Imagine Sisyphus a Mariner

DMZ · February 4, 2007 at 7:59 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

“Sisyphus is a professional rock-roller, who provides strength going up both sides of the mountain. He’s a big, strong kid who rolls the boulder real hard.” — press release

This off-season, I’d get up in the morning and check through the news sites quickly to see that there was no new disaster. No Mariner-related headline was the best news I could reasonably hope for. I am as much hostage as fan, the powerful able to inflict pain great and small on me at their whim, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have no say in their decisions, but their decisions make a great difference in how my life’s going to go.

Every day. Did they trade Adam Jones for Jon Switzer? Manage to lose Jose Lopez on waivers somehow? No fear or rumor was too irrational to dismiss entirely. Would the Mariners really be crazy enough to give Jeff Weaver a five year, $50m deal? I’d think “there’s no way, that’s insane”. But that’s what I’ve thought year after year, move after move, and I’d feel my pulse quicken. It could happen: Jeff Weaver, $10m a year for five years. Run away, run away now.

I’m too much a fan to stop following baseball, I can’t move from Seattle. I don’t know how well-imprinted I am at this point but I know I won’t ever be a Yankees fan, and you’d have to hold me down to get me to put on a Dodgers cap. I don’t have any choice. I can’t escape this.

What’s worse, the good, small moves didn’t help. Arthur Rhodes on a minor league invite? That’s a nice little contract. That’s the kind of smart deal the team should be making. Clearly there’s a pulse controlling the organization. But if they’re smart at all, if there’s even the dimmest bulb lit, then there’s no explanation for other moves.

Every day for months, I worry I’m going to wake up and see that the Mariners signed Tomo Ohka to a three-year, $54m deal to provide stability in the rotation, and I’ll glance up at the byline and see that oh, of course, it’s 2009 and he’s just come off a 12-10 season with the surprising Devil Rays.

Why not? Why wouldn’t that happen?

What evidence is there, at all, that the Mariners are any smarter than they were the year before? Or the year before that? Rats running mazes don’t keep charging in to find the same blank dead end because it’s comfortable. Eventually they find a food pellet, and the next time in, they’re a little faster through the maze.

Not the Mariners. This is an abjectly stupid franchise, from top on down. No lesson is written too large for them to ignore, no problem too obvious not to fix. Drop them into the box and they run for the electric shock panel, because they’re convinced that once, they shocked themselves and it worked out great. Moreover, they have no interest in learning from their mistakes.

Readers sometimes ask that we write an article comparing the Mariners to the A’s.

Why? What’s the point? What possible more information could we give anyone who comes here that would be more insightful than seeing the team have their ass handed to them, year after year, by a smarter, stronger, better-prepared opponent, then get up, dust off their clothes, and say “we don’t think they’ll be able to sustain this kind of performance”.

Here’s a bit of an interview Athletics Nation did with Billy Beane

Blez: What was your reaction in general to some of the starting pitching contracts this offseason? I suppose the Loaiza contract now looks like a bargain.

Beane: One of the things we were concerned about last year and one of the reasons we pursued Este was because we saw what the market would start to bear for starting pitching. We knew there was a very strong chance we were going to lose Barry and now I’m really happy we have Loaiza. There’s no reason to be shocked anymore at anything. I’ve been here a long time and nothing really shocks me. If you’re shocked that means you’re probably not prepared for it.

What are we going to say about this? You knew the A’s think ahead, work through what this market is, what the next market’s going to look like. They’re cautious and if anything, over-plan, over-analyze, and they kick the Mariners’ ass, over and over. We’re so used to it we forget how badly it hurts. The A’s took 17 of 19 games from the Mariners last year.

17 of 19.

What changes did they make in response this off-season? Did they learn from defeat? What have they done that demonstrates on any level that they are any smarter than any of the previous abject failure teams? Are they spending their money wisely? Committing to the right players? Making sure the team is well-coached and well-prepared?

Have they learned anything, anything at all?

No. No, of course not.

We get up in the morning, we check the news, and if they haven’t done something so awful I worry I’ll be explaining to future generations what it was like to be around for most god-awful, demoralizing, incompetent leadership, we’re relieved. Another day without disaster, still without hope. I nurse no delusion that anyone responsible is ever going to face what they’ve done.

Thiel: 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?

Lincoln: 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 it’s 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.

– From the Seattle PI, 10/5/2004

Four years later, the CEO has not been held responsible for that season, or for any season since. They have not competed for a pennant, much less a playoff spot, and when, at one point this last season it looked like there might be moves that could keep them in the race, they did nothing.

Lincoln wanted 2004 to be viewed as an aberration, but he followed it up with another terrible year and three years later, the team hasn’t seen seen .500 or finished ahead of any other team in the division.

So let’s look at Thiel’s question again:

Thiel: 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?

The question is now:

If you were a major shareholder of a company whose main rival for five years running put out vastly superior products at half the price, do you think the CEO of that company might ever be vulnerable?

The answer, we’ve seen, is “no”. You can be the most incompetent of leadership groups, you can commit to bad move after bad move, and when the ownership group calls them all in and asks “what’s your plan to do better?” their response is “more of the same” to satisfied agreement.

If you think there’s going to be a change, that the ownership group might possess some kind of baseball smarts that are going to get the team righted, that they might choose better people, consider that when the people who brought them helping after helping of steaming, awful contracts, came to them and said “we want to throw a vast sum of money at a declining left-handed starter,” the owners said “Barry Zito? $99m? That seems like a good allocation of resources, go make the offer.”

The organization is profoundly, deeply stupid, and stupid in an arrogant, dismissive manner that rules out the possibility of change. The Mariners are like Ford in the 1970s. “No one wants to buy smaller, cheaper, fuel-efficient, well-made Japanese cars. The American consumer wants huge cars you measure in miles to gallon and lose 1% of their components every ten miles driven. Those things are toys.”

They will pay the price for their arrogance until they find humility or are removed.

I’ve been reading this obscure book, Propaganda Analysis, A Study of Inferences Made from Nazi Propaganda in World War II by Alexander L. George this off-season. The book is about how intelligence analysts were able to figure out things like the Nazis’s relative confidence in their defenses by the differences in bravado, or infer the progress and setbacks in a secret weapon program (which turned out to be the V-2) from public pronouncements and hints.

I try to ignore the M’s public comments, because I long ago decided that they revealed either a deeply offensive contempt for the intelligence of their audience or, even worse, an institution unable to think effectively and proud of it. But reading the book, I can’t help but look at the comments we get with every transaction and break them down into meaning, both obvious for consumption and implied, intended to be discovered or not.

Here’s what Lee Pelekoudas said when the team signed Putz to his new contract:
“There’s a theory going around now that the seventh and eighth inning are more important outs than the ninth inning, and that anybody can do the closer’s role,” Pelekoudas said. “We don’t think so. The ninth inning are the toughest three outs in baseball, and whether it’s guts, or moxie, or makeup — J.J. has it.

“When you find someone that can do a job like J.J. has done last year, you run with it. That’s what we intend to do for the next three years.”

