The Most Significant Irrelevant Poll
All right, all the talk now is about how the Mariners suck again. I guess some of the talk is about people talking about how the Mariners suck again, but the rest of the talk is about how the Mariners suck again. The team could, in theory, have gotten off to a worse start than they have, but there are fewer ways they could’ve been worse than there are ways they could’ve been better, and already it’s looking like the contention ship has sailed. The Mariners, already, are seven games out of first place. They’re five and a half games out of second place, and they’re behind the Angels, who have also sucked and who are way better. This team isn’t going anywhere, and we’ve had an awful lot of Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik.
So now we’re acknowledging and discussing the hot seats. Dave seems pretty convinced that Zduriencik is going to be relieved of his duties. Much of the baseball industry is similarly convinced, and on the plus side, that means we’d, in turn, be relieved of Zduriencik’s duties. I think it’s pretty evident that this isn’t the same front office we all fell in love with back when it was brand new. We might’ve been hasty in expressing such affection, but the way the team was run then — it isn’t the way the team is run now, even though the same guy’s in charge. He’s changed, the people around him have changed, and the team has changed, not for the better.
It’s exciting to think about the prospect of a new general manager, because GMs lead organizations and smart GMs make smart moves that make teams into better teams. Think about the Mariners now. Now think about the Mariners in the hypothetical universe where they hire Andrew Friedman tomorrow. You’re excited! By a completely made-up and impossible hypothetical! You are desperate for Mariners excitement.
We’ve been critical of the “new Mariners” and we’ve changed our tunes as the Mariners have changed theirs. It does look like Zduriencik will lose his job and his position, barring a significant turnaround. That would leave the Mariners looking for a new guy, a new mind, a new leader, and we wouldn’t know much about the candidates even after their names are revealed. Some of you are beyond ready to see an administrative change. Some of you might still be loyal. Which is why I’m running this poll, after giving it a week or so of thought. Not a week of thought, straight. I thought of it, then I stopped, then I thought of it again, now I’m publishing it.
The Mariners are probably going to get rid of Jack Zduriencik. Do you want that to happen, or are you still personally on board with the organization and with its operating philosophies? There are, of course, arguments for both sides. That’s why this poll isn’t going to be unanimous.
For those in favor of replacing Zduriencik, well, the team sucks, and it seems to now value the wrong things, while actively not valuing many of the right things. The Mariners have become arguably the least analytical, forward-thinking organization in baseball, and while it’s possible to win that way, it’s more of a challenge and the game has simply changed. Do you trust Jack Zduriencik to build a winning Mariners roster? I have less faith in him now than I ever have at any point.
But. You knew there was a but. Zduriencik has built this team around a talented young core, and is it really his fault that Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak have sucked? How different would things be if they were all even simply league-average? You could call that a problem of misevaluation, but then everybody would’ve been misevaluating those guys — they were consensus top talents, and they might still blossom, who knows. You can’t blame Zduriencik for thinking they were worth acquiring. Additionally, there’s going to be more money, now, and one can’t deny that the Mariners are in far better shape than they were when Zduriencik took over. Back then, it was like a cartoonish hellscape, something you see in a post-apocalyptic blockbuster. People like the Mariners’ farm system, there’s talent on the big-league roster, and the guys can draft. Maybe they can’t develop so good, but they can draft.
And here’s an important matter: it’s fine to want change. It’s fine to be sick of the executives we have. But the point is to change for the better, not to change, just. What do we know about replacements? Who are they, and how good might they be? How certain can we be that a new general manager would be better than the current one? What are the odds that the Mariners would hire a certain improvement, especially given that we don’t even know who would be doing the hiring? Will all of the candidates be better than Zduriencik? If not, would the Mariners hire somebody worse? If someone were to devise an accurate model of general manager WAR, where would Zduriencik rank, what would be average, and what would be replacement-level? Keep in mind we all wanted the last guy fired. Now a lot of people want the current guy fired. He’s better, of course, than Bavasi, but now another step would have to be taken.
So I’m curious to see how this is going to come out, even though I think I have a pretty good idea. And I think you have a pretty good idea of where the various USSM authors stand. The tide has turned against the Jack Zduriencik front office, but how many loyalists might there still be? These are tough times to be loyal, but let’s not pretend like it wouldn’t be somewhat justifiable. Somewhat.