"No-nonsense" Jack Zduriencik faces many decisions as he takes over as Mariners GM
As he takes his first GM job after 25 years as an underling — the last 10 directing the Milwaukee Brewers' scouting department to great acclaim — Zduriencik succinctly summed up his philosophy of putting together a team. "Talent. In a nutshell, talent works."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Jack Zduriencik, who has made his baseball reputation as a scouting guru, was asked Friday to give a scouting report on his own administrative style.
"I'm a 24/7 guy," he replied. "I'm a little no-nonsense. I like to get right down to it; there's a job to be done here, let's not waste each other's time. I like decisions."
The Mariners' new general manager, introduced at a Safeco Field news conference Friday morning, is faced with myriad decisions as he tries to turn around a Seattle team that lost 101 games.
Zduriencik deferred most of them, saying repeatedly that he needs to talk to his baseball-operations staff before making judgments on personnel (both player and office) and other key issues.
"I will be in the process of gathering information from this point forward," he said.
But Zduriencik, 57, offered a vision of better times ahead for the M's.
"We're going to build this organization and try to compete, and we will compete, with the best clubs in baseball," he said.
As he takes his first GM job after 25 years as an underling — the last 10 directing the Milwaukee Brewers' scouting department to great acclaim — Zduriencik succinctly summed up his philosophy of putting together a team.
"I'd love to have guys with good makeup and good character, committed to the city and the ballclub. But when all is said and done, talent wins."
Zduriencik's first order of business — besides finding a home in Seattle, a task his wife of 26 years, Debbie, is heading up — is hiring a manager.
He said he expects to begin having conversations with and about potential candidates "within the next couple of days." Zduriencik acknowledged that one of them will be with Ned Yost, recently fired Brewers manager. Yost has expressed strong interest in the job.
"I have a great relationship with Ned," Zduriencik said. "He's a great friend and did a nice job for us. ... I'll have conversations with him, yes."
As for Jim Riggleman, who managed the Mariners after John McLaren was fired in June, Zduriencik said he has developed "a professional friendship" as their paths crossed over the years.
"I'll talk to Jimmy," he said. "I had a conversation with Jimmy this past week; I've known him a long time. I'd be curious to hear what everyone has to say about how things went after Jimmy took over."
In an interesting twist, the Washington Nationals announced their coaching staff Friday, and Riggleman was named as bench coach for manager Manny Acta.
But reached by cellphone, Riggleman said that managing the Mariners is still his top priority. He said Nationals GM Jim Bowden will release him from the coaching job if the Mariners retain him as manager.
"I'm still hoping I get some good news from the Mariners," he said. "I'd love to come back and continue what we tried to build on. ... Right now, I'm manager of the Mariners."
Asked what he will be looking for in a manager, Zduriencik said: "Someone who has a short-term and a long-term picture. Someone with energy, vast baseball experience, someone we think is a leader and we'd have confidence as manager running our team, and be good for the community as well."
Added Zduriencik: "I want a comprehensive plan from them [candidates] to tell me exactly how they can put the Seattle Mariners in the World Series, and that's our goal."
Zduriencik said he has no concerns about how much autonomy he will be getting in light of an mlb.com article earlier this month in which team president Chuck Armstrong indicated the new GM would have less power than predecessor Bill Bavasi.
Armstrong said in the article that the new GM would operate in a "collaborative and inclusive" manner in his working relationship with CEO Howard Lincoln and Armstrong.
"To sit here and say I'm going to do it all myself would be foolish," Zduriencik said. "But I know these two gentlemen have entrusted their confidence in me.
"As we step forward, I'm going to go to them with recommendations and ask their input. I feel very confident I'm going to have as much autonomy as most people in baseball."
Said Lincoln: "This is a tough, seasoned executive. He's been around the game a long time. I have tremendous confidence in him. Chuck and I are here to help him, and certainly we'll provide financial resources. But let me be clear to all of you: Jack Zduriencik is the man who is going to be making the baseball decisions for the Seattle Mariners."
Zduriencik wouldn't give a timetable for the Mariners revival, but he said "our goal is to be as competitive as quickly as possible."
Zduriencik said no decisions have been made on whether he'll retain members of the Mariners' baseball operations staff, including scouting director Bob Fontaine. It appears likely that Lee Pelekoudas, whose stint as interim GM ended Friday, will remain.
On a sentimental note, Zduriencik remembered his father, John, who worked in a steel mill in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, by day, and cut hair at a barbershop in their hometown of New Castle, Penn., by night.
"Big John, they called him," Zduriencik said. "He was a very popular guy in my hometown."
John Zduriencik died in 1993. Jack's 89-year-old mother, Bernice, still lives in New Castle.
"She's still driving," he beamed. "She can't wait to come to Seattle."
Asked what his father would tell him as he embarks on the biggest challenge of his career, Zduriencik chuckled.
"You'd better win, Jack."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 8:27 PM
Catcher Gregg Zaun retires after 16 seasons