Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Seattle Roast----And I Don't Mean Coffee

  • Some will die in hot pursuit in fiery auto crashes...

The Mariners are rapidly degenerating into a train wreck on and off the field.

It's one thing to have high expectations based on faulty logic and misplaced appellations of genius; it's another to have things come apart totally because of the paucity of leadership from the top of the organization on down. What makes such a situation even worse is that the entire premise of the Mariners taking a drastic leap from overachiever into the status of legitimate contender was based on the leader of the organization----GM Jack Zduriencik.

It's a form of organizational cannibalism in which the club's whole identity was based on the "brilliance" of Zduriencik, but an inviolable aspect of being a top executive----control----has been found severely wanting in the whole Ken Griffey Jr. "napgate" affair (AKA l'affaire d'somme).

Amid the whole Ken Griffey Jr. mess of was he or was he not sleeping, the team has been holding meetings to straighten out the breaking of the clubhouse code of silence; and to take things down a road that isn't just a dead end, but is essentially a kamikaze mission, they're declining to speak to the reporter who broke the story as if it's somehow his fault----ESPN Story.

This is not going to end well.

I'm not the biggest fan of most mainstream writers based on philosophical differences and reluctance to cross the line into absolute honesty, but to think that Larry LaRue----the Mariners beat writer for the Tacoma News Tribune since 1988----would make up such a story about a legendary player is lunacy.

In fairness, it would be utterly impossible for any beat writer to do his job if he reported everything he saw, heard and knew about the players with whom he has to live for nine months a year; and that extends to the other side of the coin as well. No way, no how LaRue would've printed that story had he not received the information from people in the know. But the Mariners are blowing this whole thing up into an inferno with their ridiculous behavior in defense of a teammate who appears guilty.

Do you really think that a beat reporter with 22 years of experience is going to make up a story this damaging? Really?

The Mariners are deflecting the story by refusing to speak to the messenger? Are they kidding?

According to that ESPN story, Cliff Lee wouldn't speak to the media until the News Tribune reporter left the area; and other players followed suit. Mike Sweeney said he demanded the players stand up and identify themselves claiming to have challenged them to a fight. The clip follows:

On Tuesday, Mariners designated hitter Mike Sweeney called the players-only team meeting and strongly defended Griffey in comments to the media.

"We will support and fight and take a bullet for Ken Griffey Jr. if we have to. He's our teammate," Sweeney said, according to "Nothing is going to divide this clubhouse, especially a makeshift article made up of lies."

"We don't think there are two players who said that [about Griffey sleeping]," Sweeney added, according to the report. "I challenged everyone in that room -- if they said that to stand up and fight me. No one stood up."

Where does this end?

This is eerily reminiscent to the 1992 Mets (another team with massive expectations and a well-publicized and documented collapse) when scandal caused a much decried media boycott.

The Mariners cannot win this war especially since it's highly probable in my mind that the story is true.

Where's manager Don Wakamatsu to put an end to this boycott? To put a chokehold on his team and steer the ship back in the right direction? Wakamatsu acquitted himself impressively last season; he's dealt with Milton Bradley as well as possible; he's had players that are notoriously difficult (Erik Bedard); and are known divas (Griffey) and maintained control. Now, things are spiraling so far beyond that not even Joe Torre could maintain his grip.

More importantly than that, where's Zduriencik?

A Mariners club that was lauded in the off-season for their reliance on statistics and the guts to do whatever it took to try and win is looking eerily similar to the team from two years ago that was expected to win the AL West and had injuries sabotage those high hopes. The big difference now is the perception of the man running the show.

Bill Bavasi had spent a ton of money to bring in the likes of Carlos Silva; and traded for Erik Bedard to bolster a starting rotation led by Felix Hernandez. It didn't work mostly because manager John McLaren proved the point that many bench coaches should stay bench coaches and couldn't handle the big job. Two key players----Erik Bedard and J.J. Putz----both got hurt; Silva was awful, and things came apart.

Because Bavasi was not one of "them"----as in not a stat zombie who had a statistical reason for his decisions; nor did he have the media-created lust that propped him up as a "genius" before accomplishing anything was his main failure. Zduriencik has done little more than have a team that self-corrected from 2008 to 2009; he's done a lot of "stuff" and it still remains to be seen whether or not they're going to work.

Many times, the most important job for a manager and GM is crisis control. That, more than anything else, was what allowed Torre to survive under the George Steinbrenner dictatorship for all those years (well, it helped that he kept winning the World Series early in his tenure); the Mariners are out-of-control and it's gone past the manager and has to be handled by the GM.

