I found out about today’s firing of Don Wakamatsu from a delivery driver at the place I’m going to for my externship. Upon overhearing him discussing it with one of the pharmacists there, it took every fiber of my being to not scream (and the only reason I’m only using my exact words in the interest of full disclosure) “Are you fucking kidding me?!” in the middle of the pharmacy. I doubt that would have gone over well with the staff. I stood there for a few minutes, feeling a little awkward and annoyed, and then decided to take the one break I allow myself on my split-school Mondays. I went to the break room with my phone already dialing up my email and Twitter, and my fears were confirmed – Wak is gone. A glance at Twitter provided further confirmation, with more added fun – Ty Van Burkleo, Rick Adair, and Steve Hecht also all let go. I spent the rest of the day fuming to myself while doing what is required of me on a daily basis, and being full well glad I was not near a computer.
There are a lot of people who want to pin the blame on Wak for this bad season. Some of these people are folks who believe that Lou Piniella is the end-all be-all of managers, those who want to see the manager of a baseball team lose his mind on the field on a regular basis. Not saying that Sweet Lou has never had any success, and not saying that I don’t enjoy a freak-out or two during the year myself; but I preferred Wak’s Zen approach to the game and his position within it. He was the eye of the hurricane, constantly; and it was what made him our manager, and not just a manager. I just felt he was genuine and solid and likable. I didn’t get a lot of likable from Mike Hargrove or John MacLaren, and I never got solid from Jim Riggleman, although I liked Riggs as much as the next guy just in general. There was just something different about Wak. Your mileage, as with everything in baseball, may vary.
In a season like the one we’ve had so far, where players are under massive contracts while underperforming and clubhouse tension is high, someone’s head has to roll. Unfortunately, we had four of those heads see the chopping block today, in a somewhat abrupt fashion. If you’ve been paying attention, there have been a lot of people saying they figured Wak might get cut sooner rather than later – but less than a week ago, Jack Zduriencik was saying (and I’m only paraphrasing slightly, if at all) “He’s our manager”. So yeah, this is not only a little bit of a shock, but also goes to show that nothing -nothing- that the Mariners front office says or alludes to can be either trusted or taken for granted anymore. EDIT: Jon at ProBallNW has his own take on this last bit. Maybe I’m just a sucker for buying into what people in positions of authority tell me, or maybe I’m just bad at reading things into other things. Or maybe this whole thing just rings far too sour for me, and it’s too soon for me to be level-headed about it…Kirby Arnold has some departing words from Wak. I still think he’s all class.
Dave Cameron has a post up about the whys of today’s moves, and I agree with the whole thing. I think there are a lot of other things contributing to it as well, but by and large, the Ken Griffey Jr who said he’d be content with “any role” the organization wanted him to have was the same Ken Griffey Jr who got his nose bent out of shape when that same organization wanted to bench him for hitting far below the Mendoza as this season spiraled further and further out of everyone’s control. People can also point to the Chone Figgins thing if they want, and that’s fine. My opinion on it is simply this – in the real world what Figgins did in the dugout could be considered assault (especially in the fine state of Washington); but in the baseball world, he’s a “fierce competitor” or something like that. While I want to like Chone Figgins, to me, all he has done this year is prove that he is still a Los Angeles Angel, and maybe, just maybe, kind of a jackass. If he stays around – and it seems obvious that the FO would rather have a guy who would try to attack his manager than a manager who deals with such things calmly and rationally – I’d like him to prove me wrong. And I’ll wait; I have nothing but time. And I’ll still be a Mariners fan way after Chone Figgins is gone.
I have to scratch my head at the Rick Adair thing – it seems that Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister and Jason Vargas have done nothing but thrive under his tutelage, but apparently our FO doesn’t feel the same way. I think we may come to rue the day we got rid of Don Wakamatsu, but I have no say in what happened; I only know that this has been a bleak season, and some of us choose to blame the players while others choose to blame the people that lead them.
Daren Brown, formerly of the Tacoma Rainiers, has of course been sent in for the interim position, and that’s fine. He has the advantage of being familiar with a lot of the guys on this team anyway, and I’ll be happy to give him the benefit of the doubt because I don’t have any other choice – he did take the R’s to the PCL last year, so I have to give him props for that.
Of course, the Seattle Mariners give the Wak haters fuel for their particular odd brand of fire by winning tonight in the first game of this home stand against the Oakland Athletics, a game that involved turning the first triple play since 1995. Chone Figgins went 1 for 4. And the Mariners fire the first Japanese-American major league baseball manager on Japanese Heritage Night. Oops.