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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Seattle Times: Dysfunction at the top

The Mariners’ front office is plagued by “total dysfunction and a lack of leadership,” according to former manager Eric Wedge. Wedge and other former and current team employees describe problems at the top of the organization.

#6org!

Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:07 AM | 252 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: front office, mariners, seattle, seattle mariners

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   1. Shoebo Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:02 AM (#4613379)
One of those speaking out is Blengino, the former No.?2 in Zduriencik’s front office. Blengino, who was working for the Milwaukee Brewers with Zduriencik at the time, said he authored virtually the entire job application package Zduriencik gave the Mariners in 2008, depicting a dual-threat candidate melding traditional scouting with advanced statistical analysis.

Blengino said he prepared the package because he was versed in the hot trend of using advanced stats for team decisions.

“Jack portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “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.”


This explains a lot. Willie Bloomquist.........weeeeeee
   2. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:19 AM (#4613381)
This is totally brutal, and absolutely worth reading.
   3. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:25 AM (#4613382)
If this article is right, then Seattle might not even be the sixth best organization.
“Jack [Zduriencik] portrayed himself as a scouting/stats hybrid because that’s what he needed to get the job,” Blengino said. “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.”
Wow.
   4. Mark Armour Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:37 AM (#4613385)
Fantastic reporting. I don't see how Jack Z recovers from this. Brutal.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:46 AM (#4613386)
Zduriencik sounds like a monster. Like, the worst possible person to manage an organization. Stupid, petty, inconsistent, vain, impetuous ...
   6. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:49 AM (#4613387)
Wow. That's just brutal. I'd also note that Geoff Baker no longer covers the Mariners on a daily basis, so he doesn't have to worry about interacting with the team on a continuing basis any more. If he's burned his bridges with the Mariners by writing this, it won't hurt him that much.
   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:09 AM (#4613388)
Posts 1-6: Seriously? This is a laundry list of blind-sided attacks from disgruntled ex-employees. And at that, there's not much substance here.

I like this part of the piece:

The Mariners from 2011 to 2013 traded Doug Fister, Michael Pineda, Steve Delabar, Erik Bedard, Mike Carp and John Jaso for limited returns.


Bemoaning about getting very little for players like Bedard, Jaso, and Delabar? How much were they supposed to get for these guys? And the Pineda listing is just ridiculous. They got a player who everyone thought very highly of as a hitter. Montero has flopped so far, but nobody expected him to flop as a hitter at the time of the deal.

   8. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:43 AM (#4613391)
This is a laundry list of blind-sided attacks from disgruntled ex-employees.


Yes, of course it's one-sided. That doesn't mean it's not embarrassing for the Mariners.

there's not much substance here.


You probably have a different idea about what constitutes substance than most people do. But the idea that Jack Z totally misrepresented himself as an applicant, that he's basically an idiot, that he brooks no dissent and surrounds himself with sycophants, that the guys above him make frequent clueless baseball demands, the whole thing just sounds like a nightmare.
   9. Dan Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:56 AM (#4613393)
So Jack Z. really never had any knowledge of stats at all and his application packet had a bunch of stat stuff in it that came from Blengino. Isn't that a failure by the Mariners (and Armstrong/Lincoln specifically) to do due diligence during the interview process to not ask him some serious questions about his statistical acumen? You'd think a thorough GM interview would cover enough stuff to make it obvious that a guy was bullshitting about his stat background.
   10. Shoebo Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:57 AM (#4613396)
Ray, not so blindsided. First of all they are willing to be quoted, by name, on the record. secondly the portraits are consistent. Third, the mariners suck, and one can see the inconsistent, ad hoc approach by the moves they have made. Where there is smoke, and in this case a big steaming pile of crap for a track record.......we'll......, I'm buying at least 50% of this articles premise .
   11. Morph Posted: December 08, 2013 at 06:37 AM (#4613398)
My favorite part was the management requested practices where Mariners' pitchers would challenge hitters on their own team. That's got to be the zaniest idea conceived by a professional outfit since Monty Burns' assembled the Springfield Isotopes.
   12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 07:41 AM (#4613401)
This is a laundry list of blind-sided attacks from disgruntled ex-employees.


The Mariners were given a chance to respond and present their side of the story, and they elected not to do so. That's their right, but it does kind of void their right to complain about the piece being one-sided.
   13. DA Baracus is a "bloodthirsty fan of Atlanta." Posted: December 08, 2013 at 07:56 AM (#4613402)
You'd think a thorough GM interview would cover enough stuff to make it obvious that a guy was bullshitting about his stat background.


You're assuming the people interviewing him understand it.
   14. Posada Posse Posted: December 08, 2013 at 08:24 AM (#4613405)
Jack Z should have been fired just for the Josh Lueke debacle, which is discussed in the article.
   15. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:09 AM (#4613413)
Posts 1-6: Seriously? This is a laundry list of blind-sided attacks from disgruntled ex-employees. And at that, there's not much substance here.


