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.

Comments

62 Responses to “Fan Culture”

  1. Aaron on September 15th, 2004 9:59 am

    “This is going to be the most fun offseason a Mariner fan has had in a decade.”

    If you give a child a crisp new $20 bill, he’s likely to spend it away on candy rather than buying something that will stick around for a while.

    I’m not saying that Bavasi will burn the money by massively overspending on marginal players, but expecting this team to use their resources wisely, in the face of last offseason, is a little optimistic. With Ibanez, Vizquel and Spezio, I get the feeling that management decided who they wanted (and who they didn’t want, sorry to see you go Carlos), and simply bought them up without even looking at the market.

    The targeting of players may be wiser this year, but I doubt we see a fundamental change in the way it’s done. All the money will be spent on one or two guys, and there won’t be any left to fill in the pieces.

    Expect a few big splashes, followed by another disappointing season of weak pitching and zero bench depth.

  2. Ralph Malph on September 15th, 2004 10:13 am

    There were no big splashes last year, only role players. I wouldn’t mind a big splash or two.

  3. bob mong on September 15th, 2004 10:30 am

    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.

    I think you underestimate the significance of the drop in attendance.

    The Mariners are drawing about 4000 fewer fans per game compared to last year. About 36,000 per game this year; about 40,000 per game last year.

    36k per game seems pretty good, but that drop of 4000 fans/game is about the 150th worst drop since WWII, out of about 1200 team-seasons.

    And, furthermore, it follows a 3500 drop in fans/game from 2002 to 2003, making a two-year drop of 7500 in two years, which will be about the 80th worst dropoff since WWII, which is in the worst 10% over that time.

    I can’t imagine that Seattle would be the one city where the fans enthusiastically support, with their wallets, a crappy team.

  4. bob mong on September 15th, 2004 10:36 am

    A big splash or two will be fun, but this team has a lot of holes that can’t all be filled by big-name, big-money free agents. The rest will have to be filled by cheaper fellows, and that is where Bavasi will do his damage. Couldn’t get Beltre to fill in at 3rd? Don’t worry, Vinny Castilla should fit the bill, and for only $9M over three years! What a deal!

    Bleah. Should be better than this year, though. I hope.

  5. Steve Alliston on September 15th, 2004 11:01 am

    My opinion is they need to get two big bats, one from each side, in big-name signings. They should sign one big-name outfielder and one infielder, then fill in positions from the farm from among Jeremy Reed, Justin Leone, Jose Lopez, et. al. Bucky is on the roster as DH/1B if it’s my team. He looks to hit 30-40 HR’s next year for just about free.

    Then sign pitching, pitching, pitching. If there isn’t an ace on the market we need two or three good starters and a couple of relievers. Man, what happened to our pitching??

  6. Brian Harper on September 15th, 2004 11:02 am

    Yes, it will be fun to see the M’s finally go after top-flight free-agents. But they still need to do so wisely. The fact that Bavasi thought Ibanez was worth more for longer than the likes of Jose Guillen, Rondell White, and Jose Cruz Jr. doesn’t bode well. If he makes the same mistake in paying more for Delgado or Ordonez than Beltre or Beltran end up fetching, we’ll still be moaning about how bad the M’s management is. They can screw up with high-price free-agents just as easily as they screwed up with mid-range ones.

  7. Mark on September 15th, 2004 11:34 am

    With this organization, I think it’s a mistake to try to forecast the sort of players they’ll go after. Much better to focus on the sort of media qualities they’ll look for, since we know by now that the Mariners sign players in order to sell tickets, not to win championships. The question they’ll be debating in the front office, therefore, is not how best do we fill holes in the lineup, but how do we get the best PR bang for the bucks we intend to spend?

    My bet is they spend it all on one big name and fill the rest with guys from the farm. They’ll go after Beltran, but if they’re outbid they’ll happily pursue someone else, just so long as he’s an established name player. Position be damned, they want someone they can put in commercials and on billboards. The rest — i.e. the matter of winning games — will be left to whoever they hire as manager.

