PEORIA, Ariz. – Jack Zduriencik is a peculiar kind of impressive. He’s actually human, which qualifies as strange in a world of myth and hyperbole.
Zduriencik, the Mariners’ general manager, has done a difficult job in a raw and real manner. You can evaluate him honestly, no smoke, no mirrors, all the good and bad splayed in front of him for all to see. He doesn’t always say what you want to hear. He doesn’t make the splashy free-agent acquisitions that you pray for, and he doesn’t make trades that send you into a playoffs-predicting frenzy. After four years and a 288-360 record during a meticulous rebuilding process, the first-time head honcho has had great and grating moments, experiencing the full range of this taxing life as a GM.
Still, you believe in him. He’s flawed, but he’s trustworthy.
As he enters his fifth season running the Mariners’ baseball operations, Jack Z remains a good fit for this job because he’s executing a transparent plan to rebuild the franchise with very little hedging. He almost never strays from the plan. And though Zduriencik hasn’t yet acquired a player who has become a superstar and the face of his youth movement, the plan is working when you consider the amount of intriguing talent now in the organization.
Now, though, Zduriencik will be judged by more than the accumulation of talent. He needs the top tier of those players, many of whom already have substantial big-league experience, to continue developing and contribute to a winning baseball team this season. He needs the moves he made to acquire veterans this offseason to pan out and expedite the Mariners’ growth process. And, of course, he needs to keep replenishing the minor-league system, which is now one of the best in baseball.
This is the first time it’s fair to judge how Zduriencik is building the major league roster without the use of asterisks. He has cleaned up most of the problems he inherited and redirected the organization in the proper fashion.
Now, he has to win. And he knows it.
“Am I happy with where we’re at? I can’t say that I’m happy, can’t say that I’m satisfied at all,” Zduriencik said. “Because, at the end, it’s about the finished product at the big-league level and all of these kids becoming what you want them to become.”
He’s looking forward, and there’s plenty to look forward to.
“I certainly want to be here for the completion of it,” Zduriencik said. “There’s no question. I want to win a World Series in this city. And there are a lot of factors that tie into that. We’ve got a very good base. We’ve got a very good minor-league system right now. We’ve got some great things going on here. But players have to mature, and there’s a chance we’re going to have to go out eventually and try to add to this thing, either through a trade or free agency, to try to get us over the top, if you will. Because every club does it. It’s just a part of it.”
“I like where we’re at. I like the health of the organization, top to bottom. But we are not complete. And we’re not where we’re going to be. And when we get there, we have every intention of keeping it for a long time.”
There are no guarantees, but if you feel any hope, it’s legitimate. There’s little sizzle but ample substance with Zduriencik.
Blemishes and all, he remains impressive.