Will To Win

Dave · August 21, 2008 at 9:56 am · Filed Under Mariners 

One of the frequent criticisms of this organization by fans at large is that they’re not interested in winning, just in making money. In fact, the quantity of comments like that popping up here have increased dramatically over the last few weeks – we seemingly can’t have a thread about anything before someone pops in and says that the team is happy just being competitive and profitable. In this morning’s P-I, Chuck Armstrong responded to a similar question:

“I’d respond that that’s nonsense,” Armstrong said. “Look at the payroll. If you split the big city markets with two teams (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago), Seattle is the 18th-biggest market in the league. The payroll as of the All-Star break was sixth or seventh. That’s commitment of ownership.

“I keep scratching my head — what more could ownership do? If we’d made the right decisions along the way, we’d be right there. If what we were worried about was making a profit, we’d lower payroll, not raise it.”

Guess what – he’s right. The “ownership doesn’t care about winning” line isn’t based on any kind of actual evidence. The Mariners have consistently spent huge amounts of money on their payroll since moving into Safeco Field, and have had the financial edge over the rest of the division for the last decade. If winning was simply based on payroll, the M’s would be running away with the AL West for the 10th year in a row.

Simply because of population density, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets will always be in their own little stratosphere of payroll, with the other 27 teams lagging behind. Take them out of the picture for a second – who else has consistently outspent the Mariners in payroll?

Detroit has a $20 million higher payroll this year, but this was their go-for-broke season when they pushed it all in to try and win this year. It didn’t work, and they’ll be cutting payroll this winter.

Then, there’s a big cluster of teams all right around the $120 million payroll mark – the Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, and Mariners. That’s the group the M’s find themselves in when it comes to spending – being dead even with the two Chicago and two LA franchises.

I’m not sure what more people want, honestly. The Mariners are supposed to outspend the Dodgers and Cubs now? Why? Quite simply, if you can’t build a winning team for $120 million, you don’t deserve any more money, or even a job. And that’s the conclusion the Mariners finally came to this year – the problem isn’t the lack of money available to sign talent, but instead, the people in charge of deciding who to give it to.

Now, I’m not a Chuck Armstrong/Howard Lincoln fanboy by any means – we have deep philosophical disagreements with them on how things should be run, and it’s clear that a good portion of the blame for how this franchise has been handled falls at their feet. But can we please put to rest this notion that somehow ownership doesn’t want to win? It’s ridiculous and unsupported by any kind of actual fact.

The Mariners want to win – they just don’t know how. Ignorance is not the same thing as apathy.


88 Responses to “Will To Win”

  1. gottago on August 21st, 2008 1:26 pm

    msb – yep, the only reason to have season tickets is if there is a chance of post season playoffs and you want to be there at the safe. I just have better things to do with $13,000.00+ than give it to the mariners. I did that for 8 years. I can’t even imagine how exciting it is to have paid for the privilege of sitting in the Diamond Club and watch this year’s debacle unfold.

    My point is that ownership needs an incentive to change and a drop in attendance should serve as warning. When people start to balk at the idea of ponying up their cash since they can walk-up to any game they want and get a seat, maybe, just maybe, someone with some power to do something will act.

  2. JR Ewing on August 21st, 2008 1:33 pm

    Market size is very tough to judge these days. MLBAM, MLBI, XM, MLB Extra Innings, and FOX all impact market size becasue they help provide equal footing for each member club, regardless of the market size of each DMA.

    In addition, many clubs reach a regional audience: Seattle has Portland, several states, plus Vancouver, BC and all of Canada (via 50ish games on SportsNet). Other teams also have substantial Canadian distribution, and large territories in the US. I’m going to guess that the financial impact of these extra territories is unique to each team, and that it would be nearly impossible to guage their impacts without “looking at the books” of every team.

    I agree entirely with the original post.

    For those that insist on using words like “stupid”, I offer to you . . . Major League Baseball is a tough business. Nearly every team has found a formula for success for a short period of time, but I cannot think of one that has maintained such success for the long term since the fundamentals of the business starting changing (yet again) in the 1990’s.

