Chuck Armstrong Interview

Dave · January 9, 2006 at 6:54 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Maury Brown, the head of the northwest chapter of SABR, conducted an interview with Chuck Armstrong on his Business of Baseball website.  It’s an interesting read for the most part.  A few of the chunks that jumped out at me:

BizBall: Forbes wrote an article in April this year entitled, “Best-Kept Secret“, which went on to mention that the Mariners have been the most profitable of all the clubs the last five years, with an average revenue of $163 million. The operating income of the Mariners for 2004 was $10.8 million. By comparison, the Yankees had an operating loss of $37.8 million for the same period.

Running the club is a business, and even when there are profits in hand, at what point do the Mariners say, “We’re not going any higher,” in relation to player payroll when weighed against the need to be competitive in a free-agent market?

Armstrong: We do that all the time. We set a budget and we don’t exceed that budget. We don’t necessarily have to spend up to it if we don’t find values. Right now, with the signing of Washburn and what we anticipate we’re going to be paying our other guys in arbitration and putting together our roster, we’re right up against our 2006 player payroll budget.

Generally, when a question like this is asked, the M’s get all defensive and take shots at Forbes numbers.  Interesting that Armstrong did not do that here. 

BizBall: The last question I have. You know, SABR is planning on having their National Convention just up the street at the Madison Renaissance Hotel–just a short walk from Safeco. Do you plan on being there at all this year?

Armstrong: I would like to be there. I’m keenly interested in all the work that SABR does. You know, Tal [Smith]–when I first got into this game–put me onto the work SABR does.

He taught me that in games, teams shouldn’t sacrifice as much. I’m one of these guys, if I had a criticism of most major league managers, I think they sacrifice too often and too early in the game. The out is the most precious thing in baseball. You only get 27 of them, and if you give one up, even when you try to sacrifice, over time at best, you’re only successful somewhere between 65% and 70% of the time. The work that SABR has done also shows that you have a greater chance of scoring if you don’t sacrifice with a runner on first and nobody out than if you do, but you can also avoid the double play, which counters that. It depends on the situation. So, to answer your question, yes, I would like to come up [to the Convention].

Maybe we can get Chuck and Hargrove together for lunch? Not a great sign that the president of the M’s understands a fairly basic concept of on field strategy that the manager of the M’s does not.  


20 Responses to “Chuck Armstrong Interview”

  1. DMZ on January 9th, 2006 8:58 am

    Also, there’s good stuff on:
    – Marketing to Japan
    – How Armstrong got his job
    – The park and what they want the experience to be like

    and much, much more. I thought the second half of this interview was great.

  2. Rusty on January 9th, 2006 9:42 am

    Yes, very interesting. Considering Armstrong’s longevity with the team and his passion for it, I’ve always wondered why he doesn’t try to be more of a difference maker than the obedient soldier, the role that he seems to have played.

  3. Jim Thomsen on January 9th, 2006 12:21 pm

    I have always wondered how the USS Mariner authors stand in relation to SABR. I rarely hear their work touted or even mentioned here. Are any of the authors SABR members? Do you generally support their work, or is there some political or philosophical division in the analyst community that gets in the way of that?

  4. Dave on January 9th, 2006 12:41 pm

    Derek’s a SABR member. The rest of us are just cheap.

  5. gwangung on January 9th, 2006 12:48 pm

    Derek’s a SABR member. The rest of us are just cheap.

    My kind of guys!

  6. wabbles on January 9th, 2006 1:09 pm

    SABR = Society for American Baseball Research

  7. CCW on January 9th, 2006 1:11 pm

    DMZ, does it surprise you that Armstrong said the Ms would, in years where there they couldn’t get “value” for their money, elect to save money and come in under budget? I’m not sure this means much considering they spent all their money this year, a year in which just about no one was getting “value”. Still, though, I believe this contradicts previous statements from the FO.

  8. Mr. Egaas on January 9th, 2006 1:12 pm

    I’ve always liked Chuck Armstrong. I’ve mentioned this before, how I took a Sociology of Sport class at the UW, and Art Thiel came in and gave a 50-minute guest lecture for a day, which was decently interesting, but he talked mostly about the controversial UW Athletics program at the time. The quarter before me, they brought in Chuck Armstrong, which I would have loved to death, probably would have sat in the front of the class and asked a question or two.

