The Elephants in the Neighborhood

marc w · February 7, 2014 at 9:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I haven’t been following the M’s as much for the past few weeks. As most of you know, the M’s next-door neighbors won a championship with one of the most dominating Super Bowl performances in memory (and Super Bowl history is littered with dominating performances). For years, the Seahawks success – hell, even their mediocre 7-9 seasons – has highlighted just how bad the M’s have been, and how two different M’s GMs have tried and failed to right the ship. Those fans that still care about the M’s despairingly list just how *different* everything feels at the Clink, and how Seahawks GM John Schneider seems like Billy Beane supplied with a league-wide salary cap and actual clairvoyance.

Everyone’s weighing in on what “lessons” the Hawks have to teach the M’s, and so I thought I’d stop high fiving random people in the supermarket and see if there’s anything to glean from Schneider’s rapid rise to the top. Beware, there be tenuous analogies in these parts.

The Seahawks absolutely dominating defense is their calling card. Several teams in recent memory, from the Rays in 2008, the Giants in their 2 World Series years and the Tigers of last year seem like decent comps, but a closer look at each team shows that they just don’t fit. The Rays turnaround was led by Evan Longoria, who was not only an offensive factor, but a 3rd overall pick. The team transformed itself in part by trading disgruntled prospect Delmon Young for help at SS and SP Matt Garza. The Hawks, frankly, didn’t need an overhaul. The Giants won with great defense and pitching, led by Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Buster Posey, so the home-grownness looks similar, but again, the closer you look, the more the analogy falls apart. Each of those Giants stars was a first-round pick; the team did a marvelous job of developing them, but it’s not like they came out of nowhere. The team was fortunate to hit on some big bets, and it paid off for a GM previously known more for his nearly pathological love of veteran grit than his draft acumen. The Tigers pitching staff put up the kind of stats that make a comparison to the Seahawks seem appropriate, but again, the way the Tigers were assembled is quite different. Verlander was homegrown, but Scherzer and Fister came in trade. Anibal Sanchez was first acquired in trade (a deal that also netted the Tigers their 2B), then kept on a free agent deal. The offense was headlined by perhaps the biggest trade haul in a generation and the roundest player to ever command a $200m free agent deal. None of this is to say that the Tigers bought their way to the pennant or got lucky – their trades are now the stuff of legend, and it’s the only thing that makes me hesitate before slamming the return they got on Doug Fister this off-season. It’s just not a great parallel to the Seahawks.

The Hawks built their secondary and linebacker core largely through the draft, and spent in free agency on edge rushers on the line. It’s an interesting strategy, almost the inverse of what I might expect given the admittedly little I know about advanced football analysis. But while the Hawks have one legitimate first-round guy that many teams coveted in Earl Thomas, the team is famously peppered with back-of-the-draft flyers and questionable reaches. NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. famously panned several of the draft classes that produced the Seahawks starting QB, a starting LB and more. Richard Sherman was a 5th round pick, Malcolm Smith a 5th rounder, and fellow LB KJ Wright was a 4th round selection. Sure, Marshawn Lynch was a highly-touted ex-first rounder when the Hawks acquired him, but he’d largely failed to live up to expectations in Buffalo, and honestly looked a step slow in his first season in Seattle (until a certain playoff game). The key to the Seahawks isn’t just that they’re largely home-grown, it’s that the guys they appeared to have signed/drafted for depth simply took over, and in the process helped cover what would’ve been high-priced errors.

So who in the baseball world does that sound like? To me it sounds like the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that played in the World Series in 2006* and 2013 (whoa), and whose recent success has been driven in large part by big contributions from unheralded young players. Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter went in the 8th and 13th rounds, respectively. Yadier Molina was a 4th round pick. The pitching staff had more of a draft pedigree, but Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha, while first-rounders, certainly never seemed like difference makers – they just seemed like safe, boring, back-of-the-round selections. Shelby Miller was a legitimate phenom (although he went 19th overall; we’ll comp him to Earl Thomas, who went 14th overall), but their vaunted bullpen was another collection of late-round flyers (Trevor Rosenthal somehow lasted to the 21st round of the 2009 draft. Kevin Siegrist went in the *41st* round).

