Jeff basically demolishes my argument, patting me on the butt along the way.
I've spent 12 years writing that --- > the Seattle Mariners' attempts to win a championship were severely handicapped by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. Not primarily by Mike Hargrove, not by Bill Bavasi, not by all of the men in the carousel under them, but by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong -- and the weird ownership power structure that has given them free reign to play George Steinbrenner.
For about the first 6 years of that, DOV/SSI was writing it alone. Then Geoff Baker arrived, and slowly he started talking more and more about the absentee owner, and Lincoln, and Armstrong. He gradually became less and less compromising about it, and now On Pearl Harbor Day he declares war. I'm glad he did. SSI is with him on it.
The TIMING is frustrating. We finally, at long last, have hit the point where the TV money, and Armstrong's retirement, and Lincoln's apparent desperation to salvage a legacy, have --- > the Mariners bringing in Robinson Cano, an ace pitcher, a cleanup hitter, two Michael Pinedas and a real chance to win.
After 12 years of wanting to talk about this, now I don't want to talk about it. LOL. But it ain't about me, and DOV/SSI owes you its updated analysis, based on all the latest data. Hopefully this is the last front-page article on it for a while.
Let's do whatever maintenance we need, and get over to Gordon's column on aces. Far more enjoyable :- )
I/O: Terry McDermott and Mike Curto cosign Baker's column. With gusto.
CRUNCH: Terry is a first-class political journalist, not from this area, and has had a fine career. He was kind enough to post his /cosign on SSI.
Curto is the world's nicest guy, his honesty is a given, and for him to cosign Baker's op-ed is also decisive.
As you know, my respect for Baker is IMMENSE. As everybody knows, SSI was the first to have his back in Seattle. His column is indeed a "tip of the iceberg" type article, a "here is what's absolutely most provable" piece. It's fair to assume that there is a lot, under the water, that's considerably worse. As Terry also presumes.
Is is also a given that Geoff Baker has the best FEEL for what's going on with the Mariners. I chuckle good-naturedly when fans of other blog authors --- > praise them highly for their feel of the situation. No, Geoff Baker is the one with access, the one with a feel for it, and the one willing to TELL you what is going on. He always has been.
And therefore you, the SSI reader, have had a feel for it, since you're the ones listening to the right people. That's just the fact.
Even now, Divish is telling the Seahawks and everybody else, "buckle your seat belts" because Baker has been unleashed in all sports. That has been the way since Baker got here ...
From what we can tell, the Mariners did not particularly enact reprisals against Baker's independence, like I was expecting them to do. If not, it's indeed to Zduriencik's credit that he treated the "maverick" investigative journalist as well as he did.
Q. Is it a piece more about Lincoln and Armstrong, or more about Zduriencik?
A. Baker has always talked 90% about Lincoln, Armstrong, and the absentee owner.
This morning we got up and carefully re-read Baker's piece. Here again, Baker does what he did for years on his video shows, making the following points:
- Having an absentee owner, who doesn't care about baseball, cripples the entire organization
- Chuck Armstrong has been ossified in power for 25 years, with NO accountability to win
- Lincoln and Armstrong fancy themselves GM's and they are totally unqualified to do so
- The jury is out as to Jack Zduriencik's credentials to GM
- Eric Wedge is being evaluated unfairly; the losing isn't really his fault
My own position is this: baseball fans are interested in evaluating the manager and GM. Time and again they turn their attention that those men.
Baker has appeared on his video blog, and calmly informed people that the city of Seattle is allowing the OWNERSHIP of the Mariners to exploit the city and ruin the ballclub. Time and again people have ignored that, to focus on Jack Zduriencik's NRI's and Eric Wedge's nightly lineup.
Geoff can correct me if I'm wrong, but his article looks consistent with the message he has pushed for the last several years. His message is: there is no way for the Mariners to win, when the Top-Down Message is that the city is just lucky to have baseball at all.
Q. What about the GM being difficult to work with?
A. Terry maintains that baseball people are used to better treatment than Zduriencik gives -- that "Mom & Pop" organizations have to concern themselves more with office morale, than Nintendo or Boeing do.
We'll agree to mostly disagree. I myself have spent my consulting career, regarding it to be my job to get along with my bosses. I'm guessing that Bat571 always considered it his job to get along with his superiors.
Earl Weaver, in a BASEBALL context, talked at length about the Yankees' offer to him. The fiery manager said that he could have gotten along with George Steinbrenner (!) just fine, for any length of time, because it "would have been my job to get along with him, not the other way around."
As to the Worker Bees "rubbing shoulders more with the execs," in baseball, than they do with execs... it's a great point.
But still ...in any given organization, in a big company like Microsoft, there are only 50 or 100 people within the heirarchy, including the 3rd- and 4th-levels, and they all work together. 60,000 people don't work in the same org at Boeing. The Mariners' org, and the 777 Quality Assurance org, are comparable companies.
