Eric Wedge spoke for 31 minutes at today's pre-spring training media banquet. His opening statement was nine minutes. And nearly every word of that 31 minutes was filled with intensity and passion as Wedge's eyes pierced and danced as he answered questions.
Here's some of his comments ...
One thing that Jack and I felt agreed with was that we needed to bring in some tough, experienced major league players in here. It’s what we’ve done. That’s important because you gotta be some kind of tough to be a good major league baseball player and you’ve got be some kind of tough to be a good major league baseball team. That doesn’t happen over night. And when you have examples of that with veteran players, then it helps those younger players get there that much quicker. And that’s something we have to do here.
To understand what it means to be a Seattle Mariner is going to be one of our top priorities this spring – one of our top priorities throughout the course of this year.
More importantly when we get there and we’re in front of each other and they start to look into our eyes, and my eyes and each others’ eyes, they are going to understand that this is real. And it’s, go time. Let’s start to get this heading into the right direction in regards to what we are trying to accomplish.
The intangibles are going to be very important to me and to us this spring. Like I said, establishing that identity, understanding what it means to have that pride in regards to the Seattle Mariners, understanding what it means to go out there and be the best you can be day in and day out. A lot of stuff sounds like cliché, but it’s not. That’s the way are going to operate. Those are the expectations we are going to have.
I don’t assume anything. I do hold people accountable, myself first and foremost, staff probably right here with them and of course the players. But this spring will be a long spring. If you are coming to spring training, you better be prepared to have some long days because we have a lot of work to do.
A big part of what we are trying to do is not just that the understand what it means to be a Seattle Mariner, but part of that how they handle themselves, what their mindset is when they come to the ballpark, what their mindset is when they leave the ballpark.
When Jack mentioned the type of team he was looking for, we want our kids to come to the ballpark and play good, smart, hardnosed baseball. That’s what we want. We want them to be fun to watch because they do go play good, smart, hardnosed baseball. We want you to know that they are going to come the ballpark each and every day and be all in for that three hours or whatever it is. There’s going to be some good days and there’s going to be some bad days. It will most definitely be fun.
We are going to help these young people help understand what it means to put up a good at-bat. I’ve already said this but you are going to hear me repeat a lot of things, but what it means to make a good out and what it means to battle with two strikes.
One thing that hasn’t been good for the game because of the money and because everything is wide open information-wise, people tend to pigeon-hole and be afraid to open it up to competition. Because when you do that, you open yourself to criticism. It’s easy to say I have to do this because of this. Well we are not doing that. If you are afraid of competition, then you sure as hell not going to be a championship player anyway, so we don’t want you around.
We are going to have fun. I’m a serious person. I take my job seriously. I don’t take myself that seriously. Baseball is what I do, it’s not who I am. I try to say the same thing to the players. But my job as a big league manager for the Seattle Mariners , I take very seriously. This is not a hobby. It’s not a hobby for them as players. They are getting paid. They represent the city – the city of Seattle and the Mariners.
His issues are well documented, but he’s a part of this ball club. We are paying him a lot of money to be a part of this ball club. When he’s healthy and his head is on straight, he’s a pretty good player. He’s made some mistakes. I’m the manager here, not the head coach. One of my jobs is to manage people. The reason Jack hired me is so that I manage people, situations and this big league club and help him lead this organization. There’s not an asterisk beside it, just manage everybody that does everything right and the perfect situation. No. Anybody can manage that.
It’s my job to get the most out of Milton Bradley. It’s my job to make sure that him and I see eye to eye and he understands that he’s on board. I’ve talked to Milton as Jack has. Arguably, I may know Milton better than anyone in the game because I’ve knew him as a kid. We’ve had very frank conversations in the past. I look at it as a challenge and I’m hoping we can make this work.
Has he made some mistakes? Without a doubt
Is he misunderstood? Without a doubt
Is he a good ball player? Yes
People make mistakes. There are no perfect human beings out there. Do I agree with everything that has happened? No. But right now, he’s still a part of this ball club and it’s my job where we get the most out of him.
If it gets to the time to where he stubs his toe so much as to where he can’t be a part of this, I’m sure Jack and I and the rest of will get together and will talk about it then.
I don’t if we have any leaders on this team. I need to see and interact with them first hand. Leadership is tough to come by. Young people aren’t real comfortable being in that role for the most part. We will develop leaders here. We will have leaders on this ball club,
We will have leadership on this ballclub. You have to, to be a good team. But right now, myself and the staff will take more of a role of that. You’ll see as this team comes together and starts to move forward and figure it out, you’ll see me back off and let them do more. But most people don’t really understand what the hell leadership is and what it means when it comes to a locker room or a team.
People get confused thinking: ‘oh he’s a veteran guy, he’s a leader.’ Doesn’t matter. You can be a young guy and be a leader. You can be a 15 year guy and not have any leadership qualities whatsoever. It’s more about the personality of the person, the strength and the toughness, the unselfishness, that’s what it’s about. But we are going to have that. Will we have it Day1? I don’t know. I’ve got to get know these guys first.
I’m here for them. Jack’s here for them. We’re here for the players. Everything that we do is for the players for them to be the best they can be, individually and collectively. It’s not about us.
That is going to be something you're going to hear me talk about, knowing the history of baseball, knowing the history of the Seattle Mariners. I think you have to understand where you have been before you figure out where you are and where you are going. I don’t think enough of these young kids respect the history of the game as they should, and the team you represent. They need to take the time, take the time to understand what it means to be a Seattle Mariner in their short history in the game, but more importantly the game of baseball itself.
We're not looking to flip a coin here people. We're looking to build something we can count on and that we can stand behind and hopefully establish the type of consistency we can all be proud of.
I think I'm a hard-nosed person. I enjoy life. I'm an energy guy. I'm a passion guy. I believe in motivation. I'm not a rah-rah guy, but I need stomachs churning. I need you fired up. I need feeling it on the inside, but I don't see it on the outside. I need that type of consistency, where you can't wait to get up to home plate, but look like the coolest cat in the house. That's what I want. That's how I want our team to play. That's the presence I want.
I'm a pretty demanding guy. I demand more of myself than anybody, but I damn sure demand a lot from those coaches. They know it. They know. I expect a lot from them and I'm pretty unwavering when it comes to that, but I do it with a smile on my face.
I want the players to pay attention. I don't need them on the top step doing this ... that's not realistic. I'll have a bunch of whack jobs, but I need them paying attention. I need them watching, I need them to be smarter players. Smarter players, more prepared players are better in August and September and are damn sure better in the postseason, because they're more at ease.