Opinion: The firing of Don Wakamatsu


In the end, I’m just sad the Mariners felt they had to fire manager Don Wakamatsu.

I wanted to believe the front office saddled him with a roster of players who just couldn’t hit, and who especially couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, but I’m told by those close to the team that the manager concurred in those player decisions.

I wanted to believe he was thrown under the bus as a scapegoat for all the losing, but I’m told the reports that the manager had lost control of the clubhouse were true, and the scuffle in the dugout with Chone Figgins was only the most visible example of the disrespect.

I wanted to believe the fans were just being fickle, but the base-running mistakes and defensive lapses kept piling up, and the lack of scoring, starting with opening day, was just becoming mind-numbing.

But I still didn’t expect that the game I saw last Sunday with David Ishii Bookseller would be Don Wakamatsu’s last as a Seattle Mariner.

No matter what, he will always be the first Asian American to manage in the Major Leagues. I will always admire him for taking an interest in the wartime concentration camps, and that he used his platform to talk about the camps and his family’s history.

This was his first shot. He had success with his players in his first year. In many ways this year’s team failed him, and they know it. It didn’t work out with this particular group of players, and the organization had to make a change.

I take heart from the idea that he learned a lot from this experience here and will be the stronger for it.

What’s important is that as a Japanese American he worked his way up and broke into the fraternity of big league managers. In the closed circle that is professional baseball, we can look forward to Don being scooped up as someone’s bench coach next year. We can look forward to his showing up on short lists of teams looking for a new manager.

We can keep faith with him, and give him our support in wherever baseball takes him. Baseball teaches us to play them one game at a time.

Someday, this team will turn around and win a championship. Someday, Don will get back with another team and take them to a championship.

I’m just sad it won’t happen with Don leading the Mariners.

Frank Abe bleeds Mariner blue in Seattle, and is producer of the forthcoming Special Edition DVD of the PBS film, “Conscience and the Constitution.” The views expressed in the preceding commentary are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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