One of the major themes of the Seattle blogosphere this offseason, at least as it pertains to any potential managerial hiring, is quite simply that we don’t have enough information as fans to form a quantitative opinion of the guy they hired.
The Mariners hired Eric Wedge to be their new manager, and the move was met with a mass consensus of indifference among Mariners fans. I’d be willing to bet that only Wedge’s close relatives are sitting at home going “Hell Yeah! Eric Wedge is the Mariners new manager!” By the same rationale, there are likely very few fans contemplating jumping off the Narrows ridge as a result of Wedge being put in charge of their favorite ballclub.
As fans, we have a very limited arsenal for evaluation of managers, in reality. While manysabermetricians may break down win probably gains compared to probability risked based on in-game strategic decisions, typical perception is that managing a baseball team requires a lot more than sound sacrifice bunt strategy.
So what do we know about Wedge? He’s got a near-.500 record (slightly below), managed one of the most physically talented young teams in baseball through the mid-2000s, and came within a game of the World Series in 2007. Wedge oversaw the development of guys like Grady Sizemore, AsdrubalCabrera, Shin-Shoo Choo, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, and countless other once-or-current Indians farmhands. Many of those guys he managed at multiple levels, as Wedge got his start coaching in the Indians farm system.
We know that in the year since Wedge left, the Indians have been pretty awful. We also know that in 2008 and 2009 the team dealt two consecutive former Cy Young Award winners.
So how much credit do we give Wedge for those players development? How much do we give him credit for their continued success? How much do we blame him for their failures? The real answer is that we don’t know.
We do know that Milton Bradley hasn’t always had the highest opinion of Eric Wedge. We also know that Milton Bradley has made himself look like quite the asshole on several occasions. And we know that both of them are saying the right things right now.
We also know that at his press conference, Eric Wedge looked like a door to door vacuum salesman who moonlights at your local dive bar hitting on girls half his age.
We know that Eric Wedge was a catcher during his playing career, as was Don Wakamatsu, as were Mike Sciocia, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. Catchers, by virtue of their involvement of so many aspects of the game are often regarded highly as managerial candidates. We also know that Lou Piniella was an outfielder, Terry Francona was a first baseman, and Ozzie Guillen played shortstop. We also know that apart from Wedge and Wakamatsu, every one of those managers has won a World Series.
We know that former Indians general manager Mark Shapiro came out in support of the Mariners hiring of Wedge. We also know that Shapiro fired Wedge.
Wedge isn’t Wakamatsu, we know that. We don’t know if he will yield better results as a manager either. We know that there is a common perception that Wakamatsu’s handling of Ken Griffey Jr. led to some discontent in the Mariners locker room, but we don’t know how much better Wedge’s managing style will gel with Mariners players, or how it will manifest itself into results.
One thing that we can have faith in, however, is that Jack Zduriencik is adaptable when it comes to personnel acquisition. He seemed enamored with high level physical tools at the plate and on the mound in Milwaukee. Zduriencik drafted several players with high-90s fastballs and off-the-charts power.
In Seattle, when building a team for Safeco Field and Wakamatsu, Zduriencik acquired good defensive players and finesse left-handed pitchers who could use the cavernous ballpark to their advantage.
Wedge had a ton of talent at his disposal when he was successful in Cleveland, and he hasn’t managed anywhere else. We don’t know what was really at work when Cleveland had its success under Wedge, but we know that his boss will work to give him a deep arsenal.
If Eric Wedge is in fact a good manager, he’ll have success in Seattle. If he’s a bad-mediocre manager, and the Mariners young prospects are as talented as we think, Wedge may still have success in Seattle.
But until he steps into the dugout in 2011, we won’t really know.
Fixing the 2011 Mariners player profiles:
Ted Lilly, Ramon Hernandez, Michael Saunders, Colby Rasmus, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley, Felipe Lopez, Willy Aybar, Jack/Josh Wilson, Yu Darvish