From Keith Law: @keithlaw: Finding negative comments about current GMs isn't that hard. Getting them on the record ... That's another story.
   16. joeysdadjoe Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:12 AM (#4613414)
Careful what you wish for Robbie!
   17. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:16 AM (#4613415)
Wow, this is like that article about Terry Francona's crippling vicodin addiction, except if he was still the manager, and if the complaints were about baseball-related stuff.
   18. Dale Sams Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:29 AM (#4613416)
zaniest idea conceived by a professional outfit since Monty Burns' assembled the Springfield Isotopes.


100% winning percentage. And they won because of their bench depth.
   19. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:33 AM (#4613417)
It's shocking Wedge would go on the record like that. The others you can say, "yeah, they're disgruntled ex-employees" but Wedge is a respected baseball lifer who wants to manage again and has to know what he's risking here.

Also, of course, this makes the #6 org meme just age a little better. It's like a fine wine...
   20. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4613419)
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.


I guess I'm naive, but I'm kind of shocked that this describes anyone who's a GM, let alone a guy who was described as being very saber-oriented.
   21. TRBMB Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:38 AM (#4613420)
Soon to be determined the Over/Under date for Cano to moan about how bad it is with this team. I suspect quite quickly. He will regularly be unhappy as he jogs to first base. Then again, he may not care at all.
   22. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4613421)
The #6 org meme really gained its power from the comments made by the fanboys on Cameron's Mariner's blog:

Going from this:

And it’s not just Jack Zduriencik; I wouldn’t even call Jack the smartest guy in the room. Tony Blengino is scary to talk to. I’m glad he’s working on baseball talent evaluation, because otherwise I could see him being a mad scientist from a Bond movie.


to this

Zduriencik then made him “look like an ass” in front of baseball operations brass in spring training 2012 after Blengino gave a presentation on possible benefits from advances in computerized hitting data.

“He nitpicked about font sizes and column widths,” Blengino said. “He did what he always does and made fun of something he couldn’t understand.”

Zduriencik began working more from his suite overlooking Safeco Field, holding one-on-one meetings out of earshot of team offices.

“He began operating much like the Wizard of Oz, wielding his power from behind a curtain,” Blengino said. “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.”


is, I don't know, poetic?
   23. Dale Sams Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4613422)
Christ. Can you imagine what was going on behind the scenes during all those late inning meltdowns last year? Including giving up 6 in the bottom of the ninth against the Sox, where the manager signaled for the wrong reliever.
   24. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4613423)
The Mariners were given a chance to respond and present their side of the story, and they elected not to do so. That's their right, but it does kind of void their right to complain about the piece being one-sided.


One is not the other. If you've already determined that a hit piece is in progress, no amount of patiently answering "When did you stop raping your wife?" questions would change the thrust of the article. And if you're misquoted or make a mistake on the record, you could make the situation worse.

A failure to respond to interview requests does not mean that you have anything to hide, any more than taking the Fifth in court means that you're guilty.
   25. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 09:50 AM (#4613424)
Zduriencik sounds like a monster. Like, the worst possible person to manage an organization. Stupid, petty, inconsistent, vain, impetuous ...


He sounds like most GMs, or for that matter most high executives in any business, just more so.

Zduriencik then made him “look like an ass” in front of baseball operations brass in spring training 2012 after Blengino gave a presentation on possible benefits from advances in computerized hitting data.

“He nitpicked about font sizes and column widths,” Blengino said. “He did what he always does and made fun of something he couldn’t understand.”


So does this.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:28 AM (#4613439)
One thing I find hard to believe. They say he hired Ted Simmons and then mention that he hired yes men. Those two things don't really go hand in hand do they?
   27. DA Baracus is a "bloodthirsty fan of Atlanta." Posted: December 08, 2013 at 10:59 AM (#4613458)
Going from this:

to this


You missed the part before that:

As far as front offices go; you’re talking about a front office that pretty much single-handedly created the current emphasis on valuing defense in the MLB talent market. They’re already trying to figure out what the next under-valued asset is, and how to acquire it.


Juxtaposed with:

Blengino said Zduriencik became obsessed with power hitters, ignoring defense, baserunning and roster construction. He said the GM also dismissed the importance of evaluating players within the context of their contract values.

   28. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:03 AM (#4613460)
A failure to respond to interview requests does not mean that you have anything to hide, any more than taking the Fifth in court means that you're guilty.


Of course not, but if you choose not to go on the stand during a trial, you aren't allowed to complain that you didn't have the chance to present your side of the story once the verdict is in.
   29. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4613461)
He sounds like most GMs, or for that matter most high executives in any business, just more so.

This is ridiculous. I know lots of high executives in many businesses and none of the most successful ones are like this at all.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4613462)
Zduriencik sounds like a monster. Like, the worst possible person to manage an organization. Stupid, petty, inconsistent, vain, impetuous ...


He sounds like most GMs, or for that matter most high executives in any business, just more so.

You're 100% right. But most people still cling to the fantasy that senior corporate executives are highly skilled technical managers who are masters of their business, and ascend to positions of power, and wealth, through a rigorous meritocratic process. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

Senior executives are politicians, pure and simple. They rise through cliques, cronyism, backstabbing, and good PR.
   31. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:06 AM (#4613463)
The sentiment is echoed by current and past Mariners baseball operations employees beyond Wedge, who has remained silent since leaving and only reluctantly agreed to talk.

