Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik earned some well-deserved kudos today when he was named as the recipient of the 2009 Andrew "Rube" Foster American League Executive of the Year. Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd won the Foster Award for the National League.
Zduriencik will receive the honor on Saturday at the 10th annual Legacy Awards held at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. The Legacy Awards honor the top performers in major league baseball.
"This is a tremendous honor, and I will accept it on behalf of the entire Mariners organization," Zduriencik said in a press release. "Rube Foster is a true legend in the game of baseball and to receive an award named after him and his legacy is a humbling honor. There are few things that would cause me to miss the Mariners FanFest event, but this is certainly one of them. I thank our entire baseball operations department, scouts, minor league staff and entire organization for their contributions and in receiving this award I represent all of them."
The award is named after Andrew "Rube" Foster, who was a player, manager and pioneer executive in the Negro League. He organized the Negro National League, the first long-standing professional league for African-American ballplayers (1920-31). Foster was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981, becoming the first representative of the Negro Leagues elected as a pioneer or executive.
The Legacy Awards were established by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 2000 and they annually recognizes the best Major League baseball players, managers, and executives, with awards given in the name, and spirit, of Negro Leagues legends such as Foster, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, and Buck O’Neil. The awards event recognizes both on- and off-the-field achievement with baseball awards presented to both AL and NL honorees.
It's obvious that Zduriencik is deserving of the award. He took over a moribund front office and totally restructured and remade the baseball operations, scouting and player development staff. But he also made wholesale changes to the 25-man and 40-man roster, slowly removing any remnants of the past struggles. The hiring of manager Don Wakamatsu, acquisition of Franklin Gutierrez in a major three-team, 10-player trade and the signing of Russell Branyan helped the Mariners go from 61-101 in 2008 to 85-77 in 2009.
And in this offseason, he's signed Chone Figgins, traded for Cliff Lee and signed Felix Hernandez and Franklin Gutierrez to contract extensions.
It's the second time that Zduriencik has been honored for his front-office work. In 2007, while with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was named the Executive of the Year by Baseball America. He became the first non-GM to ever win the award.