Author Archive

Don Wakamatsu: Mariners Make Rash, Wrong Move By Firing Wakamatsu

Make no mistake, this Mariners season has been a disaster in every way, but making Don Wakamatsu the fall guy is the kind of shortsighted thinking left to the dregs of baseball, not a supposedly forward-thinking franchise like the M’s.

Apparently it only takes a year to go from genius to doofus if you believe the Seattle brass, who suddenly have no faith in Wakamatsu’s ability to lead the Mariners out of the morass—this despite doing that very same thing during the 2009 campaign.

Yes, this season has been a bitter disappointment considering the expectations the Mariners and their fans had coming in, but can you really lay the blame on Wakamatsu?

The M’s stink in many, many ways, but managerial acumen was not one of them.

With Seattle at 42-70, Wakamatsu can’t be absolved of all blame, but there’s a plethora of evidence suggesting there are other places to look for reasons why things have spiraled out of control.

The second-year manager had to deal with several flammable situations, including the Milton Bradley Meltdown and Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Naptime; the unassailable fact that every player in the lineup suddenly couldn’t hit a grapefruit; the Cliff Lee Conundrum, in that everyone knew the team’s best player wasn’t going to be around in August; and now the Chone Figgins Chowdown, where a .220 hitter suddenly thinks he’s above criticism.

In my mind, Wakamatsu has handled these situations to the best of his ability, never putting down his players in front of the media (even, I think, “selectively remembering” in the Griffey situation).

Did the players bail on him? Possibly, but that only goes to underscore that when players go in the tank, they often don’t turn on each other.

Did management hang him out to dry? Certainly. When Figgins got off the hook for his churlish behavior, most people knew the writing was on the wall, even with Wakamatsu earning the dreaded “vote of confidence.”

Remember last year, how everyone praised Wakamatsu’s demeanor in helping to turn around the fractious Mariners clubhouse? Did he all of sudden become some hard-ass who never listened? Of course not, but the easy answer is the players tuned him out.

This move now turns the spotlight on GM Jack Zduriencik. Wakamatsu was his hand-picked guy, and many of these players who are stinking up Safeco were brought in by Jackie Z to put this team over the top. Instead, they’ve fallen far, far behind the pack, and guys like Brandon Morrow, Carlos Silva (!), and J.J. Putz are all doing big things on other teams.

In a lot of ways, this reminds me of Bob Melvin’s tenure, where a low-key manager was given the boot after one good season and one bad one. Melvin wasn’t a great skipper, but he also wasn’t given enough of a chance to show what he could do. When he moved on to Arizona, he put together some decent years. I expect the same thing to happen with Wakamatsu, who is well-regarded around MLB.

Lou Piniella is not walking through that door, no matter how much Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln want it to happen. The Mariners are on their seventh manager since Lou left, and the franchise continues to drift along, with occasional spikes that do just enough to ensure ownership that they won’t ever relive, from an attendance standpoint, the dark days of the Kingdome.

Don Wakamatsu deserved better, but he fell victim to one of the oldest rules in the baseball book: The axe always falls on the manager first. 

Read more MLB news on

Cliff Lee’s As Good As Gone

The assorted scouts who assembled at Safeco Field on Wednesday to watch another gem from Cliff Lee had to be foaming at the mouth in anticipation of what the ace could bring to their respective teams: a top-of-the-line pitcher who is an instant difference maker.

It’s no secret that Lee will not be a Mariner past the trade deadline, especially when he keeps putting up starts like he did against the Cubs.

The lefty looked like a man among boys out there, while getting even tougher as the game progressed.

Lee has put up ridiculous numbers for the flailing M’s—he now leads the AL in ERA at 2.39—and playoff contenders are going to start taking action sooner rather than later.

The Mariners took a gamble on Lee, and unfortunately, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik is going to bust on this one. Lee never seemed to take to Seattle, and his chances of re-signing with the M’s took a major hit when the team started sucking.

Lee wants to win, and with the way the Mariners are configured currently , I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

The Lee situation puts Jackie Z in a dilemma, however. The fans, already frustrated with a disastrous season, will sink further into depression if the Mariners trade away their best player.

