Are The Mariners Serving Lame Duck In 2014?

Originally published August 23rd, 2013

Did you hear?  The Mariners have resigned Jack Zduriencik to a one year extension — In fact, if the reports are accurate, they signed him to the extension before the start of the season.  Why the secrecy?  While every other team in Major League Baseball would have announced the signing with a press conference, the Mariners, until today, have treated the signing like a back alley secret handshake.  So why the secrecy?  Well… because I’m starting to think we have an ugly girlfriend.  Bear with me.  Did you ever have that friend?  You know, the one with the girlfriend you never met.  It wasn’t because she “lived in Canada”, it was because she was ugly, and your friend was embarrassed to be seen with her.  Instead of realizing that “Hey, he had a girlfriend!”, he was more worried about what his friends would think, rather than realizing he was lucky to be getting laid while his buddies were at home having a Madden marathon on their Playstation.  I know, it’s a pretty crude analogy, but this whole situation is ridiculous, and frankly, embarrassing.

It’s no secret that I picked the Mariners to win the West at the start of the season, I even left it up, because I believe in accountability.  I felt great about the Free Agents we brought in, and I expected faster development from our younger players.  There have been some bright spots to the season, and it looks like players like Brad Miller and Nick Franklin could develop into more, but I’m disappointed in how the year has gone.  Well, disappointed is too nice.  I’m feeling something else, something I’ve never felt about the Mariners until now.  Apathy.  In 2009 it was “In Jack We Trust”.  I’ve towed the line, I’ve seen the “progress” and believed the hype around our constantly improving and evolving farm club, but at the end of the day it hasn’t made a difference where it counts, and that’s the team record.  Are we truly any better off than we were in 2009 when Jack Zduriencik started?  This isn’t about whether Bill Bavasi was a better General Manager than Jack Zduriencik, it’s about examining numbers objectively vs subjectively.  Is Zduriencik the right man to lead the Mariners into the future, and if he isn’t, then why are the Mariners resigning him for an additional year?

2008 to Now:

When Jack Zduriencik took over in 2009, the Mariners were “too old”.  They couldn’t hit, they couldn’t field, they couldn’t run.  The team was coming off an abhorrent 101-loss 2008 season, and the Mariners were coming off their lowest attendance since 1995, and 100,000 tickets behind the American League average.  I think the 2004-2008 Mariners get worse every year thanks to revisionist history, so let’s look at some numbers in greater detail when evaluating if we’re truly “on the right track”, or not.

“Too Old”

  • When Bill Bavasi took over in 2004, the Mariners average position player was 31.4 years old, and their average pitcher was over 30.  Granted, Jaime Moyer was still pitching with the M’s at 41, and both Edgar Martinez and Pat Borders were also playing over 40.  When Bill Bavasi was fired in 2008, the team was at 29.6 for position players, and pitchers were 28.5 on average.  As of today, the Mariners are 28.9 years on the field and 28.5 on the mound.

Bill Bavasi had to deal with one thing that Jack Zduriencik didn’t, and that was rebuilding an old and aging roster.  In 2004, during Bavasi’s first year, the Mariners had eight players over 35 years old and another twelve players on the active roster that were 30 or older.  By 2008, Bavasi’s last year, the Mariners had five, two were relief pitchers, and one was the virtual Superman that is Raul Ibanez.  (Who, by the way, Jack Zdurencik did not resign in 2009 when Raul went to the Phillies, was an All Star, and hit 34 home runs.)  This year the Mariners have had four active roster players over 35, only one less than 2008, and another twelve players 30 and older, so let’s pull back on the fountain-of-youth argument.

“Can’t Hit, Can’t Run”

  • .243 Batting average, a .309 OBP, and a .400 SLG percentage. 
  • .265 Batting average, a .318 OBP, and a .389 SLG percentage.

