BY Art Thiel 11:49AM 12/14/2012

Thiel: Mariners inertia, not wisdom, prevailed

No way Hamilton was coming to Seattle, nor should the Mariners have even bothered. Unfortunately for the club, they are in the entertainment biz, not the inertia biz.

Jack Zduriencik - Seattle Mariners - 2010 - 2

Hold tight onto Felix Hernandez, Jack Zduriencik. He may have to hit for the Mariners too. / Ben van Houten, Mariners

Just for the sheer giggle-fest,  the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland sure know how to put together a thrill ride.

Owner Arte Moreno is the front car tossing his hands in air and saying, “Whee!” while his baseball people are in the back, hanging on for dear life and upchucking their breakfast scones.

The Mariners ride is, of course, the opposite. As Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong sit glumly in the immobile front car, arms folded, head down, the club’s baseball people and fan base are standing in the back, waving arms, screaming, “Can we go now?!”

But in this case of hiring Josh Hamilton, staying put – or as the Mariners might do it, forever walking through the Museum of Edgar — was the right thing to do.

The most prominent, riskiest player in baseball’s free agent market this offseason received Thursday from the Angels five-year contract for a contract worth $125 million.

Good for him, foolish for the Angels and bad for the Mariners at least in 2013, when the Angels, Rangers and A’s have done much to decide the American League West already. Welcome to the division, Houston Astros! The Mariners need you more than aging boxer Evander Holyfeld ever needed tomato-can opponents.

Aside from the already discussed risk of Hamilton’s increasing physical problems associated with years of addiction, Hamilton wasn’t interested in Seattle. But Seattle fans became victims of their own desires when they believed the Mariners were actually in the hunt. It’s a cruel tease experienced every winter. The only cure is to not be a Mariners’ fan. Judging by attendance, many have taken the cure.

No premier,  numbers-oriented hitter ever wants to play for Seattle. We all know the reasons: Remoteness, travel time, cool summers for half the season, and most of all, a poorly run franchise that does not know how to win. And in Hamilton’s case, he did not want to be the team’s No. 1. So he gets paid $125 million to be a backup singer to lead vocalists Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

The Mariners’ stunt of moving in the Safeco Field fences may produce enough data in three years to suggest achievement of a new balance of hitter/pitcher fairness, but there is no data in mid-December, 2012, just a theory. Not applicable.

The fact that Mariners officials pressed their noses against the bakery window to stare at Hamilton’s goodies did not make Seattle a bidder. They were never “this close” to a deal with Hamilton, as one report said during the meetings in Nashville. Hamilton’s agent took the Mariners’ calls to build leverage for his client, knowing that the Mariners’ desperation would help drive drive up the price when a heretofore unexpected suitor swooped in. Sure enough . . .

So if the Seattle bosses take reward in helping dupe the Angels to give more dollars and years to Hamilton than the Mariners would have, then well played, gentlemen. The problem with that reward is the Angels don’t care.

Their new TV-rights deal, while not as great as the next-door Dodgers received from the Time Warner nuthouse, still puts the Angels, along with the Rangers and Yankees, in a group of clubs rich enough to bury quickly their mistakes and move on to the next tantalizing over-reach. These clubs want to win, and have developed  work-arounds for when they screw up.

Mariners ownership lacks the guts to enter that club. Nor do they have the baseball moxie to outsmart opponents, as does Billy Beane in Oakland. So they lay turtled. The Mariners do not have work-arounds, alternatives or options. They can only trade talent to get talent. Treading water is a way to stay alive, not win championships.

In the abstract, it could be suggested the Mariners were wise to pass on Hamilton, but there was no moment that required wisdom. They were simply inert. The Hamilton Express whooshed by into Orange County, where a payroll train wreck may be occurring, but there’s a whole lot of people eager to watch the pile-up.

Not so thrilling in Seattle, where owners insist on operating a business instead of an entertainment.

Avoiding a lengthy, expensive contract with a high-risk player was a logical decision. It is also logical to buy new car tires when the old ones are worn. But customers buy baseball tickets based almost purely on emotion.

Inertia is not entertainment, and teasing with a Josh Hamilton signing that was virtually impossible is not good business.


  • I agree with you, I liked the idea that we thought about Josh but the reality of it was someone was going to come in with a huge bloated contract like they always do because baseball needs a salary cap and they need it bad so there can be more competetion instead of the same 4 teams in the playoffs year after year.

    • Matt

      You have to play the game the way it is set up. Wishing for a salary cap will not bring one into existence. Hey, I don’t like it either, but that’s baseball. I’m sure the Mariners owners believe much the same and we won’t become a true contender until they get over that.

      • jon

        exactly. there isn’t going to be a salary cap in MLB in our lifetimes. Not gonna happen

        • art thiel

          Jon and Matt are exactly right. No use complaining about the marketplace rules. All the owners agreed on it with the union.

    • art thiel

      Baseball acutally has had a lot of playoff first-timers in the last decade, none of which bear the compass rose.

