Did Jack Zduriencik hang Don Wakamatsu out to dry?

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Mariners’ general manager Jack Zduriencik was on KJR in Seattle yesterday, talking about the Don Wakamatsu firing. As everyone knows, one of the biggest things leading to Wakamatsu being let go was the Ken Griffey Jr. situation.  As in, the players perceived Wakamatsu as pushing the popular Griffey out, and after that they basically gave up on Wakamatsu.

Those who defend Wakamatsu believe that a short-tenured manager like Wakamatsu should not have been the person responsible for ending Griffey’s career. Rather, the message should have come from on high in the Mariners’ organization that he was hurting the team and that an exit strategy should be formulated. That didn’t happen, though, and Wakamatsu was basically hung out to dry.

I’m not sure who is ultimately to blame for all of that. But I do know that Zduriencik’s answers to questions about that seem less than satisfying. Asked if he thought that Wakamatsu mishandled the situation, Jack Z. said:

“I think Don and Junior had dialogue over a long period of time. Don
is the manager and made a decision about how he wanted to handle the
lineup; how he was taking that day to day. As a general manager, Don and
I had talked about it, but again, it comes down to how the manager
decides to do it.”

So, Jack is saying, Wakamatsu made the decision.  But should he have been the one to do it?  Jack Z. seems to evade a bit:

“Well I think we all had talked about it. I had conversations with
Kenny from time to time; and I know Don had his conversations with Kenny
from time to time. And Ken at one point had decided that his career was
going to end. So he left on his own, he decided to do it the way he did
it, and here we are today.”

The answer rambles on more and more (you can read it all through the link) but it basically sounds like Zduriencik was reading about it all in the newspapers.

It could very well be that the imperative to bring Griffey back came from above Zduriencik’s head and that, really, neither Wakamatsu or he felt like they really had the authority to simply tell Junior man-to-man that he had to get less playing time and/or leave.  Left with no good options, the most Wakamatsu could do would be to try to minimize his role, thereby causing a lot of bad blood in the clubhouse.  The man-to-man talk should have happened.

Either way, to the extent the Griffey thing dug Wakamatsu’s grave directly or otherwise, I have a hard time seeing how that can be laid at his feet.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