Those are the totals from Bavasi’s “Worst GM In The History Of Baseball” year, and the numbers from Jack Z’s “Judge Me On Progress” 2013.  But which one is which?  The fact is that the 2008 Mariners are projected to out hit the 2013 Mariners for Batting Average, OBP, Runs, Hits, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, and all while having fewer Strike Outs.  Think about that for a minute.  The 2013 Mariners are on-pace to finish the year worse than the 2008 Mariners in every single offensive category but two:  Home Runs and Base on Balls.  That doesn’t even account for the 2013 Mariners bottom 5 ranking in the AL for Runs, Hits, 2B, 3B, SB, CS, BA, OBP, and OPS.  Jack Zdurencik has asked us to judge him on the team’s progress?

  • 2008 Mariners — .265 BA, .318 OBP, .389 SLG, 285 2B, 20 3B, 124 HR, 631 RBI, 90 SB, 890 SO
  • 2012 Mariners — .234 BA, .296 OBP, .369 SLG, 241 2B, 27 3B, 149 HR, 585 RBI, 104 SB, 1259 SO
  • 2013 Mariners — .243 BA, .309 OBP, .400 SLG, 261 2B, 18 3B, 150 HR, 626 RBI, 48 SB, 1339 SO * on pace

“Can’t Field”

  • 2008 Mariners — .984 Fielding Percentage, 99 Errors, 430 DPs
  • 2012 Mariners — .988 Fielding Percentage, 72 Errors, 428 DPs
  • 2013 Mariners — .986 Fielding Percentage, 84 Errors, 421 DPs * on pace

The 2012-2013 Mariners are better in the field than 2008, but how much better?  The real story behind 2008 isn’t that we were too old, or that we couldn’t hit, run, or field the ball, it was that we couldn’t pitch

“Can’t Pitch!”

The Mariners allowed 750 or more runs every year of Bill Bavasi’s term as General Manager.  Three years the team allowed over 800.  That’s a staggering figure, and one you can’t ignore.  To put that in perspective, the Jack Z-era Mariners haven’t allowed over 700 runs even one year, and from 2001-2003 (in the heart of a steroid-era,) the team kept opponents under 700 runs allowed every year.  Jack Zdurencik has undoubtedly improved the team on the mound, but do we feel the same at the plate?  And just as importantly, what about Free Agency?

Talent At The Plate

I actually took a night off in the middle of writing this.  I wanted to make sure I wasn’t completely insane, but I’m going to show you something that is going to make you cringe:

Jose Lopez – First 3 years w/the Mariners (and under Bavasi)

  • 2006 — .282 BA, .319 OBP, 10 HR, .978 Fielding
  • 2007 — .252 BA, .284 OPB, 11 HR, .987 Fielding
  • 2008 — .297 BA, .322 OBP, 17 HR, .985 Fielding

Yuniesky Betencourt – First 4 years w/the Mariners (and under Bavasi)

  • 2005 — .256 BA, .296 OBP, 1 HR, .981 Fielding
  • 2006 — .289 BA, .310 OBP, 8 HR, .971 Fielding
  • 2007 — .289 BA, .308 OBP, 9 HR, .967 Fielding
  • 2008 — .279 BA, .300 OBP, 7 HR, .968 Fielding

Dustin Ackley – First 2 years w/the Mariners (under Zdurencik)

  • 2011 – .273 BA, .348 OBP, 6 HR, .984 Fielding
  • 2012 – .226 BA, .294 OBP, 12 HR, .988 Fielding

Kyle Seager – First 2 years w/the Mariners (under Zdurencik)

  • 2011 – .258 BA, .312 OBP, 3 HR, .964 Fielding
  • 2012 – .259 BA, .316 OBP, 20 HR, .970 Fielding