THAT SAID, I will cheerfully admit that if I were a baseball GM, I would pay a lot of attention to morale. Those people obviously work long, long hours together, and they are used to genteel treatement from their bosses.
A good GM, in baseball, SHOULD consider morale part of his job, in a way that Nintendo execs do not. To some degree.
Q. Should a scout and analyst "work with" the GM, or "work for" him?
A. I ain't going to sign off on the Moneyball scouts who become enraged when Billy Beane fails to obey their wishes. Bill James relays that this is exactly the way scouts and analysts behave, if you give them half a chance.
Geoff Baker could, I'm sure, write ANOTHER column on the entitlement complex of people like Tony Blengino.
From where I sit, Tony Blengino works for Jack Zduriencik. "Worked" for.
Q. In Baker's column, there is a good part of it saying that in 2009-11, "It was the Jack and Tony show." Is that appropriate?
A. And then, people turn around and characterize the GM as inaccessible. I firmly insist that their calibration is way off.
Zduriencik consolidated power and then told Blengino "Now we do it my way." That is exactly what we M's fans were HOPING for, that a GM would get to that point. Inside Pitch told us, our only forlorn hope was "for the M's to lose enough, that the suits would let the GM do it his way."
It's the little check-points like this where I differ with Geoff Baker. The right way to run a $300M company is a philosophical issue.
Q. How does one apply "advanced stats analytics" to the .... amateur draft?! The column says that was Blengino's biggest contribution.
A. One doesn't.
You can't make sense of amateur baseball statistics.
Blengino's successes, in the article, are represented as being in "the DRAFT work that earned him the team President's Award in 2009." Throughout the article, this is pushed as Blengino's big contribution.
The Mariners did NOT make their decisions by applying "advanced stats analytics" to Nick Franklin and Taijuan Walker in high school.
Another example, Dustin Ackley, the #2 overall behind Stephen Strasburg, was by far the best college hitter. Zunino was another absolute no-brainer with a super-high draft pick. These picks were not sabermetric picks; they were picks an educated child would have made.
You can't show me a Mariners draft pick that was made because of a wOBA translation out of NCAA.
... Baker's a great journalist. His columns aren't sacred scripture. Don't treat them that way.
Q. Why would you emphasize DRAFT work by Blengino? Even he wouldn't claim that he's Roger Jongewaard or Bob Fontaine ... or Jack Zduriencik, who masterminded the Brewers' draft gains.
A. Like Mojician says ... supposing you give Blengino credit for the MAJOR league roster in 2009-11. When they scored 513 runs.
Here's where I do wish, TJM's input notwithstanding, that there had been some balance here. If the Mariners were run by "advanced stats analytics" in 2009-11...
Why not a single line -- one line -- to point out that Blengino's Mariners lost 101 games in 2010 and 95 more in 2011?
The M's won 85 games in 2009, and Blengino was all over the front pages, taking bows and waving to the crowd, saying that UZR was the new Moneyball, remember? Wouldn't it be FAIR to MENTION that in 2010, the Casey Kotchman ballclub lost 101 games?
We've spent and will spend, literally, 500,000 words, holding Jack Zduriencik accountable. How about 500 words holding Blengino accountable?
Q. During what era did Chone Figgins become the big free agent add? Blengino's, or Zduriencik's?
This is my complaint with the statboys. They have ZERO interest in answering for it, when their recommendations blow up.
"Well, it was based on the best information at the time." There is NO interest in self-examination.
Q. Is the jury out on Zduriencik's "credentials"?
A. Yes, it is!
This has been what Baker has said for years: it is an OPEN QUESTION whether Jack Zduriencik is the right man for the job.
I agree with that. So do you.
"Credentials" are stupid, by the way. I care about how GOOD somebody is, not what's on his resume. "Qualifications" are a means to an end: you are trying to figure out how GOOD somebody is.
Take a shortcut. Just ask how good the guy is.
This happens again, and again, and again, in the blog-o-sphere. Zduriencik signs Willie Bloomquist and we start all over again: "What is Jack Zduriencik's IQ? What were his SAT's?"
Do you think that Marilyn vos Savant would make a good GM? Do you think that Pat Gillick or Walt Jocketty speak six languages? Do you think that the typical self-made millionaire had great SAT scores?
The Seattle obsession with IQ, the hysterical frenzy to judge every man by his grades in college, it is sickening.
My own IQ is fine, thanks for asking. This isn't sour grapes. The fact is: in college, IQ is very helpful. Anywhere else, IQ matters a lot less than those blog authors wish it did. How good a man is at his job, and what his IQ is, it just doesn't correlate much.
A low IQ was not Adolf Hitler's problem. A high IQ was not George Washington's secret.
IQ doesn't mean much --- > next to focus, willingness to learn, and good judgment. Ask anybody who has ever been a big success at anything.
I dunno how good Zduriencik is. They pitched him the ball this winter. We're going to find out.
