Catching Up on Some News

Dave · November 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Busy couple of days in Mariners-land, at least in terms of things related to the club. Let’s do a quick recap.

1. Chuck Armstrong is retiring as team president. I know a lot of people like to blame Armstrong (and Howard Lincoln) for the team’s failures, so for a portion of the fan base, this is going to be seen as great news. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, I don’t think there’s any way to know from this distance. I’ve never personally bought into the idea that the Mariners were more interested in profit than winning, or that they were simply a PR marketing firm masquerading as a baseball team, and I don’t have any real animosity towards the Mariners ownership or executives. I wish Mr. Armstrong the best in his retirement.

In terms of what it might mean for the Mariners future, I think the most significant factor is that Armstrong’s replacement will likely have a significant impact on whoever the next GM is, whenever there’s a next GM. Regardless of how optimistic you are about the 2014 Mariners, the reality is that the tenure of a Major League GM is rarely more than 10 years, and Jack Zduriencik is coming up on year six. There’s a pretty high chance that there will be a new GM hired at some point in the next few years, and potentially as early as next year.

More than “bringing respectability” or “lending credibility” or whatever other buzzwords people will use to talk up some celebrity president who they interviewed as a player/manager, the Mariners should be looking for someone who will push the organization towards a more analytical approach than they’ve used in the past. The trend in baseball is clearly moving in this direction, and this could be a chance for the Mariners to bring in someone with some newer ideas, and likely influence the organization to go a little more towards modern thinking when the inevitable front office overhaul happens. The Mariners should absolutely be looking to poach someone like Matthew Silverman from the Tampa Bay Rays, and I’d hope their list of candidates swings far more towards the analytical executive mold rather than a media spokesman type like Nolan Ryan was in Texas.

2. The Mariners announced their new coaching staff. Interestingly, Lloyd McClendon only brought in a couple of guys from outside the organization; Andy Van Slyke (McClendon’s teammate in Pittsburgh during his playing days) and Mike Rojas (Tigers bullpen coach during McClendon’s stint there), while everyone else was promoted from within the organization. Usually, a manager will bring in his own guys and surround himself with people he’s worked with in other organizations, but this at least has the appearance of McClendon not getting the final call on who joined him on the coaching staff. We can’t know exactly how much influence the team had in deciding who got each position, but it certainly looks like McClendon is not going to be given the kind of authority that Eric Wedge clearly coveted during his time in charge.

3. In Mariners writer news, Ryan Divish has officially joined the Seattle Times as their lead beat writer, and had his first day at the paper yesterday. Ryan is a friend and I’m happy for him in his new gig; don’t worry, Ryan, we’ll get the link added to your new blog home shortly. To fill Ryan’s vacancy at the News Tribune, the TNT has hired Bob Dutton, a longtime beat writer for the Kansas City Star. I don’t know Bob personally, but he has a pretty good reputation, and I’m looking forward to reading him on a more regular basis.

Comments

26 Responses to “Catching Up on Some News”

  1. Mike Snow on November 26th, 2013 2:55 pm

    Bench coach Trent Jewett was announced earlier, but he also comes from outside the organization.

  2. qwerty on November 26th, 2013 3:53 pm

    “Mariners should be looking for someone who will push the organization towards a more analytical approach than they’ve used in the past.” This is why we must tie Chuck to much of the failure of the past. This change can’t be anything but an improvement.

  3. Eastside Suds on November 26th, 2013 4:38 pm

    Congrats to Chuck and best wishes in retirement. One would hope that his replacement has some forsight into how many (most??) organizations are run in terms of using technology and statistical data to make the best-informed decisions.

    Speaking of decisions???? We need to sign a catcher. Preferably someone with experience who can work well with our pitchers and “mentor” to young Zunino. Also, someone who can hold their own and not be a defensive liability like we had last year when Zunino wasn’t catching. Someone who had a solid year last year. Maybe someone who won’t command a huge salary and be amenable to sharing time with the kid. Maybe someone who could also DH once in a while. Perhaps a right hander (although a switch hitter would be a valuable addition). Maybe someone who hit .300 last season and was 2nd to only Brian McCann in rbi’s/AB last season. Someone whose current team just signed another dude to take over, officially cutting lose their part time starting catcher from a year ago. Someone who had a 2.0 WAR last year maybe!! A catcher who has had as high as a 40% CS rating recently. 25% last year on a very poor pitching team. And….someone who could fill a spot that Dave wrote about a few weeks ago. Sorry Dave, Brian McCann is gone, but there is someone who could fit that mold.

    Hmmmmmm?????? C’mon Z, pull the trigger!!

  4. Longgeorge1 on November 26th, 2013 5:52 pm

    And don’t forget the most important stat EASTSIDE – his last name ends in “O”

  5. MrZDevotee on November 26th, 2013 6:22 pm

    “We can’t know exactly how much influence the team had in deciding who got each position, but it certainly looks like McClendon is not going to be given the kind of authority that Eric Wedge clearly coveted during his time in charge.”

