Zduriencik Deserves At Least One More Year

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The Mariners agreed to a contract extension (of the multi-year variety according to MLB Trade Rumors) with GM Jack Zduriencik.

We can debate how good or bad a job Zduriencik has done; he’s done some smart things and some stupid things along with things that may have made sense but didn’t work.

It’s fair that he gets more time.

I said before the season that if the Mariners had another series of off-field incidents and evidence of front office anarchy, Zduriencik had to go. That hasn’t happened.

On the field, they played over their heads for the first half of the season before the wheels came off due to a pitching staff that could no longer counteract an atrocious offense. They need to see what they have with full 2012 seasons from Dustin Ackley and Carlos Peguero along with continued improvement from Michael Pineda and excellence from Felix Hernandez.

He has to upgrade the offense somehow.

What I find interesting about the linked piece is that there are no details as to why some of Zduriencik’s moves were “memorable”.

The deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers was more notable for his double-dealing on the Yankees and that he acquired an accused sex offender, Josh Lueke, which led to major fallout and contretemps from both the Mariners and Rangers.

The Brandon Morrow for Brandon League looks better now that League has been closing and made the All Star team, but that was more than a baseball move; it was done for Morrow’s own good and he’s still got a ways to go in fulfilling his potential with the Blue Jays; no matter what happens, Zduriencik can’t be faulted for it even if Morrow becomes a superstar.

Zduriencik’s plan has been partially sabotaged by the foolish anointing of “genius” based on partisanship and idiocy; that the Mariners drastically overachieved in his first season; and ownership has interfered in decisions that the GM surely would not have made (bringing Ken Griffey Jr. back in 2010 for example).

Let’s see if they let him do what he’d undoubtedly prefer to do and let Ichiro Suzuki walk after 2012 (or even try to trade him this winter); that will be a clearer window into whether he’s going to be allowed to do his job the way he wants to do it.

If they don’t, this extension makes little sense.

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When A Positive Becomes A Negative

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With the Mariners having lost an obscene 15 games in a row and beginning a series with the Yankees tonight, their rebuilding project has hit another sticking point.

They were at .500 when this streak started and GM Jack Zduriencik was looking to buy rather than sell.

That’s long gone.

What happens with Zduriencik remains to be seen. He was clearly on thin ice last season not because of the 100-losses, but because of the haphazard and, at best, dysfunctional way in which the team was run.

The excuses for what was there when Zduriencik arrived are all well and good: “The farm system was barren”; “The team was terrible”; “There were bloated contracts and a lack of analytics”; etc.

Fair.

Accurate.

But this team is an embarrassment. Most of the current club’s future were in place before Zduriencik was hired. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero were in the organization.

We don’t know how the drafts under Zduriencik have gone. Dustin Ackley is going to be a star. But we won’t know how well or poorly they did in their selections and other amateur acquisitions for quite awhile.

And the big league team he’s put together is atrocious.

Is Justin Smoak the player he was earlier in the season or is he the slumping youngster he is now? He’s hit at every level, so he’s going to eventually hit in the big leagues. But what else has Zduriencik done to distinguish himself as anything more than misplaced hype based on an agenda?

Zduriencik has brought in Chone Figgins, Jack Wilson, Milton Bradley and Ian Snell—none of whom worked out and many have been utter disasters. He’s done a lot of things that have made no sense like trading for Russell Branyan at mid-season 2010 after letting him leave as a free agent the previous winter and surrendering a youngster who looks like he can play, Ezequiel Carrera, to do it.

Yes, he got Brandon League who was an All Star in 2011, but he traded Brandon Morrow to do it.

He did Morrow a favor by trading him after the unfulfilled promise with the Mariners and that he was never going to get past having been drafted before Tim Lincecum, but it’s a recurring nightmare that for every decision that’s worked, five haven’t.

Everything—the shady trading practices; inexplicable and backwards statements; indecision as to what they are and where they’re headed; sacrificial blame games that were perpetrated on former manager Don Wakamatsu—all adds up to the albatross of heightened expectations.

The combination of his reputation as a scout with an understanding and adherence to advanced stats, the gambler’s mentality in making drastic moves like trading J.J. Putz to the Mets and getting Cliff Lee from the Phillies and that the team radically overachieved in his first season without Zduriencik having done anything significant to improve the team led to the belief that things were getting better faster than they were; faster than they should’ve.

If the Mariners had it to do over again, I’m sure they would quietly admit that they’d have been better off having a 71-91 year in 2009 rather than 85-77. No one would’ve been surprised and the desperation to win immediately would’ve been lessened.

They would’ve had the opportunity to grow organically without the crafted narrative surrounding a non-existent, stat-based revolution the type we’re seeing come crashing to the ground with Moneyball and the Athletics train wreck along with the requisite excuses for the failures that are becoming more and more ludicrous.

A few days ago, I wrote that considering everything that happened with the Mariners in 2010, 2011’s positives couldn’t be ignored despite this horrific run.

That’s still true.

But I’m looking at things from a perch of indifference. I couldn’t care less what Zduriencik’s beliefs in building a club are and I’m not desperate to have my theories proven as “right”. I’m seeing things as they were and as they are. He wasn’t a “genius” nor an “Amazin’ Exec” when he took over and he’s not that now. Nor is he a fool.

But the fans are undoubtedly exhausted by all that’s gone south for the Mariners since that 85-win season. The reputation was media-created, but no one wants to hear that as they’re setting franchise records for losing streaks.

Patience may be wearing thin in Seattle with the regime. And given the work they’ve done—work that is documented and found to be wanting on and off the field—it’s easy to understand why.

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