By Brady Henderson
What a difference a week makes – or in this case, six games.
Things were looking up for the Mariners entering their four-game series against the Indians last Friday. They had just taken two of three from the Yankees in New York and were 5-0-1 in their last six series, climbing into second place in the AL West and pulling to within a game of .500 in the process.
A six-game losing streak has changed the outlook.
It’s also reignited questions about general manager Jack Zduriencik’s job security.
“I just got a text today from a senior front-office guy in another organization that said, ‘I hear Jack Z’s seat in Seattle is getting hotter by the day,'” ESPN’s Keith Law told “Wyman, Mike and Moore” Thursday afternoon.
“And that doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s been there for a while, and the major-league team, they’re not good on paper in terms of the standings and they look even worse.”
The Mariners dropped to 20-27 after being swept by the Indians and Angels. They’re now on pace for another 90-loss season, which would be their third in Zduriencik’s five years in Seattle.
The back end of the rotation and an inconsistent offense have been the biggest culprits this season. While Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have been one of the best one-two punches in baseball, Joe Saunders, Brandon Maurer and Aaron Harang have a combined record of 6-15 and all have ERAs north of 5.5.
After scoring one run during their two-game sweep in Anaheim, the Mariners are averaging just under 3.6 runs per game, slightly less than last year’s average of 3.82.
“I think if you had to watch this club play every day you might actually think they’re worse than they actually are because it’s an ugly style of baseball when your offense is that anemic,” Law said. “And I could see that coming down on the manager or on the front office just because one, that’s the industry rumor and two, that’s kind of how GMs get replaced across the game of baseball.”
The continued struggles of once-highly-regarded prospects Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero haven’t help matters – neither the Mariners’ offense nor Zduriencik’s track record.
“They just have not had any success developing young hitters once they get to the big leagues,” said Law, a former front-office executive. “The guys all look fine in the minors. They get to the big leagues and they just stop hitting.”
Zduriencik received a multi-year extension in August of 2011 even though the Mariners were en route to their second-straight losing season. He’s been credited with replenishing a farm system that was considered bare when he replaced Bill Bavasi before the 2009 season. While Law believes the Mariners’ future is bright with Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and the Big 3 pitching prospects on the horizon, he thinks 2015 is the soonest the team could conceivably contend.
“There’s a lot to like, actually, in the long term for this club,” he said, “but the short term is probably still going to be pretty unpleasant.”