Q. Where are you on the GM-stats thing, with all information in?
A. There's a small adjustment to be made here.
Those who characterize Zduriencik as "not understanding one iota about statistics" are wayyyyy off the mark.
However, it is increasingly clear that Zduriencik -- after he listens to the stats -- prefers to emphasize his own field-level scouting view of the players. As Pat Gillick did.
As a sabermetrician, chessplayer, and artificial-intelligence student, I am sharply aware of the fact that human intuition can often trump computer decisionmaking.
I've got nothing against data. But from the context of chess, I know what nobody else seems to know: that the human brain is the most complicated computer in the universe. Pat Gillick might very well be able to project a Nelson Cruz in a manner no algebraic formula can.
Jack Zduriencik gave Blengino his shot, or so says the Times, and the result was a disaster. Now he says he's going to try it Gillick's way -- armed with a staff of consultants, but basing his final call on intuition.
In a vacuum, I've got no problem with that approach. Whether Jack Zduriencik's intuition is in any way comparable to Pat Gillick's, we shall soon find out.
Q. Leaving us where? What are we WATCHING for, now?
A. It's interesting to learn that Jack Zduriencik is so tough to get along with, by baseball standards. That's an important 'put, going forward. 1) To what extent will the internal morale handicap the M's success?
That Lincoln and Armstrong, and the Top-Down Message, were undercutting the baseball operation, we were painfully aware ... the question is, 2) Will the public pressure change anything?
Zduriencik's using a Gillick-style GM approach to decide things, going forward. The success of that will depend on 3) Whether Zduriencik is cut from anything like Gillick cloth.
Those three questions, those are the questions that Baker's column has called into question.
Great piece, man. Really tremendous.
Beyond a certain threshold, the success of high performing executives does not correlate with their IQ. It takes a certain minimum level of brains to do the job, the supersmart guys aren't really any better at it than the ones who are 'just smart enough'. Conversely, those with a high level of 'emotional intelligence' DID correlate to higher levels of success. If you know how to work with people well, and keep them motivated to work for you - you're going to be more successful. If Z is smart enough to do the job, but a piss-poor people manager - the M's may have some trouble ahead. Meaning this - when Jack alienates important assets (international scouting, for example) and they quit, the M's have to replace that talent with something unknown. I'm not suggesting that a crusty smart guy won't succeed, there's plenty of examples. But that same smart guy, but a little less crusty, has a heckuva lot higher chance of success. Jack deals with folks at an admin level - whether he's a cranky SOB or not probably won't matter a lot to the players, especially the youth. But the analysts and the scouts and the manager and the coaches who have to answer to him daily - it matters. Jack makes makes decisions based on the input from a lot of people. The less those people trust him and his tactics, the less likely (I belive) they are to go the extra mile and continue to give him good info.
And all those fledgling Mariners who are excited to play don't have any idea about the politcs in the org. It takes a while to see where the snakes lie if you're starstruck about making it to the bigs. A good manager will appropriately shield them from this, and thus the impact of Z's people skills, or lack thereof, should be felt at an organizational pipeline level over time and perhaps less on the field. Unless he hires a jacka$$ for a manager, in which case - all bets are off there, too.
As Doc says - just my $0.02., and probably overvalued at that.
Your comment was resounding. And I agreed with 90% of it.
Especially your point, that --- > baseball-office morale is its own beast, that baseball-office morale is qualitatively different from Nintendo morale ... that has me re-thinking a lot of things. Thanks amigo.
I've never worked for an outfit like the LA Times, or had a book on intelligence ops published, or had your kind of baseball access. When you get time to chime in, I'm pretty much hanging on your every word.
I'm constantly amazed by the deep humility of those blog-o-sphere contributors who have been REAL movers and shakers in the world.
Appreciate that coming from you Grizzle.
Not that they esteem the snitches particularly highly...
Personally I'm not calling Blengino a snitch, not trying to denigrate him. My guess is that in another world we'd have been great friends.
He did go onto the front page of a major newspaper and start a war over reputations. He's going to need to be able to eat it as well as he can dish it out. :: shrug ::
Then it is going to catch up to you. Great execs have the ability to retain their critical people.
Have known many a manager whose Achilles' heel was just that. It may well turn out that Zduriencik's management STYLE becomes his undoing.
If so, Geoff Baker just gave Zduriencik a major push off the ledge, because those under Z will now feel very empowered to push back against unfairness. The pen is mightier than the sword, and Geoff Baker is extremely willing to swing his.
I love that Baker wrote the piece and hope it's a catalyst for 'change we can believe in.' But I despise the decisions by former employees to give him the ammo to do it.
involves a certain amount of destroying what was previously posited. Everyone here knows this. But I'm with tjm; it's nice when you can have parts (even what seem like the central parts) of your position dissected and found lacking while not feeling personally assaulted.