  8. Jon Wells on September 15th, 2004 11:53 am

    It’s gonna take more than one impact signing to be “the most fun offseason a Mariner fan has had in ten years”. In the offseason following the 1999 season (79-83), the M’s signed the maximum amount of free agents they could possibly sign(!). Adding to a team that already had Alex Rodriguez, Freddy Garcia, Edgar (in his prime), Buhner and Moyer, they signed a new 1B (Olerud), 2B (McLemore), traded for a new CF (Cameron), signed a top notch free agent starting pitcher (we thought — Sele), a stud closer and a lefthanded set up man (Sasaki and Rhodes). They also signed a top flight reserve OF (Stan Javier). Let’s see Bavasi top that! But seriously, no matter what he’s able to accomplish it’s only going to be a fun off-season if we think that Bavasi’s moves are going to have the team contending in ’05 as Gillick’s moves did in ’00.

  9. Dave on September 15th, 2004 11:58 am

    Jon,

    If you think the Griffey-Cameron trade was “fun”, you’re a sadist. Seriously, that was the most depressing offseason of my life, up until this past one. Watching the guy who was destined to be the icon of Seattle sports throwing it all away, listening to Jim Bowden lie through his teeth, the death threat letters, wondering if we were getting Gookie Dawkins or Pokey Reese… That whole sequence was like a 6 month long enema. Productive? Sure. Fun? Not a freaking chance.

  10. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 12:00 pm

    In terms of $/year, the biggest FA the M’s have ever signed from outside of the organization was Aaron Sele. “A big splah” in the offseason would be in sharp contrast to their history.
    More in line with their history would be to trade Ichiro to some team for their entire AAA ball club. (Trade him to the Rockies, he’ll get 20 home runs a year and analysts won’t call him overrated. And those farm system pitchers will breathe a collective sigh.)

  11. Jim Thomsen on September 15th, 2004 12:00 pm

    I think you’re right about the idea that casual fans may still outnumber (and politically outrank through benign investment) us hardcores. We’d love to believe it isn’t true, but the M’s have done such a good job of making Safeco a destination unto itself that to many such casual fans I know, what’s happening on the field doesn’t matter as much as a) sampling food; b) people-watching; c) taking pics for friends and family who live elsewhere; and d) conducting a social life with the people around them. Perhaps the on-field M’s are a byproduct of this cultivated complacency — as long as they keep bringing in cute, cuddly, friendly players, the contented if hollow sigh of the somnambulent faithful will always register louder with the team’s ownership than the shrill, morally correct bleating of us from the comparative cheap seats.

    Maybe the solution is to aggressively market places like USS Mariner in the same way the Mariners market themselves. Let’s do a series of funny commercials (a reprise of “Mound Conference Theater,” anyone?). Maybe Derek, Jason and Dave, along with their officially endorsed readers and colleagues, can sell a Playgirlesque “Men of the Blogosphere” charity calendar. USS Mariner readers can volunteer to do bake sales, car washes, high school Career Days, Rotary Club speaking engagments and sit in the dunk tanks at everything from the Sequim Irrigation Festival to Walla Walla’s Penitentiary Appreciation Weekend. There could be a line of refrigerator magnets, coffee mugs, DMZ Bobbleheads and logo-stamped string cheese. There could be a mascot … the USS Mariner ship’s cat? Maybe Jason could woo a whole new fan base by letting biologically frustrated women and sterile men hold his baby.

    Seriously, more needs to be done to convert casuals into harcores if true organizational reformation is to convert casuals into harcores and thus have the sort of popular resonance that the focus-group geeks at the M’s front office can’t ignore.

  12. eponymous coward on September 15th, 2004 12:08 pm

    The attendance drop isn’t as pronounced now as it will be- for one thing, a huge amount of those 36000/game tickets were purchased when it was thought the M’s had a competitive team.

  13. Troy Sowden on September 15th, 2004 12:10 pm

    I’m with Dave, everything in the winter of 99-00 paled in comparison to trading Griffey. He was the first real star in any sport that I followed from the beginning of his career (I loved Steve Largent as a kid but was too young to remember most of his biggest moments besides the 100th touchdown). Griffey WAS the Mariners to me, and so many others. I couldn’t have felt sicker when he decided he wanted out and the Mariners decided to agree to his demands. Knowing that ARod was likely to follow him out the door didn’t help much either.

