Time ran out Friday for general manager Jack Zduriencik amid the Mariners’ deeply disappointing season.
While club president Kevin Mather characterized the decision to fire Zduriencik as one aimed toward the future, he admitted: “Realistically, we wouldn’t be having this discussion if we were winning.”
Assistant general manager Jeff Kingston will replace Zduriencik on an interim basis, but he does not meet Mather’s stated preference to hire someone with previous experience as a general manager.
“I kept thinking, ‘If we can win eight out of 10, win 12 out of 15…,’” Mather said. “I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally, on the last homestand, I said, ‘We’re not going to win 12 out of 15.’
“Even if we do win 12 out of 15, I want to look longer term and get the architect and leader in place.”
Zduriencik departs after nearly seven seasons and just one year after receiving a multi-year extension.
“You have to be realistic about everything,” Zduriencik said. “You look at things the way they are. When things don’t work out, and the performances aren’t what you’d hoped they would be, then things happen.
“There are consequences to be paid. You’re accountable. If at the end of the day it doesn’t work, there are no excuses. It didn’t work. You’re the guy, as the general manager, who is responsible for the fate of the club.”
It was Mather who gave Zduriencik that extension.
“Last year was my first year (as club president),” Mather said. “I thought Jack worked hard. I thought the ballclub had made great progress. Quite frankly, I thought we had made progress all the way up the entire pyramid.
“2015 at the major-league level has been a disappointment, which caused me to pause and re-examine and say, ‘Do we have the right architect, the right leader, to do this?’ That was the change.
“Our owners like to win. Quite frankly, they’re as tired, if not more, than our fan base (at not winning). I came to the conclusion that it’s time to make a change.”
The move comes with the Mariners, after being touted in spring training as a postseason contender, are stumbling along at 59-69 going into Friday’s game, trailing first-place Houston by 12 games in the American League West.
“I met with (Zduriencik) this morning,” Mather said. “He wasn’t shocked. He thanked me for coming down. He said he would make it easy for me, and he did all the right things and said all the right things.
“The timing is never right. First of all, 2015 has been a disappointment. But this isn’t about 2015. It’s about what the Mariners are going to do in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.”
Mather said he believes that the Mariners have the resources as a franchise “to win 85 to 95 games every year.” He also said he believes that the roster’s core group of players is one capable of “playing baseball in October.”
“I expect them to be very successful going forward,” he said. “I don’t see anything that would prevent that from happening. The core is there. Whoever comes in will put the finishing touches on it.
“I expect to watch this club in the playoffs.”
Mather was present when manager Lloyd McClendon announced Zduriencik’s firing to the players before Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
“It’s always tough when you lose a family member,” McClendon said, “and we consider Jack a family member. He worked extremely hard with myself and the coaching staff as well as the players.
“It’s just been one of those years when a lot of things just have not turned out the way we thought they would.”
McClendon is under contract through next season, but his status, Mather said, will be determined by the new general manager.
“He knows that,” Mather said. “He gets it.”
McClendon said that uncertainty won’t affect his approach.
“Same as I always do,” he said. “Come out today and try to win a ballgame.”
Kingston joined the Mariners in 2009 after spending the previous nine years at San Diego, including the last seven as director of baseball operations.
Zduriencik became the club’s eighth full-time general manager on Oct. 22, 2008, in part because of his reputation for building an effective farm system in Milwaukee.
His efforts to replicate that success with the Mariners proved elusive — a point that Mather hinted at in addressing the decision to find a replacement.
“I just felt we needed a leader,” Mather said, “who can (navigate) Venezuela, the Dominican, international signings, amateur draft, player development, our six affiliates — who is managing and coaching at those levels.
“(Someone to oversee) our sabermetric and analytics guys, our coaching staff at the big-league level; who can lead us long-term and get the most out of this organization.”