NEW YORK — Eric Wedge promises a touchy-feely approach if hired as New York Yankees manager, rejecting the old-school method of publicly challenging players to motivate them.
"If something like that happens today, especially with social media and everything else that’s involved with it, it’s going to have legs, it’s going to be misinterpreted, there’s going to be a lot more opinion about it and it’s going to be one hell of the distraction," the former Cleveland and Seattle manager said Friday after his interview with the Yankees. "I’d say that that day has probably passed by."
Joe Girardi criticized Gary Sanchez last August and benched him for a game, saying: "Bottom line, he needs to improve. He’s late getting down." Sanchez tied for the big league lead with 16 passed balls and was behind the plate for 53 wild pitches, second-most in the majors.
Wedge spoke of a generic player receiving a rebuke from his manager through the media.
"You’re going to have to have one tough cookie to be able to do that and make it work for you," he said. "For him to get something out of that, he’s going to have to be really tough to be able to handle that and actually digest it to see it’s in his best interest."
After a decade managing the Yankees, Girardi was told last month that he was not being offered a contract. Wedge became the second person to interview for the job following New York bench coach Rob Thomson on Wednesday.
Sanchez, who turns 25 next month, was an All-Star in his first full big league season.
"He’s still young. He’s still learning. He’s still going through things that he needs to go through and he will continue to go through, but he’ll get better," said Wedge, a former catcher. "It’s just a maturation process that young players with his type of ability have to go through."
Now 49, Wedge was a "cup of coffee" player in the majors, getting 86 at-bats over four seasons with Boston (1991-92, 1995) and Colorado (1994) and making 23 appearances behind the plate.
"I believe you can have a personal relationship with your players as well as a professional relationship," he said. "It takes a little bit more time. It takes a little bit more effort. But I think that it’s something that’s imperative, something I’ve always done, something I’ll continue to do. And as long as they understand where you’re coming from, that you care about them, and you care about them for the right reasons, which quite frankly is for them and their family, then when it is time to turn that page to a more professional conversation of maybe an even more edgy conversation, we’ll be in a good position to do that."
Wedge managed in Cleveland’s minor league system in 1998 and was promoted to big league manager before the 2003 season. He was voted AL Manager in the Year in 2007, when the Indians won the AL Central, beat the Yankees in the Division Series — the one with the Joba Chamberlain midge game — and lost to Boston in a seven-game Championship Series after holding a 3-1 lead. He was fired in 2009 after seven seasons with a 561-573 record.
Wedge was hired as Seattle’s manager before the 2011 season. The Mariners went 213-273 over three seasons. He missed 28 games following a stroke, which he believes may have been caused by sleep apnea, then at the end of the season turned down a one-year contract. His overall big league managing record is 774-846.
After working as an ESPN analyst in 2014 and 2015, Wedge spent the last two seasons as a player development adviser with Toronto.
"I’m humble and resilient," he said. "I think that you’ve got to have to have a certain level of toughness to be a big league manager and handle everything that goes along with that."