  3. scraps on August 21st, 2008 1:36 pm

    I think notangrygradstudent has a good point. To us, the current season is the logical outcome of years of bad poker. But to management, hitting an inside straight last year wasn’t luck, it was good play. Even if they agree that they lost their shirt this year through bad decisions, they believe they were on the cusp last year. The failure this year is just a failure this year; a blown opportunity. They don’t understand that the opportunity wasn’t really there.

    The vagaries of luck, and minimum talent levels in the major leagues, plus a fair amount of money to throw around, can let management think they’re on the right track any time the team improves. And you know what? They’re going to improve next year, almost inevitably, and management’s going to think they’re on the right track again.

    They won’t start thinking they need to reappraise their whole approach unless they lose and lose and lose and just never win. And that’s not going to happen.

  4. Steve T on August 21st, 2008 1:37 pm

    @50: it’s not as hard as you make it out. Other teams are doing it. The Mariners are now at the very bottom of the pack in terms of understanding how baseball works. If you don’t understand your own business, why are you in it? The market is telling Lincoln and Armstrong something: GO AWAY.

  5. ChrisK on August 21st, 2008 1:38 pm

    If the Mariners could only keep one of the following two assets – Felix Hernandez or the Mariner Moose – which asset do you think they would keep?

  6. John in L.A. on August 21st, 2008 1:41 pm

    I agree that everybody involved wants to win. But I think there are a couple of significant caveats.

    I do not think it is as simple as saying “we spend X” so clearly winning is more important that profit. I think they overlap, but that profit is their primary goal. (And isn’t their a famous quote from Armstrong or Lincoln in Forbes to that effect?)

    Here, I think, is one huge way where the profit>winning has shown up: a complete unwillingness to start over. They scoffed at a rebuild, terrified of what that would do their annual balance – so they rolled the dice. And lost. And again. And lost. And again. And lost.

    That is one of the worst things about corporations (or government agencies)… almost everything is based on one year intervals. It really can cripple long-term success. The depressing thing is that Nintendo, of all people, know better.

    They run this team like an annual business, not a long-term investment, and it hurts the team.

    So… yes, I think they want to win. No, I don’t believe they fixate on how to win a world series when they sit in that boardroom. They fixate on dollars.

    (I also think they want to win, but only on their terms. They do not want to win enough to undermine themselves.)

  7. notanangrygradstudent on August 21st, 2008 1:42 pm

    Cause they’re not stupid enough to think that the team will STAY profitable.

    What evidence do you have that it won’t? For all I know, Chuck Armstrong is a flipping genious when it comes to international marketing. That won’t help the M’s on-field performance, but it could well be a great reason for Chuck to keep his job. They may well have good reason to believe that the M’s will turn a profit regardless of their record. Do we have any real evidence that W-L records correlate well with profitability?

  8. JMHawkins on August 21st, 2008 1:43 pm

    Jim, if you’re saying that, for the Mariners, all they need is the will to completely change their paradigms of baseball analysis and management and their entire corporate culture, then perhaps they do lack the will, but the will that they lack is one that is exceedingly difficult to acquire. This kind of change comes once in a lifetime…We act like the dominant sabermetric methods are self-evident or something but they aren’t…

    I disagree. I was thinking about Dave’s final comment in the original post:

    The Mariners want to win – they just don’t know. Ignorance is not the same thing as apathy.

    How did Billy Beane come to be the prototype for sabrmetric GMS? Did he get a Phd in Statistics from an Ivy League school? No, he was a pro ballplayer, drafted out of high school. He rode beat up busses from one podunk town to the next in the minors, and he sat in the dugout with the Bash Brothers in Oakland, probably spitting rivers of chaw juice. He played for Davey Johnson, Tome Kelly, Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa. He “grew up” old-school. When he took over the A’s, he didn’t know how to run the team in a completely different manner than anyone had run a MLB club before. But he knew if he ran his club like everyone else ran theirs, he’d lose. He needed a different way of doing things, and he wanted to win badly enough to figure it out. Looking at the list of managers he played for, I bet what he learned from them wasn’t any particular way of playing baseball, but a way of translating desire into useful action.

