AL West Getting Smarter

Dave · October 4, 2005 at 4:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

John Hart stepped down as GM of the Texas Rangers this afternoon and named 28-year-old Jon Daniels as his replacement. Daniels is one of the most respected assistant GMs in the game and has a very bright future ahead of him. He is from the new class of baseball executives trained at an Ivy League school, but he also has a tremendously deep respect for scouting and subjective talent evaluation. He’s firmly in the school of “as much good information as possible” rather than casting his lots with the stats or scouts crowds.

The Rangers are in good hands with Daniels. The competition in the AL West just got a little bit tougher.


82 Responses to “AL West Getting Smarter”

  1. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 11:09 am

    39 – Exactly right!

    Lincoln’s biggest problem is the ultimate goal of the franchise.

    Howie and Chuck are in the entertainment business. They just happen to stage baseball productions.

    Their goal is annual profit, and they are very, very good at it. Seattle’s franchise is consistently among the most profitable in baseball (second only, last year, to NYY and BOS). Their consistent ability to wring profits from this market is the bane of every fan’s existence.

    Moreover, Howie and Chuck don’t lie about it. “Be competitive” means exactly that – competitive enough to make a profit but no silly extra performances in October from which MLB, not the Seattle franchise, primarily benefits.

    Until the good people of Seattle demand a winning team, Howie and Chuck will continue serving up the same family-friendly entertainment performed whenever possible by nice scrappy local white boys struggling to make good in the prettiest darn ballpark in baseball.

    Chuck and Howie respond to one thing only: butts in the seat. Do competitive Seattle baseball a favor – stay home. Don’t give this franchise dollar one until Chuck and Howie, who aren’t liars, announce publicly their franchise’s commitment to win pennants.

    You’ll know when it happens – Pocket Lint will get the story first.

  2. mZak on October 5th, 2005 11:30 am


    I think if you go back an read my original post, you’d find we’re pretty much in agreement with what you’ve said here. I am a fan of Joe Torre’s. I think the Yankees have talent, but also play with passion, or as #43 says, it may not be passion per se, but a focus or intensity.
    A cohesiveness. I don’t believe a team can do this on its own, talent or otherwise.

  3. Evan on October 5th, 2005 11:35 am

    On the free agent front, this is definitely going to be a competitive bidding market.

    We’re looking to improve. The Yankees and BoSox are probably both dissatisfied with how this year went. Toronto’s payroll is increasing from $50 million to $85 million.

    There should be a lot of money being thrown around, and there aren’t many good players at whom to throw it.

  4. Gomez on October 5th, 2005 12:06 pm

    43. Do I think that having an owner that is completely engaged with the team translate into better performance on the field: yes. Does passion automatically translate into championships: yes and no. Steinbrenner is a case in the affirmative, Mark Cuban is a case in the negative.

    Steinbrenner also owns a team in a league that allows him to basically spend money freely. Cuban has to work against a salary cap. And that’s excluding the fact that basketball and baseball are dramatically different games, not to mention in terms of how individuals directly affect the team’s fortunes.

    Also, Steinbrenner owned the team in the 80’s and early 90’s, when the Yankees were a perennial doormat. His passion did not net them better performance then. I still remember the night Andy Hawkins threw a no-hitter and the Yankees still lost 4-0.

    In terms of on-field impact, don’t confuse “passion” with “fiscal capability to buy the league’s best talent each and every year by outbidding the entire league”.

    Passion or no passion, most teams still have to operate under a finite budget, still have to generate revenue and leave it to the General Manager to make personnel decisions.

  5. msb on October 5th, 2005 12:34 pm

    some ownership info:

    January ’92 local politicians talked with John Ellis about putting together a local group of owners. That month The Baseball Club of Seattle was formed (by John McCaw and fellow McCaw Cellular executives Wayne Perry and Rufus Lumry) and announced its $125 million cash offer for the team, which included the purchase price of the club and operation cost. The principal investor was Hiroshi Yamauchi, whose investment was an expression of thanks to the region for the success of Nintendo. During negotiations with Major League baseball, his interest was dropped to 49 percent (which was held in irrevocoble proxy by his son-in-law Minoru Arakawa, Redmond-based president of Nintendo of America) so that the majority of the team was controlled by local owners.

