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Zduriencik Staying

Well, lo and behold it has been over a month and a half since I posted! This was mainly caused by two forces:

1) Moving/new full time job. The major life transitions put the blog on a hold for a bit. But then again...

2) What exactly was there to write about in the last month and a half?

It's hard to separate one from the other. The Mariners know how to bury their very existence in the dog days of August, followed by irrelevant Septembers. 40+ year-old Raul Ibanez chasing down 40+ year-old Ted Williams is pretty cool, and I'm rooting for one more dinger, but that's about it as far as newsworthy things I feel I've missed in the past month and a half or so. That and Taijuan Walker's MLB debut I suppose. But there we go! All caught up. That wasn't hard, for better and for worse.*

*Mostly worse. The Seahawks and their relevant games have reminded me just how irrelevant the Mariners are right now. Sigh.

Today a few newsworthy items broke about the Mariners, one piece of news clearly better than the other. We'll start with the bad. Danny Hultzen's shoulder is apparently ailing again, and the M's team doctor thinks his labrum is torn. Hultzen will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, a legendary sports doctor who doubles as the grim reaper for pitching arms. This story isn't likely heading for a happy ending.

So, on to the better news! Jack Zduriencik is staying for another year! You can't deny that Z staying is better than the impending doom around Hultzen at the moment, but there is a pretty wide margin on just how much better the news might be. Many (including yours truly) have soured some on Z, and as 2013 comes to a close it's easier to see a dark rain cloud than the silver lining that might lurk beyond it.

Decide which narrative seems more likely...

The rain cloud

Jack Zduriencik returns for a lame duck year. He has already scrambled his front office and muted or completely wiped out sabermetrics, as shown by moves like letting Tony Blengino go. Zduriencik aggressively pursues Jacoby Ellsbury, who quickly takes Franklin Gutierrez's role as star-crossed, injury-proned outfielder with abilities that we never get to see on the field. The progress the young players made in 2013 turns out to be about all the progress they were capable of. There are no stars, just solid players, mixed with veterans who signed in Seattle because better teams weren't interested in them. The Mariners cruise to their latest 90-loss season and clean house in the front office.

The silver lining

Jack Zduriencik is granted another year, and the patience the franchise bestows upon its GM pays off. It took Zduriencik time to find the right mix of leadership around him, given this was his first GM job, and he finally found the right mix - despite the tough decisions it took, such as distancing himself from people like Tony Blengino. The young players take another step forward, most notably Brad Miller and Mike Zunino, solidifying the middle of the diamond both offensively and defensively. Nick Franklin works to eliminate his holes at the plate, just like he did after finishing 2012 in AAA and opening up there in 2013. Zduriencik aggressively pursues outfielders and nets PNW product Jacoby Ellsbury. The Mariners were long overdue for a little good fortune, and Ellsbury finds a way to stay healthy. He proves to be the M's tipping point, along with the steps taken by the young players, as the M's realize they have the talent to compete with any team. The M's stay in the playoff hunt the entire year, and a second wave of prospects led by Chris Taylor and DJ Peterson give the M's the firepower to pursue the hottest names at the trade deadline.

Narratives can change fast. Look no further than the Pirates. I wrote a few posts back in 2009 about how inept I believed their GM, Neal Huntington, was. The franchise seemed to be going nowhere under his leadership as the terrible seasons continued to rack up. The past few seasons offered some intriguing first halves, but any hopes of a winning season were crushed by second half collapses. I don't think I would've had to defend my posts much because of the Pirates track record...

...until now. The Pirates clinched a playoff spot last night, and they have their first winning record since 1992. Clint Hurdle just went from a retread manager previously fired by the Rockies to the manager who lead Colorado to their only World Series and the man to steer the good ship Pittsburgh to its first taste of bona fide success since Barry Bonds left them for San Francisco.

Narratives tend to warp reality - not destroy it, but delineate it more towards "good" or "bad," because anything that isn't more or less "good" or "bad" is hard to comprehend and categorize. The Mariners, in 2013 and for the past decade, have basically been "bad." It's easy to use new data to fuel the current narrative. However, the reality probably isn't as bad as the collective perception, codified through the "bad" narrative, right now. Keeping Zduriencik may fuel more bad decisions and add to a fledging franchise's woes. However, my guess is that there's a better chance than the current narrative suggests that the Mariners are close to success. I throw the rain cloud and silver lining narratives out there to point out how perception can skew interpretation of situations.

Keeping Zduriencik could be a good decision. It could also be a bad decision. Both views can be backed up with the same facts, but those facts can be cloaked in different interpretations through different narratives. I'm still deciding which perception I'm going to choose, but regardless I'm going to stay open to a different interpretation. Really, given how consistently bad the Mariners have been for a while now, the perpetual uncertainty of the future seems reassuring, at least to me.

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