Wedge informs Mariners he won’t be back next year
Saying it was “painfully obvious” that he wasn’t going to be able to move forward with the Mariners, manager Eric Wedge informed the club Friday he will not be returning next season.
Wedge declined a one-year contract extension last offseason and said no subsequent offer had been put on the table, but general manager Jack Zduriencik said the club wanted Wedge to return and he was prepared to inform him of that during a scheduled post-season meeting Monday.
Instead, Wedge called Zduriencik on Thursday’s off day to request they talk, then informed the GM he wouldn’t be returning on Friday morning.
“Eric’s job was not in danger,” Zduriencik said. “This was his decision. I was looking forward to having Eric back.”
Wedge, 45, will finish out the final three games of his three-year contract this weekend. He has a 212-271 record in Seattle and a career mark of 773-844 after spending seven years with the Indians from 2003-09.
“It’s tough, it’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, it’s upsetting,” Wedge said prior to Friday’s game with the A’s at Safeco Field. “Sometimes people just don’t see things the same way and things just don’t work out. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, I wanted it to work, but it’s just not going to.”
Wedge said the one-year extension he received at the end of last season wasn’t a good situation with a rebuilding club.
“I told them I wasn’t prepared to do that at that time,” he said. “I didn’t feel like that was a proper endorsement for a young, rebuilding team moving forward. I didn’t feel like that sends the right message to the players, first and foremost, and then ultimately the fans, too. So, that endorsement just wasn’t there for me.”
Wedge met Zduriencik on Thursday after telling reporters a day earlier that he felt he was “hanging out there” in his current situation.
“I talked to [CEO Howard Lincoln] a while back and let him know my thoughts,” Wedge said. “Yesterday I met with Jack. It just got to point it was painfully obviously to me I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization. We see things differently. We talked about it, but it just got to the point I couldn’t continue to move forward.”
Zduriencik said if there was a difference of opinion it was limited to the length of contract being offered and that he felt the two were good friends and worked well together on baseball decisions.
“Through the course of the year we had many discussions about his contract scenario,” Zduriencik said. “I think like all of these things, you’re offered a contract, you do your job, you do it ‘til the very end, and those that control the contract basically have faith and trust that things are going to work out and you move forward with it. Eric’s desire was different than what we would’ve ended up at.”
Zduriencik himself is believed to be under a one-year extension, but he declined to address that Friday and said the managerial job should be attractive to candidates, given the youth movement already underway on a franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2001.
“Every club we’ve played, the comments from the general managers or the managers, they like what’s going on here, they see the young talent, they know our Minor League system,” Zduriencik said. “So I think somebody out there’s going to look at this and say this is a pretty good spot to be. As much as I feel bad that Eric’s not going to be here, I also look forward to the next person coming in and taking us to the next level.”
Wedge said he felt his vision started to separate from Zduriencik’s last offseason and carried over into the year. What does he think the club needs to do to turn things around?
“I just think that, you talk about building, you’ve got to have a long-term view of it,” he said. “You’ve got to be patient and stick with the program. Even on the worst days you’ve got to stick with the program, even when everybody else is saying it’s not working you’ve got to stick with the program, even when it’s not on your timeline you’ve got to stick with the program.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to do that here. I wish nothing but the best for the Seattle Mariners and everybody involved with the Seattle Mariners and all the fans in Seattle.
“They deserve a winner and we’ve got some kids out here that are going to be big-time ballplayers for the Seattle Mariners. I hope everybody believes me when I say that. These kids, and what I feel like they’re going to do has never wavered.”
Wedge missed 27 games after suffering a minor stroke earlier this season, but he says he feels better than ever and that his best days as a manager still are ahead. Those days will not be with Seattle, however.
Zduriencik said Wedge’s staff, all of whom are still under contract another year, will be evaluated at season’s end as well.
“It’s up in the air,” he said. “I think that just common sense would tell you that as we pursue another manager and as people show interest in this job, certainly we’re going to be wide open. I like a lot of the pieces on the staff, I think they’ve done a nice job, but I also think you’ve got to keep yourself wide open to the next manager that’s coming in.”