BY SPNW Staff 07:30AM 11/28/2012

How Do You Grade Mariners’ Offseason So Far?

The Mariners have lost 51.4 percent of their fan base over the past decade, most by any team in the four major professional team sports. Are they fixing the situation? Vote here.

The Mariners will spend $10 million on a new video display screen at Safeco Field. / Seattle Mariners illustration

Website 24/7 Wall, which publishes what it describes as “insightful analysis and commentary for U.S. and global equity investors,” published a list titled “13 Pro Teams Running Out of Fans.”

The 13 bedraggled franchises represent all four major pro sports, including seven from Major League Baseball, three from the National Basketball Association, two from the National Hockey League and one, a little surprisingly, from the National Football League.

The story compiles 10-year attendance declines. Not only have the Seattle Mariners (to no one’s surprise in the Northwest) suffered the biggest drop off in paying customers over that span — 51.4 percent — their margin over the second most-shunned club, the Cleveland Indians, is large: 12.7 percent (-38.7 percent decline).

The Mariners attracted 3,540,482 in 2002, the year after 116 wins. Last year, Seattle drew 1,721,920, the lowest full-season total since the club moved into Safeco Field in mid-1999. Stadium capacity, 44.4 percent, was baseball’s worst.

These are, according to 24-7 Wall, the 13 teams that suffered the biggest declines over 10 years: 13. Miami Dolphins, NFL, -17.1 percent; 12. Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, -19.0; 11. Washington Wizards, NBA, -19.1; 10. Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL, -19.2; 9. Baltimore Orioles, MLB, -19.7; 8. New York Mets, MLB, -22.0; 7. Detroit Pistons, NBA, -22.3; 6. Oakland Athletics, MLB, -22.6; 5. Dallas Stars, NHL, -23,2; 4. Arizona Diamondbacks, MLB, -32.0; 3. Houston Astros, MLB, -36.1; 2. Cleveland Indians, MLB, -38.7; 1. Seattle Mariners, MLB, -51.4.

In its capsule comment on the Mariners’ decade-long fan drain, 24/7 Wall notes, “Since tying an MLB record with 116 wins in 2001, the Mariners have frequently struggled.”

Frequently struggled? One could argue that’s a gross understatement after no division titles and seven last-place finishes since 2002.

“The Mariners also traded away Ichiro Suzuki, whose career included Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards, and breaking the record for most hits in a season,” 24-7 Wall added. “Although several good players remain, such as perfect-game pitcher Felix Hernandez, the team has been unable to keep fans interested.”

Players such as Rich Aurilia, Scott Spiezio, Carl Everett, Carlos Silva, Jeff Weaver, Miguel Batista, Milton Bradley and Chone Figgins, trades such Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, and giveaways such as Adam Jones to Baltimore have a way of doing that.

But now all of that is in the sordid past, and the Mariners are in the process of chipping away at that -51.4 percent fan dive. Even now, they are wooing free-agent catcher Mike Napoli, and consider the other off-season moves designed to make the club fan friendly again:

  • Oct. 2: The Mariners announced they will move in the fences from 12 to 17 feet to aid the worst offense in the American League.
  • Oct. 4: Fired hitting coach Chris Chambliss after the Mariners finished 14th in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (first batting coach ever fired following a 12-0, season-ending victory).
  • Oct. 22: Raised ticket prices in many sections of Safeco Field without providing season ticketholders a heads-up.
  • Nov. 2: Extended the contract of RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, who will make $6.5 million in 2013 and $6.5 million in 2014 with a $1 million option if a $7.5 million contract is not picked up in 2015, plus bonus money.
  • Nov. 3: After getting rid of C Miguel Olivo and SS Munenori Kawasaki, re-signed lefty Oliver Perez.
  • Nov. 7: Announced a major investment (dollars undisclosed) in international player development with the construction of a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.
  • Nov. 6: Claimed outfielder Scott Cousins, a .163 hitter, off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Nov. 15: Announced that the club will spend $10 million to install a new high-definition video display system at Safeco Field.
  • Nov. 19: Released free-agent bust Chone Figgins, a move that mandates the Mariners eat his $8 million guaranteed salary.
  • Nov. 20: Acquired infielder Robert Andino, a .211 hitter in 127 games last season, for OF Trayvon Robinson.

Spending $10 million on a block-long video display might seem (a) the equivalent of building an opera house for Courtney Love, and (b) a move that does nothing to improve the ball club, but keep in mind the off-season traditionally doesn’t heat up until the first week of December with the annual meetings, this year in Nashville.

With that in mind, you’re invited to take our poll and, as always, comments are encouraged.



  • OffTheLows

    The most amazing thing about that shocking stat is that Howard Lincoln and especially Chuck Armstrong, who may have the longest tenure of a non-owner executive record of futility in the history of professional sports, still remain on. If I was a local sports writer, I think I would dedicate weekly columns, at a minimum, comparing how pathetic Chuck and Howard’s records compare to other notable executive failures past and present, Matt Millen for example.

    • Trygvesture

      Absolutely. There is Baker, of course, and he’s got some incessant M’s-lackeys ripping him every day. Art points out the limpid leadership pretty regularly. Problem is, NintendoMan and his sycophant guy, Howard, and his lap dog Chuck, don’t care. It’s just button-down baseball for them– riding a failed baseball model down the slope to a sale– for all the money anybody in ownership could ever want to earn from passive equity appreciation. For doing, well, nothing– except ignoring any obligation to the Game, to their respect for the civic trust they’ve been given the opportunity to care for, for basically screaming to the community, “We simply don’t give a damn about building a baseball franchise. Period. Get used to it. We’re old-school bizznessmen, and would own a Fuller Brush franchise is they were still around. We’re here until the equity appreciates enough that we can stuff our pockets and skate away, Suckers.”

