Just a few years ago, Tony Blengino was seen as one of general manager Jack Zduriencik’s chief lieutenants, part of a three-headed team that included amateur scouting director Tom McNamara. Besides playing a key role alongside McNamara in helping with the team’s yearly drafts, Blengino, helped with scouting and also ran the team’s fledgling analytical department.
Blengino has always carried the title of special assistant to the GM, baseball operations, since coming to Seattle from Milwaukee along with McNamara and Zduriencik in late 2008. But now, as of late last week, he’ll be looking to ply his trade elsewhere.
The Mariners have sent an email out to other MLB teams telling them that Blengino requested he be released from the exclusivity restrictions of his contract so he can pursue other opportunities.
Reached this morning, Blengino confirmed that this was true.
“I just wanted the chance to see what was out there if it looked like I wasn’t going to be a part of the future here,” Blengino said.
Blengino added that he had nothing bad to say about the Mariners or the city of Seattle. He just sensed that his time here had run its course and that it’s time to look at new opportunities.
Despite reports that Blengino has been “let go” by the Mariners, that part isn’t entirely accurate.
Blengino is still under contract with the Mariners until the end of the year and will keep being paid by them unless he finds a different job first.
It became increasingly clear in recent months that Blengino was no longer a part of Zduriencik’s inner circle, given how he remained at home in Milwaukee the entire season rather than present and visible in Seattle as he’d been through the early part of his tenure. The gradual distancing of Blengino and Zduriencik could likely be traced back further than that, with the arrival of new front office members Ted Simmons in 2011 and Pete Vuckovich in 2012.
While McNamara remains a visible part of the front office, Blengino faded from public view in 2012 and has rarely been seen in 2013.
During those early years, Blengino, despite his scouting background in Milwaukee — the final three years as assistant scouting director with responsibility for Canada and the independent leagues prior to joining Seattle — was known as the analytical arm of Zduriencik’s front office. His presence in the organization led credence to the notion that Zduriencik’s regime would combine old school scouting with newfangled sabermetric ideals.
Blengino would not comment on his relations with the Zduriencik front office, only saying that he enjoyed his time working for the Mariners. He said he decided to push the issue of his future last week when news reports first surfaced that Zduriencik had been extended through the 2014 season.
The Mariners have yet to officially announce that Zduriencik will be back for 2014, despite having given him a one-year extension for next season late last year. Right now, the Mariners are on pace to lose more games than they did last season and have the second-worst run differential in the American League.
Blengino said that when he phoned the Mariners last week, he was advised that his contract for 2014 would not be renewed. That’s when he decided to look elsewhere.
The pending departure of Blengino — if indeed there was a falling out between him and the front office — could lend credance to the speculation the Mariners are planning to bring Zduriencik back for 2014 despite the team’s on-field failures this year. Then again, the Mariners continue to shy away from officially confirming that Zdurinecik was given an extension, saying it’s the team’s policy not to do so for contract issues. This, despite the fact the team put out a detailed press release in August 2011 announcing Zduriencik’s previous contract extension.
Mariners vice-president (communications) Randy Adamack confirmed this morning that the team did tell Blengino his contract for 2014 would not be renewed.
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