Monday, November 24, 2008
Reversal of Fortunes
As the American economy is plunging the Seattle Mariners are soaring. Following a historic 101-loss campaign the M's have made nothing but great moves during a critical offseason.
First Seattle hired Jack Zduriencik as the new general manager. He was previously the assistant GM in Milwaukee and was responsible for drafting many of the Brewers' best players (Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun in particular). Zduriencik's keen eye for evaluating talent earned him a Executive of the Year Award from Baseball America in 2007.
While Jack's strengths are in traditional baseball scouting he's also well-aware of the new school of evaluation -- something ex-GM Bill Bavasi could never grasp. Zduriencik is creating a department within the Mariners that will handle sabermetrics and other advanced stats. In theory the Mariners will be heading in 2009 with an optimized baseball operations, one that will utilize different philosophies and strategies to select the best players. It's something the good franchises like Boston, Cleveland and Arizona are already doing. To see Seattle embrace this sort of forward thinking is nothing short of fantastic.
The first major imprint of the Zduriencik era was his decision to hire Don Wakamatsu as the new manager. There was some internal debate about who should run the team on the field, yet Jack had the final say and ultimately got the man he wanted. Wakamatsu was a bench coach for the Oakland A's last season and previously coached in the minors. He's notorious for his in-depth preparation before games. And while the crystal ball is hazy as to whether the first-time manager will succeed it's a credit to Zduriencik that he took a gamble on a younger guy and didn't hire a safe but mediocre retread.
Seattle probably won't contend in 2009; its probably a .500 as currently constructed. However, it's starting to put itself in a great position to play baseball in the future. And long-term success, whether in baseball or economics, is the key.