By Jake McCormick
Jack Zduriencik bears a much closer resemblance to Frasier than Joey.
Rarely does a spin off show eclipse it’s predecessor in success and content. This is largely due to the spin-off character’s strength as a stand alone star, the resources at the show’s disposal, and the new supporting cast’s ability to gel with the main character to highlight each other’s best qualities as actors. Zdureincik left his post as Doug Melvin’s right hand man to do his own show out west in Seattle, and his second offseason with the Mariners has vaulted a surprise 2009 team into the discussion for an AL West division title and potentially more. That’s what you get when you give intelligent business a bigger budget.
That’s why Frasier eclipsed the accomplishments of Cheers, and Joey flopped harder than Joe Nedney at the end of the 2003 Divisional Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. Friends had six main characters to drive the show, whereas Cheers involved the cast as the plot saw fit. Seinfeld would’ve had the same problem with a spin off; imagine a show featuring George moving to Del Boca Vista. Sounds terrible, right?
There’s a sense of pride in knowing a successful spin-off coach or executive stemmed from your favorite team. It’s an indirect validation of confidence in an organization’s hierarchy. If another team, especially one with a bigger budget, wants someone in your front office for the job, your team must be doing something right. It makes you feel like you’re helping another team in need without degrading your own team.
That’s the feeling Brewers fans have been getting all offseason as Zduriencik does MelvinBall in Seattle, and both have lived up to their pledges of efficiently improving their respective teams before the 2010 season. Melvin is cautiously aggressive as the Brewers’ general manager, never tipping his hand in a negotiation and seemingly doing whatever he can within the team’s limited budget to make necessary improvements. He has always credited Zdureincik for his work as Milwaukee’s Director of Amateur Scouting with drafting and developing Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo, Corey Hart, Mat Gamel, Alcides Escobar, and so on. I don’t think there’s a Brewer fan alive that thought Zduriencik would bust if he was put in the driver’s seat.
If an executive is successful with a small payroll, that means they know and operate under limits that can magnify any potential mistake. Melvin’s two worst moves, Jeff Suppan and the Bill Hall extension, still create a throbbing hangover headache among Brewer fans because the team doesn’t have a blank check to write. That’s why the Cubs, Giants, and Mets can treat their fans like they’re on My Super Sweet 16 by spending more money to make up for the broken toys that are Alfonso Soriano, Oliver Perez and Barry Zito.
Zduriencik is operating with a much bigger budget for the Mariners, and within the last two months has catapulted into the national spotlight by making moves at the speed of Tony Montana with a Push It To the Limit montage. Stealing Cliff Lee from Philadelphia and extending Felix Hernandez’s contract are enough to include Seattle in the discussion for a divisional crown.
Zduriencik also nabbed Chone Figgins from the powerhouse Angels and somehow convinced the Chicago Cubs that Carlos Silva is the best they could get for Milton Bradley. Throw in getting rid of Bill Hall, bringing in Eric Byrnes, Chad Cordero, and Casey Kotchman, and is it really a surprise that Zduriencik was the first non-GM to win Baseball America’s Executive of the Year in 2007? It never was to Brewer Nation and isn’t for Mariner fans now.?