Many observers of the Seattle Mariners can anticipate with accuracy what will happen next with the franchise and occasionally I can, too. I was, however, somewhat stunned Saturday (April 16) after I typed: “The countdown long since began as to when Eric Wedge goes Charlie Sheen/Mel Gibson about the new Mariners manager’s ballclub, the one trying to avoid the Royals-flush in Kansas City after losing the first three of four.”
Before I could even get to the next paragraph it was being reported that Wedge had indeed unloaded on his unproductive players after Saturday’s “contest.”
The game was about what you’d expect from an “offense” imagined by Jack Zduriencik, a general manager whose big get during an off-season in search of a power hitter is Jack Cust. Jack-Z did get the "big" part right. Cust looks in the face a little like the young Babe Ruth; from the neck down, alas, he looks and hits more like the old one (he's batting .196 with nine hits, a double and one home run).
On the mound for the M’s Saturday was Felix Hernandez, the first name that pops up if you Google (or even Bing) Best Young Pitcher in Baseball. He was facing the surprise best offense in the American League, meaning he probably needed to keep K.C. to a couple of runs and hope his teammates walked (or got plunked) a lot.
Lowering to the occasion, his teammates left 11 on base and batted zip for-nine with runners in scoring position: Royals 7-0, Felix, 1-2.
Then Wedge went bat-bleep, not unlike just about every frustrated M’s manager since Lou Piniella made such clubhouse histrionics something of a monthly tradition.
According to The Seattle Times, after a closed-door session with his players Wedge said to the press: "We're not going to keep watching this. We're going to get better and we're going to address it, obviously, as we've been doing as a team and individually, but we're going to get better. We're not going to keep doing what we've been doing here.''
Maybe Wedge won’t. Many believe the players will mainly keep doing what they’ve been doing, even though the skipper’s tongue-whipping evidently caught the attention of enough players so that a 3-2 win sent the M’s home with a win and three losses in K.C.
The Wedge tirade comes with the assumption that his players don’t want to win. More likely they’re simply not capable of playing better than they do, which is precisely what has been wrong with the franchise for several years. It just doesn’t have the position-player talent it takes to be competitive in the A.L. or even in its perennially meager division. I mean, c’mon, Felix won a Cy Young Award last year with a 13-12 record.
A few days ago I reluctantly posted a modest speculation about the efficacy of marketing Ichiro in a trade for the promise of run production. From some of the responses, you’d have thought I was calling for moving Boeing to Chicago or the Sonics to Oklahoma.
For the record, Ich was 0-for-5 Saturday, robbed once on a close play but 0-for-5 nonetheless. He could’ve gone 5-for-5 and Seattle still probably would’ve lost.
Anyway, we know the scenario going forward with this franchise: The team doesn’t improve even to a respectable level. Wedge tries every line-up shuffle including using Felix as DH (he hits .245 to lead the team) and still the M’s are at .300 by summer. Management cans Wedge, explaining that he was never a good fit for the ever-rebuilding program and someone of the Jim Riggleman ilk is brought in as a season-ending field boss. In November, after the M’s go 46-116, Jack-Z hires back Don Wakamatsu.
Meanwhile, many amid the dwindling witnesses at Safeco will speculate as to how much longer those on the M’s board of directors will wait to replace the club’s upper-management group. “Forever” will continue to be the prevailing consensus.