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.

Comments

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

  1. Westside guy on December 7th, 2013 9:07 pm

    I would be curious to know if Baker has been holding onto bits of this piece for a while, knowing he couldn’t publish it until he wasn’t the Mariners’ beat writer anymore.

    I remember a Divish tweet a few days ago. Someone had posited a question about whether Zduriencik was in over his head as a GM – Divish responded something along the lines of “I’ve heard that sentiment expressed from people in baseball many, many times”.

    The timing of this sucks, of course, because – Mariners I guess. But there’s a part of me that hopes, maybe irrationally, that THIS will be the impetus that finally forces change in the organization. If that happens… would one last crappy off-season be too much to ask?

  2. Dave on December 7th, 2013 9:11 pm

    None of this has been a huge secret to people around the team. The key was getting the quotes on the record, but I’m sure Baker/Divish/etc… have heard and known all this stuff for a while. The Mariners have burned a lot of bridges over the last few years, and there’s no way all this stuff was going to stay off the record forever.

  3. Liam on December 7th, 2013 9:12 pm

    I’m not sure what is worse, winning with Jack Zduriencik in charge or more losing to get rid of Jack Zduriencik.

  4. IwearMsHats on December 7th, 2013 9:14 pm

    Dave, this has to change your view on how much of the responsibility for the awful teams the Mariners have put out for the last decade plus in regards to Howard and Chuck, does it not?

  5. okinawadave on December 7th, 2013 9:14 pm

    I am amazed at how well Dave has a pulse on this organization, as reflected in his writing. Over Zduriencik’s tenure, we all were on board and excited for the first couple years, but then things stalled out. Lately Dave has been using words like ‘disenchanted’ re: upper management. And here we have the other side of the story, confirming his feelings.

    Edit: maybe this stuff was more well-known than I had previously thought, but I am still impressed.

  6. smb on December 7th, 2013 9:15 pm

    Well I’m glad it finally came out–maybe they can be shamed into creating some kind of change. I don’t think Armstrong leaving is really even a start though, as I expect Lincoln expects anyone in that position to be his chief yesman/go’fer. It’s sad to me that even as a teenager working for them in ballpark ops, I could tell it was the blind leading the blind, and basically a “clown shoes” effort from top to bottom.

    The worst part is that whatever hope I’ve been clinging to that they won’t do the stupid thing and trade Walker in a “win-now” acquisition of some crush they get on some vet (be it Price or someone else), it’s rapidly receding. I want so badly to see this team be relevant for the right reasons, and this article just confirms the worst of what we’ve all known or suspected for a long, long time. Way too long, really. We just need new ownership, period. I guess that’s going to continue as my stand.

  7. killeverything on December 7th, 2013 9:16 pm

    I read that Divish tweet that Westside refers to. I’m an optimist by nature ( even being an M’s fan ) so maybe this ( common ) knowledge finally going public can force change in the FO.

  8. smb on December 7th, 2013 9:18 pm

    Well, I hope everyone retweets and shares the article far and wide…hopefully someone will mention to Lincoln that it got 40 billion pageviews. :-)

  9. killeverything on December 7th, 2013 9:24 pm

    @Smb while Lincoln and Armstrong have always sucked they need to know they were swindled hiring Z.

  10. Gibbo on December 7th, 2013 9:33 pm

    Lincoln is nearly 74 and I really can’t see him staying too long, sure another year is too long and it’s nice to have confirmed what many say. This is really not god for anyone. They key will be when someone does come in will they be strong enough to change things up and will they bring in there own person to replace Jack. It’s pretty evident he is not up to the task.

  11. Liam on December 7th, 2013 9:40 pm

    Toward the end of the 2009 season there was a Fangraphs piece on the Mariners having one of the best team defenses of the decade by UZR, which Jack Zduriencik mentioned on air during a M’s game. The person who probably read that and passed it on was Tony Blengino. :(

  12. killeverything on December 7th, 2013 9:42 pm

    I read a Scott Weber tweet that the timing couldn’t be worse heading into the winter meetings and trying to attract free agents. Couldn’t agree more.

