Former Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner is one of the most beloved players in the history of the franchise where fan opinion is concerned. And Buhner has long been a staunch supporter of the organization and its moves, almost morphing into a goodwill ambassador of sorts.
That’s why, the interview he gave earlier today on ESPN 710 Seattle’s Brock and Salk show was, well, kind of stunning in its frankness.
When the radio hosts were talking about an Ichiro extension, Salk asked Buhner what his reaction would be if Ichiro was brought back for three years, $35 million or $40 million — which works out to just over half (well, OK, more like 60 percent on the low end and 73 percent on high end) of the salary he’s now earning.
“I’d vomit,” Buhner said. “I mean, really, no offense. No offense, we’ve got to get this organization turned around. You can’t be spending all the money on one guy.”
Buhner went on to say that he doesn’t necessarily blame Ichiro for all the team’s problems. He said he’d understand if the Mariners wanted to bring him back “as part of the equation” and have a fit on a rebuilding squad.
“But at the same time, they need help desperately,” Buhner said. “They need some veteran leadership in the clubhouse. Wedgie (manager Eric Wedge) can’t keep growing the beard, growing the mustache, shaving it off, that’s not the answer.”
Buhner went on to say he’s a big Wedge fan, but that “quite frankly, he’s exposed” and needs help from within the organization. There are too many nights, he said, when the player matchups at Wedge’s disposal and the inconsistency of younger hitters just isn’t working out for him.
“He’s trying to change the culture of the clubhouse,” Buhner said. “He’s trying to change the mentality and how basicly the organization is looked upon. But the last 10 years, it’s been tough.
“Look at the revolving door that’s been going on around there,” Buhner said. “What, seven managers in the last 10 years? GMs, what are you supposed to buy into?”
Buhner was asked about how the Mariners would view his comments. He joked that he expected a call from folks wonderng about the “chip” he’s carrying on his shoulder towards the team.
“That’s what you need,” Buhner said. “You need some people in there with a chip on their shoulder. Some people in there that are proud to wear the Seattle Mariners uniform. And I’m not seeing that as much anymore. Guys that are going in, heart breaking up. I mean, just play with an attitude, man, that’s what I want to see. Guys that are enjoying what they’re doing, playing with an attitude and getting better. Just get better. Show me some signs.”