You could have mailed in a post, quick and easy, by titling it "Successes of the Zduriencik Era." - would have taken you 2-3 minutes. But you didn't.
In the old Samurai Bushido code, you would die with dishonor for catastrophic failure and betrayal of the code. You would be allowed an honorable suicide if the failure was yours but you upheld the code while doing so. Is Jack Zduriencik coming due for an Old Yeller moment? The shout box is venting a bit about this roster today, so why not go into some of the washouts of the last half-decade? This is what Zduriencik’s watch looks like so far.
- Complete inability to draft a splash player. Bavasi has gotten 20.5 WAR so far out of the first 5 rounds of the draft since 2011 (when the first of the 2009 draftpicks started debuting in the bigs) – and that number should climb substantially as Walker and Paxton get their big-league careers going and Zunino plays a full year. But thus far, despite all his success at adding talent (we’ve been one of the deepest and best-stocked farm systems the last 3 years or so) nobody has been able to step into the bigs and have immediate, sustained success. Seager is the closest thing and the bad results for him since last year’s All-Star Break kinda nix that too. There’s been no Wil Myers splash, no Mike Trout comet, no Fernandez-type Cy Young season. Jack’s talented players have had long, slow learning curves, or been exceedingly rushed – or else have not had the talent it was thought that they did.
- Failures of high-profile trades. Nobody thought Smoak-for-Lee would utterly fail. Some people thought Montero-for-Lee was clearly the better deal, but I can’t recall many who thought Smoak would bust (1.7 WAR in his first 2000 PAs). Maybe the Rangers, I guess. Some people had more reservations around Montero, but when the Montero-for-Pineda deal went through it was still thought of as pretty good for both sides. The Yanks needed pitching, we needed a RH masher. Oops. But even the alternate deal of Brett-Lawrie-for-Pineda that was proposed by Jack and shot down by the Blue Jays would have been a moderate disappointment. Better than Montero, obviously, but Seager has absolutely out-hit Lawrie (tho Brett gets a lot of defensive credit). Whiffing on those exchanges – even though there weren’t really any BETTER prospects being offered – hurts a lot. Even trading Putz, initially a win with Guti, turned into a disaster when Guti’s health problems dragged him onto the permanent DL.
- Fister trade. This wasn’t viewed as a high-profile trade around the league, really, but it failed so spectacularly that I’m separating it out. Fister has been worth nearly 15 WAR by himself, and we traded him for a 5th OF and an inconsistent pen lefty when he was still incredibly cheap. The reason given was that “Fister is not one of our best 5 starters going forward” except that he was OBVIOUSLY better than the veteran retreads who came in here and failed miserably, and would have brought us extra time for young pitchers like Maurer to avoid evisceration on the mound after a leap from AA – as well as wins. And I like wins.
- Roster construction. Who likes to add 3 or 4 DHs every season only to be unable to find places for them to hit, while simultaneously destroying team fielding? Jack, apparently. Before that, he tried the all-defense team. Every year we manage to field a team for $80+ million dollars that doesn’t have the requisite # of fielders, or MOTO hitters, or on-base guys, or a strong pen, or a Starting Five that deserves to be anyone’s top-5 pitchers. Back in 2009 when we were getting placeholders and re-working a decimated roster from the Bavasi era, it was understandable. Roman 24-hour construction schedules and all that. 5 years later, the “we’re not QUITE able to put the team on the field we want to” mantra is falling on deaf ears.
- Not one domestic impact FA signing. Cano was a big signing, but thus far very slim on “impact.” Putting him aside, there’s not a single guy who is part of the long-term solution here. Jack has used stop-gaps at every opportunity, while those stopgaps have failed to plug any hole while they were here. They took money and a roster space, but the lack of impact is startling. We had a couple of half-season surprises in Adam Kennedy and Raul Ibanez, but for the most part, free agency has been a wasteland of lost opportunity to improve. Iwakuma is the free agent that we nailed thus far, but sadly he does not swing a bat. 7 of the 9 lineup spots are filled by club-controlled guys under the age of 28, half with less than a year of experience in the bigs, and Hart is just signed for the one year. The # of pitchers on multi-year FA contracts? Three. Jack has a lot of flexibility but not a lot of FA contributions.
