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Updated: May 18, 2015
So much crap gets dumped on the head coach if his players don’t live up to expectations, but who takes the heat if those players simply aren’t very good? The General Manager.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at the Seattle Mariners’ general managers and all of their mistakes. I’ll eventually get around to giving them credit where credit is due, but let’s face it: this is a team that’s never been to a World Series. Is it fair to place all of the blame on the following gentlemen? Of course not; you can do your best and still fail for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, I can’t help but look at these moves as contributing greatly to the Mariners’ failings.
It’s interesting to look at the rise and fall of specific general managers. Woody Woodward, for instance, gets a lot of credit for the success the Mariners saw in the mid-to-late 90s. Of course, he was no Dick Balderson (Woodward’s predecessor who drafted Griffey and swindled the Yankees out of Jay Buhner before being fired), but he did trade for Randy Johnson and draft Alex Rodriguez.
You could say Woodward was in a no-lose situation when he first came to Seattle. After all, this franchise was a laughingstock since its inception. Having teams that reached .500 by season’s end could’ve been technically called a success. But, our Mariners did more than that, starting with our run in 1995. Following that, I dunno, maybe the pressure became too much. But, you can clearly see his skills as an evaluator of baseball talent took a swift and precipitous decline (starting with the Tino Martinez trade and bottoming out at the 1997 trade deadline). Once things fell apart after the 1997 playoff run (and we realized what we’d given up just to lose in the ALDS), fans started calling for his head and it was a matter of time before he’d be replaced.
Enter Pat Gillick, who enjoyed the kind of Major League success general managers can only dream of. The Mariners were never better than they were from 2000 through the end of 2003: starting with a Wild Card birth in 2000, winning 116 games in 2001, and finishing 2nd in the AL West with 93 wins apiece in 2002 and 2003. As such, there aren’t a whole lot of terrible moves made by Pat Gillick. But, what this list doesn’t show you is how Stand Pat got his nickname. Somehow, not only did we fail to bolster our farm system, but we also failed to get that ONE impact player that would take our ballclub from a solid regular season participant into a World Series contender. The lack of moves at the trade deadline in 2001 is unforgivable, as that magical year should’ve been our ticket to World Series glory. Pat Gillick was gone after the 2003 season, and it’s not really much of a surprise that we immediately took a nosedive in the standings.
Not a surprise because he was that good of a GM, and not a surprise because we didn’t have any young talent coming through the pike. Once our veterans collapsed into an ineffectual heap, we were nothing but a 63-win ballclub.
Around these parts, Bill Bavasi has become a pariah along the lines of Howard Schultz, Tim Ruskell, and Wally Walker. CERTAINLY, it’s not fair; look at what he inherited! Gillick gutted this team and left it for dead; it’s like blaming Obama for the economy even though most of this was the fault of President Bush and the Republican majority.
Still, Bavasi could’ve been a hero around these parts had he somehow found a way to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, all he ever did was bring a Band Aid to an amputee.
Bavasi’s solution to everything was to throw money at it. Our payroll was never higher than it was during the Bavasi regime, and what did we get for our investment? More seasons with sub-70 wins (3) than winning seasons (1). “Rebuild” wasn’t in the man’s vocabulary! As such, we saw an endless parade of veteran stopgaps who were finished BEFORE we gave them everyday jobs. He botched the 2005 Super Draft (and pretty much every other draft he was involved in). And, for the love of Christ, he was killed in just about EVERY trade he involved himself in!
Bavasi’s final straw was the combined effort to shore up our starting rotation going into 2008. Here, he signed Carlos Silva to a laughably absurd contract, then gave up the farm for Erik Bedard. When the shit hit the fan pretty early in that season, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners were forced to cut ties.
We are now in our third season with Jackie Z, and so far it’s been a bumpy ride. Once again, though, you’re talking about a guy who was shackled by a previous regime’s incompetency. Not only is Z saddled with bad contracts (Silva/Bradley, now cut) and Ichiro, but thanks to the years upon years of bad baseball, attendance is at an all time low. As a result, the organization-imposed salary cap has dwindled to around $91 million (from over $100 million in Bavasi’s final year), which appears to be the beginning of a downward cycle for this franchise. If the fans don’t start coming back, who’s to say that salary cap won’t decrease by another $10 million? Of course, the fans WON’T come back if the team doesn’t win; but how can they win if the coffers are shrinking?
At the moment, I still like Z. Not just because he isn’t screwing up deals, but because he’s actively making GOOD deals. The J.J. Putz trade alone has brought us a number of quality players. The Cliff Lee deal looks to be another gem. Yes, Chone Figgins is our Albatross Of The Moment, but that’s just one bad signing. With money coming off the books after this 2011 season, hope is high he’ll use his keen eye for talent to bring in a couple of bigtime bats.
