I Feel Like We Should Be More Worried About Seahawks Ownership

Seattle has had to endure so many terrible owners and ownership groups in our professional sports history. Good God, seemingly each one was worse than the last!

People complained like crazy about Nintendo owning the Mariners (mostly because Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong proved to be totally incapable of running a winning franchise and pushing us to the next level), but people forget how horrid the two prior owners were through the 80’s and early 90’s (George Argyros and Jeff Smulyan); both threatened and tried to move the team to other parts of the country. The jury is still out on John Stanton, but this current rebuild will go a long way towards our opinion on the job he’s doing.

The Supersonics, obviously, rate as having the absolute worst owners in Seattle sports history. It’s hard for me to choose, honestly. I know Clay Bennett and the OKC guys were the ones who literally stole them from us and moved them to the midwest, but I would argue Howard Schultz was the absolute worst owner in franchise history. He tried to run the team like a business – looking to make a buck over winning actual basketball games – and he doomed us to our eventual demise by being the one to sell them to the OKC guys (knowing full well they’d stop at nothing to move the Sonics, but trying to pretend like he was the one who was bamboozled when obvious scumbags didn’t stick to their “promises”). The Ackerley Group were among the best owners in Seattle sports history, though they did cheap out on renovating what would become Key Arena, the beginning of the end of it all.

We can’t leave out the Seahawks, because the first sports villian of my young life was Ken Behring, when he tried to move the Seahawks to southern California in the mid-90s. That was after many years of meddling and stripping this team of any opportunity to compete in the AFC West by himself being cheap and sticking his nose into player personnel decisions that would doom us to an entire decade of mediocrity in the 1990s.

I think it’s without question that Paul Allen is far and away the BEST pro sports owner in Seattle’s relatively young history. He swooped in and saved the NFL for our fair city, and oversaw the greatest period of success on the field by leaps and bounds. He brought in Mike Holmgren, who instituted an immediate culture change. That led to our first Super Bowl appearance in 2005. The hand-off from Holmgren to the next guy didn’t go smoothly, but Allen didn’t settle for a loser in Jim Mora Jr. Instead, he went right out and hired Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who took us to back-to-back Super Bowls and won our first-ever NFL championship.

The Seahawks, during Allen’s tenure of 1997 – 2018, were a tremendous success. They were among the best-run franchises in the entire NFL. And, when you look at how some of these teams are run – Washington, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, even Dallas if we’re being honest – it’s easy to be in a perpetual loop of awfulness.

Now, the Seahawks are in a trust, run by Allen’s sister Jody, who is the de facto owner for the time being. It’s anybody’s guess as to who’s calling the shots. How involved is she? Who does she have under her – and above Pete and John – who are advising her? The franchise seems rudderless at the moment. I don’t blame Paul Allen’s death for the way the Seahawks have declined in 2021, but at some point the buck is going to stop with who’s running the show.

Right now, the scapegoat is some combination of Pete and John, with a disgruntled Russell Wilson thrown into the mix. Once you start getting rid of one or more of those people, then you have to start looking at ownership, or lack thereof.

It seems inevitable that the Seahawks are going to be sold to a permanent owner, and that terrifies the BeJesus out of me. Good owners, in any sport, seem to be in VERY short supply. You get someone young and/or desperate, and you’re looking at a person who will overly-involve themselves in the day-to-day operations. You get someone old and/or who doesn’t give a shit, and you’re looking at a person who will let the team rot. You need a balance of someone who cares, but who will let the football people make football decisions (while at the same time, holding those football people accountable for those decisions when they start going wrong).

It’s a legitimate concern that maybe Pete Carroll has too much control over the players we bring in (and the players we keep around). It’s a legitimate concern that John Schneider’s skills at drafting and targeting quality trade chips and free agents have declined. They need to be held accountable, by a strong, disciplined owner. We need a plan in place to turn this franchise back around in a hurry.

It doesn’t seem like we have the ownership group in place to handle this properly. This is a very interesting look at the Portland Trailblazers, who are in a similar boat, as they were once owned by Paul Allen and now sit in that same trust as the Seahawks. It’s not a matter of finding a new ownership group immediately; it’s about finding the right ownership group. I don’t know who that is, because I don’t keep tabs on who all the eligible billionaires are who are also interested in being NFL owners. But, you better believe it’s going to be keeping me up at night, until the team is eventually sold.

Owners aren’t like head coaches or GMs; you don’t get out from under them in 2-3 years’ worth of losing seasons. You are STUCK with them! If there was any accountability for shitty owners, the Knicks would’ve been saved from James Dolan’s tyranny eons ago. Ken Behring was the shortest-tenured Seahawks owner and he still had the team from 1988 to 1996. That is such a long time, but there are no guaranteed floors. Once an owner is accepted into the NFL’s tribe, it’s pretty much like a Supreme Court seat; you’re there as long as you want to be. Dan Snyder is as despicable and inept as they get, and he’s been the owner in Washington since 1999, with no end in sight, in spite of yearly controversies and embarrassments to both the franchise and the league itself.

What if WE get the next Dan Snyder?! Well, there will be no end to our bitching about the Seahawks, that’s a given. But, who wants to be a fan of a franchise that’s so poorly run? At that point, are you better off just giving up and devoting your time to something else?

It’s all just a nightmare. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. Unless someone wants to give me a few billion dollars and vouch or me buying the team? You could do worse!

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense To Blow Up The Mariners

It’s always alarming when people start talking about tearing a team down and doing a full-on rebuild, particularly when it’s a team like the Mariners, who had the hype and expectations they had coming into the season.  Indeed, it’s more than just alarming; it’s discouraging, frustrating, enraging, you name it.  It also makes sense in a lot of ways.  The Mariners have an aging roster with guys like Cano and Cruz on offense, and guys like Felix and Iwakuma on the pitching staff, on top of various role players and guys on 1-year deals.  When you factor that in with how this team has underperformed, is staring down the barrel of last place, with a few guys making a lot of money, and then take a look at how barren the farm system is, and yeah, I can see why people might be clamoring for a tear down.  Get the nasty taste of Jackie Z and Howard Lincoln out of our mouths once and for all, start fresh with the new ownership group and the new GM.

Now, normally, when you do this, you have someone on your roster who you choose to build around, but I’m hearing people talking about trading Cruz, Cano, Felix, (obvs) and Kyle Seager?  Not that Seager is some stud superstar or anything, but he’s not old, he’s not particularly overpaid, and you figure he’s got a lot of years left of being a productive player at this level.

But, here, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s say, for the sake of argument that the Mariners continue to be terrible on into July and anyone and everyone is on the table for trade.  I want to go through the roster line by line, so to speak, and tell you why it doesn’t make a ton of sense to blow the whole thing up.

