Dissecting the Mariners' Front Office Mess
I have no doubt that the Mariners have factions, disagreements and people looking out for themselves rather than for the organization. But how is that different from any other sports organization? Or any other business for that matter? While it’s noble and a best case scenario to have every individual focused on the group, the alleged manner in which Zduriencik got the Mariners job – by having Blengino fill out the application packet he sent to the team – is indicative of a go-along to get-along strategy. In other words, you help me and I’ll bring you along with a nice fat promotion and greater name recognition to advance yourself. I doubt Blengino was participating in the subterfuge for his own enjoyment or because he loved Zduriencik.
So what’s the agenda for Blengino now? The simple answer is that he’s angry about being fired and wants payback. But that’s too easy. Does Blengino want to be the next Keith Law? Is he hoping his brutal candor and slowly dropped nuggets of more information forthcoming will get the attention of ESPN or some other large media entity for a lucrative, ivory tower job like Law has with a bevy of loyal followers hanging on every word he says because he worked in a big league front office? As a result of this story, everyone knows who Blengino is.
As for Wedge, his statements are harder to dismiss as someone with a vendetta telling stories because he wasn't let go. He resigned from the job when the team was willing to give him another year on his contract. Wedge is old-school and tough. If he says Zduriencik was a yes man for Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong, he's telling it as he sees it. But that too isn't unusual in a business for a GM to do as he's told and try to survive in any way possible.
So where does that leave us when examining the Mariners? If Zduriencik got the job under false pretenses as an amalgam of scouting and stat-based theories, then he was either going to have to be really lucky or adapt on the fly to maintain the ruse and succeed. Initially, it worked. From the start, the “genius” of Zduriencik was bought without protest by the rank and file fans and media. This piece by Joel Sherman in the New York Post was one of his familiar hatchet jobs against the Mets, but it was also a lusty love letter to Zduriencik that, in retrospect, was ridiculous. Based on the 2009 season in which the Mariners won 85 games after having lost 101 in Bill Bavasi’s last year as GM in 2008, Zduriencik was considered the perfect combination of GM who had a scouting background but was willing to use stats to unearthplayers who were underappreciated such as Franklin Gutierrez in exchange for his own overvalued, overpaid closer J.J. Putz.
The truth of the 2009 season vs. 2008 is that the 2008 team, talent wise, was not a 100-loss roster. J.J. Putz and Erik Bedard got hurt, Jose Vidro, Kenji Johjima and Richie Sexson didn’t hit, and the season unraveled before it even got started. With the firing of Bavasi, the Mariners turned to Zduriencik. He did a few smart things such as trading Putz in a massive three-team trade brining the Mariners useful pieces Gutierrez, Mike Carp and Jason Vargas. He signed Russell Branyan and got a career year out of him. He manufactured a closer in David Aardsma.