BY Art Thiel 09:27AM 08/28/2015

Mariners fire Zduriencik; Kingston interim GM

The 2015 season came with high expectations, but the Mariners never came close to justifying them. So Friday GM Jack Zduriencik was fired a month shy of completing his seventh season.

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was fired Friday after two winning seasons in seven years and no playoffs. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

In the middle of road trip nearing the end of a spectacularly lost season, Jack Zduriencik was fired Friday morning as Mariners general manager, ending a seven-year tenure that produced two winning seasons, no playoffs and much player personnel controversy.

The Mariners made the announcement in a release that included this statement from president Kevin Mather:

“We have reached the point when change of leadership of our baseball operations is needed for the Seattle Mariners to reach our goal of winning championships. We are very disappointed with the results this season, and are not satisfied with the current operation. The search for a permanent general manager will begin immediately, and while there is no deadline, we expect to have a new GM in place as soon as practical.

We have great respect for Jack and his work ethic. He was an excellent representative of the Mariners both within the game of baseball and in the community. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish him and (his wife) Debbie all the best, and thank him for all his efforts.”

 Jeff Kingston, assistant GM since 2009, was appointed to handle GM duties for the rest of the regular season.

Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln also had a statement:

 “On behalf of our ownership group, I want to thank Jack for his loyalty and hard work over the years, and for the quiet dignity with which he has carried himself. During his tenure, Jack was dedicated to building a winning team, and at the same time, has embodied the Mariners commitment to the community by supporting many charities and causes, and making a difference in our community. We wish Jack and his lovely wife Debbie all the best.”

 Zduriencik was hired in October 2008 from the Milwaukee Brewers, where he spent nine seasons, including his last position as assistant GM for player personnel. He succeeded Bill Bavasi, fired in midseason of 2008.

Bavasi’s five-year tenure had a record of 359 wins, 451 losses.

For the first five years under Zduriencik, the Mariners had a record of 359 wins, 451 losses.

But Zduriencik’s team won 87 games last year, leading to forecasts of playoffs and even a World Series for the 2015 team. But it has been a roaring disappointment, ending for practical purposes at the July 31 trade deadline when the best healthy reliever, Mark  Lowe, was dealt for prospects. The Mariner have struggled in August to find major league caliber relief pitchers to finish the season.

Kingston spent nine years working with the San Diego Padres, serving the final seven seasons as director of baseball operations.

More to come on the story.



  • Glenn Mitchell

    If Mariner Ownership Doesn’t Care, Why The Hell Should I?

    Art, help me out here.
    Who is Howard Lincolns boss? Who
    exactly does he report to? Who can
    actually fire him? Who actually owns the
    Mariners? Get where I am going here?

    Since Howard Lincoln has been CEO of The Mariners (1999) I
    believe, The Mariners have gone through as best as I can estimate, now 4 GM’s, 9
    Managers, 13 Hitting Coaches & 8 Pitching Coaches, and one winning record
    since 2004, and a Partridge in a pear tree…. Even Chuck Armstrong’s retirement
    as General Manager failed to change the losing ways of the Mariners.

    Is Howard Lincoln made of Teflon? Prove to me he’s not!

    Yes at one time he was an incredibly successful and ruthless
    corporate lawyer. How he secured the
    rights to Tetris for Nintendo is legendary.
    Made Nintendo literally millions upon million upon millions. If I was in corporate America and needed a relentless
    coldblooded lawyer to clear a complex difficult deal or execute a hostile takeover of a competitor
    Howard Lincoln would get the job regardless of cost.

    But this is not corporate America. It is baseball. It is athletics. It is professional athletics. It’s a whole different game. And clearly Howard’s ways of conducting
    business in this arena does not work.
    Many very powerful men (and women) from corporate America have struggled
    greatly in the sports market and clearly this is the case with Howard. He is the only common denominator in the
    equation! And when I look at his
    personality and watch and listen as to how he conducts himself I am reminded of
    an axiom I have learned in Corporate America.