Any conversation in this area is going to start with Robinson Cano.  We’re currently in the fourth year of a 10-year deal, where he’s making $24 million per season.  He’s 34 years old and still putting up All Star numbers.  He has that DL stint under his belt already this year, which is an obvious concern (given his age), and that contract is pretty prohibitive for a lot of teams.  Smaller market cities just flat out won’t be able to afford him; teams at the top of the league in payroll are going to be VERY wary of bringing on such a huge deal.  So, right there, you’re chopping off maybe half the league, not even factoring in the teams who have a need for a second baseman, who are also in contention and willing to be buyers at the deadline.  Oh, and by the way, Cano has a full no-trade clause, so he’d have to agree to any deal.  The bottom line is, there’s no way the Mariners are trading Cano without opting to eat a significant portion of his salary, in which case why even bother?  We’re not at a point where he’s a cancer in the organization.  And, even if we did trade him while eating a bunch of money, we STILL probably won’t get anyone of value in return.  That’s, like, a million whammies against this ever happening.  Next.

Nelson Cruz.  He’s even older than Cano, at 36 years of age, but he’s in the third year of a 4-year deal.  He’s still playing at an All Star level, but he’s also just a DH.  He can only play the outfield in National League games, and I’m not totally sure he can even play on back-to-back days.  That SEVERELY limits his value.  It takes out the entire National League, for starters, as he can’t play any other defensive position than right field.  So, he’s a DH.  I’m sure an American League team would welcome him with open arms, but he immediately limits a team’s flexibility to give guys DH “rest” days late in the season.  His contract isn’t too terrible, at $14 million next year (and whatever pro-rated portion of that for the rest of this season), but again, you’re not talking about a guy who is going to bring back a lot of value.  Maybe a couple Quad-A guys, and some salary relief and that’s about it.  Next.

Felix Hernandez, of course.  He’s 31 years old, but he’s been in the Major Leagues since 2005 and has a lot of miles on his arm.  He spent significant time on the DL last year and again this year.  He’s making $26 million this year and next, and $27 million in 2019.  There’s a $1 million option for 2020 if he spends significant time on the DL with an elbow injury, otherwise he’ll be a free agent in 2020.  His performance has declined since 2014 (the last year he was really at an All Star level) with no reason to expect him to return to a consistent All Star level.  In short, trading Felix would be a straight-up salary dump for very low-level prospects.  And, on top of it, he too has a full no-trade clause.  Seems highly unlikely any team would take on the risk of a Felix Hernandez for that type of money, so this is another scenario where the Mariners would almost certainly have to eat some of that money.  He doesn’t have the type of emotional value anywhere else besides Seattle, so what would be his motivation to want to go elsewhere (aside from being a broken-down starter trying to back-door into a playoff appearance)?  Seems like a longshot at best that the Mariners are able to deal him at all.  Next.

Hisashi Iwakuma.  Will he even be healthy by July?  Let’s assume he is, for the sake of argument.  Well, he’s 36 years old right now.  He’s earning $14 million this year, so he’ll cost his new ballclub whatever the pro-rated amount of that is.  He’s 94 innings-pitched away from earning a guaranteed $15 million in 2018, which he could very well reach if he’s able to return by July (otherwise, it looks like 2018 is a $10 million club option year, and he could be released if he doesn’t reach the innings threshold).  Also, Kuma has a full no-trade clause.  His velocity has gone down significantly this season, he’s not making great progress in his rehab at the moment, and aside from 2016, he hasn’t proven to be very durable.  Throw him on the pile of guys I’ve already mentioned who won’t bring back much of anything in trade, aside from salary relief.

Boring and repetitive, no?  Let’s return to Kyle Seager then.  Here’s a guy with some real, actual value.  He’s 29 years old.  He’s on a contract for up to five more seasons after this year (2022 is a club option year with a buy-out).  He has yet to be prohibitively expensive, though his salary spikes starting in 2018 (between $18-$19 million per season over the next four years, while his 2022 season value could climb as high as $20 million if he reaches certain performance markers).  Again, though, that’s not an unreasonable number for a guy like Seager, who plays a solid third base, who is as durable as they get, who is consistent offensively (and has improved little by little every year).  This is a guy any team would love to have!  So, we get back to the usual questions:  which teams in contention also need a third baseman?  You could talk about moving him to second base in a pinch, but moving him to first base seems like a waste of his talents, and reduces much of his value.  I could see the Mariners getting a really valuable piece in return for Kyle Seager, but once you trade him, you’ve got an immediate hole at third base.  Who fills that void?  The Mariners don’t have anyone in the minors right now ready to step in there on an everyday basis.  If you trade Seager for a third base prospect, you still don’t know if that guy will pan out.  You’re essentially trading a sure thing for a lottery ticket, and you haven’t really helped your team out in any other areas.  Plus, Seager is a homegrown talent, and if you’re looking to unload salary elsewhere, you’re going to want to keep a guy like Seager around to help lessen the blow of the fact that the Mariners would (in this scenario) be getting rid of a lot of familiar faces.  However, if the Mariners are forced to keep guys like Cano, Felix, and Cruz (due to age and salary issues), then by all means, try to get as much as you can for Seager.  I just hope the backup plan at third base is a true asset and this won’t be a Robbing Peter to Pay Paul situation.

Jean Segura is under club control through 2018, so here’s another valuable piece.  Who wouldn’t want a guy like Segura?  You could stick him at short stop or second base, you can put him at the top of your lineup as he’s a hitting machine, he’s got plenty of pop in his bat to boot, and he’s cost-friendly from a contract perspective (his final Arb year is next year, but he’s a steal at $6.2 million this year, and should still be a bargain next year with whatever raise he gets).  You can unload Seager and Segura and get some high-level prospects back, but again those are a couple of really big holes to fill on the left side of your infield.

After that, I don’t know that you have a ton of value left to trade.  Smyly’s hurt, Gallardo is bad, Valencia is just okay, ditto Dyson and some of the veteran bullpen guys.  You’re not going to get much back in return, is my point.  The only other guys with value on the Mariners are younger guys:  Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, Altavilla, Pazos, but isn’t the whole point of a total roster rebuild to build AROUND that young core?  Wouldn’t you want to KEEP guys like Paxton, Haniger, Heredia, Gamel, Diaz, and the like?  Sure, you could get some decent prospects back, but at that point you’re REALLY trying to bottom out if you’re going to trade talent like this.  That’s more of a long-con like the Astros did, where they went after the #1 overall draft pick year after year after year.  Can the Mariners afford to wait that long, when they’re already the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of Major League Baseball?

