Fan Culture

Dave · September 15, 2004 at 9:43 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Art Thiel takes on the notion that the Mariner fan base is still made up of more casual than normal fans and challenges management to change their organizational philosophy this offseason. It’s a good column, one that I’d expect most of you guys to nod and agree with. USSM readers have shown themselves to be in the 99th percentile of Mariner fans in dedication, knowledge, and interest. Linking to this column is essentially preaching to the choir.

But I’m not totally sure Thiel is right. Certainly, there are more fans invested in the teams success now than there were a few years ago and the explosion of the internet has allowed us all to congregate and unify, rather than seeming like outcasts in a sea of soccer moms. But I’m not sure we have the correct perspective to analyze the overall tenor of the fan base. Despite the team’s miserable collapse, they’re still drawing well enough to be the envy of most teams in baseball. I don’t think the M’s fanbase has sent the strong message to the M’s this year that Thiel’s column implies. There are certainly some disgruntled rebels in the mix, but they are far from the majority, or even a strong minority.

The M’s are one big free agent signing away from being back in the good graces of this city and they know it. Seattle wants to root for the Mariners. They want to believe. The organizaiton knows that bringing in Adrian Beltre or Carlos Beltran will give them the chip they need to sell hope to those sitting on the fence. They’re going to make a big splash in free agency, as much for the positive public relations as the ability to improve the club. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the M’s were this year’s Angels, buying several all-star players by simply outbidding the market.

But I don’t think the insuing assumption that there’s been an organizational shift will be correct. The M’s organizational philosophy has always been to cultivate a permanent hope in the casual fan, and those fans have not needed a big ticket acquisition to have that hope the past years. Now that it’s required to avoid alienating a part of that fanbase, the M’s will respond in turn. But the underlying organizational philosophies of fiscal responsibility and competitiveness every year aren’t changing (and I’m one of the few who feel this is a good thing). The M’s aren’t going to become the Baltimore Orioles, trying to spend their way to a pennant. But they will do what it takes to keep the majority of fans interested in the team, and that will entail a big free agent signing this winter.

If you’re in the “ownership will never spend what it takes” camp, expect to be pleasantly surprised, probably several times, the next few months. This is going to be the most fun offseason a Mariner fan has had in a decade.


62 Responses to “Fan Culture”

  1. Melvin Bob on September 16th, 2004 4:56 am

    Trade Franklin, Ibanez, Putz and Nageotte for Sweeney? Are you joking? When you trade garbage, expect garbage in return.

  2. M.O. on September 16th, 2004 6:22 am


    Your post brought a smile to my face, as I like you best when you are optimistic. If you keep this up, your USSM readership may abandon you, though, but you’ll always have a guest spot open at the Optimist!

    I’m in complete agreement that I like the M’s approach to be competitive every year (although I wish Howie had a PR guy working on how he phrases it to the public). I think the M’s will be willing to take a financial hit this offseason to get the train back on the rails. Will they spend it wisely? That’s where the fun begins…

  3. big chef terry on September 16th, 2004 6:52 am


    Most of the analysis, as opposed to emotion, focuses on some relative comparison of offensive value of the call ups…probably the predominate point that I wanted to make is that the most important aspect of constructing the team around this park is defensive ability up the middle…

    Its an open question whether the cf, ss, 2b and catcher for the 2007 mariners is on this roster, if that team competes. I think Jose Lopez is going to be a major league player for some time. I don’t know if he’s going to be a ss long term. I don’t see in Reed a great center fielder. He doesn’t seem to have a lot more range than Winn or a better arm. If he hits .370 at this level, maybe he’s a left fielder. Time will tell. This team since 2001 has exhibited no talent to scout at a major league level or evaluate their own minor league talent, witness the silly pronouncements about too many strike outs around various of the kids and the love affair with Dobbs. They don’t use performance measures and they’re terrible scouts. Its hard to think of a worse combination.

    From 96 to 2000 the Yankees won with tremendous defense and pitching and enough offense. The Red Sox always have incredible offense, some pitching and no defense…they never win. I think in the best of all worlds the team emulates the approach of the successful Dodger teams of the 60’s and 70’s.