    After being in corporate America one of many things I
    witnessed and learned is that workers, regardless of title, position and level,
    will most always take the personality of their immediate superior(s). This is very normal human behavior as we all
    see who is directly above us and since they are the ones who order us (and
    probably also hired us) we watch, learn, copy and imitate. Simply stated, I believe The Seattle Mariners
    organization has taken Howard’s Personality in that it seems everybody in The
    Mariners organization knows Howard (a lawyer – not a baseball guy has final say in everything from which sods’a are in the soda machine to who the M’s first round draft pick is. As a result of this everybody runs scared and tight. Even Managers,
    Scouts, Coaches…the very people who should be allowed to make baseball
    decisions cannot because they ultimately know no matter how hard they work and how logical their baseball decisions are, nothings happens without Howards stamp of approval. And Howard’s stamp of approval and decision making process starts with #1.) Money #2.) More Money #3) Can I make a bobble head to get these gullible fans to show up, get their free junk and spend and make ownership money. #4) Oh yeah, can we win enough to be semi relevant #5.) How much of an tyrannical ass can I be in the process (it’s so good for my ego).

    Of of course Howard wants to win. But he doesn’t know how. At least not in the sports world. Which leads me to my original set of questions now that I am done venting.

    Who in The Mariner ownership group has the authority to fire Howard ‘Teflon’ Lincoln? And does anybody in ownership ever care? And if Mariner ownership don’t care enough to look into this, why the hell should I careI?

    • Effzee

      ^^ What he said.

    • Joe_Fan

      I don’t think ownership really cares as Howie ultimately has done a good job at increasing the value of the team and generating cash flow, even with a declining fan base (though this year I believe there was an uptick in attendance). Even given how bad its been, Mariners baseball is still fun to attend, watch, and listen to, and I say that even though I’m incredibly frustrated and wonder if in my lifetime I will ever be able to enjoy a world series game at Safeco. We are powerless to do anything about Howie. All we can hope for is that he at some point is simply going to retire as I believe he is in his mid 70’s and you can’t run the ship forever.

      • Effzee

        “Even given how bad its been, Mariners baseball is still fun to attend, watch, and listen to…” No. No it is not. Stop saying that. It is patently false. As long as sheeple keep feeling this way, and demand nothing more, then nothing will change.

        • Joe_Fan

          Whatever, then don’t watch and don’t comment on it and don’t call me a “sheep” because I’m far from it. I like to watch baseball. I’m not happy with management/ownership or the product on the field, but I still like to watch and listen to the home team. I don’t bury my head in the sand and act like the team doesn’t exist.

          • Jamo57

            I love baseball too, it’s the sport I have the longest relationship with. 53 years. Howard, et. al. were causing my love to fade. The year of the 19 game losing streak caused me to start watching Ken Burns’ “Baseball” instead of ROOT Sports to help me remember that love. MLB.TV has been the best money I’ve ever spent as I can watch major league baseball instead of ROOT. Save yourself!

          • art thiel

            Good workaround.

          • art thiel

            You’re entitled to pursue your legal pleasures as you please.

        • art thiel

          Effzee, sheeple’s money is as good as yours, and more readily available. Many people find baseball irresistible, no matter its condition in any market. I understand your point, but it’s hard to tell people how to feel.

      • Kirkland

        As organization (not baseball operations) president, Lincoln answers solely to the suits at Nintendo, and his job is solely to make profits. The M’s are doing that, so they have no reason to remove him. Like how Roger Goodell stays as NFL commissioner; the guy’s a turnip, but because he’s making the NFL big bucks thanks to the new CBA and TV deals, he’s not going anywhere.

        Re: attendance, I wonder if just as many go to games to relax, socialize or make business contacts as to see a good game. Look at Cubs fans who packed the stands for terrible teams because of Wrigley, or how crowded “The ‘Pen” is by singles on the hunt, or the various family days, Little League days, etc. And with so many games, baseball relies on a large corporate fan base, and the leisurely pace and various gathering spots at stadiums make it a good place to make cocktail-napkin deals. At my last office job we often bought M’s tickets for visiting clients and our bosses, even when the team was bad, because of that schmoozing factor. I’ll bet. Two-thirds of the M’s ticket base are,corporate accounts who aren’t invested in W-L records.

