Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thoughts on the Seattle Mariners Management: Wow! The Emperor Really Does Have No Clothes!

I started this blog in December of 2009 in large part because I believed that the Giants and their management were headed in the right direction.  They already had Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval in the major leagues with Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on fast tracks to the big leagues.  I just thought that was a nice little core of homegrown players to build around and showed a commitment to scouting, drafting and development that had not been previously apparent from the organization.

At the time, life was unpleasant for anyone expressing confidence in what the Giants were doing.  The leading Giants blog had become a daily snarkfest of ridicule for Brian Sabean and the Giants.  I was basically run off of the sfgiants.com message board for defending what the Giants were doing as an organization and for predicting a brighter future.  At the time, I was not aware of ogc and his blog being a lone voice crying in the wilderness with basically the same message.

Then, in the spring of 2010, Fangraphs ran their yearly rankings of organizations based on current talent, future talent and front office methods/talent/savvy.  They ranked the Giants #23 and the Mariners #6.  Fangraphs was a champion of defensive metrics and the use of WAR as a tool for valuing players.  The Mariners at the time were full of good defensive players who couldn't hit a lick and somehow Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs staff concluded that their relatively new GM, Jack Zduriencik(Jack Z), was using defensive metrics and getting undervalued players as a result.  Their relative rankings of the Mariners and Giants were almost entirely based on their enthrallment with Jack Z's supposed sabermetric savvy and Brian Sabean's supposed complete ignorance of advanced baseball statistics.  They took a lot of heat for the Mariners ranking but almost none for their ridiculously low ranking of the Giants.  Pretty much every baseball oriented blog at the time believed exactly the same thing about Sabean.

Of course, history has since proven these rankings to be completely unfounded.  The Mariners have gone from bad to worse, spinning their wheels and changing philosophy as often as they have changed managers which is often.  The Giants, on the other hand went on to win not just one, but two World Series Championships.  Dave Cameron bailed out of the Jack Z bandwagon awhile back, but continues to criticize virtually every move Brian Sabean makes and generally belittle his accomplishments.

Sometimes when you have a strong belief and find yourself defending it on multiple fronts, you start to wonder if maybe there is something you are not seeing.  Maybe you are just as biased in another direction as the people you are debating.  Maybe Jack Z is on the right track and just hasn't had enough time to see it come to fruition.  After all, Sabes was GM for how many years before the Giants finally broke through and vindicated his methods?  I knew Dave Cameron and the Fangraphs staff were grossly overrating Jack Z, but I have to say even I am a bit shocked at just how bad it's starting to look.

You had to suspect some bad karma coming out of Seattle with the way 3 managers up and quit before they were fired.  The sudden change of course toward power hitters who were also terrible on defense also smacked of desperation and lack of direction.  Now comes an article in the Seattle Times by a dude named Geoff Baker, based interviews with 24 people including former manager Eric Wedge and former Special Assistant Tony Blengino.  According to Baker, based on these sources, Jack Z actually not only knows nothing at all about advanced baseball statistics, he is hostile to them!  Blengino claims that he, Blengino, actually wrote Jack Z's resume for him and cooked the information to make it look like he used a balance of scouting and sabermetrics because he knew that is what it would take to get the job.  During sabermetric presentations, Jack Z would belittle them and complain about font sizes and margins as if those were somehow important.

In addition, Wedge claims that President Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln were meddlers all the way down to the dugout.  He felt betrayed when after being hired to nurture a youth movement, he was verbally ripped by Armstrong and Lincoln for the poor performance of the kids despite the fact that the Mariners record was improved significantly from prior years.

All I can say is wow!  Just wow!  Shadenfreude can be so sweet!  I mean, who knew?  This goes way beyond anything I imagined, and I knew that Jack Z was being overrated.  Granted, both Wedge and Blengino have reasons to be grinding axes, but as many commentators have pointed out, this lines up just too well with a lot of observable facts over the last several years for there to not be a significant amount of truth to it.

I'll just leave you with a quote from Dave Cameron with a tip of the hat to Shankbone for digging it up and posting it over on his blog You Gotta Like These Kids:

"The term "process" has become a cliche in referring to front offices, but quite simply, there are few better examples of an organization that is blending traditional scouting with new ways of thinking than the Mariners.  The GM is one of the most respected scouts in the game, and his right hand man is an accountant who went out and hired Tom Tango as one of his first orders of business.  Teams that have blended both ways of thinking into their decision-making process have been tremendously successful, and this is the path the Marinter have set themselves upon.

