M’s Zduriencik fires back at critics

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Seattle Mariners fired back Monday morning at two disgruntled former employees over their allegations of meddling and incompetence among the club’s top executives.

General manager Jack Zduriencik issued a statement on the first day of the Winter Meetings, in hopes of minimizing fallout from the article, which appeared in Sunday’s editions of The Seattle Times.

The article painted a grim picture of disarray in the club’s upper management in assertions by ex-manager Eric Wedge, and Tony Blengino, who served as a special assistant to Zduriencik for statistical analysis.

Zduriencik’s statement categorically denied allegations that he, chairman and chief executive officer Howard Lincoln and president and chief operating officer Chuck Armstrong engaged in meddling.

“I have worked for several major league organizations,” Zduriencik said in the statement. “Our upper management has suggestions and asks questions, just like CEOs and presidents in other organizations do, all to be helpful and contribute to the goal of winning.”

The Mariners recently jolted the baseball world by agreeing to terms with free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano on a 10-year contract for $240 million. That deal should become official later this week.

Numerous reports also link the Mariners to several other top free agents and attractive trade targets as they seek to reverse a run of four straight losing seasons.

Zduriencik’s statement sought to shift focus to those efforts.

“Over the years,” it began, “we have chosen to take the high road in talking about former Mariners’ personnel. It hasn’t always been easy, but we felt it was important to do so, not just for the club but also for the individual.

“And in every case, it proved to be the right way to handle things. However, we believe the comments made by former members of our organization that appeared in the Sunday Seattle Times require a brief response.”

Wedge turned down a contract extension late in the season, preferring to quit because of what he characterized in The Times article as a “total dysfunction and a lack of leadership.”

That dysfunction, Wedge said, included interference with routine managerial duties.

Zduriencik’s statement contends Wedge faced nothing out of the ordinary.

“When there are areas that need improvement,” Zduriencik’s statement said, “it’s my job to ask questions, suggest ideas and give direction to the field staff.

“When upper management has questions or suggestions, it’s my job to respond to them. I don’t believe meddling is a fair portrayal.”

The statement also addressed Wedge’s irritation at the suggestion of implementing extra on-field early practice for young players late in the season.

Wedge said the club’s trainers warned the players were too worn out for the extra work to be beneficial. Zduriencik disagreed.

“That suggestion was mine,” the statement said. “Everyone in the baseball department thought this would be a good teaching time to help us improve our fundamentals with a young team and help set the tone for spring training.”

Blegnino was highly critical of Zduriencik’s management style, characterizing it as “intimidating, manipulating, and pitting people against one another. Berating them for no particular reason.”

Zduriencik’s statement seemed to dismiss Blegnino, whose contract was not renewed for 2014, as little more than a disgruntled former employee.

“I can also say that our current statistical analysis group is doing excellent work,” the statement said. “Our dedicated staff and the tools they are using are a key component in our decision-making process, and are light years ahead of where we’ve been.

“I am engaged with their work on a daily basis and very excited in the improvements made. We have never deviated from our rebuilding plan. We have stayed the course, and we now had a talented group of young players.

“We are hard at work looking into every option to add to this core group, as we said we would, and we are looking forward to 2014 and beyond.”

More in Sports

Former boxing champion Jake LaMotta dies at the age of 95

Robert DeNiro won an Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta in the film “Raging Bull.”

Jackson tops Kamiak 3-1 in Wesco 4A girls soccer clash

A pair of late goals lift the T-wolves over the Knights in a matchup of state contenders.

As Seahawks’ offense struggles, defense continues to dominate

Seattle’s star-studded defense must overcome an offense that has scored only one TD this season.

Poll: Help us plan this week’s high school football coverage

Help us decide which high school football game to highlight in Saturday's… Continue reading

Tuesday’s prep results and links

Here are Tuesday’s prep scores and links: BOYS SOCCER Northwest 1B/2B Conference… Continue reading

UW safety Turner making plays in expanded role

Ezekiel Turner has been a standout on special teams, but his role on defense is expanding, too.

M’s miss chance to gain ground, fall to Rangers 3-1

Texas scores twice in the 8th as Seattle fails to pick up ground in the AL wild-card race.

Is it the end of the line for Iwakuma with the Mariners?

Seattle manager Scott Servais says he ‘can’t imagine’ the starter will pitch again this season.

Tuesday’s prep stars of the night

Mia Chang, Jackson swimming Chang, a freshman, registered a pair of state… Continue reading

Most Read