There’s no theory going around that the 7th and 8th are more important. There’s been a lot of excellent work done on what game situations are most important, and yes, a tie game in the 8th is more important than pitching for three outs in the ninth while up by three runs. But no one, anywhere, has argued that the 7th and 8th innings are always more important than the ninth. It’s easy to put yourself on the right side of an argument that way.

“Some people say that we should forfeit all our games and let the A’s win. But I say no!”

Of course in that example, it probably would have been an effective strategy: team gets an extra couple days of rest, and they were only going to lose anyway.

Even if you excuse that comment, as some kind of blunder, a mis-reading or mis-representation someone else made to him of an article somewhere, this gets worse. His disdain for the opinion that anyone is able to “do the closer’s role” — well, almost anyone can. Anyone does. Shawn Chacon saved 35 games in 2004 for the Rockies, and he was horrible. If the argument is that it takes a certain kind of pitcher, that’s also not true. Control pitchers have made effective closers as well as fastball-reliant speed freaks. Converted starters, minor league relievers: if they throw the ball, one of their kind has through design or luck taken the ball in the ninth inning and been anointed a closer.

Every year teams have trouble with their closers, their setup men, and they juggle their guys around and voila! A new closer is born! Where was he before? Who knows! But he didn’t have that closer magic before, and now he does. For instance, Eddie Guardado blows up and we get Putz, a 29-year old reliever stepping up.

It takes some doing to not see this. To believe that Putz’s ascent was an isolated miracle, to not look around the league and see that effective closers have taken many different paths to their role.

This pattern, though, this constant, blanketing ignorance

From Kirby Arnold’s FanFest summary:

Question: If you say young players are so important, why did you get rid of Chris Snelling (traded to the Washington Nationals for Jose Vidro)? Will you reimburse me the $220 for the jersey I bought for my son?

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong: “He was one of my son’s favorite players, too. We were out of (minor league) options with Chris Snelling. Our baseball operations people determined that we would be a better team with Jose Vidro and Jose Guillen. As much as we liked Chris Snelling, you’ve got to give up something to get something.

“With respect to your jersey, that’s going to be a collector’s item.”

What a strange thing to say, that you have to give up something to get something. It’s not true. If I want to steal my neighbor’s garbage, I don’t have to pay them for it. Things that are worthless demand no price, and any price is too high. Jose Vidro is garbage, expensive garbage, and the M’s are happy to have paid that much.

Or to learning from mistakes, I offer this exchange for consideration

Question: In 2004 it was Rich Aurilia. In ’05 it was Scott Spiezio. In ’06, Carl Everett. Now it’s Jose Vidro. What is it in Jose Vidro that made you want to go after him, especially the way his hamstrings are?

Bavasi: “I see the similarities. With Carl, we knew we were taking a calculated risk. With Aurilia, it was a calculated risk. With Spiezio, thunder struck us.

“This guy, Vidro, is a good switch hitter from both sides of the plate. Statistically, it bears that out. Our analysis physically is that this guy has done nothing with his legs for a few years, but we feel we can do some things with his quads that will help him. We know he can hit and this is the league he should be in.”

Vidro, it seems, can do nothing with his legs for years, and the team thinks their staff can help. But Snelling, who works his ass off? No way, that’s crazy talk. No way they could help him. It is, it seems, better to be lazy and easily injured than to be younger, harder-working, and carry the same reputation.

Further, Vidro here carries the same kind of praise – we’ve scouted him, we know he can hit – that all the great failures have. Are we expected to swallow this dose, too, or is it that every time the scouts come back with a report that reads “professional hitter” their track record with professional hitters is forgotten? How can this be a reasonable line of thinking in an organization that wants to compete with franchises like Oakland?

Question: Have you considered re-signing David Bell?

Armstrong: “No. We have a third baseman in Adrian Beltre, a second baseman in Jose Lopez and we have the best utility man in all of baseball in Willie Bloomquist. To add David Bell, somebody else would have to go. And I love David Bell.”

The David Bell-as-key-ingredient myth persists. I don’t know who keeps spreading this one out there, but I wish you’d stop.

Armstrong’s response is revealing. They have two players who occupy roles as starters, and another who occupies the utility role.

We’ve seen this, too, as an cause of years of bad moves The team decides they need X. They then spend whatever it takes to satisfy their craving for X, be it money or prospects sent off in trade. And then when their acquisition fails, they only crave X again. It’s like watching addictive behavior and being unable to stop it.

We need a professional switch-hitter. Let’s get Carl Everett. He was a failure. We need another professional switch-hitter. Without re-evaluating how we arrived at the decision to sign Carl Everett, let’s go find another professional switch-hitter.

We need veteran presence. We need a left-handed starter. We need to add experience to the bullpen.

The most hopeful sign that there’s any softening in the stance at all is in Ichiro’s move, from “Ichiro is the best right fielder in baseball, we don’t see…” to having him playing out there. But after the season ended, we saw a return to form, as bad as ever, searching for pieces to fit the holes they defined. We need a square peg. Square pegs cost $10m/year. Instead, let’s trade for a square peg. Next up, round pegs. We need two round pegs. Hey, that peg dropped through. Better pound harder.

And on what criteria does a reasonable person find that Bloomquist is the best utility player in baseball?

Utility Player Aptitude Test
Chose only “yes” or “no” for each answer

Y/N Can you play adequate defense at several positions?
Y/N Are you a good baserunner?
Y/N Are you described as “scrappy” or “a dirt dog” or “gritty”?
Y/N Do you give good interview?
Y/N Are you local to the Seattle area?

If you answered “yes” five times, congratulations! You’re the best utility player in baseball. The Mariners will be express mailing you a contract or, if you’re already under contract, extending your current contract, giving you a hefty raise. Please, don’t take this test more than once a year.

The utility role has been defined as what Willie Bloomquist does, and no one does Willie Bloomquist like Willie Bloomquist. Therefore, he’s the best. We’re lucky to have him, though, because if the team defined the utility role as Willie Bloomquist and he was on another team, there’s no telling what we’d give up to get him here.

“It’s important for all of our fans to understand that there’s a heightened sense of urgency this season,” Lincoln said. “We’ve just got to get things turned around in ’07.

“I’m hopeful that with the additions that we’ve made, both pitching and hitting, that we’ll be able to win the American League West Division. It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s something that everybody in the organization is focused on.”

We’ve been told this every season of failure. Why should we believe it now? We should we think that failure will this time not be reinforced, that lessons will be learned? Why should we ever believe that they have been committed to excellence, to winning even the division, when it’s so clear that that commitment cannot overcome the team’s own ignorance, short-sighted ways, and arrogance?

But what choice do we have?

Comments

96 Responses to “Imagine Sisyphus a Mariner”

  1. msb on February 4th, 2007 8:24 pm

    and if, say, Howard Lincoln decided he suddenly wanted to retire to a bijou bungalow in his hometown, what happens then? Does the ownership group move Chuck in as the figurehead and go on as before? Does someone finally stand up and point out that the Emperor has no clothes?