  14. RCC on September 15th, 2004 12:21 pm

    I predict the Mariners will NOT sign a big name free agent. They will talk a good game, make an offer or two, but in the end it will be for naught. They can dust off the press release from last year in regards to Miguel Tejada. “Gee, we tried, but it was too many years, too much money, or he just is not a good clubhouse guy”. Instead they will overpay for a marginal or over the hill guy, and claim shock and dismay when he does not have a career year. Sorry to be so negative, but look at the Mariners history!!! Does anyone really believe that they would sign either Beltran or Beltre?

  15. david h on September 15th, 2004 12:35 pm

    i doubt they will sign beltran or beltre, but i bet they’ll spend beltran or beltre money on lesser players – guys with fantastic character, who “know how to play the game,” and hit (or don’t hit) a lot of singles. a big jump can make a big splash, but not if you’re jumping into the kiddie pool.

    (sorry for that craptastic analogy. i apologize to anyone who appreciates the beauty language)

  16. scott on September 15th, 2004 12:39 pm

    I believe they will make a big splash. Let’s not forget that in the past with this ownership group we have had a good veteran team. They added complimentary players to that group. For the first time this group will have to rebuild a crappy team, let’s see what they do. They have already DFA’d some players and made an excellent trade ( Garcia). Now we are auditioning the AAA players to see who can stick and who won’t. I think we are off to a pretty good start. We have the money and now it needs to be spent wisely.

  17. Ken Hanselman on September 15th, 2004 12:44 pm

    God, that comment by Jim Thomson had me in stiches! Excellent writing, JT! And his final point hit the nail…and it’s sites like this that can accellerate the learning curve of the casual fan and create new graduates of the hardcore school. I personally know of several ex-casual fans who have already graduated with honors, and they’re telling their friends, and so on.

  18. Pete Livengood on September 15th, 2004 12:46 pm

    Although I agree with the basic premise of the post (no organizational/philosophy shift), I also agree with Bob Mong that Dave *may* be underestimating the significance of the attendance drop, and I’m sure the M’s are paying attention to that. Aside from the figures Bob cited, there are the differences between announced (paid) attendance and fans through the turnstiles. The latter will show up in non-renewals next year.

    I expect that pre-sold tickets (season, package, and single-game) will all be down next year, even if the M’s make the big splash predicted. I don’t think attendance will fully recover until the team is back in a race — and hopefully THAT will be enough to prod the team into an organizational/philosophy shift. [Not away from fiscal responsibility and competitiveness every year -- I agree with Dave that this is overall a good thing -- but rather in the way players are evaluated and valued, and in terms of more *flexibility* and creativity in the *most* competitive years.]

  19. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 12:48 pm

    When your team actually has a budget, it’s not a bad idea to lay off overpaying free agents. If you have x number of holes, it’s better to get x number of average players than it is to get one great player for the same price (x > 1.5).
    To make $90 million equate to a winning team, it means taking measured risks, and not overpaying.

  20. Rebecca Allen on September 15th, 2004 1:03 pm

    I’m utterly astounded by your assertions. This team NEVER spends big in the free-agent market; they pocket their money. This year won’t be any different, especially because so many fans have continued to come out to watch an awful team (not me!). Now, their attendance may well crater next year–there’s usually a delay between changes in a team’s success and changes in attendance–and maybe then they’ll open their pocketbooks A LITTLE, but even then they won’t spend big. Just watch.

  21. BJH on September 15th, 2004 1:28 pm

    I have no idea what the management will do in the coming months, but for now, they sure are revving up a big fan *ss-kissing campaign, hoping that will pay some dividends. From the ads during the Mariners broadcasts touting big changes coming, to the giant sign now hanging over Atlantic street, and the blowout “Fan Appreciation Night” coming October 1, they sure look to be feeling a bit scared that attendance is going to drop off the cliff next year.

  22. G-Man on September 15th, 2004 1:31 pm

    I’ll consider Dave Cameron’s forecast of big signings to be a ray of hope. Dave is seldom optimistic about anything regarding this organization, and perhaps he’s heard some rumblings through connections he has.