It's what separates this place from the other M's blogs. Even when an idea isn't agreed to be complete or preferable, it's DISCUSSED in a reasonable, calm, tempered fashion that doesn't leave too many welts.
It's hard to find the kind of civility Doc maintains in other places where ideas are so readily exchanged, improved, or discarded by any and all involved. Never is an article written where the tone is that of profound wisdom being benevolently bestowed upon the bleeting masses by an Authority Figure.
Kudos, Doc/Jeff/Jemanji/crazed-Gene-Wilder. I'm constantly amazed that community involvement over here is as low as it is compared to the other sites. Oh well; just leaves more for me ;)
Maybe about 50 regular posters compared to an audience of about 2,000 regular readers.
Back channel, what we usually hear is that --- > it takes a lot of confidence to dive into the discussion. A lot of people feel like they'd "look like idiots" trying to carry on a conversation with you, Gordon, Mojo, Matt, Mo' Dawg, etc.
The conversation threads here don't consist of a subject-line header in boldface and then a one-liner following :- ) ... not that there's anything wrong with a virtual sports bar, if that's your thing.
It's a think tank IN THE COMMENTS THREADS, with a lot of information processed fairly quickly and a lot of people have told me they don't want to bog down the discussion.
We certainly wish they felt welcome to join in. I don't care if their input is "I like Willie's stolen bases" -- that can be part of a baseball discussion, can't it? :- )
Another thing we hear a lot, is that by the time they think of something to say, "somebody else has already said it" ...
If there were some way to move from 50 regular posters to 200, I'd love to see it ...
Maybe the Shout Box will morph into a Chat Thread where casual comments are more frequent?
Curto's second response was really an insightful one on his part, I thought. In addition to kicking the M's FO in the man region, the piece definitely puts the entire Seattle sports scene on notice. We've never seen the like of this before. The M's are a pretty soft target but there are others...
What's the saying? In the absence of criticism, any bureacracy becomes completely self-serving?
Soccer Mom -- no disrespect -- has been just fine with hanging out and watching a .500 team. The environment in which Seattle franchises work, that needs to change IMHO.
You guys here are on a whole 'nother level of brain-power. So many times I read what's been written, both in the main article and in the comments, and I think "what can I possibly add to that??" "How can I further this discussion??" I'm just a guy who has watched a lot of baseball and has opinions, but I can't back up what my eyes tell me with metrics and statistics. I'm grateful that you let me get away with the occasional "this is what my eyes see" post, without having to provide a graph analysis with points along the X, Y, or Z axis. As you mentioned, often by the time I've actually gathered the thoughts from my two brain cells rubbing together and managed to make them as coherent as I can in a comment box, someone else has put forth a similar thought, only much, much better.
I've learned a bunch here. Maybe this old dog can't learn a new trick, but at least you've helped my understanding of the new way people look at the game I've loved for over 50 years. If you can stand more posts from the peanut gallery, I'll work on it.
what you describe as yourself is me. And they put up with ME here. So fire away with comments. The only people that run into trouble here are those who are arrogant and think they know more than anyone else, and act like they know more than they do.
can you imagine Geoff Baker with his current remit in the last days of Don James and the decade that followed in UW sports? Or the Neuheisel era?. Since the UW really does depend on public money, Curto is right - their hatches better get battened!
I have been contemplating the Baker article and your original response, figuring everyone would have moved on before I contributed. I appreciate the reset, but still do not have a crisp synthesis of my own. Instead, I will just add some points that I hope further the conversation.
1) Let me start by stating that the article beautifully makes your point that Armstrong and Lincoln are the core problem. I must admit that I had not been convinced previously. Didn't disagree, but was still on the fence.
2) Zduriencik had no chance. I clearly remember when Bazasi was fired and Zduriencik was hired, that Armstrong said that Bavasi had been given more freedom than previous GM's, so any notice that his failure was a sign of meddling couldn't be true. At the time, this caused some conceptual dissonance for me because I had been reading your persuasive characterization of committee decision making as a core weakness of the organization.
The speculated narrative now has clarity. Armstrong and Lincoln resented carrying the failure of a 'lesser man (Bavasi)', and became determined to hire someone green enough that he would not have the credibility to fight against their meddling. This is why Zduriencik had no chance. He was specifically chosen for two reasons. (1) He was in over his head and would not present viable opposition regarding the management of the MLB team and (2) he had credibility as a scouting director and would rebuild the minors.
I don't think Zduriencik is a bad guy. It is because he isn't a bad guy, that long time acquaintances like Fusco and Blengino are so disillusioned by Zduriencik's behavior. It rings true to me that the stress of being in over his head and struggling to stay afloat could be a clear origin of Zduriencik's bad behavior. Carmen Fusco was a lifelong friend that Zduriencik cut loose to save his job. If that were Zduriencek's true demeanor, don't you think it would have reared it head earlier in their relationship? Wouldn't Fusco have been disappointed, but not bitter about it?
