Is it time for the gloves to come off?
By Shannon Drayer
A question I get often is, how is Eric Wedge handling the struggles that the Mariners are going through? Some wonder if the postgame interviews are delayed because closed door meetings are called. Others wonder what it is like walking into Wedge’s office after another loss. Surely he is angry, right?
There is no question Wedge has fire and there is no question about his intensity. It is there and if you think that it isn’t, well, I can only assume you haven’t spent significant time with him. The overwhelming characteristic he has displayed this year, however, is patience.
Wedge knows what he is up against with a young team. I don’t think he has seen anything here that he hasn’t seen before. He is a firm believer that these players have to see and experience everything before they are true big leaguers. He knows there will be struggles and he knows it will take time for the young players to develop. He also knows that how he reacts can influence every man in that clubhouse.
He gave his veterans plenty of rope, or time to break into the season. When they weren’t producing he called them out. My understanding is he hasn’t told us the media anything he hasn’t told the individual players first. He isn’t sending messages through the media about his vets but he isn’t covering for their play ever. He needs them and offensively for the large part they have let him down.
The young players have been another matter. He has been very careful with them. He could yell about bad at-bats that we have seen from some of them and I believe he would if he felt that it would lead to the best result. For now he displays patience and understanding for the process they are going through. He doesn’t hang his head after a loss and he bounces back well the next day. He expects his players to do the same.
Is it enough? Is this team getting to a point where perhaps the best results would come if the gloves came off with the young players? Has his patience and understanding coupled with the organizational declaration that this year is about the development of youth created an environment for learning that perhaps is too safe for some of these players?
If Wedge got angry would his players get angry too? Do they need to get a little angry? Do they need to feel a little less safe? Safe in their spots in the lineup, safe on the 25-man roster?
It’s Wedge’s call. He has his finger on the pulse of the team. At some point a kick in the butt will go further than a pat on the back but that is a call that has to be made by him and he has experience in that department. I am sure many hours away from the park are spent thinking of this. How much can he push? How much is too much, how much is not enough? What impact could changes have?
Changes could and probably should be coming. The offensive problems are well documented but while the focus has been on the offense, the bullpen has failed to establish itself. Far too many first batters reaching base, too many walks, too many home runs. No go-to guy. Who would you give the ball to with a one-run lead in the eighth?
The Mariners have young relievers in the system that could be close to ready. Stephen Pryor was moved to Triple-A just over a week ago and there are more big arms behind him. Unfortunately, there really isn’t the equivalent in position players being ready to jump to the next level. This shouldn’t stop Wedge from sending a player down, however, if he thinks it would be best for that player’s development. Not just to get at-bats or to work on something but perhaps for the experience of having the big leagues taken away and having to fight to get it back.
Again, this is Wedge’s call. I am not saying that there is complacency in the clubhouse from the young players but I sure as heck would keep my eyes open for it. The players themselves would probably never see it because they work hard but if there is another level, if there is more they can give, be it physically or mentally, do they know it?
Does this team need a shakeup?