Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
October 22, 2008 11:10 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
As you may have heard, Jack Zduriencik has been given the job as new Mariners GM, beating out Kim Ng, Tony LaCava and Jerry DiPoto. What does this signify? That the Mariners are putting a premium on the ability to identify and develop young talent. Zduriencik had the most experience of any of the candidates in that regard and has now been rewarded for it. His official title will be executive vice-president and general manager of baseball operations. Zduriencik is 57 and was by far the oldest of the four candidates. This rates as somewhat of an upset, given the assumption made -- judging by the demographics of the final four candidates and the lack of prior GMs interviewed -- that the M's were about to go younger in their approach.
That's clearly not the case here. But there's no arguing with Zduriencik's experience. He is certainly qualified for the job, arguably more so than any of the other finalists. The first non-GM to ever win Baseball America's Executive of the Year Award has been widely credited with helping rebuild the Milwaukee Brewers. Now, he gets to try to do the same thing in Seattle.
One of the finalists, LaCava, said there were no hard feelings.
"The Mariners were great through the process,'' LaCava said. "Jack is a very good choice. He is well respected and deserves the opportunity. I wish him all the best.''
Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, now a special assistant to Mets GM Omar Minaya, said the selection of Zduriencik shoukld be well-received by front offices throughout the game. While such things may seem unimportant, believe me, a solid reputation can actually help a new GM when it comes to how quickly other teams take their calls and are willing to negotiate trades.
"I think the hiring of Jack Zduriencik is going to be looked upon very favorably by a huge percentage of the baseball community,'' said Krivsky, one of a handful of former GMs once rumored high on Seattle's list had the club opted to expand its search beyond the four finalists. "Here's a guy who's paid his dues, done it the right way, had tremendous training and done a great scouting.
"The job that's been done in Milwaukee, the scouting and player development, much of this has to be attributed to Jack.''
It would seem obvious that the Zduriencik era is not about to usher in a "Moneyball" style, computer-oriented regime where stats-based analysis rules supreme. Zduriencik is from the more traditional camp of scouting, though it obviously suited the Brewers very well. It also would not preclude him from hiring a team of people more versed in stats-oriented research. We'll see.
I wonder now, how the hiring of a more traditional GM type will impact the future of Jim Riggleman. Let's face it, Riggleman wasn't exactly sitting in the dugout with a laptop going over spreadsheets. He's no Manny Acta. But he's well-respected. I would think the hiring of Zduriencik improves Riggleman's chances of being kept on -- maybe only slightly, but more so than under a different GM. Others whose names will crop up could include former Milwaukee manager Ned Yost. But it's premature to even guess at this stage. We'll know more when Zduriencik starts granting interviews.
Here's team president Chuck Armstrong, from the team's press release:
"Today is a very exciting day for the Mariners," Armstrong said. "We have spent the past several months looking at a very complete list of potential candidates to become our new General Manager. The individuals we interviewed for the position were excellent. We believe Jack is the best person to provide a new approach and to lead our baseball operations. He has a proven track record of recognizing talent, both on the field and in the front office."
And from team CEO Howard Lincoln:
"Jack is extremely well-respected throughout baseball," Lincoln said. "His track record in recognizing and developing young talent in Milwaukee was instrumental in the Brewers steady improvement over the past several seasons. I am very excited about the passion and leadership he will bring to our organization.
"I would like to thank Lee Pelekoudas for his efforts as interim general manager since June 16. He did an excellent job of keeping the organization moving forward."
A press conference has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday. Here's what Zduriencik had to say in the same team release:
"I am very excited by this opportunity," Zduriencik said. "Seattle is an outstanding organization with great fans, a great ballpark and an ownership group committed to the goal of bringing a World Series to the Northwest. I believe that working together, we can make the Mariners a model franchise. I am looking forward to getting to work immediately, and developing a plan to reach our goal."