    Beane is special because he pioneered it, but since then other GMs have figured it out too. Lot’s of people want to do something but don’t know how to do it. At first. But successful people figure it out.

  9. JMHawkins on August 21st, 2008 1:46 pm

    Wierd how the edit feature sometimes doesn’t work. Beane played for Tom Kelly, not Tome Kelly. I’m doing great at adding extra letters to people’s names today.

  10. notanangrygradstudent on August 21st, 2008 1:49 pm

    And I couldn’t get the “o” out of “genious”, either, which makes me look particularly bright. Bleah.

  11. gwangung on August 21st, 2008 2:03 pm

    What evidence do you have that it won’t?

    Business 101.

    C’mon, they’re NOT stupid. And they most certainly aren’t stupid on BUSINESS topics.

    They can read the attendence declines as well as anyone else. And they can see how ratings are going. And how the rights are not fetching as much as they did. And….

  12. jimbob on August 21st, 2008 2:09 pm

    Sure, the Mariner brass would like to win but they’re not losing any sleep over it as long as the team remains highly profitable. They’ll keep signing the Rauls and Ichiros with name recognition for the tourists and visitors from Spokane who watch a couple of games a year. They are in the entertainment business as their top priority. Look at the awful Chicago Cubs teams of the last half century with their occasional superstar but loyal fan base and I see the Mariners.

    Luck plays a role, of course, and when a player like the “Igniter” WFB goes down it’s tough to not write off the season.

  13. NickBob on August 21st, 2008 2:25 pm

    Sweet Lou put it in a nutshell for us: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/141412_mbook26.html

    “I like Howard personally,” Piniella said. “I enjoyed working with him. He’s a bright guy, a charming guy. But I’ll tell you this — he’s bottom line. Howard likes total, total control. Pat wants to win. Howard just doesn’t know how.”

    Neither does his man Chuck. The ownership needs new direction, and it won’t come from a GM that will have to get along with this leadership group. if they stay, don’t expect big changes for the better. They certainly haven’t made the right decisions along the way. Isn’t that what they’re paid to do? Maybe that’s why Sexton and Vidro stuck around so long- because they saw themselves in them.

  14. notanangrygradstudent on August 21st, 2008 2:27 pm

    Business 101.

    Bzzztttt. Sorry, unacceptable response. Where is there real EVIDENCE (versus assumptions based on mythical coursework) that a poor W-L equates to poor profitability? Last I checked, the Royals were still in KC and Pittsburgh still had the Pirates. Both franchises suck, but the owners haven’t exactly jumped over themselves to get away from their “bad” investment.

    I would love to believe that HowChuck are about to be fired, but I just don’t see any evidence that it is so. I absolutely agree that they aren’t stupid in a business sense, which is what leads me to the question in the first place. They clearly suck at putting a decent team on the field, so if they really are smart businessmen, there must not be much correlation between winning games and making money.

    Which is, come to think of it, a way of both agreeing and disagreeing with Dave. Armstrong has to SAY he is interested in winning, but what he really has to be interested in is profitability. Depending on how well Arstrong thinks those two things correlate, winning may well be a secondary goal: Nice to be a winner, certainly, but perhaps it is not the primary driver.

    I don’t think there is enough evidence either way, frankly.

  15. gottago on August 21st, 2008 2:30 pm

    Today’s email from Mariners.com allows you to “Jump to the front of the line in 2009 with a Mariners season ticket plan! Place a deposit today and guarantee a seat…”

    Wow — that is some delusional marketing campaign!!! Again – only YOU can let the Mariners know that you aren’t a sucker. DO NOT re-up for ’09 season tickets or packages!!

  16. Steve T on August 21st, 2008 2:32 pm

    I just don’t think “want to win” is a meaningful phrase. Semantically it’s as valuable as “five is lately” or “wondering grass”. Wanting means nothing. Winning doesn’t have anything to do with wanting.

  17. gwangung on August 21st, 2008 2:40 pm

    Bzzztttt. Sorry, unacceptable response. Where is there real EVIDENCE (versus assumptions based on mythical coursework)

    Scuse me?