3) The way you characterize middle management's role in an organization does not ring true to me. Zduriencik's job is two fold: keep the people above happy and provide the people below the resources and space to do their jobs. Zduriencik should be a buffer between Lincoln and Wedge, not a conduit. In a successful organization, leadership sets the targets and the boundary conditions within which to pursue them (win baseball games without loosing money and without acquiring players convicted of sexual assault). Firing Zduriencik for the Luecke acquistion could be justified; micromanaging the teaching of situational hitting, not so much.
4) I realize this could question could appear snarky, but I promise that is not the intent. In addition to extensive consulting in high level executive settings, I presume you also spent many years working within F-500 companies? The reason I ask, is my experience is that consultants get a very skewed view of organizational politics. My experience is consultants are hired to appease management from above or they are hired by those who lack the conviction to act on their own impressions. Granted, my experience is not F-500, but is a lot like Boeing where people lose their jobs when the billion dollar government contract goes elsewhere.
5) Blengino comes across as a foolishly naive -- he too appears to have been in over his head.
6) Zduriencik should be judged based on the product on the field. It's not looking good, but he'll get another year. I think there is zero chance Zduriencik is about to burst out of his cocoon and reveal himself as genus Gillick butterfly, but there is a minor chance that he invests MLB dollars in as close to sure things as exist in baseball (Robinson Cano and David Price), so that his expertise in amateur scouting and player development can be the difference maker. That is how the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees did it in the 90's.
According to a Forbes article, average franchise value grew by 23% last year. The Mariners' value only grew by 10%, second least in all of baseball ahead of only the Angels. It also said that average revenue grew by 7%. Mariners' revenue grew by 1.8%, fourth least in all of baseball.
Maybe we're just talking with our money.
Side note, is there a better way to link off-site articles? Tried an tag, but it tried to link to this site first.
You underestimate yourself Brent or more likely, as with DaddyO, you're being humble. LOL.
Your comments are definitely value-added. And even if they weren't, it's always interesting to see any poster co-sign something, from his own camera angle and in his own voice.
Everybody's "voice" is unique and interesting. I can't EVER remember somebody venturing a simple post and thinking, "Wish that guy would pipe down." The new voices are especially fun to read.
2a) Great 'put, and that's why the Lloyd McClendon hiring is worrisome - more of the same. Did Lincoln interview ANY field manager with enough clout to push back?
2b) Extremely insightful - the very fact that Zduriencik started throwing his weight around MIDSTREAM, several years in, is a key clue as to his innate personality. Like we've said, he doesn't sound AT ALL like the kind of powerbroker that truly has people crossing the aisle on the other side of the wall.
5) If there's a Peter Principle at work here, my first thought would have been to apply it to (no disrespect) a SABRMatt type who was suddenly coordinating the DRAFT (?!) and sitting in the office next to the GM.
Maybe SABRMatt could do that, and in a very few years. :- ) But maybe Blengino was an example of a guy who got over-promoted.
Going back to your point 2b) ... we should reflect on the fact that Zduriencik DID CHOOSE to make the "stats guy" his right-hand man.
4) Yeah, I don't take it as snarky at all. Very fair question. I've worked in F-500 off and on since 1990, and may return to it.
Suffice it to say that I've been a Blengino type myself, a "worker bee" who was over-promoted :- ) to run steering committees (because they perceived me to be a consensus-builder and quick study). Honestly, in the years 1990-1995 I was way out of touch with politics both below me and above me, and it cost me dearly. :- )
After I took my lumps, I became known for my handling of politics both above and below me, and definitely didn't serve the purpose of being a "yes man." I've worked with some GREAT executives -- the best I ever knew was a woman, by the way -- and usually, those great execs handed me the ball because of "fresh perspective," the ability to ask "stupid questions" that challenged the status quo.
Don't know if that addresses your questions or not.
Bavasi was picked because he would be easy to manipulate. He was young and had been fired from his only other GM job so he wasn't going to resist Chuck and Howards intrusions. This is apparent from the fact that he never got to hire his own manager (and the managers reported to Chuck and Howard) and Armstrong was in his office constantly. They very deliberately pitted the manager and GM against each other so that they could be involved in every decision. They may have claimed that they weren't meddlers but that was just a self-serving lie.
Hiring Jack represented a different tack. He was older than Bavasi and very highly regarded within the industry. He had much more clout than Bavasi did and he was given a lot more freedom. This is demonstrated by his ability to hire and fire the manager. He was not intended to be a lap dog the way Bavasi was.
surrounding the Bavasi years, and the transition to Z. The whole 'See?! We gave a Bavasi, a Baseball Guy (tm) the reins and he torpedoed us! No WAY we're doing THAT again,' just sounds to me like covering their tracks and (mis)directing the entire conversation. When those quotes first surfaced years ago, my gut response was, "Uh oh...Doc was right; these guys are SERIOUS meddlers. Within THEIR OWN NARRATIVE they're describing the situation by HOW MUCH they meddled; not whether nor not it should be allowed in the first place."
