Fired Wakamatsu says thanks for the opportunity, not much else | Mariners
He praises his fired coaches, says he had an inkling that team would be making a change.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Deposed manager Don Wakamatsu spent his first full unemployed day packing his belongings while trying not to add any new baggage to it.
Wakamatsu spoke to the media in a conference call from his Seattle residence Tuesday and avoided fanning any further flames to the controversy surrounding his departure. He said his main purpose of speaking to reporters was to thank them, the fans and his coaches for all they did to make his first managerial experience a memorable one.
He gave the Mariners organization thanks for giving him a shot at what he called his dream job. But Wakamatsu did not go any further in addressing whether that organization could have supported him more in his handling of Ken Griffey Jr., Chone Figgins and other explosive issues that appear to have played a major role in his firing on Monday.
"Again, I don't want to get into all that stuff," Wakamatsu said.
And Wakamatsu knows exactly what "that stuff" was all about. He'd been briefed on the last road trip about a Seattle Times report suggesting the team was about to fire him because of the way it had failed to support him in public following a dugout row with Figgins.
Wakamatsu also seemed on Tuesday to be aware of all the media accounts detailing his turmoil-ridden final months with the team.
On Tuesday, Wakamatsu said he wasn't too surprised by his firing.
"Obviously, with the things that were in the paper and the state of the club and everything, I don't know if I was ... I was a little surprised at the time, but I thought there was probably a move coming," he said. "That's the best way I can describe it."
In the end, what may have been most striking about Wakamatsu's comments wasn't what he said, but what he did not say. Wakamatsu never attempted to set the record straight about his relationship with general manager Jack Zduriencik, nor clarify anything about his dealings with Griffey and how it may have affected his tenure with the ballclub.
Instead, he allowed all that's been said since his firing to stand unchallenged, much of it highly critical of the team's lack of support toward him and his staff since the start of the season.
Wakamatsu said he's spoken to about three or four players by phone and plans to contact the entire team individually within the next two weeks to say goodbye. He dined with pitching coach Rick Adair on Monday and said it was a shame that he, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and performance coach Steve Hecht were also fired.
"I think when a manager gets fired, an organization wants to go in a different direction," Wakamatsu said. "Some guys are a victim of that. You look, at least statistically, at Rick Adair and what he's done over the last year and a half with the pitching staff, it's pretty much been bar-none in the American League. As a bench coach, you are going to be associated with what happens to the manager. And my belief in Ty Van Burkleo as a baseball man is bar-none."
As to whether Seattle fans got to witness his own full capabilities as a baseball man, Wakamatsu said he'll count this as a learning experience. He'll also take a couple of weeks to reflect on what went wrong, as well as right.
"Obviously, going through the last year and a half is going to make me a better person," he said. "And hopefully more intelligent as time goes on. Probably the proudest thing was that last day of last year and the connect we had with the fans. That's pretty special. I've been in the game a long time, and that moment will probably stick with me for the rest of my life."
Wakamatsu planned to leave Seattle on Wednesday and head to Hood River, Ore., to visit with his grandparents, then head home to Texas.
"Right now, I'm just going to focus on spending some time with the family," he said. "That will be my focus."
But maybe not for too long. There are already rumors Wakamatsu could become the bench coach for new Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Whatever he decides, it seems fairly certain he won't be unemployed very long.
"There will be opportunities in the future," he said. "And I'll look forward to that."
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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