Saturday, October 23, 2010
Mariners hire Eric Wedge
The Seattle Mariners are hoping that Eric Wedge who had previously managed the Indians can lead the Seattle Mariners back to the playoffs. Wedge will be the seventh manager since Lou Piniella left after the 2002 season. Despite the picture you may see up there the Mariners didn't hire a sex offender instead they hired a man who had the Cleveland Indians one win away from going to the World Series.
The Indians back in 2005 appeared to be that team ready to make a big jump and be like the Indians of the 90's where they dominate the central but that never quite happened. When Wedge took over the Indians he took over a situation similar to this Mariners situation. The team he inherited was no good but featured plenty of young talented guys. The Indians were in a transition from the 90's teams who won the AL Central from 1995-99 then again in 2001. Wedge inherited a team with some young talented guys like Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta and Jake Westbrook. The Indians appeared to rise up again and so they hired the 35 year old Wedge back in 2003.
In Wedge first year on the job the team struggled. The Indians finished with a lousy 68-94(.420%) record but Wedge was in charge of the five year plan and the Indians were going to stay patient with Wedge. In 2004 Wedge saw a huge improvement guiding the Indians to an 80-82 record(.494%)which saw 27 year old DH Travis Hafner emerge as a slugger for the club. Then in 2005 the Indians surprised everyone going 93-69(.574%) and almost beat out the eventual World Series champions the Chicago White Sox. In fact the Indians had a chance to make the playoffs but got swept by the White Sox second stringers. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise great season by the Indians. The Indians saw such youngsters emerge as Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and pitching from Cliff Lee who went 18-5 with a 3.79 era, as well as Jake Westbrook and C.C. Sabathia who each won over 15 games. They also had the veteran presence of Kevin Millwood who had a 2.86 era on the year.
The Indians were ahead of their five year plan schedule. Wedge had turn them into winners in just his third year. Wedge also finished second in the American League Manager of the year award behind White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Wedge was defiantly at that point in his career a hot name who almost every team in baseball at the team would have love to have as their own manager. Then in 2006 the Indians took a step backwards perhaps over achieving in 2005 falling 78-84(.481%). The Indians by falling backwards though pulled off two great trades with the Seattle Mariners trading Eduardo Perez for young shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and then later trading Ben Broussard for Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians would emerge yet again in 2007 under Wedge.
In 2007 there was no more five year plan as the five years was now time for Wedge. He led the Indians that year to their first playoff appearance in six years with a 96-66(.593%) record. The Indians had the second best record in the American League that year. They also had great seasons from their young nucleus Sizemore, Martinez, Hafner and pitching Sabathia at just 26 years old won the 2007 Cy Young award. Another youngster emerged as well in Fausto Carmona who was just 23 years old but went 19-8 with a 3.06 era. The only thing that went wrong for the Indians was their other youngster who wasn't so young anymore Cliff Lee who at 28 years old was 5-8 with a 6.29 era and was sent to the minors. He was also left off the postseason roster. If Wedge in 2007 had the 2008 version of Cliff Lee and beyond we would be thinking about him totally different.
The Indians upset the New York Yankees in the first round. In fact Eric Wedge is the last manager to ever win a playoff game at old Yankees Stadium. When the Indians won that also ended the Joe Torre era in New York. The Indians then had a 3-1 lead over the heavily favorite Boston Redsox. With his ace going at home in game five Wedge was pretty confident trailing 2-1 going into the seventh inning the Indians bullpen imploded and lost 7-1. Then in game six with youngster Carmona on the hill the Indians got crushed early losing 12-2. In game seven the Indians were trailing 3-2 heading into the seventh and again the bullpen imploded and the Indians season was over as they lost 11-2. That was a tough playoff defeat to swallow for Wedge. After the season Wedge was named the American League manager of the year in 2007. At just the age of 39 Wedge was runner up two years earlier and now was the manager of the year.
