Mariners fire manager Wakamatsu (AP)

Aug 9th, 2010 | By sportsnews | Category: Sports

SEATTLE (AP)—Instead of leading Seattle to its first postseason spot since
2001, Don Wakamatsu lost games at a stunning rate.

Then, the Mariners manager lost his team—first franchise icon Ken Griffey
then Chone Figgins(notes).

Now, he’s lost his job.

The last-place Mariners fired Wakamatsu on Monday, more than halfway through
a season that began with a boosted roster and high hopes.

“I would like to thank the city of Seattle and all the baseball fans here
in the Northwest for the great support offered to me during my time as Mariners
manager,” Wakamatsu said Monday night in statement released by the team. “My
single biggest disappointment is that we were not able to finish what we wanted
to finish here, bringing a championship club to the fans.

“I cannot tell you how great the fans were to me, and to my family. The
support I received here will always mean a great deal to me.”

The Mariners started the day at 42-70, the second-worst record in the
American League.

They started the night with their fifth manager in three years plus one
month. Daren Brown, the manager of Triple-A Tacoma for the last four seasons,
took over on an interim basis hours before a game against Oakland.

“It’s frustrating,” Mariners perennial All-Star and cornerstone Ichiro
said, through his interpreter. “It’s not just his responsibility (that
we’re losing). It’s the whole team’s responsibility.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say the manager’s responsible to take the
blame, because he’s not.”

Seattle also fired bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and pitching coach Rick Adair.
The team also released performance coach Steve Hecht.

All to bring together a fractured clubhouse and a wayward team.

“The truth of the matter is, I lost confidence in Don, Ty and Rick,”
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said during a press conference in which
he tried to explain why Wakamatsu was out after one good season and about half a
terrible one.

“New leadership is needed and it is needed now,” Zduriencik said.

The GM said he would likely begin talking to candidates for the permanent
manager job while this season runs out.

Chuck Armstrong, the team’s usually talkative and available president, and
team chairman Howard Lincoln were in the back of the room as Zduriencik spoke—
but rushed out after he was done. A team spokesman sternly said “We’re done”
when The Associated Press tried to approach the franchise’s leaders for comment.

Wakamatsu is a former bench coach for the Athletics and Rangers and longtime
coach in the Angels system. He had guided Seattle to an 85-77 record in his
first season, after taking over a team that went 61-101 in 2008.

Asked if the franchise is now back to square one, Suzuki said: “That’s the
only way we can look at it.”

Zduriencik disagreed.

“I don’t think we are back to ‘square zero,”’ the GM said, fittingly going
even lower. “However, this season presented an opportunity for us. In that
opportunity, a lot of things had to fall into place—with the acquisition of
Cliff Lee(notes), with the addition of Chone Figgins, and players I thought had to have
good seasons.

“To look around and see so many players having subpar seasons is very

Wakamatsu watched Griffey slump this season to the point the manager finally
benched him. Griffey then drove home in early June to retirement in Florida in a
huff without saying goodbye to most in Seattle. The manager sent an irate
Bradley home from a game in May, and the next day Bradley asked him and the GM
for help dealing with emotional issues.

Wakamatsu has also had multiple public spats with Figgins, whom Zduriencik
signed to a $36 million free-agent contract before the season. The most recent
incident was an in-game fracas of shouting, shoving and infielder Jose Lopez(notes)
getting his jersey pulled over his back. That happened inside the home team’s
dugout in full view of half the stadium and a national television audience.

Asked for his reaction to Wakamatsu’s firing, Figgins smiled, shook his head
and politely said, “I’m not going to talk about it, man.”

Roger Hansen, who had been the Mariners’ minor league catching coordinator,
takes over as the bench coach. Carl Willis, Seattle’s minor league pitching
coordinator, takes on the responsibility of big-league pitching coach.

Wakamatsu, the majors’ first Japanese-American manager, is the fifth manager
in the majors to be fired this season. Baltimore’s Dave Trembley, Kansas City’s
Trey Hillman, Arizona’s A.J. Hinch and Florida’s Fredi Gonzalez also were

Beyond Lee, the now-traded former AL Cy Young winner, and speedy infielder
Figgins, Zduriencik also brought in slugger Milton Bradley(notes) in the offseason. But
the roster has proven to be poorly constructed. Seattle has the worst offense in
baseball while doomed to 22 1/2 games behind first-place Texas in the AL West
entering Monday.

Wakamatsu was asked last week by the AP how he was doing amid rampant
speculation that he would become Seattle’s fall guy.

“I’ll be all right,” the 47-year-old Wakamatsu said. “I’ve been in this
game a long time, and I have a lot of people pulling for me—most of all my

He went 127-147 since getting Seattle’s job in November 2008. His .464
winning percentage is fifth-best among the Mariners managers.

Oakland manager Bob Geren said he called his good friend during a phone call
they shared Monday afternoon, and Wakamatsu “said he was OK.”

Geren and Wakamatsu once lived near each other in the Phoenix area, and
their kids spent a chunk of their childhoods there. Geren and Wakamatsu coached
together on a winter youth team in baseball offseasons—the Ahwatukee Bandits.

Now both friends feel ripped off.

“I’m saddened,” Geren said. “He’s a good baseball man and a great man.”

Brown is a 10-year veteran of the Mariners’ organization. The 43-year-old
becomes Seattle’s seventh manager since Lou Piniella left with one year left on
his contract following the 2002 season.

The sixth, Wakamatsu, has seemed to be on the way out since the worst July
in team history—6-22.

“I appreciate the continued support of our fans,” Zduriencik said Monday,
adding he takes “full responsibility” for the Mariners’ collapse.

“This has been difficult to watch.”

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