Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Former Padres general manager Kevin Towers told ESPN’s Buster Olney that he will meet with four teams at the winter meetings to discuss joining them in an advisory capacity. The teams are the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets…and Mariners.
This does not surprise me. In fact, when Towers was fired last month and later said he would talk to several clubs, I had a hunch that the Mariners would be one of them. From talking to Towers over the years, I know he has a great fondness for the Pacific Northwest. He grew up in Medford, and has a place in Idaho.
But the real link, to me, is Towers’ affection for Jack Zduriencik, who as Pirates scouting director in the early 1990s gave Towers his first big break in the business, hiring him as a crosschecker — an important scouting position.
When Zduriencik was hired by the Mariners last winter, I talked to numerous friends and associates for a feature story on the new GM. One of those I called was Towers, who gushed about Zduriencik. Because of space, I didn’t run many of his comments, but I saved them in my files.
“I consider him a close personal friend,” Towers said at the time. “I would not be in the position I’m in now if not for Jack Zduriencik. I was an area scout in San Diego, and he took a chance on me. I didn’t know him that well. It kind of surprised me. He offered me a cross-checking position with the Pirates, and I ended up cross-checking the east coast. He made me his national guy the next year. We worked hand in hand putting the draft together. He’s just a quality person.
“Jack gave me a tremendous opportunity to a) make a lot more money than I ever made, and b) have a lot more responsibility. Two years later, I was running a scouting department, and two years later, I was a GM.”
Towers, in fact, told me he tried to hire Zduriencik as his scouting director when he became GM of the Padres in 1995.
“He was the first guy I went after,” he said.
Towers said that Zduriencik turned him down out of loyalty to his employee at the time, the New York Mets.
Here’s an anecdote Towers told about working on the draft with Zduriencik in Pittsburgh:
“He’s a grinder. I remember staying up till 2 a.m. with Jack and a couple of other cross-checkers. Then we’d go to Primanti Brothers at the loading docks and eat a greasy pastrami sandwich with French fries in the middle. Then we’d go back to the draft room. If it was up to Jack, he’d sleep in the draft room, staring at magnets.”
Concluded Towers: “He’s a great, great guy. It’s hard to find those type of people where you say, you’d love to work with him again.”
Towers, now 48, did a overall commendable job as GM of the Padres. They got to the World Series in ’98 and won four division titles under his watch. Yes, the Padres hit hard times the last few years, but the messy divorce of owner John Moores had a debilitating effect on the franchise. . And, yes, Towers’ drafting record was spotty — particularly damaging was Matt Bush (shown in the picture with Towers), picked No. 1 overall in 2004 and a total disaster. But that was a money pick and supposedly not Towers’ preference for the No. 1 choice. By and large, he showed a great talent for finding under-valued talent (Adrian Gonzalez, anyone?) , a necessity for a small-market team like the Padres, and a knack for building strong pitching staffs. However, Towers’ was pretty much doomed once Jeff Moorad took over as CEO.
Towers would be an asset to the Mariners, if they chose to find a spot for him. Most observers believe he will wind up with the Yankees because of his friendship with Brian Cashman. But don’t forget his loyalty and fond feelings for Zduriencik.
(Photo by Associated Press)