  • one174

    “So they lay turtled”? You must really be missing hockey, Art. So here is another. Wherever they go this season they better “warm up the bus”, cause their team will be getting mostly rude receptions from teams assembled by competent baseball people. It is beyond belief that the Chuck and Howie show continues year after year. Yamauchi-san must be comatose to permit it. Seven years since I have been to a game, and counting.

    • That is because you are a fair weather fan.. you have no place in Seattle.. shut your pie hole.

      • jon

        yeah right, Cedric. all 2 million fans who’ve stopped coming to Mariners games are “fair weather fans” Not true. In reality, those are the smart people who refuse to pay always increasing prices for a dismal product. The people who care about this team are tired of being duped by corporate slimeballs who only care how much money they can get out of your pocket.

        If the Mariners didn’t have a monopoly as the only Major League team for hundreds of miles in either direction, they’d have been run out of business long ago. Imagine if Seattle had a second Major League team in say North Seattle or Renton, owned by Chris Hansen. Imagine having an owner who cares about the fans and put together a competitive team, didn’t gouge on prices and didn’t run off most of the superstar players not to mention Lou Piniella and Pat Gillick. If the Mariners had some true competition in the form of another MLB team, NOBODY would go to Mariner games, nobody would buy their corporate sponsorships and nobody would pay millions of dollars to broadcast their games on TV and radio! And best of all Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong would be out of business!

        • jon

          And actually the true “fair weather fans” are the ones still going to Mariner games. Those “fans” are the ones with kids who spend half the game in the play area, leave early and never even know the score of the game. Those are the people the Mariners cater to because they’ll never stop buying tickets because they care so litle about whether the team wins or loses.

          • art thiel

            That’s why Safeco is known as “the mallpark.”

        • art thiel

          Let me sum your point this way, Jon: They are blowing a monopoly.

      • art thiel

        Really Cedric? Haven’t you seen enough stormy weather?

      • one174

        Shut my pie hole? Bwaaa-haaa-haaa-haaa!!! Obviously, Cedric,you are the kind of guy who pays $50 for a greasy hamburger and thinks he is getting a good deal. I’ll be back when Chuck and Howie are gone and not before. Unfortunately, that time will be extended because of fools like you who won’t take a stand…

    • art thiel

      Actually, I think most opponents will welcome them with motorcades.

      7 yrs? Well, you have done your part by voting with your wallet.

  • Bayview Herb

    I wish if the ownership cannot afford to field a competitive team that they would sell to someone who can. I think Bay could turn himself around. His injouries are apparently a thing of the past. I remember when Seattle had the best AAA team in the nation. Bring us a good team and the fans will return.

    • art thiel

      Not sure about Bay, but even if he does, that’s one guy to hit 18 home runs and 65 RBI. Mariners already have plenty of ordinary.

      • Really like “plenty of ordinary” as the new motto for 2013!

  • Matt

    So what’s the solution? Are you ready to get on the bandwagon that the current ownership should sell or bring in new members? It seems obvious that if you care about serious contention, this team philosophy is NOT going to get it done. How do you think we break out of this downward spiral Mr. Thiel? :)

    • art thiel

      Owners rarely can be pressured to do anything. It’s their club until it isn’t. They are not effective franchise managers, but they don’t care about my opinion or yours.

      High-end FAs won’t come here, and the trades of Lee, Fister and Pineda have so far provided mediocre returns. Their only chance is to trust the farm system and hope to get lucky.

      • Matt

        I was afraid that you’d say something like that. ;)

  • Scscubs

    The problem, for true baseball fans, is the complete LACK of a competitive product 4 out of every 5 days… Felix at least gives them a chance on the 5th day, but he is human… Look what Trout did against him last year… And factor in the “defense” that allowed 2 runs to score on a freakin’ Sac Fly! Felix, if he is smart, won’t re-sign with the Mariners… He’ll go where he can get run support, whether that be New York, Anaheim, Los Angeles or heck even Baltimore (cough Adam Jones cough)… Bavasi as GM was a moron of epic proportion, Jack is still paying (or NOT paying) for his free agent signings, managerial hires, and trades… But the bottom line is ownership… As long as they make ANY profit, our local 9 is doomed… I, personally, don’t go to the games anymore because I do not believe the team is competitive… And I, personally, believe the team will not be competitive as long as Howard and Chuck are running the show… They appear more worried about the new arena than in fielding a competitive team… So I’m out until we have new ownership… MLB Network provides me all the competitive highlights and baseball I need while the morons in charge keep celebrating 1995 and 2001 like they were World Series Champs… Which, last time I checked, they were one of 2 teams to have never made the Series… Marlins have 2, Blue Jays 2, D-Backs 1… Rockies have been there… Astros have been there, just the Mariners and Expos/Nationals have never played in the Series… Strasburg, Harper, et al will g et them there, or at least give their fans HOPE waaaay before the idiots in Seattle… Call me bandwagon if you want, I’d just like a competitive team…

    • art thiel

      You go, Scscubs. Speak to the grief.

