As reported by CBSSports.com, the Seattle Mariners have hired former Cleveland manager Eric "The Grinder" Wedge, to replace fired skipper Don Wakamatsu following a 101 loss season. For a team that has suffered from a chronic case of underachievement, Wedge doesn't strike me as the antidote. Furthermore, he doesn't strike me as the solution to any team's problems.
Here are several reasons why.
Slow starting teams: in his entire tenure with Cleveland (7 years), the Indians had only one winning April (2007). To me, this is an indication of a manager who doesn't know how to prepare a team for a season during spring training. Regardless of talent, his teams begin every season flat. When a team is under .500 and 5+ games out of first by the beginning of May, it's really tough to make the postseason.
Failure to meet expectations: the three Indians teams that received the highest preseason praise under his tenure were the '06, '08 and '09 squads. The best record any of those teams had was 81-81 in 08. Much like the Indians, the Mariners have a history of underachieving, especially in recent years. Does it seem like a good idea to add an underachieving manager to that mix?
Teams crack under pressure: the best teams Wedge managed ('05 and '07) both cracked when the pressure was turned up. In 2005, his team was a shoo-in for the playoffs, until the last week of the season. The Tribe lost six of their last seven to the Royals, Rays and White Sox and finished two games out of the postseason picture. The '07 team had a 3-1 lead in the LCS, with the #1 (C.C. Sabathia) and #3 (Fausto Carmona) pitchers in the Cy Young race scheduled to pitch in games 5 and 6. They still managed to crack under the pressure and allowed the Red Sox to win the last three games and take the series. Like Indians fans, Seattle fans put A LOT of pressure on their teams to break through and give their city a winner. I really doubt a Wedge-led team will be able to handle the pressure.
Bad managerial decisions: offensively, Wedge is a "get some guys on and swing for the fences" manager. This strategy certainly doesn't fit the talent on the current 25-man roster or the dimensions of Safeco Field. There is little nuance in his game plan...don't expect to see stolen bases, hit-and-runs or sacrifices. Wedge's handling of his pitching staff is a cause for concern as well. Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee spent the early years of their career being bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, making it difficult for them to settle in at the major league level. In his later years, a similar situation has occurred with lefty Aaron Laffey, who ended up missing the majority of this season with arm fatigue. Fausto Carmona started '06 as a starter before moving to long relief, set-up, and eventually closer. After his failure replacing Joe Borowski as closer, he was demoted to AAA and returned to the rotation.
You can chalk this up to sour grapes on the part of a disappointed Indian fan if you want. Trust me, after several years of the "Grind," you'll be ready to run Wedgie out of town on a rail.
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