Despite disappointment, Zduriencik expects no-quit finish
GM wants Mariners to play with 'something to prove' through end of 2015
ARLINGTON -- Sitting in his general manager's suite overlooking the field at Globe Life Park, Jack Zduriencik acknowledged his disappointment over the Mariners' performance so far this season, but he said he wasn't getting caught up in reports that his time with the club may be running out.
In his seventh year as the head of Seattle's baseball operations, Zduriencik was among the many who felt this would be a breakthrough season for a club looking to get to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Instead, with six weeks remaining, the Mariners are 56-65, 10 games back of the surprising Astros in the American League West and 7 1/2 back of the Angels for the final spot in the AL Wild Card chase, with six teams between them and the Halos. Seattle opens a six-game homestand Friday, beginning with three games against the White Sox.
But Zduriencik expects his club to play hard to the finish line, and he vows to do the same in his position, regardless of speculation that change could be coming.
"Everybody's disappointed," Zduriencik said. "But it's not a time to quit. It's not a time for a player to say, 'Well, you know what? I'm not having a good year.' It's time for a player to say, 'I've got six weeks left to go. I've got something to prove here.'
"If not, then that's even more disappointing. My take on it is, you've got games to play. You need to play it to the best of your ability every single day. You never know. You never know."
No one knows either if the Mariners will make changes a year after they surprised the baseball world by going 87-75 and missing a Wild Card spot by one game in manager Lloyd McClendon's first season.
Fingers are always pointed when expectations aren't met and many are pointed now at Zduriencik, but he insists he's paid no attention and remains focused on doing whatever is going to help the club moving forward.
"Now, some things may not work out. Some things get disappointing," Zduriencik said. "Some things work out real well. But the job that you have to do as a general manager is just to continue to do what you know is right, and I try to be very encouraging to the staff down there. I try to be very encouraging to the players. I try to say, 'Hey, we're behind you. We're in your corner,' because they know. A player knows when he's not performing.
"It's a tough business, a tough job. These guys have enough pressure on them every single day that they don't need to be looking at the general manager who's panicking."
Zduriencik believes there's a good nucleus in place with Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager anchoring the franchise and youngsters like Taijuan Walker, Carson Smith, Ketel Marte and Brad Miller ready to take the next step.
And Zduriencik stands firmly behind McClendon, the manager he hired in November 2013.
"I like Lloyd a lot, and I think Lloyd is a good manager," Zduriencik said. "I think what's happened with Lloyd is we've had underperforming players, in a nutshell, and that ties your hands. You're a genius when you've got five starters throwing real well and a lockdown bullpen. When that doesn't happen, it's easy to point a finger and say, 'Well, he didn't do this or he didn't do that.'
"There's responsibility for everything for everybody," Zduriencik said, "but at the end of the day, when players don't perform to the level you think they can or should, and there's weaknesses here and there because of a lack of performance, it stresses everybody. Everybody looks bad. The players look bad. The front office looks bad. The manager doesn't look as good as he should. But if your lineup is performing, it's easier to be a good manager."
That has been true as well with the bullpen. In 2014, McClendon seemed to always make the right moves with his relievers. But veteran closer Fernando Rodney couldn't duplicate last year's All-Star season, and nearly every member of the group has underperformed except Mark Lowe, who was dealt to Toronto to bring back some young talent at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I think all of us are disappointed in the lack of production," Zduriencik said. "We can point fingers, and I don't want to do that today to where it may have all started, but I think you look around ... even some of the guys we moved, they're sitting in the Minor Leagues with another ballclub. It looked like a year ago they were going to be big pieces going forward.
"The bullpen is the most unpredictable piece that you will have in any given year. From the fact that the entire bullpen for the most part hasn't performed to the level we would have liked is very disappointing. Now, hopefully they've grown. Hopefully they get through it, and the ones that are going to be here hopefully will be better a year from now."