Howard Lincoln’s letter to season-ticket holders
First, a thanks to the readers who sent in a couple versions of this before I could update the original request. Our readers are great. Fortunately, having more than one meant that (like comparing Shakespeare folios, only without the quality of writing or historical significance) I could assemble a perfect copy. Therefore, I present to you, dear reader, Howard Lincoln’s letter to season ticket holders. Please set down any beverages you may be enjoying before you read this. Thanks to Adam, Jason, and Kirk, and I’d offer last names except that I don’t want them to yank your tickets.
August 30, 2004
Dear Season Ticket Holder,
Like you and other Seattle Mariners’ season ticket holders, I’m
terribly disappointed with our team’s performance this season. My
expectations for this season were very high coming out of spring
training. So were the expectations of our ownership group, our front
office executives, our players, our field manager and our coaches. We
all expected to be in the middle of a battle for the American League
Western Division title during the last month or so of the season.
Instead, we were never in the race this year. That is simply not
We’ve harped on the lack of dissent or an objective view of reality in the front office before, but this is pretty funny. What really sticks out is the “or so”. Did Lincoln seriously expect that they might be out of realistic contention in 30 days, but still have hope at 45? And that that would be okay? Isn’t the goal of the team to field teams that can compete for the division title all year long?
I appreciate all the support you’ve given this team, both this season
and in seasons past. Safeco Field remains a special place to see the
excitement of Major League Baseball, and the crowds continue to be
loud and appreciative for the home team, including rookies who are
getting their first chance to play at the Major League level. I know
that you continue to care about your team. I recognize and appreciate
your enthusiastic support. I certainly don’t take it for granted.
“Less special when we cram more seats in, but never mind.”
This goes back to another point we’ve made here — that they are deeply worried about fan perception. The decline in actual gate attendence probably has them spooked.
Your loyalty to the Mariners is what fuels this franchise. I know
that being a season ticket holder is not an inexpensive proposition!
In asking for your patience and continued support, I also know that
you expect that changes will be made as quickly as possible to turn
this team around. That is precisely what we are now in the process of
doing. That process will continue through the coming off-season.
Jeez, I’d hope so. That said, while I appreciate the nod to how much it costs, what the hell does Howard Lincoln know about season tickets being an expensive proposition? He’s worth eighty cajillion dollars and gets all the Gamecubes he can eat. I don’t think he sits around wondering if he’s going to be able to afford a 16-game pack next year if his job gets outsourced to India.
Okay, that was a little unfair. Sorry.
In late June, after it became apparent that we were too far behind, we
made the decision to turn our attention to the future. We needed to
turn the page and focus on building a team that can reach this
organization’s ultimate goal – a World Series Championship.
As long as, you know, we can do it pretty cheaply, and it’s a bad year for the other teams in our division.
Lincoln continues to try and make up for his accidentaly honesty in admitting they weren’t really interested in making a run for it. Trying for World Series is what everyone wants them to do, and it’s what they’d like us to think they’re going to do.
To achieve that goal, we need to be back in contention as soon as
possible, and hopefully next year. While some teams in our situation
decide to pursue long-term rebuilding programs, that is not our plan.
We plan to assemble a team that will be back in the race sooner,
rather than later. We know it won’t be easy. There are no guarantees
in baseball. But that’s our plan.
If you’re interested, Mr. Lincoln, we have some suggestions on how you could do that. Drop us a line, we’re happy to talk to you.
General Manager Bill Bavasi’s first step was to make several
mid-season moves to acquire some top young position players and to
call up some of the best players from our farm system. We have been
able to evaluate young players like Miguel Olivo, Justin Leone, Travis
Blackley, Bucky Jacobsen, Bobby Madritsch, George Sherrill, Jose
Lopez, Matt Thornton, Clint Nageotte and others against Major League
competition. It is important to determine now who will fit into our
plans in 2005, and who needs more time to develop. And it has given
our rookie players a chance to better understand what it takes to be
successful at the Major League level.
They have to be tested like this, you see, because Bavasi doesn’t believe you can get anything out of minor league statistics. But okay, this is all fine.
The next step will be off-season moves – trades and free agent
signings. Bill will have the financial resources and flexibility to
pursue key players via free agency and trades, to quickly return the
Mariners to the quality of play you want and expect. Although we’ve
been asked by several season ticket holders about our interest in
specific free agents, because of Major League Baseball’s tampering
rules, we are not able to identify the names of potential free agents
that we may be interested in signing. In addition, we don’t want the
other 29 teams to know our plans.
