Eric Wedge introduced by Mariners
SEATTLE -- After a lengthy day of travel back to his home in Cleveland, Eric Wedge had barely walked through his front door when his phone chimed.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik was on the line with a simple question: Would you like to take on the rebuilding job waiting in Seattle?
"Can I at least drop my bags?" Wedge asked.
It wasn't long before Wedge was on his way back to the Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, he was introduced as the newest manager of the Seattle Mariners, pledging that accountability and respect will be the basis of trying to rebuild a franchise with a pair of 101-loss campaigns in the past three seasons.
Those core values from Wedge are not up for debate. If someone doesn't buy in immediately, they will eventually, or someone else will be brought in.
"I could write a master's thesis on what it means to respect the game and everything that goes along with that," Wedge said. "But that consistency in what we're going to show is going to allow them to come out and play it all the way through. It doesn't matter how many people are in the stands, where we're playing, the time of the year, what the weather is like, what our record is, the way we play and our effort and the way we go about it is going to be there each and every day. ... Those are things that are going to happen here."
Wedge arrives in Seattle after a year away from the game, time he spent focusing on his family before turning his attention to the possible managerial openings as the summer progressed. He went so far as to purchase a television package for the final weeks of the season to give an assessment of what might be a possible destination.
His credentials are without much debate. In his seven years in Cleveland, Wedge successfully rebuilt the Indians beginning in 2003 and culminating with the 2007 season when Wedge was named AL manager of the year and took the Indians within one game of the World Series.
Only when economics directed another purge of the Indians roster and forced another rebuild did Wedge fail and he was let go.
"I looked at the candidates and what they did and how we clicked, what I was saying and how he responded and what he was saying and how I responded," Zduriencik said. "I think it was like, 'OK, I see where we're at, both of us.' ... That's why I think it worked. We both saw the same things that we wanted."
Sporting a mustache that lends an air of maturity to the 42-year-old, Wedge becomes the seventh manager of the Mariners since the beginning of the 2003 season. He takes over on a full-time basis from Don Wakamatsu, who was given his first managerial position two years ago and was fired in August with Seattle 28 games below .500 amid a divided clubhouse.
Zduriencik said Tuesday that interim manager Daren Brown would likely have some role with the organization moving forward, either on the major league staff or as the manager of Seattle's Triple-A affiliate.
Through the managerial search, it became clear Zduriencik believed previous major league managerial experience was vital for the Mariners' future. He started with a list of 59 candidates and whittled it to five finalists -- Bobby Valentine, John Gibbons, Cecil Cooper, Lloyd McClendon and Wedge -- all with previous stops leading a major league clubhouse.
Zduriencik once scouted Wedge when he was a catcher at Wichita State.
"What stood out so much this time is we wanted someone who had been there, done that," Zduriencik said. "Someone that brought major league managerial experience to the table. ... When you thought about he's been through a rebuilding process, he's been through winning and I think gauging where we're at is important. You look at it now and we've got two years of work trying to build this organization from the ground up, we've made some trades, we're going to have veteran players and young players."
Wedge will spend much of his coming weeks compiling a coaching staff and figuring out the roster he wants to move forward with. He understands that young ace Felix Hernandez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki are his cornerstones, but the rest is essentially a clean slate. Seattle's 2011 roster is likely to be a few veterans surrounded by an influx of young talent looking for an opportunity to develop.
From day one, Wedge plans on making sure those youngsters understand his philosophy.
"I'm going to stress this to our players -- you've got to pay attention to the game. You've got to watch the game. Pay attention to the game. Not just when you're up to bat or on the mound or in the field," he said. "Watch the game, because you're going to learn. Manage the game with me. Be a smart baseball player.
One player for Wedge to bridge is Milton Bradley. In 2004, Wedge and Bradley butted heads in Cleveland when Wedge removed the mercurial outfielder from a spring training game for not hustling. The result was a contentious showdown that Wedge eventually won when Bradley was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I think one of Milton's biggest obstacles is just staying healthy. Hopefully, he'll be healthy and help us have an opportunity to win some ballgames here," Wedge said. "I'm looking forward to having another opportunity to work with him. I don't hold any grudges. Milton's a long ways away from that, too. I'm sure our relationship is going to be fine."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press