Is the Organization Cursed, or just Bad?


Well, this season hasn’t started the way we had hoped. If you have followed the team at all, you have most likely been frustrated at one point or another. And if you have read anything in the M’s blogosphere, from the blogs themselves, to the comments, to twitter; you know that most Mariner fans are frustrated as well.

Case in point: When the first thing my mom, who was an avid Miguel Olivo fan, says to me after the game is “The Mariner’s suck!” then they most likely do. And it just seems like nothing goes right for this team.

They acquire three former Top-10 prospects, all of whom were to be an integral part of the team’s future. And, as if on command, they all proceed to bust. Now, while they — they being Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero — all still all have time, especially the 23 year old Montero, it is definitely not looking good for their future. As Jeff Sullivan tweeted:

That’s pretty damn awful. Granted, Carlos Santana has a 1.183 OPS, but really. Two players’ OPS plus their average is less than one player’s OPS? Yuck.

Individually, Ackley, Smoak and Montero have wOBA’s of .208, .256 and .244 respectively. And yes, it is only 20 games in so it may be a little early to assume things. But, other than their former status as highly regarded prospects, there is not much working in their favor, nor is there anything to cling onto as a symbol of hope.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have seen can’t miss (or at least highly regarded) prospects  miss for the M’s, and either suck forever, or find success elsewhere. And it is really, really annoying and aggravating. The list includes Jeff Clement (still bad), Matt Tuiasaopo (still bad), Adam Jones (Baltimore All-Star) and Brandon Morrow (Blue Jays), and the list could continue.

A common thought among Mariner fans is that what happens to “us” doesn’t happen to other teams. Like we are, for lack of a better word, “cursed.” That for some reason, the Mariners will not, no, can not, ever succeed. While I think that is a massive exaggeration, and not true (see 2001), it does often feel that way. I mean, do he Yankees’ ever suffer through bust after bust after bust?

Well, I heard things like that so often, sometimes from myself, so I decided to do a little research on the topic. The topic being the general success rate of each team’s top prospects. This is going to be somewhat arbitrary, but I will basically just look at each team’s  Top 10 prospects from 2007-2011 as listed by Baseball America, and how many of those players are still everyday contributors, whether they are with the team still or not. Again, keep in mind that this is not an extensive study, and won’t be perfect. It isn’t going to factor in how good they have been, or if they have reached what was supposed to be their potential. But perfection isn’t my goal, and I don’t feel any more detail is necessary for the point I am making. And it should do the trick and give us a simple, but worthwhile answer.

I am not going to put the table in the post itself because it just takes up a lot of unnecessary room, and all it shows in the number of “successful” prospects, and the success rate of the team. So I guess you will just have to trust my ability to find the average of a data set.

The average “success rate” that I found in my investigation — again, somewhat arbitrary, imperfect and fairly quick because more depth would have taken way too long without being that much more helpful or accurate — was about 15%. So from 2007 to 2011, on average, a team produced 7.5 “successful” prospects out of their collective Top-10s for the five year period. How does that compare to the Mariners? Well, they produced 6, for a 12% success rate. Only four teams — the Royals, Indians, Marlins and Orioles — had a lower success rate, and five other teams shared their 12% mark.

So while that doesn’t look all that bad, it is below average. Add to that the fact that arguably their two most successful during that time, Jones and Morrow, now play for different teams with little of anything to show for it in return, and it feels even worse. I am sure that fits what most people would assume about the organization. They don’t produce all that many good players, and the ones they do end up on another team. That notion has been repeatedly said, written, and  probably yelled, by numerous Mariner fans over the years.

But it also seems that most people accompany that sentiment with a “Why me?” feeling, as if the M’s are the only team that has to deal with that problem. That “we” are the absolute worst organization for producing talent. However, this quick study tells us that this isn’t necessarily true. They are near the bottom, but there are also a handful of teams that are just as bad, or worse than the M’s. Mariner fans rejoice! They aren’t the worst talent developers in the league like we thought!

Now, there may be more to this. These other organizations may be seeing their 8th, 9th, 10th prospects fail, while the M’s are suffering through the same, but with their #1, 2 and 3 types — some even Top 10 in the league — fail in succession over and over again. Year after year. I did not dig that deep. I don’t have the scouting prowess to try to grade out the relative success of each player. Not all Top 10s are the same. One team’s number 10 may have been projected as a career bench guy, while another was supposed to be an every day, solid contributor. If anyone wants to take the time to do that kind of in-depth investigation, be my guest. It would be a very interesting study. I simply don’t have the resources, time, or want to do so myself.

Now to the question posed in the title. Is the Seattle Mariner’s organization cursed like some have alluded to, or are they just not great at producing talented ball players? Unfortunately, that isn’t something we can definitively answer. We know that it is one or the other, but it is impossible to know which.

One aspect that makes this whole thing suck even more is that multiple front offices have had the same problem. Everyone knows Bill Bavasi was just straight awful. So at first, everyone seemed to love Jack Zduriencik. Hell, I even memorized how to spell his last name because at one time, I wished to be like him one day. But now, most people are expressing doubt for Jack, myself included. And some are even calling for his head as soon as the day after the draft (Jack has always seemed to have an eye for talent, and has had what looked at the time to be multiple good/great drafts).

It is entirely possible that Jack was not cut out for this. Maybe he belongs in another front office spot not abbreviated GM. Maybe he needs to be replaced, and the new group that follows will be able to figure this whole fiasco out. But there is also that lingering feeling that no one can do it. That Jack really is a solid General Manager, but this organization is just cursed, and is doomed forever.

Thing is, I am not a particularly superstitious person, so the curse idea is a no-go for me. But others may think differently, and that is invited for sure. Anything to explain why this organization cannot seem to put a solid team on the field lately. When things go so much worse than expected, it is easy to look for explanations, including those that seem improbable or even impossible.

I think we need to just ride this out for the rest of the year, and if it stays not-good, then maybe a change is necessary. But I would hold on to some hope, if not for this year then for the future. I don’t believe there is any supernatural force holding this back. It is just a matter of assembling the right group of guys who can turn this car around, like every TV dad ever has threatened to do (sorry, that was my attempt at blog-humor to lighten the mood). I know it is tough. But just have a little patience, faith, and maybe a drink or two for you older folks out there.

So what do you guys think of this whole debacle? Are the M’s cursed, or is just a matter of getting the right personnel? Also, if you do deem it a curse, think of a name for said curse. There was the Curse of the Bambino, and the Curse of the Billy-goat. Now what’s ours?