    Declining attendance, declining radio rights fees and stagnant broadcast fees. That’s a lot of revenue to be made up there…

    Bzzt yourself. This ain’t genius level discussion here. It’s been shown in numerous economic studies in the past that revenue and attendance is correlated to winning. Why are you disputing what’s been shown in the past, with other teams and with the Mariners themselves?

    Now the only OTHER way to be profitable is to cut expenses to the bone and rely on the pooled TV rights—but that’s not happening here.

    But you clearly have your mind made up…

  18. RallyFried on August 21st, 2008 2:41 pm


    “I would love to believe that HowChuck are about to be fired, but I just don’t see any evidence that it is so.”

    I agree… I mentioned this in Starting Suckitude thread. Short of voluntary resignation/retirement or change in ownership these two aren’t going anywhere for awhile. Especially since there have already been firings of the GM and Manager this season.

  19. ralphie81 on August 21st, 2008 2:50 pm

    Wait, so who is Will and what are you predicting he’ll win?

  20. cody on August 21st, 2008 2:52 pm

    The thing about HowChuck is that they WANT to win. I think that is their goal. Anyone that says we don’t want to win should just look at our payroll. As to whether they are interested in winning or creating a family friendly enviorment, I would say both. Even though HowChuck have less of a clue on how to build a good baseball team than most people here, they are extremely smart bussiness people. They know that winning is a good way to gauruntee profits over the long term. They also know that creating a family friendly enviorment and signing fan favorites will maximize profits right now.

    And let’s face it: The Seattle Mariners are a bussiness. And, like all bussineses, their goal is to make money. That’s the bottom line.

  21. BillyJive on August 21st, 2008 3:20 pm

    I disagree
    I don’t think their goal is to make money. If it was they wouldn’t have such a high payroll plain an simple. Like the man said the people running this team want to win. They just do not have a clue how to do it…

  22. Waiting for 09 on August 21st, 2008 3:28 pm

    I’ll just agree with the majority here, it’s all been said multiple times now. Great post putting the rumor to bed and showing it’s about the lack of execution than effort. They saw the profits in 01-03 far outweigh profits from 04-08. They know winning is better. Let’s just hope and pray they get a good GM and let them do what needs to be done this time.

  23. qwerty on August 21st, 2008 3:35 pm

    I believe the Chuck Armstrong era is winding down. His comments to me sound a bit more candid than he’s been before. “If we’d made the right decisions along the way…” is, to me, and admission of guilt.

    I think he’s gone for two unscientific reasons:
    1) Rumors from all over are that Pat Gilleck is understood to become the President of the M’s next year.
    2) Chuck Armstrong has a half-built beach house that he’s stopped construction on.

    WE’ll see.

  24. Brent on August 21st, 2008 3:37 pm

    Dave –

    If you’re basing their commitment on sheer dollars, your point is absolutely correct and no one can question that. I don’t so much question their ‘will to win,’ I moreso call into question their effort. It’s the lazy team’s way out to buy free agents in an attempt to compete.

    These guys are smart businessmen, let’s not kid ourselves. Nintendo wouldn’t be the company it is without Lincoln. That said, does one think that Nintendo would turn a blind eye to Sony and Microsoft when they come out with new systems? My point is that these guys have shown an aptitude to create a superior product by analyzing the competition and building on their strengths, all the while minimizing their weaknesses.

    I’m a small business owner myself, and I’d be living on the streets if I didn’t position myself to be better than my competition. What ownership has shown is that they have no ability to analyze their opponents and even recognize what’s working for the opposition and try to emulate that. Is it pigheadedness? Is it because they have a monopoly on the Seattle market? Who knows. That kind of stupidity is exactly why more heads need to roll. If you can’t capture that basic ability in running a business, you’re destined for failure.

    You can throw all the money in the world at a problem, but if you have no clue on how to do it and don’t do what’s necessary to ensure smart investments, it’s pointless.

    Their moves this offseason, and by that I mean who they hire, will dictate if it’s more of the same or turning over a new leaf.