This is awkward phrasing. Wedge is no longer being silent.
   32. J. Sosa Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:06 AM (#4613464)
I don't like hatchet pieces. But... Josh Lueke.

A lot of people deserved to get fired for that.
   33. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:10 AM (#4613468)
You're 100% right. But most people still cling to the fantasy that senior corporate executives are highly skilled technical managers who are masters of their business, and ascend to positions of power, and wealth, through a rigorous meritocratic process. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.

Senior executives are politicians, pure and simple. They rise through cliques, cronyism, backstabbing, and good PR.

I totally disagree with this. There are such people but not the best ones, and certainly not the ones managing the best companies. I also think there's a difference between "senior executives" who are more likely to fit this description, and "chief executives" who are less likely to fit this description.
   34. catomi01 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:19 AM (#4613472)
Senior executives are politicians, pure and simple. They rise through cliques, cronyism, backstabbing, and good PR.


I just got promoted to a senior executive position and I resent that remark. All of my friends said I was a fantastic manager and leader after I gave them high paying cushy jobs.
   35. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:21 AM (#4613473)
Ivan: I also have interacted with a fair number of high executives, and though Zderibsdrigck takes it to extremes, most of them fit the bill.

There is an interesting problem that may be a serious threat to our society at general as time goes by, and it's this. We live in the Age of Specialization. It is no longer possible to be a Renaissance Person, an expert in many fields; the totality of knowledge has grown far, far too large to allow it. If you want to be an expert in any one field, you have to dedicate the majority of your waking hours to its pursuit. And we're talking about narrow fields here. You can't be an expert in, for instance, History. You can be well-versed in History, but the field is far too large for you to learn (and continue learning, as new knowledge is accumulated). If you want to be a certifiable expert in something, you have to narrow it down to, say, Chinese History. And preferably narrow it even further to the history of the such-and-such and so-and-so dynasties.

Now consider high-ranking business executives. I have witnessed people climb the corporate ladder and so have you; what area are these people experts in? They're experts in getting promoted. It's what they dedicate most of their time to. And they learn in Getting Promoted 101 that your performance at your job has little to do with getting promoted, and in fact being very good at your job can hinder your chances. It's about office politics. The people who climb the ladder, especially at big companies, tend to be the ones who are naturally good at office politics and devote a lot of time to its pursuit. The unfortunate but inevitable result is that you end up with corporate executives who are very good at impressing their superiors, but are not very good at actually running a business.

Now consider politics, which is an even more competitive job market than high executives. The U.S. (I am familiar only with U.S. government) is run exclusively by people whose central expertise is getting elected. They have no particular skill at actually running a country. They're skilled at attaining office and staying in office.
   36. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4613478)
I have witnessed people climb the corporate ladder and so have you; what area are these people experts in? They're experts in getting promoted.


She's certainly not in upper management, but I have said dozens of times that the head of my department has one job skill & one job skill only (as I was reminded yet again last week when I had to show her, & not for the first time, that you could have one more than website open at a time; also, I gave up long ago trying to introduce her to the concept of bookmarking) -- the ability to keep her job.

That's the only skill that matters, when you get down to it. Unfortunately.
   37. TRBMB Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4613479)
Most elite business executives are generally mixing their incompetence with their impatience as they await the opportunity to become completely worthless via election to the US Senate.
   38. greenback likes millwall Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4613480)
The people who climb the ladder, especially at big companies, tend to be the ones who are naturally good at office politics and devote a lot of time to its pursuit.

The willingness to spout buzzwords like "stats-scouting hybrid" is part of that.

The unfortunate but inevitable result is that you end up with corporate executives who are very good at impressing their superiors, but are not very good at actually running a business.

One of the aspects of running a business is hiring good people below you. I'm not sure how much I buy into this article, because from the bit I've seen of corporate executives (and of people who are on the corporate executive track), they often have strange ideas about personnel decisions. Generally these are smart folks, but they'll fall in love with job candidates that are obviously replacement level. I've got to wonder how much these disgruntled ex-employees fit that bill.
   39. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:58 AM (#4613482)
The objective message of the article seems to be that when the Mariners hired "Jack Zduriencik", what they were actually hiring was "Jack Zduriencik plus Tony Blengino", and when Tony Blengino left, the "Jack Zduriencik" entity ceased to be of any value. The evidence on the field seems to bear that out, but Tony Blengino is clearly a key source in the article.

Maybe more important is that as stated above, all these baseball lifers who hope to continue to be baseball lifers are calling out the entirety of Mariners management in this way.
   40. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4613483)
Another very underrated aspect of running a business is being able and willing to fire people who aren't performing well and/or who are negatively affecting everyone else. (It's usually an 'and'.) This goes all the way down to a business's entry level. There are four reasons why most managers are very slow to fire people who should be fired: The cost in dollars of paying unemployment or slowly building enough of a case to have it denied (varies by locale); the cost in time and energy of finding and training a replacement; fear of lawsuits if the fired person is anything other than a white heterosexual male; and discomfort with telling a person they're fired and dealing with their subsequent fury (or worse, depressed crying).

