Aug 24, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Dustin Ackley (13) hits a single against the Los Angeles Angels during the 7th inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Is There a Fundamental Flaw Within the Mariners Organization?


Wednesday on 710 ESPN, “Brock and Danny” were discussing the possibility of a fundamental flaw in the Seattle Mariners organization that could possibly explain the continues struggles of the franchise and its players. I only caught a part of it, but from what I gathered the problems brought up by the hosts and callers were a basic lack of talent, poor player development, and a faulty mentality at the major league level that does not lead to success.

For the most part, theses are ideas that are tossed around a lot by frustrated fans who have endured the many years of rebuilding, all to result in another rebuild. Despite that, it is rare that we actually think deeply about the issues that may be holding this team back. A major reason is that it really isn’t tangible in any way.

We can’t know for certain if the draftees or acquisitions simply lack the talent to succeed. It seems unlikely seeing as most of the players that were brought in were widely regarded as future producers. Yet, we can’t know for sure. Is this current group just talent-detecting deficient?

That then leads to doubting the player development. If the players have the talent but continue to miss, there may be a fault somewhere in the middle, post-draft and pre-majors. This is much harder to pinpoint, as player development encompasses many different aspects. There are the specific coaches and instructors in the minors. The scouts that help set a time table for a call-up. And then there is the man in charge of it all, Jack Zduriencik, who ultimately oversees the whole operation. Despite its complexity, this remains a very real possibility. Does a change need to be made, either in the minors or in the front office? This is something I analyzed in the past to a limited extent, but the (rough) findings may support this possibility.

The mental aspect that was being discussed seemed to center around the lack of accountability that was sometimes present in the past. It can be argued that the young kids got too many opportunities, and were not expected to perform because of their age. One of the hosts (I cannot remember which, but I believe it was Danny) said that the age of the team should not be brought up from now on because it does not do anything but evade the problems. Sure, it may play a role. But continually giving the players a veil to hide behind when they struggle will not bring about change.

The lack of fire that Dustin Ackley often gets criticized for was also discussed, and it was argued that this is a product of the continual excuses given out by Eric Wedge and Zduriencik. But to be fair, Ackley was sent down this season, as was Justin Smoak the year before. The mindset could still very well be a problem though. Does this next coaching staff need to instill a sense of urgency in the kids so they know they need to produce just like everyone else?

One more possibility that our editor Dan Hughes mentioned to me was the ownership itself. Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are often viewed in a very head-of-the-snake light, and have become almost as criticized as the front office and coaching staff. It is often argued that they are not as interested in a winning product as they are in turning over a profit. Payroll is not quite at the level of many teams, but there is a chance they just do not want to win that way. Some teams want to build from within rather than through free agency.

Personally, I have never understood how so much hatred can fall on two business-oriented guys. They may do the hiring, but other than that, their control of the on-the-field product is limited, is it not? I would love for someone in the comments to put it into words why they place the blame on ownership, because it has never really clicked to me, nor have I heard an explanation. That’s not to say ownership isn’t a problem, as it very well could be, just like the other issues I have discussed. Does the head of the snake need to be decapitated, to put it crudely?

In my opinion, it is probably a little bit of everything. And unfortunately, that is probably the most grim outcome of them all. While a fundamental flaw in the system is nothing to applaud, persistent problems across multiple aspects of the organization is much worse. It is harder to detect, and solve. You can’t just fire everyone in the organization like you could if the problem were, hypothetically, centralized in the coaching staff.

But if, gun to my head, I had to pick one of the aspects above to be the most likely culprit, it would be in the player development. I just can’t help but think that Ackley, Smoak and the rest would be more successful in other organizations. Both Ackley and Smoak (plus others like Jesus Montero and  Nick Franklin — who is far from a bust yet but has struggled mightily) were such highly regarded prospects. Some were even “can’t miss.” Yet to this point, they have missed.

Again, they may just not be talented. They may be suffering from a poor mindset. But to me, developmental problems seem to make the most sense. They were certainly talented in the past, and many people thought that would continue. And I am not a massive believer in attitude and mentality. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly has an effect. But I think said effect can be overblown at times, and likely wouldn’t hold these players back as much as they have been.

Unfortunately, the root of this botheration (thank you thesaurus.com) is unlikely to be identified, seeing as it is more than likely not tangible in any way. So your guess — as well as the guess of everyone else — is as good as mine as to what is wrong with the organization. At this point, I am hoping the new coaching staff is able to do something to right the ship, and that a few talented free agents are brought in to make this team competitive again.

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  • CharlieSpencer-Davis

    It has to be somewhere in player development– if an organization like the Cardinals can churn out youngsters who produce like they are a dime a dozen, the Mariners ought to be able to find one or two… Like back when A-Rod and Griffey and David Ortiz were coming through our system.

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  • gerald robinson

    I agree with Charlie–clearly the young players haven’t been taught baseball fundamentals. For example: they don’t know how to bunt. They try for walks when the situation demands a clutch hit. They make the wrong fielding choices. They repeat the same batting mistakes, over and over again. They can’t adjust as pitchers get to know their batting blind spots.

    But there is also an awful failure in scouting. Montero is the prize example of this flaw. But there are others as we all know.

    With all respect to the front office, why did they destroy a very good 2012 bull pen in trades for some mediocre –if that– hitters?

    I think it is apparent that really good players don’t want to play for the Mariners, so good trades will be hard to make.

    Drastic changes from top to bottom are necessary, but next year will probably be like this year. again.

  • maqman

    I’ve been a Z supporter from Day 1 and still am but I realize he has some weaknesses. He is a good scout and his building from the farm up plan is a rational one and it has produced decent results. If he has a weakness I think it’s personnel management in the front office, which is not something he really had experience with before. Also, like many of us, he starts some initiatives like analytics and the physical preparation program that they brought in a specialist doctor to implement the first year, but who was not heard of much thereafter. He’s been working with the Pirates the past couple of years, as have their 5 person analytics department that go over defensive shifts and measures with the manager and coaches as well as the players before every game. Everyone there is on the same page. Here it’s hard to tell. The complaint about all the owners want is profits is bogus, they have never taken any money out of the team. I also believe that Lincoln and Armstrong want a winner worse than we do. I like that Z has cottoned on to the fact that platooning is a cheaper and more effective way to build a roster, it works for the A’s.