In what was likely one of the toughest two-year periods for any manager, former Tribe skipper Eric Wedge invited Fort Wayne’s Ben Smith into his Richfield, Ohio home to discuss the downward spiral that took place since being one game out of the World Series in 2007.
From the trades to the backroom issues, Wedge discussed most but hinted towards the rest.
“I know what happened the last couple of years,” he says, as Merle Haggard plays softly in the background. “I don’t broadcast it just out of respect to everybody that’s involved. Plus, you can’t really talk about that, because then it makes it look like you’re making excuses. And that’s the last thing I want to do.”
Clinging to things like his 2007 Manager of the Year Award and the scorecard from his 500th win, Wedge also can’t help but think about all of the things that led to where he is today. At home. Drinking coffee. Watching baseball on the television like every one of us.
But that team that was one game away. The one where “Champagne tastes just as good on the road.” The one that had two 19-game winners on the mound?
“You’ve got to keep in mind, it was a different team (at the end),” he says. “A lot of the players I’d been around the last six or seven years were all traded or gone. Once we traded everybody, we didn’t have a whole lot of ammo to go out there with,” Wedge says, as Merle Haggard gives way to Randy Travis in the background. “So, yeah, I sensed what was going to happen. Most realistic change is the manager. I understood that.”
Wedge was a manager that was among the top of the league in terms of tenure. He was also a manager that seemingly had more peaks and valleys in his season-to-season mark than any of the others. A front office that rested on their collective laurels in the offseason heading into 2008. The same front office that would then have a fire sale of anything that even remotely reminded fans of the “good” times.
But Wedge was in no way without his own faults. Not getting along with an admitted malcontent in Brandon Phillips. Leaving Cliff Lee off of the 2007 postseason roster. His refusal to do small things like bunt even when the situation was of the most opportunistic.
“But I’m the same guy I was two years ago. Nothing’s changed. After the season was over last year, I had more people tell me it was my greatest managerial year I’d ever had. It’s ironic that 80 games later you’re at your worst.”
But he also did things well. If not, he would not be having players that he once coached come back to visit.
After that last game in Fenway, Martinez stuck his head into the cramped visitors’ clubhouse to say hi, then sat down and talked for two hours.
“Those things are special,” Wedge says.
Wedge appeared to conclude the interview by stating his desires to join the management ranks once again. His players liked playing for him, and he’s young. He has admitted to already receiving calls to be an assistant coach for more than one team, but may hold out for the chance to be the man once again.
While opinions will vary on if Wedge will – or even should – get another chance, one thing is for sure: Anyone who is looking at Wedge will have a guy that has been through the best and worst of times. In the meantime, Wedge will have Merle Haggard, Randy Travis and Johnny Cash to bridge the gap.
Wedge hoping for another chance [Journal Gazette]