Michael Saunders, agent unhappy with criticism from Jack Zduriencik

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At the end of the regular season, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon attended a wrap-up press conference during which they were asked about the promise outfielder Michael Saunders showed despite suffering from injuries which limited his playing time. Zduriencik suggested that Saunders could do more to improve his durability, while McClendon said Saunders could spend more time in the weight room.

Zduriencik went on several different radio stations later that day. On KJR, Dave Mahler asked him about Saunders. Zduriencik doubled down, reiterating that Saunders could be doing more to allow himself the physical capability to play a full season.

That didn’t sit well with Saunders or his agent, Mike McCann. Saunders didn’t directly speak about the issue, but Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times said the outfielder had “obvious frustration in his voice”. McCann, on the other hand, had plenty to say:

“It was shocking to hear that,” McCann said. “The first time I heard that was the day of the presser. And Michael was never told that there is something that needed to be changed. If there was, Michael Saunders would do it. These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.”

McCann also expressed disappointment that Zduriencik publicly criticized Saunders, and added that Zduriencik has yet to have a direct conversation with Saunders.

In 263 plate appearances during the regular season, Saunders hit .273/.341/.450 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. It was easily the most productive the 27-year-old had been at the plate since making his major league debut in 2009. However, Saunders made two trips to the disabled list. The first stretched from mid- to late-June due to inflammation of the A/C joint in his right shoulder. The second caused him to miss 50 games due to a strained left oblique.

Saunders earned $2.3 million during the 2014 season and is eligible for arbitration for the second of three years. Divish suggests it’s unlikely the Mariners try to move Saunders since they have him under control for two more years and the club lacks outfield depth. But one has to wonder that if an offer comes along, which would allow the Mariners to improve the team elsewhere, they would seize the opportunity to turn the page.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?