You are 17.5 games out of first place.
To build a team capable of taking the AL West, skip ahead three years.
To abandon all hope of seeing .500, skip ahead to the end of this series.
If only the Mariners were more like a choose-your-own adventure book. We could fast forward the nasty parts, the paths that lead to oblivion, the rebuilding strategies that fall through, and the months of record low attendance. We could jettison players who will never pan out, gloss over lopsided trades, and head straight towards that inevitable World Series championship run.
Unfortunately, the only options we’re presented with right now are the fluctuating philosophies of manager Eric Wedge; that is, methods of coping with the fourth-losingest team in MLB. Most days, especially those following a blown save or failed rally, Wedge exhibits the perfect measure of indignation and resolve. When he says, “We’re not going to keep watching people do the same thing over and over again and live with it,” we believe him, at least until he trots out an identical lineup the following day, usually one with Olivo batting above the 8-spot or Ichiro leading off at DH.
As fans, it’s easy to connect with the fire-and-brimstone Wedge. We’re frustrated, too. We’re the ones paying anywhere from $15 to $60 to watch Jesus Montero ground out on the first pitch and Albert Pujols take Felix deep in the heart of unhittable Safeco Field.
However, fire-and-brimstone Wedge vanished somewhere between Prince Fielder claiming the Home Run Derby title and the collective National League shutting out the collective American League. By the time the All-Star break drew to a close, Wedge was preaching a radically different message to his team. Instead of the improve or pack your bags approach, he advocated a mantra of love, tolerance, and relaxation. Per Geoff Baker in The Seattle Times, Wedge said, “One thing we have to do is get them in a better position where they can come out and perform. Relaxing and being confident is part of it.”
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with a little TLC toward a team that battled through a 36-51 split in the first half. Managing a major league ballclub, especially one as raw as the Mariners, cannot be easy, and I applaud Wedge for doing what he can with the players he’s been entrusted.
Still, it’s clear that everyone, from the front office to the blogging community, is at the end of their rope with the way this season has been handled. Moving in the fences doesn’t seem to be the answer; nor does moving players back to Triple-A. Trading for key pieces is almost impossible, as any Mariner of worth to another club is under lock and key.
What we need from Wedge at this point is just what he’s asked from his own players: production and consistency. I can accept that The Plan is more likely to span ten years than two, that Montero will not be the superstar catcher/DH in 2012 that we anticipated, that Chone Figgins will be warming the bench for a lot longer than he should. What I cannot accept are these shifting moods from the manager responsible for creating game-winning lineups.
Make a choice, Eric Wedge. You can be the good cop—the one who nurtures the team, who encourages them to try harder after each brutal loss, who draws from a never-ending supply of patience with struggling rookies and veterans alike. Or, you can be the bad cop—the one whose fiery words will inspire players to pick up their game and ship them off to figure things out in the farm system if they don’t.
Whatever you do, don’t threaten to demote under-performing players, then tell us that we need to put more trust in The Plan to iron out the kinks with this crop of Mariners. You may be on the path to building a stronger team, but you are not doing anything to strengthen the hearts of Mariners fans.