    This group was made up of a Microsoft group headed by Chris Larson (the highest minority investor), Rob Glaser, Craig Watjen and Jeff Raikes ; a McCaw Cellular group headed by John McCaw, Perry & Lumry ; small shares held by Boeing’s Frank Shrontz & Puget Power’s John Ellis, and seven others. In 2001 John McCaw sold his shares to VoiceStream Wireless Chairman John Stanton. In 2004 Yamauchi officially transferred his shares into the Nintendo ownership pool as an estate-planning move.

    the last list I saw was:

    Howard Lincoln, chairman and CEO, Board of Directors (left Nintendo in 2000)
    Christopher Larson, senior program manager for Microsoft
    John Ellis, retired chairman and CEO of Puget Sound Power and Light
    Frank Shrontz, former chairman and CEO of The Boeing Co.
    Wayne Perry, vice chairman Nextlink Communications and former president of McCaw Cellular
    Craig Watjen, former Microsoft treasurer
    John Bauer, executive vice president of Nintendo of America
    Carl Stork, Microsoft executive
    Judith Bigelow, partner in Seattle law firm Preston Gates & Ellis (married to Stork)
    Raymond “Buck” Ferguson, Seattle, a business consultant and former Microsoft executive
    Rob Glaser, former Microsoft vice president who founded Internet company RealNetworks
    Jeff Raikes, Microsoft senior vice president
    Bill Marklyn, former Microsoft project manager
    John Stanton, chairman, CEO and director of Western Wireless Corp. and VoiceStream Wireless
    Rufus Lumry, founder of McCaw Cellular and founder of Acorn Ventures

  6. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 12:49 pm

    I am irresistably moved to say that, given this lineup of ownership, they would have no problem buying out the Nintendo shares if they so desired….

  7. msb on October 5th, 2005 1:31 pm

    I am irresistably moved to say that, given this lineup of ownership, they would have no problem buying out the Nintendo shares if they so desired…

    or even Albania.

  8. Evan on October 5th, 2005 1:31 pm

    Why would they want to? Is there some detriment to having Nintendo own 49& of the club?

  9. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 2:03 pm

    55 – Exactly.

    The only initiative Howie & Chuck can even hope to get mutual agreement on is, “Hey, we promise not to lose a bunch of money, OK?”

    Ellis forced this group together “for the good of the community.” Howie and Chuck’s big nightmare is that a losing franchise will lead to “unpleasantness” among their friends and neighbors, and what a terrible cocktail hour that would be for everyone involved.

    I want pennants! I really don’t give a crap about keeping a long list of local luminaries “pleased with their association with the Seattle Mariners Baseball Blub”.

    Don’t get me wrong – I admire Chuck and Howie as executives. They’re making money in a very tough business and, from a distance anyway, they seem to recognize an obligation of public service stewardship. Told to go win pennants and get the team in a WS, I suspect they’d do the city and themselves proud.

    But nobody in that entire group lusts for a WS ring. Their judgement is too sensible, their social contacts too important and they’ve made their bones in the community already. Choosing to pursue a WS at this point in the ol’ career just wouldn’t evidence sound judgement, now would it?

  10. Grizz on October 5th, 2005 2:05 pm

    It does not matter who owns the team — the team will not be allowed to operate at a loss from year-to-year. The team’s failure on the field the last two years is due to poor baseball personnel decisions (namely, giving large, multi-year contracts to declining players) and neglect of the draft and minor league system, not ownership.

  11. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 2:13 pm

    Well, actually, Albania would be less than pocket change.

    Actually, I’d disagree that none of the ownership group are lusting for World Series rings. The Microsoft people, in particular, are all pretty competitive (testosterone driven, even; that’s why they were top dogs at Microsoft) and it’s pretty well known that Chris Larson is extremely competitive and has long been known to be an absolute sports nuts on the level of the folks around here.

