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.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.