- Jorge Arangure Jr.
This story appears in the May 16, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
IN THE SPRING OF 2010, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik found himself in the unique situation of having to downplay his own accomplishments. A reporter in Peoria, Ariz., was lauding Zduriencik's off-season moves, implying that he was a genius and that his team was on the rise. Zduriencik was trying to temper expectations. That off-season, the Mariners had signed third baseman Chone Figgins and traded for ace lefthander Cliff Lee, two of the biggest additions to any team that winter, moves that instantly turned the M's into AL West faves. But Zduriencik didn't like the front-runner position. "I thought we'd be competitive if we were healthy," Zduriencik says now. "But I still felt we needed a middle-of-the-order bat."
His worst fears were soon realized. The Mariners struggled throughout the season, finishing last in the majors in home runs and runs scored, ending up in the AL West basement. The embarrassment didn't end there. The legendary Ken Griffey Jr. was reportedly caught sleeping in the clubhouse during a game, Lee was traded to the Rangers in July when it was clear the team was not in position to compete for a playoff spot, and manager Don Wakamatsu was relieved of his duties in August.
As the Mariners may find out, it's never easy to trade a franchise icon, even if it's the right thing to do.