  2. PFK on February 4th, 2007 8:29 pm

    I agree with your analysis, so my question is whether another 78-84 season will be sufficient to get Hargrove/Bavasi/Lincoln their walking papers? I’m worried the M’s will need to do even worse this year before they make the front office changes needed to get better. Meanwhile, I’ve held onto my season tickets for yet another year thinking change is bound to come, and that someday it’ll be exciting again, but I’m feeling like a fool…

    Perhaps it’d be worth putting a poll in front of your readers: How bad does ’07 need to be to force a change of direction.

  3. dnc on February 4th, 2007 8:31 pm

    An epic piece Derek, and sadly, one to which no counterargument exists.

    I have nothing of real substance to add; I believe you’ve covered it.

    Thanks for speaking the truth, even when it hurts so bad.

    Antonetti in 07!

  4. bongo on February 4th, 2007 8:36 pm

    Your arguments are compelling. What is most frustrating to me is that several of the moves (e.g. the signing of Carl Everett, the trade for Vidro) do not require a sophisticated understanding of baseball statistics to be determined to be a bad move. Picking up Vidro on waivers would have been a bad idea; his likely contribution is simply not worth the price of his contract. Trading players for him without receiving a large amount of cash in return is inconceivable. You do not need to have the understanding of the people on this blog to analyze these moves; you just need some basic business training.

    So I think we need to conclude that the Mariners are not only incapable of evaluating talent (e.g. scouting skills), but also that they do not use the statistical tools available to them (e.g. lack of faith in quantitative analysis), and furthermore that they lack the ability to rationally make even basic business decisions.

    This reflects not just a mere lapse of judgement, but a level of mismanagement so pervasive that nothing less than a thorough house cleaning would be likely to turn the situation around. Try as we might to blame the situation in Bavasi or Hargrove or even Lincoln, my feeling is that the problem has to be laid at the feet of the owners and their tolerance for bad management.

  5. DMZ on February 4th, 2007 8:41 pm

    Does the ownership group move Chuck in as the figurehead and go on as before?

    Nintendo’s the majority shareholder, they could install whoever they wanted. It would be interesting to see if minority owners would be considered to lead – this has happened with other clubs (even with the Mariners during the darker, more xenophobic years).

    I agree with your analysis, so my question is whether another 78-84 season will be sufficient to get Hargrove/Bavasi/Lincoln their walking papers? I’m worried the M’s will need to do even worse this year before they make the front office changes needed to get better.

    Does it matter? If the people who hire GM and manager replacements are inept, you can’t like our chances of improving in the swap. I’ve said before that Bavasi’s the best GM we could expect Lincoln & Co. to hire, and I still don’t think that’s far from the truth.

  6. bongo on February 4th, 2007 8:46 pm

    BTW, the analogy to Sisyphus is a poor one. Sisyphus at least knows that the goal is to push the boulder uphill; he just can’t get it done. It would be more like Lincoln to state during a TV interview that the chances are good that the boulder will move uphill by itself due to changes in the earth’s gravitational field during the offseason, while in the background the boulder is clearly rolling downhill at an accelerated pace.

  7. Tom on February 4th, 2007 8:51 pm

    Sell the team!

  8. DMZ on February 4th, 2007 9:01 pm

    I’m not saying the Mariners are Sisyphus.

  9. ChrisK on February 4th, 2007 9:21 pm

    I’ve been meaning to ask this question for a while, and I think the answer may live (at least partially) in the above post, but I’m not smart enough to connect all the dots – so I’ll go ahead and ask it:

    Why does this team view Raul Ibanez as an untouchable franchise icon?

    I know he’s a nice marketable guy and all, but what has elevated him to near-Edgar status in the minds of this front office?

  10. tad on February 4th, 2007 9:22 pm

    Great piece Derek.

    In baseball we often see that mediocrity or even outright incompetence gets rewarded. General Managers, managers and coaches all get recycled based on who they know or how popular they are with the media or based on success they had in a specific set of circumstances that may not have even been attributable to them! Is it any wonder that these GMs and Managers then repeat the mistakes their organizations made in hiring them when they offer contracts to players?

    Bavasi gets fired from the Angels for putting up a pretty bad record. The next regime builds a pretty nice little team, Bavasi gets retroactive credit for drafting and developing some of those players (which is debatable of course, but play along with me) and gets another shot with the M’s. After a year of the BoMel Experience, he hires Hargrove, who won with some unbelievably talented teams in Cleveland, and then stunk up the joint in Baltimore.

    Again, its no surprise that these two guys look at Carl Everett, see that he could hit in 2000 and throw the rest of the evidence out the window! They make the same mistake with Vidro, Guillen, whomever. They got hired based on faith and a selective reading of their resume and they replicate the error in their player selection.

    You might be right that Bavasi is the best we could have hoped for from Lincoln. But I know we can’t win until he and Grover are gone.

  11. dnc on February 4th, 2007 9:23 pm

    The Sisyphus analogy was fantastic. “How would the M’s spin hiring someone who was a well documented failure of epic proportions?”

    I got it.

  12. dnc on February 4th, 2007 9:24 pm

    They got hired based on faith and a selective reading of their resume and they replicate the error in their player selection.

    That may be the best explanation of what we’re going through that I’ve heard.

  13. LB on February 4th, 2007 9:59 pm

    Touché!

    Who would have thought it–a “faith based” approach to baseball management in the Northwest of all places, the most “unchurched” region in the entire country.

  14. Slippery Elmer on February 4th, 2007 10:00 pm

    Re: #9, Chris K:

    “Why does this team view Raul Ibanez as an untouchable franchise icon?”

    I’ll take a stab at it–he’s a M’s-drafted player who’s actually played pretty well. Agreed?

    (Also, his bare pate may potentially confuse the sheeple into believing Bone is still out there roaming the field…)

  15. LB on February 4th, 2007 10:00 pm

    (If only the M’s were Intelligently Designed. Alas…)

  16. Oly Rainiers Fan on February 4th, 2007 10:15 pm

    Good work DMZ, and sadly, why I find myself hardly giving a damn about them anymore. Yet you still feel oddly compelled to witness it, like people slow down to look at mangled cars. I never have figured out that element of human psychology.

  17. DMZ on February 4th, 2007 10:18 pm

    Why does this team view Raul Ibanez as an untouchable franchise icon?

    Because they’ve defined him as an untouchable franchise icon. With the loss of Edgar (and Dan Wilson, to some extent) they needed a personable, handsome player with a great community relationship who charmed reporters, someone who they could promote as the public face of the team. His local-boy-made-good story made him perfect.

    It’s exactly the same thing as convincing themselves they need a “switch-hitter” and then spending whatever it takes to get one – they felt they needed an untouchable franchise icon, they made that Ibanez, and now he’s untouchable.

  18. katal on February 4th, 2007 10:47 pm

    This was the best Mariners essay I’ve read in a long, long time. Great job.

  19. et_blankenship on February 4th, 2007 11:02 pm

    The utility role has been defined as what Willie Bloomquist does, and no one does Willie Bloomquist like Willie Bloomquist. Therefore, he’s the best. We’re lucky to have him, though, because if the team defined the utility role as Willie Bloomquist and he was on another team, there’s no telling what we’d give up to get him here.