    It’s that these folks just don’t know the nuts and bolts of how to win (as do 2/3 of the folks actually running baseball teams). And they’ve given management to the wrong people (two of which, IMAO, are still with the team)

  12. Smegmalicious on October 5th, 2005 2:23 pm

    61, I work at Microsoft, and I can tell you there’s no huge surplus of testosterone here, quite the opposite. There is a lot of geek fury and nerdgasms when sci-fi moies come out.

  13. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 2:28 pm

    I couldn’t disagree more.

    A reason “those large multi-year contracts” were given to “declining players” is because of ownership’s entertainment-based approach.

    The value placed on aging, popular, nice, good-looking, family-oriented, “pillar of the community” players with declining skills is a function of ownership’s entertainment-based values.

  14. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 2:38 pm

    I certainly mean no dig at any particular owner, Chris Larson in particular or MSFT in general.

    The organization is simply not built to win. The organization is built to maintain financially viable baseball entertainment in Seattle. Which it successfully does.

  15. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 2:50 pm

    Um, Smeg, SF geekiness doesn’t preclude testosterone….(and from charity contests I’ve been involved in, there’s a lot of competitiveness among the higher ups at Microsoft….)

  16. Grizz on October 5th, 2005 2:53 pm

    Ownership places so much value on “aging, popular, nice, good-looking, family-oriented, ‘pilar of the community’ players with declining skills” that they allowed the two players most fitting that description to be designated for assignment at mid-season the past two years.

  17. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 2:55 pm

    66 – Exactly.

    A winning club doesn’t break camp with them.

  18. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 3:22 pm

    Well, a winning club needs to be more ruthless about dealing the fan favorites when they aren’t producing. That’s where catering too much for the fans CAN hurt you on the field.

  19. Grizz on October 5th, 2005 3:33 pm

    If the team values popular players over productive players, why are Boone and Olerud not breaking camp with the team next year? In fact, exactly who on next year’s team fits that description? Maybe Moyer, if he comes back (which is not a given), but Moyer also happens to be the team’s best starter outside of Felix.

  20. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 3:58 pm

    69 – The problem isn’t that Boone & Olerud aren’t breaking camp with the team NEXT year. The problem is that Boone & Olerud (and Wilson, Pokey, WFB…) broke camp THIS year.

    In addition to difficult baseball judgements, Seattle has a whole other category of spurious value. Somebody has a spreadsheet saying Olerud on the team is worth X butts in seats, Boone is worth Y butts and Wilson Z.

    Factoring in that spurious value makes already difficult baseball judgements impossible. And that’s why ownership matters.

  21. mZak on October 5th, 2005 4:36 pm


    Very funny. I’m still cracking up.

  22. Grizz on October 5th, 2005 4:42 pm

    Olerud did not break camp with the team this year. Wilson (the backup catcher), Reese, and Bloomquist (the utility infielder) had a combined salary of less than $3 million. They had about as much responsibility for the team’s failure this year as Jaime Bubela.

    It is pure speculation that any of the owners have made Bavasi make personnel decisions based on who is popular with fans. And, no, Lincoln’s statement that the team will avoid acquiring known head cases (which removes a handful of players like Kenny Rogers, Milton Bradley, and Raul Mondesi from consideration) is not the same thing as saying the team values Pollyannas over production.

  23. Oly Rainiers Fan on October 5th, 2005 5:20 pm

    I don’t believe the Ms ownership makes as much negative difference as many make it out to.

    This whole site, as I understand it, is about a quest for knowledge, a more scientific, testable/provable way of looking at the game. For those who feel that the current Ms ownership is the problem, where is your proof of this? (and please, don’t trot out tired old pieces of quotes that beatwriters and radio sports jocks take completely out of context specifically in order to inflame and excite their readers and listeners). This does not constitute proof. Opinion, restated no matter how many times or in how many different formats, is not equivalent to truth.

    This ownership has been in place since 1992. Since then, we have had winning years and losing years and many other facets of the franchise (managers, GMs, players, even home park) have changed as have the circumstances and performance of the teams in our division. But ownership has remained (relatively) constant. So if you’re going to allege that ownership is THE problem, what explains the years we might quantify as successful? What facet of ownership is the problem? Somebody alleges above that having an owner who doesn’t attend the games is the problem, as if that somehow proves ‘lack of passion’. That statement alone is based on two assumptions – 1) that you’re not passionate about it unless you attend the games in person and 2) that being passionate about the sport as an owner actually makes a difference in whether or not the team performs well.