There are others. Feel free to list your own.
Is it all Jack’s fault? Not at all. He didn’t know Montero was juicing. Nobody could know that Guti’s body would quit on him in his prime. The number of GMs who would trade 3 months of Cliff Lee for 6 years of Justin Smoak + filler pieces was approximately 28. It didn’t work. None of it worked.
So Jack has fallen back on the draft and young player assessment, which is his bread and butter. He’s added more top-100 minor leaguers to this team than any other team has over the same timeframe. Can you construct a team that way? The Mariners have used 18 players this year who saw the low-minors with us (not including Bloomie), and several more who got their first full-season duty with the Mariners. It’s Jack’s Team. If he didn’t hand-select them in the June Draft, he traded for them as minor-leaguers or decided not to trade or dump them (Maurer, Saunders). He ran his front-line players out there, his blue-chippers:
Dustin Ackley, college player of the decade at an easier position and primed for an Alex-Gordon-like breakout
Kyle Seager, steady 3B with the 4th most XBH of any 3B since his arrival in the bigs
Mike Zunino, best college bat in his draft and outstanding receiver behind the plate
Justin Smoak, terrific defensive 3B with lefty power potential and switch-hitting who can relax and hit 5th by midseason
Brad Miller, wunderkind SS and ACC POY who rocketed through the minors without a hiccup
He then added perennial 30 HR/ 30 2B righty Corey Hart to help balance the lineup, a backup plan for OF/1B with LoMo, and the 240 million dollar man in future HOFer Cano. On paper it looks like a 90 / 90 / 100 / 100 / 100 / 110 / 120 / 130 / 140 roster with any half-decent CF (hey, Saunders can do that, right?). That’s a winner. Maybe not a pennant-winner, but an over-.500 offense. Heck, he even had Nick Franklin, Montero and Ji-Man Choi hanging out in Tacoma in case somebody falters. A full roster of potential WITH minors depth a l a Oakland. Spend your first 2 months figuring out what you got, then go to war the next 4 months right?
But we needed pitching. We shoved a vet on as a #5 pitcher in Taylor once Wolf turned us down, but Jack didn’t want to waste any more money on Harangs and Millwoods. He wanted to roll his big guns out there. Felix, Kuma, Walker, Paxton and the vet #5, with Maurer, E-Ram, Elias, Beavan, Noesi all in reserve… he had a bevy of options in case something happened to one of those guys.
So then 3 of ‘em went down and Young had to be stretched out. Is that bad planning or bad luck? If it was one year, I’d say bad planning. With the Good Ship Mariner aiming at every iceberg in the North Sea and hitting many of ‘em this last decade, we’re within our rights to feel like bad luck and bad planning might go together.
Can Zduriencik survive this? If the Mariners turn it around RIGHT NOW and start winning half their games for the rest of the year, with exciting young hitters and arms giving us a fighting chance in every game, does he keep his job? If we wind up with mid-70s wins or lower (and .500 ball from here out only gets us to there) does Jack get another run at it with his guys? I mean if the young pitchers are who we think they are, and the hitters start to get it together, do we fire the GM and let somebody else finish baking the pie that he keeps screwing up?
The minors are still full of promising hitters and quality young pitchers, with another likely crop coming in this June. The big-league club has trade pieces and club-controlled players galore. If Jack isn’t the one who can make something out of all those pieces, then somebody else should be brought in to clean it up.
Jack has done the first part of his job – the roster is turned over, we have lots of young pieces with some top talents among them.
But Jack can’t seem to get the other pieces to make all those young pieces productive. Maybe it’s beyond him. His death per the ancient code would be an honorable one as he made mostly-justifiable yet incorrect moves that did not especially weaken the Mariners future, just their present. But the kids are gonna have to show REALLY well in May and June (and July, and August…) to excuse this April faceplant.
