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Mariners management called dysfunctional by former skipper and front office personnel

Dec 8, 2013, 8:53 AM EDT

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If you read one thing today, make it this Seattle Times profile of the Mariners’ front office. Geoff Baker, the author of the piece, talked to former M’s manager Eric Wedge, former special assistant Tony Blengino and scouts who are still affiliated with the team. What he found wasn’t pretty. A taste:

One of those speaking out is [Tony] Blengino, the former No. 2 in [current GM Jack Zduriencik’s] front office. Blengino, who was working for the Milwaukee Brewers with Zduriencik at the time, said he authored virtually the entire job application package Zduriencik gave the Mariners in 2008, depicting a dual-threat candidate melding traditional scouting with advanced statistical analysis.

Blengino said he prepared the package because he was versed in the hot trend of using advanced stats for team decisions.

“Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “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.”

There’s plenty more where that came from. So, uh, welcome to Seattle, Robinson Cano.

  1. bestdjinfl - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    probably because that’s still the best way to analyze a player. …the human eye

    • paperlions - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Well, yes. A skillful scout (generally, NOT fans) watching a player is the best way to evaluate his skills, talent, and potential. But HR, RBI, BA, ERA, and pitcher wins are not particularly effective when it comes to understanding production and what leads to teams winning baseball games.

      That is why the best teams use both kinds of information, because they are complementary and tell you completely different things.

      • clydeserra - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        seriously? at 130 EDT this has downvotes out pacing by 2-1?

        Its not even a controversial statement for the head in the sand about math people

      • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:06 PM

        Thumb harpy.

  2. detectivejimmymcnulty - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    I like to reserve judgment until more information becomes available on these kind of stories, but losing doesn’t typically create a very friendly environment.

    • jcmeyer10 - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      Yah, it’s tough to tease out poop throwing after getting canned for being a complete failure.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        Ahh, the double-sarcastic twist. Very hard to pull off, Sir. Very hard. The thumbs will tell if it confused the harpies.

      • jdillydawg - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Actually, Wedge wasn’t fired. He refused to come back.

      • matttucker76 - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:13 PM

        Wedge wasn’t fired. His contract was fulfilled, and as was mentioned in the story, the M’s were looking to give him at least a one-year contract for 2014. Wedge walked away from this mess.

  3. cur68 - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    And suddenly, that gross overpay for Robinson Cano makes some sense. I do believe the lunatics are running the asylum there in Seattle. The funny thing is that now, with Cano, and due to the ground work laid for them by the fired stats people, just by adding a decent pitcher the Mariners will be significantly better.

    If I’m reading that article right, it seems the stats savvy guys wanted proven talent and not raw rookies to round out the team. The brass was all about “diamonds in the rough” and going cheap and expecting immediate results. The lack of immediate results lead to all the crazy. Now, suddenly, they decided it was not working after they fired all their stats people and did, in a hilarious over-the-top way, precisely what the stats guys had wanted all along: a proven, talented MLB capable player was added to the roster.

    Its like Zduriencik et al. watched Moneyball and said “Lets do that!” and tried to do it exactly like in the movie. No money, lots of interfering with the manager, and a sound track.

    This is all the fault of TG&PB. And Brad Pitt. Him most of all.

    • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      More specifically, I think the stat savvy guys wanted proven talent if they were expected to produce immediate results.

      • cur68 - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM

        There ya go.

    • historiophiliac - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Brad Pitt is James Woods with a better chin.

      • riotpunch26 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        James Woods can only play James Woods.

      • yahmule - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        I heard he could play Milton Berle, if you know what I mean.

    • clydeserra - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      the Jaso/Morse/morales/Vargas thing last year makes more sense now

  4. pisano - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Welcome Robbie Cano.

  5. detectivejimmymcnulty - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Has Cano officially signed? Jay-Z steered him right, eh?

    • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      Favorite tweet this morning was somebody linking to Baker’s story and saying “Cano Googling ‘how to fail a physical'”

  6. fishfiletkray - Dec 8, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    I have a feeling the Mariners are going to give up the farm to get Price. Andrew Friedman has become a genius at fleecing other ball clubs.

    • riotpunch26 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      Pretty hard to “fleece” anyone when you’re giving up David Price regardless of what you get back.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        If the Rays got the same return for Price that they got for Shields, that would be a fleecing.

