager Jack Zduriencik has picked to lead the Mariners in 2011.
The news, first broken by SI.com, was quickly confirmed, but the Mariners say they have no plans for an announcement through the weekend. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig frowns on clubs making major announcements on gamedays in the playoffs, but waivers have been given in the past, so the announcement could come down early next week.
Mike Hargrove, who managed the Mariners from 2005-07, also had Cleveland ties, having managed the Indians from 1991-99. And he spent lots of time with Wedge in Cleveland in 2004 when Wedge was in his third year and Hargrove was an Indians consultant.
"He's a plain-spoken guy, a good baseball man," Hargrove said after learning of the choice. "He's a good man, an honest man. I always found if he said something to you, you could believe it.
"And he's always been a pretty good judge of talent, which is important in this job."
While holding a relatively low profile in the Pacific Northwest, Wedge is a popular choice, at least in the general baseball community. He interviewed for five jobs in the last few months, including the Orioles, the Pirates, the Cubs and the Blue Jays.
Wedge is known as being an inspirational speaker in front of groups, including youth and community organizations, and, of course, baseball clubs.
New York Yankees' reliever Kerry Wood, who was with the Indians in 2009-10, said that Wedge gave the best spring training speech he'd ever heard in more than a decade in the game.
The word on Wedge is that he's intense about baseball, putting in untold long hours and willing to confront players he believes are not going about baseball the right way. In his first couple of years with the Indians, he called veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel aside, reportedly admonished him for not running hard to first on every grounder and told him the team needed him to do so. Vizquel, at that point almost a 10-year veteran, complied.
Then there was the Milton Bradley case. Bradley was pulled from a 2004 spring training game after he didn't run out a pop fly that fell for a single when Wedge felt Bradley should have finished the play at second base. Bradley left the clubhouse before the game was over. Wedge banned Bradley from the next day's workout and Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro traded the then-25-year-old outfielder before the season started.
Bradley, who then wore a "(expletive) Eric Wedge" T-shirt, is now on the Seattle roster. It seems likely that the Mariners would want to move Bradley, the better for Wedge to start with a clean slate.
However, Bradley is owed $12 million for 2011 and is basically untradeable after having needed to take leave from the team to deal with anger management issues early in 2010 and then missing much of the second half of the season with injuries.
One baseball source told FanHouse he'd heard Wedge went out of his way in the interview process to say that much time has passed since the incident and that he and Bradley should be able to work things out.
This could be the start of some managerial dominoes falling. Bobby Valentine, told Friday that he wasn't going to get the Seattle job, now may jump to the top of the huge list of candidates in Toronto. And the Pirates may broaden their search for a new skipper because Wedge evidently was their first choice.
The news started to trickle out as the other candidates -- Valentine, John Gibbons, Lloyd McClendon and Cecil Cooper joined Wedge in being interviewed -- began to learn they weren't the manager du jour. It's not clear if Daren Brown, the interim manager after Don Wakamatsu was fired two-thirds of the way through the season, was given a formal interview.
But given that Brown and his wife, Cindy, had their first child Wednesday, daughter Chloe Lynn, it seems unlikely there's been time to squeeze in an interview, and Brown may be asked to return to his previous post as the manager at Triple-A Tacoma.
The Mariners are a team that needs to rebuild after a disastrous 101-loss season in 2010, a year in which they were the slick pick to win the AL West. Wedge has been down the rebuilding road in his early years with the Indians and by 2005, the third year of his tenure, the Indians won 93 games, although a collapse in the final week of the season kept them from winning the AL Central.
Cleveland did win the Central in 2007 with 96 wins and came within one win of making it to the World Series, losing to Boston. From that point on, however, the cash-strapped Indians broke up the core of the team -- CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, both Cy Young Award winners with the Indians were soon gone -- and Cleveland slid back to mediocrity with Wedge being fired with six games left in the 2009 season, his team on the way to a 65-win fourth-place finish.
Although he was fired with six games left, he managed the final six games anyway, the kind of work ethic that appeals to the Seattle front office.
Asked about Wedge's work ethic, Hargrove spelled it out by telling a story about the spring of 2004, the same spring that Bradley and Wedge had it out.
"He's so intense, such a hard worker, but we thought we'd get him a set of golf clubs and get him to take maybe half a day off," Hargrove said. "The clubs sat in the corner. One day after a workout ended at noon, a bunch of us went out to play about noon. He didn't.
"We played and came back to go to dinner, and now it's about 7 p.m., and he's still in his office, still in uniform, working at the computer. That's just the way he is."
The Mariners would like to believe that hasn't changed.
"He's all about accountability and respect for the game," a Mariners source said. "Those are good qualities in a manager."
Now the Mariners need to give him a chance. Since Lou Piniella left of his own volition following the 2002 season, the Mariners have gone through managers as quickly as any team in baseball -- Bob Melvin, Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman, Wakamatsu and Brown have all been in and out.
The kind of consistency a team needs to consistently be good has eluded the franchise since Piniella left. They are hoping that Wedge ends that streak.
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