I don’t know that I believe the current FO and management can do what is necessarily to bring even that moderate resurgence out of them. But we’ll see. As I watch this potential sweep by the former worst-team-in-the-AL, it’s hard to see a turnaround in our future. I may simply not have the imagination or enough acid tabs to conjure up that image. Pink Elephants on Parade… Dum dum de dum…
"We observe the Ms ownership in their natural habitat, whose wetlands has expanded into an even more lush environment in the past half-decade..."
Zduriencik in theory made good moves at the time, but that for unforeseeable circumstances they didn't work out. While you may sympathize that some moves we all applauded at the time just didn't work out the way anyone envisioned, in the end you must judge Jack by his results. You don't pay him to make right moves in theory. You pay him to get results. Reasons could be multiplied upon reasons why we should cut him some slack and give him more time, and they have been offered over and over. But at some point theory has to give way to what we actually see on the field in the sixth year of the regime.
It's definitely true that it's only April, and a quick turnaround might change our tune. But more of the what we've seen over the last few years (a few promising runs overshadowed by thoroughly mediocre or bad baseball) ought not to be enough to sustain this regime, especially when it's failures seem to be the repeats of things we've seen previously.
Doesn't help much either.
It is not so much the failures that have bothered me, but the failures to recognize those failures and move on. For as large a market as we have, we should never be crippled by bad contracts: Figgins, Ichiro, Bradley, Silva, etc. Those salaries prevented the team from acquiring players who could have actually been useful, and there is no excuse. They stubbornly chose to be crippled, and used those players as scapegoats for not winning. If players acquired in trade or FAs don't work out, move on to players that can. Does it take 2000 ABs or a 'roids bust to find out players aren't all you expected? I don't care which players you settle on, just make the effort to field a championship level team. They won't always win it, but they'll be in it. Every year, we settle for less, like we're not really trying to win, only wishing fans into the seats and having a good time at the Safe.
was my mantra for his first three years, last year brought doubts to mind, this past off-season and all since have removed my doubts. Jack's limit is as a scouting director, his personnel decision making and management style are flawed. I think he should go, no matter what happens from now to the end of the season. I just don't see management/ownership (A) doing it until after the season and not then if he gets near to .500 (B) being able to recognize and hire a decent replacement.
Even though I still have chest pain whenever I think of the Fister trade, I have to sat that it is interesting that the decisions primarily made by Z (trades, drafts etc that have given us such a stocked farm) have in general been much more solid than decision based on valuations that can more accurately be described as "consensus MLB valuations"… like obtaining Smoak, Montero, Ackley etc. If you separate things that way and look at decisions that he basically "owns" his record looks a little better.
Of course there have been several near misses as well like Fielder and Hamilton.
If Jack can't deliver a winning team this season (I'll settle for 81-81), he should fall on his sword. This is his team, and his team has come of age. If his team can't win, he has failed. He's put his guys into place: Seager, Ackley, Smoak, Miller, Zunino (Montero the glaring omission here), and placed them in the warm blanket of Felix and Cano for security. He hired the manager. After this season, he's out of excuses. I don't even want to hear of injuries. He has Franklin, Saunders, Montero around for backup, as well as his vaunted farm system.
The principal findings of the Baker Report were that Jack Z is (1) a jerk, (2) a backstabber, and (3) a fraud (in so many words!). #1 can work both ways for a high powered exec. #2 is troubling, but it seems the folks left with knives in the back weren't big losses to the franchise anyway, so it hasn't much mattered. #3 is the truly meaningful (and surprising) charge - and this season we are witnessing closing arguments in the trial of GMZ for the high crime of Talent Evaluation Fraud.
It's funny, we always hear about how JZ won't pull the trigger on any trades of our prospects because they aren't "properly valued" by the rest of the league. It is seeming more and more likely that the rest of the league knows what it's doing.
All that said, I hope we turn the corner, this year started so promising!