But hey, I could be way off-base. I've just known too many execs whose behavior aligned with my perception of LincStrong's roles that I tossed it in the "Pattern Recognized" file and moved on.
Seriously, M's season ticket sales were
Two quick items: 1) Baker’s column rings 100% true with my experience, & 2) every sports team in Seattle needs to be ready for his new role
— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) December 8, 2013
I find myself sometimes thinking of something stupid I said at some point or another long ago. I've said many stupid things in my life, oh well.
I honestly find it that people seem to avoid pointing it out here more often than not. I don't mind the learning that comes from having those things pointed out because it's generally not too direct here and doesn't lead to name calling and IQ debates ;)
My problem is that I often write things most of the way, get distracted by something or another and find it either not timely or just not worth pursuing when I get back to it. Sometimes it's because I researched and found my own error. A-ha! But there's a good mix of people who think different ways and it's rare to see someone arguing entirely alone when a topic gets a lot of response and interchange.
Anyway, I love talking with you guys. I do read a lot more than I write most of the time. I still feel stupid occasionally.
Loved the piece and learned a lot from it. It's not a side of the game that I feel confident in any convictions on it. Reading all your insights on it has been welcomed.
Give this one a Wilkie Button!
MarinersAnalyst on MarinersCentral several years ago ran a series of heavily researched articles documenting that the commonly perceived business acumen and success of the Lincoln/Armstrong management team is a myth, at least with regards to the Mariners franchise. It is absolutely true that the duo has presided over a decade in which franchise value increased sizeably. But as you point out, kriskrosed, they have done so in a period when, excuse the hyperbole, a trained monkey could have done so.
I mean really. Who could have bungled the franchise more than Lincoln/Armstrong have done? And yet the rising tide has still managed to lift their boat. The measurement of their acumen and success is not whether franchise value has increased, but whether it has increased to the degree that it could and should have given the cirumcstances inherited going into the last decade. And the answer clearly is that Lincoln/Armstrong's business sense is seriously overrated, IMO. If they were the proprietors of my multimillion dollar business they would long ago have been fired for business reasons alone, never mind their baseball failures.
An excellent point bsr. Are we to think that Baker has collected all his ammunition and used it up in one fell blow? Or should we expect that he has available some serious followup material? Having seen the attempt by the M's to brush his story away as the complaints of sourpusses, does Baker's history lead us to believe he will simply melt into the background and accept the marginalization of his material?
You read various takes, many with some seriously constructive contributions (from the standpoint of understanding). Kudos Gaffer (kgaffney). You have taken many elements and woven them into a coherent scenario, admittedly speculative to some degree, but illuminative taken as a whole.
Jeff, I thought some context would provide additional clarity to your perspective for me. As I hope you understand, it wasn't a case of me doubting the validity of your point of view.
@CoolPapaBell: I agree that may very well be true, but it does contradict my memory of what Armstrong or Lincoln (can't remember for sure) said at the time. Though, as misterjonez and you state, this could have just been a self-serving message. All the same, I struggle to resonate with your characterization of Bavasi and Zduriencik. Zduriencik was getting a significant promotion, while Bavasi was beening hired to do a job he had performed previously. Sure he had been fired, but that is par the course. Zduriencik's age is a detriment to his independence, not an asset. This is likely his only shot at a GM job, so he is indebted to Lincoln and Armstrong in a manner distinct from Bavasi.
@DaddyO: Thanks for the complement. My narrative is clearly speculative, and CoolPapaBell is correct that it doesn't align with all the facts. I do stand by the notion that Zduriencik's struggles are consistent with someone in over his head and that Armstrong and Lincoln like it that way and likely planned it that way.
My instinct is in complete agreement with you on this.
Sunlight in dark places is the best disinfectant -- Baker has done a great service to all M's fans with this article. Lincoln's meddling has been exposed for ALL to see, not just hard-core fans and insiders who were already aware of the severe dysfunction in the M's FO. Exposing a problem is often the first step to resolving it. Looking on the bright side: half the problem (Armstrong) is leaving soon. Hiring a strong, independent, baseball-experienced replacement for Armstrong would go a long way to solving the remaining half by putting a baseball-knowledgable buffer between GMZ and Lincoln. I am hopeful that Lincoln renders the franchise a great service by hiring such a person. (Who are good candidates - Larry Beinfest? Kim Ng? Others?)
but to me it is hope against likelihood that Lincoln will hire a strong, independent replacement for Armstrong. He has shown no propensity to do so in the past, though perhaps you are right that Baker's "service" is sufficient to scare him into doing so while the spotlight is on him. Still, if it is possible to combine hopefulness with doubtfulness, that describes my concern that it is Lincoln doing the hiring.