The costs of retaining a bad employee may be subtler, but they're much greater.
   41. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:00 PM (#4613485)
You can't be an expert in, for instance, History. You can be well-versed in History, but the field is far too large for you to learn (and continue learning, as new knowledge is accumulated). If you want to be a certifiable expert in something, you have to narrow it down to, say, Chinese History. And preferably narrow it even further to the history of the such-and-such and so-and-so dynasties.

I can comfortably say I'm an expert in history. So long as it's political history. Of England. As it relates to gender. In the 1620s. My next project involves taking a step way out of my comfort zone (all the way to 1640s and political identity in the performance of self) and the first few months of work will be entirely devoted to dealing with the fact that I currently know virtually none of the things I'll need to know to start the real work.

Now consider politics, which is an even more competitive job market than high executives. The U.S. (I am familiar only with U.S. government) is run exclusively by people whose central expertise is getting elected.

You might say you specialize in it.
   42. jdennis Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4613486)
I'm shocked, shocked that rich businessmen lie on their resumes, and that HR people are too stupid to catch it. Shocked!
   43. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4613487)
Touché, Greg K. Tou...ché.
   44. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:04 PM (#4613490)
Touché, Greg K. Tou...ché.

In case it wasn't clear, I agree 100% with your #35.

Well, except for the stuff particular to business, which I have zero experience with (even less than the 1640s). But I am more than willing to take your word on that. But the condition of the modern human more generally, certainly!
   45. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:05 PM (#4613491)
In the 1620s. My next project involves taking a step way out of my comfort zone (all the way to 1640s and political identity in the performance of self)


Pretty much all I know about that period in England concerns the Ranters, Levellers, Diggers, etc. You'll be keeping your vulpine paws off those folks, I trust.
   46. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4613495)
Pretty much all I know about that period in England concerns the Ranters, Levellers, Diggers, etc. You'll be keeping your vulpine paws off those folks, I trust.

It'll mostly be early 1641, pre-War, so before the crazies got too prominent. John Pym will feature prominently and I suppose he counts as a religious fanatic. But my early read on him is that, at least at this stage, he was more of a political climber than anything else. Manipulating anti-Catholic paranoia and mistrust of the King not so much in order to bring about a new religious or political order, but to force the King to make him chief minister.

More Baelish than High Sparrow. Though the Sparrow is pretty politically ambitious in his own right...but I get the sense that at his core he's a true believer.
   47. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4613500)
But my early read on him is that, at least at this stage, he was more of a political climber than anything else.
Well, chaos is a ladder.
   48. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:18 PM (#4613501)
I've been looking through old medical and scientific journals for my blog, and it's hard enough to figure out what the hell someone is talking about in the archives from 150 years ago, let alone 500 years ago. Maybe in political writing there's less ephemeral jargon than in scientific writing. But anyway, my hat's off to you.
   49. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:22 PM (#4613505)
Just to offer another perspective, maybe just maybe these guys felt comfortable speaking out because there is a perception in the industry that the M's management is a joke. Pieces like this rarely come out and when they do, it's more along the Eddie Bane-Tony Reagins kind of personal feud variety.

   50. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:28 PM (#4613510)
I've been looking through old medical and scientific journals for my blog, and it's hard enough to figure out what the hell someone is talking about in the archives from 150 years ago, let alone 500 years ago. Maybe in political writing there's less ephemeral jargon than in scientific writing. But anyway, my hat's off to you.

There are certain buzzwords 17th century politicians like to use. It may be just the lingo of the day more generally, but I'd say the most often uttered word in parliament was "divers" (diverse). As in: "Divers days ago we came before this House", or "He was set upon by divers gentleman", or "Divers slanders have been spoken". Seems to be the 17th century equivalent of "a lot".

There is a speech Dudley Carleton gave in 1626 that I've read several times and am still trying to piece together the significance of. He had just come back from a diplomatic mission to France, and he reports to parliament that if the House and the King don't start co-operating with one another things could turn out like in France where the King and people have no accord with one another. Which sets the House in an uproar during which one dude gives a long oration on the horror of wooden shoes.

The worst part is just the hand-writing. Learning unfamiliar scripts isn't too bad, but it seems like just about everyone used their own idiosyncratic script. And a shocking number of high officials essentially chicken scribbled their way through notes. Which is a real shame for the really important letters that got written in the heat of the moment without the aid of a secretary.
   51. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4613513)
but I'd say the most often uttered word in parliament was "divers" (diverse).


Bringing to mind a great fanzine title (of an Esoteric Order of Dagon publication, IIRC) I encountered back in the '70s -- "The Dismembered Aquanaut & Divers Hands."
   52. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:42 PM (#4613519)
"The Dismembered Aquanaut & Divers Hands."

I just googled that. Talk about difficult to decipher documents...the only hit I got was a forum discussion from 2004 that appeared to be a publisher's meeting for some H.P. Lovecraft slash fiction.
   53. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4613521)
Senior executives are politicians, pure and simple. They rise through cliques, cronyism, backstabbing, and good PR.