    I think that’s reading too much into it, or not reading enough of what was written about the hires… Call me a sucker, but I believed what McClendon said about the promotions…

    He promoted from within with the two strengths of our minor league system , to work with the SAME young players at the major league level– ie, the “pitching coordinator” from our minors system and the “infield consultant”. The two places where our prospects have been working out pretty well.

    Also, Howard Johnson as hitting instructor is a guy with a brief M’s history (joined last season) after being in the Mets organization for 11 years, including 4 years as big league hitting coach. He’s also friends with McClendon from their playing days and throughout their careers– not an “unknown” at all to McClendon.

    He specifically pointed out that Johnson and Waits are two guys who are “win-win” because they were already in the organization, and they’re guys he would have wanted anyways.

    And Waits is the guy who was in charge of the development of Walker, Hultzen, Ramirez and Paxton, and given the trajectory they were all on, it doesn’t seem like a “not my decision” moment for McClendon, if we expect 3 of those guys to be in the majors this season. And if we believe McClendon’s earlier statements that he came here specifically because of the young pitching we have in the system, all the way up to “Felix, Felix, Felix…”

    Sorry, but that line I quoted at the beginning seems too obviously like being negative for the sake of being negative. Or, making a mountain out of a Mariner hill.

  6. smb on November 26th, 2013 6:26 pm

    I think if you (anyone) believes the M’s front office and ownership is more concerned with winning than with profits, then you must be even more depressed than I about how poorly they’ve constructed rosters over the past 15 years or so. I might actually feel even worse if I believed they were honestly doing their best to field a winner and this is simply the best they can do.

    I figure no point in getting too excited about Armstrong leaving…I figure he’ll have a big say in his replacement anyway. Buzzkill!

  7. smb on November 26th, 2013 6:28 pm

    Jewett comes from the Nats and was well regarded, BTW. Good call, Mike.

  8. gag harbor on November 26th, 2013 7:15 pm

    Do all MLB teams have a President AND a CEO? I always assume those two titles are able to be combined into one person as it often is in a non-baseball business. I’m unclear if Howard and Chuck actually had different duties or if they were a two-headed management team.

    I for one am happy with the potential change. It’s too easy to try to label Chuck as someone only interested in profits. Even if he was, the path to more profits COULD’VE been by putting a very good team on the field year after year. Unfortunately what I assume is that Chuck (and Howard) are just not skilled enough in knowing how to evaluate people and how to win the details in behind the scenes issues.

    Interesting that you brought up the observation about McClendon filling out his staff with a lot of in-house people. If Chuck and Howard really do have an extreme amount of control over how a coaching staff is assembled then I guess all we can do is judge them based on the on-field results.

    Since we know the on-field results have been historically horrible for the past 12 years then shouldn’t we all be psyched about the impending change coming from Chuck’s departure? Some people are just not capable of performing at a competitive level. Chuck was not a high-upside kind of player and he needed to go away. ASAP!

    Howard might have even less upside.

  9. Sports on a Shtick on November 26th, 2013 7:26 pm

    Chuck’s retirement may very well turn out to be the high point of the M’s offseason.

  10. Eastside Suds on November 26th, 2013 8:17 pm

    Why yes it does Longgeorge!

  11. Westside guy on November 26th, 2013 8:34 pm

    I don’t think Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are directly responsible for the crappy team we’ve had to endure – and I think they deserve some credit for the team’s past successes. That said, it does seem their mindset is stuck in the past, and the art of running a baseball team has moved ahead, leaving them behind. New thinking is needed.

    Chuck, thank you for your part in drafting Ken Griffey Jr. back in the 80s. Enjoy your retirement – you’ve earned it.

  12. Prosser Steve on November 26th, 2013 10:03 pm

    Whatever,Dave.Chuck is a swell guy that knows NOTHING about baseball. I will never forget listening to him being interviewed on pregame radio. I listened dumbfounded as he espoused on trades saying what a good deal we got when Randy was traded. Sure, Chuck, all you did was trade one of the top 10, or maybe 5, pitchers in the HISTORY of baseball because you wouldn’t reward for what he did for us. So we watched as he won 4 more Cy Young awards and won 300 games and set the all time record for Ks pitching for someone else. One down one Howard to go.

  13. henryv on November 26th, 2013 10:03 pm

    Divish jumped from a slowly sinking dingy to the Titanic.

  14. MrZDevotee on November 26th, 2013 11:40 pm

    ProsserSteve-
    I hesitate to quibble with you, because that’s obviously an emotional response you posted about Randy Johnson… But we did pretty well in the Randy trade, given the circumstances (half a season rental of him for the Astros)… Garcia, Halama and Guillen were ALL important parts of the greatest season the M’s ever had– with 116 wins in 2001.