    @Gibbo didn’t Lincoln say he was going to stay on until the team wins or something along those lines? So it seems were stuck with him and the special needs GM until he dies.

  13. Steve Nelson on December 7th, 2013 9:47 pm

    @Gibbo on December 7th, 2013 9:33 pm

    Lincoln is nearly 74 and I really can’t see him staying too long,

    Bingo. And he doesn’t want to go out as a “loser”. And I suspect the Mariners lack of relevance really embarrasses him.

    So I can’t help but think he’s making a big push now to rebuild the Mariners under his watch. Lincoln can give Canó a 10-year contract, because he’s only going to be around for half of it. And if Canó produces in the first half of that contract, Lincoln looks good. He can retire, having rebuilt the team, and leave the denouement for whoever comes after him.

  14. Westside guy on December 7th, 2013 9:48 pm

    I dunno. I can’t see baseball players giving too much weight to this. An agent might use it while attempting to get a few more millions from the club, though.

    Wedge used to say he never read what the papers said about the team. I’ve heard players make similar statements. They will certainly hear about this; I just doubt it’ll have a huge effect on them. They’ll care more about what Felix says or Junior says.

  15. GarForever on December 7th, 2013 10:40 pm

    Having worked in a lot of different professional situations and knowing what people generally have to say after the dissolution of either a personal or professional relationship, the complete truth of things is almost assuredly somewhere between what Wedge is saying and what the team is saying. But wherever the truth is in that large middle, it still ain’t good.

    I have always been one to try to give Z the benefit of the doubt, but if even half of this is accurate, Blengino is the one who deserved it before he was marginalized and then pushed out. And Z comes across in all of this as someone who would be the one of the worst bosses I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some shitty ones.

    Just as I was starting to feel better about things…

  16. Typical Idiot Fan on December 7th, 2013 10:50 pm

    Well… /sigh…

    I can’t do it anymore. I will always love the Seattle Mariners but… I cannot support this organization in good conscience. Not as long as Howard Lincoln runs it. Not as long as Jack Zduriencik is the general manager. This isn’t just dysfunction, this is heinous.

    I’ll root for the boys (who have nothing to do with this), but I wont say one more nice thing about this organization until those bastards at the top are gone.

  17. shortbus on December 7th, 2013 11:06 pm

    This isn’t just a potential problem for the Winter Meetings, this could theoretically impact the Cano signing. Cano is about to commit the rest of his career to the Mariners. If he suddenly feels that this kind of bad press (even if it’s unfounded) could limit the team’s ability to construct a roster around him, he could bail on the rumored deal. Couldn’t he? I assume that until the physical is complete he can just walk away from it. Or is Cano already committed, with only the physical pending?

  18. phineasphreak on December 7th, 2013 11:09 pm

    I’m only surprised at how MUCH dysfunction goes on in this front office.

    I wish this was a situation where the commissioner could step in and try to force changes.

    @ShortBus – I was wondering the exact same thing. I mean, if Cano does hear this, can he decide that it’s the wrong decision, regardless of the money?

  19. Jay Yencich on December 7th, 2013 11:16 pm

    I wish this was a situation where the commissioner could step in and try to force changes.

    Selig is usually only too eager to refer to the Mariners as one of the best-run organizations in baseball. I’m guessing this isn’t a priority of theirs.

  20. killeverything on December 7th, 2013 11:20 pm

    @Phineasphreak I also wondered the same thing. The problem is if Cano opts out of the deal he will be taking a major paycut from whoever signs him next. I wouldn’t worry about it.

  21. phineasphreak on December 7th, 2013 11:28 pm

    @Jay – Not a priority. There’s too much else going on in baseball’s offseason for this to be an issue. If it were a NY team, however, it’s what all the talking heads would be on about.

    @Killeverything – I think I’m worried that Cano isn’t worried. I don’t know too much about him, except that he’s already won championships, wants lots of money, and the Yankees, his homegrown team, let him walk.

  22. Jay Yencich on December 7th, 2013 11:46 pm

    I wouldn’t say that. The Yankees were highly dysfunctional for a number of years, and while it’s a historical reference point, no one was trying to do anything. The Mets have been a punchline for years, which I offer with no special insight into the front office’s operation. I believe that in order for them to do something, you’d need to see not just incompetence, but outright corruption.

