Mariners can’t keep Jack Wilson; Eric Wedge shows he’s in charge

Apr 9, 2011, 1:47 PM | Updated: 1:51 pm


By Mike Salk

I wrote the following blog post during Friday night’s game. At the time, it represented how I felt. Now, I’m not so sure. Jack Wilson was very contrite after the game — seemingly realizing how serious his actions really were.

“At this point you have got to earn the trust back with your teammates, your coaching staff and your manager when you let them down like I did that day,” he said. “You got to earn that back so I am going back to work like every other day but that is something that has to be earned.”

Wilson sounded near tears as he spoke, which lends some credibility to his comments. It’ll be very interesting to see where this goes next.

I’m not sure how Jack Wilson can stay in Seattle. Not after what his manager said before the home opener.

“It’s unspeakable,” Eric Wedge said in regards to Wilson removing himself from the game. He later told me he had a hard time even talking about it.

Wilson made two straight errors on Wednesday in Texas. Both were made trying to turn double plays at second base, a position he was playing for just the fifth game in his career. The errors were completely forgivable.

What happened next was not.

“I tried to protect Jack by saying he was a little bit hazy and then he made mention of the fact that I took him out of the game,” explained Wedge. “I did not take him out of the game. He took himself out of the game. (Bench coach) Robby Thompson and I were underneath there, and wanted him to go back out. Wanted to convince him to go back out. He didn’t think he could do that and ultimately we had to make a change.”

It is not OK for players to quit on their teammates. Wilson is making a potentially difficult switch from shortstop to second base. He is accustomed to playing exceptional defense and sometimes it can be hard for an elite athlete to accept some measure of failure. But while they can get frustrated, they can’t just walk out in the middle of a game. There are only 25 players on a team, and unless one of them is injured, he is expected to be ready to play.

Wilson said all of the right things this spring when he was transitioned to his new position. Actually, “transitioned” is probably being generous. Wilson lost the competition for the shortstop gig and was moved across the bag as a placeholder for phenom Dustin Ackley, who could arrive by June. Regardless, Wilson publicly said the right things. He had lost weight, gotten himself in shape and was hitting and running better than he had ant any time since he arrived in Seattle. On Monday night, he made one of the greatest plays you’ll ever see from a second baseman.

Two days later he refused to keep playing the position.

“I want to learn this and do what’s best for the team,” he said. “But not if it’s going to mean losing games. It’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, but at that point I felt like it was the right thing to do. Until [my play at second base] is crisp, until I’m confident enough to [play the position], I’m probably going to be sitting down watching someone else.”

Wilson’s teammates were unimpressed. More than one expressed shock that he would remove himself from the game. One told me it was “unheard of,” another used a word that I won’t repeat but means “wussy,” only worse. It wasn’t hard to find folks around the building to agree.

That same teammate loved the way Eric Wedge handled the situation.

This seems like an early test for Wedge, but I would bet that he loved it. As much as he might be seriously offended by Wilson’s “unspeakable” action, it is an excellent chance for him to show that the accountability he preaches is as serious as death.

I love the way Wedge handled this. He first tried to protect his player, even though he was disgusted by the behavior. Then, after he felt the player had misrepresented the situation, he told the truth…no matter how ugly.

It’s hard to imagine Wilson sticking around too much longer. He lost the job at shortstop and is now saying he isn’t ready to play second base. This team already has another utility infielder (Luis Rodriguez) who can play both middle infield positions. Wilson’s value to this team is nearly at zero.

But the value of Wedge showing that he himself is in charge could be invaluable.

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Mariners can’t keep Jack Wilson; Eric Wedge shows he’s in charge