It all looks sort of familiar, er, at least to me. But the problem comes when trying to extrapolate these lessons to out-of-sample teams. You can’t discern a concrete “lesson” here, other than something easy and circular like “draft awesome players that no one else thinks are awesome.” I’m not Gladwellian enough to distill this into a meme-ready soundbite, and I’m not sure what there is to distill. Be better than your competitors! Hidden talent is out there somewhere! At this point, we’re really just looking at two very different front offices that just seem to function a bit better than others. It’s not that they’re never wrong, but their depth is such that any errors can be quickly covered over.

This is the sports version of the “great man” theory of history – with powerful visionaries as shapers of national and international events, whose singular genius trumps the power of culture, economics, technology and the like. It’s a pretty out-of-date theory, but it seems to work here. I’m sorry, M’s, but there doesn’t seem to be much to learn from the Seahawks other than the importance of player development. That’s nice, but it’s essentially a truism, and there seems to be so little to glean from football player development – where it’s sometimes possible to be a prospect despite never having seen an actual football before in your life. So take heart in the fact that Seattle’s completely sports crazy right now. Be inspired by the Seahawks rise from team in disarray to presumptive favorites to champions in about four years. There aren’t any specific strategies to take back to Safeco, but it’s helpful to remember how quickly things can change.


34 Responses to “The Elephants in the Neighborhood”

  1. Chris_From_Bothell on February 7th, 2014 9:46 am

    Excellent commentary, and a good break from the breathless “the M’s have to doooo something” from some quarters, carrying over exuberance from the Hawks into M’s fandom.

    If one had a certain perspective on what good moves for the M’s are – value of certain players, development of others, what a good deal for a given pitcher or free agent is, how to react to Cruz, Hart, Morrison, Rodney, Cano, etc. – then that perspective should be exactly the same today as it was 2 or 3 weeks ago.

    One’s principles about what goes into fielding a competitive baseball team, and one’s projections about what the current 2014 team is capable of, shouldn’t be swayed by history-making success by a completely different team and sport in the same town.

    I’m still minorly scared that the M’s will see the Hawks and think that throwing money over bad, slow, old and/or overpriced players will demonstrate they’re all-in somehow. Hope there isn’t a farm-mortgaging sort of “go-for-it” move a la the Bavasi years.

    The hawks are Super Bowl champs and have the potential to string together some magical seasons. The M’s are hopefully a .500 team this year but still as organizationally meandering as they were a week, a month or 6 months ago.

  2. Jerry on February 7th, 2014 10:55 am

    Interesting article.

    I think that the biggest similarity between the Cards and the Hawks is their ability to develop and acquire the right players and put them into a position to succeed. The analogy is a bit tenuous given how much greater a role schemes and coaching play in football relative to baseball. The Seahawks are REALLY good at finding players who fit their scheme well, then putting them into a position to succeed given their unique talents.

    The Cards are also great at getting maximum performance out of players. Especially pitching. They always seem to get great production from guys like Ryan Franklin and Kyle Lohse. I hate to resort to circular reasoning, but it seems like the Cards are doing something different in terms of coaching that is helping players succeed there. They seem to consistently get good production from run-of-the-mill players and prospects, like Matt Adams, Allen Craig, John Jay, Matt Carpenter, David Freese, etc. Further, their good players seem to play really well – Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, etc. They clearly are doing something right. Who knows what that is.

    One thing you didn’t mention was the Cardinals approach to player development. They have a pretty clear track record of gradually bringing along prospects, particularly position players. The one thing that has frustrated me a bit about the M’s is that they have promoted players before it made sense, or made questionable development decisions. Zunino clearly was rushed, and I can’t imagine a team botching the development of a player worse than how we handled Brandon Morrow. Craig and Carpenter were in their mid-20s before getting called up. Right now, the Cards have guys in their system like Oscar Taveras and Kolton Wong who were probably ready for the big leagues last year, but the team didn’t rush them. Even with pitchers, they seem to follow the Earl Weaver method of letting guys get their feet wet in the bullpen before joining the rotation. If they were on the M’s, we’d probably be talking about why they struggled so much after a hasty promotion.

    As an outsider, this is something that is tough to know. But the Cards are definitely doing something right in terms of putting players into the best position to succeed. I think you could say that about the A’s and Braves as well. And those teams win a lot.

  3. mironos on February 7th, 2014 11:47 am

    To me, it seems to make more sense if we don’t attribute a team’s success to clairvoyant recognition of hidden superior talent, and instead look more closely at a team’s success/failure rate at getting productivity from (presumably) comparable talent.