    I also note that Dave endorses the Mariners “Always Competative” plan over the “Win Now” approach. I take it year-by-year, but I lean that way myself. Getting multiple shots at a ring by making the playoffs 2-3 times beats winning, say, 116 games one season but falling short of the World Series.

  23. James G on September 15th, 2004 1:38 pm

    Given the payroll, the busts, the O’Spiezio factor, Bavasi will have his hands full of problems to try to fix during the offseason. What positives, outside of The Wizard and seeing all the farmhands up close, can the front office point to on the field? Where could they possibly say the M’s don’t need help? It will indeed be exciting, especially for armchairists.
    Is it possible that the 2004 Mariners go down in history as the team with the largest payroll to ever lose 100 games?
    Is it possible for one to become more of a fan when the team stinks, because it gives one plenty to harp on, complain and second-guess about? Maybe that’s why sales haven’t flat-out plummeted, and those things they say about Seattleites’ passive-aggressiveness are true.

  24. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 1:58 pm

    Highest payroll ever to lose 100 games.
    Ichiro just needs 258 hits and we’ll have set at least two records.

  25. Jim Thomsen on September 15th, 2004 2:13 pm

    Meanwhile, back in Flatearthville, Blaine Newnham of The Seattle Times advocates signing Carlos Delgado above all other free agents because, despite his age, decline rate and recent injury history, “will still likely hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs.”

    Sigh. Water may wear away stone, but it will take a thousand years.

  26. tyler on September 15th, 2004 2:16 pm

    didn’t he also recommend Magglio Ordonez as well? Hopefully that wont happen. If we’re lucky maybe we can fill our “power-hitting OF” with Albert Belle and our 1B spot with Mo Vaughn.

    Oh wait… those are the same players different names, just 10 years later. (and isn’t somebody still paying them?)

  27. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 2:16 pm

    Delgado will hit 30 homeruns and drive in 100 runs – over the span of four years with Seattle.

  28. bob mong on September 15th, 2004 2:45 pm

    Don’t rag on Delgado too much. He’s hit 29 HR this year despite missing a bunch of time. He’s actually having a pretty good season, despite his low batting average: .259/.358/.531 with 29 HR in 111 games. He’s fourth in OPS among AL 1B. He’s a good player. He’s also 32. You just gotta keep both of those things in mind.

  29. Darrell on September 15th, 2004 3:30 pm

    Seattle sportsfans do not put up with much losing from their pro sports teams. It just takes them a year or two to notice that the winning stopped. Both the Seahawks (this is a football town first and foremost) and Sonics have enjoyed rabid fanbases in the past only to see them dry up when the winning stopped. The Hawks look good again, so the fans are returning. The M’s are no different – they’ve got probably another half-season of decent walkup sales, probably a little less that for decent TV ratings. But if they’re playing .425 ball at the next all star break, that’s it – Safeco will be a morgue. Actual attendance under 10,000 could happen one of these nights in less than a year.

    Unfortunately, it could well happen. I think Dave’s right that they will plan to spend big on a marketable player or two. I also think that they are likely to be rebuffed by any players that could significantly impact their record, and will have to get awfully, awfully lucky with the performance of second and third tier guys to get to .500 next year.

  30. Cliff Classen on September 15th, 2004 3:31 pm

    An important point to always remember about the M’s in its’ current state is that the club is run by finance MBA’s (and you wonder about the centerfield bleachers…). Which might also explain the amazing lack of imagination by management (trust me, I am a finance MBA and I have NO imagination). The question they are pondering is very straightfoward: The number one goal is to not ask any of the partners for any fresh money, so how much money do we have to spend this off season to avoid a potential death spiral? The death spiral is easy, once the losing starts, the fans stop showing up, the club has no money to contend, etc. etc. Given the M’s long term disaster of developing cheap farm talent (well documented on USSM), spending money on free agents is required. My hope is that the writers at USSM are wrong and Buzzy really is a clever, ingenious, aggressive GM. Did I really just type that last sentence?