  • Trygvesture

    It just seem more apparent to me every day. What is it about the profile of the M’s, including the steeper trajectory towards pruning and grooming for a sale since the 08 financial a-bomb, that doesn’t look like posturing for selling? I can’t see anything they are doing, anything they are disingenuously peddling, that isn’t the usual precursor-b.s. to selling. They may not advertise it on Craigslist but the financial management strategy tells what looks like a pretty clear tale. Yam– why would he keep it given his age and recent life events (not to mention the no-Ichiro factor )? Larson– why would he want to stay all-in, given his situation as we read about it? And Ellis? And the one who is a widow of a shareholder and said she doesn’t pay attention to the M’s anymore? Who would oppose it? Lincoln? HA! All upside for him. Chuck? Highest reward for an Ed McMahon EVER.

    And, thier efforts to minimize competion in the neighborhood screams perhaps the loudest. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.

    Low overhead, lots of upside. If somebody– or some group– comes along with the capability you can bet the documents are sitting on a desktop with just a few blanks to be filled in and place for the notary to sign.

    Am I missing something?

    • art thiel

      Tryg, Lincoln twice said “nonsense” when asked about rumors of sale. But why would he say anything else? Saying it’s for sale costs leverage. And one option has always been to simply transfer shares to another current owner, like John Stanton.

      • Trygvesture

        ah-ha. Another straw to grasp! Happy to know that.

  • SeattleNative57

    Agree with the post, Art. It’s never been an easy ride with this team. Thanks for the reminder of the lack of return on Lee, Pineda and Fister. Might as well include no return for Jones, Cabrera, and Choo. What a despicable record on trades. It just defies logic that not a single trade has worked in our favor. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile. It ain’t easy rooting for the home team considering its incompetence. I’m ready for the winning to begin … anytime now.

    • art thiel

      Yeah, a sad litany. When Tampa Bay and WaNats can become competitive franchises, it’s even more bewildering.

  • SeattleNative57

    Shame on me …. forgot we obtained Jaso in trade. That one worked.

    • art thiel

      True dat. Leading hitter. Buhner was also a good trade.

  • The accusation leveled against those of us who are tired of mediocrity, betrayal, and incompetence, of being fair weather fans is laughable in it’s impotence to land with any effect. Unlike “real fans” we are not laboring under Stockholm Syndrome, or feeling the need to lie about those times we’ve fallen up a flight of stairs when asked about the black eye or bloody lip we’ve recently acquired after our latest beating at the hands of those we trust.

    I was at Opening Day in 1977 against California, and I have been a fan for a very, very long time. I, like so many other fans, have grown tired of rewarding this disaster of a ball club with my loyalty. The team needs to be sold to a local, the front office needs to be cleaned out entirely, and we need to build a club built on the idea of winning. No premier player in the MLB wants to play here because of the ORGANIZATION. Howie, Chuck and the Nintendo guy need to get lost and stay lost so we can enjoy baseball again.

    • art thiel

      Can’t be more dedicated and despairing than you Javan. Well said.

  • 1coolguy

    Until Armstrong and Lincoln are gone the M’s will never be anything.

    Why the Japanese owner puts up with such incompetence is beyond us all.

    I for one have no interest in seeing their games in person, which I did often when Gillick was GM.

  • brian

    I stopped going to games a few years back, I stopped watching games a couple years ago, I might pop them on the radio while i’m out doing something in the yard just for some noise.
    I believe what happened was the ownership was spoiled for quite a few years, they were still getting real good attendance with a mediocre product so they were still raking in millions and losing and people kept paying, so in my opinion they must think their fans were pretty stupid, but now after years of a crappy product people got smart and stopped paying. You would think if nothing else the owners would have at least made some moves to show all these no show fans that they were trying but they did squat while all the other teams made some big moves in our division, so by us doing nothing and the others doing plenty the gap is even greater now on the Mariners chances of doing anything in the division. The Mariners were just playing games putting out the news that they were going after Hamilton, when they knew they were not and had no chance, that’s the only thing they could come up with out of the winter meetings. I do believe it was a good move not to go after him. Too much $$ for an iffy product. He does not want to play everyday. He just wanted a huge payday so he can lounge on the bench for 1/2 the games. He knew if he came to Seattle they would instantly want him to be #1 to re-fill all the empty seats, he does not care about that he just wanted the big $$.
    So let’s see Safeco has always been known as a pitchers ballpark, so the big name hitters did not want to come here, they wanted to go to launching pad teams like the Yanks, so since it was a pitchers park we have always seemed to have a pretty good pitching rotation either starters or bullpen, pitchers wanted to come here to hopefully pad their numbers, so now if they move the fences in and that makes Safeco more of a hitters ballpark to try and land some big bats does that not then make it harder to get and keep good pitching, so tit for tat we may land a bat, but may not be able to land pitching. The owners need to move aside and sell and let people who really want to put a winning team on the field, sorry but spending millions on gimmicks like having the biggest TV screen in the majors just makes the picture bigger and clearer when they lose and is not going to re-fill seats. Hey son look that’s the biggest screen in the majors we just watched the Mariners lose their 8th in a row on