The Mariners Get Morse (Change One Letter and it’s “Worse”)

Anyone else see the irony of the Mariners and their GM Jack Zduriencik having traded Mike Morse in 2009 while Zduriencik was in the midst of an overachieving first season at the helm and being called a genius, and has reacquired Morse four years later when he’s possibly a losing first half away from being fired?

Or that he traded Morse for the essentially useless Ryan Langerhans and has now traded John Jaso to get Morse back when, with or without Morse, the Mariners are only staying out of last place because the Astros are in the AL West?

The deal, on its surface, isn’t a bad one for the Mariners. All they surrendered was Jaso, but considering their likely finish in 2013, why bother? Why bother doing anything the Mariners have done since the 2012 season ended from moving in the fences at Safeco Field to making trades/signings for bats on the final year of their contracts or final years of their careers?

This is not a logical progression of being ready to win and making the requisite fill-in veteran acquisitions. It’s desperation on the part of Zduriencik—a worse desperation than Royals GM Dayton Moore was accused of when he acquired two big league starting pitchers in James Shields and Wade Davis, both of whom are under team control, in exchange for a large package of prospects. It was said that Moore is trying to save his job. Zduriencik? Where’s the criticism from the stat people who held him up as their totem before reality rendered them silent? On Fangraphs a few years ago the Mariners were labeled as the sixth best organization in baseball, thereby setting themselves and the Mariners up for endless ridicule with the Twitter hashtag #6org. Has there been an update or viable explanation? Or clinging in the hopes that it’ll all end up as the math having been “right”?

Let’s put this into simple terms. Over the four-plus years Zduriencik has been running the team, they rebuilt the farm system based on pitching and brought in players whose forte is defense. In year five of the rebuild, they’ve brought in the fences at Safeco Field, signed or traded for players for whom defense is a necessary evil, and changed the strategy on the fly not because it’s a natural evolution combined with intelligent design, but because what they were doing before didn’t work and now they’re doing something totally different.

If that’s the case, how are they moving forward with the same GM?

A team that had an eye on pitching and defense now has imported the weak defenders Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Morse and the mediocre Kendrys Morales. In addition, they traded away Jaso, let Miguel Olivo leave as a free agent and are intent on replacing them behind the plate with Jesus Montero, for whom defense is the main weak point of his game and will have to handle a pitching staff who will already be compromised due to the new dimensions of their home park.

There’s no question that the Mariners needed offense and their offense will be better with the players they’ve acquired as well as Dustin Ackley and Montero, but how much worse will the pitching be with the new dimensions of Safeco Field?

In the past three seasons, their pitchers have posted the following OPS numbers home and away:

2010: .663 home, .768 road

2011: .667 home, .728 road

2012: .676 home, .777 road

In addition, the Mariners’ offense hasn’t just been bad in those same three seasons, it’s been historically bad. Since the 162 game schedule was implemented in 1961 (and bear in mind the numbers are slightly skewed by the strike shortened seasons of 1972, 1981 and 1994), the Mariners of 2010 and 2011 were in the top 100 of the lowest scoring clubs in baseball. That’s out of 1356 teams.

Will Morse, Ibanez, and Morales, plus a full sophomore season from Montero help the Mariners’ scoring improve? Yes. Will the defensive limitations of these players, that they’re in the lineup at the expense of stronger defensive players, plus the new dimensions of the Mariners’ home field hurt them? Absolutely.

This is while the Mariners are playing in a division with the high-priced Angels; the still very good Rangers; and the Athletics who won the division last season. The only beacon of hope the Mariners have is that the Astros are basically a Triple A team, keeping them from looking too terrible in comparison.

The Royals and Moore were savaged for the trade they made with the Rays. But they’re in a weaker division, have enough young talent to at least justify going for a marked improvement with established pitchers who’ve been on playoff teams, and will have those pitchers for a longer time than the Mariners will have the hitters they’ve brought in.

Where are the vitriolic attacks against what Zduriencik has built? Is his credibility based on his work or because he runs his club the way analysts who base their beliefs on stats would run their clubs? Is he being protected in a manner that Moore isn’t because he’s using “objectivity” while crafting a team that is, by all standards, horrific and is now worse than it was when he arrived?

There’s no room for personalities, biases, factionalism, bloodlines, and tribalism in purported objective analysis. Because Moore is the antithesis of what stat people want in a GM, he’s a punching bag whenever it suits them; but Zduriencik exemplifies that which Moore was accused of when he traded Wil Myers: desperation and trying to keep his job.

