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Category: management
July 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Mariners suffering from lack of accountable leadership at very top of organization

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (left) and chairman Howard Lincoln (right) honor Felix Hernandez after last year's perfect game. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (left) and chairman Howard Lincoln (right) honor Felix Hernandez after last year’s perfect game. Photo Credit: AP

About seven years ago, give or take a few months, Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln put himself on the proverbial “Hot Seat” when it came to accountability for running one of the worst on-field teams in professional sport. Here’s what Lincoln said at the time:

“The entire organization, and especially me, is on the hot seat. I thought long and hard about continuing with Bill (Bavasi) and Mike (Hargrove). I’m putting my neck out on the line because I believe in them.

“I’ve made it clear to the ownership group that, having made the decision, I’m fully responsible for it.”

Since then, the Mariners have suffered two 101-loss seasons, another season of 95 losses and an additional 87-loss campaign. We’re also now halfway through a season heading for 90+ losses in what is the fifth year of a rebuilding plan headed up by GM Jack Zduriencik. In a year in which the Mariners were expected by many — including, most importantly, themselves — to be a .500 team, aided by the prospect of 19 games against the new divisional doormat Houston Astros.

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Since Lincoln spoke of a “Hot Seat” there have been five new managers, along with a new GM in Zdureincik, untold hitting coaches and organizational changes, not to mention a change in every player on the team not named Felix Hernandez (we won’t count Raul Ibanez, since he left and returned years later after several playoff appearances with other teams).

Despite all this, Lincoln and team president Chuck Armstrong remain in place. Armstrong has been president going on nearly 30 years, starting in 1981 and with a brief interruption from 1989 through 1992. While those pink slips keep getting dished out from above, the Mariners, in the interim, just formed their own regional sports network and likely doubled their franchise value to around the $1 billion mark or higher.

That’s your “Hot Seat” when it comes to Mariners accountability. The Mariners’ upper brass are accountable to nothing — it would appear — but the bottom line. At that, they are great. At the baseball part, they have fallen woefully short, with their club becoming one of the bottom-feeders of Major League Baseball going on a decade now.

Once this season is done, the Mariners will face key leadership decisions on both GM Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge. There are pros and cons to argue for both, but in a results-oriented business, the results for the Mariners simply have not been there.

The question now is, will the people tasked with making the call on both Zduriencik and Wedge make the right one? And what baseball qualifications do those people have to be left to a decision as important as this one?

Because if there is ultimately no accountability to anything but the bottom line at the very top of the organization, there is no way to be certain that critical baseball decisions can be made about things as important as a GM and manager.


Comments | More in management | Topics: howard lincoln; chuck armstrong; jack zduriencik; eric wedge