I confess I was unable to attend the Mariners’ Fanfest last weekend. I had intended to go, but my two labs, Smooch and Lucky, were well overdue for a lengthy workout, and if you know anything about labs, you understand my priorities.
However, I got the impression from reading the papers that the fans’ newest crush, Eric Wedge, is off to a good start. He is liked for his intensity and seriousness and, of course, his optimism.
At this time of year, his 49 percent career win-loss record as a major-league baseball manager can be set aside. Comparative statistics for managers never actually shine any light on the fact that they are the most situational-dependent men in the game.
Even as Wedge was relieved of his duties in Cleveland because his particular abilities no longer seemed to fit the situation that the team’s president Mark Shapiro created, he has been dubbed my many baseball experts the perfect fit for the Mariners’ situation – namely, a team in need of expectation among its players on the 2011 roster that sound baseball is compulsory. The Mariners will put a team on that field that is crisp, fundamentally, and fast-thinking, mentally. That’s the plan, anyway.
And the fans, feeling entitled to at least this, seem to like Eric Wedge for this task.
The Mariners were a mess last season. The problems are hard to simplify, but Wedge will try. And fans can do worse than put some faith in their new manager. “There are so many random events during the course of a game, yet alone a season, that it is a huge puzzle to figure out your best percentages sometimes,” Wedge told me in an interview last fall, when asked about perceptions in Cleveland that he was an inadequate in-game decision-maker.
“Of course you make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them.”
Wedge knows from his seven years of managerial experience a couple of things that are important for the direction of the Mariners.
They need leadership.
He will do his part. Having been a catcher, the only position in baseball in which leadership is an actual requirement, he has already established a commanding presence and a directness – effort, smarts and efficiency will be a part of the makeup of every player on the roster. “I don’t know who the leaders on this team are, or even if we have any,” he said last week.
But he is going to find one or two, come spring training.
And a good place to start might be at the catcher position – an overlooked need over the past few seasons is some stability and leadership there for the Mariners.
The other thing the Mariners would seem to need, although players you talk to seem split over this, is more attention to detail.
Again, fans can expect this from their new manager. And perhaps some of those players who feel it wasn’t a problem last season are in for an awakening in a few weeks.
That’s where the Mariners are now. And most fans seem to get it.
The reason Eric Wedge was hired right now was not because this team needs him to get them a pennant or a division title or even a .500 record 2011, although the last bit is not undoable. It is because this team needs something way more fundamental. It needs a whole new attitude.
And he is bringing one.
Look, but don’t touch
Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, whose megapopularity requires that he have a staff just to deal with stalkers, will be in Tacoma on Feb. 8 at an event at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center called Do Something Healthy.
It costs 10 bucks ($3 for those under 18) to attend and hear White speak at the event. But he will not be signing autographs, and attendees are asked not to bring skateboards, snowboards or any other large objects for White to sign.
There is to be a health fair with screenings from 5:30-7 p.m. for “the whole family,” according to event publicity. The rest of the program, emceed by John Curley, which includes a talk from White (no live questions will be permitted afterward), begins at 7 p.m. and runs through 9 p.m.
So if you would like see Shaun White, this public appearance is your best shot. He heads off to the Burton U.S. Open in Vermont after this. If you can’t make it and if you want to see a funny interview with the gravity-defying Olympian, check out the interview with Stephen Colbert on YouTube where White explains why snowboarders don’t cry when being judged the way figure skaters do. He explains it has something to do with their costumes, which might be ironic, given the celebrity of his hair.