I’ll talk a little more about Paxton here, since I’m thinking he’s a name people might want to trade.  Like Kuma, Paxton is a guy who has never proven he can stay healthy for a full season.  He hasn’t really had any significant arm trouble, but it’s been a lot of other things, and you have to think the significant arm trouble is on the horizon.  I just don’t know if you’re going to get the type of value for a guy like Paxton that you’d be happy with.  It makes more sense to hang onto him for the pennies he’s making now, let him build up value over the next few seasons (if he can), and reap the rewards of his ace-like performances while we can.

I dunno.  A total rebuild is a nice idea, particularly in a season like this where everything is going to shit, but I just can’t see it.  At best, the Mariners can unload salary, while getting some good prospects back for Seager and Segura, but it comes at a price:  knowing the Mariners won’t contend for anything for another 3-5 years or more.  Maybe you’re okay with that, but there’s another problem with “building for the future”:  even if you run into a Best Case Scenario, like with the Royals a few years ago, these things are short lived!  Guys get injured, guys underperform at random, guys become free agents and command huge deals on the open market.

Going back to the Royals, they were a bottom-feeder for almost 30 years!  They won the World Series in 1985, then didn’t make the playoffs again until 2014.  They made the World Series in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 (winning it all the second time around), then fell to .500 in 2016 and now, in 2017, they’re last in the American League.  THAT’S HOW FAST IT CAN ALL FALL APART!

Now, come back to the Mariners.  Again, I reiterate, the Mariners have the longest playoff drought in the entire Major Leagues.  They’re one of two teams who have never reached the World Series (with the Nationals/Expos), and one of 8 teams who have never won it all.  Only the Buffalo Bills have a longer playoff drought in all of the four major American professional sports.  You could make an argument that the Mariners, as presently constructed, are just a couple players away from being serious playoff contenders (particularly on the pitching side of things).  Are you willing to throw that all away, to start over fresh, without any guarantee whatsoever that tanking these next 3-5 years will bring about any sort of turnaround?  Just because it looks like it’s worked for the Astros doesn’t mean it will work for the Mariners.  And, even with the Astros on the rise, how long will it last?  Will they be the new Royals in three years?

TL;DR:  why do we even follow the sport of baseball?  ALL OF LIFE IS A MEANINGLESS FARCE!

In Conclusion: My Final Thoughts On The 2016 Seattle Mariners

I’m finding it harder and harder to get angry over the end result of yet another season without the playoffs.  But, let’s just let that sink in for a while and see if the rage comes back.

With every regime change, it feels like you start your fandom all over again.  True, the Seattle Mariners have gone 15 consecutive seasons without reaching the playoffs, but Jerry Dipoto’s Seattle Mariners are only on an 0 for 1 streak!  He improved over the 2015 Mariners, and had us contending for that second wild card spot up to the very end of the season.  Had a couple things gone differently, maybe we’re in there against either Baltimore or Toronto, fighting for an opportunity to get into the ALDS.

This year was especially different, because it not only saw the Mariners bring in a new GM, but also a change in ownership.  No more Howard Lincoln to kick around!  Whether it had any bearing on the 2016 season, or the direction of this franchise going forward, it feels – as a fan – like a clean slate.  That dark cloud of incompetence has lifted with the infusion of fresh blood.  This isn’t the team with the longest playoff drought in the entirety of the Major Leagues; for all intents and purposes, we’re looking at an expansion team, and a stacked one at that.

Were the 2016 season Year 8 of the Jack Zduriencik regime, I think I’d feel a lot differently than I do.  A new regime brings with it new hope.  A winning season falling just short of the playoffs – knowing you’re THIS CLOSE to being relevant – means that we’re just a couple pieces here and there from taking the next step NEXT year.

But, just because there are new people in place at the top, doesn’t mean we forget what’s come before this.  These still are the Seattle Mariners!  An inept franchise for the bulk of its existence, with a brief window of competence from 1995 to 2001.  I’m into my third decade of rooting on this team, and it’s been a non-stop parade of misery from the start.

I really wanted 2016 to be the year to break the string.  Our stars aren’t getting any younger, for one, and it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll have many stars coming up through the pipeline in the next few seasons.  I REALLY wanted to see Felix get a taste of post-season life, because he deserves it more than anyone.  And, quite frankly, I’ve seen this group of guys go on a hot streak.  If we could’ve maintained our high level of performance from our pitching staff, the sky was the limit for this team.  With Paxton on the hill, I like our chances in a 1-game playoff.  From there, let the chips fall where they may and see what happens.

As it stands, the lasting image I have for this team – the image I can’t get out of my head – is Felix in the dugout, with his head against the railing after the Mariners lost to the A’s on October 1st to officially eliminate us from the playoffs.  That’s 12 years of frustration and anguish, personified.  One more year on the outside looking in.  One more year of utter failure.

I feel you ...

I feel you …

In spite of what I’ve written before (which you really should read, if you want more vitriol in your season-ending Mariners wrap-up post), there’s a lot to like about our chances in 2017.  We’ve still got our core guys locked in place – Felix, Cano, Cruz, Seager, Kuma – and a bunch of other guys who helped us go pretty far this year – Smith, Diaz, Cishek, Paxton, Walker, Miranda, Martin, Zunino, Iannetta, Marte.  While you’re right to be concerned about Dipoto’s trades thus far in his Mariners career, you have to admit he was able to find some diamonds in the rough in his free agent signings.  If Dan Vogelbach can stick – and truth be told, he’s been able to hit well at every level so far in his young career – we could be poised to make a big jump next year.

But, I’ve got a whole offseason to talk about that.  For now, you know what?  I’m going to feel okay about the 2016 Mariners.  This was a fun team to root for, that gave us a lot of wonderful memories.  Huge walk-off hits from Lind, Martin, Cano, and Dae-ho Lee, among others; the epic Ken Griffey Jr. Weekend in early August to kickstart our comeback drive to contention; and a wild September run that saw us fall JUST short.  Feel however you want to feel, but any season that allows me to check the standings on a daily basis down the stretch to try to figure out our path to the post-season is ultimately an entertaining one, if nothing else.

Maybe don’t go overboard.  Failing to make the playoffs isn’t something to be proud of.  I’m not going to say “Good Job,” or “You Did Your Best,” or any of those other pithy platitudes.  We’ve been down this road before.  We’ve been close to the playoffs as recently as 2014; we’ve had winning seasons in 2009 & 2007.  Each of those years have seen bountiful hope and optimism heading into subsequent seasons.  In 2015, the Mariners won 11 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 76-86; in 2010, the Mariners won 24 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101; in 2008, the Mariners won 27 fewer games than the previous year, ending up 61-101 again.  In this run of futility that started with the Bill Bavasi regime, winning seasons haven’t been building blocks so much as edges of cliffs for the franchise to fall from.  There are plenty of reasons to think 2017 will be different, but that’s what we said after 2007, 2009, and 2014 as well.

