Mariners manager Eric Wedge makes a statement
Mariners manager Eric Wedge called Jack Wilson's decision to ask out of Wednesday's game after he committed two errors "unspeakable."
Seattle Times baseball reporter
One week into it, and the Mariners already have themselves a situation.
Or, perhaps, a teachable moment. Call it an Eric Wedge policy statement.
Wedge practically spit out his words Friday in discussing the Jack Wilson melodrama, which erupted into something bordering on controversy before the pomp and ceremony (and ultimate depression) of the home opener.
"I did not take him out of the game," Wedge said forcefully, referring to Wilson's third-inning removal Wednesday after committing two errors in Texas. "He took himself out of the game."
To say that action did not sit well with the skipper is an understatement. Nor was he pleased that Wilson, in talking to reporters after Wednesday's game, made it sound like the decision to remove Wilson was Wedge's.
(In a mea culpa after Friday's 12-3 Mariners loss, Wilson called over reporters and admitted to a "huge mistake," adding: "In no way, shape or form would I ever disrespect him in that situation, where I made it sound like he pulled me.")
Wedge was actually trying to protect Wilson when he said he took him out because the second baseman was "hazy." On Friday, Wedge no longer felt the need to offer any façade around the unvarnished truth.
The manager told how he and coach Robby Thompson went into the tunnel at the end of the inning to try, unsuccessfully, to convince Wilson to return to the game. And how did Wilson's refusal sit with Wedge?
"It's unspeakable to me," Wedge said, sparks flying from his eyes.
Yes, there's a new sheriff in town. The Mariners have given lip service to the notion of accountability. Now Wedge is proving to be true to their word, sending a strong message that is sure to resonate around a clubhouse used to seeing players coddled. In the dreary atmosphere that surrounded their blowout loss to Cleveland on Friday, it was a signal that culture change is afoot.
Adam Kennedy started at second base on Friday, and Wilson said, forlornly, "Until I'm confident enough to do that (turn double plays at second base), I'm probably going to be sitting down watching someone else."
It's the manager's confidence he needs to regain. Wedge was a self-made player who endured four knee operations and four elbow surgeries to forge a modest major-league career. To witness an uninjured player ask out of a game is contrary to his ethos, and must alienate him to his very core.
Thompson was as feisty and tough a player as ever laced up cleats. I covered the Giants in 1993 when he talked his way into the lineup on the final day of the season, barely a week after suffering a broken cheekbone when hit in the face by a pitch. The title hung in the balance, and Thompson simply wasn't going to miss the game even at the risk of further injury.
Thompson did not use the term "unspeakable" to describe Wilson's reluctance to go back into the game. But he was clearly taken aback, saying he had never seen it before in his career, at any level.
"We wanted him to go back out, yes," Thompson said. "Hey, I've made errors, errors in crucial situations. We really tried to talk him into staying out there, going back out there. Obviously, we wanted him out there. He's been playing awesome."
After meeting with Wedge on Friday, Wilson seemed to recognize the hole he had dug himself, and to his credit vowed to make amends.
"That's obviously the worst thing you can ever do on the field is let your teammates down," he said. "That's something I need to address with these guys. That's definitely not what I'm about at all. You have to earn your trust back with your teammates and your coaching staff and your manager when you let them down like I did that day."
Wilson seemed like a tormented soul when he met with reporters after batting practice, and it's hard not to feel badly for him. He was placed in a difficult situation by being moved to second base after a fine career at shortstop, and he clearly is undergoing a crisis of confidence.
"No one wants to take themselves out of the game," Wilson said. "Especially me. I haven't been able to play a lot of baseball in the last year or so. I want to be out there 100 percent, but not if it's going to cost us anything. It's a pretty tough pill to swallow, but at that point, I knew it was the right thing for me to do."
Wedge made it clear he didn't, and doesn't, and never will, think it was the right thing to ask out of a game. Many managers would have continued to tiptoe around the issue, especially so early in the season. But Wedge let it be known that, just as he promised in October, he is going to hold players to a certain standard.
Unspeakable? On the contrary, Wedge spoke loud and clear.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.