Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Successful ballclubs and Chuck Armstrong

The first articles on this blog were about baseball, and Weisenheimer is a big fan, but our readers (if any) may have noticed that we rarely mention the Seattle Mariners.

I don't much like the M's right now. This is something of a reversal. My sweetie, the scorer, and I actually let the Mariners choose our wedding date, back in the day when they were no longer horrid, but not yet all that good, either. (My sweetie arrived in town shortly after Griffey, and things got a lot better in Seattle. I still adore my sweetie. Griffey: not so much, though I dislike him less than the other two major traitors.) We wanted to see the "new" ballpark in Baltimore, so chose a wedding date the weekend before the M's were to play the O's at Camden Yards (not the "new" Memorial Stadium as I'm sure some of you wags were thinking.) We'd get 20-game ticket packages in the 200 level of the Kingdome, spend most home Saturdays at the ballpark and watch most of the rest of the games on television.

Times have changed. Weisenheimer went to one game this year -- free tickets in April. Last year, no games. My sweetie hasn't seen the local nine play since at least '06. A couple of years ago we had our cable TV disconnected; all we really wanted to watch was the Mariners, but watching the product of abject stupidity became too much. We still, usually, have the games on the radio, but only pay attention when there's some hollering. Usually that just means Rick Rizzs is faking a call of a play that happened 45 seconds ago while they were still in a commercial break.

We still pay attention to the Mariners, but we're no longer paying customers.

One of the ways I do follow the M's is through the blog U.S.S. Mariner. As is probably appropriate for an entity covering this team, USSM is a simmering pit of negativity. As with a multi-vehicle collision on the freeway, one can hardly not look! The other day the guys had an excellent point/counterpoint debate. One contended that M's fans are doomed for eternity, or at least as long as Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are running the club. The other contended that success under the pair is not impossible, as the club has some positives and Lincoln and Armstrong have had winners before.

Should Armstrong go?
Armstrong showed up in Seattle with George Argyros in 1983, just after the Mariners had finished a 60-102 season, losing 100+ games for the third time in six years. There weren't a whole lot of expectations on those early clubs. By contrast, delusional managment and much of the fandom looked at last year's fluke finish, and the additions of "proven winners" Eric Bedard and Carlos Silva, as sure signs the club would be a serious pennant contender this season. (USSM and Weisenheimer did not share this view.)

Now we know that the 2008 season has been a pratfall of epic proportions. A club with a payroll in excess of $100 million has lost more than 100 games and will finish about 40 games behind the division champion Angels, and 16 or 17 back of third-place Oakland.

In 32 seasons the Mariners have had just three first-place finishes and one wild-card for four playoff appearances. They've finished dead last in a four-team division four of the past five years. They can no longer scream poverty; the club and the ballpark are money machines, the payroll is more than adequate for creation of a good team. They just don't seem to have a clue. Trade a good lefty reliever and four minor league prospects, including a promising outfielder we sorely need, for Eric Bedard? Jason Varitek AND Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb?

Take a walk, Chuck
Weisenheimer believes the Mariners certainly could morph into a winning club under the current management, just as flying simians could emerge from digestive systems all over town. The club, on the other hand, remains a respectable draw despite averaging 90 losses over the last five seasons. Can that keep up under the pressure of continued losing and a likely housecleaning this off-season? The club's Web site now urges visitors to "place a deposit for 2009 season tickets at Safeco Field." Weisenheimer will remain a non-paying customer, and my guess is attendance will sink like the M's broadcast contract and WaMu stock.

Armstrong and Lincoln should join Bill Bavasi and John McLaren on the unemployment line. The club is a mess, unless all you care about is the bottom line.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I'm on board with Howard Lincoln, but I want Chuck to stay. He keeps part of the soul of the team intact even in the face of all those losses. Howard is the heavy. Hey, I have 2 tickets to tomorrow's game (last one of the season). Does scorer-sweetie want to go with you? Free, again. And you can bid farewell to deese bums.