If you had an electric Listenometer that lit up when everybody in the room was tuned in to each of a speaker'ês words, the device would'êve been blinding Thursday when Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners' general manager, took the stage at Safeco Field.
The occasion was the annual January Seattle Mariners press orientation. Each speaker (scouts, coaches, etc.) from the club'ês front-office brain trust was engaging and somewhat informative. But Zduriencik has emerged as The Man of the organization, if only because of the way he continues to enrich the team with players many fans might've only dreamed would ever play for (or stay with) the M's.
Lately Jack-Z has merely: signed one-time Cy Young-award-winning lefty Cliff Lee; re-signed Felix Hernandez, whose feats need no belaboring here; acquired fleet, defense-oriented infielder Chone Figgins; and extended to seemingly 'êforever'ê the contract of budding-star center-fielder Franklin Gutierrez. Each of these moves strengthens the club now and for the immediate future. If luck holds, the acquisition of defensive specialist Casey Kotchman for first-base chores also could help the M'ês win a division that all team officials fear has improved.
And yet Zduriencik managed to say with a straight face that "the game isn't played in the offseason."
Earlier, just as inexplicably, he said: "At this moment in time we haven't proven anything. We're still the third-best team in the division."
Actually, the M's prior to the April 5 opener in Oakland are tied with the A's, Angels and Rangers for first and last place. To downplay Seattle's chances would seem to be a deliberate contradiction of the 2010 M's slogan: "Believe Big!"
Zduriencik, in any case, insisted that "we're still knocking on doors and listening to phone calls," mostly in an effort to fetch what he called a "versatile" right-handed hitter.
Other bullet points:
- Ken Griffey Jr. has lost what trainer Rick Griffin estimated at six or seven pounds and has fully recovered from last fall's knee surgery.
- Most oft-mentioned third, fourth and fifth starters: Ryan Rowland-Smith, Doug Fister and Ian Snell.
- Consensus second-baseman of the (perhaps near) future: Dustin Ackley, the wunderkind from last year'ês draft.
- Fully healed from hip surgery: catcher Rob Johnson, who attended the event.
- Evidence of possible adversity waiting to happen: the fact that, in every reference to sometime-bad-boy acquisition Milton Bradley, manager Don Wakamatsu identified the talented but mercurial outfielder with a reverently spoken "Milton."