FORT WAYNE – The 22nd of July is a dot in his mirrors now, nearly three months along. His blood pressure is down. His sleep apnea is under control. And the bounce he never noticed was gone from his step is back.
I feel great, says former Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge, when asked about July 22 and the minor stroke he suffered that day. I’m 45 and feel like I’m 30 years old now.
So that’s one side of life these days for the Northrop graduate.
The flip side: If the stroke is in his mirrors, so, too, are the Mariners.
Wedge announced on the last weekend of the season he would not re-sign, something of a shock because hardly anyone walks away from a major-league managing job. But Wedge is and always has been his own man – all that John Wayne fanboy stuff is not just an affectation – and he knew, from his time in Cleveland, how it felt to lose the front office’s good graces.
So he got out. While the getting was good, apparently.
You got to make a decision, he said the other night from his home in Mercer Island, Wash. You got to make a stand. I’ve got to be able to do the job I need to do and be given the support and understanding I feel like I’ve earned. And if I continued to have those roadblocks in front of me, there was no sense in me continuing on with this.
Wedge didn’t specify what the roadblocks were, but in previous interviews he’s made it known he was unhappy with the way he perceived management had strayed from its mandate to him. He was hired to reboot with young players but says management undermined that by trading away some of the kids, as well as some veterans.
I think it was probably at the All-Star break when I wanted to engage in some conversation with them and they weren’t havin’ it, he said, trying to pinpoint the moment he sensed his situation going south. You know, I just got the feeling that where I felt we were and what I felt I’d done in my time here versus what just two or three people above me felt was a big red flag to me.
I ended up having some conversations late in the year with those above me that I felt were really disturbing in regard to what I felt was happening and what I felt needed to happen versus their view of everything. And then it just got to be a completely dysfunctional situation.
Eventually he dropped his bombshell, after which Seattle management expressed bewilderment, saying the Mariners had intended to re-sign him all along. But Wedge, who went 213-273 in three seasons in Seattle, says no contract was offered until after he announced he wasn’t coming back.
Well, for now Wedge is mulling his prospects – the Reds’ and Cubs’ jobs are open, and Wedge says his agent has reached out to both – and reflecting on what might have been. The Mariners went 71-91 in 2013, but on the day Wedge suffered his stroke they were 47-52 and in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. So it was coming.
We’ll see what happens, he says now. I’m not in a hurry to do anything. I’m still letting the smoke settle a little bit. And we’ll go from there.
Do I want to manage again? Without a doubt. I’ve managed for 10 years now and I feel stronger and better than I have really in my adult life. We’ll see how it plays out.