    This site has amazing discussions about the merits of players, and sometimes even coaches (though, as pointed out by the authors themselves, so much of an evaluation of pitching coaches for example, is subjective and based on things that we, as fans, simply can’t know because they are not easily measured or quantified). But man, when this site enters into discussions of ownership, the quality of reasoned discourse takes a quick dive.

  24. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 6:19 pm

    It is pure speculation that any of the owners have made Bavasi make personnel decisions based on who is popular with fans.

    Hm. From the feed notes, there’s a quote that this is no longer the case. WHich implies it WAS the case previously.

  25. Nintendo Marios on October 5th, 2005 7:24 pm

    73 – I have to agree with you. A few ending comments;

    – I don’t think ownership lacks passion. They have a misplaced passion for profit before wins.

    – I can’t, yet, point to any tools that objectively evaluate ownership, management or coaching, especially over time. That doesn’t mean no effect exists, it just means I haven’t got a tool yet.

    – Personally I try to avoid discussing ownership or management except during the off season for exactly the reason you note: these discussions tend to degrade quickly.

  26. roger tang on October 5th, 2005 8:43 pm

    I don’t think ownership lacks passion. They have a misplaced passion for profit before wins.

    I wouldn’t put it quite that way; I’d say that they don’t have a good sense for assessing risk that’s inherent in getting wins, nor do they trust the analysis on what each additional win will generate you in revenue.

  27. tede on October 5th, 2005 9:55 pm

    #73 Another Day. Another Year. Another 90 loss season. And another season ticket invoice from the M’s once again requesting first payment by Game 3 of the World Series (October 25). One difference is that this year they had Mike Hargrove write the pablum letter to season ticket holders (in Marinerdom that means he is definitely returning). At least we got the former CEO (Ellis) to thank for the dancing grounds crew. But even that didn’t keep the owner’s nephew (Arakara) in his 1B dugout seat beyond the 5th inning during Fan Appreciation Night (a rare appearance by him this year).

    Anyway, if you want some evidence of the shennigans/finnegans of The Howard, I suggest you read DMZ’s brilliant post from the archives (whatever happened to that guy?) dated July 14, 2004 dated 4:01 AM (at the very bottom of the link…assuming I get the link to work)

  28. tede on October 5th, 2005 10:12 pm

    Op topic biographical comparisons:
    Jon Daniels -age 28, Cornell

    M’s brass (as written up in the Media guide):

    Dan Evans (age 45) is the only member of M’s front office management to list his age in the Media guide(DePaul grad).

    Howard Lincoln – Cal Berkley (same as Frank Mattox and Brian Price)
    Chuck Armstrong -Purdue & George Argyros School of Management
    Pat Gillick – USC (same as Barbara Hedges and Ron Fairly – a teammate of Gillick’s)
    John Ellis – UW
    Bill Bavasi – U. Of San Diego
    Bob Fontaine – no higher education listed in bio
    Lee Pelokoudas – Arizona State
    Benny Looper – Southwestern Oklahoma University
    Mariner Moose – created in 1990 no higher education listed

  29. Oly Rainiers Fan on October 5th, 2005 10:42 pm

    #77. I read it, yet I don’t know how it qualifies as evidence. Now, if it were coming to me straight from the mouth of Kevin Mather, the Ms CFO, after he had taken an oath and sworn to tell the truth on the lives of his wife and kids…that might be considered evidence, but even then, unless you actually are able to see the books, alleging that the ownership is lying about taking a profit versus turning it back into the team is just speculation, no matter who engages in it. (And really, I’ve met and talked to Kevin Mather, and frankly, doubt I’d believe him even if he were under oath).

    Also, yeah, I got the same damn letter today and yeah, I’m irritated by it as well. I’ve been a season ticket holder for enough years to push me to the edge. I had written Howard and Chuck a 5 page letter in August, basically telling them I was sick and tired of being taken for granted. That no matter how addicted I am, it has its limits. Their response was to have the Director of Sales call me, and spend over an hour making me feel all validated and listened to, while promising things would change. During that conversation, I heard about those season ticket holder focus groups who, well, I don’t know where they find these folks but they sure as hell don’t speak for me.