    I’m not breaking any news by saying the M’s are incredibly good at getting poor production from once productive players. Whereas the Seahawks seem to be able to do the opposite.

    That’s not (primarily) a problem of talent recognition. It’s a problem of management, leadership, process, culture.

    This applies pretty much in any organization/industry. The best organizations and leaders get the most from their people; the worst can sabotage even the best of talent.

    So it seems there are lessons to be learned from the Seahawks, but they all come higher up on the food chain than the players on the team.

  4. californiamariner on February 7th, 2014 11:58 am

    I understand most of you are Seahawks fans, which makes sense. I for one am not, but I have a very weird allegiance of pro sports teams and I am a big fan of baseball, basketball, and football. I fully understand the reason everybody wants to look at and compare Seahawks/Mariners but with that said I want to point out one thing:

    If the Seahawks knew how good Wilson, Sherman, Chancellor, etc would be they wouldn’t have waited until rounds 3-5 to pick them. There is definitely an element of luck. The ability to pay a franchise quarterback practically nothing has allowed them to bring in Harvin, Bennett, Avril, luxuries that most teams just do not have and luxuries that the Seahawks themselves will not have in a couple of seasons.

    They are a top notch organization right now, but cross sport comparisons are hard because each sport is so unique.

  5. Eastside Crank on February 7th, 2014 12:04 pm

    The key to the Seahawks is Pete Carroll. He came to Seattle with a clear vision of what he needed based on his experience and training and having been able to test that vision at USC. Pete was given the keys to the Seahawks and picked Schneider to work with him. He knew exactly the characteristics he needed from his defensive backfield to be successful and Schneider bought into the vision and helped make it happen. In addition to the physical side, Pete also insisted that all players buy into his style of practicing and playing. The best analogy I can think of is Phil Jackson with the Lakers.

    Switching to the Mariners, Zurencik did not come with a clear vision for the team and instead has tried a couple of very different approaches. He did not enjoy the full support of the owner and front office the way Carroll has. Last year’s Mariners were a bash the ball at all costs bunch and were very successful at hitting home runs. I guess the biggest trait for pitchers was to not give up home runs. Defense was something you did after you were done hitting. This caveman approach to constructing a team failed and a few tweeks are not going to fix it. There is not any evidence that the Mariners can repeat the Seahawks success with the current organization.

  6. PackBob on February 7th, 2014 12:27 pm

    Before crowning Carroll and Seahawks management with unbridled football acumen it would be good to see where the team goes the next few years, or even more so if they went again to being average, and see if it happened again. An equally viable explanation is that they went mining for gold and struck it rich. Maybe good mining technique, maybe happened to dig in just the right place.

    The Mariners traded what they though was some fools gold that turned out real gold in Fister, to the Tiger’s benefit. They also put together a team in 2001 that had barely any player below average, most above average. It was the solid base of just above average players that really supported the team.

    GMs and managers have sample sizes so small and with so much noise it’s really hard to tell what leads to what. And teams sometimes win with seemingly poor management and lose with good.

  7. bluemoonking on February 7th, 2014 12:55 pm

    Comparing the Mariners to the Seahawks is like comparing apples to oranges. Football is a talent acquisition sport and Baseball is a talent development sport.

    Pete and John for the Seahawks knew exactally what the plan was, BIGGER, STRONGER and faster. They went out and got those players.

    The current Mariner front office had no real experience in building a roster and have failed misserably at it. But the biggest issue that I have is that they show no ability to DEVELOP players either.

    You listen to people on the radio and tv who are “baseball” people and they wonder what the plan is.

    The running joke in NY is what did Cano get for Xmas… 24 million a year and a vacation in October. Funny though, does Z really believe that Cano can help save his job? Cano should be playing for a contender and the Mariners are not that.

    They should have gone out and paid for Tanaka and DJ Abreau but didn’t.

    I am on the fence about the Rodney deal. I don’t think Cruz will save Jack’s job either.

    Worst part is that you have a player like Nick Franklin who is pushed out for Cano. Cano has maybe 5 years left and Franklin has 10 years that he could be productive. Was there really a need at second base? I think it is a huge mistake.

    The Mariners have a desparate need in the outfield and they won’t draft an outfielder with their first pick. DJ Peterson could be a good player but they should have drafted an outfielder in Ackley’s place and in Peterson’s place.

