Why Eric Wedge shouldn't be blamed for Mariners' unmanageable situation
Seattle manager Eric Wedge needs veteran bat to take pressure off M's struggling young lineup.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Imagine what it's like for Mariners' manager Eric Wedge when he sits behind his desk and begins filling out his lineup card. Think about the impossibility of his job.
For Wedge, there are no guarantees. He doesn't have a David Wright he can depend on in the No. 3 hole. He doesn't have a leadoff hitter with the wisdom and patience of Derek Jeter or the speed of Michael Bourn.
He doesn't have the veteran big bopper in the middle of the lineup like Paul Konerko, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp or Ryan Braun.
As he looks at the numbers and the possibilities night after night, he can't find one player at one spot who makes him feel comfortable. No Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Beltran or Adrian Beltre. No security blanket.
This is Wedge's impossible mission.
Who does he hit in the three, four and five spots? Ichiro, his three hitter, is a slapper. Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, theoretically his cleanup and No. 5 hitters, are suffering through the inconsistencies of youth.
Hours before the game, Wedge must look at his roster and ask himself dozens of questions that don't have answers.
Is Dustin Ackley his everyday leadoff hitter? Is Ackley going to be the player he looked like he would become last June when he made his major-league debut?
Who is Alex Liddi and where does he play? Third? Left? First? Is he the hitter who clubbed a grand slam and double against the Texas Rangers last week? Or is he the guy who struck out 10 times in 14 at-bats during the four-game sweep by the Angels?
Who on this team is putting together strings of good at-bats? Michael Saunders? Mike Carp? Kyle Seager?
The Mariners have been telling us for two years now that they are building the right way. But they aren't. Building the right way doesn't mean throwing a bunch of young players into the shark tank every night and asking them to survive.
But, as he designs his lineup, youth is all Wedge has.
Recently he has started talking more openly about the need for a veteran power hitter to take the pressure off his kids.
This team needs an experienced bat like Adam Dunn's or Ty Wigginton's or Michael Cuddyer's that can take the pressure off the young kids. We're not asking for a superstar, just a guy who has been there and done that.
You can almost hear the frustration building in Wedge's voice. Sure, he shouldn't have called his critics "yahoos" last week. But who can blame him?
He's working for yahoos, and I don't mean general manager Jack Zduriencik. I mean the guys above Zduriencik who won't let the baseball people build this team the right way.
Quickly this season is getting away from the Mariners. Except for a three-game series with Oakland and a home-and-away stretch with San Diego, June is fraught with disaster.
And Wedge is being asked to manage a very young team through this dangerous section of the schedule without the help of contributing veterans. It's an impossible job.
And before the start of every game and after the final out of every game, he's asked to explain his team.
How do you explain the inexplicable?
Not one position on the team is secure. No guarantees are on Wedge's roster.
Who's the catcher? Wedge can't start Montero every game and suffer all of the passed balls and stolen bases, while he's trying to win games.
Who's the third baseman? The shortstop of the future is Nick Franklin, but he's in Class AA now. First base is as uncertain as third. Ultimately second base will belong to either Ackley or Seager, but now it's just another competition. None of the outfield spots is settled.
And let's not even talk about the bullpen, or the roller-coaster ride that is the starting rotation.
There must be days when Wedge feels as if he's in the middle of an Abbott and Costello routine as he makes up the lineup.
Fire Wedge? This isn't his fault.
The Mariners have about $27 million tied up in two players — Ichiro and Chone Figgins — which really means that Wedge is trying to win games with a $60 million payroll.
That's building the right way?
Fire Wedge? And start over again? Really? That is yahoo thinking.
Some of these kids will grow into good big-league players. The big question, however, is who, if any, of them will become great.
This rebuilding program is going to take longer than we were promised. Wait till next year, is becoming wait till about 2015.
And this is what Wedge knows every day he fills out the lineup.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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