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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

December 9, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Dysfunction at the top: Readers, media react to Mariners report

Reaction and online traffic on Geoff Baker’s special report on the Mariners’ front office (“Dysfunction at the top,” Sunday) has been stunning over the weekend and Monday. In that article, former Mariners manager Eric Wedge, former special assistant Tony Blengino and others, criticized general manager Jack Zduriencik, president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln.

You can read our story and judge for yourself.

Zduriencik and Lincoln defended their actions in our story, and Zduriencik took the unusual step of releasing a statement Monday, after the article was more than 24 hours old, from baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando, Fla. Zduriencik released a statement, which you can read here in a post by Times Mariners reporter Ryan Divish, addressing some of the points in the story.

Divish, who is in Florida covering the winter meetings, talked to some baseball executives there and wrote in a blog post that most don’t believe the story will have an effect on the Mariners’ negotiations with free agents. “Most baseball stick together,” Divish wrote. “And the idea of airing the club’s dirty laundry in that format seems to be taboo in their thinking. It seems many people are siding with Zduriencik.”

Read Divish’s complete coverage about the winter meetings here on our Mariners blog.

Baker’s story is being linked to and written about nationally, including ESPN.com, CBSsports.com, NBCSports.com, Deadspin.com, and SB Nation, as well as local websites like seattlepi.com and USS Mariner.

Seattle Times readers are weighing in as well, with about a dozen emails to me, about 300 to Geoff and more than 600 comments on the story.

All but one of the emails I received were critical of the Mariners, and many of them thanked us for writing the story. Here are excerpts from a few of the comments, starting with one that questions our story:

Geoff Baker’s piece on the dysfunction in the Mariners’ front office is emotionally satisfying for frustrated fans (like me). When you get beyond the finger pointing, however, some things don’t add up.

For example, Tony Blengino claims Jack Zduriencik “never has understood one iota about statistical analysis” and that he is “obsessed with power hitters,” ignoring defense and baserunning. Ironically, however, the statistical revolution in baseball is on Zduriencik’s side.

The SABRmetric/Moneyball approach focuses primarily on two things: on-base percentage and power. By way of contrast, the stats-based approach argues baserunning, especially stolen bases, is extremely overrated. The “stats guy” Blengino appears to be on the wrong side of the stats.

Second, it is odd to claim the Mariners don’t care about defense. Case in point is Brendan Ryan, one of the most gifted defensive players in baseball. Zduriencik signed him knowing of his weak offense because his defense was so phenomenal. Baker even wrote a nice blog based on a letter I sent to him, praising the value of Ryan’s defense. The complaint with Ryan is probably that the Mariners over valued his defense.

Finally, this story is ironic because it says the problem with front-office leaders is that they are too intense, leading them to make rash decisions. Previously the knock on the front office is that it was satisfied with making money while losing and weren’t intense enough. Which is it?

It is always a good idea to take the lamentations of jilted ex-employees with a grain of salt. People looking for vengeance aren’t particularly interested in being honest or fair. I want things to get better on the field, but the version from Eric Wedge and Blengino is a little too self-serving and has some significant gaps.

- Todd Myers, Sammamish

Finally!!!   Someone in Seattle sports has actually told the truth about something … How refreshing!  An actual expose like real newspapers produce! A definitive article about why the Mariners, despite new players and managers every couple of years, continue to decline. Now we know why Wedge acted the way he did.

I’m really not surprised about Armstrong and Lincoln, but Zduriencik certainly appears to be someone entirely different than his TV persona … The Mariners have sewed up the “trickle-down ignorance” award haven’t they? Thanks so much for your efforts, research and truth-telling – a fantastic breath of fresh air – and thanks to whomever gave the bold OK to print it.

- Gerald Kaleshefski 

Kudos and respect to Geoff Baker for his article “Dysfunction at the top”. We have waited a long time for this. Finally, the Seattle Mariner upper management, including the general manager have been exposed for who they are. In following Seattle sports for over 50 years, I can say this is one of the best articles that I have read. This won’t make Geoff popular with the Mariner brass but it is reporting at its finest. Thanks to Eric Wedge and others for their candidness. The smoke screen has been lifted. Finally!

- Rich Boyer, Seattle

I completed Geoff Baker’s Dec. 8 piece on Mariner front office dysfunction, and I can say without reservation that it shocked me back into last week.  I don’t think I’ve read an article anywhere that so profoundly altered my thinking.  I feel jarred.

My first thought was to discount a large percentage of what was said right away, owing to the likelihood that persons interviewed would tend to exaggerate negative aspects if they are former employees.  It’s the hard feelings factor.  But even after allowing for this type of divergence, the information which was presented destroys what little faith I’ve had in the front office for years, and that was certainly not much.  For some reason, I put Jack Zduriencik on a higher level than Lincoln or Armstrong, considering him to be a good baseball man.  Evidently this opinion was strikingly naïve.

The dominant feeling left to me now is the firm belief that Eric Wedge should be thought of as a latter-day hero for putting up with the interference and the insincerity of his three superiors.  In my eyes he was and is a solid leader and a man of integrity who refused to compromise and be brought down by small-minded people in authority.  He left money on the table and walked out the door – a true sign of character.

With one of the big three gone, maybe Lloyd McClendon will fare better in his dealings with the Mariner front office.  But right now it’s hard to be optimistic.

- Tom Likai, Shoreline

Loved this article!!! I guess the powers at the top – Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and Jack Zduriencik – think the great fans of the Mariners have fallen off a turnip truck! What has finally come out in this article are things we fans have known for years; with the worthless trades, subpar batters and the general handling of the team.

I’m so thankful that Eric Wedge and Tony Blengino have come out with what has been going on for years!!! These “top dogs” can’t run or hide. What these gentlemen have said matches perfectly with the standing of our team.

- Diane Barrie. Poulsbo

Seattle Times sports readers, for years, have been expressing their personal perspectives about the dysfunctionality at the top of the Seattle Mariners baseball organization. Now Geoff Baker has written the definitive piece that has defined this dysfunction.

Many Mariners fans are delighted that Chuck Armstrong has decided to retire. Unfortunately Howard Lincoln remains bulletproof so the dysfunction at the top will continue because Howard has the sole power to pick the next president.

The Mariners have a long way to go before the organization can function as it should.

- David Enroth, Shoreline

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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