Wanting to “move on” doesn’t make it happen
By Mike Salk
As I mentioned, I’ve been thinking a ton about the Wak/Figgins incident this weekend.
-Jack Zduriencik wants everyone to move past what happened on Friday night. I don’t blame him. Letting things linger seems like a recipe for disaster. But wanting to move on and saying it has happened aren’t the same as actually moving on. When Milton Bradley left his teammates in the middle of a game, the organization handled it perfectly. Zduriencik met with the media the next day and had a plan of action. He explained that Bradley had an issue and that they were helping him. He promised that Bradley would be available to comment at the appropriate time. It worked and we all moved past the incident.
Don Wakamatsu talks about accountability. And while I think it’s difficult for him to make players as accountable as he would like them to be, this incident with Figgins offered a chance for the organization to show that it supported Wak.
If that was their goal, I believe they failed.
Accountability would have meant sitting Figgins for one game. Or it at least would have meant telling him to meet the media and explain what happened before Saturday’s game. Heck, it could have even meant saying that himself that he wasn’t interested in talking! Instead, after leaving the park on Friday night before the clubhouse opened, he sat at his locker facing away from the room on Saturday and when a crowd moved over to question him, he waited for â€œspokesmanâ€ Casey Kotchman to tell the assembled group that Figgins wouldn’t be talking.
Larry Stone said on our air last week that he believed the probability of Wak returning next season was about 50%. After this incident (and, more importantly, the way it was handled by the organization), I think that number has shrunk dramatically.
I believe Wak did the right thing by benching Figgins. Should he have started earlier and disciplined those who had gaffes in the previous days? Maybe. But he thought this was a lack of effort and a manager can’t have that. I think he started to send a message that he would hold players accountable for their effort. But when Figgins was allowed to play the next day and skip the media grilling until after Saturday’s game (when he still said he would not talk about what happened), the organization lost an opportunity to solidify Wak’s standing.
Zduriencik can talk about moving forward, but to me it sounds more like he’s ready to move on. I think that’s a shame.
-Figgins sure looks like a different player since the incident. I have no idea if Wak was trying to motivate him this way but if it works, maybe we have to consider that this was part of a plan?
-Before the 2010 season began, I wondered on the show and in this space whether the Mariners had a player on the roster who would step up and talk to the media when the going got tough. It’s easy to stand in front of your locker after a win, offer a few cliches and then take off. But how about the night of a dugout fight between the manager and one of his players?
I haven’t been in the clubhouse too often after games this year (usually I’m there before games), but I thought it was interesting to see who sat by their locker ready to answer questions after Friday’s melee.
Other than Jason Vargas (the starting pitcher), it was Russell Branyan, Josh Wilson, Ryan Langerhans and Michael Saunders.
It may seem like a small thing, but they helped take some of the pressure of their teammates, many of whom either left before the clubhouse opened (like Figgins) or could be seen eating/hiding in the back room until the clubhouse was closed. If I were Wak, I would have tried to find room for Wilson and Langerhans in Saturdayâ€™s lineup.
I also thought it was interesting that three of the four share something in common. They are veterans who have been around the game with different teams but have never really been stars, or even everyday players. It was nice to see them stepping up to fill what appears to be a leadership void.
-Speaking of Langerhans, he said that he found himself in the middle of everything trying to hold back the man who looked to be the most aggressive: Branyan. We’ve often talked about how large Branyan is (you don’t get called the Moose for nothing!), but looking at him and Langerhans made me realize the size discrepancy between them really isn’t as noticeable as you might think. Langerhans is a big dude. And he has some â€œcountry strongâ€ in him too. Just saying…
-Lost in the drama of Friday’s dustup was the performance of Jason Vargas. Not only was he facing a good lineup without his best stuff, but he was right in the middle of the fight! Yes, the starting pitcher was one of the people pulling bodies apart. To go back out there and pitch (well) the next inning took some incredible concentration. I’d say it makes a 7 inning, 2 run performance look all the more impressive.