Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Mariners are having some issues. Sadly, the problems are not necessarily going to be fixed by executing one or two simple decisions. Because of this, a change in leadership may be required in the future. 2014 may be the last year that Jack Zduriencik serves as general manager.
Overall, the team is not really progressing. Certainly, the optimist can point to Taijuan Walker and James Paxton as future members of the rotation. An optimistic outlook can also reference the growth of Kyle Seager and the ongoing upside of players like Nick Franklin, Abraham Almonte, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Mike Zunino.
Unfortunately, the team is still ranked 29th in team batting average and Seattle will win fewer games in 2013 than they won in 2012. Hardly a sign of growth.
To make matters more complex, manager Eric Wedge recently announced that he will not return in 2014. It isn’t hard to read between the lines and figure out that Wedge and Z probably didn’t have the same philosophy on how to effectively grow the team. In addition, it seems likely that Wedge wanted a multi-year deal. Apparently that was not happening anytime soon.
For Zduriencik to get an extension, the Mariners will need to be good in 2014. When I say good, I mean good. We’re talking winning 90 games and at least contending for a wild-card spot.
If all goes well the Mariners could suddenly turn the corner next season. Other teams have had a dramatic turnaround. You bring in an upbeat manager who rallies the team. Walker and Paxton are as good as advertised in a full season of work. Almonte joins a productive free-agent acquisition in the outfield, Franklin has a breakout season and the team average magically rises into the .270 range. The Mariners win 90 games and all is well.
Did I mention that this is probably a best-case scenario?
A more realistic outcome is that the Mariners will overpay for someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury and discover that they are either too old or too injury-prone. Walker or Paxton will be good but not great, and the Mariners will have issues with the back end of the rotation or the bullpen. A number of guys in the lineup will continue to hit .220-.240, and some of those youngsters that showed so much promise a couple of years ago will start to creep towards their late-20s and an inevitable departure. The Mariners will again struggle to win 75 games and fans will wonder if this team will ever contend.
If fans are rooting against Zduriencik, they are faced with a dilemma going into 2014. For Zduriencik to lose his job, the Mariners really need to struggle for yet another season. Do fans root for their team to fail just so that the GM will be asked to seek other employment?
Truthfully, the Mariners may fall somewhere in the middle. Growth for this franchise may take the form of a .500 record in 2014, which would probably cost Zduriencik his job. After this many years, the leadership and the fans deserve to see progress and growth. A .500 record is not a sign of positive movement.
Sometimes, it is not easy being a fan of the Seattle Mariners. The future remains uncertain.