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.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.