SEATTLE — Before the Seattle Mariners could tell him he wasn’t coming back next season, or that he could only come back on a one-year contract, Eric Wedge told the Mariners he was done with the organization.
On Friday morning, Wedge informed the front office that he has no interest in returning for the 2014 season. He will manage the final three games of this season, but he won’t be putting on a Mariners uniform after that.
“It’s got to the point where it’s painfully obvious to me that I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said before Friday’s game. “We see things differently. We talked about it. But it just got to the point where I couldn’t continue to move forward.”
Wedge’s abrupt resignation means general manager Jack Zduriencik will be looking for his third manager in his five-year tenure.
When the 2014 season begins, the Mariners will have their ninth manager since 2002.
The prevailing thought was that Zduriencik was going to be looking for a replacement for Wedge anyway. Wedge had presided over three losing seasons, and this year’s team has lost more games than in the 2012 season.
But Zduriencik said the decision from Wedge wasn’t anticipated. He expected Wedge would be his manager in 2014, as did CEO Howard Lincoln and team president Chuck Armstrong.
“I was surprised,” Zduriencik said. “I was looking forward
to having Eric back. But through his series of thought processes, he decided this wasn’t going to work. There was never a discussion of not bringing Eric back. All the discussions we had with the front office with Chuck, Howard, myself and the baseball people, we were prepared to bring back. I think Eric knew I was in his corner and wanted him to come back.”
Wedge requested a meeting, and the plan was for Zduriencik and Wedge to discuss everything Monday after the season ended – including Wedge’s contract status.
“He just felt that it was a time to make a decision and he needed a decision before the season ended,” Zduriencik said. “I saw that a little differently. I thought, let’s just wait till Monday.”
But that wasn’t the only difference between the two. Wedge wanted a multiyear extension that Zduriencik wasn’t willing to offer.
“I made it very clear that I wanted to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said. “Ultimately, I didn’t feel like I could continue to manage here with the circumstances the way they are.”
The Mariners were offering a one-year extension for 2014 and no guarantees beyond.
“I know Eric would have been here through the 2014 season,” Zduriencik said. “From our point, there was a trust factor, you know: ‘Eric if you do a good job, we’ll move forward with you.’ ”
Wedge’s uncertain status, lack of security, and the accompanying perceptions are the reasons why he refused to accept a one-year contract extension after last season.
“I told them wasn’t willing or prepared to do that at that time,” he said. “I didn’t feel like that was the proper endorsement for a young, rebuilding team moving forward. I didn’t feel like that sent the right message to the players, first and foremost, and ultimately the fans too. So that endorsement just wasn’t there for me.”
Wedge preached often about being “all-in” on the Mariners’ rebuilding process, but it’s difficult to see how improved Seattle is after three straight losing seasons.
“It’s tough, it’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, it’s upsetting,” Wedge said. “But sometimes people just don’t see things the same way and things just don’t work. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I wanted it to work. But it’s not just going to.”
So what will make it work?
“I just think that when you talk about building something, you have to have a long-term view of it,” Wedge said. “And you’ve got to be patient and stick with the program, even on the worst days, you have to stick with the program. Even when everyone else says it’s not working, you have to stick with the program. Even when it’s not on your timeline, you have to stick with the program. Hopefully they will be able to do that.”
Zduriencik will begin the managerial search immediately. He certainly has experience. He hired Don Wakamatsu in 2009, when he began his tenure as the Mariners’ GM. After firing Wakamatsu in the middle of the 2010 season, he hired Wedge for 2011 .
Whether the third time’s a charm doesn’t appear to concern Zduriencik. He believes the position is still attractive to prospective candidates.
“The circumstances are different,” he said. “I think every year there is a different set of circumstances. If you look at this organization and where we are at and what we’ve done here, I think this is a very desirable job for a lot of good candidates out there. I’ve heard this a lot the last half of the season from every club we’ve played – the comments from the general managers and comments from the managers, they like what’s going on here; they see our young talent and they know our minor league system. I think somebody out there is going to look at this and say, ‘This is a pretty good spot to be.’”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish