BY Steve Rudman 05:59PM 08/26/2014

Mariners re-up Zduriencik, but isn’t it early?

The Mariners granted GM Jack Zduriencik a multi-year extension Tuesday even though five weeks remain in the season. The timing seems odd.

GM Jack Zduriencik received a multi-year contract extension from the Mariners Tuesday, even though there is more than a month of the season to play. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The executives atop the food chain, principally CEO Howard Lincoln and presiden Kevin Mather, are sufficiently enthralled with the performance of the Mariners with a month remaining that they announced Tuesday a contract extension with GM Jack Zduriencik. Since the Mariners have yet to achieve anything beyond the possibility of a wild card spot — and that’s still magnum iffy — the decision to commit to Zduriencik for multiple years is strangely premature.

Can-do men that they are, Lincoln and Mather, by this announcement, are anointing the 2014 season a success, even though it not only isn’t — yet — and still can end in baseball calamity.

Contrary to ours, the Mariners have an odd definition of success. Ours is strong playoff contention five out of every 10 years and playoff appearances at least three out of 10. Theirs, apparently, is one feel-good season through August every decade or so.

When the Mariners concluded the 2013 season with a record of 71-91, a major disappointment even by the franchise’s own declared expectations, Zduriencik came perilously close to losing a job he had held for five years. In those five, the Mariners succeeded only in stretching their conspicuous absence from the postseason from eight years to 12.

Perhaps because they had no other alternative, or perhaps because they are one of the most conservative business operations in the major leagues, the Mariners granted Zduriencik another year, the implication being that if the ball club didn’t perform in 2014, Zduriencik would swing — even though Lincoln’s stewardship of the franchise over many more seasons than Zduriencik has logged is the primary reason for eons of boobery and inertia.

My thought, as the winter free agency period moved into spring training, was that if the Mariners fizzled again, Zduriencik would be ousted. A lot of Mariner watchers also held that view. But if the Mariners made the playoffs, Zduriencik would be retained.

A third scenario: If the Mariners remained in playoff contention for a majority of the season, but couldn’t quite seal the postseason deal, Lincoln and Mather would have a tough call to make — totally understandable. But whether the Mariners retained Zduriencik or not, a mostly positive 2014 would result in a cranking up of the team’s marketing machine, hyping “expected improvement,” a favorite Mariners phrase, for 2015.

But Lincoln and Mather made the call Tuesday on Zduriencik with nothing really settled, determining that this year is a success regardless of what happens in the final five weeks — odd, because it’s the final five weeks that matter.

With a noose encircling his neck, Zduriencik made bold moves last offseason, signing 31-year-old Robinson Cano for $240 million over 10 years, and hiring Lloyd McClendon as manager. Both deals were criticized for reasons already well documented, so we won’t address those here.

Nothing Cano has done has surprised, but McClendon’s performance is shockingly first rate. He’s the best, as well as the most intriguing, manager the Mariners have employed since Lou Piniella, even though, unlike Piniella, “hello” constitutes a McClendon speech.

Zduriencik’s acquisition of Logan Morrison, now completing the best August of his major league career, worked, although his simultaneous acquisition of Corey Hart was a dud. Zduriencik’s purloin of CF Austin Jackson at the trading deadline worked, as did his recent callup of Chris Taylor. Other moves, foregoing already published detail, haven’t. But, generally, the team Zduriencik assembled this year has performed at least to expectation, maybe beyond, and not only relative to past editions of the ball club.

Unlikely as it seems, the Mariners can still win the AL West. They can also snatch a postseason berth, even it’s only a one-game playoff. That’s a major leap forward for this doddering franchise, and Mather tried to spin the development in the best possible light.

“Since Jack took over after the 2008 season, we have been building toward our ultimate goal, which is to win the World Series,” Mather said Tuesday. “We believe, with the efforts of Jack and his staff, we are now well-positioned as an organization to be a contender for many years to come.”

The Mariners are not even especially well-positioned, with Felix Hernandez moved back a day, to sweep last-place Texas this week. In fact, the Mariners are only in position to be a playoff contender — with zero guarantees.

What if they do what they did in 2007? That year, under Mike Hargrove and John McLaren, the Mariners were 20 games above .500 (73-53) on Aug. 24 and lost 13 of 14, splatting out of the race.

Same thing could happen this season. But what if it doesn’t? Say the Mariners are in it until the end and reach the postseason. That would be both great and fun and warrant a Zduriencik extension. But no extension is warranted now without season-long results. It won’t look good, in fact it will look terrible, if the Mariners, having made a major commitment to Zdruiencik, suck the gas pipe in September.

But the Mariners Tuesday said otherwise. They pronounced 2014 a success and declared they are in a position to contend, as Mather stated, “for many years to come.”

For Mariners fans’ sake, hope that’s true. But it seems that the Mariners have already called this election with a month’s worth of hanging chads still to be counted.


  • jafabian

    Way too early for this. Jack’s teams won 85 games his first season then massively slumped the next four. What if they slide back to 60+ wins next season? Jack’s five year record was the same as Bavasi’s and he was canned. A quick look at the 2015 free agents doesn’t show any Cano-type of hitters and Jack’s trade record is a Baldwin-like mediocre at best overall. I believe the teams success has been more due to Lloyd and some key players simply growing up, especially in the bullpen. This really should have waited until the end of the season and assuming they make the playoffs give him a two year extension with a club option for a third year.

    • Trygvesture

      Your are dead right– but the kicker in all this is that Z is part of the Lincolnland Loyalty Club– and they reward their own, never take blame, always take full credit, and generally berate underlings should there ever be a hiccup. So– he gets overly rewarded at the first sign of not-failure.

      • Effzee

        At the first sign of not-failure. LOL. So true.

  • ksmyth

    I disagree. This team is much better than the 2007 team. They were a bad team, scoring nearly 800 runs, and had a negative run differential. This team (2014) over-achieved everyone’s expectations. Some of Zdurencik’s kids (Seager, Ackley, Taylor) are producing and the team is winning because of his off-season acquisitions (Young, Cano, Rodney.) That list ignores the hiring of McClendon, which might be as important as all of the others together. I was not a big fan of Zdurencik’s and screamed for his head at the end of 2013. But I ask you to examine this team from top to bottom and consider whether this team is not vastly superior to the 2010-13 versions. This isn’t a fluke; it’s a solid baseball team.

    • jafabian

      It’s still a team that still has holes. No strong cleanup hitter and everyone after Seager is questionable. After Young the M’s rely on Elias, Paxton, Walker and Ramirez. Not ideal for a playoff race. One season, especially one that isn’t completed (it isn’t even September yet) is too early to call it a success. I’m especially not calling Taylor a success at this point. Same with Ackley. Let’s see them do this for all of 2015.

  • Trygvesture

    Ain’t it the truth? Lincolnland has its own set of … well, it own set of everything: judgement, baseball awareness, franchise operating model, self-congratulatory/never blame the club ethic, disingenuousness, hubris, hubris, hubris, never say anything but yessir to Lincoln, beancounter for president, and the rare good luck to slip a good year past the decades of guarded gate idiocy.
    Yeah, the team is unquestionably better: damn well oughtta be, don’tcha think? Hard to get worse, hard to stay as pathetic as usual with even minimal growth of the AAA players Z brought to the bigs. They’ve improved and there’s a contagion for hitting as always happens. But– get real folks– Rudman’s right. They are struggling mightily to stay in contention for the SECOND wild card position– zig zagging with Detroit. The added wild card made more difference than the players and shallower fences combined. If Z was a genius, his record would show that in a reasonable time frame. Like, a cvouple of years, not nearly a decade. Nope– Lincolnland has to grab and publicize anything they possibly to show what a wize and powerful man the Wizard of Odd is in his own Lincolnland domain– especially when he was likely worried sick he’d trashed the Hallowed Biz Model with the Cano signing. Now THAT would be his authetnically feared hot seat. So: Quick–there’s a good fan experience going on right now– pat ourselves on the back by rewarding our man Z as proof we are always right!

  • ksmyth

    Such negativity. After years of losing, your team has one of the finest rotations in the game, and undeniably best bullpen in baseball. Yes, this team has holes, every team does, but pitching isn’t one of them. Z made the team better at the trade deadline without mortgaging the future. Yes they’re “only” in the wild card hunt unless the A’s or Angels falter, but ask the Yankees,Indians and Blue Jays if they’d like to be in the Mariners position. Do you really watch/listen to this team every night as I have for most of the last 35 years, or are you just Seahawks fans? They are much better defensively, offensively and in pitching than previous Z products. If I’m able to complain about his previous teams, I reward his performance for success. This is a good team, likely to improve next year, and he’s earned his extension.

    • Trygvesture

      A monkey could’ve recognized Felix and Cano as great. Big Deal. Z stumbled through a zillion guys, made horrible trades and now at his 6 year mark has a pretty ok team fighting for the 2nd wild card spot. Wow. Best GM out there, obviously. Or, just a super corporate yeZ-man who just now hasn’t screwed up too badly of late. He bulls-eyed the Lincolnland corporate target: “..we are now well-positioned as an organization to be a contender for many years to come.” He made it an ok team, not a championship team, enhancing the Fan Experience enough to keep the seats 1/2 full on average. Most importantly, he’s been loyal to Lincoln– to the point of sacrificing authenticity and respect; to the point of being famous throughout baseball for his cow-towing, disingenuous lip service to Lincoln .

      Yeah, we’ve got some fun in fandom right now. Fun to hear ( I’ll not buy a Lincolnland season ticket package any more). “Right now” isn’t much in light of the long trail of scorched earth baseball incompetence built on the alter of the very archaic, old-school, Lincolnland button-down baseball corporate model of management and measures of success. Too, too much bad history– even in Z’s tenure– to even think about drinking the koolaid. Enjoy the short bit of fun in the show while it’s here, but don’t drink the koolaid.

      And I’ve been a fan as long as you– and the Rainiers before that and hoped that Kaye and Co. would pull it off —- and never seen a Seahawks game.

  • David Michel

    Dumb move. He has a .457 winning percentage, with this being the possibility of his 2nd winning season. Other than Cano, what has he done for this team?

    • Steven

      He extended Felix, signed and extended Kuma, signed Young, drafted Paxton, drafted Seager, traded for Jackson. He improved the club at the deadline without trading away much, despite news reports of being terrible to work with and clamors to sell the farm to push for a second wild card slot.

      He was on the last year of his deal. His team is on the cusp of their first playoff appearance in a decade. Yes, you extend him now so that he isn’t negotiating with free agents next year from a hot seat.

      And if the team bombs, you still fire him because this is baseball.

      • Trygvesture

        He finally did what he was hired to do– improve the team. A little bit. Extend him– a little bit. A year.
        And then do as you so perfectly said.
        But hog tie him to Lincoln first.

  • Joe Fan

    It absolutely is too early to give him this extension. His track record since being named GM is a joke. Just because we happen to be in the playoff hunt right now is no reason to give him an extension.

  • ksmyth

    If the Mariners revert to being terrible, the Lincoln team can do what any major league club can do–in fact often do–and that is fire the general manager.