Dec 6, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik answers questions on the MLB.com set during the MLB winter meetings at Hilton Anatole. Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

A letter to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik


 

Dear Jack Zduriencik,

I have been a Seattle Mariners fan most of my life. That means I have loyally rooted for losing teams. With every year that has gone by I’ve come to understand how fans of the Chicago Cubs fans feel and come to expect the pain of always anxiously waiting for “next year.”

Mr. Zduriencik, I don’t place all the blame on you. I understand that ownership has given you a budget significantly less than your predecessor Bill Bavasi worked with. I understand it took some time to undo the mess he left you with. I appreciate that you are not like a politician that blames your predecessor.

But the time has come Mr. Zduriencik. This is your team now and it has had your stamp on it for quite some time now. I know, you don’t play the games. You chose the players who do though. Chone Figgins is your guy. Miguel Olivo is your guy. Justin Smoak looked like another flop, but Seattle fans have largely decided he “might” deserve one more chance after showing some flashes of the player he was expected to be when he came over in the Cliff Lee deal.

There’s still a lot of question marks going forward. The answers may not be known for another two or three years. Maybe the fans will stick around that long to see if the prospects and young major league players have what it takes to play at the big league level. But what if they don’t? Attendance dropped at Safeco Field again this year.

You weren’t here in the Kingdome days. So let me tell you a little about them. The team lost on average 88 to 100 games most years. Hmmm. Sounds familiar. The crowds were so tiny, 8000-ish. A crowd of 15,000 was a good sized crowd. That sounds like Safeco Field–when King Felix wasn’t holding court–in 2012.

So to prevent the current incarnation of the Mariners from becoming retreads of the first 18 years of the franchise some things need to happen. Let me be the first to say I hope they do, because I am not calling for you to be fired. You’re a good baseball mind Jack.

First, the obvious. Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and Kyle Seager need to prove in 2013 that they are major league caliber players and not replacement level AAAA players. If any of them are unable to do so next year that sets the rebuilding process back. How far depends on how many of the above mentioned players are viable major leaguers.

Second. You need to develop an insurance plan for these young players and create some competition for ’13 and beyond. Signing some veterans to help out in the clubhouse and set an example for the green players is a step in the right direction. Some cheap options maybe Orlando Hudson on a one-year incentive laden deal. Take a look at some of the non-tender candidates, such as Luke Hochevar, who would benefit from Safeco Field’s dimensions, even with the coming changes to the fences next year. Rumor has it that the Atlanta Braves may not tender Jair Jurjens a contract. These three guys are low risk, high reward type players that can be had on the cheap.

Third. Much of the future success is predicated on the promise of the Big Three. A word of advice. Don’t rush them like the Cubs did with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. 2013 isn’t likely to be a year the team contends, so go out and get some stop gap, back of the rotation starters like Hochevar or Jurjens. Avoid overpaying for mediocre pitchers coming off career years, like Cardinals righty Kyle Lohse; (see Carlos Silva for example).

You see Jack, unfortunately, while Seattle is a sports town, we only get behind our teams and go to the ballpark when our teams are doing well. While you played no part in it, that was the rationale behind Safeco Field that ownership gave. If it was built, ownership said, it would allow the team to spend the money to put together a winner that the city deserves. Look at 1995-2001. Fans came. To the Kingdome even. They chose to spend what few nice days per year we have in this city inside, when the game should have been outside.

I’m still a Mariners fan Jack. Through and through. While it’s tough to watch, I still follow them religiously, even when they lost 101 games a few years ago. I didn’t tune in as much on TV or the radio, but I followed them in box scores. Box scores doesn’t create revenue though. If the diehards are tuning out, how does ownership expect the casual fan to get excited about the team?

This could be a baseball town Jack. It really could. But first it must contend. Or else this city will remain firmly in the grips of the Seahawks and Sounders.

In closing, I hope ownership wakes up and opens their wallets a bit. I sincerely hope that you follow some the advice I’ve given and a few years from now we can be celebrating our first trip to the World Series, instead of sitting at home and watching like we did tonight.

 

Best of luck Jack,

 

Sincerely,

A loyal Mariners fan,

Robb Saul

 

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  • Mat

    Robb, your an idiot if you think thay Hudson/hochover are ANY help. They are dead weight to any team. If Jack is going into 2013 with just letting the yougg guy’s develope to hit and see if some of the pitching prospect can make the jump to the big’s—then Felix is going to get tired of losing and want to walk at the end of his contract. Jack needs to extend Vargas and Iwekuma(thats 3 good ones) to lead the staff. PLUG SOME HOLES offensively at 1st, OF, utility guy(keppinger). With a few average hitters that can hit and drive in runs–this team(2012) could have had 15+ more wins then they did. Look at the stats of how many games. Need to win in 2013, not 2014!!

