It’s a grey-skied Friday morning here in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Seahawks are still playing preseason games, the Seattle Mariners have long since stopped playing meaningful games, and yet we’re rejoicing. Today we celebrate a major sports victory for our city. Why? Take it away, Twitter:
News like this must be fun to break, and so everyone tried to break it all at once. Much appreciated, y’all! That was one of the best tweet walls I’ve ever woken up to. And it leaves no doubt as to what has happened, of course – Jack Zduriencik, plausibly the worst active GM of the last few years, is not a GM anymore. Which means he’s now inflicted his last bits of damage on the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
In his place we’ve got former assistant Jeff Kingston, who will be tasked with trading Austin Jackson for peanuts and probably nothing else. The search for a new general manager has reportedly already begun, with team president Kevin Mather apparently playing a big part in the process. Which isn’t really all that surprising, I guess.
So the team is getting new leadership, and it’s because the old leadership sucked. None of this is a surprise, really, but all of this is awesome. We’ve been shouting into the “Fire Z” megaphone for a long, looooooong time, and now it’s finally happened. The team currently has no GM, which means the team is better off than it was an hour ago. Zduriencik has been hurting the Mariners for years, and now he can’t do further damage.
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Zduriencik was installed as Bill Bavasi’s replacement after the 2008 season, which I’m sure we all fondly remember as that one time the Mariners spent over $100 million in order to lose 101 games. Z started off with the brilliant trade for Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas, then made the PR mega-move of signing Ken Griffey Jr. and watched his team of brilliant defensive stars post a surprising winning year. It was a great start for a front office that was widely celebrated at the time.
Looking to make the leap from surprise winner to legitimate contender, Zduriencik traded three not-even-magic beans for smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-his-prime Cliff Lee, which in hindsight is probably the best trade of his career. To fill out his roster, he went out and acquired… Casey Kotchman? Milton Bradley? When Chone Figgins bellyflopped, it was just another gut punch. The team again lost 101 games, but this time it was a Zduriencik team.
Sep 23, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik presents Seattle Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez (28) with a “300th Career Home Run” plaque prior to the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
And since then? 2011 was a lost season. 2012 was a lost season. 2013 was a lost season. 2014 was an unexpected arrival for an exciting team with obvious room to grow! And 2015 has been a huge step in the wrong direction. This was his best chance – though certainly not his first chance – to take the Mariners to the playoffs. Instead he was exposed for having again sold out defense in exchange for three true outcome players who weren’t very good at walking or hitting homers. Add in a regressing-past-the-point-of-reason bullpen and an unproven-and-razor-thin rotation and the Mariners might have the worst team in the AL this year. They’re dead last in run differential, anyways.
Over Zduriencik’s tenure with the Mariners they’ve possibly been the worst organization in the American League – they have a claim for the worst in the sport, but Colorado, Philadalphia, and Miami are fighting them for it. It took Zduriencik six tries to build a respectable team, and when he finally did it turned out to be completely incapable of sustaining the gains.
Not to mention the inexplicable personell blunders that came to define this era of Mariners baseball. The Zduriencik front office will be best remembered for two things: an inability to identify quality major league talent and an inability to develop prospects. They say good organizations put their players in position to succeed. The Mariners of the last seven years have absolutely, unquestionably put their players in position to fail.
Think about that one for a minute. The Mariners signed Figgins, an all-star third baseman… and immediately moved him to second base, seemingly just for kicks. He flailed there, and the team just got upset. Brad Miller starts to hit… so they move him off his natural position. Guti comes up from Tacoma, saying he’s no longer physically capable of playing center, and is starting there for the M’s pretty much right away. Vidal Nuno finds his groove in the rotation and is rewarded by a move back to the ‘pen. It goes on and on and on and on.
Sep 3, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan (26) turns a double play against the Kansas City Royals in the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
My favorite anecdote on the subject is one I unfortunately can’t find on the internet right now, but it’s about Brendan Ryan. There was some interview with Ryan after he’d had some success with the Yankees, and in it he talked about how he was more comfortable hitting in the Yankees organization. In it he said that the Mariners had tweaked his swing so that he could try to hit more home runs. That’s Brendan Ryan, as in, the punchless, slap-hitting all-glove, shortstop. The Mariners under Zduriencik were so power-happy that they tried to turn their no-bat shortstop into a slugger, and were probably stunned when it failed.
This firing is so, so long overdue. Zduriencik has been a complete disaster, and has wasted another seven years’ worth of an organization that has spent a huge majority of it’s existence mired in the gutter. GMZ was supposed to change that. Instead he’s again left the cupboards bare.
The Mariners team Z inhereted had no farm system, a terrible offense, no defensive standouts, a thin pitching staff, and a bloated payroll. Look at the current Mariners: bottom-third farm, top-third payroll, the position players can’t hit or field, and the pitching staff is essentially Felix Hernandez and napkins. Yeah, plenty has changed over the last seven years. Names, mostly. And now the GM, again.
Jack Zduriencik has been fired. The Mariners are free from his burden, and now they get to try again with someone else. There’s no guarantees they’ll make the right decision, however. Remember that. And if they mess up again, it could mean another seven years of garbage.
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