    No friggin clue in the Mariner front office…

  8. Beniitec on February 7th, 2014 1:06 pm

    Well said. Love the Seahawks and what they accomplished is awesome. But can you imagine this area hosting a World Series? And winning it? Pandemonium.

  9. bluemoonking on February 7th, 2014 1:15 pm

    Football = 19 reasons to get excited…
    Baseball = 176+- reasons to get excited…

  10. SeattleSlew on February 7th, 2014 2:19 pm


    “They should have gone out and paid for Tanaka and DJ Abreau but didn’t.”

    Maybe they tried to sign them but they didn’t want to come. Baseball negotiations are a lot more complex than football. The season is also much longer. You can’t just say they are stupid for not bringing in certain players.

  11. JasonJ on February 7th, 2014 2:35 pm

    Eastside Crank pretty much nailed it.

    The Seahawks did things differently and it paid off. I’m sure some was luck but when there is a salary cap you really have to get creative and take chances (or have Tom Brady or Peyton Manning on your team).

    JZ seems to be all over the place with his philosophy and I don’t think that is how you build a successful franchise.

  12. bluemoonking on February 7th, 2014 3:07 pm

    I did not say they were stupid for not signing Tanaka and Abreau. Maybe they did not want to. It made sense for Tanaka and to come here. It did not seem like from the reports in MLTR and HBT that there was a real effort made to try. Then the Yankees gave him Cano and Felix money. Abreau was a different story and probably would have jumped at the money.

  13. TumwaterMike on February 7th, 2014 3:07 pm

    IMHO Jack Z.’s philosophy has changed due to the negative results this team has had. First he was building the farm system. Remember the M’s had the worse farm system in MLB thanks to Bill Bavasi. But the M’s weren’t winning and the attitude toward the team was starting to suck. He hurried some of the prospects up to the majors and got rid of a bunch of veterans. That approach didn’t work because they couldn’t score runs. Again followers of the team had a negative attitude towards it because they were losing. Then they tried a defense and pitching approach. Again they weren’t scoring runs. They switched to a more powerful lineup but then their pitching and defense sucked. They even moved the fences in to help the hitters. Now they are trying a more balanced approach with pitching and hitting and people are complaining that they are spending too much money. Pete Carroll didn’t care what everyone thought because he was committed to a plan and stuck too it. Jack Z. has tried sticking to a plan but it doesn’t seem like he has been getting the support of fans and ownership that he needs.

  14. bluemoonking on February 7th, 2014 3:17 pm

    Jack Z’s failure is because they can’t develop players and he did not have experience in building a roster. We have supported Jack Z but you can’t change plans every year. It reeks of desperation.

  15. MrZDevotee on February 7th, 2014 3:25 pm

    Always love your writing, but your Seahawk’s analysis doesn’t hold up…

    I couldn’t get beyond– “The Hawks, frankly, didn’t need an overhaul.”

    Actually, the Hawks have in fact made more signings and cuts in the Carroll era than ANY SPORTS TEAM in any sport, ever, over the same time frame– over 200 moves (sounds like exaggeration, right?). Number of guys on the roster from pre-Pete Carroll times? 3 (Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant, Max Unger).

    Also, the similarities are WILDLY similar to the way the Mariners have been operating, with the exception of way better talent evaluation, and incredible luck (Hi, Russell Wilson!- the Mike Trout of the past 2 years… or if that’s too much, the Iwakuma then). Build from within, with undervalued draft picks on rookie contracts at key positions, and pick up undervalued cast offs with the money you save (Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are arguably THE largest factor to getting further in the playoffs this year– creating a 7 man rotation of never tiring pass rushers, which made our secondary that much more effective, and led to bad offensive production for our opponents). They ARE the Chone Figgins, Corey Harts, Kendrys Moraless, Raul’s of the NFL, but Carroll and Schneider are a HELLUVA lot better at assessing which of those types to snag, and which ones fit and “accessorize” what they already have.

    And by all appearances, their execution of their plan is fundamentally more sound than the M’s. (Let’s also not downplay Paul Allen versus a largely absent, non-sports dominant ownership for the M’s)…

    Purely on a fan reaction level, Golden Tate and Kyle Seager remind me of the same player almost… Key position player, who wasn’t ever expected to be a key contributor, providing incredible value for the on field return.

  16. TumwaterMike on February 7th, 2014 3:46 pm

    “Jack Z’s failure is because they can’t develop players and he did not have experience in building a roster. We have supported Jack Z but you can’t change plans every year. It reeks of desperation.”