    Classic stuff . . . and sadly, spot on.

  20. Zero Gravitas on February 4th, 2007 11:09 pm

    I guess this whole rant is the subtext to every discussion of this team on this blog. What’s jarring is you coming right out and saying it in such a straightforward way. It was surprisingly depressing to read, considering that it contains 100% information I already intuitively knew about the Mariners. You just forced me to confront it consciously. Ouch. BTW I usually find Nazi comparisons to be totally overblown, but comparing Nazi propaganda to modern PR techniques seems to be quite apposite!

  21. halibuthank on February 4th, 2007 11:10 pm

    Ugh. This is like hard times with your partner going through some big, emotional crisis and you say: “You’re killing me, baby, but I still love you and I am going to stay with you no matter what.” Except the M’s aren’t good looking women and we don’t get to sleep with them and we don’t get to help make decisions for the betterment of the relationship. Ouch. I want a divorce from the FO, but not the team. Thanks for the piece, DMZ. I do really appreciate it.

  22. sad_loyal_fan on February 4th, 2007 11:16 pm

    I have lurked for a long time.

    When Soriano was traded for a bag of nuts, I suffered alone.

    When Doyle was traded for an over the hill has been, I stewed in silence.

    Your wonderfully insightful yet depressingly accurate essay has inspired me to seek help for my affliction.

    “Hello, my name is Jon and I’m a Mariner fan…”

  23. joser on February 4th, 2007 11:18 pm

    (If only the M’s were Intelligently Designed. Alas…)/blockquote>Alas, they are also apparently immune to natural selection, as well, given that the manifestly unfit continue to not only survive but “lead” the team. Since the feedback system is relatively decoupled (fans are unfortunately loyal and susceptible to spin) we’re stuck in this spiral until the ownership wakes up.

    I don’t suppose it would do any good to craft a letter, get it translated into Japanese, and get as many people as possible on the various M’s blogs to sign the damn thing and send it off to Nintendo and He Who Is No Longer The Legal Owner But Runs Things Anyway?

  24. CCW on February 4th, 2007 11:27 pm

    What an awesome article. One of the best ever, DMZ – props. Here is what I don’t understand: how is it that the people involved – Bavasi, Lincoln, Armstrong, the owners – are blind to this? The analogy to a corporation is solid, but I think it breaks down a bit… When corporate CEO’s fail at their jobs, they almost always do so by taking a strategy that has some chance of success. They might not do the right thing, but it’s a complicated world and it’s pretty rare that a guy who’s motivated and bright enough to rise to the top of the corporate world will do something that is obviously wrong at the moment he does it. Here, though, we have presumably bright people doing obviously stupid things and doing so repeatedly and without any self-awareness about it. It’s so strange. I can’t think of another example of this.

  25. A Bag Of Beans! Wooo! on February 5th, 2007 12:47 am

    I read this article, and I think to myself that this is what I’ve been thinking – perhaps not consciously, or so well put – for the past few years.

    I’m not going to bother going to any Ms games this year. Or even listening. There are better things to do in life than follow a team that is not only bad, but has no desire to learn how to be good.

  26. eponymous coward on February 5th, 2007 1:13 am

    Actually, this is just like the 1980′s, except there’s enough money to screw up on free agents, too.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  27. Newby on February 5th, 2007 1:13 am

    Well, that was a fantastically depressing read.

  28. jaysbaseballfan on February 5th, 2007 4:43 am

    I think having a new GM will fix things right away…having a new GOOD GM turns things around right away, and I think Antonetti is primed to be pretty good working in the Indians system. Bavasi is gone defenitely after this season, and then the team should try and rebuild and things could be better in a couple of years, but at least they will be striving for excellence instead of acting foolish, which is why I guess its so disheartening for you guys. As for the owners/management, I don’t know them too well, but I have seen poor owners either keep their poor GM’s, or higher new amazing ones. I guess the Detroit Lions or the Toronto Maple Leafs are franchises that keep crappy GMs to maintain status quo or make a buck. But, for example, the Raptors (basketball) turned 5 bad years around in one season after hiring one of the best GMs. Anyway, does owning a Nintendo Wii make me part owner? I say fire Bavasi, with my 0.0000001% ownership rights.

  29. AK1984 on February 5th, 2007 5:15 am

    Well, Derek, that was a turgidly vapid rant. It’s nevertheless an informative piece, however.

  30. Jeff on February 5th, 2007 6:39 am

    This word, vapid. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  31. Graham on February 5th, 2007 6:59 am

    AK1984, do you try to go for the ‘Person trying to sound intellectual and failing’ angle as some sort of ironic social commentary?

  32. terry on February 5th, 2007 7:39 am

    Absolutely brilliant…. thanks for writing this…

    and now a haiku:

    I suffer alone
    no more, for I understand
    the depth of your pain.

  33. bergamot on February 5th, 2007 7:52 am

    Derek, after reading your excellent essay on the sad state of Mariners management, I felt so depressed that I tried to slit my wrists four times. Fortunately, I was using a Jose Vidro Autograph Knife, and I went 0-for-4.

  34. Manzanillos Cup on February 5th, 2007 7:53 am

    Boy, that escalated quickly… I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

    I’m immediately interested in the “things” that will be happening to quads this year, though.

  35. Spanky on February 5th, 2007 7:54 am

    One point I would add that I think has contributed to the current inexorably miserable state of the Mariners…

    The M’s view change and upheaval in management as a sign of organizational chaos lacking in leadership. There seems to be a sentiment that fans and players don’t want to see management change because…Oh…that would mean the ball club was unstable! It is my hypothesis that this organization would prefer to be considered a “stable organization” (and LOUSY) over being being unstable and CHAMPIONS. Because of this, they refuse to make the needed and obvious (to everyone outside the organization) changes to inept management. In other words, they want to be the Anti-Yankees in every way!

    There is a business book out entitled “Good to Great” by Jim Collins who spent many years analyzing consistently successful companies. He states that the best leaders start building great companies by “getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus)”. These leaders are not ruthless…but rigorous at getting the people with the right performance to meet the company goals. It’s obvious to the informed M’s fan that the leadership is not determined or capable at being great because they don’t recognize this simple fact…that we have the wrong people on the Mariner Bus. Either that, or they do recoginize it but refuse to change in order to maintain a facade of corporate stability to those outside of the organization.

    Again, they would rather been seen as a stable organization over doing what is required to be champions.

  36. jaysbaseballfan on February 5th, 2007 7:57 am

    Graham I have no idea what you said.

  37. jbrown8 on February 5th, 2007 8:05 am

    Jeff, I appreciate the Princess Bride reference.

  38. JK on February 5th, 2007 8:21 am

    The comment from Beane that really jumps out is the idea that they actually anticipate the market’s movement and act on the judgment. It seems to be an annual tradition for the M’s front office to admit their inability to do that, particularly for starting pitching. After a while, if you are surprised over and over by the same thing, the problem is you rather than the source of the surprise.