  23. wabbles on December 7th, 2013 11:50 pm
  24. Westside guy on December 8th, 2013 12:01 am

    Jay has a good point. George Steinbrenner was all this and more – and no one at MLB felt the need to get involved. Heck, they probably figure it’s their divine right as owners to meddle, and probably think they understand the game better than everyone else anyway.

  25. Adam S on December 8th, 2013 12:20 am

    The details are news, but the general issue of meddling/dysfunctional leadership has been clear for some time. I still remember them blocking the Washburn trade, which was a great salary dump, because they felt they should get a better return.

    What I found most troublesome, is I got the distinct impression that Zduriencik simply isn’t smart enough to be a major league general manager. I can understand leaning more toward scouting than statistical analysis though it’s not how I’d do things. But if he doesn’t understand one iota of the analysis, even if that’s hyperbole, he really shouldn’t be involved with player acquisition and retention.

  26. Jamie M on December 8th, 2013 12:40 am

    Jesus, I knew Mariner management was bad/ incompetent, but Baker’s article sends chills down my spine with the sheer level of malevolent nastiness that apparently passes for Mariner leadership. If the M’s do win more in 2014, it will be in spite of the smucks running the show.

  27. RaoulDuke37 on December 8th, 2013 12:56 am

    I never liked or disliked Eric Wedge, but now I feel pretty bad for him.

    If even half this article is true, Jack Z comes off as a huge pile of shit.

  28. Adam S on December 8th, 2013 1:14 am

    For Dave or Jeff, now what?

    Many people have noted this isn’t surprising or news, but now that the dirty laundry is out there, what should the Mariners ownership do about it? And is there any reason to think they’ll do anything other than ignore it?

  29. Typical Idiot Fan on December 8th, 2013 1:30 am

    Japanese corporations do not like shame, especially not public shame. They wouldn’t dare fire Lincoln, et al, because that would bring more shame as an admission of fault. They would, however, quietly transfer authority to someone else and promote Lincoln to another position perhaps outside the organization.

    This is assuming they’re even aware of it. I don’t know what Chris Larson, et al would do. God I hope they get pissed about this.

  30. LongDistance on December 8th, 2013 2:00 am

    First the Cano signing. Then Baker’s article. I’m feeling sort of burned out… One made me feel halfway good, but the other is worrisome because they absolutely have to have the brains and skill to make the Cano signing work.

    Uh… I’ve got nothing. But just a couple a random thoughts that floated through my numbed neurons.

    The Seattle Times, if you know any beat reporters up and down the coast, you’d hear consistent remarks about how the Times, also, has some management Daddy Issues… and somewhat like the dinger-loving Mariners management atmosphere… is obsessed with Pulitzers. And damn the torpedoes. (Anybody remember the prize-winning articles about the 737 tail-fin fiasco? And how that barely cleared the news-cycle before Boeing announced it was moving CorpHead to Chicago — and simultaneously shutting down access to Times reporters?).

    OK. I think Baker’s article is necessary. But it now makes me think the Cano signing was less a seachange Epiphany… a newfound energy and intelligence… in the Mariners FO and Jack Z. …

    Than maybe just an emotional reaction to (for example) the sort of success happening in the stadium just to the north.

    Seahawk jealousy? Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past them at this point.

    In any case, I’m hoping the Cano signing has so much impetus, even they can’t screw it up.

  31. MrZDevotee on December 8th, 2013 2:25 am

    Wow, I can’t believe folks are so fast to grasp something Geoff Baker wrote as “the word of God.”

    That’s Geoff’s new role at the Seattle Times, to be sensational enough to get folks attention. Newspapers around the country have been resorting to borderline TMZ/National Enquirer stuff. It’s not new. Boston’s media, as well as New York’s, lives off this sort of stuff– precisely WHY he’s not the beat writer anymore.

    And I’m not defending the M’s, what I’m doing is waiting for someone whose writing I trust to say something on the topic. Y’know, to find out what really happened.

