Former manager Eric Wedge and more than two dozen past and present baseball operations employees issued a scathing indictment of the Mariners' front office in an article by The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker published on Saturday. Taking aim at general manager Jack Zduriencik, chief executive officer Howard Lincoln and outgoing team president Chuck Armstrong, who is set to retire on Jan. 31, Wedge, who managed the team from 2011-13 and resigned at the end of the 2013 season, accused the organization of "total dysfunction and a lack of leadership."
Among former employees who spoke to Baker were Tony Blengino, a former special assistant to Zduriencik in both Milwaukee and Seattle who was demoted last winter and let go after the 2013 season, former professional scouting director Carmen Fusco, who was fired in September 2010, and former top Latin American scout Patrick Guerrero, who was fired in September 2012. Blengino's criticisms include the accusation that he, not Zduriencik, prepared the job application package that got Zduriencik hired as the Mariners' GM in October 2008.
“Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job . . . But Jack never has understood one iota about statistical analysis. 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.”
Blengino says that his relationship with Zduriencik began to deteriorate after Seattle suffered a 101-loss season in 2010, saying, "Jack tried to destroy me." He goes on to paint a damning portrait of Zduriencik's way of doing business over the last two seasons.
"He began operating much like the Wizard of Oz, wielding his power from behind a curtain. . . . 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.”
Guerrero echoed the yes-man criticism, while an anonymous current scout added, "They’ve humiliated people they’ve let go . . . and the ones still here hate it. They hate the way they’re treated.”
Wedge also detailed interference from Lincoln and Armstrong, including their demands that the team's top pitchers, including Felix Hernandez, throw live batting practice between starts, and that the team take early fielding practice this past September despite being worn down by the long season. Wedge, who said he received no support from Zduriencik on such matters, refused to comply with either request. "If I did what they wanted,” Wedge said, “it would be a joke of an organization."
Reached for comment by Baker, Armstrong declined to respond to the criticisms. Lincoln said Wedge "mischaracterized much of what occurred." Zduriencik called criticisms "unjust, misleading and one-sided." Baker's report was published just one day after the Mariners signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract that ranks as the third-largest in major league history and after a season in which the Mariners, despite losing 91 games, debuted many of their best prospects, including starting pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, catcher Mike Zunino, second baseman Nick Franklin (now displaced by Cano) and shortstop Brad Miller, all of whom were drafted under Zduriencik's leadership.