The difference is measurable, almost to the point they are polar opposites.
Everything that former Seattle Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi wasn’t when it came to job performance and people skills, current general manage Jack Zduriencik is and more.
Bavasi could be aloof, arrogant and condescending, sometimes confrontational.
Zduriencik has an everyman quality, reflecting his 27-year climb up baseball’s ladder to the general manager’s office.
While Bavasi was criticized for ascending to his place as much by birthright as talent, Zduriencik had no silver spoons or family ties to get his foot into the game.
He’s a baseball lifer, who started as scout and worked his way up.
Another, and perhaps more telling, example of the profound difference between the two came Monday at The News Tribune.
In front of a group of sports editors and writers from around the Northwest, Zduriencik talked for an hour and answered questions about his job, the state of the Mariners, trends around baseball, possible trades, the minor league system and, yes, even the local media coverage. He seemed completely at ease, and his directness was refreshing.
“I read your stuff,” Zduriencik said. “You guys do a good job. And more often than not, I agree with what you guys write.”
The comment drew chuckles from around the room, Zduriencik included.
He said he reads it all, criticism too.
“You guys see the same things I see,” he said.
Could you imagine Lord Bavasi saying such a thing?
It’s typical honesty for Zduriencik. Sure, he’s never going to tell you about what trades his team might be trying to make. He will politely decline comment.
But in most situations, you will get an answer from him on any fair question, and there won’t be any derision in his tone.
In a roomful of people who are paid to write about his team, Zduriencik was candid about the Mariners, who are fresh off being swept in a three-game series at Safeco Field by the Texas Rangers.
He knows they are challenged offensively. He knows it’s making fans upset. It upsets him.
“It will make your hair fall out,” he said with a wide grin.
But he knows that the Mariners could be in line for more close, low-scoring games.
“When you look at our team, we have to be perfect,” he said. “Any miscue we have is going to be magnified.”
He knows the team needs a hitter. He’s known that since the winter meetings. But big bats cost big bucks.
“Do you take all of your resources and invest it one guy like (Matt) Holliday or (Jason) Bay?” he said. “Or do you invest in several other areas?”
That doesn’t mean that Zduriencik is going to stop trying to find offensive help. We never heard his cell phone ring during the session, but it was on vibrate and probably went off 30 times.
“I assure, I’ve made an enormous amount of phone calls,” he said. “Even up to this point in time, and I’ll continue to make phone calls. I’ve made several phone calls over the last three or four days.”
But that doesn’t mean we’ll have a trade soon.
“It’s like hunting season,” Zduriencik said. “We’re not in hunting season right now. No one is selling.”
Hunting season might not start for another few weeks or so. Many GMs, Zduriencik included, subscribe to the idea of the season having three parts.
The first third is for finding out what you have, the second is adding pieces to address what you don’t have, and the last is playing games.
Most teams aren’t willing to give up anything yet, even the ones that are struggling.
“Some clubs are kidding themselves and some clubs are looking to be blown away,” Zduriencik said.
But that will change and Zduriencik will be ready.
“I expect something to happen,” he said. “It might not happen now, it might not happen for a month from now. I’m certainly aware of what our strengths and weaknesses on this club are.”
One of those perceived weaknesses is designated hitter, where Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney have combined to hit .189 with one extra base hit and a .200 slugging percentage.
Zduriencik was asked about Griffey. And he took a few moments to think about it.
“You wait and see,” he said. “The one thing Ken was very explicit about this winter is that he wanted to be part of this ballclub. He wanted to be here and do whatever he could to help us.”
Right now Griffey isn’t helping. Zduriencik knows it, but he isn’t giving up hope.
“You hope he gets on track,” he said. “It’s early. It’s early for anybody. Where do we end up with Ken? We’ll see. We have to wait and see. We’ll give him a little more of a chance to produce, like any other player. We’ll see what happens.”
That’s seems fair.
Zduriencik knows ultimately that any decision in regards to Griffey will wind up with him. He’s the GM.
“It all stops here,” he said. “When you are the GM, you make the call.”