SEATTLE -- A season that started with high hopes, but quickly went sour and has remained that way, cost general manager Bill Bavasi his job on Monday. With a team expected to compete for a division championship and reach the playoffs for the first time in seven years playing far below those expectations, Mariners chief executive officer Howard Lincoln pulled the plug on Bavasi's four-plus seasons as the GM. The change was announced late Monday morning and explained during a press conference held at Safeco Field, not far from the Mariners clubhouse that houses the players that have compiled a 24-45 record.
"As of this morning, the Seattle Mariners have the worst won-lost record in Major League Baseball," Lincoln read from a prepared statement. "Since 2004 we have been building this team to contend. However, after steady improvement on the field since 2004, the team's performance in 2008 is simply not acceptable to me, and our ownership group. "We have tried to be patient, some say too patient. But given this team's record, change is in order. As we replace Bill Bavasi as executive vice president and general manager, on an interim basis, with Lee Pelekoudas, we have determined that new leadership is needed in the GM position. With new leadership will come a new plan and a new approach." Exactly what that approach will be remains unclear. But it became clear that the current one isn't working. "I've been thinking about this for a while; that should be obvious to all of you," Lincoln said during the press conference. "This is something I wanted to be as patient as I possibly could. I wanted to give Bill every opportunity, and the team every opportunity, to succeed. But it became very clear that a change had to be made, and I finalized that decision in my mind this weekend." The decision was made before the Mariners were swept by the visiting Nationals in a three-game series at Safeco Field -- the first time since Interleague was introduced in 1997 that Seattle was swept at home by a National League club. Bavasi was told of the decision early Monday morning, and it didn't come as a big surprise. "On a scale, very low," he said. "When you have this job, you have to look at it from an owner's point of view, even though you don't have a nickel invested in it. This last weekend was a disaster." Lincoln and club president Chuck Armstrong were the first to talk to the media during Monday's press conference and both praised Bavasi for his efforts to get the team back to its glory days of 1995 through 2004, when September pennant races were common and the team was the most popular professional franchise in the region. "Bill Bavasi has been a pleasure, a joy, to work with," Armstrong said. "His integrity and his passion for the game have been well regarded and respected here. But we are where we are and it is time to move on." There were more downs than ups during the Bavasi reign, which began about the time some of the Mariners' most popular players were retiring and the farm system was not particularly strong. "I think it's important to remember that when Bill took over as the general manager at the start of the 2004 season, the team was really in transition," Lincoln said. "We had three losing seasons, but in each year we were getting better, doing better, and last year, we had a winning record." With a significant increase in player payroll, the Mariners signed free-agent right-handed starter Carlos Silva and traded for left-hander Erik Bedard from the Orioles, banking on the rotation to lead the way to the top of the American League West. "All of us, and I think most of you in this room, recognized that we made some very important offseason moves," Lincoln said. "Our expectations were that things would get better, but, in fact, it has gone in the wrong direction this season and it's very, very disappointing, very frustrating and exasperating." Bavasi became the Mariners GM on Nov. 7, 2003. Prior to that, he was the director of player development of the Dodgers. And from 1994-1999 he was the GM of the California/Anaheim Angels. He made some questionable free-agent signings, including right-handed pitcher Jeff Weaver and infielder-outfielder Scott Spiezio. A few trades backfired, as well, most noticeably shortstop Carlos Guillen to the Tigers for Ramon Santiago and left-handed pitcher Horacio Ramirez from the Braves for hard-throwing reliever Rafael Soriano. But losing right fielder Jose Guillen to free agency at the end of last season probably affected this team more than anyone imagined. Bavasi said as much during his 30-minute media session at Safeco Field. "It's really ironic that the person we're missing the most is Jose Guillen," he said. "That is the piece that was here last year is not here this year. He could do some strange things, and he did, but at the top of his agenda was to win, and if anybody got in the way of playing the game right, he had no patience with that. That was his boiling point." Bavasi said the current clubhouse is filled with "nice guys who think they are trying hard," but someone must step up and be willing to "grab a teammate by the collar." He called the current team "dysfunctional" and has no clue as to why almost the entire team is underperforming so badly. "I don't have a reason for that," he said. "I think this club on the field can perform a hell of a lot better than it is performing now. It has not lost its talent or gotten old all of a sudden. It has learned to be dysfunctional and they have to unlearn that. They are not playing the game the way they can. "They should be able to perform better and they can't look to the manager or coaches to lead them out of this. They have to rescue themselves." Pelekoudas, in his 29th season with the Mariners, was named vice president, associate general manager on Nov. 1, 2005. He started with the Mariners as director of team travel in 1980, and moved into the area of baseball administration in October 1987. Lee was promoted to senior director of baseball administration in April 1995 and to vice president of baseball administration in September 1997. Pelekoudas has been responsible for the coordination of player contract negotiations, tracking Major League player movement, managing the club's player transactions within the MLB administrative rules and the Major League payroll. He also has been extensively involved in discussions and decisions on the makeup of the Major League roster.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.