Be careful out there, is what I’m getting at.  Don’t set yourself up for a big fall by setting expectations too high.  I’m mostly saying this to myself, because every year I get suckered in, and every year I’m left drained.  Let’s take the Wait & See approach and hopefully the Mariners will prove they’ve broken the curse.

I don’t know what Seattle did to deserve the Mariners, but at some point we have to be rewarded for sticking by this team all these years, right?  I mean, Cleveland can’t have ALL the sports glory, can it?

Howard Lincoln Is Finally Gone!

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.

It’s Hopeless, Mariners

Under my Top Searches – the phrases people use to find my blog on Google or whatnot – we have the following gems:

  • mariners stink 2016
  • why do the mariners stink
  • i hate the seattle mariners
  • mariners suck again

This is what the fans are looking into, Mariners!  This is what you’ve brought us to, 8 games into the new season, the new regime, the fresh start for us all!

It feels patently ridiculous to write about how hopeless it is, this early in the month of April, and I acknowledge that.  We’re, like, 5% into the season; there’s a LOOOOOOOONG way to go.  Hell, three months from now, there will still be a LOOOOOOOONG way to go.  I can all but guarantee the Mariners, at some point in 2016, will have a 5-game winning streak to counter this current 5-game losing streak.  How can I be so sure?  Because the Mariners have had at least a 5-game winning streak every year for the last 7 years.  You have to go to 2008 – where their longest winning streak was only 4 games – to find a more inept ballclub.  And, I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t believe the 2016 Mariners will be worse than the 2008 version that went jihad over our hopes and dreams.

But, remember how last year, the Mariners went 2-9 in that homestand in late May, and other than that played essentially .500 baseball the rest of the year?  This feels a lot like that to me.  Which means, there’s really no point in watching the games or getting your hopes up or banging your head against the wall in frustration when they inevitably disappoint.

Let’s put it another way.  Even though the Mariners very well might get their first home win this afternoon to cut down this losing streak at 5 games, and even though I readily admit this team probably has a 5-game winning streak in it at some point in the season, does this team – as it’s constructed – strike you as one that will not only make up these 5 games, but also win enough games ABOVE that to contend for a playoff spot?  Dating back to 2012 when they brought in the second wild card, teams who have had that spot have been at LEAST 10 games over .500, if not more.  Does … THIS, this monstrosity of a Mariners team, look like a team that can recover the 15+ games it needs to make the post-season?  Forget 154 more games left in the season, you could give this team 1,054 games and it wouldn’t be enough!  This team is flawed from top to bottom, and no amount of GM changes, manager changes, hitting coach changes, or player changes will fix it.  It’s not just flawed, it’s rotten.  It’s diseased.  It’s a wheezing, coughing-up-mucus pile of flesh and sweat and gunk, in desperate need of a gun to the head.

You know what will turn around this franchise?  Selling it to a new set of owners, shit-canning Howard Lincoln, moving it to another city, and building it a proper ballpark where its hitters won’t shit their fucking pants 81 games a year.  Fuck it, take ’em, I’m done.  I’d rather have the Sonics back anyway.  If I could trade the Mariners for even a 25% chance at getting the Sonics back, I’d make that deal in a heartbeat.

What do we have to look forward to?  You tell me!  Because I’m at a loss.

  • Is it Nelson Cruz, regressing the FUCK out of himself after playing out of his mind the last two seasons?
  • Is it the slow and steady decline of Robinson Cano?
  • Is it yet ANOTHER useless fucking start to the season out of Kyle Seager?
  • Is it Ketel Marte being the latest of an endless string of failed prospects?
  • Is it Dae-ho Lee being an all-or-nothing lump?
  • Is it Adam Lind just being a lump?
  • Is it wasting yet another season of Felix’s ever-dwindling prime?
  • Is it Hisashi Iwakuma being an injury-prone .500 pitcher, and an over-paid one at that?
  • Is it Wade Miley being the biggest, juiciest diarrhea sandwich of all time?
  • Is it watching the only guy in the bullpen we were SURE we could count on – Joaquin Benoit – suffer the first serious injury of his career and miss significant time from the season?
  • Is it watching the rest of the bullpen turn close games into blown saves, and respectable losing efforts into total disasters?

Oh, you mean I get to watch 154 games of this?  Where do I sign up?

Wait, scratch that, because I’m checking out HARD on this season.  Fool me once, shame on … shame on you.  Fool me — you can’t get fooled again!

Jerry Dipoto Is The New Mariners GM

One month to the day that Jackie Z was fired, Twitter started to blow up with word that his replacement had been found.  It was subsequently confirmed by the team, with a press conference taking place yesterday.  Jerry Dipoto – former Angels GM – is your new Mariners GM.

Forgive me if I’m not falling all over myself with joy.  Truth be told, the move that needs to be made – the move that’s needed to be made for well over a decade – is the organization wresting control from one Howard Lincoln.  Preferably, such a move would come via the powers that be unceremoniously firing his sorry, goldbricking ass, followed by locking him in the stocks so every Mariners fan – one by one – can pass by to hurl insults and throw fresh feces in his face.  But, really, I’d even accept his quiet resignation and/or retirement, just so long as he’s out of the way and not running the show anymore.

I don’t know what to make of Dipoto’s background.  He was the GM for the Angels for 3 and a half years.  Last year, the Angels won the division before being swept by the Royals in the ALDS.  But, how much of that was on the dime of his predecessor’s hard work and shrewd personnel choices?

Jerry Dipoto didn’t draft Mike Trout.  He DID bring in Josh Hamilton.  He also signed Albert Pujols (a trainwreck at first, but has somewhat returned to form the last couple years) as well as C.J. Wilson (moderately successful, when healthy).  I have no idea who he drafted, and I really don’t care to know, because they’re Angels and fuck them.  I care about the fact that he has at least led an organization to the post-season, which is really my only concern for the Mariners at this point.

Will he be the guy to get us back to the playoffs?  I tend to have my doubts.  This organization is so fucked from top to bottom, it’s impossible to see a way out of the abyss.  None of our hitters can make contact.  None of them can take a walk.  Our bullpen is a mess, and we’re squandering the best years of Felix’s career.  As usual, there are too many holes on this team to count, and not enough money or available players out there to fill them.

