Ten Mostly Inappropriate Questions for Jack Z.

Carson Cistulli · August 18, 2010 at 10:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

A lot of you guys (and ladies) are lucky: per yesterday’s announcement, not only will you be able to high-five each other all day and all night at the Hot Sexy USSM Event on September 4th, but you’ll be able to talk directly to the man who’s as likely as anyone to bring the very first World Series Championship to Seattle, Washington.

I’m speaking, of course, about Mariner GM Jack Z.

In the comments section of said announcement, reader Chris_From_Bothell raises a legitimate concern, however, about how questions will be posed to the Honored Guest. Chris suggests that perhaps questions could be fielded from the crowd before Jack appears, so’s to — in Chris’s words — “[get] the most out of the time, [have] a minimum # of microphones or presenters, [remove] duplicate questions or rambling speakers, and so on.” All those are legitimate concerns.

I’m willing to argue that Chris’s represents a rather optimistic view of the human race — a view where mere “rambling” is the worst-case scenario for this Q and A period.

While, in real life, I think I’d probably be able to contain myself and play the part of the good citizen, there definitely exists a parallel universe where — shamelessly and without a hint of self-awareness — I use the Event as an opportunity to ask the VIP any sort of question I’d like. Nor do I think I’m unique in this regard: most of us, were we caught on the right day — perhaps with the right amount of fermented beverage in our gullet — might transgress the unspoken rules of such an occasion and ask questions that are inappropriate, uncomfortable.

In what follows, I ask ten questions that the readership would probably be better off not asking — or at least not asking in the way they’re phrased below.


1. This year’s roster was very clearly subject to a great deal of variance. Erik Bedard, Milton Bradley, even Jose Lopez: had everything come together, the team would’ve been hard to beat. As it is, the team is terrible. Question: Would you do it again — i.e. construct a roster that could finish anywhere between 65 and 90 wins? Or has this season taught you to avoid such a strategy?

2. Is Dave Cameron’s pre-season ranking of the Mariners in FanGraphs’ Organizational Rankings — No. 6 overall, in case you didn’t see — is that, as many have suggested, an act of rampant homerism? Or does Dave Cameron maybe have a clue what he’s talking about?

3. Any chance I could serve as your right-hand man? I mean, I see that you’ve got an Assistant GM and a Special Assistant to the GM, but I don’t see anyone in the organization expressly designated Right-Hand Man. I could do that so hard. When do I start?

4. The Ken Griffey Jr. re-signing, appeared to work out as poorly as possible. First, was this something you could’ve predicted at the beginning of the season? (Not that he’d fall asleep in the clubhouse and stuff, but that his performance would be so poor and he’d have so strong a hold over the clubhouse?) Second, to what degree was your decision to fire Wakamatsu directly related to the whole Griffey thing?

5. Regarding Brandon Morrow: Did you trade him because he wasn’t “your guy,” or because there were legitimate concerns about his ability to contribute as a starter? (I guess “little of both” is a reasonable, if unspectacular, response.) Do you regard what he’s done this year as, like, the 90th-plus percentile of possible outcomes for this season?

6. With regard to Brandon League: last year, his splitter was, as Matthew Carruth writes, the toughest pitch to hit, and he threw it about 35% of the time. This year, he’s throwing it way less often, and his strikeout rate has suffered predictably, down from 9.16 K/9 to 6.21 K/9. The xFIPs aren’t that different (3.53 last year, 3.16 this one), but it seems like that splitter is too good not to throw. What gives? Is this League’s choice, or an organizational mandate?

7. I wasn’t joking about that Right-Hand Man thing. What’s that? Restraining Order?

8. How much do you guys — and by “you guys” I mean the Seattle Mariners — how much do you know about measuring/valuing defense? How far off is UZR? Tell us right now… or else.

9. Is there a reason ever to sign a right-handed power hitter for this team, in this park? If “no” — and if it’s obvious to the rest of the league — does that give you a disadvantage when dealing with other teams?

10. What control does the team have over Jose Lopez and his insatiable desire for American cheesburgers?


36 Responses to “Ten Mostly Inappropriate Questions for Jack Z.”

  1. JMHawkins on August 18th, 2010 10:41 pm

    Oh, the Brandon League question is just demanding to be asked.

