The day the Seattle Mariners hired Bill Bavasi, he got a cryptic telephone call from his brother Peter.
"Congratulations," Peter said. "How does it feel to be the future former general manager of the Seattle Mariners?"
Both men laughed, but each knew reality when they heard it. The same day Bavasi’s hiring was announced, a new website appeared on the internet – ‘FireBillBavasi.com’.
Jack Zduriencik is the Mariners new GM, and while there isn’t yet a website calling for his demise, some columnists, bloggers and talk radio callers have been luke warm at best in their reactions.
And when the team loses a few games in a row next season, as it surely will, there will be immediate criticism.
Zduriencik probably suspected that when he took one of the 30 such jobs in the game. What he knew for certain was that he’d inherit a franchise much like the country the new President will walk into.
The issues in Seattle go well beyond a team that lost 101 games, and Zduriencik has already begun addressing some of them.
The Mariners have been a rudderless ship since the departure of Lou Piniella, and if you disagree, consider this:
Ichiro Suzuki joined the team in 2001, and since then has played under three general managers – four if you count Lee Pelekoudas – five managers and six hitting coaches.
Think Ichiro knows what ‘Mariners baseball’ is?
And the best pitcher on the roster, 22-year-old Felix Hernandez? In the last three years of his development, Felix has pitched for three managers and three pitching coaches.
Think Hernandez knows what ‘Mariners baseball’ is?
One of Jack Zduriencik’s first challenges, then, is to establish what it is Mariners baseball is – and then hire those who can teach it.
That means accountability, and Zduriencik has already begun wielding that commodity.
Bavasi’s failures were never solely his. There were advisors who over rated prospects like Clint Nagotte, Travis Blackley and Brett Johnson – none of whom produced here or elsewhere.
There were assistants and scouts who pushed the trades and signings that produced Horacio Ramirez, Scott Spiezio, Richie Sexson and others.
Zduriencik is evaluating his staff man by man, and his first move was to fire one of Bavasi’s right-hand men, vice president of scouting Bob Fontaine.
There will be more change to follow.
There will be the hiring of a manager and his staff, and alterations to the way the minor league system is run.
Zduriencik is charged with turning a franchise around, but that goes far beyond the 25-man roster the Mariners will field opening day. Easily as difficult as finding talent on the field is bringing in those who recognize that talent and those who can get the most from it.
‘Mariner baseball’ doesn’t yet have a definition. Under Bavasi, it never did.
Zduriencik’s vision obviously starts with accountibility.