      They should be pilloried weekly. At the least.

      • art thiel

        Tryg, after a month, you’d be bleeding out your eyes. If ownership doesn’t take seriously a 50 percent falloff in attendance, nothing else matters, especially not words of sportswriters.

    • art thiel

      Off, do you know how fast that would get old? It would tell the readers what they already know, and further entrench ownership that resents being told to do better by anyone, especially media.

      • Trygvesture

        okayyyy, but then why bother to point out their failings and abandonment of the community trust ( and $) they’ve been given, if not to keep it in the fore that they are disapproved of in the public eye, with a hint of hope that they may grasp their fall in stature — a fall that can’t be rationalized as a good thing by the balance sheet. Ya gotta believe these guys, at some level, want to be revered as Important People in the Community, respected as Mover and Shakers, wielders of the Authoritative Voice in civic matters….

        Beat em up with their own arrogance and point out the Emperor’s New Fan Experience missed the essentials of a well-outfitted Baseball Club. Until the throne of illusion is toppled by the sound of broad derision, the Emperors will continue to believe they are recognized as They Who Know What’s Best. I can’t thrash the metaphor further, but the point remains– they are disingenuous to the point of outright lies– and isn’t revealing the hypocrisy of public figures the sacred turf of the fourth estate?

        Your work, of course, pushes the hardest and with the most factual insight– and it’s great– but what would happen to them in New York, sans Seattle Style etiquette? These guys are profiting, big, off public finances and a now-abandoned public trust. It is our business.

        I’d love to see a Jack Anderson type on their tail.

  • SandlotSam

    It’s still too early to make any judgements on this particular off-season, but if it goes like recent off-seasons then it will be yet another disaster. Now, call me crazy, but I think they’re actually going to make an interesting move (or two) by spring training. Desperation is a unique motivator.

    • art thiel

      Fair point, Sam. This is a weak market in which to bust a big move. I see them moving young pitching for young hitting via trade.

  • Joe

    management opposes the arena, why should i support these guys, i only support them cuz i dont want to lose a baseball team

    • art thiel

      Are you a one-issue voter, Joe? Lots of layers to fandom here.

  • Chap

    Dumping Figgins was the only move, so I can’t give them props for doing what was expected. Scoreboard improvement sits outside of the team stuff, so again, don’t really care about that. They need to do something to improve the offense in a major way. Hopefully they’ve figured out the “pitching and defense” philosophy just doesn’t work. 2 or 3 legit bats at the minimum. Current grade….C

    • art thiel

      Jack Z knows the need and the urgency. But in this market, doing too little is better than hiring with potential dead weight at contract end.

  • Safeco summers

    And yet, I’ll be at Safeco for at least 15-20 games again this summer. Call me a sucker. Call me a fool. But I love baseball. Despite it all, I don’t think the M’s are that far away from contending. Howard and Chuckie aren’t going anywhere, kids – so getting rid of them isn’t the solution. Please, M’s…add a couple of real boppers to this lineup. Give me a reason to give a crap after Memorial Day at Safeco.

    • art thiel

      SS, if you love the game, you’re entitled to stick with it, and about 1.6 million agreed with you last year. And you at least get that ownership can’t be fired.

      • one174

        When attendance drops below a mil, maybe ownership will self deport.

  • The Mariners need a heavy injection of new life in the front office. It’s a stagnant ballclub.

    • art thiel

      You volunteering, Louis? Make the call on catcher Napoli: Would you pay $48M over 4 for a guy who hit .227 last year?

  • Higgs

    I have become tired of how the front office treats its fan base. Not notifying season ticket holders of a price increase is pathetic. Their stance against the basketball arena is pathetic. Consistent last place finishes are pathetic. I used to go to games weekly but haven’t been to a game now for two years. Call Mark Cuban and Sell them maybe…

    • art thiel

      Higgs. Sale has been suggested by many. Not happening this offseason, unless something changes

  • jafabian

    IMO, management is satisfied with last years progress and are sure that this team can get a .500 record with the current roster. But they need a #3 hitter and a #2 pitcher. I thought Ackley would eventually be that hitter but he took a huge step backwards last season. Hitters are still shy coming here and pitchers will wait to see what kind of impact moving in the fences will have on Mariner pitching. So really, they’re on their own on doing any offseason moves.

    • art thiel

      Hitters won’t come here without evidence that the fences have helped. If then. Still going with good pitching. They have to grow hitters on the farm.

  • notaboomer

    make beer $4 a pint and i’ll be there a lot.

    • art thiel

      Every man has his price. Good to know yours.

  • They’re the Clippers of baseball, good, but not good enough every 15 years or so. The good news is that we’re only 3-4 years away from playoff heartbreak before they suck again until I’m like 50 for another go around.

    • art thiel

      Cheery thought, J.C. How do you feel about the chances of a pennant before Middle East peace?

  • RadioGuy

    When the biggest offseason acquisition heading into December is a scoreboard, it’s pretty hard to feel optimistic about the Mariners’ future as much as I like the young talent they’ve stockpiled. The ownership isn’t commited to winning.

    And you’re neither a sucker nor fool, Safeco summers, because the M’s do play in a nice ballpark. Just don’t ignore the other places where baseball is being played. I live in a town with an old-school wooden ballpark (albeit one with old Kingdome seats installed) and it’s pretty hard to beat an afternoon of college or Legion ball where the parking’s free and you can buy a ticket, two hot dogs and two pops for less than $10. The bases are still 90 feet apart, batters still get three strikes and you still get warm when the sun’s out. If you love the game, you’ll love it wherever you find it.

    • art thiel

      What? No garlic fries and dippin’ dots? Savagery, I tell you.