First off, don’t let the title fool you. I am a huge Mariners fan. I can’t even count the number of 2-1 losses I’ve suffered through over the past two seasons. More than most, I bet. I am also a realist. I have come to terms with the fact that the Mariners are a low-level organization. Cellar-dwellers. Under-achievers. Belly-scratchers. Etc.
In the greatest sports league ever, the NFL, they have taken many steps to ensure competitive balance: a structured salary cap, firm draft policies, progressive rule changes, free agent loss compensation, you get the idea. The NBA is largely a star-driven league and teams need only draft well for two years to become relevant. Of course that doesn’t stop players form leaving when their rookie contracts expire, but shut up Cleveland, you had LeBron for 6 years.
In baseball, where there is no semblance of a salary cap… at all… a team can literally go 20 years without fielding a completive ball club (ask Pittsburgh Pirate fans). While the Mariners have had a winning season here and there, they have also missed out on the playoffs the last 10 years. Many of those seasons, have been quite painful to watch.
It was one thing in 1993 to watch the Mariners lose games 10-7 in the Kingdome night after night. At least Seattle had some star power and you just might catch a homerun. But these underperforming Safeco years are just a marathon of torturous 1-3 and 0-2 ballgames with 8 combined hits. Try convincing your wife and kids to sit through that.
I’m not one of these fans who worships offense. I think Arena football is pretty boring for the most part. The UW vs. BAYLOR game made me physically ill. I enjoy a good pitching duel. But for God’s sake, somebody please just score some runs. I simply can no longer justify spending 3 hours a day for 162 games to watch a ball club bat .227 and .184 with RISP. Talk about Hell on Earth.
Furthermore, the Mariners have exasperated the problem with their poor free agent signings in the past decade. Who has time to list all their terrible moves? I’ll highlight just a few though: Richie Sexson, Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins, or Carl Everett. The decent free agents Seattle signed simply cannot produce offensively in the heavy-aired Grand Canyon of a stadium either. Adrian Beltre has made the All-Star game twice since leaving Safeco. If losing breeds losing, then poor hitting rampantly clones genetically. The Mariners have scored the fewest runs in the league each of the past two seasons.
The saddest part of the whole story is that the Mariners could be great. They have the largest potential market of any MLB team due to the lack of competitors in the NW corner of the US. They have amazing fans. They have produced some spectacular talent. Yet, the M’s simply cannot put it all together. But why?
Many point to poor ownership. The Mariners are more or less owned by Nintendo operating in a culture used to reporting to its shareholders before the fans. Others point to the stadium. No one can hit homeruns at the Safe, which makes free agents shy away. Other stadiums have opted to move their fences in to hedge against these complaints, with mixed results. Let’s not overlook the logistics either. The Mariners travel more combined air-miles than any other professional sports franchise. That is sure to wear down a team, and deter free agent suitors.
The reality of their losing streak probably has a little bit to do with everything though. Throw in half a decade’s worth of mistakes from that bumbling fool Bill Bavasi, and you have a recipe for a huge mess. It’s obvious that all these problems can be overcome. After all, the Mariners did win 116 games in 2001 at Safeco with the same travel schedule. Seattle is a huge market capable of being in the top 10 in spending. So there is some hope.
But I for one am tired of living on hope. Every year I hear about the Mariners’ rebuilding project: The depth of talent in the minor leagues, the coming-out party for 2nd and 3rd year players, the nucleus of veterans and good-character guys, blah, blah, blah.
I’m sick of hearing all of it. The team still has no one that can hit more than 25 home runs. They have no proven high-average hitters outside of Ichiro (who only hit .272 last year), and there are questions at the end of their rotation and their bullpen. Of course it could all come together, but every team thinks that every year! Why should I believe it this year?
I’m not saying that I could do a better job. I’m just saying that I will not watch them until the team earns my time. It’s like when a woman keeps going back to her loser, pathetic, trailer trash husband. She thinks he is going to change. But he doesn’t. Well I for one am throwing my trailer trash baseball team to the curb. That’s right, it’s over Mariners. I am moving in with my sister (The UFC). You’ve taken the best years of my life. I am done with you forever! Or at least until you find some offense, at which point I’ll move back in and let you smack me around every time you get drunk…