    A team, mind you, that lacked Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, OR Randy Johnson.

    >> Freddy Garcia spent from 1999-2004 with the Mariners, going 76-50 with a 3.89 ERA, 1.299 WHIP and 819 strikeouts in 1096 1/3 IP.

    >> Carlos Guillen was with the Mariners from 1999-2003, slotting in as their starting shortstop for a majority of the time. In 488 games, he hit a respectable .264/.335/.383 while playing solid defense.

    >> John Halama spent the 1999-2002 season with the Mariners. He posted a 41-31 record with a 4.46 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 130 games (85 starts).

    ….

    So, to sum up, we traded a few future Cy Young awards for two pitchers with a combined 117-81 record while they were here, and a starting SS with mildly above average skills at the time.

    Would I have rather have kept Randy, given a perfect hindsight ability in the year 2013? Absolutely. But it wasn’t a bad trade. Especially if you consider at the time we traded him he was a flamethrower with an awkward delivery, coming off injuries (he started only 8 games in 1996), about to turn 35, while sitting on a 9-10 record with a 4+ ERA at the time we traded him.

    Not everyone (anyone?) was clairvoyant enough to predict 4 Cy Youngs in the 2nd half of his 30′s. And we added tons of financial flexibility by going with Garcia, Guillen and Halama instead… Perhaps reupping with Randy would have set in motion a financial situation that didn’t allow us to bring in a young Japanese RF in 2001 would fueled our greatest season, while winning the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year honors…?

  15. LongDistance on November 27th, 2013 12:02 am

    “I don’t think Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are directly responsible for the crappy team we’ve had to endure…”

    OK. I understand and approve of trying not to dogpile on Chuck, but this is bending over backwards a click too far. I’ve worked in a lot of corporate settings. Day to day operations on the shop floor, true, can’t always be directly connected straight up the chain. But… attitude at the top does, indeed, trickle down.

    I’m going to say something here that could make some people angry, because it’s going to sound deeply unfair, or worse: like sour grapes. But I’d like it added to an eventual debate about Chuck’s impact on this team.

    There are those who point to his success in getting Griffey, as proof that Chuck had, at some point, the right sort of tools for being in charge of a club.

    Me, I think it was more the case of being at the right place, at the right time.

    Anyone remember what this team represented in those days? I do. It represented opportunity for players, and hope for fans. It was an exciting organization that talented people not only knew they could make a good living, but that it might be going somewhere. And based on that energy, it actually did.

    But there were signs, even early on, of a culture which was very patriarchal, if not parochial… where the top held a steel grip on the reins. But because it was a Genesis period, there was still wiggle room.

    Yes, they had some great years. But I think everyone can remember feeling — me, usually in July as the deadline neared and no moves were made — when you could feel the entire club just needed a little more, a fresh bat, a fresh arm, to get them onwards into the playoffs.

    And it never happened. And the bullpen door of August opened, and out trotted Bobby Ayala.

    What sometimes is barely apparent, barely visible, a small problem of mindset or habit… over time can develop into a major, overarching systemic quagmire.

    And the Mariners suffer from trickle-down system quagmire.

    I don’t like Howard Lincoln, but that’s only a personal feeling based on how I don’t think he should be anywhere near an MLB club. I didn’t mind Chuck so much. But either way, the Mariners, and for a long time, have badly needed change at the top.

  16. furlong on November 27th, 2013 6:18 am

    Extremely sorry to see Carl Willis by passed as pitching coach I thought he was one of the best in the business. While I would have liked to have Darren Brown in some capacity on the big club I hope he is offered the Rainers job.

  17. djw on November 27th, 2013 7:47 am

    We need to sign a catcher. Preferably someone with experience who can work well with our pitchers and “mentor” to young Zunino.

    Obviously, bringing in a competent C is a good idea; especially since depending on how things go this person’s job might be more than a backup. But I don’t really see why Zunino needs a catching “mentor”–he’s really quite good at catching. He doesn’t need to improve on defense. He needs to learn pitch recognition and how to make more and better contact, something he wasn’t given the chance to properly do in the minor leagues. I don’t see any reason to think someone who also plays catcher has any special capacity to teach him that.

  18. Eastside Suds on November 27th, 2013 8:05 am

    In a “normal” situation (and the Mariners are quite aby-normal these days), Zunino would probably still be in the minors. He’s still a young kid with lots of potential, but there is no doubt he can still improve. And, by listening to him talk, he is more than open to learning from the veterans. Bringing in a veteran can still help him learn more, hone his skills and become even more productive. As for his hitting, I totally agree. He needs to recognize pitches and make better contact. Simple as that. I hope Jack “Z” gets busy after this weekend, because if he doesn’t, we will be stuck with Shoppach version 2.0 again!

