The Most Significant Irrelevant Poll

Jeff Sullivan · April 25, 2013 at 6:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


45 Responses to “The Most Significant Irrelevant Poll”

  1. bookbook on April 25th, 2013 6:33 pm

    Wedge has been a massive blunder for me ever since he threw Jack Wilson under the bus when he was struggling to learn a new position.
    Peguero’s third tour of duty with the big club, Griffey part deux, Bay, Ibanez, Beaven, Morse as an OF, Montero as a C without the possibility of DH-role. That’s a whole slew of predictable bad decisions.
    If he isn’t bad, at this point, the man is cursed.
    A new beginning is advisable for both parties.

  2. billT on April 25th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Yes, but not related to the failure of the hitting prospects. It’s more related to players like Morse, Bay, Ibanez and Olivo. This FO deserves praise for what they’ve done with the farm system given the shape it was in when they arrived, but they seem pretty poor at judging MLB talent and general roster construction.

  3. georgmi on April 25th, 2013 6:42 pm

    I feel like Zduriencik came in with the right attitude and what should have been the right strategy, but that the patience wasn’t there from his employers to wait for things to build naturally, and when there was some bad luck, whether it was Gutierrez turning out to be made of glass, or Chone Figgins falling off the cliff, or prospects panning out at slightly less than the expected rate, the pressure started to mount to win now or else, and that, finally, brought us to this offseason and desperation moves.

    I feel like (by which I mean, I would like to think that), if his job were truly assured, Zduriencik would go back to being the do-it-right-over-the-long-term guy we thought we were getting originally.

  4. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 6:46 pm

    I’ll give you a hint of how I voted…

  5. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 6:53 pm

    I imagine you played the role of the 4th dentist in the “3 out of 4 dentists surveyed” statement from yesteryear, MrZ.

    I would like to see this same poll question later in the year – assuming Jack has a “later” in the year. Sometime around the end of August.

  6. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Awww… Man… The site hasn’t sent me my new password yet…

    Anyways, say hello to new USSMariner commenter

    “MsKimDevotee” (bows)

  7. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 7:02 pm

    Morse is a career .220 hitter in April and a career .295 hitter overall, so its too early to be overly critical of the Morse trade in isolation – IMO. However, GMZ has made several flat-out- bad trades and they have hurt the organization quickly. His best trade was his very first trade.

    The trades of value for far less value is probably the most glaring issue for me. Followed closely by his second managerial selection. I am also tired of his non-answer answers. He was once a rock star, but the band broke up after being a one album wonder.

  8. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 7:04 pm

    As in Kim Ng (potential GM) or as in Kim your wife, significant other or daughter?

  9. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 7:07 pm

    As in Kim Ng… I was gonna use the more similar MsNgDevotee… But the whole “missing” aspect of pronouncing it that way didn’t feel right… (Or too easy for people to say “You should try living up to your name”… *laugh*)

    I’m voting for Ms. Ng as next GM.

  10. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 7:12 pm

    Do you still intend to “run this site” under your new username?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  11. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 7:17 pm

    i’m a woman now, Mike… Whaddaya think!?!? This place needs some cleaning up!

    (Please don’t tell my wife I wrote that… she makes more money than me… I need her…)

  12. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 7:25 pm

    Your secret is safe with me. Besides, all information on the Internet is confidential.

  13. Westside guy on April 25th, 2013 7:31 pm


    Also, Mike has a bridge to sell you.

  14. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 7:35 pm

    “Your secret is safe with me. Besides, all information on the Internet is confidential.”

    Plus, Mike, now that you’ve written that above statement it has to be TRUE… If you can read it on the internet that means it’s true.

  15. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 7:36 pm

    Careful… On a Mariners website, if you start selling bridges we’ll have a whole BUNCH of jumpers in no time at all…

  16. Paul B on April 25th, 2013 7:43 pm

    If you’ve been GM of any club for about four years, and you run out a lineup with 7 replacement level hitters, you deserve to get canned.

