Friday, September 3, 2010


  • The fall of a "genius" is far more drastic than the creation of one:

Anyone who's labeled a "genius" is in for a fall even if it's true; no one, nowhere can live up to the kind of worship and reverence that accompanies the appellation. It extends from their chosen endeavor to other aspects of their life and there's no escaping it; every word, pontification, movement is scrutinized just in case another profound utterance is on the way, something that can't be missed.

What's worse is when the genius is false; in essence, through little fault of his own, he's simply doing what he's always done the way he knows how to do it and outside influences are bastardizing it into something that suits their ends whether it's a new totem, the advancement of an agenda or that they truly believe in the hype that the portrayal is accurate.

The arrogance is absolute.

The arrogance is a temptation to fate.

And fate is not an entity that denies itself.

Such is the case with the continued downfall of the latest "genius" to infect baseball, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. In a season that has collapsed into a nightmare worthy of the greatest horror writers of all time, it keeps getting worse. Presumably, the conclusion of the schedule can't come fast enough for Zduriencik and the entire Mariners organization....or can it?

Given the way everything----everything!!----has gone wrong, one has to wonder if the end of the season will also be the end of Zduriencik's tenure as Mariners GM. His ascension came with such promise, such reverence and so much hope; the team improved to a ridiculous and unbelievable degree in his one year at the helm that he and the Mariners expected to vault into legitimate title contention two years after losing 100 games.

It didn't work out that way.

Preaching caution from the start, here's what I wrote in my book earlier this year:

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is the newest of the anointed “geniuses” for his aggressive trading; reliance on both stat zombie and scouting tenets; and utter fearlessness in making moves. Zduriencik has been a keen eye of talent for many years now in the 1990s with the Mets and especially with the Brewers in the early part of this decade. He’s undoubtedly energized the Mariners with his wheeling and dealing. But is his rebuilding of the club worthy of the callously thrown around term of “genius”?
Bringing back Ken Griffey Jr. was a move of sentiment rather than on-field production, but it’s likely that the decision was forced on him by ownership. The trade for Cliff Lee fell into his lap; the signing of Chone Figgins is a questionable once considering the amount of money they’ll be paying a mid-30s speed player by the time it’s winding down; his signings of Eric Byrnes and Corey Patterson would’ve been ridiculed if it was anyone other than Zduriencik making the moves.
Getting Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva was addition by subtraction and a worthwhile risk for a talented yet troubled player.
While it’s trendy to look at the flashy moves Zduriencik made, in reality, there are many questions about this Mariners team and Zduriencik received undue credit for a team that had everything go wrong in 2008 and turned it around in 2009 based on little more than better health and better luck. He’s a smart GM and a good executive; but the “genius” label is highly premature.

I got some stuff wrong in the book (the Reds; the Mets; Jake Peavy as my AL Cy Young Award winner, among many other things); but I drilled others. I thought the Mariners would contend; that they'd hover around the top of their division and be in the Wild Card mix to the end, but a lack of hitting would cause them to fall short----that too was wrong.

Who could've expected the aforementioned lack of hitting to combine with Cliff Lee's injury; a shaky bullpen; a weak back-end of the rotation; along with off-field issues and lack of respect and discipline to craft a team that is going to lose close to 100 games again and be considered one of the biggest disappointments in the game for 2010?

But my preaching of caution in the lust for Zduriencik?


It's history. It's reality. Anyone with the slightest bit of baseball knowledge would tell you that the Mariners rise from 100-game loser in 2008 to 85-win surprise in 2009 was more of a function of largely the same group of players having their normal seasons. There are teams with a roster of players who are supposed to lose 100 games (the Pirates); then there are teams for whom accidental circumstance causes an epic crash; such was the case with the 2008 Mariners. They weren't the team that most expected to contend for a playoff spot after a surprising 88-win 2007 and the off-season acquisition of Erik Bedard; but they should not have lost 100-games based on talent level.

Sometimes these things happen.

Now, after 2009 and a flurry of moves that neither improved nor deteriorated the club in any appreciable aspect other than slashing payroll, they've plummeted again. The names that came and went through the revolving door----Jack Wilson, Josh Wilson, Carlos Silva, Milton Bradley, Bedard, Brandon Morrow, Brandon League, Casey Kotchman, Bill Hall----are largely irrelevant. The bottom line is that it didn't work.

Did Zduriencik get caught up in the sudden recognition accorded on a longtime quality baseball executive who'd paid his dues the old fashioned way and worked his way up to his current position? It's possible. Did he know that the team might not be as good as the "experts" in the media implied? Probably.

Did he expect this?


