When John F. Kennedy was elected to the office of the US presidency in 1960, there was a big hubbub about who he would choose for his presidential cabinet. There always is, and for good reason. The people that a leader chooses to surround himself with are fairly indicative of his strengths, weaknesses, and core beliefs; similarly, these people often have a strong influence on the leader’s actions and decisions.
JFK had one criterion for his cabinet members — that they be the smartest people around. He chose people from different political backgrounds and those with varying political beliefs, even ones whose ideals conflicted directly with one another’s. The president-elect figured that if he simply immersed himself in the divergent opinions of exceedingly capable and intelligent human beings, he could ultimately weigh each cabinet member’s thoughts and determine the best course of action himself. The plan seemed foolproof.
Flash forward to the year 2008, when Jack Zduriencik is chosen by Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln as Bill Bavasi’s successor as Seattle Mariners General Manager. Zduriencik, who at first appeared to be yet another permutation of the classic “old-school” baseball GM who loves ERA and aging veterans, turned out to be a brilliant choice. Zduriencik repeatedly stated that his goal as the leader of the Mariners baseball operations was to improve the team methodically — that he would improve the club in each area without having to weaken it in another area — and that he would do so by taking into account the respective opinions of his staff. Jorge Arangure, Jr. wrote recently in an article for ESPN.com, “Zduriencik was smart enough to know he was not smart enough to know all the intricacies of the game, so he sought the advice of the statistical experts.” After the Putz/Gutierrez deal and Branyan signing, M’s fans were hooked on the Z method.
Back to 1960. What actually happened with respect to JFK’s cabinet was not dissimilar to a chef creating an over-elaborate dish that combines numerous delicious — but fundamentally different — components: an overload of flavor that doesn’t really taste as good as its parts. Kennedy’s cabinet members presented such different ideas that the president couldn’t help but appear to waver constantly in almost every area of his politics. Kennedy had thought that he would ally himself with both sides of the political spectrum by listening to his conservative cabinet-members and liberal cabinet-members equally. Instead, he satisfied the Republicans half of the the time and the Democrats half of the time, which ultimately pleased no one.
It’s not hard to figure out what I’m implying here. Jack Zduriencik has showed a deep-rooted desire to listen to “everyone’s opinion” before making a decision. I think it’s time for Z to stop listening and start doing. There are clearly people in the organization who want Griffey on the team to “sell tickets” and provide veteran leadership. There are people in the organization who think that Sean White is a better relief option than Kanekoa Texiera, or even an effective reliever to begin with. These are the people whose opinions are bad. These are the people who Jack Zduriencik should not be listening to.
Maybe it’s just frustration that propels me to say this — to compare a professional baseball franchise to a god damn presidential cabinet — but I want some results, and soon. If Jack Zduriencik gets fired for poor short-term results, we’re doomed.