  17. msfanmike on April 25th, 2013 7:47 pm

    We’re you at one time a French model, MrZ? A French/ model to be more precise.

  18. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 7:58 pm

    (sad voice)
    Only on the internet, Mike… Only on the internet…

  19. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 8:00 pm

    Paul B-
    “If you run out a lineup with 7 replacement level hitters, you deserve to get canned.”

    And what about TONIGHT’s lineup, Paul… You should be canned AND waterboarded. (I’m suggesting 7 replacement level hitters would be a step up from our lineup tonight at Safeco.)

  20. Bill on April 25th, 2013 8:14 pm

    My suggestion and hope is that Jack makes a leadership change. I’d like to see him replace Wedge with Ted Simmons, who is already in house and he’d love to manage. A change is needed, quick.

  21. Adam S on April 25th, 2013 8:35 pm

    I voted Yea but could be swayed if Jack shows some ability to turn it around. He has to get rid of Wedge and put someone in place who might have a logical approach. I don’t know what he can do, but a turnaround from Ackley and Montero would help his cause.

    But the flaw is his organization philosophy has been exposed this off-season. His basic approach is “does this move make the team better?” I’m not sure crazy about the Morse/Jaso trade but individually you can argue each of his moves improved the team by at least given the Mariners options. But collectively he wound up with a team with 4 DHs and 1 OF, no backup IF, and no catcher. And that’s all on him.

  22. _Hutch_ on April 25th, 2013 9:53 pm

    I was giving him the benefit of the doubt and attributing everything to bad luck (Figgins imploding, Ackley/Montero/Smoak going from sure-thing prospects to apparent busts, Guti being Guti), but this past offseason turned a page. He deserves every 40-year-old Raul Ibanez blooper he gets.

  23. MrZDevotee on April 25th, 2013 9:54 pm

    I really like your Ted Simmons idea… Slap the interim tag on him, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s no skin off anyone’s back.

    But I like the idea. IE- Have an understanding of the game, then work to get the guys to fit that vision…

    Versus our current status quo of “sign some guys and let’s see if we can figure out how to use them.”

  24. PackBob on April 25th, 2013 10:28 pm

    SSS. Losing Saunders really hurt the team. Losing Morse soon after made it worse, and exposed the back up plan to be no plan at all. I’m willing to give the team a pass on the time Saunders has been out. That the M’s lost 2 of 3 to Houston twice makes no difference – teams lose to worse teams all the time.

    Morse, Morales, Ibanez, and Bay were to inject into the team what seemed to be lacking, leadership and punch, but I think Wedge had a lot of sway in that respect. None of these guys is the future though, and the other reason to hire them was to give the young guys room to develop.

    I don’t agree with all of these moves, and I’d love to see Wedge gone, but I’m willing to give Jack Z. this full season before making full judgment on the team’s young players, including the ones coming up later this year.

  25. Browl on April 25th, 2013 10:31 pm

    I have very little confidence in the Mariner’s ability to hire a better GM. I think that, because of Jack’s early moves, some people still consider him to be a stats guy. I’m worried that the next GM will be relentlessly old school.

    Even though it isn’t entirely true, the perception I get from a lot of people is that Jack tried to build this team around defense and OBP, and he failed. At least Jack has demonstrated that he will listen to analysts, and he appears to have the patience to stockpile young players. There is a good chance that the next guy won’t have these qualities.

  26. Westside guy on April 25th, 2013 11:08 pm

    “the perception I get from a lot of people is that Jack tried to build this team around defense and OBP, and he failed.”

    I’ve heard that too. Thing is, people who say that often somehow draw the conclusion that the philosophy failed, when really it was the execution – the team was supposed to have a high OBP but ended up last (or nearly so) in the league in OBP, lead of course by Figgins crashing and burning.

