Entering 2011, the Mariners brass led by GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge promised a team that would play good, hard, fundamental baseball. After a 101-loss season and in a year that sets up to be a rebuilding season under a new manager, the Mariners wanted to sell sound, hard-played baseball to their fans and rightfully so.
Wedge is a no-nonsense manager by all accounts. He’s going to demand exactly what has been promised — the fundamental baseball played hard day in and day out.
On Wednesday, in game six of the season against the Texas Rangers, Wedge walked the talk.
After 2B Jack Wilson committed errors on consecutive plays that probably turned a 1-0 lead to a 3-1 deficit with last year’s Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez on the hill, Wilson was subsequently pulled. Utility infielder Luis Rodriguez replaced Wilson in the third inning.
Now I’m all for having the balls to pull someone who isn’t performing up to snuff whether it’s defensively, offensively or mentally; yet it seems a little out of line to pull a player like Wilson who was moved to second by you, the manager, at the outset of the season against his wishes (his regular position is shortstop and he had never started a game at second in the majors) and even made a spectacular play two days prior at the position. The errors on Wednesday were Wilson’s first of the season.
I don’t want to say this — because it is a major statement — but I believe there’s a double standard here. A player like Ichiro Suzuki seems to have a much longer leash than does Wilson. Sure Ichiro is a gold glove winner and perhaps the “face” of your franchise but early on this season he has already made a bad error that probably cost your team a win and had his head out of the game on a couple of instances (not taking second on throws home or errors and trying to bunt for a basehit with a runner on second, two outs and down 1 etc. and etc.) already this season.
And if Wilson isn’t rewarded with extra playing time or some other kind of incentive when he makes spectacular plays like he did on Monday, then how can you yank him when he makes a couple misplays? Nobody is perfect defensively (well, ok, nobody outside of Franklin Gutierrez) and it’s pretty damn hard to expect your players to be flawless for the entire season.
The plays Wednesday certainly should’ve been made and, in my opinion kept the inning from ending at 1-0 and in turn put the M’s behind 3-1. Yet, Wilson is one of the game’s best defenders playing an entirely new position that he isn’t completely comfortable at because you (the team) decided it.
Wedge has made a statement with this move. You better play hard night in and night out or you’re going to have your playing time cut. Now let’s hope he applies it to everyone and not just role players like Jack Wilson who have one year left on their contracts.