  39. mariners23 on February 5th, 2007 8:37 am

    Wow! After reading that it makes me mad my parents didnt move to NY when i was born….uhgggggggg to late

  40. urchman on February 5th, 2007 8:39 am

    Great essay, DMZ. I agree with you, and also with some of the earlier comments. This is a great quote: “They [management] got hired based on faith and a selective reading of their resume and they replicate the error in their player selection.” So true, unfortunately. :(

  41. argh on February 5th, 2007 8:45 am

    Over 3100 words of vintage anger. I loved it. This could be a good year to bring out the Eternal Mariner Fan Bobble-Head Doll — the one with the tiny little paper bag over its head.

  42. Spanky on February 5th, 2007 9:02 am

    Or ice pick in his eye!

  43. TheEmrys on February 5th, 2007 9:13 am

    Its sad, but it seems that this front office is just, well, lazy. They look at superficial needs and then fill them according to whatever benchmark they find applicable.

    Whether it be groundballers (still may be a nice approach to complement a good (great, once Sexson is given away or whatever) infield), switch-hitters, proven veterans, proven hitters, left-handed starters, whatever.

    Once its determined what is needed/wanted, it becomes academic. They run down their lists (the back of a baseball card will serve), and see who is A) a free agent or B) who is easily traded for.

    The problem with option A, is that everyone gets a shot at these free agents. And, if a really good one is acquired, the organization loses high-level draft picks. And then who would they have to trade later on?

    With option B, people who are easily traded for, are by inference, not very valuable to the team they currently play for. Whether it is because the player has had an injury or hasn’t done well and needs “a change of scenery” to perform. By trading for people easily acquired, the organization has to attempt to find someone to “sucker.” Now, its important to realize that everyone has a weakeness: everyone is someone else’s sucker. But its a sliding scale. The better the GM, the more suckers are available. Alas, we have very few suckers on our current list.

    Jim Bowden has generally been an easy mark for years. Wayne Krivsky is trying, but it isn’t looking good for him. John Schuerholz is not a sucker. The organization should have known not to play with the big boys. The big boys play for keeps, and aren’t nice about it. For them, most everyone they deal with is a a sucker. We were Atlanta’s sucker.

    The present front-office is unimaginative, lazy, lacks a basic understanding that money does not equal success. The front office seem enamored with the idea that the fanbase will think that if enough money is spent, its not there fault. So they purchase mediocrity with little upside with showers of ducats. When they had easy solutions waiting in the wings for a pittance.

    They have fallen into the trap of incompetant leadership everywhere: If you are not currently getting the results you seek immediately, make immediate changes. Individuals that can step up cannot be developed internally, but must be pursued externally.

    The front office has become the stereotypical upper-echelon of management. It smacks of “Dilbert.” The management and CEO’s realize things are wrong, so to improve them, symbolic actions must be taken to prove to the board (owners) that the right moves are being made (spending money on whats available, not too much for those realy impact players, but modest amounts for modest talent), and if it all doesn’t work out this season, then its not their fault. They tried. They did the best that could be done, no matter who was in charge.

    The Mariner’s front office has become a joke. A joke other teams are more than happy to exploit.

  44. leetinsleyfanclub on February 5th, 2007 9:17 am

    Bravo!!! This is undoubtedly the best piece I have ever seen on this site. It threads the needle in every way and I think it should be made into a pamphlet and distributed to every fan who walks into Safeco on opening day. I volunteer to stake myself out at one of the entrances armed with 10,000 copies!

  45. bat guano on February 5th, 2007 9:29 am

    Yep, I think you summed it up rather well Derek. Just to add a little more to the stew, I think we can all agree that the most important missing piece going forward is another front of the rotation starter to go with Felix, yes? But I have it on good authority that, having opted out of the Matsuzaka sweepstakes and having whiffed on Schmidt and Zito, the Mariners are no longer looking for a one or two starter because they think HoRam has the potential to be that guy. No, I’m not kidding. It appears there’s no limit on the FO’s ability to time and time again delude themselves into thinking they’ve solved a problem when they really haven’t; until they get someone at the helm who can realistically assess both the market and the talent, we’re not going to see anything new……

  46. deltwelve on February 5th, 2007 9:29 am

    Great piece of writing, Derek. Any chance you can get a copy to Bavasi and have him respond to it at the feed in Arizona?

  47. IcebreakerX on February 5th, 2007 9:30 am

    Excelent piece, Derek.

    Picked a good time to drop by.

  48. bat guano on February 5th, 2007 9:37 am

    #43—I don’t think the FO is lazy. It’s actually worse than that, because they’re trying but they’re just not good at what they do. I think it stems from the top; they want to do things by consensus and they don’t hire anybody who will take real risks or rock the boat. Because they tend to make group decisions, everything comes out in the middle. Hence, when there is a shift in the market they aren’t prepared and can’t act quickly enough to change directions to take advantage of it. And they get wedded to a strategy and plod forward even when the players who meet there needs aren’t vailable and it no longer makes sense. So we get Carl Everett and Jose Vidro mediocrity.

  49. bat guano on February 5th, 2007 9:39 am

    Oooops, that was “their needs”…….

  50. bat guano on February 5th, 2007 9:39 am

    And “available”.

  51. feingarden on February 5th, 2007 9:52 am

    #46 – After this piece, is there any chance Bavasi will BE at the feed in Arizona?

  52. Evan on February 5th, 2007 10:04 am

    Derek, you’re a mad genius.

    Can someone go back in time and tell me to be an A’s fan?

  53. Mat on February 5th, 2007 10:08 am

    When you lay out Aurilia, Spiezio, Everett, and Vidro in a line like that, it reminds me of an eight year-old trying to stick his finger in an electrical socket. He keeps trying and trying as his parents keep slapping his hand away from the socket. Eventually he learns or he gets shocked.

    I suppose the slow learners might get shocked multiple times.

  54. abun24 on February 5th, 2007 10:12 am

    I live in Columbus, OH and can’t, for the life of me, figure out why I like this team so much. For me, baseball is about pure gamesmanship: from the way a guy spits and adjusts his cup to the way he rolls over his top hand. The reason I choose to unfailingly root and follow a team that is essentially run by a bunch of smoke blowing shabby politicians fails me. I mean, why do I find it acceptable that my team trades an injury proned young talented high ceiling low cost aussie for a broken down high cost secondbaseman who can’t play second base and is only a DH because that’s the pos they applied to his name? Its pretty unbelievable.

    My wife wants me to become an A’s fan. I may sleep on the couch tonight.
    But, I still can’t wait for pitchers and catchers to report. There’s going to be a lot of feel good comeback player times stories to read.

  55. david h on February 5th, 2007 10:13 am

    I post rarely enough that I doubt anyone recognizes my user name, but in the interest of full disclosure, I just changed my name from “deltwelve” to match the name I use at LL. So if someone out there really hates me for something I wrote in the past, you can now direct your anger towards “david h.”

    Again, great article Derek. (I have to keep this on topic somehow, right?)

  56. Thoan on February 5th, 2007 10:23 am

    I loved DMZ’s comments; how could I not, as they precisely echo my own thinking over the last four years. Hargrove and Bavasi are the symptoms; the front office is the disease. The cure must be top-down.