The Mariners are a weird, toxic amalgam with no definition or plan and Zduriencik’s genius, like the classic sitcom Seinfeld, is about nothing. It worked in TV comedy and in glowing write-ups for Zduriencik before the fact. It’s not working so much at the ballpark and in practice. Nor is it going to for the Mariners in 2013.

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  1. #1 by Otis on January 17, 2013 - 4:49 pm

    Personally I don’t get why DM was so villified for that trade. It’s a great move for no other reason than to sell more tickets in KC. Outsiders forget that KC used to put 25 – 30k in that stadium every night. The fans are starving for a competitive team. If the Royals truly contend for the Division this year they will generate more revenue than they have in the last two decades. More money = more flexibility in the FA market next year. Additionally, the franchise needs to learn what it’s like to win…that is invaluable – so by improving the rotation the mental outlook of the entire team will improve. I think it was a great move.

    • #2 by admin on January 17, 2013 - 5:50 pm

      It was more understandable than great. The overreaction to the trade was ridiculous.

  2. #3 by MGB on January 17, 2013 - 5:42 pm

    Putting Miguel Olivo as a major loss easily disqualifies this garbage.

    • #4 by MGB on January 17, 2013 - 5:43 pm

      Add to that, you’ve essentially compared John Jaso to Wil Myers? Get a real job.

    • #5 by admin on January 17, 2013 - 5:50 pm

      Who said he was a major loss? He’s far better defensively than Montero is. And if you think I compared Jaso to Wil Myers, then the email you listed is perfectly fitting. Leave a real name if you’re gonna comment here and attack me. Show some courage.

  3. #6 by HFNY on January 17, 2013 - 8:09 pm

    Saying the post is garbage is too much but the M’s offense was sooooo bad in 2012 and the franchise has been losing too many fans because they were falling asleep at games.

    My guess is that the M’s will deal Smoak, Carp, and/or Franklin Gutierrez for a veteran LH starter and then sign a veteran catcher to a 1 year deal to split time with Montero and until Mike Zunino is ready.

    The M’s are still very strong at SS (Ryan), 3B (Seager), and good at 2B. If Guti stays, they are also strong at CF and Saunders is good enough in CF while being a very good fielder at RF or LF. The team is only taking a flier on Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez to see if anything is left in the tank. No harm / no foul if both decide to retire but the upside is that Bay could hit 20+ HRs again and play decent LF while Ibanez would provide veteran leadership and a solid bat off the bench.

    I’d really wonder what the M’s are doing if they stood pat but I think you’ll see a veteran LH starter and veteran catcher added to the roster.

    • #7 by admin on January 17, 2013 - 8:19 pm

      You’re overestimating the value of Smoak, Carp and Gutierrez if you think they’re gonna get anything of significant use for them individually or in a package. All three are players Zduriencik brought in to great fanfare and have, at best, become journeymen. Zduriencik’s legacy (if and when he’s fired) will look better in retrospect with some of the prospects left behind like Hultzen and Zunino, but his tenure will be accurately judged as an overall disaster.
      I’m not sure why you’re even acknowledging an anonymous commenter calling it garbage. That was clearly a touchy Mariners fan who can’t deal with the truth about his team.

  4. #8 by HFNY on January 17, 2013 - 10:37 pm

    That’s probably true but Atlanta needs a CF (if they don’t resign Bourn) and LA may want a 4th OF who is good fielder like Guti in case Kemp gets hurt again (or to sub in for him in late innings). I’d love for the M’s to find a way to get Capuano for Guti and somebody else.

    • #9 by admin on January 17, 2013 - 10:46 pm

      They’re not shifting Upton to left in favor of Gutierrez. The Dodgers idea makes sense. I’d even take Gutierrez for the Mets if they pick up a chunk of his salary. He’s worth a shot.

  5. #10 by Dave Wakeman on January 20, 2013 - 7:26 pm

    Its outside of the scope of this post, maybe, but if you look at what Rizzo did, he is the one that should be being called a genius….

    He got a Cy Young contender for one of his top pitching prospects…
    Then, one year later, he trades a spare part that he got for nothing for the same top pitching prospect.

    • #11 by admin on January 20, 2013 - 11:39 pm

      I haven’t looked at Cole, but he’s had injury problems and was horrible last season in Triple A.

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