Eric Wedge swept into his office for a pregame media chat Sunday morning with sweat dripping off his reddened face.
Hey, it’s a lot of work trying to juggle this Seattle Mariners lineup, and struggling to balance the simultaneous demands of developing young talent for the future while still trying to win games along the way.
At 21-29 after Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Angels, the Mariners had been coming up short on the “wins” part of that equation.
No wonder Wedge was sweating.
Actually, his workout clothes made it clear he’d been getting in some physical training Sunday morning before pulling office duty.
But when the discussion turned to the challenges of winning games with a lineup such as Sunday’s – with six starters, including pitcher Hector Noesi, at 25 or younger – Wedge was still in a bit of a lather.
“With the number of young players we have playing every day, we’ve got a chance of being a pretty good offensive ballclub – if these guys do what they’re capable of doing,” he said. “But they need to do a better job of being more consistent and part of that is sticking to the gameplan and having a consistent approach. We’re right in the middle of working on all that.”
The Mariners had men standing on third base four times Sunday, and the only one who scored did so on a wild pitch – not a clutch hit or sacrifice fly.
And the feelings of optimism Wedge felt after the team won five out of six against Colorado and Texas had to be doused by four consecutive losses to the Angels.
Inconsistency is the hallmark of young teams in any sport.
“You’re going to have back and forth with young players,” Wedge said. “As long as you don’t regress as much as you progress.”
Every player has his own set of issues and challenges, Wedge said. “It still comes down to the individual doing what they need to do,” he said. “What I don’t like is to see guys moving in the right direction and sometimes they’ll go back to the point where they started.”
That shows they hadn’t learned the right lessons on the way. He also is not keen on those “yahoos” who don’t understand his approach to constructing the lineup.
“You’re not going to have a consistent lineup until you know what your players are capable of doing; they’re too young,” Wedge said. “You can’t do that until they develop as major-league players. Throughout that process, you (use) the best lineup you can that’s capable of winning the ballgame. (That’s) first and foremost in all of our minds.”
Alex Liddi stands as an example of the learning curve Wedge addressed. He’s started 23 games this season while playing three positions – third base, first base and left field. His versatility has great potential value, but there is a necessary investment in time. Sunday, he went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.
Wedge stressed that the players – even if they are young – can never lose sight of the primary goal, to win games. Not just this year, he said, but often enough into the future that it establishes a foundation.
“You gotta create a winning environment,” he said. “Part of that is manning up and being tough on the bad days and being humble on the good days.”
Before the game Sunday, Wedge noted how dramatically different the feeling was after taking two out of three from Texas than it was after losing the first three to the Angels … and that was in just a three-day span.
So Sunday was one of the days requiring “manning up.”
Wedge got fairly worked up during his discourse, at one point asking for those present to pardon his French, although his words did not sound French … unless “yahoo” has French roots.
It’s clearly a topic that stirred his passion, and revealed his frustration, as well.
“Some of the painful moments we go through now are just part of it,” Wedge said. “Where most people get into trouble is they give into that (stuff). You can’t do that. You gotta be tough enough and disciplined enough to stick with the plan, and be committed to what you’re doing regardless what anybody says.”
That gets tougher at 21-29, when young players can make managers feel old.
And losing four in a row to a division foe is enough to make anybody break out in a sweat.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com @DaveBoling