    That said, DMZ places too much weight on signing statements made by Lincoln, et alia. These are, by convention and necessity, party-line advertising pitches, crafted to boost fans’ hopes and players’ egos. They cannot reasonably be interpreted as an expression of management’s true beliefs. To assess management thinking, one must look at the actions taken by management. (An example DMZ notes is management’s insistence that Ichiro! won’t be moved, versus the belated moving of him to center field.)

    Unfortunately, observation of management’s hands instead of its mouth instructs us that management is, indeed, clueless. DMZ just scratches the surface marshaling proof. Carlos Guillen? Quinton McCracken? Pokey Reese? As depressing as DMZ’s conclusions are, they are entirely supported by evidence that counts, management’s actions. Of course, even a blind squirrel can find an acorn (which was the 2001 season, in truth) from time to time, but there will be no consistently contending team until the present rodents are replaced with the sighted variety.

  57. jsj on February 5th, 2007 10:26 am

    Derek, this post moved a longtime lurker to become a first-time poster. It is a great essay and I share your sentiments about this team.

    Perhaps the front office, seeing what angst did for the success of the grunge bands, is simply trying to promote these disillusioned feelings amongst the fan base as a way to achieve success? It’s a theory, at least…

    Thanks for the work you do for this site. I’ll endeavor to lurk less and join the conversation more in the future.

    Jake

  58. pensive on February 5th, 2007 10:28 am

    DMZ-Great read.
    Fontaine has received moderate praise as improving the minor system and talent evaluation. Does he have any input on a move like Vidro or Soriano trades?

  59. Man From Nantucket on February 5th, 2007 10:50 am

    I can’t help but believe that in many ways the success of the 2001 season was a major detriment to the organization. I think it emboldened the F.O. to arrogantly believe that they were smarter than other organizations and had developed a unique blueprint for success. At what point do they realize their blueprint isn’t working?

  60. warren on February 5th, 2007 11:07 am

    DMZ’s essay made me think of a Bavasi quote from some time back. First Beane:

    There’s no reason to be shocked anymore at anything. I’ve been here a long time and nothing really shocks me. If you’re shocked that means you’re probably not prepared for it.

    Then there is Bavasi:

    Bavasi acknowledged that the exploding free-agent salaries this winter changed the Mariners’ initial expectations…
    “We’re always wrong,” he said. “But we’ve never been this wrong. That was frustrating.”

  61. feingarden on February 5th, 2007 12:13 pm

    #60 – AWESOME side-by-side comparison. It doesn’t get more succinct than that.

  62. DKJ on February 5th, 2007 12:16 pm

    You know the closer phenomenon is largely theatrical. Our frustration with FO is related.

    We want the team to win. The FO wants the paid admissions to cover their nut and make some profit – the precise attitude of a theatre entrepreneur who could care less about the artistry of the presenting theatrical troupe.

    The best theatrical producers want both artistry and profit, and firmly believe that one leads to the other. We need an FO that understands the relationship between winning and profit.

    The odd thing is this: this attitude is usually associated with people who want to make a quick buck, then move on. These people seem to be in place for the foreseeable future.

  63. Adam S on February 5th, 2007 12:21 pm

    Well written, DMZ. You should write a book or something.

    This is really complete, but two things I want to comment on (which are almost the same thing said two different ways.

    No lesson is written too large for them to ignore, no problem too obvious not to fix… Moreover, they have no interest in learning from their mistakes.

    I have a friend who works for a NL team. He was working on his 2006-2007 off-season plan to present to senior management. I suggested that step 1 of the plan should be to look backwards — examine every pick up or trade over the past two or three years, see which ones didn’t work, and figure out WHY they didn’t work. If you don’t start there, even with a new GM you’re likely to make the same mistakes.

    What changes did they make in response this off-season? Did they learn from defeat? What have they done that demonstrates on any level that they are any smarter than any of the previous abject failure teams?

    I sent a letter to the Mariners last month, demanding that they fire Bavasi (no I don’t expect any impact other than it makes me feel better), and this paragraph was my key point. It’s not that Bavasi’s moves haven’t worked or that I don’t like them, it’s that he keeps making the same mistake over and over again — acquiring older, injured players and paying them too much money.

    One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Running out Lincoln, Bavasi, and Hargrove to guide the Mariners and expecting to win in clearly insane.

  64. eponymous coward on February 5th, 2007 12:30 pm

    The FO wants the paid admissions to cover their nut and make some profit – the precise attitude of a theatre entrepreneur who could care less about the artistry of the presenting theatrical troupe.

    Well, actually, no, I don’t agree. I do believe they sincerely care about the quality of their product. Armstrong was here in the 1980′s and knows that Seattle is more than capable of ignoring the Mariners. Heck, the last few years of attendance declines have proven that (and there’s very little chance this offseason has made anyone excited enough to buy season tickets who isn’t already a diehard fan- I expect to see year-to-year attendance declines absent a compelling pennant race).

    But, to paraphrase what DMZ put it at the end of the piece, a commitment to quality is useless if you don’t have a good strategy to achieve it. It’s about as useful as a commitment to swim the English Channel with lead overshoes. This front office and management team is still in the middle of hubris and thinking they can recreate 2000-2003 (think of Spiezio, Everett and Vidro as continual attempts to resign Bret Boone, for instance), and until they realize that their strategy’s bankrupt, commitment is inention without anything to back it up. To put it another way, Willie Bloomquist doesn’t go up to the plate trying to be a bad hitter. He certainly WANTS to succeed. It’s just not in his capacity to do it- and this organization isn’t in a place right now where it can, either.

    Welcome to Baltimore West.

  65. dang on February 5th, 2007 12:40 pm

    I think the Mariner’s main problem is that they listen to and try to please each fan, instead of realizing that their overwhelmingly main focus should be on winning.

    Here is how they operate:
    Fan A – I love Ichiro!
    M’s – Ok, we keep Ichiro at all costs.

    Fan B – I don’t recognize the players anymore. What happened to Edgar, Jay, Danny-boy? I just can’t identify with the team anymore.
    M’s – We keep Willie. Let’s promote Raul and others to be fan favorites, even if that means we have to keep them around after they ineffective.

    Fan C – I want a winning team.
    M’s – Ok, lets increase payroll. Bill – sign/trade for veteran savy and firey leadership. We can’t afford to rebuild.

    Fan D – I’m just a baseball ignorant house-wife but I go to one game a year, and I want it to be a fun family experience.
    M’s – Ok, get the mascots lined up, put some carnival games on the scoreboard between innings, have the scoreboard tell the baseball ignorant fans when to cheer (so they’ll feel like they’re into the game), and get some likable players and promote them.

    Fan E – You guys are a bunch of cheapskates, only interested in turning a profit.
    M’s – Bill, go out and make one or two big free-agent signings.

    Fan F – Baseball players should be role-models for my kids.
    M’s – Bill, make sure you sign a high-character guy or two and promote them as such.