If it helps you sleep at night I guess. You'll get an occasional nitwit, and it varies by industry, but most actually are quite skilled. I realize that it can be hard to detect from below. Jealousy is an ugly trait.
   54. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 12:44 PM (#4613523)
Now consider high-ranking business executives. I have witnessed people climb the corporate ladder and so have you; what area are these people experts in? They're experts in getting promoted. It's what they dedicate most of their time to. And they learn in Getting Promoted 101 that your performance at your job has little to do with getting promoted, and in fact being very good at your job can hinder your chances. It's about office politics. The people who climb the ladder, especially at big companies, tend to be the ones who are naturally good at office politics and devote a lot of time to its pursuit. The unfortunate but inevitable result is that you end up with corporate executives who are very good at impressing their superiors, but are not very good at actually running a business.

I've definitely met such people, but I've never met such people who survive in a really strong company. A successful CEO can't function this way, or else the company will flounder. Of course there are lots of floundering companies so there are lots of incompetent CEOs, but I still can't think of a successful organization where the CEO who made or continued the success of the company got there through cronyism. This is doubly true with female executives who have a much harder time in the "old boys network". One could certainly argue for example, that Steve Ballmer got his job mainly by being a friend of Bill Gates. OTOH, Microsoft hasn't done anything since he got there. The really successful people -- Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Eiji Toyoda, Li Ka-shing, hell go back to Henry Ford, didn't get where they got because they knew how to make their boss feel good.
   55. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 01:01 PM (#4613538)
Oh boy, this coupled with the hubris of Mariners fans when he was hired - wonderful schadenfreude. Their tears taste so sweet.
   56. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4613551)
OTOH, Microsoft hasn't done anything since he got there.


Eh, they haven't been innovative, but they've made a gigantic amount of money.
   57. greenback likes millwall Posted: December 08, 2013 at 01:19 PM (#4613554)
Oh boy, this coupled with the hubris of Mariners fans when he was hired. Their tears taste so sweet.

Apparently the official line at USS Mariner is that this stuff has been common knowledge for a while. Hubris does some weird things to people.
   58. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 01:24 PM (#4613556)
Ivan: I think you're citing exceptions that prove the rule there.
   59. Swedish Chef Posted: December 08, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4613583)
One could certainly argue for example, that Steve Ballmer got his job mainly by being a friend of Bill Gates. OTOH, Microsoft hasn't done anything since he got there.

But he was there the whole time, he was a senior executive at Microsoft from the early 80's.
   60. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:18 PM (#4613598)
There are certain buzzwords 17th century politicians like to use. It may be just the lingo of the day more generally, but I'd say the most often uttered word in parliament was "divers"

They have been a problem in football for a long time...
   61. KT's Pot Arb Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:25 PM (#4613601)
Stepping away from the opportunity for everyone to blather their favorite generalizations about executives with little supporting evidence, this article is amazing and damning. Never seen so many high ranking firmer execs quoted on the record,

Maybe we now know why Cano needed 50% more (when considering tax advantages).than the Yankees offered him to goto the Ms, he had to know the organization is in sad shape and ownership is a huge problem. And why the Ms overpaid so much on this terrible deal, JackZ needs a Dayton Moore one shot season to get extended, and ownership clueless.
   62. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4613605)
Posts 1-6: Seriously? This is a laundry list of blind-sided attacks from disgruntled ex-employees. And at that, there's not much substance here.

From Keith Law: @keithlaw: Finding negative comments about current GMs isn't that hard. Getting them on the record ... That's another story.


We still have a one-sided account from ex-employees, obviously with axes to grind. That doesn't mean the accounts aren't true, but without the other side of the story we don't have any good way to test the accounts. I'm sure Jack Z and the others would have very different versions. I'm surprised people here seem willing to basically take a sandbag attack at face value, or just assume it to be true.

It means something that Wedge and Blengino went on the record, but it's also very poor etiquette and very unprofessional to criticize your ex-employers this way, and reveals bad character in itself. Here, Zduriencik and Armstrong don't have any good way to defend themselves. To roll down in the mud with Wedge and Blengino would put a stain on the team. And at the end of the day, you'll just have two very different versions with nothing really resolved.

Wedge quit on his team. Blengino by his own version of the story put together a non-representable package for Zduriencik in order to help get Zduriencik a job under false pretenses. Blengino was happy to go along with the charade when it was working out for him, and then found the moral fiber to speak out against it after he was no longer with the club.

It also doesn't really make much sense that Zduriencik knew nothing about and did not subscribe to advanced statistical analysis -- and instead used traditional stats in evaluating players -- but this fact was both (a) not figured out during the interviewing process, and (b) was not figured out later. I imagine it's fairly standard for GM candidates to have others help them putting presentations together; I don't know, but either way people who aren't able to speak intelligently about what's on their resume or CV don't often get jobs and stay in them.
   63. The_Ex Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:35 PM (#4613609)
A lot of the negative comments here are directed at Jack Z. But the story makes it seem as though the rot starts at the top. Neither Lincoln nor Armstrong look good and it seems like a confederacy of dunces.
   64. robinred Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:47 PM (#4613616)
Here is Cameron's USSM comment on the post that talks about this:

Dave on December 7th, 2013 9:11 pm
None of this has been a huge secret to people around the team. The key was getting the quotes on the record, but I’m sure Baker/Divish/etc… have heard and known all this stuff for a while. The Mariners have burned a lot of bridges over the last few years, and there’s no way all this stuff was going to stay off the record forever.


