== The Beancounter who “Gets It”? Maybe! ==
I had not focused much on the January 24 article on mlb.com in which new Mariner President Kevin Mather explained his approach to his new job.
Most folks had focused on how baseball legend Tony LaRussa had applied for the job — actually sent a cover letter and resume! — but was not even given an interview by Mariner Chairman Howard Lincoln.
Or focused on how Mather’s prior job title — Executive Vice President for Finance and Ballpark Operations — seemed to dovetail perfectly with the “business as usual” Mariner ownership priorities of “not risking much” and “providing a nice experience at the park.”
And Mather’s comments in the mlb.com article easily could have been par-for-the-course corporate-speak platitudes.
We didn’t know.
But then — immediately after Mather took over on February 1 — came the jolt through MLB rumor mill: the M’s were “back in business” and were quite possibly ready to sign both Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney (for multi-year deals at not-insignificant money).
And now we know that Rodney’s signing is imminent and a Cruz signing is reportedly very much within the realm of likely.
And Cruz would be coming in as the fourth new bat. After adding one of the top 15 or so hitters in the whole game, a guy with 30+ bomb potential, and a 26-year-old with upside.
This at the time when the usual excitement is giving Endy Chavez a non-roster invite to spring training. Oh, yeah, they did that, too, but, you know …
So let’s go back and see what Mather had to say:
- “win more games and everything else happens a lot sooner”
- “the president’s role is to provide resources” and, then, essentially, get out of the way
- He’s “not a baseball guy” and won’t be telling Jack Zduriencik how to run baseball operations
- “I asked Jack, ‘Where are we? Where are your holes? What were your priorities this offseason? Is there still value out there?”
- “[Zduriencik] said, ‘I just want the flexibility to have conversations.’ I told him I’m working on that and he does have that.”
- “We need to have a longer-term vision. That’s where I think I can add value. If we have a hole that needs filling, it’s no fun losing. Let’s fill the hole and we’ll find the resources.”
- “And we need to win more baseball games.”
Maybe, just maybe, Mather’s background as the money-and-ballpark guy didn’t train him to think only about balancing the bottom line and making the legendary “soccer moms” comfy.
Maybe Mather’s background as the money-and-ballpark guy gave him a front-row seat to see what happens when attendance per game drops almost perfectly in half between 2001 and 2013 (from 44,000 to 22,000).
The “back in business” surge certainly seems to indicate as much.
And the other thing to conclude is: Zduriencik is his guy for now.
Apparently Mather ticked off a list of the young talent (although it’s not clear if the reporter supplies the “key youngsters like …” list) and gave credit to Z for bringing them in. And he says, if they are what we think they are, then “we’re going to have a long run of very good baseball teams.”
A guy who wants to build his business model around winning more games, giving his baseball people the resources to do it, and then getting out of the way?