Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sacrificial Don

Under no circumstances am I defending the now former manager of the Seattle Mariners, Don Wakamatsu. 42-70 is 42-70. There are explanations for a team that is struggling; there are defenses for an injury-riddled or poorly constructed roster; there are even ways to justify a failed plan that made sense but didn't work; but if you look at the circumstances with the Mariners, you cannot say that Wakamatsu didn't deserve to be fired.

That said, if the Mariners are looking for someone to blame, the fault lies on the desk of GM Jack Zduriencik and no one else.

This is not going to be an August postmortem on the Mariners 2010 season; it's untenable to perform an autopsy on a creature that is still wriggling around and won't be completely dead until October. They're still attached to a life-support system and I'm not cutting until the carcass is expired, regardless of how rancid it is.

Nor is it going to be another savaging of the GM. My feelings on him are known----smart guy; scouting background; statistically oriented; gutsy and fearless; and not a genius as he was portrayed for the performance of a team that wasn't as bad as 100-losses in 2008; nor as good as 85 wins in 2009.

Wakamatsu received undue credit----along with Zduriencik----for that turnaround. The Mariners were expected by many (me included, I had them at 86-76 in my predictions) to contend. Things went horribly wrong and Wakamatsu got the blame.

Is this unfair? No, but Wakamatsu didn't bring back Ken Griffey Jr. He didn't sign Chone Figgins. He didn't put a team whose offense could not produce enough to augment starting pitching which has been quite good. Did he make the decision to continually put Ian Snell out on the mound? Who knows? But he's taking the fall...for now.

Zduriencik acts sooner rather than later. He makes aggressive trades without vacillating; and he fired his manager when it was clear that Wakamatsu wasn't going to be the man in charge when and if the Mariners are legitimate contenders and not flimsy "straw men" (a Bill James term, apropos in this instance) whose status as contender was not real.

One question I have to ask now----as unthinkable as it may have been just five months ago----is Zduriencik in trouble?!?

Ordinarily, I'd say, "no way"; but in reading the ESPN (from the Associated Press) account of the press conference announcing the managerial change, some stark occurrences make me wonder. Read the following excerpt:

Chuck Armstrong, the team's usually talkative and available president, and team chairman Howard Lincoln were in the back of the room as Zduriencik spoke -- but rushed out after he was done. A team spokesman sternly said "We're done" when The Associated Press tried to approach the franchise's leaders for comment.

This is an ominous sign for the GM. Just as it's viable to fire the manager for a disaster that's not entirely his responsibility, it's reasonable to blame the GM as well. On a similar level as his penchant for doing "stuff" and having a team experiencing what amounts to a correction from 2008 to 2009 didn't warrant being anointed as a genius, the GM is not absolved.

I don't believe Zduriencik deserves to be fired, but given the way this season has spiraled from misplaced optimism to an absolute train wreck, I have to wonder if he may have been warned that he's on thin ice as well.

  • Ah, revisionism:

How quickly they forget.

As I mentioned weeks ago, one of the beauties of the interwebs is the accessibility of information and the lack of effort required to see what someone said then and how they've altered their opinions now. You will recall that none other than Joel Sherman of the New York Post hammered the Mets in the spring for missing out on a "truly Amazin' exec" in Zduriencik----column, Feb.1, 2010.

Yah. Amazin'.

In the future, can we please hold out crediting someone who's accomplished essentially nothing? Can we? Please?

As for Sherman, he was in full, "just ignore the stuff I said previously" as he tweeted the following on Twitter (and I only saw it because someone dutifully re-tweeted it as I've been blocked by @joelsherman1):

Wakamatsu fired day after Morrow 1-hit, 17-Ks Rays. I guess he was #Mariners decision maker who traded him for Brandon League

Good grief.

Not only is that the epitome of "what have you done for me lately" as it's said a day after the still work-in-progress Brandon Morrow almost pitched a no-hitter and struck out 17 Rays, but it's lunacy because Zduriencik was right to trade Morrow.

I've always loved Morrow's stuff and said so repeatedly; but I refused to use that single game performance as a justification for that admiration. To come out with the Morrow for League trade as a reason to attack Zduriencik months after using his false success and aggressiveness as another weapon to bash the Mets is almost as embarrassing as blocking someone who's not abusive on Twitter or locking one's tweets so they can't be viewed by the general public----all perpetrated by Sherman.

In fact, while Zduriencik may have been able to get more for Morrow than League (and given Morrow's performance and injury questions; and that there was a less-publicized Joba Chamberlain-like debate about his optimal role), the possibility exists that they may not have been able to get more for him than League. Zduriencik did Morrow a favor by trading him because Morrow was never going to fulfill his massive potential in Seattle; he was stagnating and living under the shadow of Giants star Tim Lincecum as the pitcher who was drafted ahead of the Washington native and 2-time NL Cy Young Award winner.