I got a kick out of this comment (not by Cameron or a mod):

>>>>For three year now I have said Jack Z has not acted like a SABR based GM but an old school scout. Its pretty clear by the moves both on and off the field he misrepresented himself to the fan base and possibly the ownership.
My hope everyone realizes Jack was old school just like Bill Bavasi so we can finally have a progressive GM who uses statistics and understands advanced metrics in Seattle. The population of Seattle ranks consistently in the top 10 in highest IQ in the country lets get a GM that represents the City of Seattle.
I’d much rather have a intelligent geek who builds a winner then a good olde boy jock who builds a loser.<<<
   65. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:50 PM (#4613617)
Next we'll hear that the exercise machines aren't really all that revolutionary after all.
   66. zonk Posted: December 08, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4613618)
Speaking intelligently about something that one truly doesn't understand isn't all that hard.

   67. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:05 PM (#4613622)
Eric Wedge can suck a fart out of my ass.
   68. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:16 PM (#4613633)
It's shocking Wedge would go on the record like that. The others you can say, "yeah, they're disgruntled ex-employees" but Wedge is a respected baseball lifer who wants to manage again and has to know what he's risking here.


As I said, he quit on his team. That has to be explained away.
   69. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4613637)
Eh, they haven't been innovative, but they've made a gigantic amount of money.

Their share price is almost exactly what it was when Ballmer took over, and that was only after a surge when he announced his retirement. Their annual profits are big in absolute terms but not in relation to the size of the company.
Ivan: I think you're citing exceptions that prove the rule there.

Well I was citing exceptions that everyone's heard of. If I cited names of successful people that no one's heard of (like well, me), it wouldn't make any sense. My experience is still that successful people manage a meritocracy, inspire their flock, and encourage dissent while crappy leaders don't.
   70. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:20 PM (#4613638)
I agree with the increased focus on specialization in all fields. At the same time, there is a growing recognition of the importance of multi-disciplinary work; that being a specialist in T'ang Dynasty history means you might miss out on the contributions that an economic historian working in 17th-century Germany might have for your specialty.

So I buck the trend in many ways, in that I am something of a generalist (though my research is definitely specialized). In part this is because I am obliged to teach everything from Stonehenge to the Taj Mahal, in part because I am genuinely interested in a broad array of fields. Plus somebody has to synthesize all the data out there.
   71. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:31 PM (#4613644)
Speaking intelligently about something that one truly doesn't understand isn't all that hard.


It is when the people in the room truly understand it. And by 2008 and where the industry was in the advanced analysis cycle, is it likely that Jack Z went through a series of interviews to get a high paying, high profile, highly important job without having to talk to anyone who understood the slightest thing about statistical analysis and advanced metrics?

Maybe. I mean, it's my belief that most manager candidates today aren't asked basic questions about which players contribute best to run scoring and when and how and how often to employ various tactical strategies, but I'd be surprised if Jack Z was given this job -- and was interviewed for it because of the package Blengino put together -- without being asked about it by someone who knew. Not shocked, but surprised.
   72. guajolote2 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4613646)
He may have been asked. He may be a great con man. Looking at last year's horrendous roster construction, Jack Z's best effort to save his job, it's obvious that Blengino is telling the truth. 4.5 WAR...FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM!
   73. bookbook Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:38 PM (#4613648)
"A lot of the negative comments here are directed at Jack Z. But the story makes it seem as though the rot starts at the top. Neither Lincoln nor Armstrong look good and it seems like a confederacy of dunces."

We've all known Lincoln and Armstrong were negatives for a long time, so little news value there. Many of us had high opinions of Jack Z, especially after the strong moves of his first two years in office.
   74. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:39 PM (#4613649)
That said, having read the article, so can everybody else involved with the Ms.

Fire the front office, keep Cano, and try to win the world series in 2016.
   75. greenback likes millwall Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4613657)
As I said, he quit on his team. That has to be explained away.

It isn't hard to interpret the article as doing just that. Wedge found himself in a toxic work environment, and he couldn't do anything to de-toxify it. So he did the only thing he could do and quit. As you say, this is only one side of the story, but your other objections aren't compelling.
   76. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:53 PM (#4613662)
At the same time, there is a growing recognition of the importance of multi-disciplinary work; that being a specialist in T'ang Dynasty history means you might miss out on the contributions that an economic historian working in 17th-century Germany might have for your specialty.

This is a good point too. As part of my preparations for studying the politics of a treason trial 1641 I actually had a meeting last week with an anthropologist (whose research areas are modern circus performers and Belizian tourism) which is opening up some lines of investigation which weren't really obvious to me before-hand.
   77. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4613667)
Fire the front office, keep Cano, and try to win the world series in 2016.


Against the Padres.
   78. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4613669)
It isn't hard to interpret the article as doing just that.