I haven't contributed much to the whole Baker thread, mostly because I'm not sure I know enough to contribute meaningfully. But I'm aware of this, the Baker info and the Curto stuff remains only part of the iceberg. There's a lot we aren't/haven't/won't see, really until Z makes his stand on this. And, of course, that will be filtered through his needs, just as the others have been, too.
I'm not sure I see dysfunction here. I do see tumult, but that isn't always dysfunction. I have a daughter who will be 18 in 10 days and another who is 15. Between they and their mother, there is occasional tumult in my house. I don't think there is ever dysfunction.
You get the idea.
I see Z as a GM searching: To find himself, to identify and trust his abilities, to find the right fit at Manager, to carefully pick (and win the ones he picks) his battles with the shirts upstairs.
Do you think he quotes Hamlet? I wouldn't be surprised.
The Wak/Figgins fiasco really is the best example of Z struggling to find his GM self. He blew that one from top to bottom, except in the hiring of Wak, who I think was a fine manager. Here Z struggled mightily. Figgins was a bad hire, compounded by Z's stubbornness/failure to acknowledge it. Figgins had value....if dumped quickly. Wak went, however, not Figgins. How could he (Z) dump his first big FA signing? I'm sure that was his mindset. But in the end, he had made a bad bet, and then he raised it.
That move, I think caused him to distrust SABR-ish numbers and to trust more in his own "old-time" scouting sense.
He hasn't chased a "SABR" type FA since. Even Jaso was an OBP/quasi-masher guy. Z's chased bonkers, or guys who once did bonk. OPB is hardly a SABR-ish monopoly now, BTW.
I've been no real Z fan, but I think he's now begun to find his way as a GM, in relation to how he evaluates player talent. Part of it was that he got lucky in two badly advised trade/signing efforts last year...and I think he knows it. I don't know what the McClendon hiring says. I think it says that he wasn't willing to risk hiring a guy with no managerial (MLB experience). He played this one safely. I would have preferred the guy from Oakland, but I'll go along.
So I think what we see, is an oldtime baseball guy (a great judge of young talent but not of comparative talent, at the MLB level) who was wrapped in a SABR image. It was an image he couldn't carry off.......and I think that led to much of the tumult of which we read.
He's better now. Which isn't to say he's good. He's certainly been hobbled by the shirts, to some degree....but then they are the shirts. They have a role, I think Z has been better at dealing with the shirts above than dealing with the shirts (including the Manager) below. There is probably a psychological explanation there. My bet is he still sees himself as a talent finder, not an organizational pilot.
But there is much below the surface of this we haven't seen.....and won't get a better picture of until Z is no longer an M.
I'll be the contrarian. The fawning over this article and its author is making me nauseous. His point, that Lincoln/Armstrong are inept and ruining the franchise aren't new and haven't been unstated. This blog has taken that position for years. Turn on either of the towns two main sports talk stations and you'll hear somebody make that point almost every time the Mariners are brought up. What's different with Baker is his completely amoral approach in how he tackles the subject. Just like in the Lucas Luetge situation Baker takes aim at the front office and uses other peoples heads as battering rams to achieve his goals.
There is a large difference between a hard hitting article and a hit piece. Giving an angry, fired ex employee a platform to attack UNCHALLENGED and without disclaimer or qualifiers is irresponsible and unethical. It doesn't matter if the subject chooses not to comment. A contrary quote from someone else or a sentence or two admitting the sources bias is mandatory. That's the difference between balance and tabloid hit pieces.
Would anybody here want their ex wife to be given a high profile public platform to attack them? Mine would only be too happy to tell the world that I worship the devil every Sunday and I stomp on kittens in my free time for fun.
Think that's hyperbole? You need to spend some time reading the New York/Boston/LA sports tabloids. (Actually don't do that to yourself.) Divorce documents and ex wife quotes can and do find there way into sports hit pieces. In my book quoting fired ez employees is only half a step above one from an ex wife.
If Geoff Baker were not interested in sports i think he'd fit right in at TMZ. Is this where we want sports journalism to go in this town?
I'm sure the M's organization is dysfunctional, and it sounds like it's horrible to work for Jack (although I am certain the line is long for folks who would die for the opportunity to make a living working for the Mariners), but I just don't see the connection between all this meddling and Jackie meaness and the inability of Ackley to hit, Montero to catch and hit, Franklin to keep from having a second half freshman slump, Hultzen from tearing up his shoulder, Capps from getting a clue, Wilhelmsen from rediscovering his curve ball, Smoak from meeting his potential, Guti from staying healthy (we sent him to the Mayo clinic for heavens sake!) and etc., etc. Even the horrible Leuke disaster turned into a big plus for the Mariners as they flipped him for Jaso. If Lincoln and Armstrong's ditzyness kept Fielder and Hamilton from signing with us, then that kinda worked to our favor, because I'd much rather have Cano at these prices.