  2. CarpCarter on August 18th, 2010 10:58 pm

    Well someone needs to ask it to somebody.

  3. Dave on August 18th, 2010 11:10 pm

    I’d actually imagine that some variation of most of these questions will probably be asked, actually.

  4. Jeff Nye on August 18th, 2010 11:11 pm

    There is a non-zero chance I’ll send whoever asks the Brandon Morrow question over the 300-level railing.

  5. 68GTCS on August 18th, 2010 11:46 pm

    For those of us who can’t make this spectacle/ular event, will there be a recap of sorts? I.e., will we get to know what questions were asked, and, perhaps just as important, what the responses were?

  6. Jeff Nye on August 18th, 2010 11:47 pm

    Since that question comes up every year:

    There won’t be a word-for-word transcript. These are done by the FO with the idea that they are “off the record”, which lets them speak a little more freely than they would otherwise.

    That being said, there’s almost always a summary of some sort.

  7. Celadus on August 19th, 2010 12:26 am

    An eleventh possible unaskable question to Zduriencek:

    Were you forced to resign Griffey and/or Sweeney? And if so, by whom?

    That’s one I would really like to know the answer to.

  8. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2010 12:30 am

    A few general notes as well:

    -They’re not allowed to discuss players currently under contract with other teams. That’s considered tampering.

    -They’re not going to slag anyone else in the organization.

    -They’re not going to give away anything top-secret.

    Keep that in mind when you’re deciding what questions you want to ask. They’ve been asked questions at these events before that violate each of those three tenets, and you basically get “no comment” with some extra words. Don’t waste the opportunity.

  9. Kunkoh on August 19th, 2010 1:08 am

    So, “Boxers or Briefs” is still an option to ask?

  10. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2010 1:18 am

    Don’t think of them as rules, because they’re not. But if you want to get interesting answers, you have to ask the sorts of questions they can provide interesting answers to without risking their jobs or their credibility.

  11. Breadbaker on August 19th, 2010 1:38 am

    My experience at these is that the most open-ended questions get the most interesting answers. Jack loves talking the philosophy of baseball and the strategy of organizations and he tends to be far more open and honest when he’s got some steam going on a topic. Of course, we’ve only seen him in happier times, so who knows. I think we can guaranty there won’t be the mosh pit feeling we had at the opera house.

  12. Carson on August 19th, 2010 7:13 am

    I sure hope there is a limit to the raised hand questions Jack takes.

    That, err, uncomfortable one at Ellis Pavillion caused one of the more strange feelings I’ve had in a group of a few hundred people.

  13. robbbbbb on August 19th, 2010 8:03 am

    I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with question #1. It’s a philosophy question, and I think it’d be a fascinating one to work with.

  14. GoldenGutz on August 19th, 2010 8:09 am

    For those of us who won’t be there is there going to be a transcript of the Q&A?

    Someone needs to ask how they are going to progress Michael Pineda and limiting his innings.

  15. rsrobinson on August 19th, 2010 8:14 am

    I’d like to know if this team’s front office is willing to commit to spending the money necessary to produce a winner. Ever since the 2008 debacle where the team spent over $100 million and lost over 100 games the team has been committed to slashing payroll which meant loading up on cheap veterans like Kotchman, Byrnes, Griffey, and Sweeney and hoping that they would produce. The 2010 season was built on a house of cards.

    Is this team willing to spend the money needed to bring in quality veteran FA’s even if that means a substantial increase in payroll? Is it going to commit to a youth movement? Or will it continue plugging holes with cheap vets while cutting payroll?

  16. Carson on August 19th, 2010 8:22 am

    For those of us who won’t be there is there going to be a transcript of the Q&A?

    Read comments above.

  17. henryv on August 19th, 2010 9:43 am

    Here is my question:

    “Jack, I never really liked Chone Figgins when he played for the Angels. He was good, and played well against us. Now he plays for us, and he sucks and I still don’t like him. Can you please bring up Chone Figgins from the clubhouse so I can punch him in the face? Thank you.”

