Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik came to The News Tribune office to speak to the Associated Press Sports Editors Northwest chapter meeting. There were plenty of reporters there too. And Big Z talked about all kind of things including his team, Ken Griffey Jr., the minor league system and all things baseball.
He talked and answered questions and was humorous and honest and forthcoming. Most of it was on the record. And I know that Larry Stone also took notes, and has a blog post up.
I will try and post a few more things from Zduriencik’s discussion later as I go through my notes, but here’s the column I wrote for tomorrow’s paper.
The difference in personalities is measurable, almost to the point where they are polar opposites.
For everything that former Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi wasn’t when it came to job performance and overall people skills, current general manage Jack Zduriencik is better and more.
Bavasi could be aloof, arrogant and condescending to a fault, sometimes to the point of confrontational. Zduriencik has an-every man quality to him, reflecting his 27-year climb up baseball’s ladder to the front office.
While Bavasi was long criticized as ascending to his place as much by nepotism and birthright, Zduriencik had no silver spoons or family ties to get his foot into the game. He’s a baseball lifer, who started as scout and worked his way up, literally and figuratively.
But to me, yet another, and perhaps more telling, example of the pronounced differences between the two men came on Monday at our very own News Tribune offices in Tacoma.
In front of a group of sports editors and writers from around the Northwest, Zduriencik talked for an hour, and answered questions, while being completely at ease and brutally honest in talking about his job, the current state of the Mariners, trends around baseball, possible trades, the minor league system and, yes, even the local media coverage.
“I read your stuff,” Zduriencik said. “You guys do a good job. And more often than not, I agree with what you guys write.”
He reads it and agrees with it?
The comment drew chuckles from around the room, Zduriencik included. But he was adamant that he browses the daily clips put together by the Mariners media relations staff.
But Zduriencik said he reads what’s written about the team, criticism and all.
“You guys see the same things I see,” he said.
Could you imagine Lord Bavasi saying such a thing? Even if he had read what was written, he certainly would never admit to it.
It’s typical honesty for Zduriencik. Sure he’s never going to tell you about what trades his team might be trying to make. He will politely decline comment. But in most situations you will get an answer from him on a fair and reasonable question, and there won’t be any derision in his tone.
With a room full of people that make a living by writing about, reporting on or publishing information about his team, Zduriencik was candid about what’s going on with the Mariners, who are fresh off being swept in a three-game series at Safeco Field by the Texas Rangers.
He knows his team is challenged offensively. He knows it’s making fans upset. It upsets him.
“It will make your hair fall out,” he said with a wide grin.
But he knows that the Mariners could be in line for more close, low-scoring games.
“When you look at our team, we have to be perfect,” he said. “Any miscue we have is going to be magnified.”
Whether it’s a botched ground ball in the field, or misjudged flyball in the outfield, or a hitter failing to move a runner over, the Mariners margin for error is miniscule.
He knows the team needs a hitter. He’s known that since the winter meetings. But big bats cost big bucks.
“Do you take all of your resources and invest it one guy like (Matt) Holliday or (Jason) Bay,” he said. “Or do you invest in several other areas.”
But that doesn’t mean that Zduriencik isn’t going to stop trying to find offensive help. We never heard his Blackberry ring during the session, but I guarantee you it was on vibrate and probably went off 30 times.
“I assure, I’ve made an enormous amount of phone calls,” he said. “Even up to this point in time, and I’ll continue to make phone calls. I’ve made several phone calls over the last three or four days.”
But that doesn’t mean we’ll have a trade soon. It’s a little early for that.
“It’s like hunting season,” Zduriencik said. “We’re not in hunting season right now. No one is selling.”
Hunting season might not start of another few weeks or so. Many GMs, Zduriencik included, subscribe to the idea of the season being broke up in three parts. The first third is for finding out what you have, the second third is adding pieces to address what you don’t have, and the last third is playing games.