The New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes this morning about how the Mets screwed up by passing over Seattle Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik back when he worked for the club. Let’s go back to the fall of 1997:
Because he was good with computers and had ties to Sandy Koufax — a real bonus in the Dodger-centric world of Koufax pal Fred Wilpon — Gary LaRocque was named the director of amateur scouting. That was the job Jack Zduriencik deserved. Instead — despite being employed significantly longer with the Mets than even Phillips — he was shuffled from farm director to special assistant to the general manager.
So at that moment Phillips, Minaya, Duquette and Zduriencik all had relatively new roles. Three would ultimately hold the title of Mets GM. One would not. That guy looks like, by far, the best of the group.
I’ll grant that, based on everything we’ve seen, having Zduriencik as your GM would be better than having Steve Phillips, Omar Minaya and Jim Duquette there, but there are limits to this sort of “we could have had that guy” complaint.
Unlike players, who you can mostly figure would do as well with one team as they would have with another, I don’t think you can simply assume that an executive’s apparent genius with one club would have manifested itself on another. Mentoring matters when it comes to the development of decision makers, as does the relative level of autonomy they’re given, their experiences and the people with whom they’re surrounded. Warren Buffett worked at a grocery store when he was a kid. You can’t say that it would be competing with Safeway now if they had only held on to him because, you know, things happened to the guy in between then and now.
While Zduriencik’s path from New York to Seattle was a lot shorter and more direct than Buffet’s, it’s certain that the things he learned as the Director of International Operations for the Dodgers and during his nine years in various roles for the Brewers made him a different man today than he would have been if he had stayed with the Mets. Maybe they would have made him the GM five years ago and maybe he wouldn’t have been ready. Maybe — hell, probably — the most important things that led to him becoming a successful general manager happened to him while he was working in Milwaukee and never would have happened to him had he stayed in Queens.
So while I greatly appreciate this brand of rabble rousing — indeed, there’s nothing much more fun to me than helping Mets fans come to grips with their misery — I think the we-could’ve-had-Zduriencik beef is more an exercise in hindsight than it is a legitimate criticism of the team.
We seem to get a story like this from a struggling team every couple of years. This year it’s the Twins and the story is about words said by one of the Twins players to Fox Sports North broadcaster Dick Bremer. From Mike McFeely of WDAY radio, who spoke to Bremer recently:
Surprisingly, Bremer said one player has confronted him this season about being too critical of the team. Bremer wouldn’t name the player.
“I make it a practice to go in the clubhouse every day and go down on the field, so if a player has a complaint about something I’ve said on television they have that opportunity,” Bremer said. “I was confronted in the clubhouse in the last homestand. I didn’t say what I wanted to say, which was, ‘Well, play better and the commentary will be more positive.’ You can’t mask the fact this team is a quarter of the way through the season with 10 wins.”
The whole article is interesting because it gives several examples of Bremer and his colleague, Bert Blyleven, being critical. Depending on which instance — and there were likely many not mentioned here — blowback from players may have more or less justification.
On the one hand, simply saying a player executed a given play poorly or saying that the team was performing poorly is a simple fact. On the other, an example was given in which Blyleven questioned why Phil Hughes was taken out of a game. It was only later revealed that he was experiencing shoulder soreness, but it was suggested that Blyelven was questioning his toughness at the moment. I agree with Bremer that if the players don’t want to be criticized they should play better. But it crosses a line in my mind when poor play is used to imply poor or weak character, especially when not all facts are known. Not all situations are the same.
Overall, though, despite the complaint of this anonymous Twins player, I think local broadcasts are too deferential to the home team far too often. The broadcasters have seen more baseball than almost every viewer and in many cases played it. I don’t think it’s out of line for them to offer objective, informed criticism of bad play even if that’s out of fashion in today’s world. That they seem very clearly pressured by the clubs with whom their employers are partnered to do otherwise is a shame and does a disservice to viewers.
And heck. It’s boring too.
The Pirates have announced that starter Ryan Vogelsong has been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to facial fractures.
Vogelsong suffered the fractures yesterday afternoon when he was batting and was hit by a pitch by Colorado Rockies starter Jordan Lyles. Vogelsong, was taken off the field on a cart and admitted to a local hospital. A.J. Schugel has been recalled from Triple-A to take Vogelsong’s place on the roster.
Outsports has what should be the final word about Saturday’s National Anthem debacle at Petco Park before the Dodgers-Padres game.
The upshot: it was not, not surprisingly, a homophobic conspiracy. Rather It was a series of unfortunate occurrences and dumb mistakes, once again validating the old saying about how one need not look to evil motives when mere stupidity can explain things. This is one of those times. Go read the post for the entire explanation. The short version of that is that, like a lot of anthem singers, the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus was to sing along with a backing tape of themselves performing the anthem. The DJ in charge of it played the wrong date’s backing tape. He played the one from the female singer the night before.
In addition, Outsports spoke with that DJ — DJ Artform — who is embarrassed by his mistake and by not doing anything to correct it in the moment. DJ Artform was a contractor and his relationship with the Padres was terminated.
So that seems to be that. Until the next thing anyway. There is always a next thing.
File this under “not terribly surprising,” but Shane Victorino was released from his minor league contract with the Cubs yesterday after batting .233/.324/.367 through nine games with Triple-A Iowa. Victorino says he does not plan on retiring, however, and that he plans to try to latch on someplace else.
It’ll be a supreme long shot. Victorino, 35, Victorino suffered a calf injury during spring training and missed all of spring training. Last year he played in only 71 games between the Red Sox and Angels, and 30 in 2014 with the Red Sox. He was last healthy and effective in 2013. In a league where older players don’t do as well as they used to, it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to find a gig.
If this is the end of the road for the Flyin’ Hawaiian, he’ll finish with a career batting line of .2750/.340/.425 with 108 homers, 489 RBI, 231 stolen bases and four Gold Glove Awards in 12 seasons. He also has two World Series rings, from the 2008 Phillies and the 2013 Red Sox. He was a two-time All-Star.
Maybe not the way he wanted to end his career, if this is indeed the end, but Victorino had a fine career while it lasted.