So Bavasi’s been given money and permission to do what he needs to do to get the Mariners winning again. What Bill doesn’t have is the ability to make good use of those things. But again, nit-picky. He’s right about tampering, though — while we’re free to scream “sign Beltran!” at the top of our lungs, he can’t hint at it.
I understand that when making promises to season ticket holders,
actions speak louder than words. I also recognize that we need to
learn from our mistakes. I’ve made my share! The challenge ahead is
exciting. I accept it with enthusiasm and confidence, and together
with Chuck Armstrong, Bill Bavasi and our entire front office, we’re
ready to go to work to field a team you will be proud of.
Lincoln admits he’s made mistakes! Pat Borders traded from a Gillick-associated team! Dogs and cats, living together! It’s telling that Lincoln and Co. aren’t interested in discussing the particulars of their mistakes, and that they’re still stuck on team you’ll be proud of, which means more Ibanez and less Bradley.
Over the past several months, I’ve heard from many of our season
ticket holders. Chuck
Armstrong and I have met with small groups of fans to talk about the
Mariners. We plan to
continue doing so for the forseeable future. We have also received a
number of email messages from our fans. The thoughts, feelings, and
comments of these fans about Mariners Baseball have been extremely
helpful as we plan for the future.
Phhbllltttt. Armstrong and Lincoln have also told fans before the season that they’d budgeted payroll based on x fans, and would have more money to spend if more fans turned up…. and then pleaded poverty all year as so many fans came out each game that they had to sit on top of the roof. Meeting with small groups of fans (How many groups, 2? How small, 2 fans? Do you think perhaps surveying casual fans might lead to an entirely different impression than talking to season ticket holders?) doesn’t mean anything to me, as the team’s shown in the past they’re not listening to even the most cogent and persuasive of their critics.
Off the field of play, we remain committed to providing outstanding
family entertainment and guest service at Safeco Field. Through
Mariners Care, the Mariners charitable foundation, we will continue to
do our part to make this community a better place to live. In our
meetings with fans, they have reinforced that these aspects of
Mariners Baseball are highly valued and appreciated. So, as we work
to improve the team, we will also continue to improve the fan
experience at the ballpark and our community service programs.
… by sticking more stands in your favorite places to hang out, for instance.
On August 9th, Edgar Martinez announced that he would retire at the
end of the 2004 season. Edgar is a true gentleman, one of the
classist people I’ve ever met. I hope to be in Cooperstown, N.Y.,
someday soon, to watch as he in inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
I hope you will be in your seats at Safeco Field on October 2nd,
Edgar Martinez Day, when the Mariners honor Edgar in a post-game
ceremony to celebrate his career and what he has meant to Mariners
Baseball and to the people of this community.
And folks, Howard Lincoln knows classy. Seriously, okay, that’s all fine, and yet… and why is “Mariners Baseball” get the capital “b”?
Once again, thank you for being a Seattle Mariners fan.
Chairman and CEO
Were it that I had a choice.
So what’s really important about this letter?
Bob Melvin’s fired. Seriously. Every rookie got a shout-out. Bill Bavasi is going to be the heroic architect of the team’s revival, following his destruction of the team. Chuck Armstrong got a nod, for crying out loud. Not a word about Melvin.
Dan Rohn, incidentally, won another Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year award. Totally unrelated.
Also unmentioned: the legacy of Pat Gillick, and his role (along with Lincoln) in building this team.
It’s interesting that Lincoln wrote this letter. He clearly wants to reassure season ticket holders that the team knows something went horribly wrong, and they’re going to fix it. They appreciate the business, and want to do better.
But it’s as if we’d complained to a car manufacturer about their incompetent design, exploding cars, and disregard for user comfort, as shown in the spiky metal seats and electrified gear shift, and the car manufacturer had replied “Dear loyal customer, we too are disappointed by this year’s models. Thanks for buying one, though. Next year’s cars will be better.”
This letter is missing something that’s a requirement for this kind of reassurance: a recognition of what’s gone wrong. An accounting or responsibility, and actions taken to prevent them.
What in this letter should lead us to believe the Mariners will do anything different than what’s led them to this disastrous season? What in Lincoln’s letter would even lead you to believe that they have learned any lesson at all?
I don’t need a detailed accounting of everything that went wrong. All I want is some kind of hope that the lightbulb went on over the head of someone — anyone — in the front office at any point this year.