Robbie Cano, what have you gotten yourself into? During a period in which the Washington Redskins and New York Knicks would otherwise be dueling for the title of Most Dysfunctional Franchise, the Seattle Mariners are ready to stake their claim in said dubious competition. While former skipper Eric Wedge minces few words in burying GM Jack Zduriencik (above) in a long, gory conversation with the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker, it’s ex-Zduriencik assistant Tony Blengino with the most damning accounts.
Blegino, banished from Mariners offices last year for his failure to kiss ass, claims he was responsible for Zduriencik’s job application package and a concerted attempt to pass himself off to ownership as some sort of statistical maven. “Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis,” sneers Blegino to Baker. “To this day, he evaluates hitters by homers, RBI and batting average and pitchers by wins and ERA. Statistical analysis was foreign to him. But he knew he needed it to get in the door.”
After Zduriencik fired manager Don Wakamatsu,Blengino said Zduriencik — needing to further finger-point — soon marginalized him as “the stats guy” despite his scouting background and the draft work that earned him a team “President’s Award” in 2009.
In 2011, Zduriencik imported longtime associate Ted Simmons as a senior adviser and increased responsibilities for second-year assistant GM Jeff Kingston, pushing Blengino from his inner circle. Zduriencik received a three-year contract extension that August and Blengino said Zduriencik told him: “Now, we do things my way.”
Blengino said Zduriencik became obsessed with power hitters, ignoring defense, baserunning and roster construction. He said the GM also dismissed the importance of evaluating players within the context of their contract values.
Zduriencik then made him “look like an ass” in front of baseball operations brass in spring training 2012 after Blengino gave a presentation on possible benefits from advances in computerized hitting data.
“He nitpicked about font sizes and column widths,” Blengino said. “He did what he always does and made fun of something he couldn’t understand.”
Zduriencik began working more from his suite overlooking Safeco Field, holding one-on-one meetings out of earshot of team offices.
“He began operating much like the Wizard of Oz, wielding his power from behind a curtain,” Blengino said. “Intimidating, manipulating, and pitting people against one another. Berating them for no particular reason. He set out to eliminate any type of disagreement, accumulating yes-men who meekly go along with his program.”