    I agree but the dynamic that is hurting the M’s is that we as fans have been experiencing losing so long that we no longer have the patience to wait. This leads to negative comments on blogs and in the press. M’s hear and read this and they panic and continue to change philosophy. I do not however agree that they can’t develop players. Considering where our minor league system was 5 years ago, we are in a lot better shape. For years all I have heard is fans bashing ownership because they wouldn’t spend money to make a winning team. This year they spend money and fans are bashing them for spending too much money. Its there money let them spend it or not. Go out and support the team like you do the Seahawks and maybe you’ll find a new dynamic.

  17. MrZDevotee on February 7th, 2014 4:20 pm

    As the inevitible Elephant nears the door, has anyone heard ANY reasonable explanation out of the M’s why they wouldn’t rather have Morales than Cruz? Does Kendrys not wanna come back?

    This has been a curious thought, constantly, in the back of my mind, whenever Cruz’s name comes up.

    Am I the only one who prefers that idea? With Logan M moving to some sort of Guty/Ackley/Morrison LF/RF platoon, and Kendrys in the 1B/DH rotation, instead of Cruz needing to ever track a flyball? Seriously, I would slit my wrists if we ever made it to the World Series and Cruz did his Ranger’s WS losing move for us out in RF… KILL ME NOW.

    From appearances, Morales would be a) cheaper, b) better, c) not cost a pick… So what’s the holdup/problem with that scenario?

    I WANNA KNOW!!!! DAMMIT!!! (sad laugh at my own desperation…)

  18. MrZDevotee on February 7th, 2014 4:27 pm

    (BTW, when I mentioned two posts above the Seahawk’s plan seeming to be more fundamentally sound, I meant that the people in charge (Schneider & Carroll) are the people in charge, and everyone else seems to be on board (whether above them or below them) and the group as a whole is steering the ship in the same direction… “All in…” in a different, more relevant way.

    I don’t imagine a Geoff Baker article about the inner workings of the Seahawks anytime soon… That was my point there.)

    ***And there’s another great perspective on Baker’s article by the way– Seattle has an amazing championship winning, nouveau, modern sports franchise in town, rebuilding at the same time as the M’s, that just dominated its sport’s championship game like few ever will (the Yanks just beat the Red Sox 20-2 would be the equivalent)… And instead of some wonderful insight into why THAT organization is successful, we get the ambulance chasing article about the Mariners instead– “swing and a miss” at a legendary, amazing journalistic moment, but it fits his character.***

  19. invertedgc on February 7th, 2014 5:08 pm

    Hear, hear! The two sports and their drafting and development trajectories are too peculiar to draw clear lessons.

    From an organization standpoint, however, it is clear that the Seahawks have a much more supportive owner and a more focused front office. Carroll and Schneider share a common vision and work together to draft and develop players according to their philosophy.

    What is the vision for this team? Ownership doesn’t seem to care so long as the team turns a yearly profit. Z doesn’t seem to know what direction to head in. And based on the Baker article, the folks around him don’t trust him and are not bought in to his leadership vision or style.

    Now the organization feels the market pressure to perform based on the success of the Seahawks, so they are out there spending big in the hope that it works. But it just doesn’t seem like there is any vision as to where to spend and why. We landed Cano, but displaced Franklin. We signed Hart and traded for LoMo, creating a logjam at DH/1b (again). The outfield is still atrocious, not to mention our rotation behind #2. I don’t get where this is going, and I fear that neither do they…but hope springs eternal.

  20. stevemotivateir on February 7th, 2014 5:49 pm

    So, in short, the Hawks find a lot of talent at a value–much like the A’s.

    The Mariners, not so much.

  21. gwangung on February 7th, 2014 6:39 pm

    Suggest that they all AREN’T on the same page when it comes to evaluating talent, up and down the organization.

  22. kearly on February 7th, 2014 8:38 pm

    I would say the biggest difference comes from player development. Carroll builds simple schemes on both sides of the ball that young, under-developed players can grasp quickly, and then finds ways to put players in positions where their strengths are maximized and weaknesses are compensated for.

    The classic example of this is how they use Kam and Earl. Earl Thomas’ rare ability to play single deep cover at an elite level allows Kam Chancellor to play in such a way that his lack of top end speed is a non-issue.