    I mean, people who saw things differently and left (or were forced out) don’t have nice things to say? Really? Are we ignoring the fact that people who are forced out of a company like the Mariners (ie a struggling/bad company) are themselves desperate to distance themselves from any of the blame for the failure, especially if they want more jobs doing what they were doing unsuccessfully there (ie, see Wedge’s comments about wanting to manage again).

    Of course they’re dysfunctional, but the 1984 George Orwell angle is a little ridiculous and over the top. It’s practially an Indiana Jones movie– I bet everyone in the front office has thick German accents? I mean, the fact Lincoln, Armstrong and Z didn’t want to talk to him on the record actually works IN HIS FAVOR when you write a story like this. “SEE!!! The evil dictators who can’t be reasoned with, and will never be held accountable, are spitting in our faces while taking our money!”

    Michael Moore is incredibly entertaining, and his films are quite scandalous, but he, like Baker here, isn’t interested in giving his villain a chance to defend themselves, or explain the boring details. Which makes that sort of “journalism” amazingly titillating entertainment, but nothing more.

    On word of mouth alone, I bet the Times had its highest day of online subscription sales over this story.

    And make no mistake, I’m not defending the front office (despite what my moniker here is), but I AM saying “c’mon people, GEOFF BAKER!? You’re not skeptical at all?”

    If I was guessing I’d say he was pandering to the very folks who’ve hated him around here. I certainly never expected to see a link on USSMariner to a Geoff Baker article. Not unless it was an obituary.

    Personally, I think Baker is just going through his Miley Cyrus stage. He should change his staff photo to one where he sticks his tongue out as far as he can and wears a skimpy silver bikini… Or maybe just swing naked on a wrecking ball.

    I’m not impressed.

  32. killeverything on December 8th, 2013 2:50 am

    I get your point Mr. Z and it is Geoff Baker, but this is why I unfortunately think there is more truth than erroneous accusations.

    Number one Zduriencik doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s doing and it’s anonymously been stated he’s horribly overmatched. I assume dealing with him is akin to picking on a retarded child.

    Number two Wedge wasn’t fired, he left. I don’t think he was a good manager, but he walked out. He wasn’t dismissed.

    Where there’s smoke there’s fire. I hope Typical Idiot Fans assumptions come true about the Japanese connections.

  33. MrZDevotee on December 8th, 2013 3:46 am

    Kill
    Oh, I fully believe it’s a mess in that office, I just choose not to rely on Baker’s version of it to paint an accurate picture.

    I’d love to hear Larry Stone’s, or Ryan Divish’s version. Maybe it would be exactly the same, but I would feel a lot more confident in believing it.

    People write the kind of article Baker wrote to get notoriety, win awards, and garner recognition for themselves… And they know it works. It’s akin to the “on the beat” news reporters who track people down and stick microphones in their faces, or knock on people’s doors “Why won’t you talk to me!!!!!? We have a camera!”

    Baker’s story has no interest in the fans, or the team, or the city for that matter. It’s the journalistic equivalent of flexing in the mirror and kissing his own biceps. He picked an easy villain (the bungling owners of a beloved but losing sports team) and vilifies them for profit. I just hate that stuff. Without quotes from those being accused, I can’t accept it. He, and the people he DOES quote, are deciding the truth for us, and purporting to share “inside knowledge”, by presenting it to us completely biased. If Wedge or Blengino had leaked this info while they were still employed, that would be one thing– even if anonymously.

    And rather than WAIT to get the full story, and provide us with a constructive full dialogue, with both views, Baker’s just looking to make a big splash with his first offering of his new toy job of writing “important stuff”. Watchout Seattle, the heir apparent to Ken Schram is sharpneing his teeth and refining his craft. More glad than ever that we cancelled our Times subscription.

  34. ivan on December 8th, 2013 6:43 am

    I’d give careful weight to the comments in this thread from LongDistance and MrZDevotee. Their comments about the Seattle Times are spot on, and I say this having worked in that newsroom for 33 years, 16 of those years in the sports department, in the days of Hy Zimmerman and Bob Finnigan.