Where is he?

Where's the "genius" to say to the players that enough's enough with an insipid media boycott? That the absurdity therein has a "methinks they doth protest too much" aspect that----combined with the ancillary evidence----is making the Griffey story appear to be even more accurate than it did previously? This aggressive stance is functioning as a facilitator to the inevitable end if they continue to promulgate this myth of "unity" in defense of an under siege teammate, it's going to explode.

What makes it worse is that the players themselves know that Griffey is a detriment to what they're trying to accomplish; that this season is likely to be lost because of the lack of on-field production from a player who didn't know when to quit and that the organization didn't have the coldblooded ruthlessness that should be a hallmark of the "genius" GM in doing his job to dump Griffey after last season. Rather than do what needed to be done, they brought him back. Griffey's entitlement to deference is still what it was in the late 90s when he was in his heyday as one of the best players in history, but his production isn't worthy of the treatment.

Ken Griffey Jr. was and still is the best baseball player I've ever seen.

And he played clean.

That has earned him a pass for his strong-arming the Mariners into making an awful trade with the Reds because of his tantrum-like whim to play in his childhood hometown. He made a triumphant return to his original baseball home last year in what was more of an admission by the team that they knew they needed the box office appeal to function as a cover as Zduriencik remade the team. It was a surprise to most that they were able to hang around contention and make that leap from 100 losses to 85 wins. Last winter, Zduriencik went for it by trading for the Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee; and rolled the dice on Milton Bradley. No one expected much from Griffey on the field; but I can't imagine that they thought he'd be the one who attracted such negative attention.

It's going to get worse before it gets better if they allow the wildfire to spread unabated and I'm going to keep asking this question until he steps in and takes care of it as a boss should----where's the genius?

Where's Jack Zduriencik?

  • Just imagine...

To put the whole media created "genius" into proper context, I want you to imagine for a moment if this were the Mets who were dealing with another controversy the kind that is engulfing the Mariners now. Or if it were the Royals; or any other team with a GM whose star has fallen or never formed to begin with.

It was only three years ago that Mets GM Omar Minaya was referred to in a Sports Illustrated cover story as the "Mix Master"----SI Story. Celebrated for his preference for scouting and personalities in putting his team together, Minaya was seen as "new, old-school" in crafting a club that was rolling along in first place and seemingly destined for a championship.

Then the wheels came off.

Just as rapidly as the Mets rose from the dilapidated and empty husk they'd become following the firings of Bobby Valentine and Steve Phillips, they were considered a laughingstock by 2009.

Both characterizations were as silly as the other.

And that's the point.

The intelligence of a team architect is only as realistic as their latest decision. Regardless of the strategy employed in putting a team together, the end result will determine the efficacy of their vision. Simply believing in similar baseline tenets doesn't automatically validate the process.

Just as Paul DePodesta was quite possibly the worst baseball GM over the past ten years but is still defended and propped up by the holdout stat zombies who are desperately trying to get one of their "own" back in the position of being an organizational boss, the attacks upon the likes of Minaya are just as ridiculous as the defense of DePodesta.

Theo Epstein is not a genius.

Billy Beane is not a genius.

Jack Zduriencik is not a genius.

Brian Sabean is not an idiot.

Omar Minaya is not an idiot.

Dayton Moore might actually be an idiot.

But none of that matters.

When analyzing, clinging to the commonality based on little more than an agenda renders the analysis as corrupted. It's that arrogant and self-indulgent resistance to stating the truth----that their dogmatism was misplaced----which undermines their credibility.

Insisting that one was "right" based on woulda, coulda, shoulda is as bad as having no convictions at all. It's no shame in life to admitting inaccuracy or being outright wrong; it is however shameful to cling to that which has been proven to be wrong based on nothing more than friendship and shared beliefs.

That's not to say that Zduriencik, Minaya, Cashman, Epstein supporters should abandon ship because of one or even several mistakes, but a more nuanced approach to understanding the strategies is required to balance belief with reality.

  • Viewer Mail 5.13.2010:

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Ken Griffey Jr.:

This Griffey situation saddens me. He was -- during his prime -- my idol. I wanted to be him.

Now he's fat, slow and stubbornly sticking around the big leagues... and for what? To be a soft platoon DH who doesn't have any edge?

Sad. Very, very sad.