  31. joebob on September 15th, 2004 3:33 pm

    What I would do to get fans excited again, please note that net cost represents the cost to the organization next year, not necessarily the average cost of a contract over its life:

    1. Trade Ryan Franklin, J.J. Putz, Raul Ibanez, Clint Nageotte to Royals for Mike Sweeney (net cost: 4 million)

    2. Sign Adrian Beltre (net cost: 11 million)

    3. Sign Carl Pavano/Matt Clement/Odalis Perez (net cost 12 million)

    4. Sign Dan Wilson (net cost: 1 million)

    5. Sign Jacque Jone (net cost: 3 million)

    6. Sign Dave Hansen (net cost: 2 million)

    7. Sign 2 relievers (net cost: 4 million)

    This total adds up to 37 million, roughly what the mariners will have available. Although I don’t think that the mariners will make these particular moves (or at least not all of them) I think the point of this post is to show that with creativity and wise investements major improvements to this team can be made, ones which I feel will allow them to contend in the AL west next year.

  32. big chef terry on September 15th, 2004 3:44 pm

    “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.”

    Did you used to work for Pravda? This team is fundamentally in the dumpster and needs to be built again. It is within the realm of probability that very few players on the 40 man roster or the whole organization will be around when this team competes again for a division title or for more. i.e. the team is five or six years away. Madritsch and Bucky are the only ones of the call ups that have shown that they could be part of a pennant winning club.

    Lou Piniella recognized what it took to win in this park very soon…speed defensively up the middle, great catcher, a couple of rallies a game to get enough runs to win a game and to goal set to win as many series during the year as possible…three or four groundball pitchers as starters and a closer. 2000 team is an example of that. That type of team does not necessarily win Championship series or World Series though. More is needed.

    None of the acquisitions or defenstrations of players since Cirillo have shown that the remaining front office functionaries even remotely understand this…they’ve given away strength for nothing or received slop. See Cameron and Guillen as examples.

    The closest organization to the Ms is not another baseball team, its Disney. Howard Lincoln is Mr. Eisner. Putting together a winning baseball team is the furthest thing from his consciousness.

    Thiel has an excellent feel for the fan base..

  33. joebob on September 15th, 2004 3:54 pm

    big chef terry,

    Although I agree with you that many of the pieces now in place will be gone by the time that we are able to fully compete against (2006), I disagree with your overly pessimistic view of matters. I remember the first time I saw C.C. Sabathia pitch, it was against the mariners and he didn’t get out of the first inning. Of course today he is a very effective pitcher. The point of this story is that if you are expecting prospects to come up and set the league on fire the minute they arrive you are woefully unknowledgable about the realities of baseball. The vast majority of prospects will require one to two years before we fully understand what kind of impact they will have. I am encouraged not only by the excellent performances of Bucky and Madritsch, but also by the ability of players like Lopez, Sherril, putz, and others to play near or above replacement level baseball. I expect that many of our young prospects will develop into effective role players, or will be used as bait to trade for roster upgrades. I am specifically encouraged by our pitching staff, I have not problem going into next year with a starting staff that includes young players like Meche, Piniero and Madritsch, along with a free agent addition and moyer.

  34. Pat Gillick's Hemorrhoids on September 15th, 2004 4:14 pm

    Highest payroll ever to lose 100 games.

    That really puts things into perspective. The Mets last year spent $116M but only got 95 wins – and we’ll do worse, with a bit less money.

    I also seriously doubt this team will sign good free agents. Big name free agents? Sure, the ones nobody else will touch. Good ones? No way.

  35. Ralph Malph on September 15th, 2004 4:17 pm

    Jacques Jones for $3 million? That’s less than Spiezio and Ibanez, for heaven’s sake.

  36. Evan on September 15th, 2004 4:25 pm

    Watch Bavasi trade Jeremy Reed for Reed Johnson and claim it’s a huge upgrade.

    Because you can’t trust minor-league stats anyway, and Johnson’s a good clubhouse guy with solid major-league experience.

  37. joebob on September 15th, 2004 4:27 pm

    Ralph Malph,

    And we can all agree that the m’s overpayed for both spiezio and ibanez, jacque jones only has a vorp of 11 or so, but where his value lies for this team is in his defense in center field. Again, the specific moves I suggested were just a way to show that we can rebuild this team fairly quickly and compete again fairly soon.

