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.