2010 was supposed to be a great year for the Seattle Mariners. We came into the offseason with high hopes, and we came into April with high expectations. Jack Zduriencik had built this team to contend, and everyone thought it was going to. Fast forward to June 21st – we’re 13 games out of first place, and a Cliff Lee trade seems inevitable. A season that was once so promising is now, for all intensive purposes, over, and as fans we’re left to sit here wondering what went wrong.
It’s fairly simple, really. While this team was put together fairly well, it was given an extremely small margin for error. Virtually everything needed to go right – virtually all of the risks needed to pay off. Instead, nearly everything went wrong, and most of the risks came back to bite us. The sheer number of things that have backfired on the Mariners this season is enough to make one believe that it was fate – that this team was meant to lose. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad luck. There were plenty of disasters that could have been avoided. Don Wakamatsu’s poor bullpen management, senseless lineups, and obsession with Spring Training performance certainly didn’t help. Neither did the fact that Ken Griffey Jr. continued to waste a roster spot, and even get regular playing time, despite proving rather early on that he could no longer contribute. And in reality, many of this team’s problems can be traced back to the fact that they came into the season with a shallow bench, and virtually no roster flexibility.
There were plenty of bad breaks too, though. Who could have anticipated guys like Chone Figgins, Casey Kotchman, Milton Bradley, Jose Lopez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith flopping so badly? Then there was the catastrophe that was Eric Byrnes’ tenure in Seattle. The fact is, most of these were moves that we applauded at the time. The Chone Figgins signing was the right move for this team, and in the long run, I still expect it to be successful, while the Milton Bradley trade was viewed as nothing short of a miracle by the vast majority of us. The fact that we were able to get anything for Carlos Silva was baffling, but a potential middle of the order hitter? You’ve gotta be kidding. The Casey Kotchman deal was certainly less exciting, but it too made sense, and I didn’t have any complaints.
The fact is, unless you’re the Yankees, you have to take risks to build a contending team, and that’s exactly what the Mariners did. They took risks – most of them wise ones, and they fell flat on their face. Can you blame them for that? I don’t think so. Point fingers at the questionable on-field management or roster construction all you want, as it’s certainly justified, but in the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. What really killed this team were the risks that didn’t work out.
That’s why I have hope for 2011. I’m a firm believer that if you take the right approach in constructing a baseball team, make calculated risks when appropriate, and give yourself the best chance that you can to contend, things are eventually going to work out. It didn’t happen for this team in 2010, but maybe it will next year. And if it doesn’t happen next year, I’ll be writing another version of this post while anticipating 2012. That’s just what being a fan is sometimes.