Geoff Baker recently left the Mariners' beat to focus on larger stories, and Saturday night he dropped a big one, highlighted by a number of damning quotes from ex-manager Eric Wedge. And then there's Tony Blengino:
One of those speaking out is Tony Blengino, the former No. 2 in Zduriencik’s front office. Blengino, who was working for the Milwaukee Brewers with Zduriencik at the time, said he authored virtually the entire job application package Zduriencik gave the Mariners in 2008, depicting a dual-threat candidate melding traditional scouting with advanced statistical analysis.
"Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job," Blengino said. "But Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door."
The Seattle Times obtained a copy of the package, which talks of rebuilding with minimal pain through shrewd drafts, undervalued free agents and a "vast pipeline of young, homegrown star-caliber talent." Advanced stats charts ranked every major-leaguer and top minor-leaguers, while computer spreadsheets depicted each team’s positional depth and payroll commitments.
Zduriencik declined to speak about his stats knowledge or Blengino’s role in the package.
It’s hardly unusual in the corporate world for trusted assistants to design job applications. But after initial success, Zduriencik had a slew of failed player moves — coinciding with his eventual decision to push Blengino out.
"Jack tried to destroy me," Blengino said.
It's been well-known by tea-leaves readers for a while now that Blengino had been marginalized for a while, and was essentially being ignored. It's possible that Zduriencik and Blengino just didn't get along, and a productive relationship wasn't possible any longer. So I'd just like to make a general point here ...
Carrying a numbers guy on the staff -- and Blengino was more than that; I'm generalizing -- isn't the same as valuing the contributions of a numbers guy. Every single general manager these days will sing rhapsodies about the bright young fellows who crunch numbers. But it's easy to sing without listening. And when you look at what the Mariners did last winter -- acquiring three or four DH's, for example, including "outfielder" Raul Ibañez -- it was fair to wonder about the operating intelligence there.
Baker paints the picture of a terribly dysfunctional front office, and he's got the juicy quotes to back it up. Doesn't mean they can't turn things around, and we're getting just one side of the story (though no real fault of Baker's). But it's a hell of a wet blanket for the fans, so soon after last week's exciting news. And I'm still not convinced that committing $240 million to a player in his 30s is a good long-term play.
Bonus Quote! On the off-chance you didn't actually read Baker's story, here's a choice bit from the ex-manager:
Wedge says he's relieved to have moved on, despite potentially walking away from another $2 million - the amount he earned last season and could have received in a 2014 extension - in favor of unemployment. His experience was "night and day" from managing in Cleveland, where Indians president Mark Shapiro, GM Chris Antonetti and others "care about the right things."
"Neither one played, but they know and respect the game," Wedge said. "They respect how hard the game is. They know how to communicate and they're smart people."
Considering the Indians fired Wedge four years ago, it's more difficult to write off his comments about M's management as merely sour grapes.