  7. blynch67 - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    “Stay classy, my friend”

  8. anxovies - Dec 8, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Interesting, I hadn’t considered the culture shock awaiting Cano. Since the Gene Michaels era the Yankees have managed to keep the front office away from day to day operations on in the field. Also, the Yankees tend to pamper their players, giving them the best of everything. Seattle may be an enlightening experience for Robinson. I wonder how he is going to take it when the hot water in the showers runs out because the bosses are cutting costs and he finds himself taking infield practice in September because the people upstairs have decided that the team needs it?

    • yahmule - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      You know Major League was a movie and not a documentary, right?

      • mikhelb - Dec 8, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        Tell that to the A’s management and their clubhouses filled with sewage because they don’t want to invest to repair a single thing until the county does it.

      • clydeserra - Dec 8, 2013 at 7:18 PM

        the A’s don’t run their stadium. the county stadium authority does.

  9. Maxa - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    Aaron Gleeman actually made somewhat prescient remarks about this on one of his recent podcasts. He said that although Zduriencik had been hailed as stats-savvy, you wouldn’t know on the basis of the actual signings he made. Early on it seemed like the Mariners were on to something in targeting defense as an undervalued commodity (signing players like Franklin Gutierrez). But other than that, you would be hard-pressed to view Zduriencik as an innovative GM in the same way as, say, someone like Andrew Friedman.

    • yahmule - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      You mean collecting a bunch of one dimensional power hitters last winter wasn’t forward thinking?

      • Jeremiah Graves - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        Uh…guys, if we keep disrespecting the genius move of signing Chone Figgins. I’m going to, like, fight everyone!

      • Walk - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        No need to bring the braves into this.

    • paperlions - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Exactly. When he was hired it was considered a move that would bring far more information to the decision making process, but those expectations were never evident in how the club was run. It has seemed pretty clear for a few years that Jack Z doesn’t know what he’s doing.

  10. moogro - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Great article. Sounds like they are in free-fall.

  11. hittfamily - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    I don’t like the Mariners chances of winning a trade with the Rays. If Andrew Friedman calls, Mariners fans better hope the secretary is smart enough to hang up, or say he moved, or at an Obama fashion show (office fans).

  12. brewcrewfan54 - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Back when Jack Z. was the top scout for the Brewers a lot of Brewer fans wanted them to fire Doug Melvin and hire Jack. I can say I was not one of them and after reading this am very happy that didn’t happen. Jack doesn’t sound like a guy ya wNt around.

    • hittfamily - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      Either you are the thumber, or you are being framed.

      • cur68 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        I’ve been noticing a few thing about this thumb-guy based on how he wastes his time thumbing people.

        1)He’s a dude and unemployed. No woman would waste her time like this and he’s got WAY too much time to mess around gaming the thumbs.
        2)He’s anti-sabermetrics: so he’s kinda dumb (probably explains the ‘unemployed’ status’)
        3)He’s not good at actually arguing: he passive agresses rather than type comments on here
        4)He fears people who are smarter than he is (pretty much everyone, I guess).

        Is it “brewcrewfan”? Doubt it. I don’t mean to offend ya, ‘crew but that typo probably helped you with this guy. He’s thinking you’re just like him. Also, its not ‘crew since 1)’crew’s here commenting and 2) he can punctuate and spell and stuff. He just hit ‘caps-lock’ as he was typing the “a” in “want”.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Not sure I know what y mean.

      • tfbuckfutter - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        From what I’ve noticed it seems to happen more over-night than during the daytime.

        Someone’s up awful early or awful late.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

        I must be being framed as I rarely thumbs up or down any comments and I don’t believe I’ve given any on this particular thread.

      • cur68 - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:57 PM

        Prediction: from this time forward ‘crew gets CANED by the thumbs. Not a single misspelling or evidence of being a ‘tard anywhere.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Dec 8, 2013 at 4:35 PM

        Thanks cur. I do try to use decent grammar and puncuation. I also try to only write things I wouldn’t be afraid to say to a stranger in a bar. Sometimes later in the evening though if I’ve had a few drinks I get a little loose with both those things.

  13. tfbuckfutter - Dec 8, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Even if he values BA and RBI over other stats….

    How the hell did they end up with such an awful offense?

    The difference between advance stats and traditional stats might be the difference between a great offense and a good offense….but even if you’re only using traditional stats you should end up with some pretty decent players, even if you are overpaying them based on the wrong mparameters.

  14. jdillydawg - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    The Mariners don’t have a clue how to run a successful ball club. By that, I mean they have no idea what it takes to win. What they do know, however, is how to make money. How does a ball club lose over a million fans in the past few years and still make a sick profit? That’s pretty genius if you ask me.

