I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago. We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse. The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing. A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.
Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick. On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons. And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death). Every year of his reign was another chance to reload. Re-BUILD? What does that even MEAN? The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried. Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on. He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.
On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise. He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007. This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.
On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik. He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons. So, it was time. He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.
Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record: 322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record: 506-595, .460 winning percentage
Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans. Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down. The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero. The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.
Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling. He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager. Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel). I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:
- Dustin Ackley, draft pick
- Chone Figgins, free agent
- Eric Byrnes, free agent
- Justin Smoak, trade
- The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
- Jesus Montero, trade
- Brandon League, trade
- Casey Kotchman, trade
- Mike Morse for John Jaso
- Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
- Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
- Mike Zunino, draft pick
- Danny Hultzen, draft pick
- Nick Franklin, draft pick
- Corey Hart, free agent
- Jason Bay, free agent
- Joe Saunders, free agent
- Hector Noesi, trade
- Miguel Olivo, free agent
- The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
- Jack Cust, free agent
- Blake Beavan, trade
- Milton Bradley, trade
- Rob Johnson, trade(ish)
You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST! Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons! That’s Jack’s legacy! Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like? No. But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps. He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense. After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.
Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi? No, he was not. That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008. I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax. That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house. Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year? Absolutely not. His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.
But, it’s not even like that. I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone. But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended. There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did. A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon. Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.
In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era. There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs. There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015. There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot). And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.
Like him or hate him, it’s just sad. This whole season has been depressing as shit! Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.
The worst part is: what do we do going forward? When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process: scrap everything and start over through the draft. It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways. The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding. It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn. We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again. Unexpectedly. Yet again. But, maybe we should have expected it. This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.
Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system. But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level. This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst. Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?
Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.
He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.
But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.