Forget the most talked-about nap since Rip Van Winkle.
The aging superstar and his sleeping habits are merely a convenient scapegoat for a ballclub that flat-out sucks right now. That we’ve actually given this much attention to a short snooze is despicable. And you call yourselves sports fans.
If you want to blame someone for the struggles of the 2010 Seattle Mariners, you need look no further than the man who put this edition of the team together: Jack Zduriencik.
Yeah, I said it. And I stand by it, too. Even in spite of the fact that Zduriencik was baseball’s King Midas a year ago, that doesn’t change what happens to be going on right now. Right now, our team is garbage. And for that we must fault the general manager, at least to a certain degree.
Give the Z-man credit. He has built a phenomenal pitching staff for this ballclub. One through five, the starting pitchers have exceeded expectations (perhaps with the exception of Ryan Rowland-Smith). The bullpen is pretty darn good, and since he has arrived on the job, Zduriencik has unearthed more than a couple diamonds in the rough when it comes to the arms (David Aardsma, Shawn Kelley, Sean White, to name three).
But on the flip side, you have the hitters. Ugh.
With the exceptions of Franklin Gutierrez and Russell Branyan, Zduriencik, in two seasons, has yet to acquire a bat that can contribute on an everyday basis. The list of hitters that Zduriencik has obtained (through free agency, waivers, or trade) who either finished the 2009 campaign with a batting average below .250, or who have posted a batting average below .250 with the team in 2010 includes: Ronny Cedeno, Jack Hannahan, Bill Hall, Ryan Langerhans, Jack Wilson, Chris Woodward, Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Mike Sweeney, Ken Griffey Jr., and Eric Byrnes.
The most glaring of these acquisitions are probably Kotchman and Figgins, who were brought in to be everyday players and who have shown nothing with the bat so far. While Figgins has a track record to suggest he might improve, Kotchman does not. Unless of course you consider being a former top prospect a track record.
Regardless of how Kotchman and Figgins finish this season, the moves themselves are reminiscent of a prior regime, namely, the Bill Bavasi era.
Bavasi had a penchant for signing hitters who were on the downslope of their careers. Rich Aurilia, Carl Everett, Brad Wilkerson, Jose Vidro, and Richie Sexson are all names that come to mind. Kotchman is 27, Figgins is 32. Figgins is arguably past his prime. Kotchman may never reach his. While they are just two examples, their play so far as starters is bad enough to warrant this discussion. Combine those additions with the acquisitions of Bradley and Byrnes, and Zduriencik has struck out when it comes to the team’s offense.
We all knew this team couldn’t hit a year ago, and yet the organization did next-to-nothing to address their hitting woes in the offseason. Instead of strengthening and re-strengthening a pitching staff that clearly needs no more strengthening, perhaps the ballclub could have invested in a bona fide slugger to help carry the middle part of the batting order. Asking a 40-year-old (Griffey) and a 36-year-old (Sweeney) to be contributing forces in the heart of a lineup is absolutely ludicrous, especially considering they have no one around them to help absorb the burden of run production.
These days, we have a two-hole hitter that won’t lift the bat off his shoulder, a three-hole hitter that could be hitting .400 if he had any sort of protection, a cleanup hitter in therapy, and two five-hole hitters who like to sleep and give hugs. All pitching aside, is it any wonder we can’t win ballgames?
If Jack Zduriencik is really the mastermind we hailed him to be a year ago, then he’ll need to prove he can uncover some hitting in the next few weeks, months, or however long it takes to get this team back on the straight and narrow.
We all know Dr. Z. inherited absolute crap when he came on the job.
We all know he did fantastic work in 2009.
But now it’s 2010, and the expectations, fair or unfair, have been raised. It’s up to Zduriencik to leap the bar we, as fans, have set for him.
Can he do it? We’ll just have to wait and see.