Unfortunately for Wedge that wasn't the start of a run for the Indians instead that was his peak. The 2008 season started off bad for the Indians as staff ace C.C. Sabathia was set to be a free agent at the end of the year. The Indians traded Sabathia in June to the Milwaukee Brewers after just 18 starts where he was 6-8 with a 3.83 era. The team took a big step backwards with Victor Martinez only playing in just 73 games and hitting just two home runs. Travis Hafner who had given the team plenty of power was just awful that season. Hafner in just 57 games hit .197 and hit just five home runs. The only positive for the Indians that year was Cliff Lee who was 22-3 with a 2.54 era. Not bad for a guy who was just in the minor leagues the year before. Had the Indians had that Cliff Lee the year before good chance they are the World Champions instead of the Boston Red Sox. The Indians finished the season 81-81(.500%). Things would only get worse for Wedge the following year.
In 2009 the Cleveland Indians were a mess. The Indians were just 65-97(.401%) only two years from being one game away from the World Series. The fire sale of quality players continued as in the off season the Indians in a three team trade traded away Franklin Guiterez to the Seattle Mariners. The Indians for the second straight year traded away the reigning American League Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Indians also traded Victor Martinez to the Red Sox. Grady Sizemore would have a terrible season hitting just .248 on the year. As what usually happens when the team falls apart and the team loses a bunch of game the manager in this case Eric Wedge was fired. After seven seasons with the Indians Wedge was 561-573(.495%) he produced just two winning seasons.
Now the Mariners are hoping Wedge can do with them what he did in Cleveland minus the last year debacle. Before the 2009 season Wedge was a hot candidate and had the Mariners somehow hired him after the 2007 season this would be a huge hiring. As is I waited a week to write something and it was a boring pick. The only exciting thing about this hire is he is reunited with Milton Bradley who in 2004 wore a shirt that said "F*** Eric Wedge". Now both guys will say all the right things and pretend that's not a big deal but it is. Just like last year with Griffey and Wakamatsu athletes never blame themselves. When Bradley isn't in the lineup every day instead of thinking he isn't playing because he is terrible he will think Wedge is holding a grudge against him. Mariners management has never cut their losses on a player before but it would be crazy(funny word given I'm talking about Bradley I know) to have Bradley on the team when spring training rolls around. Why let Bradley even have a shot at infected the team clubhouse like Griffey did last year with Wakamatsu.
Personally I didn't like the hire at first. In sports I want my favorite team to get a guy who is on the rise not a guy who was just fired. I was excited when the Seahawks got Holmgren but not with Jim Mora for an example. I was excited when the Huskies hired Sarkisian who is on the rise but upset when the hired Willingham who was just fired. Lately the Mariners haven't done anything to get the fan base excited. Since Piniealla has left the Mariners have hired bench coach with no managerial experience(Melvin), a manager who had previous success but was ultimately fired from two different jobs and bombed at his last(Hargrove), a career bench coach who was never considered for a managers job ever(McLaren) then a bench coach with no managerial experience(Wakamatsu). You start to see the pattern now the Mariners are going back to manager who had previous success but was ultimately fired.
I understand the Wedge hire he was in a similar spot with Cleveland. He does have an all-star every year in Ichiro(He would be regardless of that stupid every team rule), he has a young staff ace in Felix Hernandez like he did with Sabathia. He also has several youngsters like Justin Smoak, Adam Moore, Michael Saunders,Franklin Guiterez and eventually Dustin Ackley. The problem for Wedge is the Mariners don't seem to have a plan at all. The Mariners wouldn't have allowed him to even see the 2007 season because they would have overreacted at the dissapointment of the 2006 season and fired him. I do think Wedge is a quality manager like most managers when he has players. Its not a coincidence he fell flat on his face in 2009 when the team traded away two Cy Young award winners, an all-star catcher, possible gold glove outfielder and his two all-stars(Sizemore and Hafner) became a shell of who they used to be.
All in all, this is a wait and see hire. Wedge isn't the type of hire that will make fans rush to buy tickets like the Seahawks did with Pete Carroll. Wedge isn't the type of guy who will call out management when they are being boneheads like Bobby Valentine would. Wedge is the type of guy who has proven if you give him time players will develope under his watch and he is capable of taking a team far into the playoffs. The Mariners hired their man now its time to stop hiding behind their managers and getting the manager some players. It won't matter who the manager is until Chuck Armstrong is no longer associated with the Mariners.