BY Seth Kolloen 08:04AM 01/12/2011

Exit 164: Why Make Brendan Ryan a Millionaire?

Endorsing Bill Veeck’s belief that the high price of mediocrity is what does in baseball teams, the Mariners give us Brendan Ryan. Please . . .

In what Exit 164 considers a waste of money, the Mariners are going to lavish nearly $3 million on Brendan Ryan

Today’s only news of note: UW running back Chris Polk’s mom says he’ll return for his junior season (yay!) and Storm star Lauren Jackson tore her achilles playing in Russia (boo!).

Now, let’s talk Mariners.

I am an expert at buying crap. Looking around my small apartment I see a seat made out of a barrel, a four-foot-high model ship, and the book Pioneers of North Central Washington. All of these I will undoubtedly trundle from residence to residence until I myself am old enough to be regarded as a pioneer. Point is: I know a crap purchase when I see one. Committing $2.75 million to utilityman Brendan Ryan over the next two seasons makes my barrel seat look like the “Microsoft-stock-in-1986” of purchases.

“It isn’t the high price of stars that is expensive, it’s the high price of mediocrity.” Former White Sox owner Bill Veeck said that a generation ago, and our local teams lived it over my lifetime. Whether it was the Seahawks overpaying for Deion Branch, the Sonics for Jim McIlvaine, or the Mariners for, oh, I don’t know — Steve Trout, Pete O’Brien, Greg Hibbard, Chris Bosio, David Segui, Heathcliff Slocumb, Jeff Cirillo, Scott Spiezio, Rich Aurilia, Jeff Weaver, or Casey Kotchman — my own generation has been robbed of dozens and dozens of wins by the propensity of local general managers to throw money at players who, at best, help you tread water.

When you find a true talent, pay them. I don’t begrudge Ichiro his $17M. But these million-dollar contracts to average players really add up. The Mariners will pay $5M to Jack Wilson this year, $3.5M to Miguel Olivo, $2.5M to Jack Cust, $1M to Ryan –that’s a combined $12M to four players who’ve never received an MVP vote and have one All-Star appearance between them. And it’s not like they’ll get any better: Ryan’s the youngest of the group, and he’ll be 29 on Opening Day. You know what you could do instead with that $12M? Get someone good!

Manny Ramirez is still a free agent. So is Vladimir Guerrero. Sure, they are old and might put up crummy numbers, but you know Wilson, Olivo, Cust and Ryan are going to put up crummy numbers. As a season ticket holder, I’d at least like the chance of excitement over the assurance of mediocrity.

Yo! If you have a tip or a comment, email me at or message me on Twitter, @SethKolloen. Cool? Thanks!


  • Shawnuel

    This just as easily could have been titled “Why Let Seth Kolloen write about baseball?”

  • Tim

    This has been my argument for whenever someone brings up how much we pay Ichiro. He puts fans in the seats and makes opportunities for the guys who can’t and don’t execute.

  • MGP

    I think the M’s probably wish they weren’t paying Jack Wilson $5mil next year, and I still don’t really like the Olivo deal, as I don’t think he fits the park very well. But I do get your problem with the Ryan contract. There is a good chance he is starting for this team at 2nd/SS for the next few seasons and he would have been arbitration eligible. Unless he totally stunk it up he’d probably be making something close to what the M’s are going to pay him anyway.

    I also don’t see the point of bringing in Manny Ramirez or Vladimir Guerrero, since they are only fit to play at DH now and they’ll probably cost FAR more than Jack Cust’s $2.5M. Plus, at this point in their careers they’ll both probably want to go to a team with a chance at winning, which the M’s are unlikely to do in 2011, and so the M’s would likely have to pay a premium to sign them. Yeah, maybe they could have gotten it done with $8-12 million, but they had a lot of holes to fill besides DH, and not a lot of money to do it with.

    “It isn’t the high price of stars that is expensive, it’s the high price of mediocrity,” is very true, but none of these deals are very expensive, and none of them last past 2012. The BEST way to build a good, affordable team (for all teams that aren’t NY or BOS) is through the farm system. And for the first time in years the M’s actually have some exciting players on the way. Players that will (hopefully) be ready for the majors in 2011 or 2012. The front office is using the Olivos, Custs, and Ryans of the world to temporarily bridge the gaps until then.

  • MGP

    *But I do NOT get your problem with the Ryan contract.

  • M’s99

    I don’t think you have any clue as to what you are talking about. Ryan is the best defensive SS in MLB over the last 2 years. That alone warrants the contract. He also was one of the top 5 hitting SS’s in 2009. If Ryan can play the same defense and rebound offensively from 2010, he’ll be one of the best bargains in baseball. There is clearly a lot you don’t know about the newbie so may I suggest you do some research above and beyond the very obvious – he hit for a low average last year.

    • Seth Kolloen

      *last PLACE

  • Seth Kolloen

    @Shawnuel That was my second choice!

    @MGP The Ryan contract on its own doesn’t kill me. He’d be a good cog on a team with talent. I just don’t understand the point of tossing $3M his way when he’s worth, what, 1 win over replacement value? 2? Last place is last pace.

  • Baseballlifer9

    My Thought? You look pretty dumb right now.

  • Baseballlifer9

    My Thought? You look pretty dumb right now.

  • UW interim president Phyllis Wise didn’t care for the Duck diss, and ordered Woodward to apologize  Forgot to mention that wise as member of Nike board was instrumental in getting new nike contract for UW.  Interesting omission

    • Art, Ive seen this story written a lot the last couple years, as Oregon has taken off. And I agree to an extent, it is a “competitive advantage” perse we here at Oregon have with Uncle Phil. However, I think its a little too easy and convinient to just say we are winning bc of him. Uncle Phil has been contributing to the school since the mid 90’s, with facilities and uniforms that have been cutting edge and are being copied across the nation the last couple years. But we didnt get to the status that we are now until the last couple years. How could that be, since as you say its all about Uncle Phils money? I have a different theory, and most Oregon fans will agree. Two words: Chip Kelly. Mike Bellotti did a great job building up the program, but 5-6 years ago when we had basically the same facilities, same cutting edge uniforms and the same type of athletes, and we were muddling around in the middle of the Pac 10. We had a great BCS run in 2001, but that was 10 years ago. The difference was the hire of Chip Kelly who has taken this program to a new level. And done so btw, without elite talent. We havent started to recruit at an elite level until the last couple years, since hes been the head coach and we have started to win (that means watch out Husky fan, Chip Kelly with elite NFL athletes as juniors and seniors all over the field is going to be scary). Last years Natty team only had one player drafted, in the 4th round. So while its convinient to put this all on Uncle Phil, saying we are to an extent buying our place in the upper echelon of college football, I think if you look closer it has a lot to do with the Chipper. All things have remained the same at Oregon for the last 15 years or so except for him, hes gotten us over the hump.


      • Artthiel

        I wrote that it was “mostly” due to Knight, not all due. Sark mentioned some other reasons, and I pointed that out. Oregon began dominating Washington before Kelly was here. The stadium upgrade was in 02, but in the pipeline before that. Bellotti recruited to it in the 90s, which he should. The system and the players and the success are products of it. 

        • Agreed Art, but again to an extent. 5-6-7 years ago we were kind of a laughing stock, a team that was all flash, but lacked substance. We didnt win a bowl game in my 4 years (didnt make it once and lost the defunct Seattle/Emerald bowl, Sun bowl and Holiday bowl). This was all happening 7-10 years after Uncle Phil got initially involved with the progam during the mid-90’s. Again, Chip has changed things completely and taken us to that next level. From a good program that had good to great teams every couple of years, to a potentially great program challenging for BCS bowl games yearly. And as far as us dominating you Husky’s before Kelly got here, you have to look into the mirror on that one. You had some awful, awful teams there for a while, a lot of teams dominated you Husky’s. Continuing with my theme, that probably had more to due with Keith Gilbertson and Tyrone Willingham than the “futility” in fundraising for a new stadium.


      • Michp

        You are correct about Chip. Once all the cheating finally comes out and clarified that will be the end of that story. Cause running backs from Texas want to go to tree hugging Eugene ??? For installments of 25K , I guess it make more sense.

    • Art Thiel

      Good point, but a different one.  All schools with Nike apparel deals end up supporting, at least indirectly, the Ducks’ rise. Woodward’s point was about dwindling state support, and his reckless blurt. Conflicts of interests abound on college campuses. How about ESPN’s position as power broker in the conference affiliation mayhem? 

  • Soggyblogger

    Wow. Far out. Awesome, dude. I laughed out loud three or four times as I read this article. I was wondering if/when you would make the effort to write like that again after reading three or four of your barroom chats with friend Steve that you published for reasons I couldn’t fathom.

    You have restored my faith in you and this site. Write on. 

    • Artthiel

      As long as you love us, we’re here.

  • GoDucks

    “formerly arrogant Huskies.”


    • Michp

      I’m still arrogant. :) Go Dawgs!

    • Artthiel

      0-12 does a lot for the rise of humility.

  • Sara Orr

    Phil Knight attended the University of Oregon as an athlete.  He graduated and continued on with his education at Stanford.  He is generous with the money he has earned.  Both Stanford and Oregon have received large funds from him.  HIs dedication to the schools that helped him reach his professional goals is to be admired.  Nike money does flow into the Athletic department at the University of Oregon as many Nike employees graduated from that school.  How Phil Knight chooses to spend his money is his choice.  Many colleges in America have facilities named after large money donors.  The fact that Oregon has a former athlete contributing to the school is something to be proud of.  

    • Artthiel

      Never said he did anything wrong. But he is the unappointed, unelected, unpaid king of the university. Which is good and bad. Ask anyone from feudal Europe over the last 1,500 years. 

  • Mssearch

    Art – Psst, Art…you spilled a little purple Kool Aid on your beard.  Phil Knight has supported his alma mater(s) as is his right, but he’s never caught, thrown, or shot a ball @ Autzen and or MattCourt…..swell that the Huskies dominated the rivalry in the early 90’s, but irrelevant to the current players who were infants at the time.  You sound very similar to the lost souls demonizing their plight as 99%ers, blaming others for one’s lack of achievement.

    • Artthiel

      Never said Knight did anything wrong. My point was that college ball is all about the money, and Oregon has it. So does Okla State with T Boone Pickens. Wouldn’t that be wonderfully underscored if they met in the BCS title game? 

  • Chris

    I was a student at the UO in the early 80s.  During my 4 years in Eugene the football team won a total of 14 games, finishing 9th in the conference standing twice.  In those days sports writers from the big cities would write about how Oregon and Oregon State didn’t belong in the Pac-10, that they should leave for the WAC, because they simply were never going to be able to compete with the likes of Washington, USC and the other big schools.

    There’s an old saying in military circles about how generals from the winning side are always fighting the next war with their winning strategy from the previous war, and that losing generals have to come up with something new for the next war…or they’ll continue being the losing generals.

    With that analogy in mind, here in the NW it’s fairly clear that the Huskies have been stuck in 1991 for quite a while.  And it’s also clear that the Ducks have NOT been stuck there.  As long as Husky fans are complaining about Phil Knight, I guess that means the Ducks are winning.  Ouch!! 

    • Arttthiel

      Absolutely true that the Huskies were stuck in the 90s, from tactics to facilities. They’re playing catch-up. As a former Huskies coach once said, scoreboard, baby. But now they appear, with the investment in coaches and facilities, to be joining the arms race. 

  • Michp

    Phil Knight owns Oregon and should not be long till we get the official Phil Knight U name change. Oregun has no tradition so they market with laughable uniforms. Enjoy your 15 seconds of fame Oregun, soon you will be back where you belong…chasing owls in trees. Washington has decades and decades of tradition and will never sell out to market a sneaker company. Go Dawgs!

  • Cgerv25

    Great article Art, you nailed as you usually do!

  • #7inarow

    Huck the Fuskies