BY John Hickey 10:37PM 10/14/2010

M’s managerial choice: The anti-Wak

Next manager’s chief virtue may be his willingness to accept blame for failure

bobby valentine

Bobby Valentine

In the pursuit of a new manager, what are Mariners seeking? What does general manager Jack Zduriencik want from his second managerial hire?

Zduriencik doesn’t like to talk about the process, but Sportspress Northwest asked some members of the Mariners front office about the blueprint. The general suggestion was Zduriencik wanted someone more supportive of the front office, as well as more insistent on fundamentals, than was Don Wakamatsu, fired mid-season.

“There were so many players he didn’t hold accountable,’’ one of the Mariner execs said on the promise of anonymity. “We never practiced base-running, never made sure that the bunts at the start of batting practice were fair. Moving the runners over, trying to get a sacrifice fly, we never did any of it.’’
It was pointed out several times that on the Sunday before the All-Star break, a home game against the Yankees, the high-scoring Yankees took batting practice and the worst-hitting Mariners did not. Right or wrong, it didn’t sit well with Wakamatsu’s superiors.

Among the candidates are Daren Brown, the interim manager, but he’s not expected to get the job. After interviewing Bobby Valentine on Monday and Cecil Cooper and John Gibbons on Tuesday, the Mariners brought in former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon and ex-Indians skipper Eric Wedge Wednesday.

There is a chance that the Mariners will talk with at least one and perhaps three more candidates. The club could make the announcement before the World Series starts.

Several candidates had a history of taking blame for their team’s failings – whether warranted or not – including McClendon, Gibbons (Blue Jays), Wedge and Cecil Cooper (Astros). The fact was that in most cases those teams couldn’t have won with Joe Torre or Tony La Russa at the helm because the talent wasn’t there. Still, these four played ball, so to speak, with their organizations, taking the PR bullet when things went south. The Mariners, watching from afar, took notice.

Why? Because Wakamatsu didn’t do that. He wasn’t above suggesting that the Mariners talent in 2010 wasn’t good enough to compete. Had the season gone perfectly, there was a chance. Instead, nearly everything aside from Felix Hernandez and Ichiro went wrong. From Cliff Lee’s injury in spring training to Ken Griffey Jr.’s abrupt ride into the sunset a couple months into the season to the nationally televised dugout scuffle involving Chone Figgins, the season was a debacle.
“Those guys took bullets for their team’s failures,’’ one Seattle insider said.
Valentine, who some thought was likely to get the Seattle job after he pulled his name out of contention for the vacancy with the Florida Marlins, is still a candidate with the Mariners, although he’s not in the same take-one-for-the-team mold of the others. He’s managed a dozen years in MLB and in Japan and has been a winner eight times.
He’s a big name and that would attact attention, which would be a plus for Seattle, which is coming off its worst attendance since Griffey was a minor leaguer. But he is also a manager with a lot more experience that the man hiring him, Zduriencik. That could be a problem for the GM.

With nearly a third of MLB franchises considering managerial switches, the Mariners have competition. Wedge has talked with the Cubs and Pirates, Valentine with the Marlins, Blue Jays and Pirates and Gibbons with the Pirates.

The chosen one might be the one to say, “My fault!” the loudest.


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