    • Matthias_Kullowatz

      Hochevar just turned 29 and he has three years of team control left. He also posted a league-average strikeout rate, and a below league-average walk rate. Thinking that Hochevar could be useful isn’t idiotic by any means.

      • Mat

        Go look at his career stats, tell me what makes him look like he could be an improvment of any kind. And looking at a ‘hope he catches fire’ with the M’s isn’t good enoug. I’d take Millwood back at twice his price, over Hochover.’average’ is how you describe his stuff.Do we want an average player?

        • JJ Allen Keller

          He is not nearly as bad as his ERA suggests, which I’m assuming is all you are looking at. If he comes cheap he might be a nice option at the back end.
          I also wouldn’t call Vargas a “good one”. He is awful on the road, and his FIP suggests our D helps him out a ton. I would trade him or let him go before paying him $7M.
          Of course we need more than just these role player/help guys, but they never hurt. Depth is always good, especially when it’s cheap.

          • mat

            I look at track record/trend. Vargas 200+IP last 2 years. Hoch-not. Vargas era 3.7 to 4.2. Hoch-4.6 to 5.7(last 3 years)
            . 4+ runs-V-10, H-16.
            7+IP-V-14, H-10
            2run or less-V-17, H-10
            3runs or less v-24! Hoch-16(not bad).
            If the team had just avg offense in some of Vargas losses, he would have 4-5 more wins.And bullpen did their job. SEE: mar 29, may 4 &24, july 1, aug 6.
            Oh, and Vargas is a lefty.
            What about a spot for Erasmo, even Beavan has shown better preformance. ‘Let him GO’? Wow you really have no clue. 200IP, 14 wins, ya, dump thr bum.
            Spilts-”awful on the road’–wayyyy better than Hoch ever could do.
            Hoch-’not nearly as bad as his ERA suggest’- Yes he is–say’below average’ .
            Heck, Noesi could produce simuliar numbers as Hochover; and he is cheap-you like cheap alteratives?. And I think both us agree that Noesi is a AAA’r.
            My point, we don’t want some has been, or never was to fill weaknesses in the roster.

          • Matthias_Kullowatz

            I’m going to bite on this one. Your good points are hidden in the fact that you only talk about earned runs and Wins. Neither of these statistics is particularly helpful when others are available. Vargas was aided more than most pitchers by his home ballpark, and an above-average Mariners defense.

            From 2010 – 2012, Vargas sported a 4.56 ERA away from home. But more importantly, his reduced strikeout rates (13.8%) and increased homeruns allowed (1.41 / 9) led to an away FIP of 4.85. Worse than either Hochevar or Millwood over that same time.

            If Vargas is our #2, Hochevar’s numbers suggest he could slide right in and be our #3. It all hinges on how much faith you put into Hochevar’s ERA being more than a full run higher than his FIP. That just doesn’t happen very often, and it’s more likely that Hochevar is an inexpensive gem “from the scrap pile,” the kind of acquisition that just helped the Giants win a World Series.

          • Mat

            Ideally, i see vargas as a #3. Give you the innings and a chance to win. Have to go to pen min amount. He does benifit from home park, pitches to contact, fly ball pitcher. Half of starts at home and hope for half of starts on road to be solid. I’d take that.
            So if Hochever came to Sea-what would you expect to get out of him?? I think you have a pool of 20 or so pitchers with simuliar track record that you could pull one of them out of a hat and hope for an up tick in perfmance.
            Sea is going strong on pitching to build a winner. Hoch does/did have some high expectations-but I don’t see him delivering yet. Maybe it’s the KC pitching phylosophy or needs the right pitching coach that tweaks something that makes the difference.
            I’d much rather see: Felix, vargas, Iwakuma, Erasmo R. and the 5th spot goes to the young stud that shows he belongs. Really want to give a spot to Hochever over any of those. And what would he cost? Made 3.5m last year. Oh, stat wise, he was the worst starter for KC,. Drop vargas(teams 2nd best) for a bat vs. bring other teams worst starter for cheap taking spot for young gun. Boy that would make Felix want to sign the extension we all want to see.
            J.J. says ‘ or let him go before paying him 7M.’ I just don’t see the tought process with that coment. How could a team drop a pitcher with 200IP and ERA around 4.? And replace with what?