    It mystifies me, that after the constant, and IMO justified, fisking and trashing of Geoff Baker’s work here, that we would give him much credibility, or think that he was devoid of any personal agenda. Baker came onto the scene here with an agenda, and has rarely, if ever, deviated from it. BIG moves, BIG money, BIG splashes, BIG players. Team- and farm-system-wrecking BIG trades! It got so predictable, and so boring, that I just quit reading him, because I felt I had nothing to learn from him. He’s probably pissed off that they made the Cano deal after he left the beat.

    If Larry Stone had written this it would have been a different story. Larry is a stand-up guy and a competent and ethical reporter. I’d give far more weight to anything he wrote than I would to anything from Baker.

    As for Wedge, I appreciate that he stood up for his players, but after reading trashing after trashing of Wedge on USS Mariner, almost every day, about his personnel decisions and his in-game management, and having concluded that most or all of that trashing was justified, I fail to see how he comes off as a sympathetic character. I was glad to see him gone.

    Yes, our worst suspicions about Lincoln and Armstrong are reinforced, but seriously, people, what’s new here? We have always known this. Remember that Armstrong was placed here by George Argyros. George Argyros! Do people not remember this guy? He was the epitome of a meddling owner and an ignorant micromanager, much in the mold of Steinbrenner, and M. Donald Grant with the Mets, and Charley Finley with the A’s. But worse, far, far worse. It is no wonder Chuckie meddled.

    None of this is new. We have seen it all before. Play ball!

  35. tgf on December 8th, 2013 6:45 am

    MrZDevotee: Michael Moore is incredibly entertaining, and his films are quite scandalous, but he, like Baker here, isn’t interested in giving his villain a chance to defend themselves, or explain the boring details.

    What are you talking about? Baker asked Z, Lincoln, and Armstrong for their responses to specific accusations and they declined to address them, other than with general statements. It’s right there in the article. If they don’t want to respond that means Baker shouldn’t publish?

  36. downwarddog on December 8th, 2013 6:53 am

    To those of you bleating about Baker and his alleged agenda, this story is quite well sourced. Zduriencik is a fraud and the writing has been on the wall for years. Every time you hear the Great Jack Z talking about a player’s skills remember these words from Tony Blengino, the man who wrote Z’s job application and orchestrated his best move (the acquisition of Franklin Gutierrez): “Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job, but Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door.”

  37. JH on December 8th, 2013 6:58 am

    Say what you want about Baker, or just ignore hm and look at the on the record quotes. That’s all you really need for ths article to be damning. If the quotes are inaccurate, that’s a fire able offense.

    Baker gets crap around here for his skills as an analyst. Nobody questions that he’s a good reporter.

  38. CCW on December 8th, 2013 7:48 am

    Geoff Baker made it abundantly obvious over the past few years that he’s a douche and completely willing to distort facts to further his own agenda (which in many cases was simply publicity). This article is interesting, and it confirms some things that many of us suspected, but you have layer in the fact that it’s Geoff Baker on top of the whole thing. Anyway, bottom line still is: upper management needs to go, hopefully before they set the M’s up for another lost decade.

  39. Seattleken on December 8th, 2013 7:52 am

    For three year now I have said Jack Z has not acted like a SABR based GM but an old school scout. Its pretty clear by the moves both on and off the field he misrepresented himself to the fan base and possibly the ownership.

    My hope everyone realizes Jack was old school just like Bill Bavasi so we can finally have a progressive GM who uses statistics and understands advanced metrics in Seattle. The population of Seattle ranks consistently in the top 10 in highest IQ in the country lets get a GM that represents the City of Seattle.

    I’d much rather have a intelligent geek who builds a winner then a good olde boy jock who builds a loser.

  40. gerrythek on December 8th, 2013 8:07 am

    Don’t get the Baker bashing that is going on. Every organization has disgruntled employees. How many go on record and report things we know in our hearts are true? Here’s a question. Just who is the head of Mariners statistical analysis?

  41. stevemotivateir on December 8th, 2013 8:16 am

    Dave hit the nail on the head in his comment. This was something everyone knew or suspected (to at least some extent, anyway) and it was going to come out sooner or later. Too many names involved for too long, for this to keep quiet. People have gone on record–finally. Wedge is just one piece in all this.

