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Zduriencik defends handling of Mariners staff

Zduriencik defends handling of Mariners staff
Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik talks to reporters, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, at the team's annual media briefing prior to the start of spring training baseball. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik defended his involvement in the daily operation of the ballclub on Monday after pointed remarks by former manager Eric Wedge and other past front-office employees in The Seattle Times.

Zduriencik issued the statement a day after a lengthy Times article that highlighted issues with the Mariners' front office. Wedge was quoted in the story saying Zduriencik, team president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln had meddled in the club's operation.

"I've worked for several major league organizations. Our upper management has suggestions and asks questions, just like CEOs and presidents in other organization do, all to be helpful and contribute to the goal of winning. We all want to win as soon as possible," Zduriencik said. "When there are areas that need improvement, it's my job to ask questions, suggest ideas and give direction to the field staff. When our upper management has questions or suggestions, it's my job to respond to them. I don't believe meddling is a fair portrayal."

Wedge left at the conclusion of the 2013 season when his contract expired, announcing the final weekend of the season that he could not continue to work for the organization. Wedge cited a difference in opinions on the direction of the ballclub as why he was walking away after three years on the job.

"I'm no great person, but I do care about the right things," Wedge told The Seattle Times. "I work hard to do the right thing. And what's happened here is wrong. What's happened to the players and coaches here is wrong. What's happened to this organization is wrong. It's so wrong. I can't put it any better than that. At some point in time, somebody's got to stand up to them."

Zduriencik countered Monday by saying the Mariners rebuilding plan is on track. The story came after Friday's reports Seattle and free agent second baseman Robinson Cano had agreed to a $240 million, 10-year deal.

The Mariners went 71-91 last season and haven't been in the playoffs since 2001. The team is on its third full-time manager during Zduriencik's tenure after Lloyd McClendon was hired to replace Wedge last month.

"We have never deviated from our rebuilding plan. We have stayed the course, and we now have a talented group of young players," Zduriencik said. "We are hard at work looking into every option to add to this core group, as we said we would, and we are looking forward to 2014 and beyond."

Wedge said there was "total dysfunction and a lack of leadership" within the organization. Wedge indicated that Lincoln and Armstrong were initially supportive of the rebuilding plan around younger players but later became impatient and frustrated by continued losing. Wedge told his bosses the losing could be altered by adding payroll and proven players.

"They're not going to take a chance of operating at a loss," Wedge said. "Which is fine. But come on. There's going to be a learning curve with guys right out of college."

Zduriencik said everyone in the organization is focused on putting a winning product on the field. He said his job is to ask questions, give suggestions and help direct the on-field staff. Zduriencik also said Wedge never complained of communication problems within the organization.

"Howard, Chuck, Eric and I met every five to six weeks the past couple of seasons to make sure we were all on the same page. Never once did Eric complain about our communications during those meetings. In fact, we all agreed that this was a good time to offer and share ideas," Zduriencik said. "Eric approached me numerous times throughout the year expressing his desire for a long-term contract. Even the day before he quit, Eric called a meeting with me and demanded a contract extension."
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