Right, which is my point.

As to hiring Wedge or Bengino again: I would never hire people who were publicly critical to this degree of their former employers. It is enough of a red flag -- a major one and pretty much fatal one, in fact -- if candidates badmouth their former employers in an interview. There are enough talented people out there that you don't need to hire such people like this.
   79. Greg K Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:03 PM (#4613674)
Just a further thought:

I'd go so far to say that the nature of knowledge these days makes inter-disciplinary work far more important than it ever was. Or more accurately has changed inter-disciplinary work from something you do yourself (like perhaps Newton investigating an entirely different field himself to contribute to understanding something) to something you require an outsider to help you with. We need specialists devoted to very narrow work if we want to expand knowledge. But we need them to be talking to each other too.
   80. greenback likes millwall Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:06 PM (#4613676)
Right, which is my point.

Your point was to impugn his credibility in this particular instance because of other actions. That really doesn't work if his statements here and his actions there are completely entwined with one another. But I should drop this now.

As to hiring Wedge or Bengino again: I would never hire people who were publicly critical to this degree of their former employers. It is enough of a red flag -- a major one and pretty much fatal one, in fact -- if candidates badmouth their former employers in an interview. There are enough talented people out there that you don't need to hire two such people like this.

Again, this isn't compelling as far as the veracity of their claims go. Either they are naive or they are so passionate about the dysfunction within the Mariners that they are willing to risk their careers to get the truth out. Or maybe they realize the rest of baseball knows just how bad things are in Seattle, and will ignore these comments. This just isn't hard to explain.

Stick to the 'this is only side' argument.
   81. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:11 PM (#4613680)
Don't worry, guys. If this article was from the other perspective, RDP would be saying the exact opposite of what he's saying now. It's all just reflexive skepticism.
   82. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:12 PM (#4613681)
Or maybe they realize the rest of baseball knows just how bad things are in Seattle, and will ignore these comments.


If the rest of baseball knows, then what was the point of these comments? Just to publicly embarrass people?
   83. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:12 PM (#4613682)
I’d much rather have a intelligent geek who builds a winner then a good olde boy jock who builds a loser.


Comments like this (part of a quoted comment from the USSM thread) annoy me. Good old boy jocks have built plenty of successful teams in the past and intelligent geeks have failed to do so at times. Yes, integrating statistical analysis into your decision making is important but it's not the background of the GM that matters, it's their ability to do their job well. I think too often GMs get evaluated on "Saber-oriented is a good hire, old school seeming is a bad hire" when that doesn't actually tell you much about how well they're actually going to do.
   84. madvillain Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:18 PM (#4613684)
Apparently the official line at USS Mariner is that this stuff has been common knowledge for a while. Hubris does some weird things to people.


I don't really have a dog in this fight but I find it so just very Dave Cameron that immediately after the story comes out he says that insiders (like himself) knew all of this already. The key was "getting quotes on record". Isn't that sorta Cameron's job? And now that he's been scooped (perhaps because he's got so much professionally and emotionally involved in the Seattle as #6 org) he comes out with the "we knew all this already" angle.

I give Cameron for starting from the bottom, but clearly the thing he does best is mix self promotion with a heavy does of telling the audience what they want to hear.
   85. Jim Wisinski Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:25 PM (#4613686)
I give Cameron for starting from the bottom, but clearly the thing he does best is mix self promotion with a heavy does of telling the audience what they want to hear.


Don't forget arrogant heavy-handed snark and sarcasm!
   86. Shock Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:28 PM (#4613687)
I agree with Ray to some extent; I think there is a lot of ######## and moaning in this article without too many specifics. It's rather he-said she-said. This is also from the WhiteJays guy, worth noting.

But at the same time -- articles like this don't get written very often; the fact that it's out there is sort of a smoke-fire kind of situation.
   87. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:34 PM (#4613690)
Isn't that sorta Cameron's job?


Key word being "sorta".
   88. Esoteric Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:39 PM (#4613692)
Listen: I have decent reasons to think that practically everything in this article is true.

It absolutely does not come out of nowhere. Not in any way. The on-the-record aspect of it is striking, but these allegations are not surprising to me either in general or in particular. Disgruntled employees? Sure, you always have to factor that part in. But this is not mere disgruntled employee b*tching.
   89. Esoteric Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:50 PM (#4613696)
Apparently the official line at USS Mariner is that this stuff has been common knowledge for a while. Hubris does some weird things to people.
It hasn't been COMMON knowledge, but it's definitely something that I've been hearing about from certain quarters for years now.

As I said before, none of this is revelatory to me. Sadly.

EDIT: Having now read through the whole thread, I see a couple of people saying "Oh, Cameron is such a self-promotional putz claiming to have known about this all along." Well, say what you want about him, but he's not lying about that.
   90. Shock Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:57 PM (#4613699)
EDIT: Having now read through the whole thread, I see a couple of people saying "Oh, Cameron is such a self-promotional putz claiming to have known about this all along." Well, say what you want about him, but he's not lying about that.


