Do The Mariners Want To Win Or Not?

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The following is from Nick Cafardo in his Sunday Baseball Notes:

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners — It would be a terrible burden to place on manager Eric Wedge, but the absentee Japanese ownership loves Suzuki and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the veteran get another contract. That is, if he wants it. Suzuki’s abilities have declined, and Wedge’s attempt to get him going by moving him from first to third and back to first in the lineup have only worked to a point. It seems that ownership would stick with a player for the sake of reputation.

If this is a legitimate possibility then Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik has to put his foot down and say enough’s enough with the interference from ownership and that he has to be allowed to run this team correctly if he’s going to do the job at all.

This love affair with Ichiro is a negative circle that has to be eliminated.

I’m not defending Zduriencik. Many of his moves have been disastrous; of spotty integrity; and made under specious, stat-based reasons.

Their offense has been historically dreadful.

But there are reasons for guarded optimism not because Zduriencik understands and implements advanced metrics and someday, someday, someday the math will work, but because there’s talent in the system.

With Felix Hernandez, they have a legitimate ace in his prime. Jesus Montero has massive power potential; Hector Noesi could be an innings-eater and a solid mid-rotation starter (his 2-10 record is horribly misleading). In the minors they have a load of pitching on the way. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, Andrew Carraway, Stephen Pryor, Chance Ruffin and Carter Capps either have dominant stats, high draft status or well-regarded potential.

They need bats.

Another year of Ichiro? As what? A showhorse? Someone on the roster to hang around and be Ichiro? Is he going to play regularly at the expense of a rightfielder who can bash? Instead of a DH who hits the ball out of the park? They need offense. Ichiro doesn’t provide offense. What’s so hard about letting him go?

Zduriencik is in his fifth year on the job and the team hasn’t practically improved in the won/lost record. This front office is getting a pass from the media-at-large because Zduriencik is a stat guy with old-school scouting experience. It’s a pass that few other GMs with Zduriencik’s record—on and off the field—would get.

How much longer is that going to last? The stat person’s loyalty doesn’t go further than advancing their supposed revolution. There are still a few holdouts that think Moneyball is real and try to portray it as such. Others are shifting its goalposts and the vast majority are using it as validation for their line of thought and faux credibility while adjusting the template from “this is how to do it” to “that’s how Billy Beane did it at the time”.

There’s a major difference.

If the Mariners were winning Zduriencik would be the toast of SABR, celebrated as one of “them”. Since they’re losing the remaining supporters are lurking with opaque defenses and “it’s not his fault” laments.

Will the seeds he’s planted will benefit him or the next GM?

Oftentimes it’s not the man who did the bulk of the building who gets the credit when a team’s youngsters begin to perform. We’re seeing that now with the Orioles and Andy MacPhail and the Mets with Omar Minaya. Both men did much of the grunt work with the rosters of the clubs that have vaulted into surprising contention, but they’re forgotten or dismissed because they’re no longer there or their tenures were pockmarked with failure and controversy. They’re blamed for what they didn’t do and not credited for what they did.

Maybe that’s the way it’s going to go with Zduriencik.

But if he’s going down, he’d be well-advised to go down his way and tell ownership that it’s enough with Ichiro; that he can’t win with him and he needs to go. Period.

They have to move on and find bats who can actually produce. If teams and executives want to be successful, they can’t retain players for what they were. The business is one of, “What have you done for me lately?” In the case of Ichiro, the answer to that question would be absolutely nothing.

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