  18. Axtell on August 19th, 2010 10:39 am

    rsrobinson the team has been committed to getting rid of bad contracts, not necessarily slashing payroll. Jack has done a tremendous job in unloading old, terrible contracts that Bavasi saddled this team with in a very short amount of time. Bradley is really the only contract left from the Bavasi era that the team hates. Everyone else was brought in as stop-gap measures until the books cleared up enough to actually spend money wisely.

    Just going out and dropping tens of millions on ‘quality veteran FA’s’ isn’t always a wise choice, especially seeing as those free agents simply do not come up all that often. The team has a plan (while it may be hard to see, there is a plan) but there are a few gaps. These gaps are what these inexpensive FA’s are meant to fill. Nobody could have predicted this team would underperform as much as it did.

  19. Pete Livengood on August 19th, 2010 10:51 am

    As Dave and others have noted, several of these questions will be asked (and probably answered) in some form.

    I think #1 is entirely fair and may get an interesting an long-winded answer.

    The first part of #4 is fair, while the second part will generate a “no comment” and probably shut down a response to the fairer first part. I’m not sure I would ask whether Griffey’s performance was predictable, but maybe whether they planned for contingencies including a performance like that, and whether he feels that planning was adequate given what actually happened (or were they surprised by Griffey’s on-field and off-field performance?).

    I also think some re-worded version of #5 is fair. As Jeff points out, he won’t evaluate Morrow, and probably not even League, but something probing the general thinking behind the Morrow-for-League deal would be a good question.

    I think #6 is a good and fair question, too. He may not want to talk about the specific performance of a player, but this is seemingly more philosophical that slagging. My follow-up would be more inappropriate: to what degree do they think that throwing to (let’s say, hypothetically) a catcher who leads the league in PB and WP rates affect a pitcher’s confidence to throw a pitch that often ends up in the dirt, whether consciously or unconsciously?

    #9 is a fair question, maybe made more so if phrased differently, and with some nod to the idea that you have to play half your games in other parks, too. But some of the way they’ve built the farm since this FO has been in place tacitly acknowledge this. For instance, one thing I noticed during my trek to Tacoma for Pineda’s last start: according to the program, at least, every single infielder on the Tacoma roster hits left-handed (and that is true of Tug Hulett, too, who wasn’t listed in the program but was on the bench for that game). In contrast, Round Rock was overwhelming right-handed (two were switch-hitters), as befits their Big League park. How much of that is simply chance, and how much is by design? Is it more of an omen for the future of the Big League club than is already implied by these guys already being just a call-up away?

  20. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2010 11:15 am

    I hope people aren’t getting the wrong idea, by the way. Jack and crew have been REMARKABLY candid at these events in the past. They try hard to give interesting answers to even lame questions.

  21. NV M's fan on August 19th, 2010 11:22 am

    Sorry can’t make the event. Love the reasonable talk here to prepare for the best possible insights and dialogue — typically. However, the frustration, the emotion of such a season… I must give applause to the imagined question re Chone above by “henryv.” Outstanding and a highlight of my morning. I will hold this image dear for each one of the torturous games left in this lost season. Thanks.

  22. diderot on August 19th, 2010 12:26 pm

    I’d like to know if this team’s front office is willing to commit to spending the money necessary to produce a winner. Ever since the 2008 debacle where the team spent over $100 million and lost over 100 games…

    Do you see the inherent contradiction in this statement?

  23. Chris_From_Bothell on August 19th, 2010 1:28 pm

    Carson – Yeah, you pretty much knew where I was going. And thanks for one of those rare moments where anything I say could be described as ‘optimistic’. 🙂

    I’m going to be out of town now for this one unfortunately. I hope there’s some questions about international scouting / signings, to see how rounding out the farm / ML roster is going to go. And about budget in general.

    Can’t ask about Cliff Lee and expect an answer due to aforementioned point about tampering, but perhaps someone can hold up a Cliff Lee jersey and silently cry, and that will get the point across…

  24. Nate on August 19th, 2010 2:11 pm

    Carson, I was expecting a list of questions that were entirely and obviously tongue-in-check, given your introduction and your usual style. So I’m not sure how serious to take some of these, um, recommendations. Are you saying everyone should just toss the GM softballs? Or is the humor just in the tone, or specificity? Either I don’t get it, or I disagree with the serious point.

