One thing we know for sure: Ken Rosenthal reported the other day that the Mariners had expressed interest in Lou Piniella as their next manager. Beyond that, Rosenthal’s source indicated that the Mariners put on a “full-court press” to try to lure Piniella out of retirement. Ultimately, Piniella said no to the potential opportunity, deciding he’s rather quite fond of his current living arrangement, which involves a lot of not being in charge of the Mariners.
One thing we probably know for sure: Rosenthal’s report wasn’t actually entirely accurate. The Mariners and Piniella have spoken, and Piniella has said no to managing again, but based on the organization’s words, it was Piniella who initially broached the subject. The Mariners simply asked if he was interested, and he indicated maybe, and then a little while later he indicated no. The Mariners say there was never any full-court press, and they didn’t seek Piniella out, and they have a very long list of managerial candidates for 2014. All in all, it wasn’t much of a story. And it’s hard to see a reason for the Mariners to outright lie about this.
So in the end, nothing has changed. We’ve gone from not considering Lou Piniella as the Mariners’ next manager to not considering Lou Piniella as the Mariners’ next manager. I guess what we know now is that he’s officially out, but no one was ever really counting him in, on account of the retirement and all. To whatever extent people are thinking about the Mariners’ manager search, they’re thinking about names like Joey Cora, Bryan Price, and, regrettably, Dusty Baker. Something’ll get done in a matter of weeks.
But out of this non-story, there’s a lesson to learn. When word initially spread, there were, I’m sure, a variety of responses, but a common one was that the Mariners were doing something embarrassing. People didn’t know very many details, but the immediate assumption was that the Mariners were being idiots again, humiliating themselves. Reconnecting with an old flame over the phone, trying to get something ignited. There’s long existed the criticism that the Mariners make too much of what happened in 1995. The more years that pass, the more years the Mariners fail, it only looks worse. To see Piniella’s name brought up again out of nowhere? That one wasn’t going to sit well.
It suggested that the Mariners aren’t interested in looking forward. At least, it suggested that the Mariners are only interested in looking forward by looking backward. It suggested the Mariners don’t want to try to find a new direction, preferring instead to get some maps out of the attic. And a “full-court press”? That smells of desperation. Desperation to bring back the glory years by literally hiring the glory years, ignoring that the characters have aged. Rosenthal’s report felt very Mariners. People responded to that.
It was immediate, it was instinct. Nevermind waiting to know more, waiting at least for confirmation. When the tweet went out, it took no time at all for fans to conclude the Mariners were making a mistake. People figured the Mariners had learned nothing at all, and there was renewed drive to burn everything to the ground and rebuild with new material. This is how people deal with Mariners news now. We’ve become conditioned to believe the Mariners are going to screw up. Worse, to believe they’re going to embarrass us and themselves. When the Zduriencik front office was still smelling new, things were the opposite. We trusted them with their decisions, because it seemed like they’d earned it. Zduriencik’s still there, but he’s not the same guy, despite being the same guy. How we feel about this team has done a 180, or, going back to the Bavasi years, a 360.
When something gets tweeted about the Mariners, people automatically get nervous. Skepticism and cynicism run rampant. This was made readily evident by Rosenthal’s Lou Piniella report. The Mariners’ online fan base is such that, if the Mariners are said to be doing something, the people believe they’d be better not doing it. The Mariners, simply, don’t have anyone’s trust.
But then we already knew that, even before Rosenthal’s article. So the actual lesson is nothing we hadn’t already learned, and where we are today is where we were earlier in the week, a few days closer to death. What we’ve gotten out of this experience is nothing. But at least people got to make fun of the Mariners for something they didn’t do. Keeps ’em from getting rusty.
Eventually, we’ll all once again trust the Mariners. I don’t know who’s going to be in charge of the team at that point, but it’s a probabilistic certainty. Hard to imagine, that feeling. But we have felt it, not even long ago.