    Of course I am just as pessimistic about the ability of this front office to make smart decisions as everyone else, just have to hope they learned from their mistakes. Also, I don’t think any of the moves I suggested are overlly creative.

  38. Evan on September 15th, 2004 4:36 pm

    On the Carlos Delgado front, so what if he hits 30 HR and gets 100 RBI? Expos 3B Tony Batista has 27 HR and 96 RBI so far this season… and a VORP of -7.

  39. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 4:37 pm

    Yeah, Joebob, but $3mil?
    Heh, anyway, I still get the point of your post #31. The specifics may be off from reality, but it makes a good point that a lot can be done with over $30 million and some trades.

  40. Paul Weaver on September 15th, 2004 4:38 pm

    Is a -7 VORP still an upgrade over our current first base situation?

  41. Pete on September 15th, 2004 4:46 pm

    joebob,

    Your suggestions for signings are far too heavy on right-handed hitting. Trading Ibanez would leave your 2005 line-up with one lefty (Ichiro), none of whom can hit for power. Seems illogical, and I’m not sure how much better we’d be replacing Ibanez with Sweeney and just adding Jones and Beltre. Defensively better, yes. Offensively? Slightly…

    Jones is hardly a big updgrade over Winn or Ibanez in the outfield and Sweeney’s right-handed bat doesn’t look that good at first base when combined with the right-handed Bucky, and an entire line-up of righties.

    And if adding Dave Hansen as a pinch-hitter means $2 million, that is an utter waste of money. I think he made like $800k this year…

  42. Pete on September 15th, 2004 4:50 pm

    I agree, a lot can be done with the money. joebob’s ideas are just ill-reasoned. No harm done.

  43. Jeremy on September 15th, 2004 6:13 pm

    That’s glorious.

    Prove it or shut the hell up, Mariner brass.

  44. Bill on September 15th, 2004 6:40 pm

    If the 2000-2003 run taught us anything, it’s that a winning baseball club puts fans in the seats. The star wattage on the club was far less than it was in the 1990s, but we were winning ballgames. Fans responded to that and came out to the park. The long-term plan (when discussing how to increase attendance) should be to remain competitive over an extended period, and the Mariners are right in having this goal even though they don’t necessarily know how to build the team to match it.

    The answer, however, is NOT overpaying for free agents of the ilk of Adrian Beltre, who will probably go for around $13-15M dollars per year for a good number of years. The only thing a signing like that accomplishes is pushing us towards the Mets, Orioles and Dodgers (circa 1990s) of the world. The club would gain temporarily from the buzz and excitement of the newbie(s), but if we just load up on big, ornery contracts, the shine will wear off and we’ll be stuck in the same rut. It’d be different if the M’s didn’t have a hard, self-imposed payroll cap of $95M, but they do and it’s an important thing to keep in mind when talking about how to dole out money this ofseason. I’d like to see the M’s make a splash in free agency this winter–but not by throwing big money and years around like there’s not tomorrow (because when tomorrow inevitably comes and the team is still bad, just bad with a shiny new part, we’ll be pushed even farther away from the Golden Age and even more towards the ’93-94 years). Unless the M’s up their payroll, they won’t get back into competitive territory through free agency alone, and therefore are unlikely to have continued and sustained high attendance marks in the coming years.

  45. joebob on September 15th, 2004 7:11 pm

    I think that one of the points that I was trying to make, was that in order for the mariners to maximize the opportunity to improve this year they’re going to have to make some trades. Simply put, even with 37 million, or whatever the amount is going to be, you can’t just go out and buy enough players to fill all of the holes in your lineup. I would be willing to take on a significantly overpriced contract for a good player a la larry walker, if the team is willing to take some of our dead wood off our hands ie. ibanez, spiezio, hasegawa, franklin.

    Also, I haven’t seen a ton of talk about this, but I think the value of a plus defender in center field cannot be overestimated. Everyone is talking about getting Beltran, or J.D. drew, but frankly I would be happy to just get any old scrub who can give us league average offense and great defense. We can make upgrades offensively in other places.