  27. katayla on April 25th, 2013 11:46 pm

    I debated this question with such intensity that you’d think my answer alone would determine Z’s job status, but I eventually went with “yea,” for three reasons:

    1. I do think Z’s had bad luck. Lots of it. What concerns me is his response to the bad luck.

    2. I blame Wedge for a lot of the roster decisions and, whether they actually are Wedge’s decisions are not, ultimately, Z is the boss and he’s letting these decisions be made.

    3. Too much of my reluctance for firing Z is because I’m just tired. The idea of having another GM is just exhausting. Which isn’t really a reason not to fire him. At least, not a good reason.

  28. steve_lse on April 26th, 2013 2:40 am

    I think the issue that gets overlooked a lot when you’re judging a GM is politics. Zduriencik doesn’t have a free hand, he’s more like the captain of a ship with a troop of sailors constantly shouting contradictory instructions at him. If he listens to them all the ship would go round in circles; if he listens to none of them then there’s a mutiny.

    I find it hard to believe that he suddenly woke up one morning and decided we had to move the fences in and prioritise dingers over actually winning. Those are the elements of a corporate re-brand, not a GM trying a new way to win baseball games. Likewise with Ibanez and the “bring in a veteran to help the kids” nonsense. These are the sort of PR-oriented moves that will be with us regardless of who the GM is. On Zduriencik’s side I think he genuinely has the right philosophy and we could potentially be much worse off without him.

  29. Eric Walkingshaw on April 26th, 2013 2:45 am

    I voted “nay”, expecting to be an extreme minority, but I’m surprised how close it is (currently 57%-43% for “yea”).

    I wouldn’t count myself as a Jack Zduriencik superfan anymore, and I think he’s demonstrated a real failure to value major league talent properly, but I still feel like the amount of talent he’s brought into the system is worth keeping him around a bit longer to try to make it work.

    If our big three hitting prospects hadn’t fallen flat on their faces, this is a completely different team and we’re obviously not having this discussion. Personally, I think that was just (really) bad luck. None of those three spent much development time in our system (two from other orgs, one from college), and anybody in baseball would have coveted them, so I’m not comfortable pinning that disappointment on the guys at the top.

    Even though I didn’t agree with Jaso-Morse or keeping Bay, there was still a certain long-term logic behind those moves in changing the perception of Safeco. Of course, picking Ibanez over Casper Wells was much less defensible, and there have been many other dubious moves as well.

    But those bad moves are all relatively minor in the long-run compared to the value of building a fantastic minor league system, which Jack has done. And he’s done it better than essentially anybody else in baseball.

    I won’t be surprised or even particularly upset if Zduriencik gets canned this year, but I don’t think he deserves it. Yes, he’s done a bad job at filling in the gaps, but he’s been one of the best in the business at stockpiling talent, and that’s going to pay dividends eventually. That it hasn’t already is unfortunate, but I don’t think it’s his fault.

  30. demon777 on April 26th, 2013 5:38 am

    You as GM and Dave as manager why not. It would be funny at least.

  31. dnc on April 26th, 2013 5:58 am

    “You as GM and Dave as manager why not. It would be funny at least.”

    I’d go the other way around. Sullivan in the dugout would be a must watch.

  32. SeattleNative57 on April 26th, 2013 6:15 am

    Each baseball season is a marathon and we’re not even at the first turn this year (24 games in, really?). That’s less than 15% of games to be played. Baseball is also a game of extremes (luck, failure, etc). I submit this years team has, thus far, been extremely unlucky (injuries to Saunders, Guti, Morse, Pryor, ERam) including absurdly slow starts by Ackley and Smoak, again. JackZ hasn’t been perfect, far from it. His trade of Fister and our return in that deal are bothersome. The Jaso/Morse combo is too early to judge fully. The farm is stocked and on the verge of producing. Montero’s replacement is coming soon. Ah, Montero. Every scout in the world touted his value. Who predicted his mediocrity? True, he was never meant to catch everyday, but I believe the organization sees that now. As for Wedge, his stubbornness bothers me the most: sticking with over-the-hill veteran players, unwillingness to platoon certain players/positions. Overall, I’m less than ecstatic over Z and Wedge, but I’m willing to give them the season to judge their performance. I owe them that, this is not a sprint.

