Wak, Adair, Hecht and Van Burkleo Fired

Sorry I’m a little late to the punch on this one, but I’ve been out of town for the last week and I just got back to Seattle.

So, as I’m sure all of you know by now, the Mariners made the decision today to let go manager Don Wakamatsu, pitching coach Rick Adair, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, and performance coach Steve Hecht. The one positive of posting this so late in the day, is that I don’t have to do any real guesswork as to the reasoning. Jack Zduriencik’s already held his press conference, and he used it to make his motives about as clear as we could possibly expect from a GM as tight-lipped as him. Keep in mind, everything I’m about to say is in reference to Don Wakamatsu, and Don Wakamatsu alone. It’s nearly impossible to accurately evaluate coaches, and as far as I can gather, the other three were only fired because of their relationships with Wak himself.

So, as for why Wak got the axe, it really comes down to one thing; failed expectations. Coming into this season, the Mariners were expected to be good. They weren’t only expected to be good, they were expected to contend. 2010 was supposed to be an entertaining baseball year for both the Mariners and the city of Seattle, and the team has flat out failed to deliver. When teams under perform, or fail to meet expectations for any reason, there’s always going to be some sort of a scapegoat. Now – there are different degrees of scapegoating. I don’t think anyone out there would claim that this disaster of a season is entirely Don Wakamatu’s fault – that’s just silly. So many things have gone wrong with this team, it’d be impossible to point the finger in any one direction. However, it’s important to understand that Jack Zduriencik is at the head of this ship, and he has an entire city to answer to. When sports teams fail, the fans want answers, and inevitably, action.

To the majority of the fans, it doesn’t matter who’s actually to blame. This miserable season could be entirely a product of unfortunate luck, but it wouldn’t matter to most of the people watching the games. Fans, by nature, want to be able to blame someone, and the manager is usually the most convenient place to look.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this decision was simply a case of Jack Zduriencik giving the fans a scapegoat. It’s quite possible that he’s just come to the conclusion that Don Wakamatsu is no longer the right man for this job – and at this point, I find that point hard to argue. His questionable decisions on the field have been more abundant and more noticeable than they were in 2009, and this probably is the right time to cut ties. That being said – do I think Daren Brown, or whoever the team hires for this position long term will do a significantly better job? Maybe, maybe not. I personally don’t put much stock in managerial evaluation techniques anyway. I think they get too much credit when teams are good, and too much blame when teams are bad. The fact is, there just aren’t any clear-cut, proven ways to evaluate a manager’s performance, and because of that, there are always going to be two strong sides of the argument when one of them gets fired.

It’d be easy to get excited about Don Wakamatsu going away. The first things that come to mind are “less Sean White”, “less Rob Johnson”, or “more Shawn Kelley”(if he were healthy). But the fact is, no manager is perfect, and every single one is going to have their own unfortunate tendencies. Daren Brown might develop a weird obsession with Jamey Wright or something, who knows?

Only time will tell if this was the right move, and I’m certainly not sure one way or another at this point in time. Evaluating managers is a tricky, tricky area to venture into, and I couldn’t tell you whether or not Don Wakamatsu got his fair shot.

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