    I understand the caution given the author’s history, but I would hope fans here don’t dismiss this just because of the source. I felt Baker did a good job with this. Tony’s words alone are worth giving this come credibility.

    I’d love to hear a rebuttal from Jack, Chuck, and Howard on all this, but I’m more interested in the results. Will the board interrogate Howard and Jack? Will either be dismissed? If so, when?

    For now, I’m just anticipating the next player acquisition.

  42. Mekias on December 8th, 2013 8:39 am

    Reading that article, it seems to be equal parts truth, disgruntled ex-employees, and Baker sensationalism. Honestly, I could care less about Baker’s opinions on the subject. As such, I’m mainly going over the quotes and trying to determine the truth.

    The stuff from Blengino is very damning in my view. He talked in specifics, none of which were refuted by Jack Z. From those quotes, my opinion of Jack Z has gone way down. We all sort of suspected that his use of statistics had been thrown out of the window in the past 2 years but I think it’s clear now that he only tolerated that practice.

    The stuff from Wedge isn’t as important to me. It seemed to me that Wedge only “quit” because management wouldn’t give him what he wanted. They only would discuss a one-year deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many disagreements between Wedge and management but that’s par for the course when you have a losing team. Wedge certainly wasn’t helping the situation in any way and didn’t deserve the job any more.

    In the end, I’ve lost a lot of respect for Jack Z and no longer want him as the GM for the Mariners. That being said, he still has a chance to turn the M’s around. How he handles this offseason will go a long way to determining his future.

    I don’t think Jack Z is incompetent. He’s made plenty of good decisions over the years (in addition to the many bad ones). I just have a lot less trust in him than I did previously.

  43. ivan on December 8th, 2013 8:57 am

    “I’d much rather have a intelligent geek who builds a winner then a good olde boy jock who builds a loser.”

    I’d rather have a winner. I don’t give a shit who builds it, or how. There were winners and losers, there were smart GMs and dumb GMs, and there were good scouts and bad scouts long before there were stat geeks.

  44. Bodhizefa on December 8th, 2013 9:07 am

    I really really hate being a Mariners fan at this point. Screw Jack Zduriencik for posing like he understood statistics and cared about learning new things. At 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.

    I can’t believe I’d ever like Bavasi more than another Seattle GM, but Zduriencik has dropped below him at this point in my mind. What an asshat.

  45. jordan on December 8th, 2013 9:30 am

    Ugh. This is something I think we all already knew, but seeing it in writing with quotes from direct people involved makes it real. How does this get turned around?

    I hope the team gets sold

  46. bookbook on December 8th, 2013 10:06 am

    I’m surprised some tech billionaire hasn’t already bought the team

  47. ivan on December 8th, 2013 10:49 am

    “At 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.

  48. Westside guy on December 8th, 2013 11:24 am

    Baker gets crap around here for his skills as an analyst. Nobody questions that he’s a good reporter.

    This. Baker has done good reporting in the past. I think he’s a poor analyst… but there’s little analysis in this piece.

    It’s also not coming out of the blue. Other beat writers (e.g. Divish) have hinted at various aspects of this before. Also, other than Churchill, no one seems to be skeptical (and even Churchill quotes another organization’s assistant GM as saying “you know I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing over there” (referring to the Mariners).

    As Keith Law tweeted “it’s not hard finding people who’ll say bad things about a current GM. But finding guys who are willing to go on record with those complaints…”

  49. Easley45 on December 8th, 2013 11:26 am

    Blengino may have an axe to grind. He was an important person in the Mariners front office, and now he’s not. Jack Zduriencik still is. To say that Z only measures players by HR’s, BA, and RBI seems a bit difficult to believe. We’ve heard Jack answer questions in interviews and on the radio, etc. He’s not a moron. I suspect there is more to the story with Blengino.

  50. Westside guy on December 8th, 2013 11:31 am

    Blengino wasn’t the only source. Wedge wasn’t the only source. They talked to a couple dozen guys according to the article.

    And of course Blengino has an axe to grind. So do most whistleblowers. The question in this sort of situation should always be – was the reporter able to get other sources to collaborate?

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

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

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

  54. 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.

  55. 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).

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

    ““At 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 :)

  57. 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. ;-)

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

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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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