    They (ownership) know they’re in trouble. They lost 4K season ticket holders last year, and they’re going to lose a helluva lot more this year. My partners aren’t renewing, so I’m dropping to a single seat, and I know at least 5 other long-time season ticket holders who aren’t renewing either and that’s just in my extremely limited orbit.

  30. tede on October 6th, 2005 12:12 am

    #79 I wonder too who are being selected for the season ticket focus groups that Howard is crowing about. (And I’ll probably compose my own letter to Howard/Chuck this month).

    It looks like their only response so far to the drop off in season ticket numbers is the return of the Businessman/Weekend Season Ticket Plans (1/2 season tickets).

    IIRC they were being heavily discouraged in ’97/’98 under the threat of “buy a full season ticket or lose playoff priority/Safeco seating priority”. And gone completely in 1999 with the move to Safeco

    You might tell your partners about the Weekend Plan. They’ll play Boston twice and SF on weekend homestands. One scheduling item to look forward to: next year they’ll host Texas twice for weekend homestands in September – three weeks apart. That looks to be the most unusual schedule quirk in years.

  31. Oly Rainiers Fan on October 6th, 2005 7:12 am

    Yeah, I noted the 1/2 season plan (40 games, mix of weekday/weekend) but nowhere in the literature does it tell you what happens with regard to playoff games (yeah, I know, like that’s anything WE have to worry about). Do you get ‘every other game’ then also?

    Also new is the option to buy season tickets for the left field bleachers, and of course, to pay extra money to have guaranteed promo items (something the Rainiers GIVE you just for the sake of BEING a season ticket holder, as I pointed out in my long long letter). That hair-brained idea, of offering us the option of paying MORE to get guaranteed promo items sent to our homes is, so Ms. Traisman told me, something that some other teams do and something that those dreaded focus groups (who told the Ms they didn’t really care about promo items at all) thought was a swell idea.

    My response was ‘om, wait, I just sent you a 5 page letter telling you how the Rainiers treat me better, value me more as a season ticket holder than the Ms do, and how I don’t feel I’m getting good return on my decision to spend a huge amount of money (for me) on Ms tix, and your response is to offer me a chance to spend MORE to get what I feel I should be getting in the first place????

    She seemed very nice and all, but… (oh, and she also skipped over my complaint about how the Ms offered discount tix for some games this season and I thought they should have just mailed me a check for $6 for each of my seats that they sold for $24 this season, while I, their VALUED season ticket holder paid $30.)

    Good luck with your letter; maybe someday we can work our way into those focus groups.

  32. tede on October 6th, 2005 12:48 pm

    Playoff games & Half Season Seats. In the beginning (1995), the Weekend holder of the Seat got ALL the playoff games- (except the 1 game playoff w/ Anaheim which was understandable with less than 24 hr notice). The Business Plan holder (of the same seat), I believe got sat somewhere else but also got ALL the games. IIRC by 1997, you had to have the entire full season seat to get ALL the playoff games. My guess is that their 2006 policy will likely resemble what it was circa 1997, and you’ll just get a portion of the playoff games. But obviously they won’t be going to the playoffs next year.

    Wow the promo thing. I didn’t see that. How far they have come. In the Kingdome, they had a separate season ticket holder entrance (sort of like at Cheney I believe) and you were pretty much guaranteed of getting the promo item if you showed up by game time. The promo items at Safeco have sucked so much recently or been strictly for kids, that I could never envision paying for them (e.g. an Edgar statue that doesn’t look like Edgar). Quite a change from them sending you an autographed Lou Piniella ball as thanks for renewing your season seat.

    I would not expect to get into a focus group. My guess is that these focus groups are not entirely random (like the prize drawings on Fan Appreciation Night). Probably the larger accounts, newbies who are most likely to bail, club seat holders etc. – the marginal baseball fan w/ money who is more important to their bottom line. I just wish that this organization had as much baseball savvy as their marketing savvy.