Jack Zduriencik's career as a Mariners is exactly the career you would expect to come from a Mariner. He was hyped. He came onto the scene with a big blast and got most everyone excited. Then he slowly, but surely, just like many Mariners before him and under his charge, withered away our hopes, dreams and tolerance.
On December 11, the Mariners, Indians and Mets traded 12 players amongst each other. The Mariners came away the clear winners in the trade, netting Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas. This trade, more than anything, seemed to symbolize a shift from the Mariners of the mid-2000s to a new breed of Mariners.
Gutierrez was the highlight of an outfield that was designed to prevent runs from scoring to help offset an offense that wasn't going to wow too many people. In 2009, things started clicking for the first time in a long while. The Mariners finished a surprising 85-77, still only in third place, but also way above projections. It seemed like progress was being made in a forward thinking manner.
Vargas emerged as a completely unexciting, but perfectly dependable, middle of rotation guy. In 2010 his fWAR was 3.0 and in 2011 it was 2.3. Gutierrez had a career year in 2009, finishing with a fWAR of 6.0. He declined in 2010, but still netted a fWAR of 2.1. Considering that the Mariners didn't give up very much in the trade, this was one of those clear wins. It was the first one in a long while we've had as a franchise, and it felt good.
In that weird way, Zduriencik's rookie campaign with the Mariners was viewed through the lens like you viewed Dustin Ackley's rookie campaign. It was exciting. The Mariners were winning, and the question is whether or not that winning was sustainable. As we all know, it wasn't.
Baseball life returned to normal in 2010 rather quickly and the Mariners adopted the familiar position of moving backwards. The Eric Wedge years seemed just as floundering. Whatever rookie year magic Zduriencik had fooled us with was rapidly leaving. The disastrous signings of Chone Figgins, the return of the return of Ken Griffey Jr., and plenty of other head scratching moves littered the Seattle Mariners transaction landscape. At the same time, there were moves like Brendan Ryan, his amazing defense, and an apparent focus on the overall contributions a player makes. No general manager was better at looking like a forward thinking individual and a luddite at the exact same time as Jack Zduriencik. And because of that dichotomous existence we stood pat, and Jack Z persisted. 2014 was the saving grace. The Mariners were one game away from the playoffs, and the six-years of rebuilding were finally paying off. Things all fell apart this year, and at the end of the day, the man who had basically done just enough treading of water to keep his job finally had tired arms.
For me, in the same way that the 2009 acquisition of Gutierrez and Vargas symbolized an embraced of a more statistically driven mindset, the new breed of looking at baseball, Zduriencik fired back in an impressive fashion with the acquisition of Mark Trumbo. The Mariners were busy watching Mike Zunino drown at the plate without the common decency to throw any sort of life preserver his way. The outfield was littered with the decrepit legs of ancient human beings. The 2015 Mariners needed some help, but not the help Zduriencik gave them.
Instead, the Mariners traded away their catching help for another low OBP, big, lumbering bat sauntering around the outfield in Mark Trumbo. In one move, Zduriencik seemed to undo years of modern thinking and displayed as powerfully as he could that he doesn't truly understand the modern version of baseball. That was the final straw. We saw the magic in the rookie season, we thought that in that bald, Elmer Fudd looking head there was a brain that understood the concepts of baseball and what makes a good team. He had assembled a couple of them after all -- but maybe this was the big mirage that we just kept focusing on because we had nothing else to hold onto.
You can only ride that successful wave for so long. People will start to question whether or not you can put it together after all. So Zduriencik, like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, hopefully never (but maybe) Mike Zunino lost the faith of the fans. Maybe GMs, just like some baseball players, need a change of scenery to realize their full potential. Or maybe GMs, just like some baseball players, never were good enough to cut it in the major leagues.