Acknowledging The Josh Lueke Story

This is a big enough issue that I feel almost obligated to weigh in. I don't really want to talk about it. I don't think anyone *wants* to talk about it. But then, nobody really wants to talk about the 2010 Mariners, either, and we still do every day. Life is all about doing enough shit you don't want to so you can afford to do the other shit you do.

First of all: in case you missed it somehow, here is Geoff Baker's article from this morning. In it, Rick Adair alleges that the Mariners knew about Josh Lueke's situation before the trade, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels refutes the notion that he wouldn't take Lueke back once the trade was completed. Please spare me your opinions of Geoff Baker. I know a lot of people don't like him, and believe he has a tendency to sensationalize. That doesn't matter. This is very clearly a story worth investigating, and Geoff did a decent job.

Second of all: this is not a post about Josh Lueke. This is not a post about rape, or sodomy, or alcohol, or the courts, and I'm not interested in talking about any of those things. We're not going to have another one of those comment threads.

Third of all: the fact that it's pronounced "Loo-kee" instead of "Luke" drives me insane. It must also drive his teammates insane, as they struggle to come up with a nickname.

Now then. For the sake of coherence and simplicity, I think it's worth untangling everyone's individual story, here. As best as I can tell, this is what Rick Adair, Chuck Armstrong, Jack Zduriencik, and Jon Daniels have to say on the matter:

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Adair: Ten days before the trade, he talked to Zduriencik about a number of Rangers prospects, including Lueke, and mentioned his court appearance.

Armstrong: A few hours before the trade, he noticed that Lueke had been suspended in 2009, and asked Zduriencik about it. Z told him that he'd checked it out with Daniels, and that it was no big deal. Armstrong then found out some of the details after the trade, at which point he asked Z to trade Lueke back, but Z told him the Rangers said no.

Zduriencik: He talked with Adair prior to the trade about a number of Rangers prospects, including Lueke, but discussed only their on-field abilities as players. Before the trade was made, he asked Daniels about Lueke's suspension, and was told there was an incident at a bar and that Lueke had been "acquitted". After the trade was made, and Armstrong demanded that Lueke be sent back to Texas, Z said the Rangers apologized, but also told him the deal was already done.

Daniels: At the time of the trade, he believed the Mariners already knew about Lueke's past, so he didn't bring it up. After the trade, the Mariners asked him about it, so he explained the story and mistakenly said Lueke had been "acquitted". Daniels says he offered the Mariners several chances to trade Lueke back.

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Whose words do we consider most truthful? I think it's important to note that Jon Daniels has no reason to lie or mislead. Rick Adair just got fired a few weeks ago. He may harbor some ill will, and may hold a bit of a grudge. The Mariners have the whole Refuse to Abuse campaign and, as Baker says, "have long supported groups opposing violence toward women." So the Mariners clearly had a reason to smooth things over as much as they could. What would be Daniels' angle? Daniels would have nothing to gain by not telling the truth.

These are the two big questions:

Did the Mariners know about the Josh Lueke situation prior to the trade?

According to Adair, he at least told the front office that Lueke had run into some trouble. According to Zduriencik, the severity of the situation had not properly been conveyed. At best - at absolute best - the Mariners didn't know, and come away looking ill-prepared and irresponsible. Adair says Lueke's history was "common knowledge," and there's no excuse for the Mariners not picking up on something every fan had found out in five minutes.

At worst, either the Mariners knew and chose to mislead, or Zduriencik knew, and didn't tell his boss, and chose to mislead. Given the organization's history, I believe Armstrong when he says he demanded that Lueke be sent back when he found out what happened.

Could the Mariners have sent Lueke back to Texas?

Jon Daniels says he offered to take Lueke back in a separate move the same night the Cliff Lee trade went down. Daniels goes so far as to say the offer is still on the table. Zduriencik, meanwhile, says Daniels was all negative on the take-backsies, and that, according to Texas, everything was already done. Daniels, again, has no good reason to lie. So why would Zduriencik say what he did? The best explanation I can come up with is that he really wanted Lueke in the organization, but didn't feel that was good enough for upper management. But that's speculation on my part.

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What now? I'd be lying if I said I weren't writing this with squinty eyes and clenched teeth, since all the different angles have confused the crap out of me. I've been thinking about this and re-reading the source article for hours, now, and I'm still not sure what I've even written down. But in the end - or at least as of now - I'm left with three concerns:

(1) Is there a disconnect between the front office and the people above it? What this seems like - seems like - is a case where Zduriencik wasn't entirely truthful to Armstrong, which is never a good business move. If they have differing philosophies on roster management and personality type, then that needs to be discussed before we end up with stuff like this.

(2) What does this do to the relationship between the Mariners and the Rangers? Zduriencik said something about the Rangers that Jon Daniels says isn't true. At best, that's awkward, and at worst, that begets a conflict. Will future discussions between Texas and Seattle be as amicable as they presumably have been in the past?

(3) What can we say about how well Jack Zduriencik works as a GM? Roster management is only one part of the job. The difference between being an assistant and being the head honcho is that the head honcho has to worry about other things, like PR and interpersonal relationships around the league. Zduriencik has obviously gotten the organization some negative attention with this whole thing. He also might've annoyed the Rangers' front office, just a little while after angering the Yankees' front office by backing out of a Lee deal at the last second. There've also been all those rumors about how Zduriencik goes around with unreasonable asking prices in trades. How firm is Jack's grasp, really, on his job? How well does he meet all of the qualifications?

Ultimately, I don't know very much. I don't know how this whole thing really happened, and more importantly, I don't know how much it really matters. I don't know how important it is for a GM and team executive to be on the same page. I don't know how much the Rangers care about what Zduriencik said, and I don't know how much of a difference that sort of thing makes when it comes to future talks, since you'd think teams would be able to look past prior conflicts when they want to make a move. While this is a story, I don't know how important of a story this is.

What I know is that it isn't good. At no point in my countless re-readings did I come away thinking "well the Mariners look better." Everything about this is uncomfortable and disconcerting.

Saturday's Safeco event should be fun.

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