It wouldn't be as bad if he accepted what he is and took a background role and behaved as an elder statesman, but he wants to be treated the same way he did when he was the best player in the game. It's possible he doesn't comprehend the required difference in treatment like a person who grew up in country clubs and private schools wouldn't know how to function in the inner city. It's like sticking someone on Mars----what to do? It's becoming more ridiculous by the day.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez and Dallas Braden:

Baseball must be off to a slow start, because Nap-Gate is right up there with Dallas Braden/A-Rod in terms of non-scandals. Still waiting for something juicy to happen - maybe even involving "juice."

I think these are relevant stories. The Griffey thing is blowing out of control much more than the ARod/Dallas Braden skirmish. The Braden perfect game and flapping mouth kept it going more than anyone in the media or public did.

With the way stories explode through the interwebs immediately, everyone has to find something to talk about, no mater how uninspiring it may seem.

John Seal (West Coast Spiritual Advisor) writes RE the Athletics, fans and me:

Yikes, another A's fan writes to the Prince! This can mean one of two things: either my title of West Coast Spiritual Advisor is in danger of being taken from me, or Barry and I will be waving to each other at the next A's-Royals tilt. I'll be the guy in 107, row 6. You won't be able to miss me; I'll probably be the ONLY guy in 107.

As far as baseball matters go, what (if any) are your thoughts on Tyson Ross, Prince? He's from the 510 and went to high school in Oakland, so naturally we're all very fond of him. But those mechanics are ugly. An injury waiting to happen?

It's interesting how I bring people into my fold. You'd be shocked at how many people think I'm a Yankees fan. Why? I dunno. I've even got a few Phillies fans who hate me, but acknowledge me as being fair (in actions rather than words----though I know); and some Red Sox fans have become caught in my tsunami as well.

The more the merrier!! I'm a benevolent leader.

I haven't gotten a chance to see Tyson Ross, but his numbers in the majors and minors look pretty good. I'm beginning to think injuries may have more to do with genetics than mechanics. Chris Carpenter has a picture perfect motion and has had so many arm injuries that the Cardinals have to hold their organizational breath every time he throws a pitch. Steve Karsay was the same way. Tom Glavine threw across his body for 20+ years and never had a problem.

I'm getting my cringe reflex ready for when I do see him, though. From your words ("ugly"; "an injury waiting to happen"), it doesn't sound good.

Jennifer at The Simple Dish writes RE Ken Griffey Jr.:

Griffey Jr is a player who is past his prime and has a club that's clinging to him like a life raft on a sinking ship. And I am so glad ESPN's top notch coverage is all over this important story. At least you can get some mileage out of Dallas Braden's nonstop mouth and his hard core 209 image.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the Mariners and Griffey for this----it saves me the work of trying to find things to write about! And you're right, for once ESPN seems to be handling the story with something other than a love-laden "Brett Fav-ruh" stories that never seem to end.

The debt of gratitude comes straight from the 718----we're working on toughening up our image and have some catching up to do with the 209. It's a futile endeavor, but don't underestimate the2010BaseballGuideCover.gif 718----or me.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

The wolf is a heartless predator.

I know how he feels.


Jeff said...

I write this comment while listening to the M's/O's game (Felix v. Milwood). When Milwood effortlessly mows down your entire lineup the first time through then it is definitely panic time. Again, I am saddened by the Mariners, this time for senselessly wasting so many splendid pitching performances because they simply can't hit.

And I'm down for the 718, 510, 209, 212, etc... but again let us not forget the power of the 312. When it comes to runnin' outfits, we have an edge.

She-Fan said...

Sounds like the Mariners are truly in a mess. And to think I picked them to win the AL West. Guess I'd better stick to my day job.

Jennifer said...

Perhaps the Mariners should put some of that energy into winning games instead of becoming Griffey Jr's entourage. I understand supporting a team, but if they keep this up, they're not going anywhere.

Oh stat zombies. I hate to break it to you but baseball is not one big algebraic equation. Stats do not predict team chemistry(the Sox seriously lack this), injuries, break outs, declines and slumps. They're merely numbers. Just because you can over emphasize 2-4 stats does not make you the next best GM.

the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

I tend to look up. When the players rub me the wrong way I look at the manger. When the manager makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I look at the GM. When the GM looks like he has more problems than a math book, I look at the owner (the same owners who incidentally hired these last two GMs that went hog-wide with their organization). The M's aren't the Angels with solid people in place from ownership down. It's evident the Angels are reshaping/rebuilding. I'm not sure the M's even have a plan.