    Football is the ultimate team sport where “butterfly effect” type chain reactions can occur on any given play and isolating the game to single players is almost impossible save for a few positions (shutdown corner, kick returners, kickers, punters).

    The other big difference is that the NFL is more specialized, whereas in baseball most players have to play both offense and defense. Imagine if we could just play Brendon Ryan on defense then sub him out for Kendrys Morales when it was his turn at the plate? The value for both of those players would be drastically different in such a sport. Specialization has allowed a very crafty Seahawks coaching staff to unearth some huge bargains from players like Byron Maxwell and Richard Sherman.

    But mostly though, a lot of the players the Seahawks have acquired in the draft were not all that great when they first arrived- they developed from the NFL’s best player development program in many decades, if not ever. Some of that is on the GM for the hard work he does, but most of it is on Pete Carroll, who is finally being acknowledged for the intellectual and visionary that he truly is.

    One last thing. John Schneider gets so much attention for his drafting, but just as important has been his grasp of moneyball concepts in free agency. Avril and Bennett were relative bargains in free agency and were key contributors in Seattle’s championship run. Tony McDaniel played WAY above his 800k 2013 salary. O’Brien Schofield was a terrific value buy as well. Every single year Schneider seems to find above average contributors signed for minimum contracts straight off the street.

    Jack Z? Moneyball? I wonder if he even knows what moneyball means.

    For the M’s to emulate the Seahawks, they must somehow have a dramatic turnaround with player development for the better (which is much harder in baseball, in my opinion) and also start ignoring the big name free agents while loading up on bargain buys.

  23. Breadbaker on February 7th, 2014 11:31 pm

    Obviously, the lack of a salary cap and the existence of nearly all guaranteed contracts makes it impossible for Zduriencik to do what Schneider has done. Unless you have the Marlins or Astros payroll, you can’t turn over a baseball roster five times without going bankrupt.

    But what successful teams are good at is knowing their kind of player, developing that kind of player and cutting their losses or even trading them in for value before they decline. The M’s have shown no talent in any of those areas. It is ridiculous to equate Figgins and Cano, but both deals were odd in that they involved acquiring players who had roles that were similar to other players on the roster (Ichiro for Figgins as a leadoff man without much power; Cano with Franklin) acquired at a time when there were glaring needs in other areas. Moving Ackley to center field after a few weeks in Tacoma and switching Figgins and Lopez also show no plan or an organizational practice.

    What got us all excited, the trade that netted Carp, Vargas and Gutierrez for an overvalued J.J. Putz and change, plus the trade for Cliff Lee, have never been replicated.

  24. LongDistance on February 8th, 2014 12:01 am

    I’m not sure that what we might say here, or what the press might say, has much, if any, affect on the Mariner front office, Howard, et al, or Jack Z.

    If Jack feels any pressure, causing him to spin in the wind like a weather vane, it’s from those empty seats at Safeco. Howard and our absentee owners may not know baseball, but they know that losing, losing, losing makes for bad business, and Jack knows that losing, losing, losing makes for the ejection seat. The brand is sullied.

    All we CAN do, going into this year, is see how the A-bomb and the tweaks play out. Will this be a .500 club? Well, it maybe isn’t the same thing that (lucky) contending-Seahawks fans get to experience, but die-hard Mariners fans will take it.

    I agree that its pointless for anyone looking at the Seahawks to suggest the Mariners could learn from their approach. I also agree with the obvious statement that the Mariners can not be tweaked into becoming a contender.

    Me, I have no real feeling about what’s going to happen from Opening Day onward. My gut feeling–or should I say gut hope?–is they’ve cobbled together a team that finds a few less ways to lose defensively, a lineup that develops some inner production consistency somewhere, and a few less blown saves.

    I have to admit something. I lost interest in NFL football years ago (yeah, I know, WHY am I still a Mariners fan…?) and so my happiness for the Seahawks is just a general thing for the town and for their fans. I suppose I could feel green with envy, and maybe I should, but I don’t. Because the Elephant In The Neighborhood is such a completely different species.

  25. colinokeefe on February 8th, 2014 12:15 am

    Really, once you get into the weeds of direct comparisons—like defense, or even just drafting—you’re looking at vastly different environments.

