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Solid Choices, Big Chances 'Justify' Mariners GM Contract Extension

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AP Photo
Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik visits on the field prior to a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets, Tuesday, July 22, 2014 in Seattle.

The Mariners have made some solid choices and taken some big chances this year. It all appears to be paying off as they continue to be in the wild card playoff hunt.

This week, the team’s owners agreed to a multi-year contract extension with general manager Jack Zduriencik. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel calls it a "symbolic gesture" that's "justified," even if it has some fans rolling their eyes.

'Symbolic Gesture'

Details of Zduriencik's contract extension are unclear. But Art says the length and exact amount don't really matter. He calls it a "symbolic gesture."

"Jack serves at pleasure of the ownership," Art said. "Regardless of the length of his contract, he can be dismissed. The Mariners have eaten far bigger player contracts than whatever will be on the balance of Jack Zduriencik's deal now."

Timing Questionable

Art does find it odd that the general manager's contract would be extended in the middle of the season.

"Fans say, 'Wait a minute, the season isn't over yet. We don't know how this September is going to play out.' I think that's true as far as the season goes but it doesn't really matter in the big picture," he said. "I believe ownership is convinced that there are enough young, quality prospects in the farm system to justify keeping Jack."

Better Than Bavasi?

"If they wanted to get rid of Jack, they would've done it after last season because his five-year record, oddly enough, is exactly the same as his predecessor Bill Bavasi," Art said.

"Bavasi was derided by many fans and certainly a lot of baseball critics as incompetent. And Jack didn't improve on that record over his five years. But it's not quite a fair assessment simply because Bavasi inherited problems and Jack inherited some of Bavasi's problems.

"The future does look bright because Jack has populated the Major League roster with some quality people."

More Hits Than Misses

Art says after years of disappointing trades and personnel decisions, Zduriencik seems to have hit his stride this year. His biggest coup? Cano.

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Credit Ted S. Warren / AP Photo
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AP Photo
Robinson Cano, left, waits in the wings with Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik.

"You've got to give him a lot of credit for persuading ownership to pay that ridiculous amount of money they did to Robinson Cano ($240 million over 10 years)," Art said. "He's certainly been worth it this year and will probably be for a couple of years. Ten years down the road, maybe not so much but we're worrying about the here and now."

Art points out that the other free agent acquisition Zduriencik made was closer Fernando Rodney.

"He has really solidified the bullpen, which was Lloyd McClendon's intent as manager. And Zduriencik has to be given credit for McClendon. I think he's a legitimate candidate for American League Manager of the Year and has done very, very well on multiple fronts."

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Credit Tony Gutierrez / AP Photo
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AP Photo
Seattle Mariners Executive Vice President & General Manager of Baseball Operations Jack Zduriencik, left, talks with manager Lloyd McClendon, right.

"The Mariners have also received solid contributions from players like Mike Zunino at catcher, left fielder Dustin Ackley, shortstop Chris Taylor and, now, rookie pitcher James Paxton," Art said. "These guys are all contributing to where the Mariners are now — well over .500 and in the wild card playoff hunt.

"Those additions, along with future prospects in the Minor League system, justify Jack having been given this extension."

"Jack has done well to get the team where they are," Art said. "And even if they flop, the Mariners could still get rid of him and all they're going to do is lose money and a little credibility with fans. But there's not much left."

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Art Thiel and Sportspress Northwest have just published a book on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The book chronicles Wilson's time in Seattle, his road here and how coach Pete Carroll has helped him succeed. "Russell Wilson: Standing Tall" can be ordered at Amazon.com. The soft-cover book can be found at Barnes and Noble and other bookstores. A hard-cover version at Costco beginning Sept. 1, 2014. 

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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