Three years — that is how long Mariners'general manager, Jack Zduriencik, has had to clean up the wretched mess his predecessor, Bill Bavasi, left behind in 2009.
The rubble from such a mess included several fruitless drafts and even more failed free-agent signings. Fans still cringe when they hear names like Sexson, Johjima, Silva, Weaver, and Bradley.
The list goes on.
For all his failed attempts to patch together a team by throwing money at free agents, Bavasi’s and his regime were worse still at acquiring promising talent through the draft. Consider draft-picks like Jeff Clement, Josh Fields, Brandon Morrow and Matt Mangini. Zero of those prospects are playing for the Mariners, and none of them have come close to living up to their draft pedigree.
To give you perspective on just how detrimental Bavasi was to this club, in 2007 Forbes magazine ranked Bavasi 87th out of 98 GM’s in professional sports with at least three years experience. It was the lowest such ranking for any GM in Major League Baseball.
Such a mess has scarred one of the most forgiving fan bases in baseball. A decade’s worth of draining optimism has run dry; fans have finally turned bitter.
Believe me, I feel your pain. I want a good team to root for now more than anything. However, now is not the time to dwell on a Prince-less offseason, but rather a time to embrace the multitude of talented youth Zduriencik has stockpiled while envisioning the pieces of this convoluted puzzle finally taking shape.
For the past decade I have stuck by this team from April to September, only to be disappointed come October. Each spring, a bouquet of excuses blossoms to explain the failures of the past and ensure immediate success. Some of you may recall the “Believe Big” public relations campaign in 2010.
That’s why Zduriencik is taking a more measured approach this season when he tells fans to believe in the pieces he has in place and be patient in their development.
It is a tight rope Zduriencik must now balance between pleasing fans and staying the course. But patience is what Jacky Z is preaching. Something, he admits, is difficult to do.
"We're not forever going to be a ballclub that says, 'Wait'til next year. Wait 'til next year," Zduriencik said. "Timing is everything. Quite frankly, the time is to build. At this moment in time, that's what's best for this organization. To deviate from the plan would be the wrong thing. I realize people want it done yesterday, want it done a year ago. Believe me, I do, too. But this is my vision. We're going to stay the course."
Blind faith is really all he’s asking.
But blind faith is easier when it’s about believing in the same formula that led to success in the much smaller market of Milwaukee. As scouting director for the Brewers, Zduriencik brought in talent like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.
Current Brewers GM Doug Melvin attributes the bulk of their newfound success to Zduriencik: "No doubt about it, he deserves almost all the credit for the young players we have. The players he has drafted are making an impact at the big league level.”
So it’s no surprise that Zduriencik is sticking with that approach here in Seattle. Player development is what he does best. That’s why we all need to pump our brakes before Seattle publicly crucifies the man before his plan is finalized.
With prospects like Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero set to crack the opening day lineup, and the highly regarded trifecta of young arms in James Paxton, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker on the way, a patient approach is understandable.
As long as we see results.
The Mariners are done spewing excuses, all they ask is one last chance — one final bout to show us they have changed. Soon, Seattle will be primed to splurge on free agents, but that time is not now. Again, we wait.
The first phase of Zduriencik’s master plan is over, now it’s time to see if the young talent is worth the wait.