I don't read Cameron regularly, so it's hard not to remember him mostly for his embarrassing fawning over Jack Z in the early days. If he's since admitted to being wrong, I haven't seen it.
   91. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 04:59 PM (#4613703)
This is the richest bad team maybe ever.
   92. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4613706)
The really successful people -- Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, Eiji Toyoda, Li Ka-shing, hell go back to Henry Ford, didn't get where they got because they knew how to make their boss feel good.

Don't confuse entrepreneurs with executives. You absolutely have to be incredibly skilled to build a large company from the ground up.

But, once the company is mature, the skills that allow one to climb the corporate ladder bear no relations to the skills required to build and run a company. In most large companies, management is bureaucracy, and the skills needed to succeed in a bureaucracy are largely political.

   93. Tim D Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4613707)
This article has a huge sour grapes aspect to it. It is very short on specifics aside from three or four conversations. Blengino is unlikely to get another high profile baseball job; he was attached at the waist to Jack Z and has now been cut loose. Wedge is a two-time loser manager; chances he ever manages again are really small. So I think the "they must be telling the truth because they wouldn't otherwise risk talking" angle is overstated. Their ship sailed when they left Seattle. That the Mariners have been really bad and made some dubious moves is obvious, but Jack Z and Co inherited a joke of a roster. To their credit: most everybody thought Justin Smoak would hit, that Ackley would be pretty good, that Montero would hit. Figgins was a risky move but I don't think anybody expected him to be a total flame-out. They didn't get much for Fister, but nobody else thought much of Fister then either. (And apparently there are still some doubters) They have had lots of bad luck to go along with some bad moves, but they have some high profile kids. Cano will be Jack Z's Waterloo. If they can put something together and win in the next 2-3 years he will be a deity in Seattle, deservedly or not. Definitely agree with Ray on this one; we aren't hearing a remotely fair representation.

   94. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4613708)
Blengino did just pen an article for Fangraphs. It wouldn't be surprising if Cameron had the inside dope on this before hand.
   95. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:16 PM (#4613709)
This is the richest bad team maybe ever.

Richest in what way? Their third-highest-paid player is Iwakuma. Fourth is some guy like Smoak or Saunders.
   96. Tim D Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:18 PM (#4613710)
"But, once the company is mature, the skills that allow one to climb the corporate ladder bear no relations to the skills required to build and run a company. In most large companies, management is bureaucracy, and the skills needed to succeed in a bureaucracy are largely political."

Very true at times, which is why Bill Ford deserves so much credit for stepping down from the top spot and bringing in Alan Mullaly.
   97. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:22 PM (#4613714)
Very true at times, which is why Bill Ford deserves so much credit for stepping down from the top spot and bringing in Alan Mullaly.


Oh, what I'd give to have Mulally still at Boeing...
   98. PreservedFish Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:26 PM (#4613717)
Blengino by his own version of the story put together a non-representable package for Zduriencik in order to help get Zduriencik a job under false pretenses. Blengino was happy to go along with the charade when it was working out for him, and then found the moral fiber to speak out against it after he was no longer with the club.


The charitable assumption is that Blengino helped Zduriencik gussy up his application with statistics because he actually believed that Zduriencik would use those statistics, or that he, as his right-hand man, would be doing it for him. And it sounds like that happened initially, and the fact that Z brought Blengino with him to Seattle certainly attests to that.

It's not about the morals of the non-representable job application, it's that Blengino feels like he was used.
   99. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:26 PM (#4613718)
To their credit: most everybody thought Justin Smoak would hit, that Ackley would be pretty good, that Montero would hit. Figgins was a risky move but I don't think anybody expected him to be a total flame-out. They didn't get much for Fister, but nobody else thought much of Fister then either. (And apparently there are still some doubters) They have had lots of bad luck to go along with some bad moves, but they have some high profile kids.


Right. Ackley was high on many prospects lists, and Smoak was seen as sort of a good-gamble lottery ticket. Both disappointed majorly, with Smoak rebounding a little last year to turn in a decent season.

Fister, as you note, jumped a level after going to Detroit (e.g., ERA+ and K rate, etc.). As I said in the Fister thread, I wasn't sold on him after the first year of his improvement, either. To claim they were supposed to get a ton for him is not rational.

And including Pineda in the list of "they got little in return for" is really silly. That was not only a reasonable trade, but in my view a good one. Montero had his doubters at catcher, obviously, but it was not unreasonable at all to think he could hit.
   100. SteveM. Posted: December 08, 2013 at 05:27 PM (#4613719)
The worst part is just the hand-writing. Learning unfamiliar scripts isn't too bad, but it seems like just about everyone used their own idiosyncratic script. And a shocking number of high officials essentially chicken scribbled their way through notes. Which is a real shame for the really important letters that got written in the heat of the moment without the aid of a secretary


Try reading letters from Charles Sumner, the abolitionist senator from Massachusetts. Its like he wrote with a sharpie marker. I once spent an hour in the Library of Congress trying to read a one page letter from him to Hamilton Fish, Grant's secretary of state, that I am still not sure I fully deciphered. God bless the inventor of the typewriter. My new project is on U.S.-African relations in the 1960s and I am finding it so much easier to research because of the lack of handwritten documents.
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