    I can’t really argue about anything he stated in the interview. I can see that the M’s have a budget and have to stay within that, it is a business after all, but it’s still possible to build a competitive team without completely breaking the bank.

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 9th, 2006 1:16 pm


  10. Mr. Egaas on January 9th, 2006 1:32 pm

    I’ve been trying to make it a point to stay on topic, so I was waiting for a post on that… but since it’s been brought up…


  11. msb on January 9th, 2006 1:38 pm


  12. eponymous coward on January 9th, 2006 2:06 pm

    Armstrong surprises me every now and then- that statement about sac bunts was NOT something I expected to hear from him.

    OTOH, you’d think he got to have SOME say in hiring Hargrove.

  13. Nintendo Marios on January 9th, 2006 2:32 pm

    No passion to win at all.

    An abysmal season isn’t a point for reflection but simply a “marketing challenge”. If Chuck ends his career without a ring, hey that’s no problem because Zagat’s says Safeco Field is more popular than Mt. Rainier.

    This FO won’t even give lip service to winning! Instead we get complaints that “roster instability” hurts TV ads.


  14. Oly Rainiers Fan on January 9th, 2006 3:54 pm

    Actually, Maury is the co-chair of the SABR business of baseball committee (along with Gary Gillette) but currently the vice president of the NW chapter of SABR (Mike Rice is current prez).

    That said, folks should know that the Mariners have been super supportive in terms of the upcoming SABR convention in Seattle, basically telling us that they’ll provide whoever/whenever/whatever we want – be that Bavasi, Hargrove, Pelekoudas, whoever… (Dave Eskanazi has been working with the Ms, Anthony Salazar is heading up the convention committee, Mark Armour is heading up the publications aspect, Jeff Bower organizing the panel presentations, and Steve Steinberg many of the ‘family outings’…and these guys and others are doing one helluva fine job).

    They’re also planning an inning of ‘vintage ball’ played prior to the 6/30 Ms Rockies game (that the SABR convention folks will be attending as their official Ms outing). The next night, the convention attendees have the option of heading to Tacoma (7/1) for the Rainiers-Grizzlies game. (I’m helping to coordinate that).

    And as a plug for SABR, you don’t have to be a SABR member to register for and/or attend the convention. Jim Bouton (Ball Four) is the keynote speaker, and there will be several interesting panel discussions as well as the inevitable really great presentations and lots of beer drinking and seemingly endless baseball trivia discussions in the hotel bar and thereabouts afterwards…

  15. msb on January 9th, 2006 4:06 pm

    #14– They’re also planning an inning of ‘vintage ball’ played prior to the 6/30 Ms Rockies game (that the SABR convention folks will be attending as their official Ms outing).

    now that sounds swell. is the conference info on the SABR page?

  16. Jim Thomsen on January 9th, 2006 4:11 pm

    Sounds like a total geekfest.

    Good thing I’m a geek. I’m all over it.

  17. Oly Rainiers Fan on January 9th, 2006 5:30 pm

    Here’s the convention page on the NWSABR site: but it doesn’t have much deetailed (schedule like) info on it yet. There will also be a lot of info, as it gets finalized and available.

    It’s also on the main SABR site:,c,1432,17 with links to the NWSABR site.

    But, while you could make hotel reservations already, registration for the convention isn’t up yet.

    Those of you in the Portland area could get more info by going to the regional meeting on 2/18 at the Oregon Sports Hall of fame. The regional meetings are open to the public, not just SABR members. (They can get pretty dry, I warn you).

  18. Deanna on January 9th, 2006 5:53 pm

    I literally work a block from where the convention’s being held (which is also conveniently right by the Seattle Public Library, heh), so I was planning to try to at least go see Bouton speak. Considering how much time I spend reading baseball books and such, I should probably join SABR, but I’m also too cheap 🙂

    Anyway, I thought the most interesting part of the Armstrong interview was where he said that they weren’t going to do anything really special marketing-wise for Johjima. I’m not sure they have to, anyway — the Japanese media is a monster all on its own without any prodding.

  19. msb on January 9th, 2006 6:52 pm

    and if Kenji’s personality is indded as it seems (in the limited views we’ve seen of him) they won’t have to do much marketing…

  20. Maury Brown on January 9th, 2006 10:02 pm

    If there are questions about the interview with Armstrong, or about the convention, let’er rip.

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