BY Art Thiel 02:55PM 07/09/2012

Thiel: Baseball's most forlorn team? Mariners

Since the Mariners were last in the postseason in 2001, nearly every team in baseball has been there. But Wedge and Zduriencik are in a bind to fix what ownership has wrought.

It isn't getting easier for Eric Wedge and Jack Zduriencik. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Much as I would like to believe Earnest Eric Wedge and Genuine Jack Zduriencik, I cannot.

I have seen too much that has come to too little.

Not just this year. For many seasons. Wedge and Zduriencik are merely the latest workers hired to sweep out the tide of mediocrity with toothbrushes.

In the 35th anniversary non-celebration of the Mariners, the season-long rhetoric about “the plan” can’t get through the evidence of a misshapen roster and a misbegotten history. I get the part about youth and inexperience of the hitters; I get it because I see the quality veteran hitters who began, or spent time, as Mariners, carrying other teams.

Wedge and Zduriencik are competent in their jobs but they are trapped by a tired ownership that cannot escape past mistakes and won’t take future risks, who value the ballpark experience more than winning. The learning curve in Seattle is not a curve; it is flat-lined.

Evidence for the immediate dilemma is the fact that the most compelling move to bring the Mariners closer to relevance is to trade Felix Hernandez. In a story this week for si.com, writer Tom Verducci makes a strong case that Hernandez, at 26, is at his physical and contractual apex this month, so trading him now makes for the least risk to get highest value.

But the Mariners likely will take the easy way out and avoid trading him for emotional and sentimental reasons. Yet the club isn’t going to be good this year, will be marginally better next season, and by 2014, Hernandez will be in his contract year and looking for the door, probably after having pitched more than 2,000 major-league innings.

What the need to trade says about the Mariners, in light of the recent trades of other young pitchers of high potential, Doug Fister and Michael Pineda, is the only real chance to get good is to cannibalize their biggest baseball asset, young pitching. In the world of baseball personnel, there cannot be a worse plan.

Since MLB is at the All-Star Game break, when much of the focus shifts from local to national, the broader perspective provides more appalling evidence of feeble progress in Seattle relative to the rest of the game.

Since the Mariners last were in the playoffs in 2001, 14 of the 16 National League teams have made at least one playoff appearance. Four NL teams have won the World Series — Philadelphia, Florida, San Francisco and St. Louis twice; four American League teams also have won the Series: New York, Anaheim, Chicago and Boston twice.

In that decade, the only two NL teams that have not made the playoffs, Pittsburgh and Washington/Montreal, are leading their divisions right now.

Should the Pirates and Nationals hold positions into the postseason, the Mariners’ 11-year playoff drought come October will be exceeded by only three American League teams — Baltimore (last in the playoffs in 1997), Toronto (1993) and Kansas City (1985). And Baltimore is currently the holder, albeit tenuously, of the fifth and final AL spot in the newly expanded playoffs.

But even this century’s fellow unwashed waifs have history upon which to hang some dignity: Each franchise has a World Series story to tell in the time since the Mariners were born via litigation in 1977.

Toronto won World Series in 1992 and 1993. Baltimore won Series in 1966 and 1970 and lost in 1979. Kansas City lost the 1980 Series and won the 1985 Series.

Such history is probably as dog-eared in those towns as is the 1995 run to the playoffs is to Seattle fans. But it is part of the legacy, part of the hope, that keeps some fans engaged. Because it was done at least once in their towns.

The Mariners and Nationals share the dubious distinction of being the only MLB teams never to have been to a World Series. And by October, the Mariners could be the last man on the curb.

It can always be argued that sports are cyclical: The Yankees went 14 years without a post-season appearance before they met the Mariners in the immortal (at least in the 206/425/253/360 area codes) AL Division Series in 1995.

But since the mid-90s, two influences have made the cycling time shorter in baseball: Greater revenue sharing and more accurate scouting.

Baseball endured seven work stoppages to get the game where it is today economically: Most teams, most of the time, have at least an occasional shot at post-season glory because more revenues are shared.

The funds are abetted by the widespread adoption of statistical analysis, begun by author Bill James in the 1970s and glorified by Oakland GM Billy Beane in “Moneyball,” which has removed some of the guesswork in scouting. No system in perfect, but with proper application of widely available data, teams have a better chance of finding undervalued talent, which can reduce the urge to spend wildly on the veteran free-agent market.

But neither revenue-sharing — the Mariners for years were payers, not receivers, because Seattle fans kept buying tickets — nor fresh knowledge has produced the uptick in Seattle fortunes as it has in almost every other market. In the decade since Seattle last met the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, longtime ne’er-do-wells such as the Marlins, Astros, Rays, Rangers, White Sox and yes, the Red Sox (no previous World Series since Fred Flintstone found the foot pedals to his car) have come to goodness.

Now the Mariners find themselves in a division with two big, successful spenders, the Rangers and Angels, who have three Series appearances between them in the Mariners’ lost decade. They are beneficiaries of lucrative new cable TV deals in their markets that allowed them to spend more than $120 million this year in player salaries. But it isn’t all about money in the AL West — the A’s again have the lowest payroll in baseball, but at $55 million, are again getting more bang for buck than the Mariners, who are 7.5 games back of the A’s.

And next year the AL West is joined by the Houston Astros, who also recently nailed a big cable deal. The conventional wisdom is that the Mariners’ turn will come in 2015, when they can opt out of their deal with ROOT Sports. But that’s three years away, and who can say by then that the cable market will be as lucrative? What if it is a bubble, as we’ve seen in the past decade with commercial and residential real estate, derivatives and dot-com industries? The Mariners can’t know today that the rights-fee train will still be at the station in 2015.

Wedge said recently he didn’t “drag his butt out here” to fail. I’m sure he didn’t. But those of us whose butts have been “out here” for awhile see a pattern that he doesn’t — or at least didn’t: A long-term, consistent neglect or mismanagement by an ownership apparently disengaged in the urgency to winning baseball games above all.

Besides the obvious consequence of fan disaffection — the Mariners are behind the attendance pace of a year ago, when they had an all-time Safeco low of 1.9 million — there are two other toxicities to consider: The disparagement of the franchise that makes it harder to keep or draw baseball talent here (see the Hernandez dilemma) and the increasingly agonizing travail of Ichiro.

It’s coming to a bad end, and that’s no good. The Mariners have moved him from leadoff to third to second in the batting order, to no avail. He’s a .250 hitter (down from .272 in 2011) making $18 million. There’s nowhere to hide him or trade him, and no way to dump him because he doesn’t deserve it.

He and, apparently,  his patron, majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, are obsessed with achieving career milestones, when the remaining fans are long overdue for a winner. It will be very difficult to achieve both, so the franchise is at cross-purposes with itself.

Regardless of his stats last year and a half, Ichiro has been a big competitive and financial asset to the franchise. Any ugliness attendant to his departure will hurt the Mariners and, temporarily at least, baseball’s relations with Japan.

But the worst part of it is that, typical with any team sport, well-paid stars in decline with losing franchises bear the brunt of public acrimony. Thus the same characteristics that made him an asset and cool 10 years ago are now seen as impediments. For an increasing number of fans, Ichiro is becoming a source of baseball resentment, not joy.

That is a damn shame.

But ownership created the situation, as well as many of the problems described earlier. No amount of castigation by Wedge nor manipulation by Zduriencik, two good baseball men, can change the past and, sadly for Mariners fans, can rejigger the near future.

From the 116-win team of 2001, the Mariners, baseball’s most forlorn franchise, have been on a decade-long hangover.

I’d enjoy believing Wedge and Zduriencik that the end of the despair is near. Can’t do it.


YourThoughts

  • Leetavo

    Right on Art!

    Ichiro nailed it a few years ago. Look for the problem at the root. Howard Yugo ( worst car sold in my lifetime) apparently has a lifetime contract. A successful company has good management. An unsuccessful one – the reverse. Both Howie and others in the upper managent apparently can not be fired for incompetence. At least they could do is the honorable thing in the classic tradition of the Japanese.

  • Leetavo

    Right on Art!

    Ichiro nailed it a few years ago. Look for the problem at the root. Howard Yugo ( worst car sold in my lifetime) apparently has a lifetime contract. A successful company has good management. An unsuccessful one – the reverse. Both Howie and others in the upper managent apparently can not be fired for incompetence. At least they could do is the honorable thing in the classic tradition of the Japanese.

  • Bayviewherb

    Dump Chone. Regardless of the huge monitary loss, that has already happened. Cut the guy and trade Ryan, Send our non-hitting first sacker back to Tacoma if he can make that team. Take those players out and oh by the way, we don’t need Oliva either. I can’t remermber which team itwas, but one is hurting for a catcher. Oliva is not the future. Some club loaded with hitting can afford the spectacular defense that Ryan brings to the table. The Mariners can’t.. 

    Bring some of the phenoms the team keeps bragging about up from AA if they don’t have one that fits in Tacoma.

  • Bayviewherb

    Dump Chone. Regardless of the huge monitary loss, that has already happened. Cut the guy and trade Ryan, Send our non-hitting first sacker back to Tacoma if he can make that team. Take those players out and oh by the way, we don’t need Oliva either. I can’t remermber which team itwas, but one is hurting for a catcher. Oliva is not the future. Some club loaded with hitting can afford the spectacular defense that Ryan brings to the table. The Mariners can’t.. 

    Bring some of the phenoms the team keeps bragging about up from AA if they don’t have one that fits in Tacoma.

  • Bayviewherb

    Watch for Ichiro to retire at the end of this year. He has way too much pride to play out the string for jut money.

    • Jamo57

      I think you are right, that he may retire from the MLB, but look for him to play out his career in Japan.   A fitting swan song for a national icon.

  • Bayviewherb

    Watch for Ichiro to retire at the end of this year. He has way too much pride to play out the string for jut money.

    • Jamo57

      I think you are right, that he may retire from the MLB, but look for him to play out his career in Japan.   A fitting swan song for a national icon.

  • Tian Biao

    I agree with Art. The Ms are terrible, they’re no fun to watch, ownership (or at least the owner’s lackeys, Lincoln and Armstrong) doesn’t care about winning, and there is little hope on the horizon. Because where is the hope? Ackley and Montero aren’t stars, certainly not like Trout and Trumbo are with the Angels; they might develop into decent journeymen, and so might Seager, and maybe Saunders, but the rest of the roster is mostly a wasteland. Smoak is a lemon, Olivo, Ryan, Figgins, Ichiro, Kawasaki, well, you know the names.

    And why trade Felix? It implies that we’ll get a real haul of talent in return, but haven’t we been down that road before? Smoak was the centerpiece of the Lee trade, and Smoak is a bust. Trivia question: who did we get for Fister? Montero has worked out okay, but only because Pineda got injured.

    Like Art says, we need new ownership. It’s a death spiral; people aren’t coming to the games, revenue falls, payroll falls, and the cycle continues.

    As for Z, the jury is out. He’s made some big mistakes (Figgins, Smoak), but I’ll cut him some slack, for a while longer. Damn, though. He got off to such a good start.

    I mean, just compare our fish (Carp) to their fish (Trout). That says it all. Why don’t we ever get a hitter like that?

    • Steven

      Fister’s trade gave us Wells (.757 OPS/.333 wOBA with good defense) and Charlie Furbush, both of whom are contributing to the team right now. I’m still hoping Furbush can work as a starter, but he’s been great in relief this year, as well as Tacoma 3B Francisco Martinez.

      Jury’s still out on the trade, but it’s looking good so far.

      • Tian Biao

        thanks Steven. You’re right, Wells might work out, Furbush has been good as you say . . . I guess our 36-51 record has blinded me to a few of these minor bright spots.

  • Tian Biao

    I agree with Art. The Ms are terrible, they’re no fun to watch, ownership (or at least the owner’s lackeys, Lincoln and Armstrong) doesn’t care about winning, and there is little hope on the horizon. Because where is the hope? Ackley and Montero aren’t stars, certainly not like Trout and Trumbo are with the Angels; they might develop into decent journeymen, and so might Seager, and maybe Saunders, but the rest of the roster is mostly a wasteland. Smoak is a lemon, Olivo, Ryan, Figgins, Ichiro, Kawasaki, well, you know the names.

    And why trade Felix? It implies that we’ll get a real haul of talent in return, but haven’t we been down that road before? Smoak was the centerpiece of the Lee trade, and Smoak is a bust. Trivia question: who did we get for Fister? Montero has worked out okay, but only because Pineda got injured.

    Like Art says, we need new ownership. It’s a death spiral; people aren’t coming to the games, revenue falls, payroll falls, and the cycle continues.

    As for Z, the jury is out. He’s made some big mistakes (Figgins, Smoak), but I’ll cut him some slack, for a while longer. Damn, though. He got off to such a good start.

    I mean, just compare our fish (Carp) to their fish (Trout). That says it all. Why don’t we ever get a hitter like that?

    • Steven

      Fister’s trade gave us Wells (.757 OPS/.333 wOBA with good defense) and Charlie Furbush, both of whom are contributing to the team right now. I’m still hoping Furbush can work as a starter, but he’s been great in relief this year, as well as Tacoma 3B Francisco Martinez.

      Jury’s still out on the trade, but it’s looking good so far.

      • Tian Biao

        thanks Steven. You’re right, Wells might work out, Furbush has been good as you say . . . I guess our 36-51 record has blinded me to a few of these minor bright spots.

  • Michael Kaiser

    And then where does the blame ULTIMATELY lay?, and for the fact Seattle had to go halfway across the world to find a man willing to buy the Mariners?

  • Michael Kaiser

    And then where does the blame ULTIMATELY lay?, and for the fact Seattle had to go halfway across the world to find a man willing to buy the Mariners?

  • Lou Novikoff

    Too bad that the group wanting to build a Sodo arena for NBA and NHL teams has not bid for the Mariners instead.  Big money guys with local roots who would not bow to the uninformed wishes of a Japanese majority owner who has never bothered to see his team play.  Seattle is filled with guys with money who would love to own a MLB team here.  They need to step forward with an offer.
    Nothing will change so long as the Nintendo/Lincoln leadership continues.

    Disagree about the trading of Felix.  He remains a cornerstone player.  Without him, there are no cornerstones, merely “maybe” younger players who may or may not develop.  Lincoln cut payroll this year by $10 million at a time when the team badly needed a veteran professional bat or two to help the young players transition this season and next.  Another lost season.

    Jack Z. made a big dumb signing with Figgins and made a dumb trade of Morrow for League.
    Otherwise he has built a good farm system which is at least a year away from making a difference.
     

  • Lou Novikoff

    Too bad that the group wanting to build a Sodo arena for NBA and NHL teams has not bid for the Mariners instead.  Big money guys with local roots who would not bow to the uninformed wishes of a Japanese majority owner who has never bothered to see his team play.  Seattle is filled with guys with money who would love to own a MLB team here.  They need to step forward with an offer.
    Nothing will change so long as the Nintendo/Lincoln leadership continues.

    Disagree about the trading of Felix.  He remains a cornerstone player.  Without him, there are no cornerstones, merely “maybe” younger players who may or may not develop.  Lincoln cut payroll this year by $10 million at a time when the team badly needed a veteran professional bat or two to help the young players transition this season and next.  Another lost season.

    Jack Z. made a big dumb signing with Figgins and made a dumb trade of Morrow for League.
    Otherwise he has built a good farm system which is at least a year away from making a difference.
     

  • Jamo57

    I have to give the Ms credit for one thing.   They’ve helped raise my consciousness about the horrors of ingress and egress into SoDo.   As a result, I won’t be attending any more games this summer as I don’t want to be an accessory to the crime of killing all those Port jobs.    Thanks for the advice Chuck and Howard!!!

  • Jamo57

    I have to give the Ms credit for one thing.   They’ve helped raise my consciousness about the horrors of ingress and egress into SoDo.   As a result, I won’t be attending any more games this summer as I don’t want to be an accessory to the crime of killing all those Port jobs.    Thanks for the advice Chuck and Howard!!!

  • king55

    The complacency of ownership is beyond question.  At the same time, these guys (starting with Jack Z) were employed to build an organization from the bottom up, by doing a better job than their predecessors at finding, drafting, and developing young talent.  

    They’ve been on the job now, only a half season less than Bavasi’s team – and haven’t demonstrated any improvement.  That despite several years of losing records and the corresponding early first round picks.  That’s not a money issue.

    Not only are the Mariners terrible – so are the triple A Rainiers (also in last place, so much for our re-stocked farm system).  Year after year quality organizations continue to out-scout the Mariners, and that’s not the owners fault.  Your example of the A’s is case in point.

    This is Jack Z’s first job as a GM and as such has no track record of running an organization.  As much as Lou Pinella is given credit for Mariners past success – GM Pat Gillick was every bit as responsible (Gillick put together a World Series Team in Toronto before Seattle and Philly after).  I say forget trading Felix – and hire someone to put this thing back together who knows what the heck he’s doing and has a track record of having done so.  I think Mr. Gillick still keeps a place in town and isn’t doing much these days.

    • Jimbob

      Yo King,,,
      You must have a short memory. When Bavazi left the cupboard was more bare that a poley.

  • king55

    The complacency of ownership is beyond question.  At the same time, these guys (starting with Jack Z) were employed to build an organization from the bottom up, by doing a better job than their predecessors at finding, drafting, and developing young talent.  

    They’ve been on the job now, only a half season less than Bavasi’s team – and haven’t demonstrated any improvement.  That despite several years of losing records and the corresponding early first round picks.  That’s not a money issue.

    Not only are the Mariners terrible – so are the triple A Rainiers (also in last place, so much for our re-stocked farm system).  Year after year quality organizations continue to out-scout the Mariners, and that’s not the owners fault.  Your example of the A’s is case in point.

    This is Jack Z’s first job as a GM and as such has no track record of running an organization.  As much as Lou Pinella is given credit for Mariners past success – GM Pat Gillick was every bit as responsible (Gillick put together a World Series Team in Toronto before Seattle and Philly after).  I say forget trading Felix – and hire someone to put this thing back together who knows what the heck he’s doing and has a track record of having done so.  I think Mr. Gillick still keeps a place in town and isn’t doing much these days.

    • Jimbob

      Yo King,,,
      You must have a short memory. When Bavazi left the cupboard was more bare that a poley.

  • jafabian

    The M’s have a good ownership group that kept baseball in Seattle, but until they change their methods they’ll never be a great ownership group.  The hole this club has been in the past since 2004  is inexcusable considering ownership said they could never be competitive without an open air stadium. 

    Since its very possible they could be getting an NBA/NHL neighbor across the street at some point there should be a sense of urgency to be a consistent, long term winner.

  • jafabian

    The M’s have a good ownership group that kept baseball in Seattle, but until they change their methods they’ll never be a great ownership group.  The hole this club has been in the past since 2004  is inexcusable considering ownership said they could never be competitive without an open air stadium. 

    Since its very possible they could be getting an NBA/NHL neighbor across the street at some point there should be a sense of urgency to be a consistent, long term winner.

  • Dgrey71

    The team in my opinion, is headed in the right direction. You cannot just tear up the foundation when things get off to a slow start. I say give these kids a chance. Jack Z has done a great job stock piling talent that was, a depleated farm system thanks to Bavasi it will take a few more years to clean up his mess. Just remember the players we gave up on that are on the all start teams this year. How about Bryan LaHair,  Adrubal Cabrera , R.A. Dickey, Adam Jones  and Adrian Beltre . Go ahead and throw David Ortiz in there also. Think about if we would have had Jack Z instead of that team wrecker Bavasi. He probably would have assembled one hell of a team by now. Give Jack and theentire management  team that he has put together a chance. It takes quite a few years for players to come through the minors and become a productive Major leaguer. We have been giving up on them way to soon. Remember Brett Boone? And who can forget Raul Ibianz when he came up. Second time around they were both true major leaguers. Give our youngsters a chance.

  • Dgrey71

    The team in my opinion, is headed in the right direction. You cannot just tear up the foundation when things get off to a slow start. I say give these kids a chance. Jack Z has done a great job stock piling talent that was, a depleated farm system thanks to Bavasi it will take a few more years to clean up his mess. Just remember the players we gave up on that are on the all start teams this year. How about Bryan LaHair,  Adrubal Cabrera , R.A. Dickey, Adam Jones  and Adrian Beltre . Go ahead and throw David Ortiz in there also. Think about if we would have had Jack Z instead of that team wrecker Bavasi. He probably would have assembled one hell of a team by now. Give Jack and theentire management  team that he has put together a chance. It takes quite a few years for players to come through the minors and become a productive Major leaguer. We have been giving up on them way to soon. Remember Brett Boone? And who can forget Raul Ibianz when he came up. Second time around they were both true major leaguers. Give our youngsters a chance.

  • the Governor

    I just returned from Cincinnati where as I child I had the good fortunate to grow up when the Big Red Machine was in its prime. During my visit I attended a game against – of all teams – the Brewers aka the Pilots. While enjoying the game I spotted a pretty amazing stat in their game day program. In 131 years as a professional baseball organization – the oldest I might add – the Reds have had exactly one, I repeat, one 100+ losing seasons. ONE!

    On the other hand the Mariners in a mere 36 years have produced FIVE, not FOUR, not THREE, not TWO, not ONE but FIVE 100+ losing seasons.

    Howard, Chuck and Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, please do the honorable thing and sell the Mariners to a local owner – a true baseball guy. Look at the results of your efforts – LOOK AT THE RESULTS OF YOUR EFFORTS – they are beyond defensible. Thank you for keeping the Mariners in Seattle now please sell. We, baseball fans/ Mariner fans, are so very tired of the ineptitude of your management/ownership. It is beyond pathetic.

    Even if viewed from a purely entertainment perspective, the Mariners are such a poor choice. Here’s a sad fact. Over the past 6 times I have been to a Mariners game only once have I stayed to see the final out. Guess who was pitching a one hit shutout? The King.

    When trying to defend the indefensible my Father would often ask me a rather crude question. “What do you have if you have nothing in one hand and shit in the other?” No matter how hard I protested the answer was always “The Mariners”.

  • the Governor

    I just returned from Cincinnati where as I child I had the good fortunate to grow up when the Big Red Machine was in its prime. During my visit I attended a game against – of all teams – the Brewers aka the Pilots. While enjoying the game I spotted a pretty amazing stat in their game day program. In 131 years as a professional baseball organization – the oldest I might add – the Reds have had exactly one, I repeat, one 100+ losing seasons. ONE!

    On the other hand the Mariners in a mere 36 years have produced FIVE, not FOUR, not THREE, not TWO, not ONE but FIVE 100+ losing seasons.

    Howard, Chuck and Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi, please do the honorable thing and sell the Mariners to a local owner – a true baseball guy. Look at the results of your efforts – LOOK AT THE RESULTS OF YOUR EFFORTS – they are beyond defensible. Thank you for keeping the Mariners in Seattle now please sell. We, baseball fans/ Mariner fans, are so very tired of the ineptitude of your management/ownership. It is beyond pathetic.

    Even if viewed from a purely entertainment perspective, the Mariners are such a poor choice. Here’s a sad fact. Over the past 6 times I have been to a Mariners game only once have I stayed to see the final out. Guess who was pitching a one hit shutout? The King.

    When trying to defend the indefensible my Father would often ask me a rather crude question. “What do you have if you have nothing in one hand and shit in the other?” No matter how hard I protested the answer was always “The Mariners”.

  • jimc

    Really good article. This has been on my mind a lot lately…as I serve my time in purgatory, cough, I mean DC. At least the baseball in purgatory is great, though it has been hot lately…oh and speaking of hot…

    The Nats are almost like the 2001 M’s, almost. Mostly in that you expect them to pull it out every night, and are dumbfounded when they don’t. Morse (remember him?) is getting healthly, Gio is EXACTLY what they hoped he’d be, or more. Zimmerman’s elbow looks good. Bryce Harper I feel is maybe a little overrated, but is absolutely electrifying at times, sometimes he’s like Ichiro was (though Harper is 19 vs. 27 for Ichiro in his “rookie season”…nothing but upside to him). If Zimmerman gets completely healthly, forget it, they are a lock for the NL East. Oh, and I forgot about friggin’ Jason friggin Werth, due back in a few weeks. I don’t follow the Orioles, except to see the line on Adam Jones, I’m just happy for the guy you know?
    One big difference between the Nats and 2001 Ms (and Seattle vs. DC), is it’s July, Nats are in first place, and sports radio here is mostly obsessed with RGIII, sigh. The Nats are averaging 30,000 attendance I think. They occasionally sell out for interleague play, when the Yankees come, and when the Phillies come down, the park fills up with a-holes from Philly. That did not happen in Seattle, the M’s owned the market as I recall, in 2001, selling out every home game. That time, obviously, has passed. 

    Yes the difference is ownership, ownership, ownership (and certainly the Nats getting rid of Bowden). Ms ownership is complacent (I’m thinking Yamauchi is the Nintendo version of Howard Hughes locking himself in a Vegas casino penthouse), and there’s the distraction of divorce of the minority owner, and the moribund front office. That said, I think the problem is more CEO Lincoln/COO Armstrong. 

    I will say, though, that Safeco, SODO, Chinatown, and Pioneer Square are a world better than the National’s stadium site (for now). Seattle still wins on that front. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. But that’s not a sound business model, IMO. Winning is.

  • jimc

    Really good article. This has been on my mind a lot lately…as I serve my time in purgatory, cough, I mean DC. At least the baseball in purgatory is great, though it has been hot lately…oh and speaking of hot…

    The Nats are almost like the 2001 M’s, almost. Mostly in that you expect them to pull it out every night, and are dumbfounded when they don’t. Morse (remember him?) is getting healthly, Gio is EXACTLY what they hoped he’d be, or more. Zimmerman’s elbow looks good. Bryce Harper I feel is maybe a little overrated, but is absolutely electrifying at times, sometimes he’s like Ichiro was (though Harper is 19 vs. 27 for Ichiro in his “rookie season”…nothing but upside to him). If Zimmerman gets completely healthly, forget it, they are a lock for the NL East. Oh, and I forgot about friggin’ Jason friggin Werth, due back in a few weeks. I don’t follow the Orioles, except to see the line on Adam Jones, I’m just happy for the guy you know?
    One big difference between the Nats and 2001 Ms (and Seattle vs. DC), is it’s July, Nats are in first place, and sports radio here is mostly obsessed with RGIII, sigh. The Nats are averaging 30,000 attendance I think. They occasionally sell out for interleague play, when the Yankees come, and when the Phillies come down, the park fills up with a-holes from Philly. That did not happen in Seattle, the M’s owned the market as I recall, in 2001, selling out every home game. That time, obviously, has passed. 

    Yes the difference is ownership, ownership, ownership (and certainly the Nats getting rid of Bowden). Ms ownership is complacent (I’m thinking Yamauchi is the Nintendo version of Howard Hughes locking himself in a Vegas casino penthouse), and there’s the distraction of divorce of the minority owner, and the moribund front office. That said, I think the problem is more CEO Lincoln/COO Armstrong. 

    I will say, though, that Safeco, SODO, Chinatown, and Pioneer Square are a world better than the National’s stadium site (for now). Seattle still wins on that front. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. But that’s not a sound business model, IMO. Winning is.

  • Chris Dostal

    You make a lot of good points, Art. But you know what I haven’t seen or heard anyone talking about, all season long? Our coaching staff, aside from Wedge. I know we have some good pitchers (Felix, Vargas, Millwood when he’s healthy, Furbush, Wilhelmson, and probably some others that I’m forgetting), but our star closer lost it and hasn’t been able to get it back yet. How is our pitching coach helping him recover? Why haven’t we optioned League back down to AAA Tacoma, so he can help them blow saves and give up 5 – 1 leads?

    And what about our batting coach? We started out the season cold as ever, then got a little hot right at the middle of the first half of the season, but it looked like the only times we could swing the bat well were when we were facing pitchers who hadn’t seen us yet, and were still throwing fast balls at our young guys. Now the whole league knows that we can only hit fast balls, and we might see one or two per batter (not per at bat, but per batter) per night. Wedge even mentioned it in an interview last week that I heard on the radio somewhere. He said that we “missed one or two fast balls” the night before, and that “we can’t afford to miss any of those when we see so few.” Well of course we can’t! But wouldn’t it be better for us as a team if we could afford to miss a few fast balls because we’d learned to hit off-speed pitches too? There’s no way we’re ever going to manage a winning record if all we can hit is fast balls. But what is our batting coach doing about this problem? Apparently nothing, because the only people on our team who can hit off-speed pitches are people who came up pre-Wedge, and had some practice time with previous batting coaches, and even they’re losing the ability.

  • Chris Dostal

    You make a lot of good points, Art. But you know what I haven’t seen or heard anyone talking about, all season long? Our coaching staff, aside from Wedge. I know we have some good pitchers (Felix, Vargas, Millwood when he’s healthy, Furbush, Wilhelmson, and probably some others that I’m forgetting), but our star closer lost it and hasn’t been able to get it back yet. How is our pitching coach helping him recover? Why haven’t we optioned League back down to AAA Tacoma, so he can help them blow saves and give up 5 – 1 leads?

    And what about our batting coach? We started out the season cold as ever, then got a little hot right at the middle of the first half of the season, but it looked like the only times we could swing the bat well were when we were facing pitchers who hadn’t seen us yet, and were still throwing fast balls at our young guys. Now the whole league knows that we can only hit fast balls, and we might see one or two per batter (not per at bat, but per batter) per night. Wedge even mentioned it in an interview last week that I heard on the radio somewhere. He said that we “missed one or two fast balls” the night before, and that “we can’t afford to miss any of those when we see so few.” Well of course we can’t! But wouldn’t it be better for us as a team if we could afford to miss a few fast balls because we’d learned to hit off-speed pitches too? There’s no way we’re ever going to manage a winning record if all we can hit is fast balls. But what is our batting coach doing about this problem? Apparently nothing, because the only people on our team who can hit off-speed pitches are people who came up pre-Wedge, and had some practice time with previous batting coaches, and even they’re losing the ability.

  • Will

    The Mariners are simply playing the odds.  And the odds say, someone is always losing.  Unfortunately, losing has become institutionalized by a “throw darts at the problem” upper management, concerned more about the price of beer than hiring a stud hitter. Perhaps too, the Japanese ownership situation has become too invisible aka an old Howard Hughes.

  • Will

    The Mariners are simply playing the odds.  And the odds say, someone is always losing.  Unfortunately, losing has become institutionalized by a “throw darts at the problem” upper management, concerned more about the price of beer than hiring a stud hitter. Perhaps too, the Japanese ownership situation has become too invisible aka an old Howard Hughes.

  • Mr Earl

    When Alex Rodriguez was weighing his options he said, in effect, “Whether I stay or go, You have to bring in the fences 10′.”

    The Mariners  have not signed a credible home run hitter since. 

    Why would a hitter who gets paid by the numbers come to a pitcher friendly ballpark  like Safeco?

  • Mr Earl

    When Alex Rodriguez was weighing his options he said, in effect, “Whether I stay or go, You have to bring in the fences 10′.”

    The Mariners  have not signed a credible home run hitter since. 

    Why would a hitter who gets paid by the numbers come to a pitcher friendly ballpark  like Safeco?

  • Kid Mange

    Not a single mention of the actual culprits in this debacle, Armstrong and Lincoln. For shame, Franchise.

  • Kid Mange

    Not a single mention of the actual culprits in this debacle, Armstrong and Lincoln. For shame, Franchise.

  • Troy Kirby

    Dear Art,

    It is the Mariner fans, especially Seattle sports fans in general, who deserve the horrid team play that they get.

    When the M’s were winning 116 games a season, it was the Seattle fans who criticized Sweet Lou and Pat Gillick for not “building a farm system.” Now, the M’s are a farm system… for the rest of the league.

    I frankly like the M’s ownership. Why? Because they aren’t trying to bilk the city out of millions, bitching about low attendance, feeling “disrespected” and attempting to move the team.

    The M’s were purchased by a Japanese owner who did so for the quality of life issue of the city. Call it civic pride. He did it so baseball would be here for the next 100 years.

    Everyone gripes about Ichiro and others who stick around too long, but really, aren’t these the same critics who get ticked when A-Rod and Griffey Jr. say “show me the money?”

    The M’s, Sonics, Sounders and Seahawks are playing to the level of their fickle, non-existent fanbase. If those teams win, the banshees come out criticizing that they are getting young players. When those teams lose with young players, the banshees get upset that the teams don’t win.

    Face it, Seattle fans (of which I am one by region) absolutely suck.

  • Troy Kirby

    Dear Art,

    It is the Mariner fans, especially Seattle sports fans in general, who deserve the horrid team play that they get.

    When the M’s were winning 116 games a season, it was the Seattle fans who criticized Sweet Lou and Pat Gillick for not “building a farm system.” Now, the M’s are a farm system… for the rest of the league.

    I frankly like the M’s ownership. Why? Because they aren’t trying to bilk the city out of millions, bitching about low attendance, feeling “disrespected” and attempting to move the team.

    The M’s were purchased by a Japanese owner who did so for the quality of life issue of the city. Call it civic pride. He did it so baseball would be here for the next 100 years.

    Everyone gripes about Ichiro and others who stick around too long, but really, aren’t these the same critics who get ticked when A-Rod and Griffey Jr. say “show me the money?”

    The M’s, Sonics, Sounders and Seahawks are playing to the level of their fickle, non-existent fanbase. If those teams win, the banshees come out criticizing that they are getting young players. When those teams lose with young players, the banshees get upset that the teams don’t win.

    Face it, Seattle fans (of which I am one by region) absolutely suck.

  • Jimbob

    Jack Z has done an admirable job turning the crap that Bavazi left us with a strong AA team and some potential all stars in Ackley, Seager, Montero and yes, Smoak. All these guy are/were HIGHLY coveted They can’t all be stiffs, can they?
    And you’ve gotta believe that the young pitchers will have a couple of #1′s in their ranks.
    Much better then Sexton, Broussard,Lopez, Yuny, Washburn, Bedard, Silva, etc.etc. etc.
    Bavazi had to have had pix of Chuck to hold on to his job for so long……Not one good deal by that son of a Dodger.

  • Jimbob

    Jack Z has done an admirable job turning the crap that Bavazi left us with a strong AA team and some potential all stars in Ackley, Seager, Montero and yes, Smoak. All these guy are/were HIGHLY coveted They can’t all be stiffs, can they?
    And you’ve gotta believe that the young pitchers will have a couple of #1′s in their ranks.
    Much better then Sexton, Broussard,Lopez, Yuny, Washburn, Bedard, Silva, etc.etc. etc.
    Bavazi had to have had pix of Chuck to hold on to his job for so long……Not one good deal by that son of a Dodger.

  • Gary

    Touche Art! I actually agree with you

  • Gary

    Touche Art! I actually agree with you

  • Old Goat

    Player aquisition is much like the M’s batting, let the good ones right down the middle go by to show patience and swing at the bad ones in the dirt – at least the rest of the league can feast on Mariner left-overs.

  • Old Goat

    Player aquisition is much like the M’s batting, let the good ones right down the middle go by to show patience and swing at the bad ones in the dirt – at least the rest of the league can feast on Mariner left-overs.

  • jafabian

    Art’s last line sums it up.  IMO, so far as a GM Jack Z. reminds me of Dick Balderson.  Great evaluator of talent but hasn’t made the moves to make the club a winner.  Wedge gives young players the opportunity they need to become a solid pro but the jury is out if he’s the one to make the club a consistent winner.   Hope owners don’t revert to the ways of George Argyos and start trading everyone away.

  • jafabian

    Art’s last line sums it up.  IMO, so far as a GM Jack Z. reminds me of Dick Balderson.  Great evaluator of talent but hasn’t made the moves to make the club a winner.  Wedge gives young players the opportunity they need to become a solid pro but the jury is out if he’s the one to make the club a consistent winner.   Hope owners don’t revert to the ways of George Argyos and start trading everyone away.

  • Trygvesture

    You know, these observations and comments have been repeated incessantly in all the blogs and column comments for, well, seems like forever. Everybody gets it– there is no love lost re Howie/chuckster, and their sardonic attitude and completely disingenuous comments about the community and press continue when they sneak out from behind the curtain for 10 minutes every couple of months. 
    It makes me wonder: what would we see/hear as flies on the wall of the FO? Do these guys bother to read this stuff? Do they dismiss it as pesky fandom chatter without substance or significance? Do they smirk and count the profit awaiting when they sell? Do they pretend they’re really what they say in public, even behind closed doors? And what about their immediate underlings? Do they do the usual corporate-mandated ‘just play the game/ mouth the company line” and collect their paychecks, or is there some disgruntledness and disgust, some challenge, or –improbable-courage towards speaking truth to power?All of the same could be wondered about the boardroom– the minority owners. It is just an amazing sociological phenomenon– the elephant in the civic living room, and nobody in room seems to notice. I just don’t get it. The status quo has never been so unchallenged in what is really a publicly political arena. I hope for leaked memos and emails…

    • Will

      The other side of the door is probably populated with lifers and there’s no risk taking from that group.   Besides, if anyone hints at disloyalty, they’re quickly gone … never to be honored with a bobblehead night.

  • Trygvesture

    You know, these observations and comments have been repeated incessantly in all the blogs and column comments for, well, seems like forever. Everybody gets it– there is no love lost re Howie/chuckster, and their sardonic attitude and completely disingenuous comments about the community and press continue when they sneak out from behind the curtain for 10 minutes every couple of months. 
    It makes me wonder: what would we see/hear as flies on the wall of the FO? Do these guys bother to read this stuff? Do they dismiss it as pesky fandom chatter without substance or significance? Do they smirk and count the profit awaiting when they sell? Do they pretend they’re really what they say in public, even behind closed doors? And what about their immediate underlings? Do they do the usual corporate-mandated ‘just play the game/ mouth the company line” and collect their paychecks, or is there some disgruntledness and disgust, some challenge, or –improbable-courage towards speaking truth to power?All of the same could be wondered about the boardroom– the minority owners. It is just an amazing sociological phenomenon– the elephant in the civic living room, and nobody in room seems to notice. I just don’t get it. The status quo has never been so unchallenged in what is really a publicly political arena. I hope for leaked memos and emails…

    • Will

      The other side of the door is probably populated with lifers and there’s no risk taking from that group.   Besides, if anyone hints at disloyalty, they’re quickly gone … never to be honored with a bobblehead night.

  • hahaha_all_in

    And they pay you for this garbage. 

  • hahaha_all_in

    And they pay you for this garbage.