M's manager, players brawl in dugout
SEATTLE -- Add fighting among themselves to the Mount Rainier-high list of problems the Seattle Mariners have right now.
Friday night's 2-1 loss to Boston brought a new, most unseemly low: a midgame fight in the dugout between benched second baseman Chone Figgins and manager Don Wakamatsu.
The brief but intense scrum included: a shouting match across the length of the bench; pushing between players and coaches who were trying to intervene; one Mariner climbing over others and lunging toward Figgins; the starting pitcher in the middle trying to make peace; and third baseman Jose Lopez having his jersey pulled off his back.
An irate Figgins spent the last few innings stewing inside the clubhouse. Veteran clubhouse leader Russell Branyan went back there to talk to Figgins. Branyan was glad to see Figgins hadn't left the stadium during the game, as Milton Bradley had done after Wakamatsu benched him during a game in May.
The second-year manager said Figgins will not be suspended for the insubordination. Figgins left the ballpark before reporters were allowed into the clubhouse. General manager Jack Zduriencik was in nearby Tacoma watching his Triple-A team Friday night and will take up the issue on Saturday.
The last-place Mariners sunk to a season-low 23 games under .500 with their 16th loss in 20 games. What should their fans be thinking about a last-place team that is now fighting among themselves in the dugout?
"With the way we've been playing, it'd be hard to convince any fan to come out and watch us play. Because it hasn't been pretty," Branyan said. "But on the other hand, we're working hard. Guys are trying too hard."
Figgins, who's been struggling mightily all season in the first year of a $36 million, free-agent contract, was standing near second base as Boston's Mike Cameron was pulling into second on a double into the left-field corner leading off the fifth.
Figgins inexplicably let the throw from Michael Saunders, which sailed over cutoff man Jack Wilson, bounce a few feet to his left and then dribble past the bag without moving toward it. Cameron alertly went to third on another boneheaded play by the Mariners in a week full of them.
After the top of the fifth, Wakamatsu benched Figgins -- something many fans thought he should have done with the .229 hitter months ago.
"I didn't think there was much effort in that backup, and I made the decision to take him out of the ballgame," Wakamatsu said.
Asked why he benched Figgins then and not numerous other Mariners for their many mental mistakes and lack of effort in recent weeks, Wakamatsu said Figgins' laziness "was cut and dry."
An argument then broke out in the Mariners' dugout between Figgins at the far end and Wakamatsu, who was closer to the plate-side of the bench. A ball girl passing in front of the dugout stopped and watched the scene with her mouth agape. While Figgins was shouting and Branyan was interceding, Lopez was between the two. Lopez was pushed back away from a teammate toward the far end of the dugout by several Mariners, primarily hitting coach Alonzo Powell.
Starting pitcher Jason Vargas, who had been quietly celebrating stranding Cameron at third, suddenly found himself among those trying to separate combatants.
Lopez got his game jersey pulled off his back in the rumble. He stayed in the game -- with his jersey on.
"What people have to understand is, everybody in that dugout cares. And tempers fly a little bit," Wakamatsu said, without detailing what happened. "What happens in there stays in there."
Minutes later, Wakamatsu lifted Figgins for pinch-hitter Josh Wilson. He immediately doubled, something Figgins has done just once since June 2.
"I was trying to keep people from getting hurt," Vargas said. "It was a crazy game. ... Eventually that's going to happen with how frustrated we've been. But we've all got to get along these last couple months."
Josh Wilson hopes the fight somehow unites this divided team.
"When you play on a team underachieving like we do, there's a lot of tension," he said. "A lot of times, this can help, it's a release.
"Hopefully it leads to some better communication and we can move on."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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