Ferguson: Jays should look to Wakamatsu as next manager

Scott Ferguson,
11/11/2012 11:01:21 PM
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The Blue Jays are the only one of 30 teams that don't have a manager in place for next season. There have been some very interesting names thrown out for public consumption, including, Manny Acta, Jim Tracy, Tim Wallach and countless others.

I'm starting to wonder now if they just shouldn't look in their own backyard and go the internal route.

The more I look into bench coach Don Wakamatsu, the more impressed I become. He's practically done it all in this business including stints as a bench coach with three different organizations: Texas, Oakland and now Toronto. At Texas he was bench coach for Orioles current skipper Buck Showalter before working for current Rangers manager Ron Washington.

"Wok" as he's known to his friends in baseball also has the requisite experience as a big league manager. He took over a Seattle club in 2009, that had gone 61-101 the previous season and engineered a 24-game turnaround in 2009 and his team finished 85-77. He was also allowed to pick his own coaching staff that season and his pitching coach Rick Adair was credited with some major improvement by Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas.

I know , I know, you're going to say, but look what happened in 2010. True, the M's fell apart and were 42-70 when Wakamatsu was fired in early August.

What impresses me though is how he stuck to his beliefs, didn't let the inmates run the asylum and stood up to veterans who wouldn't toe the line.

First off, he realized Ken Griffey Jr. didn't have it any more and simply stopped playing him. Griffey left the team in early June, without any real explanation and drove home. When he reached Montana he informed the team he was retiring.

Wakamatsu also had to deal with the often-troubled Milton Bradley. He actually sent Bradley home from a game in May for indifferent play. Bradley picked up a speeding ticket on the way home that night and the following day asked the team for help to deal with emotional issues.

The third case, was free agent flop Chone Figgins who had left the Angels and signed a $36-million free agent deal with the M's in the off season. Wakamatsu actually got into a dugout altercation with Figgins that was clearly seen on television, again over not playing the game the right way.

Wakamatsu may have indeed lost the team in July when they nose-dived to a 6-22 record , the worst month in franchise history. But let's face it the Mariners undermined their skipper by trying to improve the roster with players who either didn't have it anymore or weren't really team players to begin with.

I always wonder about promoting a coach from within because of the closeness a coach often develops with his players. Some can't make the transition to manager, where they have to make tough decisions and have to distance themselves from players who have been their friends.

Though he had a couple of fairly good seasons with the Blue Jays, Jimy Williams didn't really work out as Jays skipper for the long haul and ultimately was replaced in May of 1989 by Cito Gaston. But Jimy didn't have manageral experience at the big league level.

Don Wakamatsu does and clearly isn't afraid to tell his players off, if they need it, even a Hall-of-Famer like Griffey.

The Jays still might go outside the organization, but Don Wakamatsu doesn't look like such a bad choice.

No Eastern Promises

There will be no Blue Jays drama or sealed posting bids, for a highly touted pitcher from Asia, as there was a year ago over Yu Darvish.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the bidding rights to 25-year-old Ryu Hyun-Jin for approximately $25.7 mllion. This Korean-born southpaw is not as highly regarded as Darvish was a year ago. But he is reputed to have a great change-up and has 98 pro wins already to his credit.

The Dodgers have 30 days to strke a deal, with Hyun-Jin and his agent Scott Boras or his rights revert to his Korean team, and the money stays in L.A.

Backstop Bait?

There could be as many as eight teams trying to deal for catchers over the next couple of months. That's why it figures the Blue Jays will dangle one of J.P. Arencibia or Travis D'Arnaud to get the starting pitching they need.

Boston signed veteran back-up David Ross who was with Atlanta last season to a two-year deal worth $6.2 million. That's led to heated speculation the BoSox might trade their number one catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a career-high 25 homers last season, although batting just .222.

The BoSox need pitching and perhaps another outfielder, so the Jays won't be the only club offering a catcher in the right deal.

Stop Goes the World

Baseball needs an event like the World Baseball Classic but what it doesn't need, is players pulling out left and right, monthes in advance. Yu Darvish and the Mariners Hisashi Iwakuma have already said they won't play for the two-time Champion Japanese team because they want to concentrate on getting ready for the Major League season.

I can see their point to a degree, but if this becomes widespread amongst the other competing nations the WBC will turn into a minor league event.

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