For the past couple of years, having any sense of optimism surrounding the Mariners required a level of belief that there were pieces of information we just didn't know. Things were bad, yes, but what we were hearing had to be skewed somewhat because there had to be reason for hope back there somewhere. Or, you know, all of us optimists were delusional. Totally possible.
But when things were seemingly at their worst—I can't pick a lower point than everyone being genuinely upset that Eric Wedge left and, for whatever reason, felt sorry for him—Jack Zduriencik assured us that, those who knew more than we did, who knew about baseball, they thought the Mariners were in alright shape.
Here's a quick quote from Zduriencik in speaking with Wyman, Mike & Moore immediately following Eric Wedge walking out on the organization:
"One of the big messages, I think—I hear it from everybody else, I hear it from the general managers, I hear it from the managers. Just the other day, as Dayton Moore in Kansas City was getting on a bus leaving here on the way to the airport he was texting me and he said 'Congratulations on your players. We love your young kids. You guys are doing a great job, keep it up.' So I'm hearing that from many people. I heard it from the people in Texas. Joe Maddon grabbed me as he was leaving here when we were playing them and he said 'Boy, you guys got a great group of young kids.'"
It was something Zduriencik reiterated immediately following the hiring of Lloyd McClendon. They hired McClendon—who, yes, many people would label as a "retread"—after many people said the Mariners would be extremely limited in their choice of managers because of the state of the organization. Most people thought it wouldn't matter who they hired anyway. Here's what Zduriencik had to say on that, returning again to the Wyman, Mike & Moore radio show:
"If you would've received the amount of phone calls that I had received, or If you sat in the interviews with the number of people I sat in with the interviews and heard the comments about where this organization is at, the kind of talent that we had I think the [Seattle Times poll on if the Mariners' manager even mattered] would be considerably different than what you just stated. They were, to a man, excited about the young group of players, thought this club should've been a better club than it was a year ago, couldn't wait to wrap their hands around this group of players as well as a new group of players. Very, very positive.
And you know, we asked them, 'You're not going to offend us. Tell us what you think, tell us where we're at, tell us what you see', and again, to a man, without a doubt, they were very excited about this group of players and where this club is headed."
I realize that, with the last quote, even the qualifier in the second half doesn't totally overcome the fact that these comments were in a job interview setting—and normally people won't say "you guys have been doing a real awful job" to the individuals they hope to be hired by. But you get the idea, and you may even laugh at the fact that Dayton Moore thinks we're doing a great job but, for all things he does that warrant criticism, he's somehow managed to build a roster that projects to be pretty decent.
But, of course, these are all being relayed by Jack Zduriencik. We don't know the exact wording, and we don't necessarily know the context—or, in places, the potential motives.
If we asked a general manager directly about the Mariners, what would they say? Or, would it ever be possible for a smart executive to speak positively about the Mariners without even being prompted?
I will be quick to note he used the word "template," and not model. But for as much as I see the Cubs praised for their shrewd moves and "rebuilding from the ground up" tactics (sound familiar?), Cubs fans aren't all that pleased. I mean, they understand the process—and they're excited for Baez and Bryant and Almora and Soler—but as they head into just their third season under Epstein and Hoyer, there's already a level of impatience. Even the quote above, that comes in response to Scott Boras calling the Cubs out for their extended rebuild as being an "all-day sucker." Again, year three!
The Mariners' front office, as we're all aware, has been widely criticized for being in over its collective head. And that may be the case—but the idea that Zduriencik & Co. are learning to run a team on the fly and going about a rebuild the right way aren't mutually exclusive ideas.
There's still a long, long ways to go—with the rebuild and just this offseason—but as I've said before, let's judge the front office on the finished product. There have been missteps along the way, both in the micro- and macro-sense, but the opportunity for success still looms out there.