WANTED: Manager of major-league baseball team. Ideal candidate will be willing to work in unstable environment with little security. Contract length negotiable, but in spirit of full disclosure, that didn’t turn out so well for previous occupant of position. Must work well with kids, and older employees with low on-base percentage. Perk: Product is so abysmal that there’s nowhere to go but up. High turnover; however, could be ideal stepping-stone job (for details on that, contact Bob Melvin, manager of two-time AL West champion A’s).
Send resume immediately, even though job is currently filled (long story, will fill you in during interview). Experience preferred; however, opportunity exists for untested candidate to learn on the job in relative obscurity, as fan base is rapidly dwindling. Company is eager to begin working with new hire, but can’t guarantee immediate supervisor will be here after All-Star break. On the other hand, high probability that CEO and president will never leave.
Welcome to the managerial graveyard. Seattle, where baseball hopes and dreams go to die.
There must be 50 ways to leave your ballclub, and Mariner skippers seem intent on discovering all of them. Take your contract to the edge, Wedge, and set yourself free.
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The Angels have had one manager since 2000. The Mariners have had three managers quit since 2002, in addition to the three they fired, plus the two long-term interims. Turmoil is a constant, turnover a way of life.
Lou Piniella said he needed to go home to Tampa. Bob Melvin was judged to be an inadequate leader, a conclusion made laughable by his subsequent success. Mike Hargrove announced he was burnt out during an eight-game win streak (that was his story, and he’s sticking to it), John McLaren flipped out, and Don Wakamatsu was sold out. Jim Riggleman and Daren Brown served the role of placeholders and future trivia answers.
When it comes to unseemly and downright weird Mariner managerial departures, Eric Wedge’s on Friday wasn’t quite up there in Hargrove territory – a baseball lifer driving away, midseason, in his shiny red pickup truck with an explanation that never fully satisfied.
But this one is more embarrassing, and more damaging, to the organization, for numerous reasons.
For one thing, the Mariners are now ever-further removed from their successful days, ever more deeply saddled with the reputation as a bumbling, dysfunctional organization. Episodes like this just ensure that quality candidates will think long and hard about risking their reputations by taking their talents to Safeco Field.
More important, Wedge’s stinging words on Friday can’t help but make you wonder about the ballclub’s commitment to their latest rebuilding plan. Wedge is not a quitter by nature; he lives by a John Wayne ethos, where the solution to any problem is to roll up your sleeves and work harder.
But after nearly constant sermons during his tenure about how the Mariners were close to a breakthrough, even if no one else saw it, Wedge obviously didn’t think he was going to be given a fair opportunity to carry it through to fruition. He opted to decline a contract extension that would have been just through next season.
“It got to the point it was painfully obvious to me I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,’’ he said. “We see things differently.”
Now the Mariners will have to sell whatever plan they’re currently operating under to prospective future managers, who are watching a respected baseball man like Wedge throw up his hands in frustration and walk away.
Those candidates are already sure to be gun-shy about a position that seems to have the job security of a Spinal Tap drummer, working under a general manager with shaky job security of his own and an inability to keep his managers employed.
Obviously, Wedge bears his share of blame for the Mariners’ struggles, along with Zduriencik. When a team under-performs as badly as this one has, there’s enough fault to go around – obviously, right up to the very top, Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong, the two constants through all the dysfunction. And their fingerprints are all over this mess.
To put the manager and general manager in a position where their only choice is to accept lame-duck status and try to make the most of it, well, that’s just foolhardy. The Mariners should have either cut them loose or committed fully to them, not some totally inadequate halfway solution that virtually ensures a crash landing.
In the meanwhile, we’re left with a team whose architect insists is close to becoming a winner. But with the Mariners, the pockets of genuine talent always seem to be undermined by poor decisions and a lack of vision, all in an ongoing environment that lacks the commitment necessary to build a winner.
And now the Mariners, as they are wont to do, have another managerial opening. Apply at your own risk.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.