A punishment of years, not weeks
I like to think that our sentence is nearly over, that we’ve got a few more weeks and then we can enjoy the playoffs, start speculating about our new GM, and thinking about how the team might turn around and finish the season with their heads above water.
I worry that it’s not. I’ve been torn about whether or not to even voice this because it’s so negative, but in the end, I think we have to talk about this. Every time I seriously consider this it makes me want to throw up, or close up shop, replace USSM with a page that says “We’ve been promoting your shitty product for years and years now, and it turns out we have a limit. Call us when you’re ready to be smart.”
In a way, though, that makes it the most important thing to talk about.
Here’s the short version:
- They announce that there will need to be a rebuilding effort after all, and payroll will need to come down (check)
- In the off-season, Mariners hire seemingly decent GM
- No higher-up changes happen: Lincoln and Armstrong aren’t held accountable for their responsibility in the long failure of the franchise
- They dump Beltre for very little
- The team doesn’t make any other significant moves because L/A are unwilling to dump salary even when it’s clearly in the team’s best interest (see: Washburn) and goes into next season with this squad essentially minus Ibanez
- The new GM does a better job at assembling the overall roster and putting a working 25-man lineup together, but
- They stink next year, because there’s no money to spend on $2m-$4m stop-gap and injury-return contracts
- Attendance drops even further
- Wamu and other corporate sponsors are toast
- With a drastically lower payroll and a ton of MLBAM cash, the team makes money
- The “rebuilding” goes on, as the team cuts payroll again, so money rolls off (like the Washburn contract) but is not re-invested
- The team makes more money
- Maybe the GM gets fired at some point
- Four years from now, after nearly a decade in the dumpster, the Baseball Club of Seattle either sells out or is re-organized and new owners seize control
- The new owners take over a team with newly-horrible media deals, Felix gone, Ichiro gone, and the only good players in the farm system the products of continually high draft positions
“Rebuilding” will be a cover for how bad they are at putting winning teams on the field, a continual excuse for bad records, and at the same time justification for not spending while taking money out of the team through the back door.
I’ve tried not to engage in the “as long as Lincoln and Armstrong are here, there’s no hope” pessimism, but it’s an entirely valid viewpoint. They hire the new GM. But they’re entirely unqualified to do so. And even if we’re lucky and the right candidate makes an absolutely stunning presentation and is hired on the spot, we’ve already seen that they believe their baseball judgment is better than whoever they have in the job.
Consider how depressing that is: the maximum effectiveness of any GM candidate is likely to be determined by the baseball incompetence of Chuck Armstrong. Or: they can’t be smarter in running the team than Chuck is dumb in approving or overriding their decisions.
A point I haven’t made much that backs this up– the Mariners ownership consists essentially of Lincoln for Nintendo of America (and really, for Yamauchi). They’ve recently tried to sell the idea that the minority owners are somehow involved in the team — probably to spread blame more than anything– but this isn’t true. They have minority owners who have massive tech chops, and they have no say at all in the team’s operations. They have a stake in the team, their interests are aligned, but Lincoln’s never reached out to them for help, say, the wholesale construction of the kind of data infrastructure the Indians have.
Armstrong believes himself a sabermetrician, good enough to justify his team’s horrible ignorance of new statistical methods, and he’s not.
Armstrong believes himself a baseball talent evaluator and a better negotiator and a better GM at least than the man he put into the job, when Lee Pelekoudas worked for the team since ’79, and worked himself into the front office, and Armstrong got his because he knew George Argyros.
And this is my greatest fear, that he and Lincoln will run and gut this team for the years no matter what name appears on the front office page as “general manager.”