It was not going to work for Morrow with the Mariners, so Zduriencik dumped him and was right to do so for his club and the well-being of Morrow.

I can't wait to see the stories and backpedaling that goes on if Zduriencik is axed as well.


He may not be the same player he was prior to his knee problems, but the reactionary nature to Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran's slump is reaching epic proportions. Beltran isn't hitting at all, but his swing looks as quick as ever. His timing is off. That's all.

It has to be understood that this is still essentially the end of spring training for him; he's pressing; and he appears to be doubting himself.

Defensively, he's lost several steps and will need to be moved to a corner position next year if he's still a Met; another team has to look at their current situation and determine whether a compromised Beltran is better than what they currently have playing center and make that decision.

He's going to hit because it's not his swing that's the problem.

Because the Mets slide coincided with Beltran's return, it's an easy way for the fans----who've never warmed up to Beltran to begin with (a Mike Francesa statement that makes sense, for real)----to attack him. The reason for Beltran's distant relationship with Mets fans isn't his strikeout to end the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals. No one with any baseball knowledge could blame him for not swinging at that wicked curveball thrown by Adam Wainwright; even had he swung, he wasn't hitting it. The man was frozen by a brilliant pitch; let it go.


The reason for the fan/player frostiness stems from the Mets fan belief (with reason) that Beltran never wanted to be a Met in the first place. It's a known fact that Beltran preferred the Yankees to the Mets and went so far as to offer a $20 million discount if the Yankees wanted him. Nothing could be more offensive to the Mets or any club than for a player to openly desire playing elsewhere and to come to their club as if they're doing everyone a favor by taking the $120 million. And it's made worse for it to have been the Yankees he approached.

So, the Mets fans had something of a pact with Beltran. We won't embrace you because you never embraced us; you do well, we'll cheer; you do badly, we'll boo; and once you've ceased being of use to us, watch out.

This is a fundamental problem that the Mets have had to deal with for much of their history and an issue that needs to be addressed. If players don't want to be Mets, they shouldn't pursue them so avidly. As I said the other day, the biggest key to the Rays turnaround was instilling a code of conduct and dispatching players whose attitudes or behaviors required a weeding out for the greater good.

When a useless entity like Alex Cora comes out with such ridiculous and bitter statements as the Mets are building for 2013, then you have to make the alteration to a ruthlessness that the Mets have never shown. Paid well for essentially nothing, getting more money than he ever would've received elsewhere, what right does Cora have to say such a thing? Why? Because the Mets released him before he could net a 2011 payday that he's not going to get elsewhere? Alex Cora, instead of being paid $2 million for his "leadership" that wasn't doing the Mets any good anyway, will likely have to settle for a minor league contract and is not, under any circumstances, guaranteed a big league job. The anger is totally misplaced and out of line that it makes Cora's dispatched presence a positive by him being gone.

Once the Mets decide that enough's enough; that they're a big time franchise in a great market, they can stop behaving as if players who are well-compensated are granting them a service by donning the Mets uniform. Then they won't be ridiculed so widely for mistakes.

  • Viewer Mail 8.10.2010:

Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Pirates:


So far, that's the only word (made-up or not) that accurately describes that joke of a franchise. Thankfully the good people of Steel City have football and hockey.

Good grief.

(PS, Nice work on gettin' Dick Pole into the conversation. His name is almost as good as Rusty Kuntz).

The Pirates do something smart every once in awhile, but it may just be a closing of the eyes and firing a dart at the board. Getting James McDonald for Octavio Dotel was a great move, but you look at the totality of whats going on there and it's a nightmare. They should've let Mario Lemieux's group buy the team.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Prince Fielder and the Red Sox:

Prince Fielder to the Red Sox? I thought they were all about pitching and defense. But then Victor Martinez isn't exactly the game's best defensive catcher.

The Red Sox are not----repeat, NOT!!!!----going after Prince Fielder. No way, no how. I outlined the reasons why yesterday. It's a stupid, stupid, stupid idea as a long-term solution.

If the Brewers were dumping him and had nowhere else to go? If the Red Sox were one bat away from winning the World Series and the circumstances were the same right now that Adrian Gonzalez isn't available? Okay. But as the "man"? No chance.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the Pirates:

To the "Piratanicals"~ Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Say that ten times fast.
Hey Jeff ~ You can introduce Rusty to HUGH G. RECTION.