        And as how mad the fans are at ownership, I wonder if the only ones who are boycotting the team until Lincoln goes are the ones who call sports radio or vent online, and ecerybody else simply will find something else to do.

        • Lodowick

          Yeah. This is really good insight. Much is going right for the M’s. But not in the Win-Loss column. But the win-loss column does not pay the bills. Kevin needs to make a good decision on GM. That’s not easy. But that decision will pay the way to victories…..or not.

          • art thiel

            Bills are already paid before W/L is a factor. Remember that MLB is a monopoly that has an exemption from anti-trust. Sweet deal.

        • art thiel

          You’re right about the Nintendo influence — see my answer to Glenn.

          The ballpark is a safe, clean gathering point on the edge of downtown for thousands omany real baseball fans, are unlikely to boycott games over the deeds or misdeeds of an owner who operates an almost-bulletproof monopoly.

      • art thiel

        That’s about it. The Mariners have created a mallpark for young and old to hang out in, and the results on the field have, for those fans, little bearing.

      • art thiel

        It’s possible that Nintendo would sell to the minority owners, principally John Stanton. But only if Lincoln approves. He has said he has succeeded at everything, and doesn’t want to fail at the last thing.

    • TomRunz

      Nothing will change until Lincoln is gone.

      • Effzee

        That seat must have gotten so hot that he permanently fused to it. Seriously, Art….. Is Howard going to have a Press Conference? Can someone please ask him about this? How do we get him out of there? How do we, as the fans who paid for the stadium, get some accountability out of this guy?

        • dingle

          Nice blast from the past, Eff. Reading it makes me want to barf, though.

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    • art thiel

      Wow, Glenn, I expect you’re feeling better. You do have a grasp on corporate culture and the problems it causes in the baseball shop.

      As to ownership: Hiroshi Yamauchi, CEO NOJ, personally bought 55 percent of Mariners in 1992. Upon his death, by terms of his estate, control passed to Nintendo of America Redmond. NOA has a three-member board of directors, of which Lincoln is one. One, Satoru Iwata, died recently.

      Lincoln serves as Nintendo’s rep on the Mariners board of directors. Nintendo has had little interest/engagement in Mariners business, especially now that Yamauchi is no longer expressing his fondness for Japanese players.

      The Mariners turn an annual operating profit, and appreciate in value annually. It is one of Nintendo’s most successful properties, but operates entirely independent of NOA. It’s unlikely his two other directors know Lincoln is held in contempt by many fans, and if it is known, they do not care.

      For reasons you stated, Lincoln is an untouchable within Nintendo. The Mariners minority owners have 45 percent of the team, and have no bylaw influence over club ops. They can only suggest.

      • Kirkland

        Your former radio colleague Steve Sandmeyer felt Lincoln employed a strategy re: competition in Nintendo that worked wonders, namely, “identify competition, destroy competition”. Sandy felt Lincoln tried to apply that to the M’s, and it failed. In sports, you succeed by being better than your competition. Both on-field (wins) and off (movies, concerts, touring Broadway shows). Look at their opposition to the Sonics arena; instead of thinking “Let’s beat them by improving our team”, they thought “Let’s beat them by not letting them even get started”, you could easily believe.

        Then there’s the age-old sports dilemma, are winning and profits mutually exclusive? Look at the New Jersey Devils, who have won three Stanley Cups and been to two other finals since 1995, yet are a clear number two in their home market, have no clue on marketing, and struggle to avoid bankruptcy. Then there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose Cup-less bumbling since 1967 makes the M’s look like the San Antonio Spurs, but who make billions over billions and have a ticket waiting list that rivals the Packers’. Which would you rather have?