          • Matthias_Kullowatz

            I probably wouldn’t mind Vargas for $7M, but not a lot more. My main point was that Hochevar wouldn’t be an idiotic move. No it won’t push Seattle into the playoffs or anything, but he could be a valuable depth addition for not much money. Are there other options? I’m sure. But it woldn’t be idiotic if the M’s ended up with Hochevar for $4M.

        • RobbSaul

          Mat, in your first response, you say

          “With a few average hitters that can hit and drive in runs” .

          Then in the above response to Matthias say “Do we want an average player?”

          So following your logic an average player equals an extra 15 wins to the 2012 Mariners, but an average pitcher is “dead weight to any team”?

          I’m just wanting to understand and give you a chance to explain. Maybe I misunderstood or took something you said out of context and I wanted to give you a chance to clarify so I understand where you’re coming from.

          • mat

            Years ago Earl Weaver believed in strong pitching and a 3 run HR. Now is that how they won? No, but with(70′s, early 80′s) Palmer, Flanagan, Mcnally, Cuellar, Dennis & Tippy Martinez, Mcgreagor, Stone they just out pitched the other team and then scored 3-4 runs for the win.
            Did you not salivate at the start of the 2012 season with a starting rotation of : felix, vargas, fister, pieneda, bedard?? I sure did. Jack’s main focus is pitching and defense, NOT HR hitters like Hamilton or swisher. Hey didnt SF just win the WS with great pitching and clutch hitting, and NO big power hitters. Look back at recent WS winners and you’ll see stong pitching-period. Zito was left off the roster last year, cuz he sucked.

            Bet a dollar that Jack gets 2 guy’s that can put the ball in play(.280-290avg, 15-20hr, .333=oba) and brings in some vet’s to win a reserve roll. He might and suprise us and find a pitcher that has a rebound year.

            When I think of Hochever, I’m reminded of: Francis, Pavano, Blanton, Feldman, Penny, Guthrie.

            “average player”, i said- I’ll clarify. If we had average production at some of the offensive weak spots: 1b, of, utility–then we could have won some of those 1-0 or 2-1 games. You know how many time i saw a batting orderr were the last 3 or 4 were hitting .200 or below- that is a black hole. But average pitching-NO way. STRONG pitching like Atl, TB, LAA, DET,SF, and even TX. Then the offense just needs to be consistant at putting the ball in play.
            Isn’t it all about getting to the promise land(WS)? Find a play off team in past in which you would put Hochover into start over another.

            OK, enough of Hochoever(i know ive spelled his name wrong afew times), lets talk about 1base for next year.

          • mat

            I ment ‘start of 2011 season”.

          • RobbSaul

            That was looking to be a good rotation. I was excited to see what Bedard could do when he was healthy and Fister and Vargas I could tell was getting it together and would fill out the rotation well.

            Hell, I was begging Jack to call up Pineda so they could win now rather than later. But we see what happened with Pineda. Missed all of ’12 and close to half of next year. But not for us.

            Noesi was frustrating to watch at times, but we’ll have to see what he can do in ’13. Confidence and command would help him out alot, as he seems to have the stuff at times.

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  • maqman

    I share your passion for the M’s Robb but I respect what Jack Z has done for the team and I trust him to complete his plan. I know we all think we know how he should go about things but in fact we don’t have 10% of his experience, understanding and skill. He also is hampered by uncommitted owners and an inept CEO and President who are draining the team’s goodwill and community appreciation. It ain’t Z’s fault.

    • RobbSaul

      Maqman, I did fault the frugal ownership for most of the problems with the Mariners roster, while making the point that Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo were his guys.

      “Mr. Zduriencik, I don’t place all the blame on you. I understand that ownership has given you a budget significantly less than your predecessor Bill Bavasi worked with. I understand it took some time to undo the mess he left you with. I appreciate that you are not like a politician that blames your predecessor.”

      I’m not as optimistic as some M’s fans though. I look at this roster and don’t see any free agents wanting to come here until we can improve our record a bit more. Also, I don’t see hitters eager to come to Seattle until they see how the changes to the fences play out over an entire year.

      By no means do I think Hochevar is a long term solution. I say take a gamble on him for a cheap one or two year (with club option on the second year) deal.