Both firings came as a surprise yet the writing was on each of their walls. On Monday the Seattle Mariners and USC Trojans fired their respective baseball managers.
Don Wakamatsu's downfall seemed inconceivable back in spring training when whispers of a playoff run were being murmured by the media. Coming off an uplifting 85-win campaign and adding ace Cliff Lee to the team certainly made it appear the M's were on the upswing.
And then the season started. The offense never clicked -- particularly Ken Griffey Jr., whose unceremoniously exit from a glorious career probably derailed Wak more than anything. Once he lost The Kid he lost the Mariner family.
Don also had a maddening tendency to commit to a belief system even when it was painfully obvious changes were necessary. The lineup, for instance, would always see the horrific Jose Lopez bat either third or cleanup. Granted Wak was hamstrung by a lack of quality bats on the roster but there were better options than a free-swinging plodder. The pitching staff wasn't immune to befuddling choices neither. Sean White, probably one of the worst arms in a decent bullpen, was constantly thrown into high-leverage situations.
If Wak was predictable with the lineup he disciplined at a whim. He allowed for Lopez to be unproductive and lazy the entire season, tolerating mediocrity as it were. But when the unproductive but hard-working Chone Figgins made a mental mistake he was singled out. A dugout dust-up ensued and it was the beginning of the end.
Yes, Don Wakamatu was probably dealt a bad hand in 2010. But he didn't do much to salvage the situation. Conversely Chad Kreuter, despite having only minimal managing experience was hired to coach the most prestigious college baseball program in the country. After four years of the Kreuter Experience the Trojans failed to advance to the College World Series let alone win a title. In fact USC was oftentimes abysmal, punctuated by this season's 10th-place finish in the Pac-10 Conference.
Kreuter was an awful recruiter, focusing his efforts on elite national talents like Tim Beckham and Mike Stanton that had no intentions to play in college. And while USC is hamstrung by the NCAA's ridiculous baseball scholarship rule that hasn't hurt other private universities such as Miami and Stanford.
Simply put USC is expected to contend for titles and Kreuter failed miserably. He had to go.