        (BTW, if a Seattle NHL team had a track record like the Devils’, five finals and three wins in 25 years, would they be more popular than the Seahawks? Just wondering …)

        • eYeDEF

          (BTW, if a Seattle NHL team had a track record like the Devils’, five finals and three wins in 25 years, would they be more popular than the Seahawks? Just wondering …)

          I somehow seriously doubt it. Not that a NHL couldn’t be popular in Seattle but the NFL is still king of American sports.

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  • Effzee

    …. I am floored to hear someone in the Mariners FO speak the words “Goal of winning championships.” I believe this may be a first. Has Kevin Mather even met Howard? They are clearly not on the same page. Sadly, as long as Howard has input, they will end up with yet another milquetoast, loser, career yes-man whose primary personality trait is the “Quiet dignity” (ie: silent subservience) that Howard so cherishes.

    • Jamo57

      I have no doubt it’s their goal. They just have no idea how.

  • inplaylose

    there will certainly be lots of candidates, as its actually a pretty attractive job. Dombrowski said when he took the Boston job that Seattle was a second choice (which was odd, since Seattle didnt have a job opening then). club has lots of money, not a lot of debt, and a candidate is going to think he can come in and pretty much put his guys everywhere in the organization, since clearly the whole structure of talent development has failed. Kim Ng would be a good choice, i see suggestions of Levine from the Rangers and the Cubs Senior VP as well. those are the sorts of organizations this one needs to emulate right now. and if they hire Kevin Towers, i am disowning this franchise forever.

    • dingle

      Even though the Seattle job wasn’t officially available, I’d be shocked if some higher-up didn’t have a conversation with Dombrowski to let him know that the job would be open, and soon. Hard to turn down the Red Sox job though.

      • inplaylose

        yeah, i was saying that somewhat in jest. Z losing his job was obviously one of the worst kept secrets in baseball.

        • dingle

          It was just a matter of when. I figured since it was a lost season, they’d ride it out. It’s actually pretty silly that they’re firing him now. The horses, the pigs, the rats, and all of the shovels and pitchforks and other equipment have long ago left the barn.

    • Jamo57

      The Ms were Dombrowski’s ‘safety school’. Not much else.

  • David Flock

    Like I said the other day Pat Gillick anyone?

    • Rj Smith

      Gillick is NOT returning to be the GM & answer to these goofs in the front office.

      • Jamo57

        Pat is not a rebuilder of organizations. He is the master tweaker to put a good team over the top at the expense of the future. Wrong man for what this franchise needs.

  • ReebHerb

    How about a fun to watch team like Houston which has a chance to catch lightning in a bottle? Enough with prima donnas and personae like Ichiro and Rodney. note: Ichiro will be a Hall of Famer; whatever. He was hard to watch.

    If a swing needs rebuilding, do it in AA. Tweak it in the majors.

    Game #1 is as important statistically as game #162. Beat up on dead arms in the spring and sore arms in the fall. Yeah. Do things differently.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    I was through with the m’s when they passed on timmy cy young and lived right here in Seattle.

    • Lodowick

      Thank God he went to the Giants and then helped them end a half century of futility. We waited that long.

  • Lodowick

    Just get the right guy. The right guy does not get a LoMo. The right guy passes on Cano at $25 Mil and gets Howie Kendrick the next year for much less. The right guy has a backup for Zunino. The right guy does not install Guti without a major league backup, or Martel. The right guy does not settle with a 6 for 3 starting pitcher. He’s looking for ‘lights out’ and 7 or 8 or 9 innings. He’s after guys who advance runners, run smartly, field well, hit in the clutch. And he’s going to change the culture of losing, which will no longer be tolerated. Or not. Maybe he’ll be more of the same. If so, please burn him in effigy.

    • dingle

      Unfortunately, I don’t think the right guy wants this job. Lincoln has demonstrated that he’s not shy about meddling, and no GM with any sense want that kind of crap on a weekly basis.

      It’s a pretty small fraternity, and I’m sure everyone knows that the M’s GM job comes with certain strings. No one who’s worth his salt wants to be a puppet.