Last month, things got a little crazy here.
The Mariners were fast approaching 50 wins, Kyle Seager was on the cusp of receiving his first All-Star nomination, and the team was holding tight to the second wild card spot. Understandably, emotions were running high.
When we ran a poll to estimate the level of approval for Lloyd McClendon and Jack Zduriencik's managing strategies, the numbers went through the roof. Of the 1,635 votes cast, 83% of you said that you felt McClendon and Zduriencik's methods had been effective, while 12% were on the fence. Only 3% -- 54 voters -- did not have faith in the duo.
Now, since there have been some complaints that this poll is too simplistic and shouldn't lump McClendon in with Jack Z. (though bear in mind that it is only intended to gauge a general feel for Seattle's management), we're going to do things a little differently today. At the bottom of this post, you'll find a more detailed rating system with a few categories for McClendon and, separately, Zduriencik. Before we get to those, however, let's take a look back at the pair's progress last month.
As it turns out, all of the trepidation felt while approaching the trade deadline was for nothing. Jack Zduriencik traded outfielder Abraham Almonte (or Almonde, as they've begun to say in San Diego) and minor-league reliever Stephen Kohlscheen for Padres' outfielder Chris Denorfia, a 3.9 fWAR player in his last full season. He then managed to flip Nick Franklin for Tigers' outfielder Austin Jackson without giving up any of Seattle's more prized prospects, like D.J. Peterson or Taijuan Walker.
Not only was it one of the more memorable trade deadlines in recent history, but it proved that Zduriencik could address the needs of his now-competitive team without selling the farm, a key component of "The Plan." Whether the Mariners will be able to take their new outfield and run all the way to the playoffs with them is another matter entirely, but it's a promising start.
On the other hand, we can't look at Zduriencik's moves last month without mentioning one Kendrys Morales, who was reacquired from the Twins for oft-injured reliever Stephen Pryor. It's a move that made no sense to anyone, given Morales' -0.9 fWAR, limited playing time, and the odd dynamics between Kendrys and Seattle's brass.
Prior to the All-Star break, McClendon sat down with the media to discuss his feelings about the first half of the season. He was optimistic about the club, citing the pitching staff and bullpen as the keys to the Mariners' past and future success, and predicting even more All-Star bids in the years to come. "I think if we continue to pitch the way we're pitching, and if we stay healthy from an offensive standpoint, we've got as good a shot as anybody," McClendon told the press.
While the skipper's optimism is both expected and reassuring, the Mariners had a rough start coming out of the All-Star break, dropping below .500 for the first time since April. Taijuan Walker struggled in two starts with the big league club, taking two losses and sustaining some control issues that first surfaced in his minor league rehab starts. At the plate, the Mariners lost six one-run games, dropped four consecutive games against the Mets and Orioles, and finished with the fewest runs scored in the American League, with 73 (Anaheim led the pack with 132). Although Zduriencik's recent acquisitions should help revitalize the offense, the M's will need to step up their game to stay in the hunt for a wild card spot.
Perhaps McClendon said it best: "I think we've accomplished a lot, but in the end we haven't accomplished anything."
Your turn: On a scale of 1 to 5, rate Jack Zduriencik on his overall effectiveness as a general manager, your confidence in the progression of "The Plan," and your satisfaction with how he has improved the team in 2014. Then, rate Lloyd McClendon on the following topics: his overall effectiveness as a manager, your confidence in his abilities going forward, and your satisfaction with the changes he has already implemented. For those without specific feelings about Lloyd and Jack, feel free to use the poll below.