As the baseball world knows, on Friday the Seattle Mariners signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract.
On Saturday, the Seattle Times ran an article critical of the operations of the Mariners and general manager Jack Zduriencik specifically. Entitled “Dysfunction at the top,” the piece paints a very negative picture of those running the club, from the team’s chairman on down, based on interviews with a number of former staffers.
I found the piece fascinating in that those employed in baseball often speak up about problems privately, but rarely do that on the record as they did in the Seattle piece.
While the situation is sad for long-suffering Mariners fans, I cannot help but shake my head. In Jack Z’s first year, 2009, as the major league team improved substantially on the field, he was proclaimed to be a “genius”.
I am not just talking about the saber community who were incredibly geeked out over him, but respected pubs like Sports Illustrated called him “The Unlikely Genius Behind the New Moneyball”. It struck me at the time as being amazingly premature.
Around that same time, spring 2010, SI ranked MLB general managers. Despite having one year in the job, Jack Z was placed on a pedestal at #5. With two seasons under his belt, St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak was among the also-rans at #18.
During that 2010 season, the Mariners ended up with the exact same record, 61-101, as they had the year before the “genius” arrived.
Every organization has some amount of internal strife. After all, disagreements about player potential and development philosophy are as old as the game itself.
The Cardinals are hardly immune. A change in course to put additional emphasis on drafting and player development ultimately led to the sacking of successful general manager Walt Jocketty following the 2007 season. Internal pressures remained much longer.
Yet the Cardinals have maintained the type of stability in on-field results that the Mariners only dream of.
Since that 2010 GM ranking, the Cardinals have averaged over 90 wins per season, made three post-season appearances and won one World Series. The M’s averaged 93 losses during that time while finishing in fourth place each year. They last made the playoffs in 2001.
In an attempt to regain immediate credibility, the Mariners made a decade-long commitment to 31-year-old Cano. It was exactly the kind of high-risk deal the Cardinals were able to avoid with Albert Pujols two years ago.
Despite the addition of Cano and the naming of a new manager in former Pirates skipper Lloyd McClendon, it would be a stretch to be able to even forecast when the Mariners might again be considered legitimate contenders.