Further complicating the situation, Zduriencik knows that he’s not going to be able to bring in a big haul for Lee, a free-agent after the season who is sure to sign a mega-deal.  

So where is Lee going to land? Let’s take a look at the potential contenders.

New York: Both the Yankees and Mets are going to be bidders for Lee’s services; both have the money to sign Lee after the season, and both are in playoff contention. If the Yanks deal for Lee, they’d be reuniting him with former Cleveland teammate C.C. Sabathia and further highlighting the Yankees’ role as the Evil Empire.

The Mets need offense more than pitching, but when you’re counting on guys like R.A. Dickey, perhaps adding another proven arm would be a wise move.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Joe Torre’s club finds itself in the unenviable position of being in a division with two of the best pitching staffs in the league, San Diego and Colorado.

L.A.’s lackluster rotation could use an ace like Lee, but the real problem with the Dodgers is the nasty divorce going on between the team’s owners, the McCourts. Can the Dodgers afford to take on Lee’s salary (and future earnings) when the very public financial issues of the team are on display?

Minnesota Twins: You would normally laugh at the prospect of the skinflint Twins adding salary, but with the move outdoors to Target Field, they now have some available cash.

Sure, they can probably take the weak AL Central without the deal, but bringing on Lee would give Minnesota the playoff big gun they’ve been lacking in recent years. It would mark a seismic shift in the game’s dynamics if the small-market Twins made a large splash like this.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers are rolling right now, and bringing on Lee would pretty much salt the division away and give Texas the kind of pitcher they’ve never had. Rangers GM Jon Daniels is on record as saying he’d be open to trading within the division, but I don’t see Zduriencik handing the AL West over to the Rangers.

Plus, aren’t the Rangers owned by MLB? Doesn’t seem like they should be taking on money right now, but hey, that’s just me being fiscally responsible.

Zduriencik has proven himself an adept trader. He’ll do what he can to play the contenders against one another to get the max return for Lee.

Whoever he gets, I don’t think it’s going to take the sting away from losing a No. 1 (or 1A depending on how you rank Felix Hernandez) starter who we all thought was the last piece of the puzzle on a potential division winner.


Read more MLB news on

The Kid Says Goodbye: Ken Griffey, Jr. Retires

We didn’t want it to end this way. We wanted “Junior,” “The Kid,” “The Man Who Saved Baseball in Seattle.”

We wanted one more laser-fast whip of the bat. We wanted one more smooth shot into the right field seats. We wanted one more ear-to-ear smile. We wanted one more moment to treasure.

We wanted the player of our youth, the stuff of legends.

We didn’t get it. What we got was Joe Namath as a Ram, Willie Mays as a Met, and Franco Harris as a Seahawk.

What we got was a proud athlete who hung around one year too long, unable to accept that his prodigious gifts had diminished to the point where he was no longer able to keep up.

Heck, we didn’t even get the same player as last year, the one who could still catch up to a fastball, the one who changed the Mariners’ poisonous clubhouse culture with his sunny demeanor and playful mischief. What we got was a distraction.

The Mariners may have made a mistake by bringing Griffey back to Seattle, but he wasn’t the only black hole in this lineup, and he’s not keeping the next great thing off the field. It was a gamble, but it was a move the M’s needed to make out of respect to a player who changed the game in so many ways.

Five years from now, when Junior is inducted into the Hall of Fame, the 2010 season will be a blip on his storied career, a distant memory for those who remember his glee as he slid into home to defeat the Yankees, his scaling the wall at the Kingdome to snag a fly ball, his crushing the ball into the upper deck during the “Refuse To Lose” season.

I never had the chance to cover Griffey. As I’ve said before, it remains one of my career disappointments. I moved to Seattle in November of 1999, the year he was shipped off to Cincy. When he returned to Seattle, the fan in me was ecstatic

I was at Safeco the night he hit a game-winning homer against Arizona last season. The crowd went absolutely bonkers, and so did I. On that night, I was a 14-year-old kid again, going bananas for my favorite player. It is a memory I won’t forget.

It didn’t end the way we wanted. It never does. But we will always have our memories. Thanks, Junior.

Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress