BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 08/01/2011

Thiel: Roster churn claims more top names

In the same freakish week, the Mariners and Seahawks move top players. But don’t worry – the anniversary reunions at Safeco will be swell.

After refusing a pay cut, Lofa Tatupu became the latest local big name to depart / Rod Mar, Seahawks

Spotting a veteran Seattle pro sports fan has become even easier lately, no longer merely because of the basset-hound expressions.

He or she is the one with the crick in the neck from looking back so much.

First it was the reunion of the 2001 Mariners team of 116 wins. Then came the reunion party Friday night at Safeco for some premier figures in the Sonics’ 41 years, the first civic salute since the franchise was hijacked in 2008 to Oklahoma City.

On a more contemporary note, the past week saw players jettisoned who packed a quality local past.

Notable Seahawks departures: Matt Hasselbeck, Lawyer Milloy and Lofa Tatupu. Maybe Marcus Trufant.

Notable Mariners departures: Doug Fister, David Pauley, Erik Bedard.

Given the light legacy of championship success  in these parts, it’s easy to mock any lust for a modest past.  But that ignores a legit sentiment:  Many fans don’t necessarily have to have big-time winners to care big time.

Which the Mariners and Seahawks franchises are counting upon heavily these days.  Looking forward instead of backward largely has been an unrewarding endeavor hereabouts.

Every team celebrates its past, because as players, managers and coaches come and go, sports history across the generations rests with fans. They are the keepers of the flame. Any team that fails to honor the bond risks losing it.

But the last three weeks of reunions and exits, made more intense by the unscheduled coincidence  of the NFL’s free agent period with MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline,  created quite the collision of emotions and logic.

Regarding the reunions, from Spencer Haywood, Seattle’s first pro sports superstar – think LeBron James before LeBron James –  through Lenny Wilkens, to Jack Sikma, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, through Lou Piniella, Edgar Martinez and  Jay Buhner . . . goodness, there was greatness lately in the house.

Then there was Ichiro, astride the timeline — once great  in 2001 and now desperate to be good in 2011, perhaps wishing  he could be among the returning retirees whose biggest worry is about tee times, not learning the names of six new teammates.

The Mariners acquired a half-dozen new players over the weekend, part of the annual end-of-July MLB ritual for the perpetually mediocre.

As they have done so many times before, the Mariners surrendered proven talent for the promise of talent.  The early reviews from baseball people and media types who have seen the prospects acquired Sunday for Bedard and minor league relief pitcher Josh Fields say Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik did well. But that’s what was said a couple of years ago when he engineered a deal with the Mets that brought starting pitcher Jason Vargas and centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez.

Well, Vargas lost his fifth consecutive game Sunday – 8-1 to Tampa, another dreary effort that ballooned Vargas’ ERA to 6.84 over the last five games —  and Gutierrez is hitting  .194. Prospects are always suspects until they deliver consistently on the major league level, so Mariners fans can be excused if their eyebrows are slow to arch regarding the newbies.

At the least, the sudden vacancies in the starting rotation create a spot for Felix Hernandez’s TV-commercial avatar, Larry Bernandez.

Over in Renton, the Seahawks have no alter egos, and perhaps no egos left at all. GM John Schneider insisted that linebacker and team captain Tatupu, one of the stalwarts of the locker room and a three-time Pro Bowler, take a significant pay cut to stay on. Tatupu refused, so he was cut.

Now more than ever, fans understand the NFL is a ruthless business. The oft-injured Tatupu was neither the first nor the last NFL player in decline to be subjected to such a humbling experience.  Still, the pay cut and the roster cut is a double dip of pain for one who started in the Super Bowl his rookie season.

As it was for his teammates, including his replacement at middle linebacker, David Hawthorne.

“We were just like, ‘Oh my God — a tremendous leader and a great guy is leaving us, ” Hawthorne told reporters Sunday. “So it was kind of hard.”

Tatupu’s departure leaves just 16 players who were on the roster when Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll arrived in January 2010.  Given what they discovered,  it wasn’t as if they were tearing down the 1985 Chicago Bears. Still, seeing Tatupu leave right after the offense’s leader, Hasselbeck, was undeniably harsh.

Unfortunately, Carroll spent much of his time with reporters Sunday trying to explain that he and Tatupu, whom he coached at USC, were largely yippee-skippee about the whole thing.

“It’s a mutual agreement that we made that we both feel good about,” Carroll said with a straight face. “I think it’s a good thing for us. I don’t know that anybody else sees it that way, but I know that Lofa and I do. We feel very good about the plan and I’m wishing him the best, and he’s wishing us the best.”

Well, I suppose there’s someone on the planet who might be happy about going from $4.35 million in salary to zero, but I doubt it’s Tatupu. While Carroll would be wrong to be blunt about Tatupu’s decline and jeopardize his chances to get another NFL job, the fact was that Sunday was a brutal decision for a popular figure.

Anyone seasoned in sports knows that roster churn is as inevitable as it is cruel. Probably every athlete at the two big Safeco reunions felt he could still play beyond the time he was forced to end his career.  Yet any team that isn’t churning its roster has zero hope.

Because they’ve been well-rewarded, none of the athletes deserves pity. Because the fans are invested in the team too, they don’t need to patronized with pap.

The last few weeks in pro sports here have whipsawed the emotions. But if it’s any salve to Tatupu and his legion of fans, they can rest assured that when it comes time to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Seahawks 2005 Super Bowl season, the Mariners will give him and his teammates a helluva pre-game reunion.


YourThoughts

  • Carthur75

    You are charging to read content now?!?! Well this may be the way of the future but for now I still have options… and SPNW is no longer one of them-

  • Carthur75

    You are charging to read content now?!?! Well this may be the way of the future but for now I still have options… and SPNW is no longer one of them-

  • Wilson99aps

    Ditto Carthur75.

  • Wilson99aps

    Ditto Carthur75.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, I might pay for the content.  It is better than the crowd-pandering dribble the Times puts out.  But if SPNW is going to charge then it needs to make it more clear what the process is for such.  A lot of people, for whatever reasons, also no longer want to spend a lot of time on the phone.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, I might pay for the content.  It is better than the crowd-pandering dribble the Times puts out.  But if SPNW is going to charge then it needs to make it more clear what the process is for such.  A lot of people, for whatever reasons, also no longer want to spend a lot of time on the phone.

  • raccoon in the rain

    Sorry, Art…poor man, broke…no raise in 4 years.  Your work is great, but I can’t afford it.  I totally understand after seeing the fate of the PI, so no hard feelings.  You are by far the best sports writer in Seattle, so I’ll miss reading your stuff. Good luck with the website and I’ll catch you on the radio sometimes!

    • Michael Kaiser

      You don’t even know what SPNW might charge.  Stop being disingenuous.  Furthermore, you, like everyone else on the planet, pays at times for “entertainment.”  That is what SPNW is. 

    • Michael Kaiser

      And, by the way, don’t wait for a raise.  Go out and create one.

  • raccoon in the rain

    Sorry, Art…poor man, broke…no raise in 4 years.  Your work is great, but I can’t afford it.  I totally understand after seeing the fate of the PI, so no hard feelings.  You are by far the best sports writer in Seattle, so I’ll miss reading your stuff. Good luck with the website and I’ll catch you on the radio sometimes!

    • Michael Kaiser

      You don’t even know what SPNW might charge.  Stop being disingenuous.  Furthermore, you, like everyone else on the planet, pays at times for “entertainment.”  That is what SPNW is. 

    • Michael Kaiser

      And, by the way, don’t wait for a raise.  Go out and create one.

  • raccoon in the rain

    Gee thanks, Mr. Kaiser!  I’ll go out and create a raise!!!!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  You are right…I do pay for some of my entertainment.  I pay for my internet access.   I don’t buy access to individual websites, ESPN insider, nor SPNW….  I live on a limited budget.  And this is somehow disingenuous…in other words, you think I am lying.  Your logic is suspect.  Gotta go register for classes for a career change.  Is that creating a raise?  Or should I just write paychecks to myself…honestly…

  • raccoon in the rain

    Gee thanks, Mr. Kaiser!  I’ll go out and create a raise!!!!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  You are right…I do pay for some of my entertainment.  I pay for my internet access.   I don’t buy access to individual websites, ESPN insider, nor SPNW….  I live on a limited budget.  And this is somehow disingenuous…in other words, you think I am lying.  Your logic is suspect.  Gotta go register for classes for a career change.  Is that creating a raise?  Or should I just write paychecks to myself…honestly…

  • JTK

    Art,

    It appears that you’ve moved to some sort of subscription-based model for your site.  If so, and I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but it’s usually a good idea for the site to provide a page containing the cost of said subscription plus some sort of facility that allows reader(s) to purchase it.  I don’t see either of these elements on your site, and I tried fairly hard to find them.  If they are somewhere on the site, it is not obvious to the reader.  Not good.  Makes it difficult to buy your product.  

    It has long been a widely-accepted belief in the web world that readers will not pay for content.  Thus, subscription-based sites are a very tough road to hoe.  Only a very, very precious few have been successful. 

    Love your writing and I wish you success.  Thanks.  JTK

  • JTK

    Art,

    It appears that you’ve moved to some sort of subscription-based model for your site.  If so, and I don’t mean to sound sarcastic, but it’s usually a good idea for the site to provide a page containing the cost of said subscription plus some sort of facility that allows reader(s) to purchase it.  I don’t see either of these elements on your site, and I tried fairly hard to find them.  If they are somewhere on the site, it is not obvious to the reader.  Not good.  Makes it difficult to buy your product.  

    It has long been a widely-accepted belief in the web world that readers will not pay for content.  Thus, subscription-based sites are a very tough road to hoe.  Only a very, very precious few have been successful. 

    Love your writing and I wish you success.  Thanks.  JTK

  • raccoon in the rain

    totally confused….now I am able to read the whole article.  And it was a good one.  Thanks, Art!

  • raccoon in the rain

    totally confused….now I am able to read the whole article.  And it was a good one.  Thanks, Art!

  • 3 Lions

    If only the Mariners could cut a guy after they figured they overpaid & misevaluated.

  • 3 Lions

    If only the Mariners could cut a guy after they figured they overpaid & misevaluated.

  • Art Thiel

    The paid content designation was accidental, and has been removed. Read on! 

  • Art Thiel

    The paid content designation was accidental, and has been removed. Read on!