The Seattle Mariners are fading swiftly in MLB‘s second half like a ship lost at sea moments before a squall capsizes the vessel. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik happens to be the metaphorical captain of this sinking ship, and he will likely be the scapegoat the organization points the finger at if the team is unable to reclaim its grasp on an AL Wild Card spot before the end of the 2014 regular season.
The Mariners last played in the postseason in 2001 after capturing the AL West division title. Most of those seasons in the era under then manager Lou Piniella were productive years. But after experiencing a 100 loss season in 2008 while shouldering a payroll of more than $100 million, neither John McLaren or Jim Riggleman would return to manage the ball club in 2009. The front office cleaned house and named Zduriencik as the new GM in place of the incumbent Bill Bavasi.
The first half of 2014 was promising for the M’s, as they had a firm hold on the second Wild Card spot heading into the All-Star break. Now their home woes are really starting to catch up with them. The confines of Safeco Field have been no sanctuary for the Mariners this year. They sit at 26-31 in ball games played in the Pacific Northwest and are on the verge of falling below .500 with a current overall record of 57-54. Since the All-Star break, the M’s have relinquished their AL Wild Card position to the Toronto Blue Jays (60-53) and have even fallen behind the New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals for positioning. It’s not always how you start a 162-game regular season. Sometimes it’s about how you finish, and the Mariners are 6-10 so far in the second half of the season.
Trader Jack made some moves at the trade deadline, acquiring OF Austin Jackson and DH Kendry Morales. He missed the boat on some of the bigger profiles to be put on the trading block, though. All-Stars Jeff Samardzija and Huston Street were both scooped up by rivals within the AL West division. Meanwhile the Detroit Tigers were the biggest immediate winners in the three-way trade with the M’s and Tampa Bay Rays, because they received 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price. Samardzija and Price are players who can be viewed as instant difference makers when healthy on a team fighting to make the playoffs, and Zduriencik failed to deliver by acquiring them and their promising returns. Even three impressive showings by Felix Hernandez (21 IP, 3 ER, 24 SO) and four by Hisashi Iwakuma (28.2 IP, 9 ER, 21 SO) post All-Star break has yielded only two wins for the ball club.
The threat of Seattle not making the playoffs again and possibly finishing below .500 is very real. Zduriencik’s job is in jeopardy. The signing of 2B Robinson Cano is no doubt Zduriencik’s biggest move to date, but he may not be around to experience what the full outcome of that fiscal responsibility will entail in future seasons. Seattle had the 18th highest opening day payroll in MLB this season at just over $92 million. That’s more than the Oakland Athletics, who currently lead the AL West. But also, the M’s payroll surpasses that of both the Royals and Cleveland Indians, two teams Seattle presently finds itself battling with for AL Wild Card contention.
If the Mariners don’t see the urgency of winning more games at home in 2014, come the offseason, the chances of Zduriencik holding an office in the Emerald City will be marginal at best.