I know, I know. Can’t let emotions totally cloud the big picture. If Howard Lincoln had never come into our lives – in a Seattle Mariners sense – there most likely would no longer BE a “Seattle Mariners” to kick around. In 1992, while working for Nintendo, Howard Lincoln helped facilitate the sale of the Mariners from Jeff Smulyan (evil fuck, who wanted to move the Mariners to Florida, in the time before the Rays and Marlins existed) to an ownership group who wanted to keep the Mariners in Seattle (led, obviously, by the Nintendo corporation).
Part of me will always wonder if that was indeed a good thing. I mean, shit, I didn’t become a Mariners fan until 1995! If you’re telling me there’s an alternate universe where I never would’ve become a Mariners fan in the first place, and been saved 20+ years of heartbreak, I might sign up for that in a heartbeat! Yeah, there have been some good memories sprinkled in there, but for the most part it’s been nothing but misery, with the last 10+ years nothing but stinking, puking misery.
Is it better to have lost and never loved?
Better question: is there ANY chance the city learns its lesson by having the Mariners move to Florida in the early 1990s, and somehow scraps together to save the Sonics before they leave in 2008? Because, if that’s even remotely true, then I’m buying a time machine and setting some shit into motion. Butterfly Effects and whatnot …
I’m getting off-topic again. This is about Howard Lincoln, and how happy we are that he’s leaving later this summer. Retiring, to be accurate, so it’s not like he gets the public de-pantsing that he so richly deserves. But, beggars can’t be choosers.
On September 27, 1999, Howard Lincoln was named Chairman and CEO of the Seattle Mariners. I don’t have the foggiest idea what his role with the club was prior to that, but it stands to reason that he didn’t have nearly as much power as he would wield thereafter. About a month later, on October 25, 1999, he hired Pat Gillick to be the team’s general manager, and from that point, the Mariners enjoyed their greatest regular season success, from 2000 through 2003.
After the 2003 season, Pat Gillick left for a less aggravating life. While he was able to build a steady winner in Seattle, he was unable to make the moves when it counted, and make no mistake: that was ALL on ownership. That was ALL at the hand of Howard Lincoln.
Lincoln’s been a greedy old miser from day one. The Mariners, even at their best, always felt they were spending “too much”. Gillick was never fully given the resources needed to push this team into the World Champion realm, and for that, we have Howard Lincoln to thank.
Once Gillick left, the bottom completely dropped out of this organization in 2004, and from there, it’s been a long, painful run of baseball. Whereas Gillick was reluctant to mortgage the farm, his successor did everything he could to give away all of our young talent for as many magic beans as other teams could throw in our faces. Better to trade prospects for veterans than to add salary via free agency! Then, when we crashed and burned in 2008 – after an endless string of baffling trade decisions from Bavasi got him fired – the focus of the organization shifted to “Build From Within”. Or, you know, the exact opposite philosophy of our reigning GM. We brought in Jackie Z – who we thought knew his head from his ass when it came to drafting – and shrunk payroll to almost nothing as we rushed our prospects to the Bigs, only to watch them fail time and time again. AND YET, even though that failed miserably (save Kyle Seager), after a few years, the Mariners switched philosophies yet again! Starting with Felix, and then Seager, and then Cano and Cruz, the Mariners tried to pad out what little home-grown talent they had with veteran free agents. Ultimately, the organization cratered yet again in 2015, and it was time for yet another shakeup.
I mean, shit man, when a guy like Howard Lincoln forces out the smartest baseball men this organization has ever known in Pat Gillick, and Lou Piniella the year before, isn’t that a red flag? Doesn’t that tell you right there that Howard Lincoln doesn’t know shit about the game of baseball, and shouldn’t be in charge of a baseball organization?
Well, he shouldn’t be in charge if the goal of that organization is to WIN. Which, obviously, was pretty low on the priorities list, regardless of what they’ll tell you in press conferences and interviews. If your goal is to make MONEY, then by all means, Howard Lincoln is your guy. He’ll rule the pocket book with an iron fist, turn Safeco Field into a Chuck E. Cheese playland, and spend all his free time pissing down our legs and telling us it’s raining.
Howard Lincoln has NO FUCKING CLUE how to run a world-class baseball team. Plain and simple. Is he better than the guy who’s trying to take the team and move it to Florida? Yeah, sure, I guess. But, that’s a pretty low fucking bar to clear!
And, I’m not saying you have to spend $300 million a year on payroll. You don’t have to go hog wild and buy all the free agents every single offseason. That’s not the point. The St. Louis Cardinals don’t do that, and they’re probably the organization I respect the most in all of Major League Baseball!
No, see, the idea is to surround yourself with competent baseball professionals, and let them do what needs to be done. Don’t constrict them with your constant meddling, don’t put the payroll on lockdown out of principle, don’t hire a new field manager every two fucking years, and don’t change your organizational philosophy every five fucking years!
- If you have a good team, but they’re a piece or two away from being World Champions, give your GM an opportunity to make a deal at the deadline, even if it means picking up some extra salary
- If you’re going to smartly and patiently build from within, then BE smart and BE patient! Don’t rush them to the Major Leagues after a year in the minors
- If you’re going to start making splashes in free agency, then make the right kinds of splashes, and try to find undervalued diamonds instead of falling all over the first big name you see
- And, if your moves don’t pan out, maybe don’t keep forcing them out there time and time again expecting different results
Howard Lincoln, you’re a putz, and I’m glad you’ll be gone. It’s time to stop running the Mariners like a corporation and to start running them like a baseball organization. Bring in smart baseball people – at all levels, all the way down through the minors – and let them do their jobs. Let the GM set the tone, and dictate how we’re going to be teaching and coaching our youngest players. Be hands off, and be open to new ideas, because the baseball people know baseball, and the business people have no business meddling in their affairs.
There’s probably a lot I don’t know about Howard Lincoln and how he ran this team. I wouldn’t be shocked if I’m slandering the man’s name throughout this piece with half-truths and outright fabrications. But, you know what? When you take a team from baseball’s elite, and drag them back down to the lowest lows (at times, even worse and more embarrassing than we were in the 70s & 80s), to the point where, as a fan, you almost WISH the ownership group would just sell them to another city, so you didn’t have to watch this bullshit anymore … when you’re that TERRIBLE at your job, you don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
And when you do everything in your power to block the Seattle Sonics from returning with a new arena, then I have to admit, this is only the SECOND-happiest moment of my life (as it relates to Howard Lincoln). The #1 spot is reserved for when I can finally piss on that man’s grave.