Thiel and Lincoln
Art Thiel of the PI has a pretty long interview with Howard Lincoln from yesterday. Thiel asked some pretty tough questions, so let’s give him a good amount of credit. Lincoln avoided most of them, but there are some enlightening answers. Here’s a few snippets, though you really should read the whole thing.
Q: If you were a major shareholder of a company whose main rival for three years running put out better products at half the price, do you think the CEO of that company might be vulnerable?
A: I certainly think that CEO would be subject to legitimate criticism. In any organization, the CEO is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on. I’m cognizant that our fans — and I’m one — are very, very disappointed with what happened in 2004 and, while we had winning records in 2002 and 2003, we didn’t go to the playoffs.
I’d also point out that in the five years I’ve been doing this, we’ve been to the American League Championship Series twice, and we had four years of good baseball. I think overall its fair to say we’ve brought great joy to the community and we’ve turned on an entire region to Mariners baseball.
I would hope that 2004 would be viewed as an aberration (that no one) in the organization felt was acceptable.
Nice jab there by Thiel, even though Lincoln entirely avoids the question about whether the organization has considered that perhaps the A’s have figured out some things that the M’s simply have not.
Q: There is no consensus among them to change the club’s approach?
A: The most important thing we can do is maintain a very high major league player payroll, at least in the top 10. If we can do that, that’s the most significant contribution the ownership group can make to the Mariners.
That’s precisely what we intend to do in 2005, even though in doing so we will budget for a loss. We are prepared to accept that loss in order to provide maximum financial flexibility to (general manager) Bill Bavasi and the baseball people, to give them the full opportunity to get things done right.
Thiel continues to fire upon the organizational philosophy, and Lincoln continues to doge the question. You have to love that Lincoln believes he can actually get us to believe the M’s are going to operate at a loss in 2005, don’t you? The payroll would have to be in the $130 million range for the M’s to actually lose money next year.
Q: Turning to the Bob Melvin firing, Bavasi was reluctant to share with media and fans the reasons. Even though he said it was a private, confidential conversation, the reluctance to explain came off to me and others as arrogant. Along with several other decisions, the organization has come off as arrogant or dismissive of fans’ concerns.
A: Quite frankly, I’m shocked that anyone would think we were arrogant. Confidential communications are important to the Mariners. We treat our manager, or any other employee, with dignity and respect. The point that Bill was making is that there are things NOT to be shared with anyone on the outside, fans or anyone else.
I’m with Lincoln here. I don’t understand people who think it was arrogant of Bavasi to not tell the media why he fired Bob Melvin. There is no moral obligation for him to deride Melvin publically. To claim that it was arrogant is just odd. Make no mistake, the Mariners front office contains some of the most arrogant people in the game, but this is not an example of that.
Q: How does the ownership agree to take on a loss?
A: We meet monthly. The budget for the new year (starting Nov. 1) has not been finalized. I have already advised our group that we are going to have a significant loss to accomplish the objective. I anticipate the budget will be approved.
Just so we’re clear, the organization is absolutely not going to operate at a loss next year. They will make a smaller profit, and they’ll use nifty accounting tricks to say that they’re losing money, but the team will be profitable next year, just like every other year.
Good interview, though.