  25. crazyray7391 on August 21st, 2008 4:29 pm

    So if Armstrong and Lincoln really do want to win, then what should the next move be? I don’t think it’s very realistic to think that either will step down on their own. Is it any more realistic to think that they might higher a younger GM that has a completely different plan for this team than they do and ask him to show them what it takes to win? If these guys are really as smart as a lot of us here believe, then they have to realize that their system just doesn’t work anymore. Does anybody think that they can put their egos aside long enough to let somebody try to show them a new direction? I’m not convinced that this will happen, but I think it’s what needs to happen.

  26. JoseMesa69 on August 21st, 2008 4:31 pm

    I don’t think Armstrong & Lincoln want it as bad as other people in their same positions around the league. To me, that is not acceptable. Combine that with them making horrible decisions from top to bottom and that is how a franchise with a large payroll utterly fails for a whole damn decade.

  27. scraps on August 21st, 2008 4:40 pm

    And let’s face it:

    And let’s be frank about it, too. It’s really very simple. Etc.

    The Seattle Mariners are a business.

    Yes. Unless you mean they are just a business.

    And, like all busineses, their goal is to make money. That’s the bottom line.

    No. Because they are not just a business. One of their goals is to make money. There are other goals they pursue, and some of them are more important, in fact, as you can see by the way almost every franchise is run. The only franchise I can think of that seems to be run entirely to make money with no other real goal is the Los Angeles Clippers. The people who buy sports team do so not because sports franchises are super money-generating machines, but because they think it’s neat to own a sports team. Of course they don’t want to lose money. But virtually every sports owner will sacrifice some profit for a chance at a championship.

  28. John in L.A. on August 21st, 2008 4:58 pm

    77 -All true. But there is a big difference between owners and people who work for them.

    It’s like saying a studio’s goal is to make good movies… well, kinda, insofar as it puts butts in seats. There is a lot of love and pride involved, sure. But the primary concern for people like Armstrong and Lincoln is the balance sheet.

    There aren’t a ton of places where those two things don’t overlap… but where they don’t, I believe Howard and Chuck choose profit. Particularly because it’s all percentages, anyway. They are never turning down guaranteed victory.

  29. diderot on August 21st, 2008 6:27 pm

    This is an absolutely wonderful post. You channel the discussion fully in the right direction.
    My problem with a lot of the quotes is that they ascribe some intuition to the motives of the front office (‘of course they want to win’, ‘they only care about profit’, ‘they don’t want to win badly enough’.) I don’t know that we can see into their souls (like Bush with Putin).
    I think we have to give thanks for two things: first, an owner like Smulyan who just simply didn’t have any money; or like George Steinbrenner, who believed his baseball knowledge better than anyone in his organization. Considering both these alternatives, I think things could actually be worse.
    But the key question to me is this: several times this winter Armstrong is going to sit down to interview GM candidates, and say something like, ‘well, what would you do with the baseball side of things if you were GM?’
    That’s where the rubber meets the road. How does Armstrong know the right answer? How does the candidate convince him that he (the candidate) actually does have the right answer?
    I give these guys full credit for understanding that what they’ve done has failed…that they need a fresh approach…and they may even be willing to change their way of thinking.
    But how do they know when the ‘right’ way of thinking is presented to them?

    That’s my angst.

  30. cheapseats on August 21st, 2008 7:59 pm

    Sorry Dave, I can’t agree, either with the premise or the development. I know you’re having a reaction against some sectors of the kneejerk fandom, which just throws crap all over everything, out of frustration, based on little or no serious baseball knowledge.

    But guess what? Sometimes, the uninformed can come closer to the truth that the extremely informed.

    I won’t go so far as to say the Mariners don’t want to win. That would be monumentally stupid. Of course they would love to win.

    They just haven’t needed to. They’ve thrown pots of money at the team, true enough. But look at those pots of money, for chrissakes. I got absolutely flamed for a crisp on several occasions for suggesting the money was spent more for wowing (exactly) those fans who were completely uninformed… than in building a viable team.