  19. casey on November 27th, 2013 9:02 am

    I don’t buy into this veteran mentor stuff either – at major league level you have almost more coaches than players. I think you let the coaches do the coaching.

    I think you also learn lots through competition with your peers – this was a huge factor when I was this age playing sports. I think this is where the value is in having Zunino playing for the M’s with the likes of Seager, Ackley, Miller, Franklin, Almonte. And I’m not too concerned about Zunino – think Johnny Bench hit .160 something in his first year call-up to the majors before being given the job full-time as a 21 year old.

  20. Longgeorge1 on November 27th, 2013 9:18 am

    How do you teach a guy that catches, pitch recognition? Seriously with the number of pitches that he sees you would think he could relate rotation and break and change of speed better than most. I realize that many catchers are not very good hitters, but most catchers are not very good athletes compared to their peers and I think that is generally more of the issue and something that can not be changed. Viva Dioner!

  21. Chasbo on November 27th, 2013 12:18 pm

    Taking everything that has happened, including the hiring of McClendon, internal hiring of most coaches, (easy to jettison the whole bunch) retaining Z for one year and now Chuck Armstrong retiring and the fact Howard is in his 70?s indicates to me the Mariners are getting the house in order to transition to new ownership.

    I hope I’m right.

  22. Mariner Melee on November 27th, 2013 1:19 pm

    I’ve been programmed to be cynical and I’m afraid I will be until longs stretches of competence prove otherwise.

    I just have a hard time being hopeful knowing that Lincoln is ultimately in charge of replacing Chuck. I don’t have any faith that he has the ability to pick the right person. We’ll come away thinking “Well that guy is safe…boring and uninteresting and in no way forward thinking…but oh so very safe”.

  23. gwangung on November 27th, 2013 7:02 pm

    We’ll come away thinking “Well that guy is safe…boring and uninteresting and in no way forward thinking…but oh so very safe”.

    Now THIS is how I see Armstrong’s and Lincoln’s methods as hamstringing the team.

    There are very few sure bets, obvious hires out there. There are always weighing the plus and minuses. And I can see Armstrong and Lincoln making judgements that err on the side of safety, particularly for those on the baseball side, since that’s further from their area of competency.

  24. MrZDevotee on November 28th, 2013 11:26 am

    gwangung-
    Agreed. Like playing sports, the worst thing you can have going on in your mind is “don’t screw up, don’t screw up… I hope I don’t miss, I hope I don’t miss…”

    And that seems like how Lincoln & Armstrong made all their choices so far.

    I’d like to see them hire someone who maybe scares them a little bit– instead of more hires that feel comfortable and safe.

    There’s always been a mindset (by appearances) that hiring “good” people is more important than hiring people hell bent on winning. And never has seemed like they believed someone could be both. (Though Sweet Lou was closest…)

    But it’s a little bit Polyanna… “If you put lots of nice people together, nice things will happen.” I’d really like the focus to change to TALENTED people, who are hopefully bearable, and maybe even nice, but if not, meh.

    I think part of the problem is that 2001 was such a fluke, an accidental chemical bonanza, dumped a bunch of randomness on the counter and something gourmet emerged. And we’ve been trying to replicate that ever since, when it wasn’t really a reliable formula to use.

    Bottomline, give us some baseball guys in charge.

  25. drlo on November 28th, 2013 2:47 pm

    Regarding the three points:

    1. The quality of the person replacing Armstrong will depend on how much empowerment Lincoln is willing to give. As the organization lacks transparency, I don’t know the answer, but I am inclined to see Lincoln as pretty big on control and therefore wonder about the ability to get anyone especially good (and proven) into that role.

    2. It is a general trend these days to have at least some of the coaching staff chosen by (or strongly suggested by) the GM. This would appear to have happened in the current coaching selection. McClendon not getting the final call is not necessarily a reflection on McClendon relative to other managers…though it probably does reflect Z’s tendency to also be a control freak.

    3. Great to see Divish getting a broader audience, and great job by the News Tribune to continue their excellence in baseball coverage
    with the hiring of Dutton. For those who don’t know it, the TNT is a great sports paper, much better even than the Times, in terms of baseball coverage. Too bad it has remained such a well-kept secret.

  26. SonOfZavaras on November 28th, 2013 3:19 pm

    I go to Kansas City every year around this time, and am semi-familiar with Bob Dutton’s writing.

    MY TAKE, FWIW:

    He’s not Jim Murray, and he won’t try to come off as trying to be Jim Murray. Kind of a Joe Friday sort- “just the facts, please”. Maybe the thing I’ve seen the most out of him is realistic appraisals of how young players knocking on the major-league door are going to be as major leaguers, seems to have a decent eye for that.

    He’s very unlike Geoff Baker.

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