By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — A season that began for Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik with a need to show progress in order to keep his job produced a multi-year extension Tuesday after the most casual of negotiations.
The deal came together quickly Tuesday over lunch at a downtown restaurant with club president Kevin Mather and … well, let Mather explain the details.
“It was as simple as that I had lunch scheduled with him,” Mather said, “and we were talking about 2015. … It was a short discussion. I said, ‘Jack, do you like it here? Are we treating you OK? Are you enjoying your job?’
“He said, ‘I love it here, and my family loves it here.’ And I said, ‘Stay.’ He had a big smile on his face, and I said, ‘I guess that’s a yes.’ It was that (easy) literally. It wasn’t much of a discussion.”
A formal announcement came less than two hours later in a release that, in keeping with club policy on such matters, was notably skimpy on details. It said merely that Zduriencik had agreed to a multi-year extension.
That means, at minimum, through the 2016 season.
“I’m excited,” Zduriencik said. “I’m happy to be here a few more years. I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the people we have in place. It hasn’t always been easy.
“I think we put a plan in place, and you do what your gut instincts tell you to do. Where we’re at right now, we’re in a good spot as an organization. Our fans have been very patient, and I really thank them for that.
“I thank ownership for their vote of confidence.”
The move came as the Mariners look to complete a renaissance season by reaching postseason for the first time since 2001. They began Tuesday at 71-59 and holding a one-half-game lead for the final wild-card spot.
“We’re on our way to being what we want to become,” Zduriencik said, “and that’s a world champion. We have a way to go to get there, but we also have pieces and (more pieces) that are going to help us are coming.”
Zduriencik is completing his sixth season as the club’s general manager and executive vice president for baseball operations. The club’s current position offers a stark contrast to a year ago.
Former manager Eric Wedge made a messy exit that escalated into a soap opera when the Seattle Times published a story in December that effectively characterized the Mariners as a dysfunctional organization under Zduriencik.
The story, which quoted Wedge and other former employees, came out on the eve of the Winter Meetings and caused a stir within the industry. It also coincided with negotiations with free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano.
Zduriencik and the Mariners eventually landed Cano with a mammoth $240 million deal over 10 years. That seemed to reset the franchise after four straight losing years.
It also created an atmosphere in which Lloyd McClendon, the current manager, could jokingly characterize his relationship with Zduriencik by saying: “We’re probably as dysfunctional as dysfunctional can get.”
Zduriencik acknowledged the ride hasn’t always been easy.
“For ownership to be patient … it’s been a tough couple of years,” he said. “No question. Let’s not kid ourselves. But they’ve been patient, and I appreciate that. I think everyone in this organization appreciates that.”
Mather said Zduriencik never asked about his contract.
“He’s always looked long term,” Mather said. “None of our conversations have been, ‘Well, let’s talk about this for the next five days or the next two months of the season.’
“He’s always talked about ’15 and ’16 and ’17, the drafts.”
Zduriencik is still looking ahead after 35 years in major-league baseball, which included time with the Mets, Dodgers, Pirates and Brewers before he was hired Oct. 22, 2008 by the Mariners.
“If you really look at this objectively,” he said, “we put a plan in place. We didn’t deviate from it. … We’re in a good spot right now. We want to be better. We want to continue to grow, and we’ll do that.
“But I think ownership has lived up to their commitment to be patient. We’ve lived up to our commitment of putting a competitive club on the field. It’s all come together nicely.”