  4. Ralph Malph on September 16th, 2004 10:15 am

    If Reed hits .370 at this level, he can play anywhere he wants to.

    He made a pretty nice running catch in right center last night.

  5. PositivePaul on September 16th, 2004 11:03 am

    Here’s something creative, to say the least. Only recognizing that he’s a free agent (not speculating as to what HE wants to do, or if the M’s would even look his direction), but how about bringing Varitek back? Of course, that signing would push back Olivo at the very least, and Wilson would likely move on. But still, he’s probably the best catcher to become a free agent for awhile. I’m still ticked we didn’t even talk to Javy Lopez this offseason (and non-tendering Davis) or going after Pudge earlier. Olivo has a lot of promise, but he’s really still developing and could use some more practice learning our pitchers down in AAA.

    Just an idea to throw out there for discussion…

  6. Dave on September 16th, 2004 11:48 am

    Pudge Rodriguez’s good year aside, signing free agent catchers over the age of 30 is about as good an idea as heckling Texas Ranger relievers.

    If Varitek gets more than a 2 year contract, it’s going to be a bad deal for the team.

  7. G-Man on September 16th, 2004 1:16 pm

    Dave, what makes you so confident the the Mariners will make a big splash? Not disageeing, just asking.

  8. Dave on September 16th, 2004 1:59 pm


    If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.

  9. John Hawkins on September 16th, 2004 2:35 pm

    So my plan, if I was named Bavasi, would be to go after Beltre and Beltran (probably in that order) with gobs of cash. Move Ibanez to first. Winn and Reed battle for the LF spot, unless I can trade Winn for a quality #2/3 SP (and I wouldn’t hold my breath for that – on the other hand, maybe we can do like Tampa Bay and trade him for a new manager. Hmmm..). Anyway, back to players.

    Lopez is the ’05 SS, and we’ll see if he’s okay to play that position long term. If not, we look for another option for ’06 and move Lopez to 2B to take over for Boone after his contract is up. Otherwise, we need a 2B in ’06 anyway. Bucky is the DH, Ichiro remains in RF. Olivo is behind the plate and we re-sign Wilson as the backup catcher. He is as good as anyone at preventing passed balls, and that seems to be Olivio’s biggest weakness right now, so maybe Wilson can teach him over the next couple of years. The rest of the bench is some combination of Spezio, Winn/Reed, Leone/Dobbs, Cabrerra.

    That leaves pitching. Notice I didn’t mention signing a SP for ’05. Assuming Pinerio is healthy to start the season, we have Pinero, Moyer, Madritsch, Franklin/Meche/Blackley/Baek/Nageotte/Villone. Can we get a 4 and a 5 out of those six guys? In the bullpen, we have (fingers crossed) Guardado, Mateo, and four out of Thornton/Sherril/Atchison/Baek/Nageotte/Villone.

    For ’06 we probably have to replace Moyer, and we re-evaluate the younger pitchers to see if we need to replace them, and we allocate money for the FA market in December ’05 accordingly.

    I think we could be competitive in ’05 (maybe even a longshot playoff team) and be a solid playoff contender in ’06.

  10. LB on September 16th, 2004 3:16 pm

    Varitek is a special case in one sense: his agent (Boras) had him sit out a year after he was drafted because he didn’t get a high enough signing bonus. So, there’s one year less wear and tear on his body than you’d expect, given his chronological age.

    On the other hand, Boras is his agent. How likely is it that the M’s will deal with any Boras client?

  11. Dave on September 16th, 2004 4:26 pm


    Very likely. Boras and Bavasi are good friends. If there’s a team out there poised to become the Scott Boras-preferred club like the Rangers were the past several seasons, it’s the M’s.

  12. Mark on September 17th, 2004 2:42 pm

    “Boras and Bavasi are good friends. If there’s a team out there poised to become the Scott Boras-preferred club like the Rangers were the past several seasons, it’s the M’s.”

    Who needs enemies, if you’ve got friends like Scott Boras? I shudder at the thought that Boras might “benefit” the Mariners in the same way he did the Rangers over the past few years.