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Originally published Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 8:43 PM

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Larry Stone

Jack Zduriencik to return as Mariners general manager

After a season that went from bad to worse, Zduriencik will face the task of trying to restore confidence in a franchise that slid backward after a promising 2009.

Seattle Times baseball reporter

Jack Zduriencik began this season as the toast of baseball, hailed for masterminding the Mariners' 2009 revival, universally admired for his savvy blend of old-school scouting smarts and sabermetric open-mindedness.

He ends the season receiving a vote of confidence from Mariners team president Chuck Armstrong assuring that he will, indeed, retain his job.

It took a heap of disarray and disappointment to get from Point A to Point B. This Mariners season has been a laboratory study of what happens when underachievement, turmoil, bad luck and a poorly executed game plan all collide in a climate of unreasonably high expectations.

The resulting maelstrom cost six members of the organization their jobs during this season, but Zduriencik will not be one of them.

"He's going to be back. We're not even contemplating changing general managers," Armstrong said Tuesday. "Jack Zduriencik is our general manager. In Jack we trust — isn't that what the button says?"

That cheery slogan hearkens back to the days when Zduriencik could do no wrong — as opposed to the current climate, when it seems the Mariners can do little right. But retaining Zduriencik is the sensible, and correct, response to this disastrous season.

Certainly, Zduriencik has had a rough season, as verified in the standings every day. Many of his offseason personnel moves have not worked out, and the Josh Lueke aspect of the Cliff Lee trade was clearly mishandled. That's above and beyond the ongoing question (the answer to which will be revealed over time) of whether the Justin Smoak package he took from the Rangers was superior to the one offered by the Yankees, topped by Jesus Montero.

But I still remember the Jack Zduriencik who was hailed as a genius after a series of moves that helped turn the Mariners from 101 losses to 85 wins in his first season. I do believe that good things are happening in the realm of player development. I think the Mariners have been victimized by a perfect storm of crises across the board.

In other words, I believe Zduriencik deserves more than two seasons to execute the turnaround of the mess of a team he inherited. I still think those traits mentioned in the first paragraph were not a figment of anyone's imagination.

It's obvious that Zduriencik will occupy a scorchingly hot seat, with little tolerance for another setback-marred season. But as bleak as things look now, Zduriencik does have a track record in making dramatic advancements out of seeming hopelessness. Just look at 2009.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Zduriencik said he was not concerned about his job security, even as many around baseball speculated he was in trouble.

"I wasn't thinking about that," he said. "I have a job to do, and I'm trying to do it the best I can every day. That's where my focus has been. I'm trying to think short-term and long-term, and carry out the plan."

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Even if the Mariners' grand plan seemed to be derailed this season.

"I said all along, even when I got this job, this was going to be a challenge," he said. "This year was a disappointment; all of us had high expectations. We needed a lot of things to go right, and fall into place the correct way.

"What we have to do is continue to build. We've done a lot of positive things in terms of acquiring talent and building the minor-league system. If you look underneath the surface, there are some nice things going on."

It was Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln who, three years ago to the day, made the decision to retain Bill Bavasi and noted, "It's so disruptive to an organization to change general managers."

That doesn't always have to be the case — and keeping Bavasi turned out to be a mistake, paving the way for Zduriencik's arrival. But in this instance, the Mariners have had enough disorder without adding a search for a GM to their to-do list.

Next season, however, Zduriencik needs to grab hold of those "nice things underneath the surface" and bring them into full view of a fed-up fan base.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

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About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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