One Minor Good Thing, One Major Bad Thing

Jeff Sullivan · December 7, 2013 at 8:52 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Initially I was just planning to do a drive-by post about Robinson Cano and his having played in a bandbox in New York for the last five years. In these situations, there’s always some concern that the hitter in question was just a product of his environment, but with Cano, there’s little reason for worry, which is good. However, by the official Mariners constitution, we’re not allowed to have sustainable good feelings about them or their players or their organization for more than several minutes at a time, so while I was in the process of looking some numbers up, Geoff Baker dropped the bomb.

First, whatever, some Cano splits. New Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, so Cano called that ballpark home for five years. Cano’s a left-handed hitter, and that stadium is laughably generous with left-handed hitters. That would be a concern, but it turns out the concern is unwarranted. The last five years, 155 players have batted at least 1,000 times at home. By wRC+, Cano ranks 30th, at 137. He’s tied with Adrian Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.

The last five years, 166 players have batted at least 1,000 times on the road. By wRC+, Cano ranks seventh, at 140. He’s between Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli. Cano, at home, has hit more dingers, but on the road, he’s hit more doubles, and when you go through all the calculations there’s no evidence that Cano enjoyed a particular home-field advantage. With Seattle, he probably won’t be so much of a power hitter, but he’ll still be a highly productive hitter, at least at first. Unless, you know, there’s some disaster. We seem to have a lot of disasters.

And here, you can read the disastrous article about how the Mariners have been run under Jack Zduriencik and the people above him. It’s way too thorough for me to try to attempt a one-paragraph summary, so just go read it although I might not read it over an otherwise potentially pleasant weekend. You’ll begin to understand why the Mariners are going for it right now, even though they didn’t come into the winter with a strong enough foundation. You’ll begin to understand an awful lot, and while we’ve written about some of these things before, there are more details and there’s significance in confirmations and material being made public. Not all of this is surprising, and maybe very little of it is surprising, but it’s awful and to our knowledge it isn’t changing. Chuck Armstrong is going away, but that might not meaningfully change anything at all, and, well, this is our ship. It’s up to you to determine whether or not it’s sinking, but the water’s freezing cold and there aren’t any lifeboats.

Robinson Cano is a Mariner, and he’s been excellent away from Yankee Stadium. Also, he’s one of baseball’s premier hitters when it comes to spraying the ball around all fields. Didn’t mention that part before. Cano’s pretty great. The overall situation controlling the franchise is a wreck and the people pulling the strings have very little understanding of player value and evaluation. Lots of people like to drink on Saturday night. Maybe have yourself an extra.


60 Responses to “One Minor Good Thing, One Major Bad Thing”

  1. Easley45 on December 8th, 2013 11:44 am

    Westside, I’m not saying things don’t look bad. The stuff with Engle really bothers me. I just think Blengino sounds a bit like a spurned ex-lover.

    “Jack tried to destroy me”. I mean, really? But still there is no way getting around that this just plain sucks.

  2. Westside guy on December 8th, 2013 12:01 pm

    You could very well be right about Blengino, Easley45.

    To be frank, for me… what really sways me is the fact that Wedge (reluctantly) was willing to come forward on this. I disliked him as the manager, as I’ve been way too vocal about in the past. But everything I believe about his character tells me there’s no way he’d lie or exaggerate. With him, while it’s always a question of perception – I think the underlying facts are pretty much exactly what he stated they are. And the fact that we saw the FO’s relationship with the previous manager also implode supports that, in my mind.

  3. stevemotivateir on December 8th, 2013 12:08 pm

    I wouldn’t mind hearing Hargrove and Wakamatsu’s two cents on this.

  4. Pete Livengood on December 8th, 2013 12:16 pm

    I respect Ivan’s opinion as much as anybody around here, and he certainly has the chops to know what he’s saying about the Times. And I believe it IS wise to be skeptical of any Geoff Baker analysis…but less so about his reporting, even with his penchant for sensationalism. The quotes speak for themselves, and they are DAMNING. Nothing much knew here (except what an ass Jack Z. Comes off as), and it all gives reason and context to what we could all see happening with our own eyes. Even if “the other side of the story” could mitigate things somewhat, this thing is well-sourced and still very damning.

    Blengino may have an axe to grind, but his story fits the observable facts. I believe him.