  33. CCW on April 26th, 2013 6:49 am

    I voted “no”. I hated this past off-season, but I really think the biggest failure has been of three consensus top 10 in MLB prospects to develop. The various diamonds in the rough have emerged at a good rate over the past few years – Iwakuma, Seager, Maurer, Jaso (sniff), Saunders, etc. – but the guys who are supposed to be the core just haven’t been there.

  34. rth1986 on April 26th, 2013 8:16 am

    I voted ‘no’ as well. First of all, I’d be far too afraid of who the replacement might be. I don’t really have faith in the M’s ownership choosing the right GM.

    I think a lot of the failure over the past few years has been due to bad luck. Yes, there have been some bad trades and questionable signings, but overall I think Jack is a very calculated GM. I think the Brandon Morrow and Doug Fister trades were bad, but understandable and not Bavasi-level bad. On the other hand, the Gutierrez trade and both Cliff Lee trades were three of the best trades in franchise history (regardless of how Smoak has turned out – he was a unanimous top prospect).

    Mainly, I don’t think Jack has a lot to work with. I think he should have identified better targets in the off-season (the A’s always seem to be acquiring guys I want for the M’s), but it sounds like he was shot down more times than not. Morse and Ibanez were fall-back options in order to bring some offense to this club.

    I’d like Jack and the front office to continue what they’re doing as Zunino, Franklin, Romero, Miller and the big 3 start to arrive. There’s a lot of talent on the way.

  35. kinickers77 on April 26th, 2013 8:59 am

    I agree with PackBob and SeattleNative57. Let the season play out. If any move needs to be made, let it be Wedge out and Simmons in, but nothing more.

    It’s a long season – we’ve only had a small sample size.

    And I bet before Morse broke his finger (and had 6 bombs in like 10 games), no one would have said that the Jaso/Morse move was bad.

    And think about this – Jack successfully made a deal for Justin Upton but Upton blocked it. Had that gone through, looking at how well Upton has started this year, I bet we’d all be singing a different song right now.

    I’m not saying I’m sold on Jack Z. Still made some bad moves – Fister trade, Morrow trade, and others. But give it time.

    If anything, my biggest concern is our developmental system. With such “talent” like Ackley, Montero and Smoak looking like busts, we may draft well but can’t develop guys, like Jeff said. Maybe make some changes there.

  36. amnizu on April 26th, 2013 9:10 am

    SeattleNative57 –

    I get what you’re trying to say however, it is not too early to consider this team DOA and to start making changes for the future. The team will need to play .522 baseball for the rest of the season to get to 81 wins and .587 baseball to get to get to 90 wins and be a competitive baseball team, neither one of those are going to happen by simply getting Saunders or Morse healthy. It’s reasonable to say, at this point, that the 2013 Seattle Mariners will be on par with or worse than the 2012 Seattle Mariners which is not progress.

    As fans we can hope for lighting in a bottle all we want. However, it is unacceptable for the team to be run by that same logic at the GM and managerial levels.

  37. Badbadger on April 26th, 2013 9:32 am

    It’s a tough call. Jack has done some real head scratchers- Morrow for League? Bay and Ibanez? I really don’t know what he was thinking.

    But on the other hand it seems that the FO is not able to hire good general managers except by luck. I don’t think they value stats guys. For all his issues, Jack is probably one of the best GMs we’ve had, and it seems a long shot that we would get someone better. I like to think that he’s learned a lesson this year but it seems like the mistakes he made were so obvious that it’s depressing that he didn’t see them up front.

