Mariner LogoNote: A new baseball season is starting and it is time for my annual appeal to our Seattle Mariners to end the team’s postseason drought and take us all to a World Series. After all, if you never dream, you can’t have a dream come true…please read on. MA

 Hello Seattle Mariners Fans!

Well, here we are once again: the 2017 Major League Baseball season is upon us. Forty years ago, in 1977, our Seattle Mariners played their first game ever at the now blown away Kingdome. Born out of a lawsuit stemming from the rip off of the old Seattle Pilots following their one season in Seattle,[1] 1969, the Mariners had 15 seasons of futility before recording their first winning season in 1991. With the arrival of Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, and especially Lou Piniella our team’s fortunes began to turn and for a few seasons we could look forward to summers of thrilling play and tight pennant races; and even the prospect of a World Series right here in Seattle. Those seasons in the mid’90s at the old Kingdome are what saved baseball in this town and ultimately brought us the magnificent Safeco Field we enjoy today. An ironic footnote to that time is that Lou Piniella actually started his playing career when he was with the Pilots briefly at the start of that ’69 season. The Pilots traded him to Kansas City where Lou went on to become the American League Rookie of the Year for 1969.

Sound familiar? You can add Lou’s name to the long list of bad Seattle trades; a tradition that you more recent Seattle baseball fans can now see was just continued by the Mariners, not started by them.

Lou Piniella

Lou Piniella wanted to win

Speaking of Lou Piniella, I really miss that guy. You want to know why? It’s simple: Lou wanted to win—and I don’t just mean win games or a pennant—Lou wanted it all. He wanted to get to the World Series and he wanted to win it; and he wore his passion on his sleeve, as many umpires found out while being forced to dodge spittle and infield dirt during his legendary protests at their errant calls. There was never any doubt with Lou; you knew where he stood. To date the only Mariners teams to make it to the playoffs were teams managed by Piniella. He took our team to the American League Championship Series in 1995, 2000 and 2001 and the playoffs in 1997. He goaded that 2001 team to an astounding and record breaking 116 win season and the ALCS despite losing all three Mariners superstars (Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez) between 1998 and 2000! (It took a national catastrophe, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to derail what I feel would have been the M’s first World Series appearance in that 2001 season.) No other Mariners manager has ever even gotten us to the playoffs!

Lou left the Mariners following the 2002 season and since then the team, for the most part, has once again descended to sub mediocre status. Oh, there have been a few winning seasons across the last fifteen, including last year’s 86-76 team; but even that group failed to make the playoffs. The Seattle Mariners now have the dubious distinction of being the team with the longest post season drought in the Major Leagues. Attendance, even at the beautiful new ball park and despite an uptick over the last three seasons, is still more than one million less than what it was during the glory days of the late ‘90s through 2002. For the most part, we fans have endured more than a decade of bad front office and bad team performance on the field, last year’s team notwithstanding. It is long past time for things to change, and it starts by realizing why this team is here and why the game is played. Just what should the goal and purpose of the Seattle Mariners be?

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto

For Lou Piniella that was an easy one. It is for me too: I want to see a World Series in Seattle and I want us to win it. I love good baseball. I will turn off my TV in disgust at bad baseball. I want winning baseball, a great team and a World Series; nothing less will suffice for me. With the Jack Zduriencik GM era now in the rear view mirror, and the Jerry Dipoto GM era entering its second season, it seems to me that the M’s are in a “now or never” situation as regards this current bunch of players. “Trader Jerry”[2] inherited a team ill suited to playing in the expansive Safeco Field in terms of athleticism, and through a plethora of trades seems to have addressed the issue, and also overall team speed. He also brought in a new manager, Scott Servais,[3] who had no Big League managerial experience but who quickly gained some while guiding the Ms to a winning season in his first year at the helm. Dipoto also made other moves to shore up the team’s infield,[4] pitching and bullpen, all of which seem to be good things.

But the core of this team, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz, are aging and may only have a few peak performance years left. They don’t have the time to wait for a bunch of youngsters to develop. So, if we are going to make a run with this group of players the time to do it is now. During the spring the talk is all optimistic and hopeful, but during the heat of the summer and the dog days of a season that talk is very cheap indeed. That is when a team needs to “bring it” every day and show it, on the field and “between the lines.” If this current M’s team is to separate themselves in a good way from the last fifteen seasons of futility, that is what they will have to do.  

Mariners Scott Servais

Mariners Manager Scott Servais

OK, you Seattle Mariners and the rest of you fans now know where I stand at the start of this new season. I see no reason why this team cannot go out this summer and make a serious run at it—I really don’t. They have the talent and the right mix of youth and veteran leadership. Guys like Cruz and Cano have been through the wars and been to multiple World Series. As a team, if they can just rally around the goal above and play their hearts out, they may just take us all on a ride this summer we will never forget.

To the above, and to the Mariners, I can only add one last thing:

Now go get me that World Series!

 

Copyright © 2017

By Mark Arnold

All Rights Reserved

[1] The Seattle Mariners Major League baseball team was created as a result of a lawsuit brought against the American League for breach of contract in allowing Bud Selig (later to become the Commissioner of Major League baseball) to purchase the Seattle Pilots following the 1969 season, and then move the team to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. The Pilots played just that one season in Seattle after being created as an American League expansion team. The suit was filed in 1970 by then state Attorney General Slade Gorton, and ultimately resulted in the American League promising Seattle an expansion team in exchange for dropping the suit. With the completion of construction of the Kingdome in 1976, which provided an acceptable venue for the team to play in, Seattle was awarded the franchise that became the Seattle Mariners.

[2] Since assuming post as Seattle Mariners General Manager following the 2015 season, Jerry Dipoto has been among the most active GMs in baseball, completing 33 trades involving more than 80 players—hence the moniker “Trader Jerry.”

[3] Scott Servais (49 years old) was hired by Jerry Dipoto to manage the Seattle Mariners following the 2015 season after Dipoto had assumed the Seattle GM post. As noted in the article, the 2016 season was Servais’s first as a Major League field manager. His playing career spanned eleven seasons as a catcher for several National League teams, during which he compiled a career .245 batting average and hit 63 home runs. His playing days ended following the 2001 season and since then he served as director of player development for the Texas Rangers, and assistant GM for the Los Angeles Angels. In this last capacity Servais worked closely with Dipoto when he was GM for the Angels, which led to his hiring by Dipoto when he came to the Mariners.

[4] One of these moves to shore up the infield took place a few months ago when Dipoto traded one of Seattle’s talented young pitchers, Taijuan Walker, along with young shortstop Ketel Marte to get veteran shortstop Jean Segura from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Segura, who hit .319 last season with a league leading 203 hits, an OBP of .368, 20 HRs and 33 stolen bases,  promises to be a major upgrade at short for the M’s

 

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