    The Cardinals, I agree, are a fair comp; but really, their success and draft-and-develop success feels more sustained. Maybe I’m wrong, but they’ve just been at the top longer. We could see the same with the Seahawks going forward but the NFL is so much quicker to bring the elite teams back into the pack—not just with scheduling, but opposing teams just devouring your coaching staff and front office. Then, skill players (RBs and WRs) have considerably shorter shelf lives. Then, of course, injuries.

    Anyway, the only lessons I meant to extract from Seahawks in the cited piece is that people shouldn’t feel so despairful all the time. You’re not doomed, and things didn’t always look so amazing with the Hawks.

  26. Woodcutta on February 8th, 2014 1:50 am

    What the M’s FO needs to do is construct a plan for the entire organization and stick with it. That is what the Cardinals have done. They don’t just draft players that fit what they want from that position, they also develop those players with that positional mold in mind.

    For example, they make all of their pitchers learn a certain pitch (I think it is a slider but not sure) so when those pitchers are ready to be called up they don’t need to be sent back down to learn another pitch.

    An MLB organization can’t lay out a general philosophy and expect all of the minutia to fall perfectly in place. Just look at Brandon Maurer. He had a good Spring Training (better than expected) but it was obvious then that he needed to learn another pitch to get LH hitters out. Why wasn’t he already working on a changeup or curveball? Why didn’t the organization feel it was necessary to teach this young pitcher one of these pitchers when they drafted him?

    Now, maybe they tried and he just didn’t improve to the point he needed to but if that is case then they should have cut ties with him when that was apparent or not started him at the MLB level. Until the M’s FO decides to have a detailed philosophy on how to make the team better, there will be no post-season for the M’s.

  27. pik on February 8th, 2014 7:34 am

    For me, the big lesson for the Mariners in looking at the Seahawks comes down to one word: accountability.

    There seems to be very little accountability in the Mariners organization, from top to bottom. And when there is, it is misguided.

    Jack Z has completely failed to oversee properly developed young talent, and that was supposed to be the one thing we knew he could do. And yet he is still here. Where is the accountability?

  28. bronmaderine on February 8th, 2014 7:39 am

    I think the only real lesson from the Seahawks win is that fans should never give up. There are season ticket holders of the Hawks who have held their seats for years and years. I hope the Seahawks send a special gift to those long standing fans. That win must have been especially sweet.

    The main difference I see from the Hawks and the Ms is that it looks like Carroll and Schneider are football guys who have a free hand to run the team as they see fit. Paul Allen went so far as to say he was actually more involved in the Blazers. In contrast, the Ms team decisions have been heavily influenced by the now departed Armstrong. With Armstrong gone, maybe we will have better luck if JackZ and McClendon are left to run it as they see fit. If nothing else, letting the baseball guys succeed or fail without interference will make Lincoln’s job of evaluating them easier.

  29. ooter on February 8th, 2014 7:46 am

    The Seahawks success actually came from a fairly simple strategy. They didn’t simply get lucky with Sherman, Wilson, etc. They looked for market inefficiencies. Hard hitting big DBs were undervalued because they weren’t effective in the system’s of most NFL teams. Basically every team needed small DBs who were really fast and could keep up with WRs (backpeddle and turn style of play). As a result, the most talented ‘big’ DBs in the world would fall into the middle and later rounds of the drafts. The Seahawks invented (reinvented) a system of press coverage that required specifically those types of players, which allowed them to draft their perfect player late in the draft.

    Russell Wilson was a similar case. He isn’t an amazing unexpected success, he’s just another player with weaknesses that made him a bad fit for other systems, but with strengths that made him a perfect fit for the Seahawks unique system. His height makes him a bad pocket passer, which is what most teams rely on. His speed, elusiveness, ability to throw while moving, creativity, and ability to watch the field develop while being chased make him an amazingly good scrambler. The Seahawks built an offense that utilizes that exact player. Their offensive line is full of players who are good in run support and bad at protecting the QB and their TEs/WRs are better blockers than receivers, which makes pocket passing a nightmare and scrambling a great strategy. Russell Wilson wasn’t a lucky pick in the third round. The sum of his talent is roughly equal to the players selected around him. Interestingly, hated rival 49ers utilize a very similar offensive strategy, which I suppose isn’t surprising since the architect of that team (and the person who should receive credit for building their current team, rather than Harbaugh), Scot McCloughan, was instrumental in developing the Seahawks current team.

