BY Art Thiel 07:07PM 01/27/2011

Standing behind something, but what?

Wedge, Zduriencik prepare fans for 2011: “The ground up”

Eric Wedge has plenty of intensity. What he lacks, are players. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

It wasn’t quite to the level of a Tobacco for Tots campaign, but the Mariners had themselves a tough sell at their annual media luncheon Thursday heralding the imminence of spring training.

No new star players.

No promises of contention.

No new marketing slogans. Not even, “Believe Medium.”

There was, however, this moment of candor from general manager Jack Zduriencik:

“We have not deviated from the plan,” he said, “to build this organization from the ground up, which will sustain the organization for years.”

From the ground up? After 34 years in business, it has to be built from the ground up?

Well, after a pair of 100-loss seasons in the past three years, despite a top-10 payroll, the man has a point.

It’s just that the point should have been made several years and a couple of GMs ago, instead of annually throwing money at veteran free agents who often provide what is known the these parts as the full Spiezio.

So without saying so directly, the Mariners are upon the season that nearly every non-major market team must engage in once in a while.

Take the hit, and hope the demand for bobbleheads doesn’t implode.

Things got off to a bad start with the news, in the middle of the morning round of interviews, that one of their minor-league invitees to spring training, veteran second baseman Adam Kennedy, was arrested in Newport Beach, CA., for suspicion of DUI.

That is just so . . . 2010.

At least the Mariners have Eric Wedge, the man whose intensity chips paint.

The new manager Thursday out-petecarrolled Pete Carroll, the Seahawks voluble head coach who never needed a question to give an answer and never found a good use for a period at the end of a sentence.

Wedge’s opening remarks went on for several minutes, then amped up with every query. He is to his predecessor, Don Wakamatsu, as Yosemite Sam is to Ben Stein.

“We’re not looking to flip a coin here, people,” he said to one question, “we’re looking to stand behind something.”

As everyone began thinking of saluting, the realization dawned that no one knew what that something was.

Wedge was honest enough to recognize the fact that roster is virtually leaderless, with all the top players in various spots on the back seat.

“I don’t know that we have a leader on this team,” he said. “Myself and the (coaching) staff will take on more of that role.”

He also acknowledged, in the absence of proven vets or can’t-miss rookies, he doesn’t have much of a plan now.

“I’ve been more open-minded than I’ve ever been,” he said, a fairly remarkable statement from a guy who probably makes the corners on his bed very sharp.

The candor seemed refreshing, although it was almost impossible to be anything but, owing to the fact that he would sound like an idiot if he said anything else. I mean, it’s Felix and Ichiro and 23 guys.

So far this off-season, the most significant moves the Mariners made were to hire three journeymen: Catcher Miguel Olivo, second baseman Brendan Ryan and designated hitter Jack Cust, none of which caused a single bookmaker to adjust the mega-million-to-one odds on a Mariners appearance in the World Series.

The fundamental problem is payroll mismanagement. In Ichiro ($17 million), Milton Bradley ($12M), Chone Figgins ($10M) and Hernandez ($8M), the Mariners have tied up $47 million of their estimated $90M player outlay this season. That quartet was here a year ago and helped lose 101 games. With the marginal exception of Figgins, they aren’t likely to be better this season.

This season will be largely extended spring training, finding guys who can play in 2012 while burning through some unproductive contracts. In the smaller picture, that’s OK. Gotta be done.

The bigger picture is that club management, with all of its resources and marketplace dominance, should never have let things fray this bad.

But we all know that. Been here, seen that for years. Not going to change in the near term.  So for the smaller picture of 2011, Zduriencik and Wedge must muddle through a misbegotten roster and hope that fans don’t mind being spoken to in code. As Zduriencik put it:

“This is the land of opportunity right now. If you want to re-start your career, this is the place.”

In other words,  welcome to the ground. Open minds welcome.


  • SeattleNative

    Can’t wait for the season…to be over!

  • Nightslider

    Art your so eloquent when you de pants the incompetent management team at the top. Of course I’m talking about the lead weights that Lou Pinella had to deal with and every other manager since then.
    This team will never surpass mediocrity till it rids it self of Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, I have seen and written many articles by you and others that have illuminated this point for all to see.
    What I can’t understand is why they can’t see it and the fans as well.
    I love baseball but not futility, Dave did an exceptional job of glossing over the the inadequacies of these two charlatans,while calling out the heroics of the players in motion.
    I cannot no longer wait around for a decent team to feild itself under these two as I am terminaly ill, not just from their lousy teams they have fielded these many years. but from my own vices.
    I put them in the same category for competence as Wally Wanker Walker, and Howard the Bean Pusher Shultz,
    They may have oddle’s of money but their persona’s, well lets just say palin’s dead salmon have more brains than they do combined they at least spawned and ended it all.
    Nope won’t be watching the futile bobble head season this year, but hope to be ring side with Dave when he calls the games up stairs.
    Thank you much for your writings and rantings have been amused and offended by your prattlings, keep up the good scribes.

    My two cents worth

    Micheal H Dittamore

  • 1coolguy

    As long as the common threads, Lincoln and Armstrong, are still around, I’ll pass and save my money.


  • ahuskyinappleland

    Man, this is going to be a loong season err extended spring training. We do not need anymore players looking to prolong their eventual retirement or prison sentences,we need to bring in every and any young players we can find (and we have many)to fill the right seats on the bus.Th e revolving door starts in february and should not close until september.My guess is we will find some surprises and still lose close to a hundred,but get some real players some at bats and find some gems.

  • Lucky Infidel

    As you pointed out, a team “rebuilding,” as apparently the Mariners have been doing for at least roughly thirty of thirty-four years, does not tie up $47 million in four players, irrespective of who the players are. And in our case, at least three of them, excepting Hernandez, are vastly overpaid for what they could ever have been expected to bring to the table.
    Also, I do not even know what to say about Jack Cust. It truly almost seems like a joke. Really.
    And for someone in the Mariners’ organization to say, ““This is the land of opportunity right now. If you want to re-start your career, this is the place,” is unbelievable given the context. With our payroll, resources, and third of a century of existence, it is completely out of place. That is the type of statement from someone who is completely remaking their life or something, not the type of statement you should ever see in a situation as inherently bountiful as what supports the structure of the Mariners.
    Only in a town and region like ours–with a substantive lack of overt Alpha Male behavior, and in fact a region where one dare not act like such–would a sport, baseball, that plays perfectly, if one is not careful, into a laid back “oh well, everything is OK” attitude, converge with the community mores to produce the absolute patheticness that has been the history of the Mariners, almost without exception.

  • jerry

    Wow – Stacy keach is the Mariners’ new manger – unbelievable!

  • Former M’s Fan

    After being a huge Mariners fan an Seattle resident for most of my life, I moved to Tampa five years ago. I can honestly say that following the Rays for the past few years has provided me with more thrills and good baseball (not to mention one more World Series appearance) than I had in a lifetime following the Mariners. Funny thing that Seattle generally still supports this franchise so strongly. Question is are Seattle Mariners fans just very loyal or very stupid? Perhaps is they smartened up it would force ownership to create a management closer to the level of what the Rays have.