  46. John Hawkins on September 15th, 2004 7:30 pm

    Yeah, everything sucks, they’ll never do the right thing, we’re all doomed, it’s going to rain this winter, the wrong guy will win the Presidential election, your favorite TV show will be cancelled.

    Good grief people. Y’know, complaining constantly no matter what might be what RedSox fans do, but that doesn’t mean we should adopt the practice.

    If Bavasi signed Belt and Belt in the offseason, someone would probably say “yeah, great, but we’re still overpaying Franklin and Spezio.” If they win the freaking World Series, are you people going to complain that the games sucked because the stands in section 101 were still there?

    Argh.

  47. jason in nj on September 15th, 2004 7:43 pm

    how about we bring “ussmariner.com” posters to M’s games? how about white t-shirts with thick black magic marker so that the casual fans – those that have the capibility of being more but don’t know how – know where to go…?

  48. Ron on September 15th, 2004 8:28 pm

    M’s management isn’t stupid [I hope]. All you have to do to see what will happen to attendance if they aren’t seen as making big moves towards being contenders again is look at what happened to the Seahawks and what’s happening to the Sonics and Husky football now that they’re not contenders. Most Seattle sports fans are huge front runners: they’ll be fans of any major sport…as long as the team is winning. When the winning stops; look out below!

    It’s also rather funny to think that the M’s are one major signing from being contenders again. It’s more like two major bats, one reliable starter, and a restructured bullpen [including closer] from being back in contention.

  49. Pat Gillicks Hemorrhoids on September 15th, 2004 9:05 pm

    Most of the talented players that the Ms had or have under current ownership have either been players remaining from old ownership – A-Rod, Griffey, Edgar, Buhner, etc. – or accidents like Boone.

    Part of me wonders whether Ichiro should be considered an accident as well, considering how well other Japanese players have performed. Matsui has been good but most have been average at best.

    I’m not convinced that management knows what they are doing. What we are seeing this year is THEIR team.

  50. Jerry on September 16th, 2004 12:01 am

    Dave,

    Thanks for posting that. I am getting so sick of hearing the ill-informed ‘the M’s won’t sign anyone’ argument. It is just irrational pessimism. It is nice to hear from people who realize how many possiblities the team has to improve. It will be an exciting offseason.

    Lets just hope that the M’s can spend this cash wisely. I like the idea posted before on this site about avoiding anyone over 30. I am not as down on Delgado as a lot of people on this blog are, but I think that the first priorities should be guys like Beltran, Beltre, Drew, Perez, Pavano, Clement, ect: guys that are the most likely to still be effective in the last years on their contracts.

    37 million is a lot of money. That is enough for 4-5 very good players. One of the nice things about the M’s situation – tons of holes – is that they can go after the best players instead of filling very specific needs.

    I hope that they sign Beltran, even if it means going up to 13-14 million/year. He is a player that has been consistently good for years, is still improving, and fills multiple needs (speed, defense, power, premium position). Then, they can sign a #1 starter (Clement, Pavano, Perez, Radke), get the best 3B that they can (Beltre, Lowell, Ramirez, Glaus, in that order), and perhaps pickup up a player who might be available at below-market price (Renteria, Cabrera, Sexson, Ordonez, Lowe, Morris, Williamson). This offseason could be especially fun if they trade just a few players (Winn, Boone, Ibanez, Franklin, Shiggy) and clear more payroll. I would like to see them address at least one or two needs through trades, specifically 1B and setup man/spot closer.

    It is nice to hear from some people that are optimistic about the M’s future. I think that this is the ultimate chance for Bavasi to really show us what he can do. This is a sink or swim year for him. The team is a clean slate, and he has a ton of cash to work with. It is time to see if the front office has learned from their mistakes, and can follow the success of teams like Cleveland, Oakland, and Anahiem.

    Even if they make one bad choice, I fully believe that they will at least add a few interesting players with 37 million to spend.

  51. 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.

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

    Dave,

    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…

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

    JoeBob,

    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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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…

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

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

    G,

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

  59. 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.

  60. 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?

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

    LB,

    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.

  62. 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.