  66. Karen on February 5th, 2007 12:57 pm

    RE: #43. Its sad, but it seems that this front office is just, well, lazy. They look at superficial needs and then fill them according to whatever benchmark they find applicable.

    In line with bat guano‘s thinking in #48, and abun24‘s comment in #54….maybe that’s ‘cuz “they” are resembling more and more the stereotypical anonymous gummint civil servant looking for an even cushier and secure job?

    How aimless, how futile do Ichiro and the rest of the long-time Mariners players feel, if they have thought long and hard and deeply enough to come to this same conclusion? It must be pretty frustrating for them, if we fans are this irate.

    No wonder Jamie Moyer was happy to re-up as a Philly.

  67. Gomez on February 5th, 2007 1:17 pm

    You know what’s gonna change this organization’s POV?

    30,000 empty seats a night, for an entire season.

    That’s really it. Anything else is positive reinforcement for the front office.

  68. DMZ on February 5th, 2007 1:50 pm

    That said, DMZ places too much weight on signing statements made by Lincoln, et alia. These are, by convention and necessity, party-line advertising pitches, crafted to boost fans’ hopes and players’ egos. They cannot reasonably be interpreted as an expression of management’s true beliefs.

    Perhaps I should have made this clearer — my point was that no matter how you approach their statements, they’re either ridiculous garbage heaved into the trough for the pigs to eat, or they reveal that the team’s quite dumb, and it’s entirely possible for them to do both, if you’re careful about it.

  69. DMZ on February 5th, 2007 1:53 pm

    You know what’s gonna change this organization’s POV?

    30,000 empty seats a night, for an entire season.

    That’s really it. Anything else is positive reinforcement for the front office.

    Why?

    Ticket sales are way down, season ticket sales have been severely beaten up, and nothing happened. Why would more severe versions incite change?

    And what reason is there to believe that the organization would look at that and say “we have to do something dramatically different” aaaaand that “something dramatically different” would
    - actually be different
    - be dramatically different in a productive way?

    I can absolutely see the team look at consistently low crowds and think “We need more Bloomquist, more veteran leadership, more left-handed experienced starters -go! go! go!”

    There’s no evidence at all that any other stimulus has provoked positive change, or that the organization has the capacity to react to that kind of crisis productively.

  70. JMHawkins on February 5th, 2007 2:01 pm

    Due for publication in 2008, The Grumbler’s Guide to Baseball?

    Fantastic piece. In particular, I agree with the “we need X” observations. They set their heart on something, and then blindly pursue it. Thet’s also, I think, the explanation for Tad’s comment “They got hired based on faith and a selective reading of their resume…” If you’re blindly committed to getting X, and “good” X costs more than you can afford, overlooking the flaws of “bad” X and selectively reading his resume to conclude he is “X” then hoping for the best is all you can do.

    I must have a four-wheel drive diesel truck. Holy moley, I can’t afford $40k for a new Dodge. That 1985 Ford with the missing door, cracked frame and leaking tranny is in my price range. And it is a 4×4 diesel truck after all…

    Five broken down trucks on blocks in the front yard later, we’re still looking for X.

  71. rcc on February 5th, 2007 3:00 pm

    DMZ, great post….well written. This is the best baseball blog!

    I am glad that you incorporated the quote from Billy Beane to illustrate how incompetent the Mariner front office is, and how a well run front office like the A’s operates. It is frustrating to be a Mariners fan.

    I believe the only chance for the M’s is if they are so horrible this year that they clean house, and start over with a competent front office. I share the fear that they will continue to be mediocre, the mediocrity will be rewarded/encourgaged, and that is all the Mariners will ever be. Go A’s!

  72. feingarden on February 5th, 2007 3:14 pm

    #69 – Perhaps our fear should be that the current management is so incapable of finding different solutions to on-field performance problems that dwindling ticket sales will prompt them to claim that Seattle cannot support a baseball team and start wooing sweetheart deals from Portland or Oklahoma City? “Hey, we gave those fickle Seattle fans WFB at 7 of the 9 defensive positions and they still won’t buy tickets. What else can we do but move the team?” Please, alarm clock, wake me from this nightmare.

  73. Gomez on February 5th, 2007 3:16 pm

    Why?

    Ticket sales are way down, season ticket sales have been severely beaten up, and nothing happened. Why would more severe versions incite change?

    Well, the stadium’s still at least half full on a nightly basis. Even as of last season, despite the mediocrity, we still see 25K-30K crowds on a regular basis. Attendance has not fallen far enough to hit them in the only place where it really hurts: their bottom line.

    It can go a LOT lower. When you can get heavily discounted home plate box seats on any given Saturday, then you’ll see some changes.

  74. Deanna on February 5th, 2007 3:22 pm

    #65 – actually, a near-direct quote from Bavasi during Fan Fest was “fan reaction doesn’t affect our roster decisions at all.”

  75. rcc on February 5th, 2007 3:43 pm

    I had never thought about the relationship between baseball and national politics before, but the following quote from this post is perfectly appropriate in my opinion.

    “We get up in the morning, we check the news, and if they haven’t done something so awful I worry I’ll be explaining to future generations what it was like to be around for most god-awful, demoralizing, incompetent leadership, we’re relieved. Another day without disaster, still without hope. I nurse no delusion that anyone responsible is ever going to face what they’ve done.”

  76. eponymous coward on February 5th, 2007 3:58 pm

    I can absolutely see the team look at consistently low crowds and think “We need more Bloomquist, more veteran leadership, more left-handed experienced starters -go! go! go!”

    Well, except “the team” will be different, at some point, because at a minimum, Bavasi’s going to be tossed from the Kremlin window if the net product of 2007 is a 74-88, last place team drawing 2.1 million fans.

    Lincoln and Armstrong occupy a somewhat different space than Angelos, I think (in that while they are high management, they are not actually ownership)- so the prospects for change are not QUITE as grim as in Baltimore. Let’s also not forget that when more competent people have been in place (Gillick, or the Woodward/Jongewaard years), the organization has met with some success even if you consider the likes of Lincoln/Ellis and Armstrong complete deadweight from a baseball operations standpoint. I suspect some housecleaning will happen next year without something that can be pointed to as success.

    Probably the best example of this is the Tigers organization- which spent years and years being terribly managed, but got enough high draft choices and talent accumulated, plus competent enough management to finally start doing something interesting. That’s really all it takes. This is basically what happened to the Mariners: they accumulated Edgar+Junior+A-Rod+RJ and turned it into a good 8 year run. At some point, unless you are howlingly incompent (and the ONE thing the baseball operations side of the organization has in it’s favor right now is that Bob Fontaine isn’t- he’ll probably leave when Bavasi does, but at least there will be some drafts backing him up and it’s not impossible to find good scouting people), high draft picks + good talent from the international market will give you players who can win ballgames.

    Here’s the thing, though: an 84-78 season probably IS “success” as far as the M’s are concerned… even though one would argue that the difference between 75 and 85 wins is very, very minimal and largely dependent on luck (injuries, etc.)- the real test is to build an organization that has sustained excellence. Ironically, the best way for you to get what you want is another pratfall season from the M’s, DMZ.