    Anyway, how does all this translate to baseball success? It doesn’t. Football is a game where compatibility of teammates is hugely important. By that, I mean developing a specific offensive system or defensive backfield with players that fit it just right. Baseball is effectively the opposite of that. Teammates have very little effect on each other. Perhaps a team could focus on starting pitchers who are undervalued because they can’t pitch deep into games and relief pitchers who are undervalued because their strength is their ability to soak up innings. There’s some degree of synergy in that I suppose, but not much and it’s probably not a great strategy. In the end, I guess the only thing to say is that the Seahawks are very good at football team development skills and the Mariners are very bad at baseball team development skills.

  30. Don Money on February 8th, 2014 12:38 pm

    One comparison that could be made is each team’s home field advantage and how it leads to individual confidence. The Hawks defense has a huge advantage (probably a full step) due to the noise amplified by the design of the Clink. Obviously, (like in NJ), they can still be dominant away but there is no debating the edge they have at home and that success leads to confidence in one’s ability. Safeco, while I love it as a fan, seems to have the opposite effect on young, offensive players. Not sure how this should be handled but I believe it is real.

  31. killeverything on February 8th, 2014 2:05 pm

    Don Money brings up a good point about homefield advantage and how rough it was to play there for opposing teams. If the M’s can get a run going with some confidence I could see it translating to Safeco. Unfortunately I see no way to actually acquire the data necessary to prove that theory.

    I see the M’s recent struggles under potential genius GM Jack Z to be related to player development and coaching. I’m breaking no new ground here, but as the Seahawks just proven defense wins. Adding Rodney to an already horrible bullpen certainly is a step in the right direction. I just wish they would lose the erection for the longball and add a sound OF defense. We have a rotation based on flyball pitchers ( the new market inefficiency exploited by Oakland? ) and guys that actually can catch would be incredible to see.

    With a decent manager ( no veteran grit love and understand that platoon ain’t just an Oliver Stone movie ) and an above average defense the M’s “bad luck” could reverse. They should be better than they’ve been. For the young roster’s ( except Smoak, he sucks ) failure to perform I believe almost solely should he placed on the coaching or lack thereof.

    It all seems so simple it’s infuriating.

  32. Beav on February 8th, 2014 4:25 pm

    I think the Pats winning the Super Bowl, their first of 3, in 2001 and the success of the Red Sox fits the mold here. The Red Sox were a .500 team in 2001 and in 2002 went to 93 wins. Their TV numbers were up, the Red Sox acknowledged the Pats winning and fans of the Sox were in a 80 year drought. The Sox fans were much like the M’s fans of today.

    Does an NFL Championship make a baseball team better? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt and helps the TV numbers. Many bandwagon fans that jumped on the 12th float will watch and many are new overall sports fans from witnessing and feeling the adrenal madness we all saw this year. Baseball champs do not necessarily help football teams due to the cap, but the M’s could rake in a lot of dough if they can play meaningful ball past the break.

  33. killeverything on February 8th, 2014 4:52 pm

    Interesting analogy about the Pats/Sox I haven’t thought of before Beav. The Sox have almost always had a strong fanbase a couple dismal years with Mo Vaughn’s decline, Carl Everrett’s insanity and Roger Clemens’ age pre-PEDs excluded.

    Henry, Werner and Luchhino certainly will spend more on the team ( 2011 being evidence that usually doesn’t always work ), but did adopt more sabermetric modes of thinking ( hiring Bill James for example ).

    Bavasi destroyed Seattle’s farm and Epstein came into and won with a team Duquette built ( drafted: Lester, Buchholz, Pedroia. A team already populated with Pedro Martinez and MannyfuckingRamirez ). Epstein stated his #1 priority becoming GM was to build a 100m player development system.

    Like GMZ he realized the key to a team’s continued future success is a good farm ( think St. Louis, Texas ), that and good coaching and I think the M’s are right there.

    Meaning they’re at a crossroads right now. A coaching staff that doesn’t suck, a good BP and OF defense and I think they’re right on the brink of being a threat.

    Maybe just maybe the elation Hawks fans are feeling will pour over into Safeco. Maybe. I’m more optimistic about this team than I’ve been in a while so excuse the rose colored glasses.

    I’m a broken record with this repeating mantra, but I feel the solution isn’t as complicated as it seems to be for GMZ. Maybe…just maybe they turn the corner. There’s no more Wedge…that’s a start.

  34. silk on February 8th, 2014 4:55 pm

    I believe Malcolm Smith was drafted in the 7th round.

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