The Pirates can't function as an organization; now you're hitting them with satirically precise tongue twisters?

My people are getting raunchy.

Max Stevens writes RE the Mets:

I enjoyed your chat with Sal on SportsFan Buzz, even though Sal doesn't seem to have much interest in discussing the Mets! Speaking of which, even though the Mets dropped 2 of 3 in Philly and are no longer in a sensible conversation about NL playoff teams for 2010, I was heartened to see them put seven homegrown guys on the field in Sunday's loss. The youngsters battled, while Beltran in particular looked lost at the plate and gimpy in the field. The future looks good for the Mets, I think. If they can finish close to .500 this year and next, and get the dead weight off the books while giving the youngsters playing time, then they are just a few smart signings away from being a real threat again in 2012. A lot of variables can intervene between now and then, but there's reason for optimism. Do you think they will try to lock Reyes up to a long-term deal? And who is best suited to be Jerry Manuel's replacement. Bob Melvin doesn't excite me much. Wally Backman would be fun in a Larry Bowa kind of way, but he's probably too volatile. What would you think of Joe Torre returning to his real managerial roots?

I think Sal's being nice about avoiding the Metropolitans.

Reyes is going to have to wait until at least the middle of next year for the team to make sure he's healthy and playing well before they commit the dollars it's going to take; and he's not getting $100 million. I'd say 4-years, $55 million is a feasible extension for him.

People are skeptical, but the Mets will be able to move Luis Castillo; it'll be for a similar contract like Mark DeRosa, but DeRosa----if healthy----would be a perfect addition and upgrade over both Castillo and Cora.

I can't see Bowa as the manager and think Melvin (who I feel is a good manager) is the in-house guy, but it's becoming clear that barring a total collapse, Jerry Manuel will be allowed to finish the year and his contract won't be renewed. I am beginning to see signs that a 2-year deal for Torre is becoming more and more possible; and along with him would come Bowa and....Don Mattingly as hitting coach...in a Mets uniform....which would be hilarious.

Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez:

I'd love to hear Joe's opinion on Fielder against González.

I asked him on Twitter; he said he prefers Gonzalez, but has ideas about pursuing neither and doing other stat zombie stuff. Bad ideas.

Matt writes RE post-season aces:

If it's all time instead of active pitchers for one playoff game, I'll take Schilling or Johnson. Watched some of the 01' series on MLB network recently and had chills the whole time, though that may have been because Fox didn't have the games back then.

Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson were post-season money. This argument can go on forever. If we're going all time, you can't go wrong with Bob Gibson or Sandy Koufax.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz last Tuesday talking about the trade deadline, Ozzie Guillen and the pennant races. Click the link above or go to the site to download it on I-Tunes. Or you can get it directly here.

Also, the Red State Blue State podcast appearance is up as well. Click here for the RSBS blog and here to hear it directly.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

  • It's My Father's Ring:
I've started an alternate blog with other musings; writings; fiction; poetry (the poetry's not bad I don't think; or maybe it is); and whatever pops into my head. If you're interested, the link is here: It's My Father's Ring.


She-Fan said...

Where's your "Bobby Valentine for Mariners Manager" paragraph? I must have missed it.

Jeff said...

Yeah, I'm with Jane.


Bring back Lou.

It could happen, after all, Zduriencik is a "genius".


Joe said...

Here we go, Gabriel...I would greatly prefer Gonzalez because he plays on both sides of the ball, and as Paul mentioned, Fielder does have weight issues that if nothing else, cannot be ignored. Both will cost a ton of money regardless, and a boatload of prospects. However, we are unsure if Youkilis can handle 3rd base. If he can -- in 2011 AND beyond -- the possibilities open up. If he can't, then Gonzalez would be partially wasted DH'ing. Fielder however, would be perfect at DH. But I am not one to invest $20 million a season into a designated hitter. Not to mention, I would rather roll the dice with Ortiz and his option next year.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Welcome to Day One. Tonight the Mets put 9 home-grown players on the field. NINE! Alas they seem fully committed to transitioning this team and my angst will transition with it. Whatever Omar and Jeff talked about when Jeff flew down to Atlanta to check into his team is sitting well with me due to the changes they've instituted since that meeting of the minds. OK Boyz...Welcome to Citi...Let's Go Mets.

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Insignificant Wrangler said...

The Mariners were confusing this off-season, acquiring Cliff Lee, but failing to go after a meaningful bat. Although I will say that I thought the Figgins signing was great. I know the career OPS is only .747, but its backed by a respectable OBP and all those steals. A great #2 hitter. They just forgot to find a 3, 4, 5 or 6 guy! Oops!