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A New GM in Seattle

On June 16th of this season, the Mariners finally called an end to the Bill Bavasi era that began in 2004. Today, October 22nd, the Mariners begin on the Jack Zduriencik era. This soon to be often misspelled era will hopefully bring about a change in direction for the downtrodden Seattle fans; a group that has seen their baseball team become the first ever to spend over $100 million in payroll and lose 100 games, their basketball team get stolen away from them and their football team stagger to a 1-5 record under the weight of 427 and counting injuries. This city needs new blood, new decisions, a new direction. It needs hope.

Jack Zduriencik was one of the few people retained by Doug Melvin would he took over as Milwaukee’s General Manager in 2002 and for good reason, there are very few people with an eye for talent that rival Jack’s. Just look at the Brewers’ 2008 roster. Their primary starters at first base (Prince Fielder), second base (Rickie Weeks), short stop (J.J. Hardy), left field (Ryan Braun) and right field (Corey Hart) were all Zduriencik’s draft picks. This lineup was assembled despite Zduriencik’s reputation for almost doggedly taking the best player available without regard to current organizational surpluses. Zduriencik also made these drafts without the benefit of any extra picks via compensation and suffering the loss of three second picks during his eight years in Milwaukee because of free agents signed.

A good indication that you’re doing something right as a front office is when your assistants get hired out from you to become GMs elsewhere so kudos to Doug Melvin here. But that principle also applies elsewhere. Two of Zduriencik’s scouts were hired out from under him to become scouting directors: Tom Allison with Arizona and Bobby Heck with Houston. All this and more lead Jack Zduriencik to be named the first non-GM to be awarded Executive of the Year by Baseball America.

Is Zduriencik the man to provide the hope Seattle needs? I think he’s a start. As our own Dave Cameron espoused before the hire, it’s not just about the GM, but the whole organization from top to bottom that needs an upheaval. Zduriencik is a fine choice at the top, but questions remain on if he will be granted the authority to make the needed changes below. Beyond that, will he tap the vast local resources of tech-savvy people to help move Seattle to the top of organizations in advanced analysis? Time will tell, but for the first time in years, there’s a reason to look to the future with a feeling beside soul-crushing despair.