Monday, October 14, 2013

Management a Big Issue for the Mariners

By Kevin Calderhead

This Mariners season ended like most others, out of playoff contention, stuck at the bottom of the AL West. It seems us Seattleites have become accustomed to this kind of finish, but a couple of things happened in September this year that were different than usual.
On September 19, the Mariners majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi died. When he bought the team in 1992, he was seen as a hero. The Mariners weren’t a very successful team (surprise!), and were threatened by relocation. His purchase of the team 21 years ago essentially saved baseball in Seattle. However it should be noted that between 1992 and his death this year, he didn’t attend a single Mariners game. Even last season, when the Mariners opened their season in Japan, he said he would rather watch the games on TV.
Having a dedicated owner seems to lead to success more often than not. Take the Texas Rangers, for instance. Their owner and CEO, Nolan Ryan comes to almost every one of their games. It shows that organizations that care about the game will typically win more games than those who don’t.
A prime example of this is the Detroit Tigers’ signing of Prince Fielder. Their owner, Mike Ilitch, wanted to do anything to win a World Series, and went all out in signing one of the best first basemen in the league. It was his decision, not the general manager’s, to pursue this type of talent.
This kind of thing is unheard of in the Mariners organization. Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln don’t seem all that concerned about the success of the team. When was the last time the Mariners signed a big name, All-Star player in free-agency to a multi-year contract in hopes of a championship caliber team? Not for quite a while. If they do sign a player like this, we keep them around for a year at best and use them as trade bait to get more prospects.
This is best illustrated with the signing of Cliff Lee a few years back. He was signed on a one year contract and traded mid-season for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matthew Lawson.
The front office problem is also causing a serious managerial problem. Since 2002, the Mariners have had three managers quit. That’s right, quit, not fired. What kind of Major League manager quits? They get paid large amounts of money to decide who gets to play, and basically supervise professional athletes.
That’s the other part of the end of this Seattle baseball season that once again will not continue into October. Merely games from the end of the season, manager Eric Wedge announced that he will not return for the 2014 season. At first, it seemed like it was because the Mariners wouldn’t give him more than a one year contract extension, but in a recent interview with Wedge he disputed this.

“Let me be clear here: the contract is not the reason I’m not coming back here,” Wedge said in the interview. “If they’d offered me a five-year contract, I wouldn’t have come back here. So, let’s be clear with that.”

If that wasn’t the issue, then what was?

Wedge said that his outlook of the team was different than how Chuck Armstrong, Howard Lincoln and Jack Zduriencik saw it. He talked about how the team only consists of very young players, like Brad Miller, Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin, and very old veterans, Raul Ibanez and Henry Blanco. In Wedge’s opinion, the team needs more four or five year veterans to help the young players over a longer period of time.

This was only the most recent Mariners manager to quit. In 2007, Mike Hargrove walked out in the middle of the season during an eight game winning streak. Lou Piniella also asked to be released by the team in 2002 because he wanted to be closer to home. His father was in ailing condition, so this resignation may not be due to the front office.

Will Jack Zduriencik make the right hire with a new manager? Who knows. Clearly not Zduriencik, as seen above.
Tacoma News Tribune

Once again, the Mariners are on the lookout for another new manager. Will Jack Zduriencik and the rest of the Mariners’ front office get this hire right? Only time will tell. But if they do get it right, the atmosphere around Mariners baseball could change for the good. Let’s all hope Zduriencik makes the right move in this situation.

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