Yes, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betencourt both busted at the end of their time with the Mariners, but recognize what they did when they were here!  Look at Lopez’s stats compared to Ackley.  More home runs, better batting average, and nearly equal fielding percent.  Yuniesky Betencourt is clearly no Kyle Seager, but I wanted to compare rookies during both eras.  Brendan Ryan, Betencourt was not, but he was a helluva lot better at the plate.  Did both Lopez and Betancourt grow mediocre at the end of their tenure with the Mariners?  YES, but that’s why you DFA players when they get bad!  But, that doesn’t discount what they did during their early years with the Mariners under Bavasi.  Both Lopez and Betencourt trended up, but unlike Kyle Seager, Dustin Ackley’s skills dropped almost overnight.  Everyone is excited about Nick Franklin today, but yesterday we were all excited about Dustin Ackley.  But again, revisionist history says that everything Bavasi touched turned to crap — and that same thought process seems to elevate what Zdurencik has done while he was here.  You could argue that Bavasi’s crop of core rookies was as good as Zdurencik’s.

Free Agents and Trades 

Yikes, I know.  It’s really easy to look at Bill Bavasi’s time as General Manager and go “Yikes”.

  • Scott Spiezio
  • Rich Aurilia
  • Pokey Reese
  • Carl Everett
  • Carlos Silva
  • Adam Jones for Erik Bedard
  • Shin-Soo Choo to the Indians
  • Richie Sexson?  Last I checked he was brought in to hit home runs, and he did, hitting 73 in his first two years here.  Is that truly a failure?  The Director of Scouting for the Brewers, Jack Zdurencik, liked him in 2000 when the Brewers acquired him from Cleveland.  And if you do consider Sexson a failure, do you at least give Bavasi and the team credit for signing Adrian Beltre in the same offseason?  “The Bash Is Back!”

That’s just to name a few.  But what has Jack Zdurencik really done with Free Agency and Trades?

  • Chone Figgins
  • Milton Bradley
  • Brad Wilkerson
  • Jack Cust
  • Casey Kotchman
  • Trading Doug Fister
  • How many times did he resign Erik Bedard?  Fool me one, fool me twice…
  • Didn’t resign Raul Ibanez in 2009, becomes an All Star in Philly

What is the one Free Agent signing or Trade that Jack Zdurencik truly stands for?  It’s hard to pick one, isn’t it?

In 5 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Bill Bavasi’s teams had 359 wins and 451 losses — A .443 Win Percentage.  As of today, during Jack Zdurencik’s 5th season with the Mariners, the team has 347 wins and 427 losses — A .448 Win Percentage.  When we signed Jack Zdurencik in 2008, it was “In Jack We Trust”, but has Jack Zdurencik really earned the right to another year?  And more than that, what does another year mean for this franchise?  Understand that Mariners attendance levels are near their lowest in over 20 years.  How does bringing back a General Manager for one year do anything for the confidence of the club or it’s fanbase?  It doesn’t — It doesn’t do a damn thing.  All it does is say that the front office is willing to tow the line for another year to “see what happens”.  You can’t build a team that way.  If Jack Zdurencik is the “man for the job”, then SHOW HIM and sign him to a long term deal.  If he’s not, then you shake hands and cut ties at the end of the season.  But what you don’t do is resign the guy to a one year deal.

How will the team build around a lame-duck General Manager?  Do you really think a one-year GM will have any say on payroll and budgets leading into next year?  (Realizing that next year was the year that free agent money was in-theory coming available.)  Have you forgotten that our Manager’s deal expires at the end of the year?  So are you going to resign him to a one year deal too — because that will do wonders for attracting Free Agents.  If you decide to let Wedge walk, what kind of a candidate will you find?  Do you really think the team will be able to attract a winning managerial candidate knowing that the GM is only guaranteed one year?  Hell no!  What it means is if Wedge isn’t our guy, (and I could make an argument for why now is the perfect time for a change, but I’ll save that and the candidates for another day,) then you’re looking at either a bench-coach or a retread for a year.  Another lame-duck year, and as fans are you excited about that?  I know I’m not, and it pisses me off.  It pisses me off to see a Front Office that would rather take a wait-and-see approach to the game instead of a winning one.  What about you? 

(Logo from — Too cool not to use.)

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