Portrait of a Broken Organization: The Seattle Mariners

mariners logoThe sheen of the 10-year, $240 million Albert Pujols Robinson Cano contract is still fresh, and the Seattle Times just took a dulling dump on the Mariners’ organization, right at the very top. Not since the Boston Globe’s beer and fried chicken piece has a baseball organization been so thoroughly skewered by the local media in an extensive, investigative-style piece.

Geoff Baker’s article is making the rounds for good reason. It is the shocking portrait of an organization that deals with too much meddling at the top, an inadequate GM in the middle, and well-meaning pieces at the bottom. To call it a must read is an under-selling of the highest order. If you’re interested in baseball outside of Chicago in the least, read it.

And even if the Chicago Cubs are the only bit of baseball that interests you, I still think you’re going to find interesting slices in Baker’s article, including a segment on what happens when, at an organizational level, there isn’t a clear, consistent long-term plan – together with the cojones to stick with it:

[Former Mariners manager Eric] Wedge said when he became manager in November 2010, [Mariners President Chuck] Armstrong confided the Mariners were in their worst shape ever and upper management would patiently support a true rebuild.

Things changed after a slow start to 2011. Four people who worked closely with Wedge say he was inundated with directives from above: that [Mariners CEO Howard] Lincoln and Armstrong took notes nightly during games and passed them to [GM Jack] Zduriencik, who relayed them to Wedge in his office and expected him to work on it with players ….

Wedge described how, starting in 2011, Armstrong would visit his office and gravely say things like: “Howard sent me down here and … we’ve got to win.”

Wedge would shrug in agreement, telling him he wanted to win every night. “But he’s like, ‘No, we’ve really got to win. We’ve got to go 5-2 on this trip. We’ve got to win tonight.’ ”

I can’t speak to the veracity of the claims in Baker’s piece, but it reads like it’s very well-sourced and even-handed. And it’s grim, man. Grim. Needing a specific five wins on a given road trip not even a year into a “true rebuild”? Yikes. That’s not the way to do things.

From the piece, I flash on a large market team with falling attendance and falling payroll. We know the team well. And then I flash on what would happen if The Plan – the effort to build up the young core of the organization while flushing out poor financial decisions and poor scouting/development protocols – were short-circuited after a couple years of losing. Once again: folks wonder how I can be so unabashedly on board with the big league level dreck that accompanies the long-term plan? It’s because I’ve seen this kind of Mariners story before. The Cubs are not on that path anymore, and I’m thrilled with what I anticipate happening … eventually.

It takes a long time to build a sustainable winner, especially after the position the Cubs were put in as an organization in the late-2000s. It takes only a very short time to blow it all to hell.

Maybe the Mariners’ new plan, whatever it is, will get them to where they need to be. But it’s going to be mighty expensive, and difficult to sustain, absent a New York Yankee-level commitment to payroll for more than a decade. Well, at least one Robinson Cano-led decade, right?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

180 responses to “Portrait of a Broken Organization: The Seattle Mariners”

  1. Lou Brock

    Has anyone ever thought that maybe the new FO wants to win with ” their guys” in place. That would mean moving out Samardzija, Castro, Barney, Russell, B. Jackson, Vitters, etc.
    Then Theo & Co. Could say all the guys on the field are their guys , either acquired thru trade or the draft.

    1. woody

      I think that would be an over reach. They may have egos, but I doubt they are that big.

    2. baldtaxguy

      No way.

  2. Rich H

    Back in our manager search I stated that I had a horse in the race and did not give my opinion of who the manager should be because of it. Well that horse was Eric Wedge.
    Eric has stated in private for years some of the crap he was dealing with in Seattle. He kept quiet about it publicly for a long time but had had enough when he quit after the season.
    The one thing I will say about it that the article did not was that he did not think there would be very much rope for any of the kids. There won’t be a reclaimation project on most of them. They will be gone instead. I think that some rebuilding/ retooling team is going to clean out the M’s of a lot of their kids that is already in the big leagues. It would not surprise me at all if Ackley and Montero are playing in Tampa come Spring Training.

    1. dAn

      It would be nice if the Cubs could be the ones to clean them out. But it would probably have to be a 3-way trade, because what the Ms are really looking for right now are big name star players, more than just trying to bring in quality. In other words, a guy like Samardzija is not what they’re shooting for in trade.

      1. Josh K

        Exactly. Pulling a cost-controlled league average/above league average player out of the minors isn’t the sexy move they’re looking for right now. Hopefully the Cubs can cash in on the undervalued players there.

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