SEATTLE (AP) â€” The last-place Seattle Mariners fired manager Don Wakamatsu on Monday, hours before their American League game against Oakland.
Seattle entered the day with 42 wins and 70 losses. The Mariners began the season with expectations of their first postseason since in nine years, following a winning 2009 in Wakamatsu's first season.
But a poorly constructed roster has produced the worst offense in baseball and doomed them to 22Â½ games behind AL West-leading Texas.
"I would like to thank the city of Seattle and all the baseball fans here in the Northwest for the great support offered to me during my time as Mariners manager," Wakamatsu said in statement released by the team. "My single biggest disappointment is that we were not able to finish what we wanted to finish here, bringing a championship club to the fans."
The Mariners started the night with their fifth manager in three years. Daren Brown, the manager of Triple-A Tacoma for the last four seasons, took over on an interim basis hours before a game against Oakland.
"It's frustrating," Mariners perennial All-Star and cornerstone Ichiro Suzuki said, through his interpreter. "It's not just his responsibility (that we're losing). It's the whole team's responsibility.
"I don't think it's fair to say the manager's responsible to take the blame, because he's not."
Seattle also fired bench coach Ty Van Burkleo and pitching coach Rick Adair. The team also released performance coach Steve Hecht.
All to bring together a fractured clubhouse and a wayward team.
"The truth of the matter is, I lost confidence in Don, Ty and Rick," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said during a press conference in which he tried to explain why Wakamatsu was out after one good season and about half a terrible one.
"New leadership is needed and it is needed now," Zduriencik said.
The GM said he would likely begin talking to candidates for the permanent manager job while this season runs out.
Wakamatsu is a former bench coach for the Athletics and Rangers and longtime coach in the Angels system. He had guided Seattle to an 85-77 record in his first season, after taking over a team that went 61-101 in 2008.
Asked if the club is now back to square one, Suzuki said: "That's the only way we can look at it."
"I don't think we are back to 'square zero,'" the GM said, fittingly going even lower. "However, this season presented an opportunity for us. In that opportunity, a lot of things had to fall into place â€” with the acquisition of Cliff Lee, with the addition of Chone Figgins, and players I thought had to have good seasons.
"To look around and see so many players having subpar seasons is very disturbing."
Wakamatsu watched Griffey slump this season to the point the manager finally benched him. Griffey then drove home in early June to retirement in Florida in a huff without saying goodbye to most in Seattle. The manager sent an irate Bradley home from a game in May, and the next day Bradley asked him and the GM for help dealing with emotional issues.
Wakamatsu has also had multiple public spats with Figgins, whom Zduriencik signed to a $36 million free-agent contract before the season. The most recent incident was an in-game fracas of shouting, shoving and infielder Jose Lopez getting his jersey pulled over his back. That happened inside the home team's dugout in full view of half the stadium and a national television audience.
Asked for his reaction to Wakamatsu's firing, Figgins smiled, shook his head and politely said, "I'm not going to talk about it, man."
Roger Hansen, who had been the Mariners' minor league catching coordinator, takes over as the bench coach. Carl Willis, Seattle's minor league pitching coordinator, takes on the responsibility of big-league pitching coach.
Wakamatsu, the majors' first Japanese-American manager, is the fifth manager in the majors to be fired this season. Baltimore's Dave Trembley, Kansas City's Trey Hillman, Arizona's A.J. Hinch and Florida's Fredi Gonzalez also were dismissed.
Wakamatsu was asked last week by the AP how he was doing amid rampant speculation that he would become Seattle's fall guy.
"I'll be all right," the 47-year-old Wakamatsu said. "I've been in this game a long time, and I have a lot of people pulling for me â€” most of all my family."
He went 127-147 since getting Seattle's job in November 2008. His .464 winning percentage is fifth-best among the Mariners managers.