And if those guys fail? Well, mistakes have a way of begetting more (and bigger) mistakes. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time until the NEXT general manager is hired.
Woody Woodward (1988 – 1999)
December 10, 1993 – Mike Hampton & Mike Felder to Houston Astros for Eric Anthony
December 20, 1993 – Omar Vizquel to Cleveland Indians for Felix Fermin & Reggie Jefferson
December 7, 1995 – Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir & Jeff Nelson to New York Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock & Russ Davis
September 13, 1996 – David Arias to Minnesota Twins for Dave Hollins
February 20, 1997 – Dennis Martinez signs 1-year, $250,000 deal
July 31, 1997 – Derek Lowe & Jason Varitek to Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb
July 31, 1997 – Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto Blue Jays for Paul Spoljaric & Mike Timlin
February 6, 1998 – Bobby Ayala re-signs for 2-year, $3.3 million deal
February 14, 1998 – Bill Swift signs 1-year, $425,000 deal
July 31, 1998 – Randy Johnson to Houston Astros for Freddy Garcia, John Halama, & Carlos Guillen
November 13, 1998 – Jose Mesa signs 2-year, $6.8 million deal
Pat Gillick (2000 – 2003)
July 31, 2000 – John Mabry & Tom Davey to San Diego Padres for Al Martin
October 18, 2000 – Damaso Marte granted Free Agency
December 21, 2000 – Raul Ibanez granted Free Agency
June 5, 2001 – Michael Garciaparra, 1st Round Draft Pick
December 16, 2001 – Brian Fuentes, Jose Paniagua & Denny Stark to Colorado Rockies for Jeff Cirillo
January 30, 2002 – James Baldwin signs 1-year, $1.25 million deal
Bill Bavasi (Nov 7, 2003 – June 16, 2008)
December 19, 2003 – Scott Spiezio Signs 3-year $9.15 million deal
January 8, 2004 – Carlos Guillen to Detroit Tigers for Juan Gonzalez & Ramon Santiago
January 8, 2004 – Rich Aurilia Signs 1-year $3.5 million deal
January 20, 2004 – Joel Pineiro re-signs for 3-year, $14.5 million deal
June 27, 2004 – Freddy Garcia & Ben Davis to Chicago White Sox for Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse & Miguel Olivo
December 15, 2004 – Richie Sexson Signs 4-year $50 million deal
December 17, 2004 – Adrian Beltre Signs 5-year $64 million deal
January 4, 2005 – Pokey Reese Signs 1-year $1.2 million deal
January 19, 2005 – Aaron Sele signs 1-year, $700,000 deal
June 7, 2005 – Jeff Clement, 1st Round Draft Pick
July 30, 2005 – Randy Winn to San Francisco Giants for Jesse Foppert & Yorvit Torrealba
December 22, 2005 – Jarrod Washburn Signs 4-year $37.5 million deal
January 4, 2006 – Carl Everett Signs 1-year $3.4 million deal
March 20, 2006 – Matt Thornton to Chicago White Sox for Joe Borchard
June 6, 2006 – Brandon Morrow, 1st Round Draft Pick
June 30, 2006 – Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland Indians for Eduardo Perez
July 26, 2006 – Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland Indians for Ben Broussard
December 7, 2006 – Rafael Soriano to Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez
December 14, 2006 – Miguel Batista Signs 3-year $24 million deal
December 18, 2006 – Emiliano Fruto & Chris Snelling to Washington Nationals for Jose Vidro
January 30, 2007 – Jeff Weaver Signs 1-year $8.3 million deal
July 13, 2007 – Ichiro re-signs for 5-year, $90 million deal
October 30, 2007 – Jose Guillen granted Free Agency
December 20, 2007 – Carlos Silva Signs 4-year $48 million deal
January 31, 2008 – Brad Wilkerson Signs 1-year $3 million deal
February 8, 2008 – Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio & Tony Butler to Baltimore Orioles for Erik Bedard
April 25, 2008 – Kenji Johjima re-signs for 3-year, $24 million deal
Jack Zduriencik (Oct 2008 – Present)
June 9, 2009 – Dustin Ackley, 1st Round Draft Pick
November 11, 2009 – Ken Griffey Jr. re-signs for 1-year, $2.35 million deal
December 8, 2009 – Chone Figgins signs 4-year, $36 million deal
January 29, 2010 – Eric Byrnes signs 1-year, $400,000 deal
July 9, 2010 – Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe to Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson
July 30, 2011 – Doug Fister & David Pauley to Detroit Tigers for Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, Casper Wells, and Francisco Martinez
January 23, 2012 – Michael Pineda & Jose Campos to New York Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi