May 8, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz (center) accepts the award for Major League Player of the Month for April from general manager Jack Zduriencik before a game against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
As the Major League Baseball trade deadline quickly approaches, we look back on the nail-biting moments of prior seasons. We remember the good trades and the bad. Meanwhile, fans around the country wonder if their team will be buyers or sellers.
It is also a time to take stock of your local general manager, as they are allegedly working the phones and trying to broker just the right deal that will either ensure a playoff spot or in the case of a struggling club, build for the future. The Seattle Mariners, it is reasonable to suggest, are in the seller category.
Measuring the impact of a GM is difficult. At face value, their job is fairly straightforward. Their task is to assemble a winning team through a combination of wise draft picks and shrewd trades. GMs have to buy low and sell high, recognize the diamond in the rough, and avoid saddling the team with long-term contracts that look good at first but ultimately set the franchise back a few years.
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Has Jack Zduriencik built a winner in Seattle? The 46-56 record hardly screams success. Granted, teams go through ups and downs, but what is the track record of Zduriencik?
Oftentimes, fans will look at the trades, mostly because these are tangible decisions and they are also the most controversial. Trades are always hard to gauge in the moment, and even people who assign a “grade” are making a huge assumption about future value. This is particularly true for prospects.
Rather than dig into trades, perhaps it is better to just keep it simple and think about the timetable for building a winner. Let’s look back at Zduriencik’s time in Seattle, with a brief summary of fan mindset after each season:
2009 (85-77): A great start for Zduriencik. The Mariners are heading in the right direction!
2010 (61-101): Uh-oh. Well, don’t panic everyone. We are officially in rebuilding mode. In a few years, we will return to glory!
2011 (67-95): Hmmm…I guess progress is slow. But, let’s stay positive. Making progress.
2012 (75-87): Okay…we were hoping to be a little farther by now, but at least we are moving in a positive direction.
2013 (71-91): Uh-oh…part II. Never mind, let’s stay positive people. Everyone has setbacks.
2014 (87-75): See! I knew it was all going to work out. The rebuilding plan has worked! The Mariners will make the playoffs next year!
2015 (46-56): Oh. No. We were fooled. Anyone else feeling like 2014 was an anomaly? This is not the rebuilt winner that we were promised.
The cold, hard reality is that the Seattle Mariners have failed miserably at developing young hitters. You can crunch all the Sabermetrics you want, but the M’s have struggled to get on base for years. Years, people. You can excuse a group of young prospects for a season or two. That said, how many quality hitters have the Mariners developed during Zduriencik’s time? Is there a bevy of hot young hitters down on the farm that the Mariners can look forward to filling the lineup in the next couple of seasons?
Don’t hold your breath.
I’m not going to call for Zduriencik to be fired. That is not my role or my right. The performance of a team is impacted by many factors. That said, this is not a winning franchise with a bright future. If anything, the Mariners may be setting themselves up for trouble in the future. If Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz eventually become liabilities and they are surrounded by subpar hitters like Dustin Ackley, what then?
One more thing…this may be a future article, but I will simply say this. I am sick and tired of hearing about how the Mariners can’t hit because of Safeco Field. A spacious ballpark does not prevent a team from hitting singles, or drawing a walk. Just saying.
Hang tight, Mariners fans. Maybe this franchise finally starts changing the culture in the last couple of months. Maybe not.