LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Jack Zduriencik hopes to keep the focus of the Winter Meetings on acquiring more talent for his team, the Mariners' general manager took time out to issue a statement Monday morning in response to criticism of the club's front office by several disgruntled former employees.
After being sharply criticized by former manager Eric Wedge and former statistical analysis specialist Tony Blengino in a Seattle Times story on Sunday, Zduriencik took issue with allegations that he meddled into how Wedge ran the team and indicated the departed skipper had been demanding a multiyear contract extension right up until the day he resigned in late September.
The statement was less direct in response to Blengino's charges that Zduriencik wasn't well-versed in sabermetrics, though the general manager said he was fully supportive of his current statistical analysis group, which he said was "light years ahead of where we've been."
Zduriencik and CEO Howard Lincoln have both said they were intent on bringing Wedge back for another year and had offered the third-year skipper a one-year extension on his $2 million contract that he declined the previous September, but they did want to address his coaching staff and other issues after the club struggled through a 71-91 season.
A day after saying he was frustrated by being "left hanging out there" by his contract situation, Wedge resigned and has expressed unhappiness with his situation and a different vision than the Mariners' front office ever since.
Blengino was an assistant of Zduriencik's with the Brewers who moved to Seattle with the GM and worked as one of his top advisors in the front office for three years until his role was reduced last year and he was dismissed in August.
"Our focus is totally on making this club better," Zduriencik said. "We're going to try to do what we can here, continue our meetings with the agents and focus on baseball."
Here is Zduriencik's statement:
"Over the years, we have chosen to take the high road in talking about former Mariners personnel. It hasn't always been easy, but we always felt it was important to do so, not just for the club but also for the individual. And in every case, it proved to be the right way to handle things. However, we believe the comments made by former members of our organization that appeared in the Sunday Seattle Times require a brief response.
"Eric Wedge, our former manager, criticized our organization, accusing Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong and me of meddling.
"Everyone in our organization, including Howard and Chuck, is focused on putting a championship team on the field. We all care very deeply about this team, just like the fans do. We all see when the team is playing well, and when it isn't.
"I've worked for several Major League organizations. Our upper management has suggestions and asks questions, just like CEOs and presidents in other organization do, all to be helpful and contribute to the goal of winning. We all want to win as soon as possible.
"When there are areas that need improvement, it's my job to ask questions, suggest ideas and give direction to the field staff. When our upper management has questions or suggestions, it's my job to respond to them. I don't believe meddling is a fair portrayal.
"One good example is the issue of the Mariners doing extra work last September. That suggestion was mine. Everyone in the baseball department thought this would be a good teaching time to help us improve our fundamentals with a young team, and help set the tone for Spring Training.
"Howard, Chuck, Eric and I met every five to six weeks the past couple of seasons to make sure we were all on the same page. Never once did Eric complain about our communications during those meetings. In fact, we all agreed that this was a good time to offer and share ideas.
"Eric approached me numerous times throughout the year expressing his desire for a long-term contract. Even the day before he quit, Eric called a meeting with me and demanded a contract extension.
"I can also say that our current statistical analysis group is doing excellent work. Our dedicated staff and the tools they are using are a key component in our decision making process, and are light years ahead of where we have been. I am engaged with their work on a daily basis and very excited in the improvements made.
"We have never deviated from our rebuilding plan. We have stayed the course, and we now have a talented group of young players. We are hard at work looking into every option to add to this core group, as we said we would, and we are looking forward to 2014 and beyond."