Former All-Star catcher Ted Simmons has to fill a large void for Jack Zduriencik.
The Mariners general manager in September fired one of his closest friends in baseball when his right-hand man, Carmen Fusco, was a victim of the controversy over the trade of star pitcher Cliff Lee.
Its up to Simmons, 61, hired Friday as senior advisor to the general manager, to take Fuscos spot in the organization, if not in title.
“I am excited to add Ted to our front office group, Zduriencik said in a statement released by the club. “His experience as an All-Star player, front office executive, scout and big league coach will be very valuable to us as a sounding board and advisor.
That was the description of Fusco until Sept. 13, when he lost his job over the inclusion of minor league pitcher Josh Lueke, one of four players picked up from the Texas Rangers in the Lee trade in July.
Fusco, the Mariners director of professional scouting, was aware of Luekes previous legal trouble, which included a plea of no contest in 2008 to a charge of false imprisonment with violence in a rape and sodomy case while he was a minor leaguer in the Rangers system.
The front office didnt know of Luekes history when the deal was made, although the public history of his case, which included 42 days in jail, was readily available. Had CEO Howard Lincoln and club president Chuck Armstrong known the history — the club has a record of support for causes that combat violence against women — his inclusion may well have been vetoed.
Before Fusco, five other members of the organization had been axed manager Don Wakamatsu, bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, pitching coach Rick Adair, hitting coach Alan Cockrell and performance coach Steve Hecht.
Simmons has a history with with winners, which is one reason the Mariners had interest. As a player, he spent 13 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, making six All-Star Game appearances, before becoming a key figure in the Brewers’ run to the 1982 World Series.
Simmons most recently was bench coach in San Diego (2009 and 2010) and in Milwaukee (2008), where he worked with Zduriencik before both left the Brewers organization. San Diego went from 63 wins the year before Simmons arrived to 75 in 2009 and 90 in 2010. He was general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992 and 1993, winning the NL East his first year.
He played 21 seasons in the big leagues with St. Louis, Milwaukee and Atlanta, making All-Star teams eight times.
John Hickey is a Senior MLB Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com)