Commentary

Mariners' mess just gets worse

Eric Wedge's abrupt exit further clouds the club's murky future

Updated: September 28, 2013, 2:14 PM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

Who will the Mariners hire to replace Eric Wedge? Given the team's affinity for hiring ex-Cleveland skippers, my pick is Lou Brown from "Major League." After all, only a fictional manager would want to work for this organization.

Seriously, who would want to manage in Seattle? The next manager will be the Mariners' ninth since 2002, and that's not even counting bench coach Robby Thompson, who was in charge for several weeks this summer when Wedge was recovering from a stroke. Lou Piniella left the team with a year remaining on his contract. They fired his replacement, future two-time manager of the year Bob Melvin, just one year after a 93-win season. Mike Hargrove and Wedge quit on them. General manager Jack Zduriencik, who will be entering a lame-duck season, has gone through three managers in just five years.

The Mariners couldn't have had more managers if George Steinbrenner owned them. Heck, the Yankees have had only two managers in the past 18 years. Mariners managers are fortunate to last 18 months.

"It got to the point where it was painfully obvious that I was just wasn't going to be able to move forward with this organization," Wedge told reporters before Friday's game, declining to go into specifics. "We see things differently. We talked about it but it got to the point where I couldn't continue to move forward."

The implication was Wedge wanted a longer commitment than the Mariners were willing to give him, even though Zduriencik insisted there had been no discussion of not bringing the manager back for 2014. Wedge said the team talked about a one-year extension after last season but he felt that wasn't the "proper endorsement for a young, rebuilding team."

Things aren't improving. And how did the team celebrate Fan Appreciation Night? By having their manager abruptly resign before the game, which is a microcosm of the M's last decade.

"I just think when you talk about building, you've got to have a long-term view of it," Wedge said when asked what the organization must do to improve. "You've got to be patient. And you've got to stick with the program. Even on the worst days, you've got stick with the program. Even when people are saying it's not working, you've got to stick with the program. Even when it's not on your timeline, you've got to stick with the program."

Wedge provided little reason to stick with his program, though. The team lost 95 games his first year in 2011, 87 games last season and 90 this year with two games to play. Granted, he didn't have a lot to work with, but he didn't do much with what he had, either.

Overall, the Mariners have wrapped up their eighth losing season and eighth fourth-place finish in the past 10 years. They haven't drafted and developed an All-Star position player since Alex Rodriguez. The starting rotation could be pretty good next year, especially if James Paxton and Taijuan Walker develop to go along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but the rest of the team is even more of a question mark than it was at the end of last season.

Things aren't improving. And how did the team celebrate Fan Appreciation Night? By having their manager abruptly resign before the game, which is a microcosm of the M's last decade.

While neither Wedge nor Zduriencik have inspired much confidence, the real issue is higher up. Howard Lincoln has been a disastrous CEO. The team has gone from a record 116 wins in 2001 to a dozen consecutive years without a postseason appearance. Attendance has dropped in half. Lincoln alienated fans last winter by needlessly publicly opposing a proposed basketball arena to lure an NBA team back to Seattle.

He's the one who really needs to go. Instead, the Mariners will enter another offseason looking for another manager.

That won't be easy. How many good, experienced managers will apply to take over a perennial loser with a lame-duck general manager and a terrible CEO?

So come to think of it, Lou Brown probably would not be a good fit. Given the state of the team's progress over the past decade, a better fictional manager would be Morris Buttermaker of the Bad News Bears.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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