If there is some sort of deficit on this team that is truly reflecting on the on field performance, it appears to be coaching at the major league level. The kids come in with minor league success, and have limited success translating to the major league level, potential falls far short of reality. From Baker's article, it appeared Z wanted to discuss this with Wedge before the contract extension: Here is how Baker described it:
Wedge met Zduriencik in his private suite Thursday before the season’s final series. He wanted his status resolved before players left for the winter, but says Zduriencik began a point-by-point recitation of coaching staff issues.
“He kept saying more and more stuff about early work, about bullpen (sessions), about our starting pitchers,” Wedge said. “You can pick anything to death if you want to. But I’m not going to sit there and let him crush our coaches. I said ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this. Shame on you.’ ”
Wedge told Zduriencik he’d honor his contract through season’s end, then walked out.
“I’m not going to stand by and let them treat other human beings the way they treat human beings,” he said. “I’m not going to stand by and let them disrespect the game.”
What am I missing here?
I went back and read and researched the whole Gillick and Piniella and Jeff Nelson controversies, and it appears the whole problem was that they all wanted to spend more money and make more deals in August than Lincoln and Armstrong were willing to. I totally understand the frustration there, but I also don't remember any low hanging fruit available in July and August 2002 and 2003 that would have served us well. Of course, I could think of a number of really helpful guys who could have stepped in and given us a real shot in the arm had we not dealt them earlier for similar reasons: guys like Ortiz, Jose Cruz Jr., Jason Varitek, Derick Lowe.
There is FO dysfunction - but I gotta say that to my eyes there's a lot less of it the last couple years than there's been over the course of 1997-2010 as the team lunged from trading out of desperation, to not signing FA's when they needed to, to signing the wrong ones, to trading in desperation, etc. etc.
This is the only time I can really say I understand what the team is trying to accomplish. Doc said it well in his "We're at that Point" post. We are moving from Nice Night at the Ballpark" to We're Playing to Win. So, yeah, there is dysfunction at the top. But a lot less of it than I remember there being for a long time.
Right out of the gate Mitch asks him about how many people Baker interviewed for the article, and as part of his answer he says that he interviewed about "two dozen" people. Interestingly, he said about half were people currently working inside the organization. These, of coure, were not willing to speak for attribution. http://www.sportsradiokjr.com/media/podcast-mitch-in-the-morning-ondeman...
Baker also said that the Mariners had advance notice that the story was coming out. IIRC, he said they knew the rough outline of what was coming on the Monday before it came out. The story broke on Saturday evening. The Cano signing went down overnight Thursday night, again IIRC.
The point is, it raises the question, did the M's press on with signing Cano in spite of the story (i.e., had they made the decision prior to their knowledge of the story?), or because of it (i.e., had they made the decision after learning about the story, and was the Cano signing at least in part a reaction to it)?
There is, of course, a third possibility, that they made their decision after learning about the story, but the story did not have a major impact on their decision to sign Cano. The Mariners had made clear their intent to make a splash well before they knew about the story. But was the size of the splash they ended up making influenced by the need to overcome an even bigger hurdle than the one they faced before the story? And dare we even wonder if the timing of the deal (overnight Thursday night) was influenced by what they might have learned about the timing of the actual release of the story? Is it possible that instead of Baker supposedly trying to sabotage the M's best moment in forever, the M's hurried the conclusion of their attempts to sign Cano in order to get it completed before the story broke?
By the way, here is a link to an interview with Baker on 710 ESPN Radio Seattle:http://mynorthwest.com/?nid=577&a=9964939&p=38&n=
The level of baseball acumen here certainly humbles me to the point of muteness, but I have been following Jeff (Dr. Detecto, Jemanji, et al) for over a decade. It's not that I necessarily agree with all of his points, but they WAY they are presented hooks me. It's what keeps me coming back here and away from the other sites. Meeting other ideas with derision is stifling and it's way too common on some of the other bball blogs.
BTW, I have posted once...not on this site, rather one of your other defunct sites and I was the poster who said something akin to, "I like what (insert player) does," or some other inanity that I could muster up. After re-reading that and comparing that to what else was being said that shut me up for the better part of a decade. So thanks for giving me an opening where I could feel comfortable enough to post something. I'll go back to lurking...
More voices in the choir is always appreciated, even if you're reading from a different sheet of music -- or sometimes ESPECIALLY if you're reading from a different sheet of music ;)
This community, more than any other I've been a part of in the last decade, is nurturing and supportive of dissenting opinions and the introduction (or re-introduction) of material which many might view as redundant. There IS value in 'stating the obvious,' or 'mustering inanity' if you're trying to express ideas. Heck, I've seen five and ten article tangents generated by someone's almost completely off-topic reply to an article which clearly outlined an interesting point which was being overlooked -- even if that angle appeared to be totally unrelated to the subject at hand..
So by all means, stick around and pop into the conversation whenever you feel like it. We don't play whack-a-mole with new posters like some other sites :)