  38. Evan on April 26th, 2013 9:55 am

    While I’ll agree with the sentiment that Jack isn’t the GM we want, we do have years of evidence that the Seattle Mariners suck at selecting new GMs.

    If we’re considering removing Jack, do we expect the next guy to be better? Or might we end up with someone like Bill Bavasi again? Because Jack is clearly better than Bill. Jack remains better than Bill.

  39. WTF_Ms on April 26th, 2013 10:30 am

    Evan…to answer a couple of your questions:

    Yes, Jack is better than Bill, BUT (and you knew there was going to be a but)…

    I think Kim Ng is better than BOTH Jack and Bill…In my opinion, Ms. Ng is upper middle class in the GM ranks, where Bill B. is bottom of the bucket, and Jack is only a bit higher. So, better than Bill B., yes…could we do even BETTER? YES!

  40. Bodhizefa on April 26th, 2013 12:10 pm

    It’s going to be a long long time before we’re going to have a more attractive situation for a potential new GM than this coming off-season. We have something like $35 million in total salaries next year (meaning we have $40-50 million to spend on free agency) and our farm team is stacked with upper level talent. Every candidate in baseball is polishing their résumé right now in hopes we open up a spot for them.

    And I, for one, would like a fresh front office team to lead us into the next era of Seattle Mariners baseball. I don’t want Zduriencik as the guy who gets to spend that $40-50 million next off-season because I simply don’t trust him with it (and think of how crippling things will be if he panics and does something like Reagins did when his job was on the line and he went for Vernon Wells). Jack’s done a fine job building our minor league system up from total devastation to where it is now, but I’d really love to get a great major league talent evaluator and analytical mind to take us to the next level.

  41. eponymous coward on April 26th, 2013 12:51 pm

    If we’re considering removing Jack, do we expect the next guy to be better? Or might we end up with someone like Bill Bavasi again? Because Jack is clearly better than Bill. Jack remains better than Bill.

    So, if there’s no hope at improving the organization with a better GM, we’re left to hope that dumb luck with a not-terrible but not-good GM and bad organization gets us into the occasional 90 win season, and then more dumb luck gets us a shiny World Series trophy when those occasional playoff appearances happen?

    Because that’s basically what you are left with.

  42. qwerty on April 26th, 2013 2:00 pm

    Okay. (Not arguing. I’m asking:) Please tell me what Kim Ng has done that people know she’d be better.
    I know she’s worked in MLB and LA Dodgers, but never run a GM’s office.
    Please advise me.

  43. Omerta on April 26th, 2013 8:05 pm

    The FO had a chance to hire Kim Ng 5 years ago, and didn’t…I doubt that they’d go down that path again.

  44. GLS on April 27th, 2013 1:48 am

    Seriously, what is the love affair with Kim Ng about?

  45. GLS on April 27th, 2013 2:21 am

    I’m split on Zduriencik. On the one hand, I really, really like what’s going on with our farm system and I don’t want to lose that. For the first time in my life as a Mariner fan, the farm system is actually a strength. On the other hand, there’s Morrow and Fister. The Morrow trade especially caught me off guard and I still don’t understand it.

    Ackley looks like he’s coming around. In retrospect, he probably should have gotten more time in AAA. Smoak I write off to bad luck. With Montero, I liked that deal at the time, but at the same time I knew enough to know that he was sketchy at catcher and that if he couldn’t catch, then you’re going to have trouble finding a slot for him other than DH.

    I like the Morse and Morales deals this last offseason. Didn’t like seeing Jaso go, however.

    Overall, I wish I knew and understood more about the internal dynamics of the front office and ownership. I’ve always felt like something was horribly, horribly wrong with the internal guiding philosophy of this organization and we saw that play out most clearly in the Bavasi years with the mandate to rebuild and contend at the same time, with the result that we did neither.

    If Zduriencik does go, I hope they find a way to keep Tom McNamara.

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