    But they’ll never contend until they get serious about cleaning house. The guys that are there will continue to rake in the money, Safeco will get emptier and emptier, and the M’s will dwell in the cellar. I don’t care if they somehow drafted the AL All Star Team, they would still find a way to lose. Blengino’s spot on.

    • matttucker76 - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      And frankly, that’s all HoChuck are about. Armstrong all but admitted that within the last year. To them, this is strictly a business rather than a sports business. They need to bring in people who can handle the actual sports part of the equation and get out of their way. With Chuck gone in less than two months, Howard can’t be long for retirement.

  15. Reflex - Dec 8, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I can’t say whether or not this is true, but I will point out that Baker is pretty much an anti-stats guy who has hated Jack from day one. That does not mean that the pieces he reports are not true, I’m only saying that altogether they may not be the complete story or paint the picture he is trying to paint.

    • clydeserra - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      So, you are saying he hates Zduriencik because he is just like himself?

      • Reflex - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        No, I’m saying he’d love to tear down his stats reputation if at all possible, just like he’d love to tear down Billy Beane’s or anyone else’s.

        Note, I’m not saying he is incorrect. Some important insiders have gone on the record here and that’s pretty rare. I’m only saying it may not b complete, or it may be overblown. I don’t know. The fact is that Jack’s reign has been much more sabermetrically inclined than the previous administrations, and it has paid dividends in the farm system although they have not translated to the major league level yet.

      • clydeserra - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:52 PM

        any weapon you can use I suppose.

        the on record people are intriguing, aren’t they. And the timing post cano pre winter meetings is delicious.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        It’s not just Baker who’s saying this about Jack Z though, as noted by this tweet from Conor Glassey, formerly of Baseball America:

  16. swu32733 - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Should you doubt the value of statistical analysis just look at Oakland’s payroll and their W/L record. Seattle’s senior management are buffoons.

    • flamethrower101 - Dec 8, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      To think it was nearly 20 years ago this franchise was in danger of being moved out of Seattle. Makes you wonder if maybe that would’ve been a good thing because what’s happening with the Mariners is a joke. Cano better be ready for this.

  17. seattlenative57 - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Baker is not “anti-stats” by any stretch. He is reporting Zdurienciek’s job application was fluffed by Blengino in order to satisfy the Lincoln/Armstrong ignoramuses. His trades and free agent acquisitions seem to bare this out. He’s given away more talent than he’s received. His only redeeming talent appears to be draft evaluation which Baker accurately points out, although he’s fired most of his drafting team. Three managers in less than 5 years is enough to tell me Jack Z has trouble evaluating talent, either with advanced metrics or through his own eyeballs. Baker paints a picture of a back-stabbing, corporate ass-kissing, ladder-climber.

  18. shanabartels - Dec 8, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this level of dysfunction exists in a slew of other MLB front offices as well — I doubt the Mariners are unique with this. I mean, considering how many articles we see linked on HBT speculating about the various front office types and managers in danger of getting fired (we see it fairly often pertaining to the Angels for example — probably at least once a month someone writes a column about DiPoto and/or Scioscia being on the chopping block), there’s probably plenty of turmoil around the industry.

    Obviously that doesn’t make it okay to have such an unhealthy working environment, but just to arbitrarily pick a number here, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that eight or ten MLB clubs are this toxic near the top of the food chain. Just saying.

  19. Old Gator - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I’m always wary of public displays of schadenfreude. A journalist with an axe to grind (and only journalists who have had both hands amputated don’t have an axe to grind) can always stack up malcontents to make their comments sound exactly the way they want them to sound.

  20. shawnuel - Dec 8, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Baker is definitely not on the Sabermetrics train, that is for sure. He may not be anti-stats but he wrote so many articles on spending more money regardless of the teams situation, veteran presence, character, grit………buzzwords of the anti-stat community, Also it is Geoff Baker, not Scott. His whole tenure in Seattle was spent writing almost as much about the Toronto Blue Jays as the Mariners. Hint…he is from Canada and Toronto was his former beat. When he came to Seattle, he was welcomed by the very large sabermetric community of the Seattle Blogosphere (Dave Cameron, Derek Zumsteg, Jeff Sullivan etc.) before completely alienating himself by takling potshots at them whenever possible. Baker is a douche and, even though this story rings true in some ways, I can’t help but think that there is a slightly more un-biased side to the story.

  21. seattlenative57 - Dec 8, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    We will read in the coming days, as Blengino says, “This is the tip of the iceberg.”

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