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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.

October 4, 2010 at 2:17 PM

Lincoln, Zduriencik e-mail messages to Mariners fans

The Mariners have sent out a message to their fans today from CEO Howard Lincoln and general manager Jack Zduriencik, basically acknowledging the lousy season they went through but forecasting better times ahead. Pretty much what you would expect after a 61-101 campaign.

Maybe the most interesting part to me is the urge for patience, which I read as tacit acknowledgement that the turnaround is not going to happen overnight. Actually, not so tacit. Lincoln writes, “Will it take some time? Yes. Do you have patience to see this through with us? I hope so.” That’s something the M’s have been reluctant to say in the past, but I think they’re smart to be realistic. It also could be a precursor to a more radical rebuilding campaign through youth than the Mariners have committed to in recent years — which I happen to think is the most prudent path to long-term success. Whether or not this rebuild is successful will depend, of course, on whether most of those prospects that Zduriencik touts so rosily actually pan out, and that’s no guarantee. Player development is never an exact science. The outcome will determine the ultimate success of the Zduriencik regime.

Another interesting aspect of the letter: Zduriencik mentions a slew of “hard-throwing pitchers” on the way, inculding Michael Pineda, Blake Beavan, Dan Cortes, Mauricio Robles, Maikel Cleto and Anthony Varvaro, but no mention of one of the hardest throwers in the system, and a player seemingly closer than many on the list to being big-league ready, Josh Lueke. I’m sure the omission is not inadvertent. Either they didn’t want to inject any controversy into the message through the mere mention of Lueke, or Lueke isn’t in their long- or short-term plans. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if the latter is true.

Here’s are the letters in their entirety, starting with Lincoln:

I’ve been a naval officer, an attorney and a business executive in my life. But before any of these, I was a baseball fan.

I was born and raised in Oakland, California. As a kid, I sat in the bleachers and rooted for the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks. Casey Stengel was the manager and a young Billy Martin played second base. When the Giants came to the Bay Area, I spent a lot of sunny days and foggy nights at Seals Stadium and then Candlestick Park watching the Willies – Mays and McCovey.

I’m still a baseball fan and, like you, I was very disappointed with the performance of the 2010 Seattle Mariners. It was a frustrating season and, yes, we made some mistakes on and off the field. Good organizations learn from setbacks and make themselves better – that’s the mindset we’re taking into 2011.

I have asked GM Jack Zduriencik to give you an end-of-the-season report on our baseball operations. You’ll see that despite our struggles at the Major League level, Jack’s plan to build through scouting and player development is working well at the minor league level. I trust Jack. I believe in his plan and I see progress. He has the full support of our ownership group, Chuck Armstrong and me, along with the resources to be successful.

Will it take some time? Yes. Do you have the patience to see this through with us? I hope so. Our number one goal remains to bring championship baseball to Safeco Field. I’m sure we’ll get there.

Before you hear from Jack, I want to say something straight from the heart, from one fan to another: Thanks for sticking with this team, thanks for caring as much as you do, thanks for wearing the Mariners “S.”

Sincerely,

Howard Lincoln

And here is Zduriencik’s message:

Jack’s Report to the Fans

Some of you may remember an old-time player named Rocky Bridges, a colorful middle infielder who went on to manage in the minor leagues for many years. Rocky once said, “Well, there are three things that the average person thinks he can do better than anybody else. Build a fire, run a hotel and run a baseball team.”

After the 2010 season, I’m sure a lot of you are ready to step up and tell me how to run our ballclub. And I’m always willing to listen.

But despite our poor performance at the Major League level in 2010, there are plenty of reasons to believe that our long-term plan is working. In fact, looking at the big picture, our organization actually took a step forward last year.

Before you click away from this e-mail, give me a chance to explain.

Let’s start with the cornerstone strategy established when I came to Seattle in October, 2008: We will build a winning franchise through talent that we draft, acquire and develop in our farm system. This is the key to long-term, sustained success in baseball.

The good news is, you gotta like what you see down on the farm.

-Eight of our nine minor league teams made it to post-season play in 2010.

-The AAA Rainiers, Class A Lumber Kings and Northwest League AquaSox all played in their leagues’ championship series.

Two won league titles.

-As a group, Mariners minor league hitters ranked #1 in home runs, runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

-The cumulative won-loss record of our minor league teams was 489-410, a .544 winning percentage. Only one organization

did better – the Cardinals at .549.

Does this mean that we should start printing 2011 World Series tickets? Unfortunately, no, not yet. But it does mean that we’ve got talent at every level of the organization – talent that’s developing, scoring runs and learning how to win.

Let’s talk about some of these kids.

We’ve got a flock of top-rated prospects on their way to the big club. These include position players Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Carlos Peguero, Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager, Johermyn Chavez, Greg Halman and Matt Mangini, along with hard-throwing pitchers like Michael Pineda, Blake Beavan, Dan Cortes, Mauricio Robles, Maikel Cleto and Anthony Varvaro. Many of our best prospects are headed for winter ball and the fall instructional league – they’re driven to improve and play at the next level.

Some of these youngsters will develop faster than others, but we’ve got a rich pipeline of talent. Impressive, considering how thin our minor league system was just a couple of years ago. Plus there are more top prospects coming: We have the #2 pick in the 2011 June draft and we continue to scout and sign top international players.

At the big league level, Mariners pitchers tied for the third best ERA in the American League in 2010. Felix Hernandez has fulfilled his potential as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Luke French made major strides in 2010. We like our pitching; our staff is young, developing and hungry.

Two young players, catcher Adam Moore and outfielder Michael Saunders, got valuable playing time and impressed scouts around the league. Meanwhile, our four core players – Ichiro, Felix, Guti and Chone Figgins – are signed to long-term deals.

I’m a baseball man. I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that we’re at the top of the baseball world. We still have work to do, lots of it. My first job is to hire our field manager – and I’m already hard at work identifying and reviewing candidates. Obviously, we need to score more runs by adding to the middle of our lineup. And, for much of the past season, our team didn’t play the fundamentally sound baseball that I want to see. I’m addressing all our team’s needs and I’ll keep you posted throughout the winter.

But there’s one thing you need to know about the Seattle Mariners organization:

Everybody wants to win – from Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong to the clubhouse attendant in Everett. We have a plan in place and we’re working days, nights and weekends to make it successful.

But as a fan, you want results, not promises. We know that. So we’re doing everything we can to make it happen sooner rather than later.

I love the people of this city and this region. I love the energy you bring to the ballpark and the loyalty you’ve shown to the organization. We owe you a winner. It’s coming. Stick with us, there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Jack Zduriencik

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