    Hey! The hoy paloy wants Power? Let’s bring in duly shined-up power… And the loyal 30,000 (but dropping) base won’t notice it’s not sterling, but plate silver…

    This is the sort of thing, I think, is worth complaining about. The circus stunt, public relations, mentality attached to their acquisitions.

    Win? Sure, they’d take it. Same way I’d take winning the lottery.

    I would suggest that it isn’t this simple, Dave.

    It’s not a we invest, we win, we don’t invest, we lose, situation.

    A team invests for more reasons that to simply win. They invest to build a viable farm system. They invest to improve weak points. They invest to take advantage of their mid-season or end season position. AND they invest to maintain cash flow, in terms of what Joe-Sixpack expects from his home team.

    Um… I submit that the Mariners have NOT addressed all of the above. Therefore, they have NOT invested in winning.

  31. Dave on August 21st, 2008 8:50 pm

    You really think the M’s decided to sign Carlos Silva because they thought that a fat, pitch to contact Venezuelan who spent his career in Minnesota and no casual fan had ever heard of would placate the fan base?

    No – they signed Carlos Silva because they believe that he’s a groundball machine and a veteran innings eater who knew how to win. They drew bad conclusions, but those bad conclusions were based on their assessment of the player’s value on the field, not on some marketing ploy.

  32. NODO Dweller on August 21st, 2008 8:57 pm

    I think part of the disconnect here is that alot of us don’t want to believe those running the Mariners could possibly be as bad at the on-the-field part of the business as they actually are, especially given their past business positions and successes.

    Nowhere else can someone fail so completely at their job and continue to not only be employed, but be entrusted with a position that affects hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars a year. The “they can’t possibly be that bad, there must be something else going on” mentality is hard to shake, I know it creeps in for me at times…

  33. Lorenzo on August 21st, 2008 11:08 pm

    I don’t think the question has ever (at least since they moved into Safeco) been whether they were willing to throw a bunch of money at free agents or not. The question has been whether they were willing to blow up a disjointed, underachieving team, build from within their farm system–a la Detroit the year they went to the World Series, Florida and Oakland in the past, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee this year–and sacrifice a year or two of high revenue for the chance to be competitive in the future. The answer is no. They filled their glaring holes with overpriced free agents because the most important thing was to keep the seats packed. Period. (And also, this last year, because Bavasi wanted to keep his job. Hence Carlos Silva. Hence Erik Bedard. Hence Brad Wilkerson. These were decisions made of pure desperation.)

  34. DMZ on August 21st, 2008 11:42 pm

    The assumption there, though, is that they would agree that such a teardown project was required (when even we don’t), and that knowing that, they decided to pursue an expensive and counter-productive strategy doomed to eventual (and expensive) failure because… because they thought it would keep butts in seats?

    If you grant that the M’s are led by good business people, you can’t imagine that they think that’s true: they’ve seen many examples of other teams spending fruitlessly on free agents as attendance declined.

    No, they thought that they were spending better than those teams, and it would make all the difference.

    That’s a far sight more plausible than the theory you’re laying out.

  35. John in L.A. on August 22nd, 2008 12:48 am

    I agree with most of what you said, DMZ, but I would say that they ‘hoped’ it would make all the difference.

    I have witnessed some horrible, mind-boggling business decisions made because of the fiscal year. It seems artificial and arbitrary to me (with the exception of tax issues and such) but to the suits I’ve known it is life and death. And I’ve seen millions wasted because of it.

    And I think tat Howard and Chuck keep choosing to fix the team the way they do because to them, a tear down is a guaranteed decline, whereas the alternative could go either way. Sure, they’re surprised that it keeps going the same way, but that’s because they are perplexed by the baseball of it all.

    Let me put my position this way: to me, as a fan, the future is clearly more important than the present. It was so clear that the team wasn’t capable of winning a world series that I want every decision to be about what is best for the team long term.

    I believe that Howard and Chuck do not think that way. I think they think annually. Finishing 80-82 instead of 70-92 is worth absolutely nothing to me. To them, I believe it is worth millions of dollars and multiple prospects. That, to me, is putting the balance sheet ahead of winning (a championship).