    I would see a lot value in using these cases as examples, much the way the question #1 is worded. Or, “Given what we see from League, we wonder, does the organization coach pitch selection?” And , “How do you evaluate manager performance, and what would be the key traits you’ll be looking at for Wakamatsu’s replacement?”

  25. spankystout on August 19th, 2010 5:24 pm

    Has Jack Z ever said which stat he looks to first when evaluating players?

  26. Jack.Hartsock on August 19th, 2010 6:00 pm

    What control does the team have over Jose Lopez and his insatiable desire for American cheesburgers?

    You’re no Jack LaLanne yourself, Dave.

  27. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2010 6:07 pm

    No, but Carson Cistulli (who actually wrote the sentence you’re quoting) really IS Jack LaLanne. Carson Cistulli is his pen name for writing about baseball so that nobody stops buying his juicers if he slags their favorite team.

  28. MKT on August 19th, 2010 7:14 pm

    No, but Carson Cistulli (who actually wrote the sentence you’re quoting) really IS Jack LaLanne. Carson Cistulli is his pen name for writing about baseball so that nobody stops buying his juicers if he slags their favorite team.

    Now that’s the kind of snark that I like. Instead of doing the verbal equivalent of an eye-roll or saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about”, Jeff’s pointed out the fundamental error in the post while giving the rest of us something amusing to read.

  29. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2010 7:18 pm

    Thanks; it’s a Carson post, I had to step up my game!

  30. Phightin Phils on August 19th, 2010 7:18 pm

    “Why do you enjoy your current role in baseball?”
    “What really makes you passionate about you role, to make you continue?”
    “Where do you see yourself in 1 year, and 5 years, in baseball?”

    If winning never comes up in the answers – say something like, “I like being in my current position because I think I can help this organization win…” — I think it might be interesting.

  31. bongo on August 19th, 2010 8:53 pm

    Some more inappropriate questions:

    * Now that Carlos Silva is no longer on the team, have you seen a commensurate decrease in the Mariner’s food bill?

    * Do you think the banning of the deep fat fryer has played any role in the team’s performance this season?

    * Any chance of a combined Don Wakamatsu/Ken Griffey Bobblehead night this season?

    * Speaking off the record of course, do you think that this team could benefit from the introduction of performance enhancing drugs, or is the talent too limited for that to make a difference?

  32. davepaisley on August 19th, 2010 9:18 pm

    * Any chance of a combined Don Wakamatsu/Ken Griffey Bobblehead night this season?

    Not bobbleheads – Rock ’em sock ’em robots – oh wait, that’s the Figgins/Wak night.


  33. cnote on August 20th, 2010 4:33 pm

    bongo clearly has the best “inappropriate” questions! They all made me laugh until he took the easy route with a performance-enhancing insert; shame on you…

    I’d still like to hear more about what he’s looking for in Wak’s replacement (only one commenter, Nate, asked the question earlier). I’m still surprised nobody’s really talked about it much. Am I missing something? a separate post perhaps? I don’t think anybody saw my earlier post, but I’m for Pete Mackanin. Not even the You’re Fired, Probably article/comments had much to say other than Brown’s probably gone. Wish I still lived in Seattle so I could ask Z myself…

    I’m a little late again, so this probably won’t get much attention either! Meh…

  34. cjhenry on August 22nd, 2010 4:51 pm

    Another question that interests me is:

    Jack, you went into the year stating that the team would be built on pitching and defense. Has your philosophy changed, or are you still evaluating talent in the way led you to pick Prince Fielder and The Hebrew Hammer for the Brewers?

    A follow on question would be:

    Jack can you go out and buy us a Prince Fielder and a Hebrew Hammer of our own to love? We promise to take care of them.

  35. dingla on August 23rd, 2010 2:29 pm

    Something suddenly came up. My lose your gain. I have purchased and already printed 4 tickets to the event. $20 individually or 4 for $60. Can meet in seattle area for pick up or can possibly email you the PDF ticket print out. may accept a trade of somesort.

  36. ryanburt on August 24th, 2010 4:42 pm

    Love the Buffalo Bill reference…

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