You don’t know Jack.
Seriously, you don’t. That’s not an insult — it’s the truth, and you know it.
It’s cool though, because I don’t know Jack, either.
But does that make us stupid? Ignorant? Laughable? Does that bring us down a notch, Stump-the-Schwab-wise? Will people look at us with smirks and jeers, whispers and sneers?
Nah, they won’t. Because the Schwab, in his infinite, Dunkin’-Donuts-induced wisdom, doesn’t know Jack, either. In fact, no one really does.
Which is why I hesitate on applauding Jack’s hiring as the newly-appointed Mariners general manager.
Jack Zduriencik, usurping Lee Pelekoudas’ throne, is the latest Northwest gunslinger. A scouting man by trade, the Z-man—whose name sounds more like a Polish independence movement than a baseball lifer—made his reputation by stockpiling the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system in ways that would make Billy Beane proud.
As Scouting Director of the once-moribund Brew Crew, Zduriencik oversaw a greater face-lift than the Joan Rivers Experience, helping Milwaukee return to prominence and eclipse the playoff threshold for the first time since M*A*S*H went off the air.
See if these names ring a bell: Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder, Dana Eveland, Tony Gwynn Jr., Yovani Gallardo, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Cole Gillespie. All property of Zduriencik’s foresight, all succeeding in ways Mariners’ draftees could only dream.
Think not? Just compare them. While they’re still young, the three best M’s picks in recent years have stagnated at the big-league level. Jeff Clement? Can’t hit. Wladimir Balentin? Can’t hit, can barely field. Brandon Morrow? Showing Felix-like promise, but still unproven.
On that same parallel, the Brewers’ top three have had more success than US Special Forces in Syria. (Er….) Braun? Too many rookie awards to count. Fielder? Holds the Brewers’ record for jacks in a season. Gallardo? A meager 3.35 ERA in a healthy 134.1 innings tossed.
Yeah, Jack’s done all right.
Let’s face it: The Z-man has some scouting chops. But don’t take it from me; let his “Executive of the Year” trophy do the talking. Let his two former protégés-turned-Scouting-Directors, Tom Allison and Bobby Heck, tell you. Let his glowing predecessors describe the hire: “I think the hiring of Jack Zduriencik is going to be looked upon very favorably by a huge percentage of the baseball community,” says former Cincinnati Reds GM Wayne Krivsky.
But the Mariners weren’t looking for favorable posturing. If they were, Kim Ng would be helming the Mariners’ future. Nor are Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong looking to update to a 21st-century, numbers-only mantra. If they were, Tony LaCava or Jerry DiPoto would be steering the Mariners back toward respectability.
No, the M’s were looking for someone that would get the job done without the frills or pomp that had invaded the previous executive box.
Zduriencik is old-school, a 57-year old, suit-and-tie, as-much-flash-as-a-potato kind of guy. He’s not made of flair and fluff; from his initial press conference, the guy believes in both stoicism and minimalism. He’s a man of few words, and unlike Bill “Jarrod-Washburn-is-Cy-Young-Material” Bavasi, Zduriencik looks to let his actions speak for themselves.
Unfortunately, Zduriencik already comes to the club with a stigma attached: He is a product of an Armstrong-Lincoln decision. For those keeping score at home, these two knuckleheads, who seem to be on a decade-long audition for the Dumb and Dumber reboot, have run a once-promising franchise into the ground and are threatening to break underneath China if not soon stopped.
While the Z-man has claimed that he will have as much autonomy as anyone else, the numerous people turning down GM interviews were obviously influenced by Armstrong’s call for a “collaborative and inclusive” work environment.
This style of management was rampant before Bavasi endured the “hot seat” of ’07-’08, but it’s not as if the preceding cooperative era of Carl "Dinosaurs-Ain't-Real" Everett and Charles "Spiderman" Gipson was much better.
Suffice it to say, the duo of Armstrong and Lincoln would have made Lehman Brothers' upper management look good over the last couple years, which is why I worry, fret, and fear for Jack. Ultimately, Zduriencik’s success will ride on his ability to coax Armstrong and Lincoln out of the room and onto Edgar Martinez Drive, allowing the new GM to focus on the changes needed (which, if you haven’t noticed, run aplenty).
When he finds a new center fielder, DH, and first baseman, we’ll know Jack. When he decides the future of Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre, we’ll get an idea about Jack. When the Mariners’ new manager strides to the plate on opening day, we’ll have formulated an opinion on Jack.
Right now, though, we just don’t know jack about Jack.