Is there a hotter seat in Major League Baseball than Jackie Z’s?
What a curse! To be saddled with this team, with this organization. To have owners continuously slashing payroll while at the same time expecting you to single-handedly replenish the farm system and somehow find a way to produce a winner at the Major League level. Jackie Z doesn’t stand a chance, and really, he never did.
You know how they say, “The Writing Is On The Wall”? Well, it’s there. It might not be painted in big, bold, black letters; it’s more faint, but it’s coming in clearer by the day. Jackie Z came aboard this sinking Titanic in October of 2008 and in the early going made a few great moves (the J.J. Putz trade, the first Cliff Lee trade). But, for the most part, Jackie Z has been snakebitten over and over again. Chone Figgins falling off of the face of the planet after a super-productive career in Anaheim. Franklin Gutierrez with one injury after another. Erik Bedard with one injury after another. Granted, he has worked wonders with this farm system, but nothing has really panned out in what you would call a long-term way. Sure, we have hope. Guys like Seager, Ackley, Montero, Saunders … but none of them have REALLY done anything to give anyone a sense of, “Oh yeah, these guys are sure things who will be productive for many years to come.” You always see flashes, but they’ve yet to put it all together.
Chone Figgins was the first nail in the coffin. Granted, you need a lot of nails (theoretically, I’m not much of a carpenter) to complete your coffin, but Figgins is a big piece. And he was an EARLY piece. Justin Smoak is another. We traded one of our greatest assets – half a season of Cliff Lee – to bring in this guy because we anticipated he would be someone to help turn this struggling franchise around. Instead, Smoak has come to epitomize this struggling franchise in every conceivable way. He’s a guy who was great until he came to Seattle. He’s a guy who can’t succeed in Safeco Field. He’s a prospect with all the promise in the world but absolutely zero follow-through. He is … a complete and utter disappointment. All of these things can be said about the Seattle Mariners as a whole. In that sense, Justin Smoak might just be the most perfect Mariner we’ve ever had.
The final nail has yet to be struck, but if it’s going to be anything, it’ll likely be Jesus Montero. We don’t yet know what we’ve got with Jesus Montero. Right now, he’s batting .263 with 20 extra base hits and just a measly 14 walks compared to 60 strikeouts. On the one hand, ugh. On the other hand, this is his first full season in the Majors and we’ve still seen flashes of brilliance in this kid.
Yeah, those same kinds of flashes we’ve always seen in Smoak. Flashes that excite and entice, but ultimately never last for much more than a week or two.
What Jackie Z has going for him is that the hitting has SOMEWHAT turned a corner. This team still can’t hit or score at home, but at least they’re not the same lifeless turd they were on the road in recent seasons past. Jackie Z also has The Big Three of Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker. If this team is ever going to turn around, it’s going to be on the backs of their starting pitchers. If The Big Three figures out a way to set the world on fire, Jackie Z might be the single greatest general manager comeback story of all time.
My concern is: will he live to see his plan come to fruition?
2012 is Year Four. I haven’t known the Mariners organization to EVER go much longer than four years with a single rebuilding plan; so why would I expect that they’d continue to go down this road now? They’re an impatient, short-sighted lot of pigfuckers who firmly believe that any move is the correct move, even if it means blowing everything up and starting all over yet again. Mostly, I believe Bill Bavasi is a jackass and one of the worst GMs I’ve ever seen. But, every once in a while I look above Bavasi at the real men in charge. The guys who pushed Bavasi to make crazy move after crazy move. Granted, Bavasi was the talent-evaluator; it was ultimately on him to pick the guys to bring in. But, the organizational motto at the time was completely flawed. Which is why future Major League stars were given away for veteran has-beens. Which is why big bucks were thrown away on flops.
It seems like it’s destiny with this team. Until they sell to a group of owners who are willing to do the right thing – either continue whole hog with the Build From Within routine, or pump hundreds of millions of dollars into payroll to jumpstart this cardiac patient – I don’t see this thing ever changing.
One thing I can see is the writing on the wall. Jackie Z isn’t much longer for this world. With the way this team is underachieving – like most of Jackie Z’s teams have underachieved – I just don’t think the Mariners will have the patience to suffer these indignities much longer. It’s funny and it’s heartbreaking; the next GM is more likely to enjoy the fruits of Z’s labor by default. He’ll get all the credit for what Z has built up. And Z will be with another organization who will appreciate his talents.
Jackie Z deserves better. Had the Red Sox or the Yankees brought him in, he would have flourished like no GM Seattle has ever seen. Damn his luck, he had to come along at a time when Seattle came a-callin’.