SEATTLE — His final weeks managing the Mariners have been a tumultuous, aggravating affair for Eric Wedge, not long after he’d vowed to keep his stress in check following a stroke.
Wedge tried to ignore the media reports swirling throughout September that the Mariners were not bringing him back next season. But his family heard the talk, so did his players and they noticed something else as well: the stone-cold silence of a management team he felt had left him to twist in the wind.
By Friday, he’d had enough, telling the Mariners before an 8-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics that this weekend’s games will be his last with the team. Wedge is leaving despite the fact — or perhaps, because of it — that general manager Jack Zdurinecik insists he was prepared to give him a one-year extension through the 2014 season.
“It’s tough,” Wedge said. “It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing, it’s upsetting. But sometimes, people just don’t see things the same way and things don’t work out. It wasn’t from a lack of trying. I wanted it to work, but it’s just not going to.”
Wedge said the Mariners first mentioned a 2014 extension at the end of last season. Zduriencik was quietly given a similar extension, part of what sources said was a strategy to keep a tighter watch on the general manager and manager of a rebuilding plan that lost 182 games in a two-year span.
But Wedge has felt all along the team’s decision to “go young” meant it had to be prepared for losing in the short term in order to reap benefits later. He let Zduriencik know a year ago that the one-year extension was too short.
“I didn’t feel like that was the proper endorsement for a young, rebuilding team moving forward,” he said. “I didn’t feel like that sent the right message to the players, first and foremost, and ultimately the fans, too. That endorsement just wasn’t there for me.”
The Mariners never tabled an offer to Wedge after that. As of this week, his patience worn thin and feeling he was being blamed for a campaign now at 90 losses, he still hadn’t heard what the team had planned for him.
Then, after telling the media Wednesday he felt the team had left him “hanging out there,” he requested a meeting Thursday with Zduriencik,He turned in his resignation Friday.
“It’s gotten to a point to where it’s painfully obvious to me that I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said. “We see things differently. We talked about it, but it just got to the point where I couldn’t continue to move forward.”
Zduriencik said he was “quite surprised” at Wedge’s decision and that it was always his intention to bring him back.
“We never had any reason to think Eric wasn’t coming back,” Zduriencik said. “I think Eric had known I was in his corner and would like to have him back. But again, there were things we were going to talk through. I think there were a lot of things he and I were going to talk through in relation to the ballclub and the direction … but again, the thought process of not bringing Eric back just wasn’t there.”
Zduriencik said the extension was the only major disagreement between them and had been discussed at other points this season.
Wedge is insistent he’s recovered from his stroke and his best managerial days are ahead of him.
He said this week it would be “unfair” of the team to not bring him back for health reasons.
The Mariners said Wedge’s medical issues had nothing to do with his leaving and repeated that the contract was the biggest hangup.
Zduriencik downplayed the impact his own status — he and the team still won’t say whether he’s under contract beyond 2014 — might have on attracting quality managerial candidates.
Wedge cautioned the Mariners must have the fortitude from above to stick with their vision.
“When you talk about building, you’ve got to have a long-term view of it,” Wedge said. “And you’ve got to be patient. And you’ve got to stick with the program. Even on the worst days, you’ve got to stick with the program. Even when everybody else is saying it’s not working, you’ve got to stick with the program. Even when it’s not in your timeline, you’ve got to stick with the program. And hopefully they’ll be able to do that here.”
TOP 10 MARINERS MANAGERS
The Mariners have had 18 managers. How the top 10 rank by winning percentage:
1. Lou Piniella
2. Bob Melvin
3. Jim Lefebvre
4. Mike Hargrove
5. Don Wakamatsu
6. Dick Williams
7. Chuck Cottier
8. Eric Wedge
9. Rene Lachemann
10. John McLaren