The on-field terror would be palatable to ownership if that's all there was in terms of indicting Zduriencik for the way things have degenerated so far, so fast. But it's not. The Chone Figgins signing may have been a shruggable mistake (in his first year anyway) that hasn't worked; but the Figgins fight with manager Don Wakamatsu exemplified the lack of respect evident for a manager who was credited with doing a fine job in 2009; Griffey's alleged nap in the clubhouse when he was needed to pinch hit was another transgression for which the manager could be blamed, but why was Griffey even on the team to begin with?

Bradley is Bradley; no one thought he would: A) behave; or B) perform. Getting rid of Silva's contract was far more important than anything Bradley did or didn't do provided the temperamental outfielder didn't kill someone.

Then there are the larger failures that do fall at the feet of the GM.

The firing of Wakamatsu may have been necessary; it may have been the right thing to do for the long-term health of the club----if he wasn't going to be managing the team when they turn the corner and had lost the respect of the players (if he ever had it to begin with), then he had to go. No one can say with any seriousness that Wakamatsu did a good job this season, but that doesn't eliminate the perception that he was scapegoated. No press conference in which the bosses of a club stand there and say "everyone's accountable" can disguise that fact----that Wakamatsu took the fall for the players he was provided.

None of that is worthy of anything more than acceptance and a "that's the way it breaks" reaction.

Then you get to the other "stuff".

First, Zduriencik was accused of breach of baseball protocol by continuing to negotiate with other clubs in trading Lee after he supposedly had an agreement to send the Stone Cold Killer to the Yankees. Backing out on the deal because he received a better one from the Rangers, the Yankees were livid to the point of reportedly vowing to never do business with the Mariners again.

While I felt it was technically a line-straddle to do what Zduriencik did, it was well within the boundaries of cold-hearted business to turn the tables on the Yankees and use an advantage that he had with a player the Yankees wanted. The Mariners don't have the financial might the Yankees do and very little can be done about that, but Zduriencik did a dance to get the players he wanted from the Rangers and spurned the Yankees.

But what did he get from the Rangers? And did he know about one specific player's off-field history?

Zduriencik is being publicly savaged for the back-and-forth regarding prospect Josh Lueke.

Lueke is a right handed pitcher with great strikeout numbers and a 95 mph fastball.

But that's not all.

The story, just exploding right now, is that Lueke was accused of rape and sodomy in an incident that occurred two-and-a-half years ago while in A ball with the Rangers. The entire story of the episode can be read here in the article by Geoff Baker.

I'm not getting into the accusation or any personal attacks on Lueke. I don't know what happened and nor do you. Baker's solid reporting is there for you to come to a conclusion on your own.

Suffice it to say it doesn't reflect well on Zduriencik that he appears to be lying or "misremembering" (to quote Roger Clemens) about what he knew or didn't. On one level, you can gaze at the comments of the fired Rick Adair with something of a jaundiced eye; obviously he wasn't happy about being dismissed; but his accounting dovetails with that of the Rangers GM Jon Daniels as to the severity of Lueke's off-field issues and how the Rangers offered to take Lueke back; and Adair worked for the Rangers as their minor league pitching coordinator prior to joining the Mariners.

Someone is not being truthful.

This is not good.

You can take any move made by Zduriencik and dole criticism or credit; you can even lambaste him for his apparent lack of integrity after the Lee trade/non-trade with the Yankees and for tossing Wakamatsu overboard at the first sign of trouble. But the conglomeration of events don't shine positively on Zduriencik and how he's run the Mariners.

The 2010 season has been a disaster on the field. Zduriencik's veneer of "genius" is gone. His supporters are dwindling by the day, by the moment; as every new charge appears, his job status is more and more tenuous.

A chasm between blind love and alienation seems vast, but is, in actuality only one or two steps away from one another. The errors in player personnel are understandable and acceptable; the questionable tactics in trading an in-demand player are elusive; but this? Acquiring a player with that on his rap sheet? Then denying he knew about it and causing more embarrassment to an already reeling organization?

I would not have touched Josh Lueke.

But Zduriencik did. He took a player he should not have taken and there's no excuse.

Not only is Zduriencik cast out of his congregation of devotees for whom everything he said and did was the baseball gospel, but I have a feeling he's going to be out of a job very, very soon.

And you can't argue with the reasoning.

I think he's going to get fired.

I'd fire him too.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz yesterday talking about the Nyjer Morgan, the Cardinals, the pennant races and a whole lot more. You can download it to I-Tunes via Sal's site; visit him on Facebook and get it directly here.

My voice...does things to people.

Like it or not, you know you're getting the truth as I see it. It's worth something.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and 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.

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