It seemed a little odd when Eric Wedge stepped away from the Seattle Mariners after his contract ran out. No extension, no firing. Wedge and the team simply parted ways. After the Seattle Times published an article Saturday in which Wedge criticized three of his old bosses, however, the breakup made more sense.
Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, president Chuck Armstrong—who plans to retire Jan. 31—and general manager Jack Zduriencik were the main punching bags in Geoff Baker's piece. Wedge characterized their operation as "total dysfunction and a lack of leadership." Armstrong and Lincoln would pass down suggestions to Zduriencik, like requesting Felix Hernandez throw live batting practice to practice bunting and situational hitting, or asking for more field work near the end of the season when players were already running on fumes from a long season. Wedge said Armstrong and Lincoln were also relentlessly critical of Seattle's young players. The two had an impatient, win-now mentality even though Wedge was still in the process of cultivating a nice foundation of talent.
Wedge claimed he and Zduriencik used to get along well, but over time, the general manager would lean towards his bosses instead of standing up or correcting them. The skipper made his decision to leave after a face-to-face meeting with Zduriencik went nowhere.
Wedge met Zduriencik in his private suite Thursday before the season’s final series. He wanted his status resolved before players left for the winter, but says Zduriencik began a point-by-point recitation of coaching staff issues.
“He kept saying more and more stuff about early work, about bullpen (sessions), about our starting pitchers,” Wedge said. “You can pick anything to death if you want to. But I’m not going to sit there and let him crush our coaches. I said ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this. Shame on you.’ ”
Wedge told Zduriencik he’d honor his contract through season’s end, then walked out.
“I’m not going to stand by and let them treat other human beings the way they treat human beings,” he said. “I’m not going to stand by and let them disrespect the game.”
Along with Wedge, former special assistant Tony Blengino dished dirt on the Mariners' front office, claiming that Zduriencik knew absolute dick about using advanced statistics to value a player.
Blengino, who was working for the Milwaukee Brewers with Zduriencik at the time, said he authored virtually the entire job application package Zduriencik gave the Mariners in 2008, depicting a dual-threat candidate melding traditional scouting with advanced statistical analysis.
Blengino said he prepared the package because he was versed in the hot trend of using advanced stats for team decisions.
“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.”
Blengino said he was eventually phased out of decisions by Zduriencik, and was informed in August that his contract would not be renewed.
A few other sources took shots at the organization, with former scouting director Carmen Fusco talking about the disaster of signing pitcher Josh Lueke, who had previously been involved in a rape case. The whole thing's an interesting read.
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