Coming into 2015, the Mariners needed to fill out the DH spot, the corner outfielders, the back-end of the rotation, while hoping that our young infielders took a step forward.  What did the Mariners accomplish in 2015?  Well, we filled the DH spot with Nelson Cruz, and that’s about it.  PLUS, the bullpen fell apart, all the youngsters flopped, and we need to fill all three outfield spots going into 2016.  It’s an impossible task, so I hope everyone is prepared for continued sucking.

Look for this numbnuts organization to retain Lloyd McClendon.  I say that not to bash on the guy – I thought he brought some needed stability at the position of field manager, and I think he gets the most out of his players, even in a lost season like this one – but because he comes with a built-in scapegoat.  The next two years are very likely going to be miserable at the Major League level, as the organization tries – once again – to fill out the farm system.  They might not be in full sell-off mode, but I could definitely see moves being made to look toward the future.  And, therefore, when we punt these next two years, the Mariners can THEN fire Lloyd McClendon and tell the public, “He wasn’t the right man for the job.”  Dipoto will be able to hire His Kinda Guy (because of course it’s not the organization’s fault we will have had losing seasons in 2016 and 2017), and at that point the clock will be ticking.  Dipoto will have a 2-year grace period, followed by a 2-year hot-seat period, followed by him being out on his ass again and this whole process starting all over.

The sport of professional baseball is so boring and predictable, I honestly wonder why I still bother following it.  Welcome to Seattle, Jerry Dipoto.  I hope you like soul-crushing failure, because you’re going to have a front row seat to the worst four years of your life.  At least you don’t have a stupid-as-fuck last name that’s impossible to spell.

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

The situation:  Number 1 seed from Seattle in a do-or-die game against a bottom-feeder in the playoffs.

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

I won’t rehash the specifics, nor will I pull the iconic photo/video, as I’m sure any of you around at the time must be picturing the giant’s massive hands clutching the basketball while laying on the court, laughing maniacally.  I’ll just say this:  in 1994, the Seattle Supersonics were the consensus Best Team In The NBA (thanks to Michael Jordan “retiring”).  And, with that defeat, the Seattle Supersonics became the first Number 1 seed to ever lose to a Number 8 seed.  While that feat has happened a number of times since then, everyone will always remember the first time.  That’s just the way it works.  Dikembe Mutombo may or may not ever be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll always be remembered for this achievement.

The 1993/1994 Supersonics weren’t the best squad in team history, but you could argue that the 1994 playoffs were our best chance at winning an NBA title in my lifetime (dating back to 1981).  We had a 2-year window without Michael Jordan lurking in the Eastern Conference.  We blew year-one of that window in spectacular fashion.

As a fan of Seattle sports teams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my insecurities.  The Sonics teams from 1993 thru 1998 were some of the best teams in the league.  In the 1993 playoffs, we reached the Western Conference Finals as a 3-seed, only to get screwed out of our shot at a championship by the refs in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns.  In 1994, we had the best record in the NBA by five games over second place.  In 1995, we had the 4-seed and again lost in the first round (though, admittedly, that team was pretty flawed).  In 1996, we were back to being the best in the Western Conference, our regular season record only overshadowed by the record-setting Bulls who went 72-10.  We would go on to lose in the Finals that year to those very same Bulls, and I’ll go to my grave believing that was the greatest team in NBA history.  In 1997, the Sonics were a 2-seed in the West, losing to the Rockets in the semis, 4-3.  Finally, in 1998, the Sonics were again a 2-seed in the West, losing to Shaq and the Lakers in 5 games in the semis.

That was the entirety of our championship window.  It was a spectacular six seasons, with the Sonics going 357-135 (that’s an average record of 59.5-22.5 per season).  The Sonics fired George Karl after that 1997/1998 season and fell into a death spiral shortly after.  And, what did we have to show for it?  Two oustings in the first round, two defeats in the second round, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a meager six games in the NBA Finals (with only two Finals victories).  Until these Seahawks teams under Pete Carroll came around, those were the greatest teams I’d ever rooted for in my lifetime.  And, yet, a lot of flukey shit led to that championship window closing without a dent in the history books.

***

The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

The situation:  Team from Seattle with the best-ever regular season record in a do-or-die game against a team that won 21 fewer games that year.

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

The result:  A 12-3 defeat to lose the series in five games.

I’ll give you that this isn’t really apples to apples when compared to the heartbreak of having a #1 seed lose to a #8 seed; but, we’re talking about the greatest regular season record in MLB history!  116 wins!  The second place team in the AL West – Oakland – won over 100 games and was FOURTEEN games back in the standings!

The Mariners had a championship window from 1995-2003.  In that time, we had four playoff appearances, losing in the ALCS three times and losing in the ALDS once.  In this 9-year window, there were two losing seasons and three other winning seasons where the Mariners DIDN’T make the playoffs (including back-to-back 93-win seasons where we were nipped by superior Athletics teams).

Baseball’s a different beast than most other sports.  It requires enduring success through a too-long regular season, followed by a hot spurt through a large handful of post-season games.  In the NBA, the best team almost always wins it all, thanks to the sheer number of teams granted admission into the playoffs and the number of games they’re supposed to play in every round.  In baseball, all you have to do is make it in and let the chips fall where they may.  The best team DOESN’T always win in MLB, that’s what you gotta remember.

The 2001 Mariners were the best team in franchise history, hands down.  And yet, they were made into mincemeat by the Yankees, who were “built for the post-season”.

Like the Sonics before them, this championship window by the Mariners closed with a whimper.  There hasn’t been a playoff team for the Mariners SINCE 2001.  While many believe 2015 will be the beginning of another Mariners championship window, that still remains to be seen.  162 games need to be played, against some fierce AL West competition.  So, we’ll see.

***

The Seahawks play the Panthers on January 10, 2015.  The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, and a consensus favorite to reach the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots of the AFC.  The Panthers are just the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.  They defeated an injury-plagued Cardinals team in the first round.

Why am I worried about this game?  It’s the same reason why I SHOULD have been worried about the ’94 Nuggets and the 2001 Yankees.  Truth be told, that Nuggets series was my first real taste of the brutality that is being a sports fan.  There’s A LOT of heartache for not that much elation.  As a 13 year old basketball fan just starting to garner interest in the sport and follow it with some knowledge of the game, I was probably overwhelmingly confident in the Sonics going all the way.  Having the rug ripped out from under me was the start of a long, painful decline into the twisted wizard you see before you.  Until the Seahawks threw off the shackles I’d had wrapped around my mind in last year’s Super Bowl, I would go into these types of games EXPECTING to lose.  And, honestly, that feeling never really goes away.  I’m an abused pet living with new, kinder owners.  They’ve proven to be caring, loving people, but at the same time I still wince whenever an arm or a voice is raised.

The Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  If I were a more confident man, I’d go so far as to say the Seahawks WILL win this game.  In the entirety of the NFL playoff teams, the Panthers are the second-best option I’d choose for a Seahawks opponent (behind only the defeated Cardinals and their Lindley-esque shit offense).  While there is cause for real concern about this Panthers team (the defense is improved over the last month-plus, the rushing attack is improved with the return of Jonathan Stewart), it’s pretty obvious that this team is the most eminently beat-able in all of the NFC.  I was positively outraged at the notion that they’d go into Green Bay to play the Packers in the second round if Detroit had held on to beat Dallas last week.  Green Bay would throttle them by 40 points!  And WE’D have to battle a nasty defensive line of the Lions and a potentially explosive offense if they ever got their shit together.

As a quick aside:  don’t you think the #1 seed should be able to choose its opponent for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, pending the results of the Wild Card Round?  Why should we have to play an 11-5 Lions team (had they won) over a 7-8-1 Panthers team, simply because the Panthers were deemed to be a 4-seed while the superior Lions team a 6-seed?  When the NFL gets its own shit together and fixes the playoff system, maybe let’s make this a priority as well as never letting a team with a losing record host a playoff game, huh?

Anyway, getting back, my insecure fan-self is a little encouraged by the fact that there has already been a losing-record playoff team who defeated a playoff team with a superior record.  In fact, these loser teams are 2-1 in the playoffs, thanks to the 2010 Seahawks paving the way by defeating the Saints before going on to lose to the Bears in Chicago the following week.  BUT, what hasn’t happened – and what is rocking me to my very core as I sit and anxiously await tomorrow night’s game – is one of these loser teams going on the road and winning in the Divisional Round.

From the 1980s up until the Seahawks Super Bowl victory last year, there has been a bevy of reasons why Seattle sports teams have been laughingstocks.  Take, for instance, the first 20-or-so years of the Mariners playing professional baseball.  Or, the Seahawks almost moving to Los Angeles.  Or the Sonics signing Jim McIlvaine.  Or the Sonics drafting an endless string of worthless centers.  Or the Mariners getting crushed by the Yankees in the ALCS in back-to-back years.  Or the Seahawks getting referee’d to death in Super Bowl XL.  Or the Sonics being sold & uprooted after 40-some-odd years.  Or the best team in Seattle for the longest time being the women’s professional basketball team.  Or the Mariners plowing through a million managers over the last decade.  Or the fiasco with the Seahawks at the end of Holmgren’s tenure.  Or, the fact that all three franchises had – at one time or another – some of THE worst owners/general managers in all of professional sports (Ken Behring, Jeff Smulyan, Howard Schultz, Lincoln/Armstrong, Wally Walker, Tim Ruskell, Bill Bavasi).

I could go on and on with that list.  The 2013 Seahawks championship team has done the lord’s work in rectifying some of our past indiscretions.  But, a defeat to the Panthers a year later would do absolutely everything to undo all of that goodwill.

This current Seahawks unit is in the midst of a championship window that started in 2012 with a surprise late-season run into the playoffs.  When this window closes remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree it will be various degrees of open as long as Russell Wilson and the core is intact and still playing at a high level.  Whether that’s 5-10 years or more, the fact of the matter is:  these championship windows don’t grow on trees.  They can close in an instant and they may never reopen again in our lifetimes.  We can’t take these seasons for granted!

The Seahawks wrangled one championship and were 30-some-odd seconds away from fighting the 49ers for a second championship in the playoffs two years ago.  They currently sit poised in the catbird seat:  top seed in the NFC, with either Green Bay or Dallas being forced to come all the way out here in a potential NFC Championship showdown.  In spite of an early-season loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink, we match up really well against both of those teams.  More importantly, WE’RE different than we were back in October.  I’ll be a lot more confident if we can just get this Divisional Round game out of the way.

The thing with the Panthers is:  they match up pretty well with us.  Earlier this year, we scratched and clawed our way to a 13-9 victory.  It took a late 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown and pull it out.  In the 2013 season opener, we scratched and clawed our way to a 12-7 victory.  It took a 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; and a late 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  In 2012, we scratched and clawed our way to a 16-12 victory.  It took a late 3rd quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; a late 4th quarter goalline stand by our defense; and a later 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  Margin of victory for those three games:  4 1/3 points.  In the NFL, that’s nothing.

The notch in our belt is that all three of those games were on the road, in Carolina.  It’s notoriously difficult to win on the road, so you cherish any victory, even some ugly-ass shit like those games I just mentioned.  This game is in Seattle.  In the evening.  In front of what may be the rowdiest crowd we’ve seen all year (or, at least, since the week 1 showdown against the Packers).

Another notch in our belt is the level of competition the Panthers have beaten to get to this point.  The Panthers needed a 4-game winning streak to even make the playoffs.  If they would’ve lost any of these games, they would’ve been eliminated.  In those games, they faced the Saints, the Bucs, the Browns, and the Falcons.  The Saints had one of the worst defenses in football; they surrendered 41 points to the Panthers in New Orleans.  The Bucs were the very worst team in the NFL, earning the #1 draft pick in this year’s draft; they lost by 2 points to these very same Panthers.  The Browns were going with Johnny JamBoogie at quarterback, who left injured late in the first half; with Hoyer coming in in relief, the Browns would go on to lose by only 4 points to these very same Panthers.  The Falcons were just an absolute trainwreck on both sides of the football for most of this season, yet they would have made the playoffs with a win over the Panthers in week 17; they surrendered 34 points to the Panthers in Atlanta.  And, to top it all off, the Panthers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last week, taking full advantage of the Lindley-pocalypse (Apoca-Lindlypse?) to get to this point.

Not that the Seahawks had all that difficult of a road to hoe in getting the top seed the final six weeks of the season (only two playoff teams faced, and both of those teams were the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals), but I’d say we’ve looked MUCH more impressive in getting to this point.

Here’s the bottom line:  the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  Yes, we’re particularly good against the pass, but we’re also among the best against the run (indeed, we’re THE best against the run of the remaining playoff teams, but that’s neither here nor there).  If we can prevent the Panthers from gashing us in the run game, they should stand no chance.  On the flipside, while they have a good front seven, they’re not unstoppable.  We should be able to do what we want to do on the ground, while at the same time taking advantage of holes in their secondary.  An important thing to note is this game features the two very best middle linebackers in all of football with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.  Overall, though, the Seahawks have MUCH more talent from top to bottom than the Panthers.  In fact, the Seahawks hold a distinct advantage in nearly every position group.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton is a staggering bundle of injuries being held together by duct tape and painkillers.  There is ZERO reason why the Seahawks should lose this game.

