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Wakamatsu Canned

Don Wakamatsu
The Mariners won tonight, but does that really matter more than the story off the field? I won't even leave that as a hypothetical. The answer is no. Don Wakamatsu, and anyone associated with him still around (Ty Van Burkleo, Rick Adair, and Steve Hecht), were "relieved of their duties" before the game today.

Jack Zduriencik will be on the post-game show, and I will write this as I listen to that. However, I have some initial thoughts. I had a feeling that today was inevitable when I wrote this post about Griffey last week. I am definitely a believer in the Griffey conspiracy, and that he has something to do with today's big decisions. I will not belabor that point, because it is all arguing truth and rumors. Refer to the post I linked to above if you want to argue about the Griffey conspiracy, and I will be happy to take up that argument.

For now, go with me, and assume that Wak had to go for Griffey to have a relationship with the Mariners. This post, then, is really an extension of my thoughts on the 2010 Griffey fiasco.

Before going further, Don Wakamatsu deserves some attention of his own. I am sorry to see Wak go. He and his coaching staff is a total scapegoat, as is practically every manager that is ever canned. However, Don is even more of a scapegoat than most. Even through this miserable season I thought he was one of the better managers in the majors. Sure, I was annoyed by some of his bullpen usage, and his reluctance to move Michael Saunders up in the order too. However, I had a belief system in his belief system talk. Wakamatsu was what he was, and he knew who he was, and did not waiver from it, both in good times and bad. That's not as typical in leadership as it should be. In a game where tactics are scant (especially compared to other team sports), a manager's communication and integrity are his biggest selling points, in my estimation. The Mariners just canned a pretty solid manager today, and that's disappointing.

Still, I am confident that the M's are capable of finding an able replacement. I feel for Wakamatsu because of how unfair I think this firing is (again, see the Griffey post for more of an explanation on that), but as a fan, I don't think this is necessarily the end of the franchise or anything drastic like that.

However, what does linger is why this decision was made. Nobody has done anything to fan the flames on the Griffey conspiracy. Chuck Armstrong, who has always been very public with his love for Griffey, hurriedly left the official press conference this afternoon without making any comments. Jack Zduriencik simply said he had "lost confidence" in Wak's leadership. A baseball lifer like Z, who happened to have a nice dinner with Wak on the M's off day a week ago, doesn't seem to me like the type to ditch "his guy" so hastily, and lose confidence so hastily. Currently as I listen to Zduriencik on the post game show, he is going out of his way to spread blame everywhere for this season. It feels to me like he is taking some time to avoid pointing at the losses for why Wak was canned. However, Z is also taking efforts to say this is his decision. He even said it was when Shannon Drayer asked him straight up if he had any help with the decision.

Baseball organizations are somewhat secretive things, particularly when it comes to managerial situations. It is highly unlikely that we will ever know the full story, especially with a guy like Wak, who will take the high road no matter how unfairly he may or may not have been treated. The Griffey theory will be hard to prove or disprove, as will any theory.

Still, simply put, I think the Griffey conspiracy explains what we are seeing the best. If he really is the driving force behind what we saw today, what does that say about this organization? What does it say about Chuck Armstrong? What does it do for the on-field product? Does it make Jack Zduriencik more open to taking a different job?

There are all sorts of questions that this firing might bring up, and none of them are good. Firings are always ugly, but this one is ominous. This one makes me wonder if the Mariners can win with the leadership at the top. I don't doubt that Zduriencik can build a winner, and I don't doubt that Wakamatsu can skipper a winner either. However, if this organization fusses that much over keeping Griffey happy, what kind of control do the Zdurienciks and Wakamatsus have?

While I believe that the M's ownership is sincere when it says it wants a winner, and claims that it gives control to the GM and manager, I don't think they realize their own competing priorities. This ownership also clearly cares about the past, and they care about keeping it alive. Ken Griffey Jr. is an integral part of the past, and on top of that Chuck Armstrong has a Puget Sound sized mancrush on him. As a result, Griffey has always got preferential treatment. He is the guy that rules and principles have been bent for, because he is that important to the folks at the top.

Usually, I wouldn't be so up in arms over one guy getting special treatment. However, Griffey is going to be around a while, and he's got the ear of the one guy that can hire and/or fire pretty much everyone associated with the Mariners. Quite frankly, I think Griffey could run the Mariners behind the scenes right now if he wanted to. What worries me is that I think he just did.

I hope Griffey just wanted to get rid of Wak, and that's it. If the M's need Junior's seal of approval on the next manager, and big contracts, or whatever else, they are in bad shape. I doubt Griffey has the acumen to make those decisions (especially with how inexperienced he is in any front office capacity), and I am sure any manager or GM worth hiring will find greener pastures elsewhere if they are more or less Griffey's puppet. If Chuck Armstrong lets any player like Griffey usurp the front office leadership on a regular basis, this organization's talent will get flushed down the toilet in short order.

Even with the triple play tonight, and Darren Brown's victory in his first game as an MLB manager, it is hard to feel good about today. Best of luck to Don Wakamatsu and all of his unjustly disposed staff, and best wishes to the Mariners as they move forward.