  5. Breadbaker on December 8th, 2013 1:40 pm

    When he first got here, when he and Tony were attached at the hip, Zduriencik was all about how important to the franchise were the most fanatic fans, i.e., those who contributed here and to LL. He’s been remarkably quiet on issues of the fan base (letting Howard make his very special remarks about why people will enjoy Mariners games even if the team is crap instead).

  6. Bodhizefa on December 8th, 2013 1:46 pm

    “β€œAt this point, given how much other people in the league seem to want to avoid our organization, he’s ruined the franchise just as much as Bavasi did, and at least Bavasi was a decent guy.”
    Uh, Robinson Cano says hello.”

    I’m talking more about scouts, analysts, and front office assistants of any estimable talent.

    And besides. We had to pay Cano $75 million more than anyone else was offering. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement πŸ™‚

  7. Westside guy on December 8th, 2013 2:31 pm

    I’m a much better bargain than Cano. I’d be happy to buy season tickets to this team’s games – and they’ll only need to pay me a fraction of $75 million for that loyalty. πŸ˜‰

    (I’m not dissing Cano – dude is a great ball player)

  8. 300ZXNA on December 8th, 2013 3:10 pm

    I want to chime in with something I haven’t seen mentioned yet. As much as I agree that Armstrong and Lincoln legitimately come off badly in this article, I do want to give credit where credit is due. Notice that Z felt it necessary to present a stat/scouting hybrid. That means that Lincoln and Howard had identified that that was something they wanted. I feel bad for them, as it appears they were really trying to avoid the mistakes of Bavasi and had learned from them; they just weren’t able to execute that desire with their hire.

  9. PackBob on December 8th, 2013 3:37 pm

    One thing that Baker understands very well is what people want to hear. He is very good at rousing the rabble. There could be no better fodder for a Geoff Baker article than this.

    I have always liked reading Baker stories simply because he is very good at what he does which, IMO, is not akin to good reporting. He is very good at assembling items that support his agenda. He is a very good cherry picker.

    But even taking the very large Baker grain of salt with this article doesn’t negate the dysfunction of the Mariners FO. It sounds like the employees have some real, not firing-induced, axes to grind. It’s easy to fit Jack Z with his moves over the last few years, and Howard L with his limited baseball knowledge, into the villain roles.

    Stories like this are hard to assess because they are simply the airing of complaints. The entire story is the complaints and the format is the crafting of Baker who artfully draws a conclusion without drawing a conclusion. Baker is, again, leading down the path he chooses. It’s sensational.

    What I take from this article is that it supports what has seemed to be happening with what we could see on the surface, the steady abandonment of sabermetric principles that the team started with to end with Ibanez, Morse, and Morales as centerpieces of the “new and improved” Mariners. The apparent falling out of favor and eventual release of Tony Blengino has the same timeline.

    I would hope that someone else than Baker looks into this. He is not my go to guy for unbiased information. Maybe this paints an accurate picture of the state of the Mariners, maybe it does not.

  10. Mike Snow on December 8th, 2013 4:00 pm

    I do want to give credit where credit is due. Notice that Z felt it necessary to present a stat/scouting hybrid. That means that Lincoln and Howard had identified that that was something they wanted.

    Just because Lincoln and (I assume you mean) Armstrong had decided they wanted a “hybrid” GM doesn’t mean they understand why that would be desirable. They may have been looking for that just because it was the trend, the latest fashion, what everybody else was doing. The difference in that illustrates why people have long been concerned about leadership at the top having a pervasive negative impact on the organization.

    If Lincoln and Armstrong didn’t understand why a combination of stats and scouting approaches was needed, then they lack the ability to properly evaluate their employee who’s supposed to be using that approach. They don’t need to master all the details or know the name of the latest fancy analytical tool, but they need to have a sense of the principles involved. The stories here and in the past, about them giving directions about coaching, practice, or day-to-day lineups, suggest pretty strongly that they don’t have that sense, they just expect their employees to implement whatever management tells them.

    In reality, you should hire an employee based on a shared expectation about how they will do their job and then allow them to actually do it. Then you evaluate regularly based on how the employee worked toward those expectations. The evaluation is sort of a combination of process (were they following the approach that was planned when they were hired) and results (did the approach succeed, and if not was it because the employee wasn’t up to the task or because the process was poorly designed to achieve the desired results?).

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