And yet, it’s not entirely impossible.  There was zero reason why the 1994 Supersonics should lose to the Nuggets in five games.  There was zero reason why the 2001 Mariners should fail to make the World Series.  Sometimes, shit just happens.  Sometimes, a matchup materializes that goes against everything one team stands for.  Sometimes, players just have a bad day.

The Panthers have been a tough matchup for the Seahawks for the last three years now.  Regardless of the fact that those prior three games were all played in Carolina, we’re still talking about a mini version of ourselves.

  • Mobile quarterbacks
  • Unheralded offensive lines
  • Lack of game-breaking talent in the receiving corps
  • Tough, hard-nosed running backs
  • Underrated and stout defensive lines
  • Freakishly athletic linebackers
  • Mostly-conservative gameplans & coaches (in spite of Ron’s riverboat ways in 2013 and Pete’s alleged “big balls”)

In the NFL, it only takes one bad game to derail an entire season.  That in and of itself should be enough to terrify us to no end.  I don’t necessarily fear the Cowboys/Packers because I think we match up exceedingly well against them.  Their defenses aren’t anything special, and their offensive attacks play right into our L.O.B. hands.

But, the Panthers pose a tough matchup BECAUSE they’re so similar to us.  Because their defense can harass Russell Wilson and potentially knock him out of the game.  The Panthers – more than any other team remaining in these playoffs – have the capability to hold our offense in check.  And, if they do that, and it comes down to a battle of who wins the fourth quarter, then you’re looking at no better than a flip of a coin.

I don’t like that.  And neither should you.  We JUST have to get past this one game and I’ll feel more at ease.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone’s taking this game seriously.  I know, for the most part, fans are already booking plans for the NFC Championship Game.  But, they’re going to feel pretty damn stupid if we reach the end of Saturday night, with the Panthers celebrating on our field like the Nuggets did on our court 20-some-odd years ago.

Here’s to hoping the Seahawks take this game a little more seriously than the 12th Man.  If they don’t, we’ll be looking at the absolute worst defeat in franchise history, and a defeat far surpassing those aforementioned Sonics & Mariners achievements of yore.  2014 will be just another drop in the bucket of Seattle being Sports Hell.

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part III: Looking Ahead

Catch Part I HERE.
Catch Part II HERE.

First thing’s first, we’re going to need a manager.  I guess.  There’s a pretty compelling argument to just go without.  Jokes are funny and all, but why the Hell NOT go without a manager?  It literally could not get any worse.  Well, I suppose it could; someone could kidnap me, tie me to a chair, and force me to watch all 162 games of this team next season.

To clear up some misconceptions, Eric Wedge did not quit.  He simply let his contract expire, then chose to not re-sign with the team.  You know how they always have those deals to get ESPN The Magazine for, like, five bucks for a 1-year subscription, and you do it because you want to get ESPN Insider for, like, five bucks?  And then the deal runs out and you’ve got to start paying full price, so you let your subscription to The Magazine lapse because who in their right mind actually reads ESPN The Magazine?  The Seattle Mariners are the ESPN The Magazine of Major League Baseball manager jobs.  Although, with the magazine subscription, you get a nice little bonus by having Insider for a year; I can’t imagine what the bonus is for managing the Mariners.  A few million dollars?  Do baseball managers make millions of dollars?  They probably do, right?

So, the Mariners are going to hire a new manager.  They’ll most likely HAVE to sign this person to a 2- or 3-year deal, because who’s going to sign for one year?  That means, of course, that our new manager will theoretically have more job security than our current General Manager, but like Howard Lincoln said a few weeks back, it’s not like you can’t fire someone in the middle of his deal.  So, let’s not get too caught-up in the length of the manager’s deal.  He’s on a 1-year trial-run just like everyone else.

And, they’re going after the usual suspects:  bench coaches, former managers, whathaveyou.  I’ve already stated what I think the Mariners should do, but they’ll never listen to me.  What is the one organization that seems to get it right all the time?  The St. Louis Cardinals.  They’re the San Antonio Spurs of MLB.  Shit, they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers of MLB!  This is an organization that is almost ALWAYS in the playoffs and contending for division titles!  And when they’re down, they’re not down long.  If you want to model your organization after anyone, it’s the Cardinals.

So, pull your heads out of your asses, Mariners!  Blow this whole thing up, take the St. Louis GM’s second-in-command to replace Jackie Z, and go from there!  What did the Sonics/Thunder do when they wanted to turn things around in a hurry?  They poached from San Antonio to get Sam Presti (who has done a phenomenal job since day 1, even with their salary constraints down in OKC).  What did the Seahawks do when they wanted to turn things around in a hurry?  They poached from another elite NFL organization, the Green Bay Packers, to get John Schneider (who, with Pete Carroll, has rebuilt a cellar-dwelling franchise in three short years).  It makes sense, and the best part is, you don’t even have to think about it!  I’ve done all the thinking for you!

If you want to be a winning organization, you don’t steal from the Milwaukee Brewers!  They had, like, a couple good years after about a million terrible ones!  You don’t go after the teams in your division and try to steal their talent, just because you play them the most and you’re most familiar with them.  Let’s think just a LITTLE outside the box on this one.  Cardinals.  I want to root for the Cardinals.  So, become the Cardinals, however you think you can manage that.

Of course, that’s never going to happen as long as we have the current organizational structure in place.  This team SO needs to be sold, it’s not even funny anymore.  You’re telling me we can’t get Mark Cuban to pay top dollar for the Seattle Mariners?  Say what you will about him, but when he bought the Mavericks, they were the fucking joke of the NBA.  It was his passion, his foresight, his money, and his personality that made them into the champions they became.  If he’s as interested in owning a baseball team as I seem to remember him being, he could very well be the Paul Allen to our Seattle Seahawks.

This isn’t the same situation as we had with the Sonics.  Our lease-agreement with Safeco Field isn’t about to run out anytime soon.  So, even if out-of-town investors come in to buy the team, it doesn’t mean we’re in immediate danger of losing baseball in the Pacific Northwest.  And, quite frankly, I don’t see the Mariners EVER leaving Seattle, no matter who buys it or how bad it gets around here.  The Mariners represent a whole, huge region of the United States and Canada!  MLB isn’t going to lose this foothold because some owner wants to bring this team to Nebraska or some shit.

Anyone.  Anyone, come and buy this team!  Save us all from our cruel and thoughtless overlords!  We’re never going to climb out of this nosedive until new ownership is set in place!