The Seattle front office knows how to evaluate talent, and they know how to value talent.  Organizations that do both things well, and are given a payroll of $100 million to boot, win a lot of baseball games."

Dave Cameron  March 31, 2010.

The emperor really does not have any clothes!

BTW, Tony Blengino now works as a writer for Fangraphs.

22 comments:

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    1. No, I believe Tom Tango is a separate person.

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  2. Hey Dr. B random question but if in alternate universe the Giants still had Tommy Joesph, who would you have higher on your prospect list, Joesph or Susac?

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    1. I would probably rank Susac higher, but I still like Joseph's upside and light tower power. Susac has a far higher chance of reaching his ceiling, though, and it's not too shabby itself.

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  3. Tango now works for the sabermetricians who run the Cubs, I believe, so that if Blengino writes for Fangraphs, there's a severe conflict of interest.

    I note that Grant Brisbee has just recently claimed that he has now received vilifying emails because of his apostasy in defending the Giants' FO, as for example in denying that they are cheap or dumb to have signed Pence and to have refused to go after some costly (long-term money + draft pick) LF. His acolytes seem hardly to know what to say when he discusses baseball nowadays, and more and more they take refuge in making the thread veer towards video games, fast food, and other areas where their world appears to them more secure.

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    1. that is, there would be a severe conflict of interest if Tango and Blengino were one and the same. Sorry.

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    2. You know, I read that post today and was thinking the exact same thing. Brisbee is shooting for the big time, and even gets love from Baggs himself. I think, at some point, Grant realized he had to cool off a bit... I mean, how can you legitimately bash an organization with two recent titles THAT MUCH? Maybe I'm totally off base in saying that, but Brisbee's writing has been very down to earth lately, and I've agreed with nearly all of his sentiments this offseason. I've also noticed that the comment threads are pure garbage. I can proudly say that I have never left a comment on that site, nor will I likely ever. But I am happy to read Brisbee's pieces these days, even if his loyal followers think he's selling out. Maybe it's time for those people to grow up...

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    3. There has been a noticeable shift in tone for Grant at MCC this offseason. Interesting that the monkeys are now flinging poo at him too.

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    4. Dr.B, it's great you have this wonderful site. All the sites you link on the left are good too. There are Giants fans communities everywhere. The only one problem I have with MCC is it's too crowded and every thread is way too long. I never commented there, though I read it a few times, the last time was maybe 2 or 3 years ago.

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  4. You know, the Mariners are an organization that I've really become familiar with in the past few years, as one of my best college buddies (and now co-worker) is a die-hard. We talk Giants/Mariners and baseball in general almost daily. A few years ago, we were both so high on our franchises that we even (half-seriously) predicted a SF/Sea World Series. Turned out the Giants held up their end of the bargain that fall...

    I actually texted him this morning to find out if he'd seen the article. He had, and said it made him sick. To me, Seattle is one of the most fair-weather sports cities in the US, so I really do feel for the true Mariners fans out there. But it does make a lot of sense, and I know it was believed by many that Wedge had it out for the younger players. If his comments are true, then I had it completely backwards... Jack Z was the impatient one, and Wedge was merely fulfilling orders when writing the lineup card every night. Very interesting.

    The M's have some serious, serious talent coming up through the ranks. Walker, Paxton, Zunino, Miller, Franklin... I buy into DJ Peterson so far. Will Danny Hultzen ever stay healthy? I told my buddy over and over that I saw many similarities between the modern day M's and the Giants of four or five years ago. Loads of talent on the farm, with some solid starting pitching already established in Felix and Iwakuma. Just have to add a few pieces and let it all play out. Well, that talent has arrived, much like the influx of Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, Belt, etc. did with the Giants. Theoretically, Seattle should be primed for a breakout.

