Dear Jack Zduriencik,
I have been a Seattle Mariners fan most of my life. That means I have loyally rooted for losing teams. With every year that has gone by I’ve come to understand how fans of the Chicago Cubs fans feel and come to expect the pain of always anxiously waiting for “next year.”
Mr. Zduriencik, I don’t place all the blame on you. I understand that ownership has given you a budget significantly less than your predecessor Bill Bavasi worked with. I understand it took some time to undo the mess he left you with. I appreciate that you are not like a politician that blames your predecessor.
But the time has come Mr. Zduriencik. This is your team now and it has had your stamp on it for quite some time now. I know, you don’t play the games. You chose the players who do though. Chone Figgins is your guy. Miguel Olivo is your guy. Justin Smoak looked like another flop, but Seattle fans have largely decided he “might” deserve one more chance after showing some flashes of the player he was expected to be when he came over in the Cliff Lee deal.
There’s still a lot of question marks going forward. The answers may not be known for another two or three years. Maybe the fans will stick around that long to see if the prospects and young major league players have what it takes to play at the big league level. But what if they don’t? Attendance dropped at Safeco Field again this year.
You weren’t here in the Kingdome days. So let me tell you a little about them. The team lost on average 88 to 100 games most years. Hmmm. Sounds familiar. The crowds were so tiny, 8000-ish. A crowd of 15,000 was a good sized crowd. That sounds like Safeco Field–when King Felix wasn’t holding court–in 2012.
So to prevent the current incarnation of the Mariners from becoming retreads of the first 18 years of the franchise some things need to happen. Let me be the first to say I hope they do, because I am not calling for you to be fired. You’re a good baseball mind Jack.
First, the obvious. Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders, and Kyle Seager need to prove in 2013 that they are major league caliber players and not replacement level AAAA players. If any of them are unable to do so next year that sets the rebuilding process back. How far depends on how many of the above mentioned players are viable major leaguers.
Second. You need to develop an insurance plan for these young players and create some competition for ’13 and beyond. Signing some veterans to help out in the clubhouse and set an example for the green players is a step in the right direction. Some cheap options maybe Orlando Hudson on a one-year incentive laden deal. Take a look at some of the non-tender candidates, such as Luke Hochevar, who would benefit from Safeco Field’s dimensions, even with the coming changes to the fences next year. Rumor has it that the Atlanta Braves may not tender Jair Jurjens a contract. These three guys are low risk, high reward type players that can be had on the cheap.
Third. Much of the future success is predicated on the promise of the Big Three. A word of advice. Don’t rush them like the Cubs did with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. 2013 isn’t likely to be a year the team contends, so go out and get some stop gap, back of the rotation starters like Hochevar or Jurjens. Avoid overpaying for mediocre pitchers coming off career years, like Cardinals righty Kyle Lohse; (see Carlos Silva for example).
You see Jack, unfortunately, while Seattle is a sports town, we only get behind our teams and go to the ballpark when our teams are doing well. While you played no part in it, that was the rationale behind Safeco Field that ownership gave. If it was built, ownership said, it would allow the team to spend the money to put together a winner that the city deserves. Look at 1995-2001. Fans came. To the Kingdome even. They chose to spend what few nice days per year we have in this city inside, when the game should have been outside.
I’m still a Mariners fan Jack. Through and through. While it’s tough to watch, I still follow them religiously, even when they lost 101 games a few years ago. I didn’t tune in as much on TV or the radio, but I followed them in box scores. Box scores doesn’t create revenue though. If the diehards are tuning out, how does ownership expect the casual fan to get excited about the team?
This could be a baseball town Jack. It really could. But first it must contend. Or else this city will remain firmly in the grips of the Seahawks and Sounders.
In closing, I hope ownership wakes up and opens their wallets a bit. I sincerely hope that you follow some the advice I’ve given and a few years from now we can be celebrating our first trip to the World Series, instead of sitting at home and watching like we did tonight.
Best of luck Jack,
A loyal Mariners fan,