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Former Mariners employees shed light on front office dysfunction

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Is Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik in charge of a mess in Seattle? (USATSI)
Is Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik in charge of a mess in Seattle? ((USATSI)

MORE: FA tracker: position players | FA tracker: pitchers

The Mariners have of course been at the front of the MLB news cycle lately because of their agreement with Robinson Cano on a 10-year, $240-million contract. However, all is reportedly not well within the team's halls of power.

Our own Jon Heyman not long ago shed light on the in-fighting that in part led to the departure of former manager Eric Wedge. Now Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes that the dysfunction runs much, much deeper.

At the center of the story is embattled GM Jack Zdueriencik and many of the former underlings he's fired and allegedly alienated in recent years. Chief among them is former assistant GM Tony Blengino, who was let go in August. Blengino was the stats-savvy voice in the Mariners' front office, and, as a Zduriencik associate in their Milwaukee days together, Blengino, Baker reports, even put together Zduriencik's application package for the Seattle job.

Baker writes:

“Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that's what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “But Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door.”

The Seattle Times obtained a copy of the package, which talks of rebuilding with minimal pain through shrewd drafts, undervalued free agents and a “vast pipeline of young, homegrown star-caliber talent.” Advanced stats charts ranked every major-leaguer and top minor-leaguers, while computer spreadsheets depicted each team's positional depth and payroll commitments.

Zduriencik declined to speak about his stats knowledge or Blengino's role in the package.

It's hardly unusual in the corporate world for trusted assistants to design job applications. But after initial success, Zduriencik had a slew of failed player moves — coinciding with his eventual decision to push Blengino out.

“Jack tried to destroy me,” Blengino said.

There's more, from others who say they've railroaded by Zduriencik, including Wedge. There's also the notion that Zduriencik, while exercising great power over his underlings, is also more generally a mere puppet for chairman Howard Lincoln and outgoing CEO Chuck Armstrong. There's also an allegation that Zduriencik knew of reliever Josh Leuke's troubling criminal past when he traded for him. I could go on.

Seriously, as front-office politices goes, Baker's is a story that is very much worth your while. Read the whole thing. One certainty is that there will be fallout in Seattle from all of this.

 
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