    The big difference between the two franchises that I have noticed over the past few years (aside from the obvious differences in on-field performances) has to be the decision-making of the front office. Like him or not, it's pretty clear that Sabean knows how to build a team. Other than the 05-08 clubs, the Giants have always been competitive under Sabean. In that same time, the Mariners have seemed to implode, over and over and over. Just when you think they're on the brink of turning things around, their front office makes a bone-headed move and sells off another talented prospect. Yes, they've had their promising guys like Ackley and Smoak blow it in recent years, but I think the blame for their failures has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the front office. It's very frustrating to watch, even from an outsider's perspective. Personally, I love the Cano move for them. You have to start somewhere... We Giants fans have learned to tune out the media and their bias when it comes to organizational opinions. No matter how much you love a specific move (or even a championship ring or two), someone from the outside will always be there to downplay it. That's the breaks for West Coast clubs. So, Cano is a nice start for Seattle... but trading Walker + others for David Price? That sounds like typical front office implosion to me. How will it pan out? I guess we'll have to see. For now, I'm just happy to be a Giants fan.

    By the way, DrB: I didn't know the story behind your blog. Thanks for sharing that. Personally, I felt like I REALLY became a Giants fan during those years. As much as I loved Bonds, Kent, Schmidt and the gang, the emergence of Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner (in the minors) really changed me as a fan, as I took on a whole new love for the minors (which I never really paid any attention to before). Those were some good times, even if the records weren't the best... I can only hope that we are seeing another group of prospects on their way that can impact the organization like that gang did.

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    1. So, Jack Z may have the last laugh here, but because he did it the old fashioned way, he scouted and accumulated talent in the minor leagues that eventually came to fruition?

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    2. As long as he doesn't go and trade off Taijuan Walker, as it sounds like he's trying to do.

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    3. If that's correct, it's great for the old fashioned way.

      Who doesn't want those kids to succeed then?

      I hope for a Seattle breakout. That division has been weak for a while...any team can look good playing that many games against Houston and Seattle.

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  5. Interesting discussion here. Thanks for really sticking to baseball rather than veering off towards the Niners or the Warriors or ???.

    I used to lurk at sfgiants.com back in '09. For some reason, I remember 'Lone Star Giants Fan' as being the "authority" on that site. Ring a bell? Know the guy? Is that you? ;-)

    The M's were once sitting real pretty with a trio of stud pitching prospects. They'll be interesting to watch given the young talent they have combined with a couple of stars and the managerial mess. Who says you can't buy chemistry? I saw catch Mike Zunino hit a ball off the scoreboard at Grizzly stadium last year. The Giants pitcher was Yusmeiro Petit. Danny Hultzen made Gary Brown look silly. When the Rainiers come to town...

    I have also seen Brisbee get the pump from other beat writers. It's a conspiracy. AP at the Merc said something about Brisbee and Thurm being the smartest baseball writers he knows.





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    1. No, I'm not LSGF. I've always gone by DrBGiantsfan on any site I've posted on.

      I don't know if he still posts over there. I don't even look at that site anymore. He is very knowledgeable and has strong opinions. He was not quite as down on Giants management as some others over there. He and I got into a silly argument about prospects and whether BA's top 100 was a good predictor of future success. He got mad and wouldn't talk to me anymore.

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  6. baseball writers elect wife beater to hof

    gotta love the hypocrisy

    bacci

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    1. Good thing it wasn't caused by 'roid rage, huh?

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    2. One more thing on Bobby Cox: He won a lot of games and has that shiny winning percentage, but he won just 1 World Series out of 4 NL pennants. By comparison, Bruce Bochy has won 2 rings and 3 pennants. I'd say by that standard, Boch has a reasonably strong case for the HOF.

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    3. Does Bochy have a career mark below .500 and is that relevant?

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    4. Just my opinion, but manager winning percentage has a lot more to do with the team you have to work with than the ability of the manager. A good manager is someone who can make a bad team better, which is extremely difficult if not impossible to measure. or someone who can take a good team all the way more than once.

      IMO, Torre is not a great manager, but you can't deny those 4 WS titles. LaRussa always had good teams to work with and tended to bail when the going got tough, but he did take 3 different teams all the way.

      Unless you believe all those Atlanta teams overperformed all those years, and I don't, I am not at all sure Bobby Cox deserves this.

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  7. Cameron is just full of himself. Even if someone presents a valid argument Cameron will defend his own positions to the point of looking silly.

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    1. So far, no comment on Fangraphs re. the Mariner's managementgate.

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