  77. Oly Rainiers Fan on February 5th, 2007 4:11 pm

    I agree with #59′s comment. I was thinking about this relationship thing, between a fan and his/her team and trying to gather analogies.

    For many Ms fans, their relationship started in ’95. As with any relationship, there’s that initial time period where your pheromones are running wild and you’re essentially crazy. Blinded to any potential flaws in the partner, seeing only the potential. We trucked along like this for years, and just when that buzz started wearing off…along came 2001. And the buzz was back big-time and maybe even worse than before.

    Every year since then has been utter misery. The pheromones are gone and all we’re left with is ‘what the hell did we see in them in the first place?’. Just as once you are no longer seeing someone, all your friends crawl out of the woodwork and say ‘man, what a creep, we never knew why you were interested in THAT’, but you still sorta cling to it anyway, trying to paint the good times (or good acquisitions) as better than they really are/were so you don’t have to admit what a sucker you’ve been.

    That’s what being an Ms fan feels like.

  78. gk91 on February 5th, 2007 4:26 pm

    The Mariners are an historically bad team. The strange thing is they’ve been bad with no money and a terrible place to watch a game and now they are bad with tons of money and a beautiful place to watch a game.

  79. bermanator on February 5th, 2007 5:10 pm

    To flip one argument on its head, though…

    Vidro, it seems, can do nothing with his legs for years, and the team thinks their staff can help. But Snelling, who works his ass off? No way, that’s crazy talk. No way they could help him. It is, it seems, better to be lazy and easily injured than to be younger, harder-working, and carry the same reputation.

    First of all, for someone who’s ordinarily keen on having statistical evidence to back up assertions, the “lazy” tag for Vidro seems to be quite the cheap shot. Care to back that up? I don’t recall Vidro having a reputation for laziness – I’m thinking that’s the bitterness at the Snelling trade coming through again.

    Second, the Bavasi counter-argument would be that obviously the M’s can’t help Snelling stay healthy — they’ve had him for his entire career, and he’s been hurt for a good portion of it. Maybe Vidro’s injuries are easier to treat.

  80. DMZ on February 5th, 2007 5:27 pm

    Yes, it’s a total cheap shot to quote Bavasi saying that he’s done nothing with his legs and then point out that, taking that premise, it’s a silly argument. How cheap of me.

    Ask Bavasi what he meant when he said Vidro did nothing with his legs, and for support for that assertion. I’m pointing out that his statement doesn’t make sense.

  81. bermanator on February 5th, 2007 6:12 pm

    Wow, I think it’s really taking the art of parsing prose to a whole new level to take from Bavasi’s statement that he thinks Vidro is lazy. I especially like how you add that Snelling works his ass off — which Bavasi doesn’t say — in contrast.

    A more appropriate interpretation, IMO, is that the doctors think that what he has been doing hasn’t been effective, and they think they can give him a program that will help. The Mariners haven’t been able to keep Snelling healthy. Maybe they’ll have better luck with the new guy.

  82. DMZ on February 5th, 2007 7:22 pm

    [deleted, I don't know why I thought I should try]

  83. Gomez on February 5th, 2007 8:40 pm

    I must also add, Derek, that I thought this entry was extremely well done. I totally understand the frustration, and you know what? So do the fans of 2/3rds of the other teams out there. I think baseball has reached a point where the old-school way of running a team just doesn’t fly anymore, and fans are starting to figure that out.

    I was playing poker at Parker’s Casino the weekend before last, and while playing, we got on the subject of the Mariners, and… now, keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily well-read or sabermetrically inclined baseball fans here… even these guys could tell that Bavasi and the org just FUBAR’d this offseason and made some terrible trades and signings. They think this is the worst offseason in years.

    I think there are a lot more people out there, beyond the blogosphere, that agree with you than it seems.

  84. TomC on February 5th, 2007 9:10 pm

    Interpretation: “The doctors think that what he has been doing hasn’t been effective, and they think they can give him a program that will help.”

    Of course the doctors think they can give Vidro a program that will help. What they can’t do is give him a program that will turn back the clock. Even if fully repaired from a medical standpoint, Vidro is still a so-so major leaguer on the wrong side of 30. His hammies may be better but the rest of him is getting older. The trade remains a bad one even if Vidro stays healthy.

  85. Will D. on February 5th, 2007 9:27 pm

    It can go a LOT lower. When you can get heavily discounted home plate box seats on any given Saturday, then you’ll see some changes.

    But this right here is (most) of the point of the post: so we’ll see some changes. Why should we expect them to be good changes? Based on what I’ve seen since I started watching, there is nothing to lead me to expect good changes.

  86. Gomez on February 5th, 2007 10:18 pm

    I’m thinking along the lines of ‘Howard and Chuck get bought out and sent away’ changes, rather than the usual non-changes posing-as-changes.

  87. Will D. on February 5th, 2007 11:09 pm

    I’m thinking along the lines of ‘Howard and Chuck get bought out and sent away’ changes, rather than the usual non-changes posing-as-changes.

    I hear you. But still… it seems pretty hopeless to expect meaningful change out of the team and on the field. At least from where I’m sitting. At least we’re not the Royals.

  88. Dave in Palo Alto on February 6th, 2007 1:05 am

    Bravo, Derek.

    BTW, Alex George was a prof of mine at college. Quite a character. One time someone rose to praise Stalin for saving the West, etc. George just waited for him to finish, stared at him, said, “Stalin was a bastard”, and moved on.

  89. Ralph on February 6th, 2007 6:28 am

    I think I saw a similar article on Mariners Revolution about 2 years ago.

  90. vj on February 6th, 2007 7:33 am

    “Sisyphus is a professional rock-roller, who provides strength going up both sides of the mountain. He’s a big, strong kid who rolls the boulder real hard.” — press release

    I think as far as press release parodies go, this one’s an instant classic.

  91. Gomez on February 6th, 2007 9:02 am

    The release did forget to mention his willingness to get his toga dirty.

  92. msb on February 6th, 2007 9:26 am

    I believe the big guy’s traditional uniform was the chlamys. A look I never quite got, myself– seems a little drafty.

  93. rememberthealamo on February 6th, 2007 5:47 pm

    I believe the big guy’s traditional uniform was the chlamys. A look I never quite got, myself– seems a little drafty.

    Drafty, yes, but at least you knew what you were dealing with..

  94. rememberthealamo on February 6th, 2007 5:55 pm

    Great insight…..thoroughly depressing…….but in one way, it’s like an illness….when you know what you’re dealing with, there’s at least hope that a cure CAN BE FOUND….

  95. vj on February 7th, 2007 1:15 am

    I must say that I am fascinated by the Greek mythology press release topic. How about this one:

    Achilles adds a powerful bat to the middle of our lineup. He’s recovering well from his season-ending heel injury and should be ready for spring training.

  96. jamesllegade on February 8th, 2007 5:03 pm

    Quick! Gun to your head you have to chose one;

    Who do you start the year with at DH?

    Mike Piazza
    Shea Hillenbrand
    Jason Botts
    Jose Vidro

    You have 5 seconds… decide!