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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

September 13, 2010 at 1:43 PM

Jack Zduriencik loses one of his closest associates in Carmen Fusco

Carmen Fusco, fired as the Mariners’ pro scouting director, was a lifelong friend of general manager Jack Zduriencik.

They grew up together in New Castle, PA, and also coached together at Austin Peay University. They later worked together in the Mets organization for several years, and Zduriencik hired him as a scout with the Brewers in 2008. When Zduriencik was hired as the Mariners’ general manager on Oct. 22, 2008, it didn’t surprise many people that he brought in Fusco less than three weeks later to head their pro scouting department.

When Zduriencik was hired, I did a long profile of the new GM, and one of the people I talked to was Fusco. Fusco said that when he found out Zduriencik had been hired by the Mariners, he reflected on his own relationship with Zduriencik’s father, John Zduriencik, a popular barber in New Castle:

“The first thing I said to him, after congratulations, was, ‘I wish your dad was here to witness this.’ John was a great man, like a second father to me. Thinking back, he respected me as much as any adult ever did. I think about him often.”

That gives an indication how their lives have been interwoven since childhood. Later, when Zduriencik ended up at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee as a graduate assistant football coach, of all things, Fusco was one of the grad assistants on the Austin Peay baseball team. Zduriencik eventually joined him on the baseball coaching staff.

“We talked hours about the game,” Fusco told me for the 2008 story. “Jackie was a consummate consumer of learning.”

The point is, the two were tight, and now Fusco is gone, which has to be a blow to Zduriencik. It’s not yet clear whether his firing was instigated by Zduriencik or higher ups, but there seems little doubt it’s at least partially related to the handling of the controversial Josh Lueke trade.

A big part of Geoff Baker’s story involves how much the Mariners knew about Lueke’s criminal past, and when they knew it. The Mariners people I’ve talked to are balking at the use of “scapegoat” to characterize Fusco’s dismissal, but I guarantee that’s how it’s going to be viewed by most people. Keep in mind that this is the time of year when scouting contracts get renewed throughout the industry, and Fusco’s area, pro scouting, hasn’t exactly covered itself with glory this year, exclusive of the Lueke situation.

Of course, the buck ultimately stops with Zduriencik as the general manager. The indications I’m getting at the moment are that Zduriencik will likely survive this messy season, in which the Mariners are headed to close to 100 losses on the field in addition to all the crises off the field.

If that proves to be the case, however, Zduriencik will definitely have been humbled — the Fusco firing being the latest example.

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