    But as a whole, their decisions have been so bad that neither explanation is easy to swallow.

  36. thefin190 on August 22nd, 2008 1:09 am

    Even before, when I would think hard about it, even though there are indications that seem otherwise, I refused to fully believe the team cared just about the profits rather than winning. For example, if a team didn’t care about winning, they take risks such as parting ways with promising talent for a supposed ace. I always felt that the team either didn’t know how to win in today’s game, since their stone age ideas of winning haven’t caught up with the smarter teams, or they simply half assed it by throwing money left and right on “proven” players rather than working hard to find bargains.

  37. bunk_medal on August 22nd, 2008 8:10 am

    You can find evidence for this post being correct by looking at what the Mariners have done, but as much evidence can be found looking at every other team which struggles. Go on any forum for a struggling team (not just baseball, any sport from basketball to soccer) and you’ll see this accusation being thrown around that the organisation is “rotten to the core” or “doesn’t care about winning”. It’s a universal reaction from sports fans and obscures the fact that most of the teams who are winning are usually no better run – we had the exact same ownership 5-7 years ago, after all.

  38. Silentpadna on August 22nd, 2008 1:47 pm

    “But can we please put to rest this notion that somehow ownership doesn’t want to win? It’s ridiculous and unsupported by any kind of actual fact.”

    I guess I’m one of those that won’t really entertain the thought of putting that to bed just yet. I have no qualms about the amount of money spent on payroll – in fact, from the looks of things I don’t necessarily think payroll factors as much into the decision for players as some of who shout about this group’s “lack of will to win” think.

    I do, however, have a problem with Armstrong using the payroll numbers alone to support his position. I am heavily involved in business as well – and in many ways, there are similarities no matter what business you are in. I don’t think it’s a simple profits versus winning paradigm at work here. I don’t think Armstrong and company believe they are mutually exclusive (they obviously are not). The problem I see here is the lack of demand for excellence in the specific arena of baseball performance relative to the demand for excellence in other areas. For example, the “family-friendly, great night at the park” focus *seems* to be much more out there than the “we are in this competition for the prize”. When you listen to quotes from either Lincoln or Armstrong, specifically about on-field performance of the team, you never hear that their goal is to win the World Series or even play to get there. The most often stated goal falls short – “to be competitive”. I find myself asking why every time I hear them speak to this issue – and I listen specifically for this each time.

    In my business, when we query our customers, the question is never asked “Are we a competitive service provider?”. Rather it is asked “Are we your *best* service provider?” I’ve found in my field, that is a huge difference. Our company is not in this to “be competitive” (we are), but we are in it to be the best (which we are sometimes). If all we want is to be competitive, we can probably get there, but we will never be the best unless that is the vision from the top of the company to those who deliver the service and projects in the field. Anything less than being the best is not an acceptable outcome.

    Now related to the M’s, as a fan, I am not one of those who believes “World Series Champs” or “chumps”. What I do want from ownership is to be sold the product of the team trying to win championships. A nice night at the park would then be a by-product. This team needs that vision from the top down. From everything I can tell, that is absolutely not the vision for this team. It might be from the players, but without the synergy of the whole organization focused on the same thing, it is not the best recipe for success.

    What the evidence indicates to me is that the M’s are perfectly willing to spend money on payroll in order to deliver to their market exactly what they envision the market need to be. In my mind, this is why the M’s lock themselves into expensive players with mediocre upsides in lieu of taking chances on the “unknown” players. Like it or not, those fans who have a passion for game and frequent blogs like this and others are not the largest share of the market in Seattle. That’s why they continue to draw so well in a season like this. The casual fan still wants to see players they know. My hunch is that the payroll number stays where it is almost as much for appearance sake as anything else. I don’t know if this is necessarily true, but it is an alternative that would be supported by the evidence Armstrong uses. If the front office is spending money, then implicitly they are ‘trying to be competitive’.

    This whole response is a bunch of speculation of course. Armstrong and Lincoln could surprise me someday by saying something more than “we’re trying to be competitive within the division”, but the absence of the larger vision in their statements, to me, is very conspicuous.

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