Ted Simmons has done just about everything in baseball but win a championship
Mariners senior adviser brings wealth of experience in hopes of finally getting a championship ring.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — On June 8, 1993, while working in his office at Three Rivers Stadium, Ted Simmons suffered a heart attack. He would tell reporters he thought he was going to die.
Less than three weeks later, Simmons resigned his pressure-packed job as general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and reassessed his life. Simmons was 43 years old, barely five seasons removed from a 21-year playing career many still believe should land him in the Hall of Fame.
For starters, he quit his 2 ½-pack-a-day ("three or 3 ½ packs on a bad day," he admitted) cigarette habit.
"All the vices a person could have at age 40, still perceiving themselves as bulletproof, I had," Simmons says now. "And I realized if I wanted to be around for grandchildren and that sort of stuff, I had to change my life, and I did. At my pace back then, with my lifestyle, I wouldn't have made it."
That abrupt lifestyle change propelled Simmons to a multifaceted career in the front office and dugout that will make him an invaluable counselor to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik ... the same Jack Zduriencik who was Simmons' scouting director with the Pirates.
Simmons, hired in November as a senior adviser to Zduriencik, has done it all. As a player, he was in eight All-Star Games and played in Game 7 of a World Series. As GM, he had the Pirates within one inning of a World Series berth before the Braves rallied in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.
Following his resignation as GM, Simmons had a stint as an adviser to Cleveland GM John Hart (and watched the Indians make it to — and lose — two World Series during his tenure). He was director of player development for the Cardinals, ran the minor leagues for the Padres as well as taking a turn advising San Diego GM Kevin Towers. And for the past three seasons, he put the uniform back on and was bench coach for the Brewers and Padres.
"In my experience, I've seen everything," he said. "I've done all these varied things, so I bring a perspective that not so many people have. When Jack asks me a question, I can take it and understand it from his position. I've been in that position. There's really nothing he can surprise me with. When you have a person like that, it's like having an alter-ego, of sorts."
The one thing Simmons hadn't done was manage, and he was ready to tackle that challenge. But despite numerous openings this offseason, he didn't get a sniff.
"I felt that told me all I needed to know about whether I was going to manage at the major-league level," he said.
There had been rumors Zduriencik was interested in Simmons for the Mariners managerial opening. He wasn't — but he coveted his former boss as an adviser, and Simmons was at a point where he was ready to listen. And the more he investigated the Mariners, the more he liked the situation he would be walking into.
"When a guy (Zduriencik) says to you, 'I'd like you to come over here and help me ... We've just lost 101 games, and you should be enthusiastic about that,' you're going to stop for a moment and look around, which I did. And I said, 'Yeah, this could change. This could change quickly.' "
Simmons, in fact, is positively bullish on the Mariners' future. He loves what Zduriencik is building in the farm system through the draft; he thinks Eric Wedge is the perfect manager for this club ("He has spine"); and he believes there is enough burgeoning talent to turn the team into a winner.
"That's part of the reason why when Jack called and asked me about this, I was interested," he said. "There's no mistaking what's going on at the minor-league level here, and the kind of people they have and the kind of people they're drafting."
Simmons also feels the Mariners have the financial capacity to sustain success.
"The nice thing about this organization, as opposed to some of the others I've been with, whether is was San Diego, Pittsburgh or Cleveland, this organization has capacity," he said. "By that I mean, if we make it better, they can make it happen. We were always making it better, but they were always having to turn it over because they couldn't make it happen. This place is different."
Simmons has been on the losing end of three World Series (one as a player with Milwaukee, two as a Cleveland executive), not to mention that bitter NLCS loss with Pittsburgh and another playoff loss as a Brewer.
The pursuit of a championship ring remains, at age 61, a motivation, especially after being oh so close in 1997 with Cleveland, which couldn't hold a ninth-inning lead over Florida in Game 7.
"I still remember (Craig) Counsell tied the game, I remember (Edgar) Renteria won it, and I will as long as I live, until that elusive World Series champion ring, as opposed to National League or American League champion, goes on my finger," Simmons said. "It's what I still pursue."
And now Simmons has brought that pursuit to Seattle.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.