Amongst the highlights of Jack Zduriencik’s tenure as Seattle GM ; the acquisition of an accused rapist, a feigned zeal for statistical analysis, and presiding over a rehabbing player being pelted with an ice cream sandwich by an M’s scout. Zduriencik (above) was relieved of his duties early Monday, and U.S.S. Mariner’s Marc W. suggests his love affair with the Mariners has been forever tainted by the former GM’s underachievement, or if you prefer, “the intensity of my fandom’s been permanently restricted”.
A big part of that might be age and life and the way 518 losses in 5.5 years rewires your brain to spare you some pain. But a part of it is that we fell too hard for the idea that the right executive is all you need. That a General Manager can remake an organization, from top to bottom, relatively quickly and have everything just work out. We see this all the time – Cardinals fans believe in their org, and Astros fans will tell you more than you wanted to know about their vaunted Process. But the more you look into them, the more you see just how extensive change needs to be. The Cards aren’t the Cards because of their GM, they’re where they are because of dozens or hundreds of people. A leader can be vital in creating and nurturing a culture that works for player development or pro scouting, but it takes an entire organization to make it work. As fans, we thought at one point that Zduriencik was a kind of cheat code – his blend of scouting acumen and willingness to listen to newfangled metrics would blend the best of old school and new and make the Cardinals look like the St. Louis Browns in short order. Instead, what we saw was a front office that seemed to be at war with itself. Instead of creating a culture, the GM created a growing list of enemies. Nearly every group – from Pro Scouting to Player Development was overhauled, and nothing much seemed to change.
The M’s front office was incapable of building a team to reliably compete in the AL. The M’s realized this and made a change. Realistically, the M’s are further from their goal of competing in the medium term than they were before the year started, but even this helped clarify things and point a way forward. We knew before the year that the M’s had risks at the catcher spot, the bullpen and CF, and those risks have ended up sinking the season. The risks have turned into a shopping list or a player development challenge. Someone else will figure out what to do about these issues, and I’m excited to see what they do. I’ll just never be excited as I was in December of 2009 again.