After seven seasons mired with mediocrity, the Mariners have finally severed ties with Jack Zduriencik. In a season where the Mariners were projected by FanGraphs (and many others) to be the best team in the American League, they have been nearly the worst team in their division. Worse, not only were they supposed to be a top AL team, but many had them going to the World Series.
My, how things have changed. The Mariners currently hold a 59-69 record and are 12 games back in the AL West. A sudden and unexpected surge for the second wild card spot isn’t insurmountable, but it sure isn’t realistic.
The blame doesn’t go all to Jack, but it sure doesn’t divert completely from him. Let’s be clear: he was not a good general manager. This firing was long overdue. Two years overdue, probably. To me, the Mariners mediocrity is a manifestation of our problems as an organization. At this point it’s cliche, but it’s true. Howard Lincoln is a terrible owner. Proof, you say? There’s nothing better than this quote from Lincoln to (now retired) Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times.
“The goal of the Mariners is not to win the World Series. It is to field a competitive team year after year, to put itself in a position to win a World Series, and hope at some point that happens . . . We absolutely have to make money. No question, end of story.”
Ownership doesn’t care about making moves to win the World Series. They want profit. They gave Jack Z a little more leeway to make some moves (i.e Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, etc.) but ultimately don’t give the autonomy that a front office needs to be successful. The Mariners are going to have a difficult time winning baseball games until Howard Lincoln keels over. It’s not impossible, but it’s not a positive thing to have ownership meddling in the decision making process. I’ve written about how Jack Z is imcompetent, and also how the organization doesn’t know what they’re doing. It’s true!
Jack Z is probably a fraud. He claimed to be an analytical scouting/stats hybrid team builder when he interviewed for the job, but Tony Blengino put him on the hot seat and accused him of using dated metrics (HRs/RBIs/AVG/ERA, etc.). Eric Wedge complained to ownership that they meddled too much in the dugout and didn’t have faith in their younger players, or their rebuilding plan. The Geoff Baker piece on all of this is troubling. I said it then and I’ll say it now, the Mariners operate much differently than when they employed Tony Blengino and Tom Tango. When the sabermetric duo were with the M’s, Jack Z acquired Jaso, Gutierrez, Vargas, and so on. Savvy, cheap moves. They were smart! They made sense! It’s obvious that his earlier success stories had more to do with his supporting cast rather than Zduriencik himself.
He’s had bad luck, for sure. Ackley was a can’t-miss prospect. Smoak was supposed to be baby Mark Teixeira. Hindsight is 20-20, sure. But how do you defend the Danny Hultzen draft pick? Even then it seemed like a weird selection. How do you defend trading a great on-base bat in Jaso for Mike Morse, whose only value comes in the form of dingers? Somewhere along the line in bringing in players, developing them, and watching them perform, there’s a problem. The organization needs to be revamped and it starts at the top. Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong have been around since 1992 and for the most part we’ve been mediocre since then. This team has beat the 1995 and 2001 seasons to death. We didn’t even make the World Series either year.
So moving forward, I’m happy to see the man they once called Trader Jack gone. I don’t think it’s solved our problems. Just like Bavasi did, Zduriencik has likely set back our franchise back for years. We’re in a weird purgatory where we can’t have a full blown firesale, but we’re also not a complete enough team to compete at the moment. Hopefully we’ll see the M’s ransack a highly ranked official from the Cubs, or another analytical team, but it’s doubtful that it solves our problems completely. I’ll leave you with this:
Bill Bavasi win percentage (w/ M’s): 44.3%
Jack Zduriencik win percentage (w/ M’s): 45.9%
Sorry this turned out so negative. I love my team too much to see them treated so terribly. Maybe I’m just butthurt that they ruined Dustin Ackley. Whatever. Go Mariners.