As for players to bring in, I don’t know what to tell you.  Read this comment from yesterday’s post on the subject; this guy’s got some valid and intelligent points.  Nobody wants to come to Seattle.  Because apparently everyone lives in Florida and would rather play for a team that has Spring Training there.  Shit, even people FROM SEATTLE don’t want to come here!  Unless they’re a million years old, coming off three surgeries, and absolutely can’t get a hint of an offer anywhere else.

I hope you’re not tired of hearing things like “youth movement” and “building from within”, because it’s not going to stop anytime soon.  To attract quality veterans, and not completely break the bank in the process, you have to actually develop a solid core.  Right now, the Mariners have two guys:  Felix & Seager.  That’s our proven core.  Everyone else is too young to have a strong opinion on (Franklin, Miller, Zunino) or we’re praying on our hands and knees they figure it out and turn their careers around (Ackley, Smoak, Saunders).  Either way, you can’t count anyone but Felix & Seager in our core, because they haven’t proven dick over the long haul!

You can’t have a core of two people and expect to attract quality.  So, what are our options?  Well, obviously we’re looking at another extended run with Zunino, Miller, and probably Franklin.  They might have to put Nick back in Tacoma if he doesn’t get off to a good start in the month of April, but the other two have probably bought themselves a little longer bit of leash.

Everyone is talking about the Mariners making a huge push for Jacoby Ellsbury, but I dunno.  Yeah, he’s certainly going to be an upgrade over who we have now in the outfield, but big deal.  A guy at a quarter of his cost would be an upgrade!  I’m just kinda over the whole High-Priced Free Agent in baseball.  They almost NEVER pan out!  Because you’re paying them based on what they’ve already done.  Just because they’ve hit one way for the last three or four years doesn’t mean they’re automatically destined to hit that way for the next six or seven.  And even if they do, does that make them worth upwards of $20 million a year?

I know, in the past, I’ve been pounding the drum for the Mariners to start spending money like some of the other elite ballclubs in baseball, but I’ve come to realize that there’s a big difference between spending multiple millions of dollars on your own homegrown studs vs. going out and spending top dollar on other teams’ studs who no longer want them.

This is baseball.  If a player is worth it, he will spend his very best years with the team that drafted him.  If you want to be a winning franchise, you do whatever you can to keep your in-house talent.  That’s why guys like Joey Votto and Joe Mauer and Justin Verlander sign these huge extensions even before they hit the free agent market.  The best of the best don’t tend to go anywhere.  It’s these other guys, guys like Ellsbury and Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton who hit the market.  Guys who are huge question marks.  Guys who command extremely long deals and extremely high amounts of money.  Guys who realistically are getting their final “big deals” in baseball; for the next deals they sign will be after they’re already over-the-hill and just trying to cling to former glories.  These are the guys you really DON’T want.  Because eventually they’ll break down, and more often than not it’ll be sooner rather than later.

You think the Tigers would pay over $200 million for Prince Fielder NOW?  Of course not.  Ditto the Angels with Hamilton & Pujols.  Because they paid for what those players did in the past, not what they would do going forward.

So, quite frankly, I hope the Mariners DON’T sign someone in the free agent leftover bin to a huge contract.  Why should they?  It’s not like we’re one or two players away from contending anyway.  If this team really is gearing up for a big sale in two years when their deal with Root Sports kicks in, then I’d almost rather the Mariners keep treading water with these short-term deals to make them more attractive for potential buyers.  Not because I necessarily care about this current ownership group getting their full money’s worth, but because I don’t want them to get cold feet thanks to a tepid market.

Any way you slice it, I’m not expecting anything out of the 2014 Mariners.  They can go out and crush the free agent market, make all the ESPN headlines, sign the top two or three guys out there to gargantuan deals, maybe make a couple of win-now trades to put the Mariners on everybody’s radar, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.  Likewise, they can go out there, make some value-signings for the short term, and continue to rely on the kids, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.

Or, shit, they can do absolutely nothing, fill in roster spots with guys in the organization, hire a chimp to be our skipper, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.

This is not the time to get excited about the Seattle Mariners.  This is the time to collect as many cans of food as you can, buy toilet paper in bulk, fill up your freezer with cuts of meat, load up your shed to the rooftop with chopped wood, and hunker down with a few hundred unread books for the winter.  As a Mariners fan, we’re in the most brutal stretch of winter we’ve been in since the 1980s (when I was happily unaware of any of the goings on of this team, because I was a child who blissfully hated baseball).  We’re Jack Torrance, the Mariners are the Overlook Hotel, and it’s now a battle against our own sanity.  How long can we withstand this harsh, unforgiving winter before we break and start chopping down doors and chasing our families around with an ax?  I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m starting to see Lloyd the bartender everywhere I go.  And my wife’s starting to REALLY get on my nerves …

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, September 2013 Edition

Remember last month when I said that I had checked out of the Mariners?  I wasn’t joking.  Here are two things I gleaned by paying cursory attention to this team in the month of September:

  1. Eric Wedge decided to let his contract expire without signing the extension offered to him by the organization.
  2. James Paxton looked pretty good.

That’s it.

The Mariners finished September with a 9-18 record, which was their worst month of the season.  Granted, we played a lot of teams who either made the playoffs or were close to making the playoffs, but that’s just a terrible month any way you slice it.

I’m going to get around to doing some sort of State of the Union post on the 2013 Mariners and how things look going forward, so I’ll keep this one brief.

Here is all you need to know about the Seattle Mariners in the month of September, 2013:  they played the Houston Astros four times (three at home, with a solo road game that spilled over into this month from a 4-game series that started at the end of August) and they lost all four games.

Now, we have no manager, and the organization is scrambling to do every possible interview it can to stem the tidal wave of indifference that’s overwhelming this team.  Literally within seconds of one another last night, Greg Johns and Ryan Divish tweeted about separate interviews they did with Howard Lincoln.  Normally, this would be like throwing raw meat to a rabid dog for me, but I just don’t think I can muster up the hate anymore.

My inevitable divorce with this team is in the “Sleeping In Separate Beds” phase.  We both know there is a problem – they’re always quick to acknowledge what they’ve done wrong in the personnel realm while at the same time hyping up what little they’ve done right, though at this point it’s falling on deaf ears.  I don’t feel like I can trust this team anymore, because they’ve lied and cheated so much over this rocky period in our relationship.  They keep saying the same things, “I can change!  I can change!”  But, then they fall back into their same old habits and routines of hiring mediocre veterans and managers and front office people.  At some point, “Let’s stay together for the kids” loses its impact.  THE KIDS ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE TOO!

The Seattle Mariners have until Felix Hernandez graduates high school and moves out of the house.  If they haven’t started winning by then, I’m starting divorce proceedings.  Baseball is a boring, overrated sport anyway.