After guiding the Seattle Mariners to a wholly unexpected 85 wins in his first season as manager, Don Wakamatsu was fired today, along with three of his coaches, with two months left in his disastrous second season. The Mariners called up Tacoma Rainiers manager Darren Brown to be interim manager for the rest of this season.
In a press release just after noon, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik announced that he met with Wakamatsu this morning and informed him of the decision. In addition, Zduriencik has replaced bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and pitching coach Rick Adair, and released performance coach Steve Hecht from his contract.
Brown, who has managed the Rainiers, the Mariners' affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, for the past four seasons, has been named interim manager for the rest of this season. Roger Hansen, who had been the Mariners minor league catching coordinator, takes over as the bench coach. Carl Willis, who was the Mariners minor league pitching coordinator, takes on the responsibility of big league pitching coach.
“I have concluded that these changes needed to be made now and that they are in the best interest of the Mariners as we move forward,” Zduriencik said. “Don, Ty and Rick are all good baseball men and they have done their very best. But we are where we are. I no longer have confidence that Don, Ty and Rick are the right long-term fit for our organization. New leadership is needed and it is needed now.”
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Wakamatsu, 47, was hired by Zduriencik before the 2009 season, when the Mariners were one of the surprise teams in baseball, winning 85 games. This season, Seattle has been in last place since earlty on and won just six games in July, maltching the fewest wins in a month in franchise history. His record with Seattle: 127-147.
The move ended a widening gap between Wakamantsu and his staff and the front office. When the Mariners acquired Justin Smoak and three minor leaguers last month for Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe and cash, coaches said they learned of the trade on television. Adair, who'd coached with the Rangers and knew the two minor league pitchers involved, was never consulted about the deal.
Zduriencik's early issues with the team in 2010 were that players were under achieving - especially new acquisitions like Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman and Milton Bradley - and in May, batting coach Alan Cockrell was fired. Figgins has begun to hit, although his numbers are still well below career averages, but Kotchman and Bradley have essentially been non-factors in the Seattle offense.
The pitching, the strength of the 2009 team, remained strong this season - especially a rotation built around Felix Hernandez and Lee. But pitching well wasn't enough when the Mariners offense simply couldn't put up enough runs to win. The Seattle defense wasn't as tight this year as last, nor was the Mariners bullpen - and baserunning gaffes by veteran players last month cost Seattle runs and games.
Brown, 43, will take over the Mariners after 10 years in the organization, the last four spent managing the Rainiers. A former minor league pitcher who won 90 pro games, this will be Brown's first shot in the majors.