Zduriencik looks to keep 'Super' success in Seattle
After the Seahawks won a Super Bowl, the Mariners' GM hopes to find similiar results
It was the morning after the night before, and Jack Zduriencik was en route from Las Vegas to Peoria, Ariz. A Seahawks cap, now more stylish than ever, covered his otherwise naked scalp. His mode of transportation wasn't a crowded bandwagon, but something motorized that would put him at his destination without much delay. The man in charge of making Seattle smile again come October was in a hurry. The sooner Zduriencik arrived in the suburb of Phoenix, the sooner his baseball season would begin.
And the sooner it began, the sooner he'd know how it would end, and well, you know.
A degree of urgency pulsed within the Mariners' general manager as he drove Monday, something akin to the sensation that prompts a young and unproven player to rush to training camp weeks before his attendance is required. Perhaps something will enhance his chance if he reports early and does one extra wind sprint or finagles six extra rounds of BP.
The stated reason for Jack and Debbie Zduriencik to be on the road less than 12 hours after Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 was this -- the Mariners' Spring Training complex in Peoria has been renovated, expanded and made more appropriate for a team that has renovated and expanded ideas about its immediate future.
"It's all new," Jack said through his cell phone. "We have to get situated," as if 10 days were the minimum required for adjusting to temporary living.
More than that, once Zduriencik is in baseball surroundings, perhaps something will come to him, a new idea, a novel notion. And perhaps Zduriencik will make yet another improvement to enhance the chance the Seattle baseball franchise will visit his game's final episode as the Seahawks did.
Not that the Seahawks' demolition of the Broncos Sunday has him pie-in-the-skying. But Zduriencik recognizes 2014 could evolve into a special year for the baseball team that shares a cityscape with the Super Bowl champions. Though he never used the words or the phrasing of Russell Wilson during his mobile chat Monday, "Why not the Mariners?" Why can't they find a Northwest Passage to late October?
Even before the quick safety on Sunday night, the general manager knew the potential existed, he knew some pieces were in place and that some new ones might be imported before Spring Training closes. So, indeed, why not the Mariners?
"What the Seahawks did was exciting and very inspirational," Zduriencik said. "They had their plan. They worked at it. They have young talent. And it worked ... I'm not saying we're at the same point. A lot of things would have to go right. We have a lot of young players who have to take the next step."
Then with neither a "but" nor regard for the calendar, Zduriencik said, "This is spring, and hope springs eternal."
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The calendar has not been dismissed by Zduriencik. Indeed, he often refers to timing, as in "timing is everything." The Mariners signed Robinson Cano because of a need for offense and a second baseman and because "the time was right to make a major commitment." Zduriencik worked for the Mets in the '80s when the club brought in Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter to guide and influence the spate of young talent it had developed. He considers Cano the kind of player "our young players can lean on."
He had watched the Tigers patiently develop young talent while losing 225 games between 2002 and 2003 and, once that talent had been nurtured, bring in Miguel Cabrera and then Prince Fielder. It was the proper time.
The Mariners had Felix Hernandez as the foundation of their rotation.
"But we didn't have that player for our offense," Zduriencik said. "Now we do with Cano."
Moreover, Zduriencik hired a manager who monitored the Tigers' evolution from a team of 225 losses to two-time American League champions -- Lloyd McClendon.
"He's had that experience," the general manager said. "It just doesn't happen on its own."
He notes the upgrade of the facility in Peoria, the opening of a new baseball academy in the Dominican, the signing of Cano, the appointment of McClendon, the acquisitions of Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, John Buck and Willie Bloomquist and the presence of Hernandez. And now the Seahawks' championship. The Mariners are trying to make this their time.
"A lot of positive developments and influences," Zduriencik said. "The players see that we're doing it right and it makes them think positively. It has impact."
Zduriencik thinks of the Seahawks' success, but recognizes the reality of the situation.
"Of course, I'm not foolish enough to say we'll have the same results," he said. But he also notes how he had been urged to deal Hernandez a few years back. "The way I saw it, teams are always looking for a starting pitcher to get them to the World Series ... We already have one."
Just in case.
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.