Look, I don't root for anyone to lose their job. That included Bill Smith, the former Twins GM who drove my favorite team into the ground. It seems cruel and wrong, even as I acknowledged the Twins would've been better off with a different hand on the tiller.
So, this morning, when Jack Zduriencik was fired by the Mariners, I didn't feel any joy. Even though it's pretty clear that Jack Z's lack of professionalism and basic kindness hindered him in his ability to do his job. But I did think it's about time. After almost seven full seasons, and almost as many strategies used, to build a consistent winner, a change was past due.
Zduriencik was hired in the fall of 2009, coming out of the worst Mariners' season in 25 years. In his first season, Seattle jumped by 24 wins. Jack Z got a ton of credit for that, especially from statheads who wanted to tout Seattle's purported attention to defensive value. In reality, the Mariners' success was driven by a return to form by Ichiro Suzuki, the departures of Raul Ibanez (who was never effectively replaced), Jose Vidro, and Carlos Silva, and the three-team trade that brought in Franklin Gutierrez.
After that, Jack Z seemed to be out of any good ideas. Kenji Johjima went back to Japan, leaving the M's without a catcher. The Chone Figgins and Milton Bradley signings were disastrous, especially given Bradley's history of domestic violence and otherwise awful behavior. Ichiro and Gutierrez stepped back. Seattle cratered back down to 101 losses again. Don Wakamatsu took the blame and was jettisoned.
The youth movement fizzled in 2010 as the Mariners scored 60 fewer runs than any other team in the American League. Elite prospects Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, and Mike Zunino (who was mercifully demoted to triple-A minutes after Jack Z was fired) never developed. Neither did Carlos Peguero or Nick Franklin. And, of course, there was Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero.
He pivoted to one-dimensional sluggers, sending a perfectly valuable catcher in John Jaso away for Michael Morse. He acquired Corey Hart, Jason Bay, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, twice. He laid out a massive contract for Robinson Cano. He dealt away Doug Fister. He criticized Michael Saunders in the media and then traded him. He burned through three managers
He leaves with the Mariners 10 games below .500 and actually outperforming their run differential by five games. In seven years, he never made the playoffs, and failed to win more than 87 games despite having at his disposal future Hall of Famers Ichiro Suzuki, Felix Hernandez, Adrian Beltre, and Cano.
That's not to say that Zduriencik's job was easy. After all, it seems like he had to deal with an inflexible budget set by the club's owners on the other side of the Pacific, and had to consider what kinds of moves would play well to an enthusiastic Japanese fanbase. The mysterious ailment that threatened Franklin Gutierrez's career can't be traced back to him either. Nor can we blame him for an extreme ballpark that just killed right-handed power. And, of course, there were the charges that team CEO Howard Lincoln and former President Chuck Armstrong interfered regularly. But at some point, you have to acknowledge that Zduriencik, even if he was impeded by payroll constraints and by interference from above, was incapable of building a consistent winner for the Mariners like he promised.
So what's next for Seattle? Jack Z positioned himself as a stat guru when he got the job. Now, there's a lot of information out there to suggest he overemphasized his interest in analytics to get the M's gig. Still, it certainly sounds like the Mariners will be trying to go in a different direction going forward, as Dan O'Dowd has apparently been discussed according to Ken Rosenthal.
That's hilarious, of course. O'Dowd's one of the few GMs to have gotten a longer leash than Zduriencik without delivering a consistent winner. Sure, in his groping in the dark, he helped the Rockies to two playoff appearances. But he also finished 1129-1302 in 15 seasons at the helm, including 277-371 over his last four years there. Jerry Crasnick also reports Dan Jennings, who helped run the Marlins under considerable organizational strain in 2014 and 2015, until becoming the team's field manager, could be a candidate. If either rumor is true it seems like the M's problems run deeper than Jack Zduriencik's incompetence, as the commitment to awful ideas runs all the way to the top. In which case, it will be a long rest of the decade in the Pacific Northwest.