Another dismal season over, M’s seek next manager

Finding a replacement for Wedge at top of Seattle's to-do list



SEATTLE — Another offseason. Another Seattle Mariners managerial search.

By now, the Mariners should be adept at this process. They will spend the early part of this offseason hiring their eighth manager or interim manager since 2002.

Yet the indictment of the franchise that came from manger Eric Wedge’s decision not to return for 2014 might be the most damaging they have ever received after Seattle went 71-91.

Wedge essentially quit on his chance to continue with the Mariners’ rebuilding process rather than stick it out with what he considered an untenable situation with a poor working environment in which visions were not equal and commitment was lacking.

They were blunt statements from a manager firm on his principles and not known as a quitter.

And they leave the Mariners in a tenuous state going into another offseason where the fan base and general interest continues to erode.

“I wanted to see this thing through, but there were factors involved that became obviously clear to me that were not going to allow that to happen,” Wedge said last week after notifying the team he wasn’t returning.

Wedge was brought to Seattle to shepherd a young franchise in the hope of recreating the kind of success he had in helping rebuild Cleveland into a contender.

But the rebuilding never seemed to end in Seattle, where there was a constant influx of young prospects and some veterans failing to meet expectations.

Ultimately, Wedge failed to receive the assurances from management — CEO Howard Lincoln, President Chuck Armstrong and general manager Jack Zduriencik — that everyone was on the same page in regard to how the Mariners were going about the rebuilding plan.

Wedge finished his three seasons in charge 213-273. Seattle went a 12th consecutive season without reaching the playoffs and continued to look up at Oakland, Texas and the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West standings.

Whoever Seattle brings in will have to be convinced he will be given time. Zduriencik is believed to be under contract for 2014, but his status beyond next year is unknown because the team has gone silent other than confirming he will return.

On the field, Seattle has plenty of hope, but very few certainties going forward.

Rookies Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino showed flashes of major league ability, but also suffered the swoons expected of young prospects summoned to the majors probably before they were ready. They and third baseman Kyle Seager are the likely anchors of Seattle’s lineup going into next season. Justin Smoak may have finally solidified himself as the everyday first baseman.

As remarkable as Raul Ibañez was in 2013, he is not a long-term option for Seattle as designated hitter or in left field. Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley showed only flashes that they can hit with the needed consistency to be locks for the lineup. Franklin Gutierrez remained an injury risk.

Seattle will also need to make decisions on whether to bring back Ibañez, 41, and if they can afford to re-sign designated hitter Kendrys Morales.

About the only situation with any certainty is the starting pitching.

Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma will be at the top of Seattle’s rotation with youngsters James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer and Erasmo Ramirez battling to fill out the back end. Seattle could use a veteran No. 3 starter as a bridge between the established players and the younger ones, and they need to find consistency in the bullpen.