You can't argue with results
Words are cheap, actions speak.
There’s still a lot of offseason remaining. But boy oh boy, it’s been a rough one on the psyche of Seattle Mariners fans thus far.
First, there was an end-of-season presser remembered more for several poorly-delivered remarks than the goals management set to improve the roster over the winter. On the heels of just missing the postseason, this public relations debacle further inflamed a fan base, which has seen its team play meaningful October baseball just twice this century.
Compounding matters, the Mariners have systematically unloaded several veterans over the past month or so. Among the recently departed, a few fan favorites. Gone are Teoscar Hernández, Eugenio Suárez, Marco Gonzales, Jarred Kelenic, Tom Murphy, and Mike Ford. So is one-time prospect Evan White. The motivation behind these moves?
From a baseball perspective, parting ways with Hernández, Suárez, Kelenic, Murphy, and Ford provides the Mariners with an opportunity to solve its contact riddle. A point of emphasis during that ill-fated October press conference. All told, this group of five accounted for 42-percent of Seattle’s strikeouts in 2023. Moving on made sense.
But there’s another chapter to this story.
A financial component also played a role in parting ways with some of these players. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times recently reported Comcast Xfinity moving the Mariners’ regional sports network (RSN) to the cable provider’s highest tier in October changed the franchise’s financial outlook in the eyes of ownership.
A second-order effect of Comcast’s action was the Mariners reportedly scaling back on the size of their 2024 payroll. As a result, the baseball operations side of the organization felt compelled to jettison salaries in order to improve the roster this offseason. Hence, the offload of the Suárez, Gonzales, and White contracts. Same with not tendering Hernández the one-year/$20.3 million qualifying offer for next year.
Naturally, fans didn’t react well to what appears to be nothing more than a cash dump. Who can blame them? The Mariners organization essentially delivered a gut punch to a fan base that had bought into its rebuild and felt somewhat rewarded for its patience thanks to a postseason run in 2022.
Still, as angry and frustrated as others may be at the moment, I’m okay with taking a wait-and-see approach with the Mariners’ offseason. This mindset isn’t fueled by some misguided loyalty to the team or anyone associated with it - far from it. Instead, my patience is more attributable to a military leadership background.
Overreacting to a situation without all the available information isn’t an effective way for any decision-maker to run an organization - especially, a military unit. I rely on the same philosophy as a fan, which is why I don’t react impulsively to unwelcome news about my teams.
To be clear, I’m not trying to sway others to agree with me. I realize my message won’t sit well with a segment of fans. This rapidly growing legion of disgruntled Mariners supporters should react however they see fit.
Who can blame people for feeling let down by their favorite baseball team? Or for becoming weary of moves that appear to be nothing more than repositioning the deck chairs rather than wholesale upgrades to the furniture?
Vent on social media. Make plans to boycott games next year. Don’t renew season ticket accounts or subscribe to ROOT Sports. Tell more lame 54-percent jokes. Become a fan of another team. Stop watching baseball altogether. Do what you must to feel better, as long as it’s legal.
Having said all of that, consider this. The hot stove has been relatively tepid as a segment of buyers and sellers wait to learn where superstar Shohei Ohtani will play next year.
Once Ohtani makes his big decision, the pace of trades and free agent signings should pick up. This is when the Mariners will have an opportunity to demonstrate the organization is prepared to take the next step in its evolution towards becoming a sustainable winner.
That said, all the positivity and self-restraint I’ve preached won’t matter when the Mariners converge in Peoria next year. What will matter most will be the results produced by the organization. At the moment, the front office has a lot of ground to cover before Opening Day.
The departure of Hernández, Suárez, Kelenic, Murphy, and Ford means the Mariners removed a ton of strikeouts. This is a positive development for a club wanting to put the ball in play more often next season. But the absence of these hitters also creates a void needing to be filled. Collectively, they produced 36-percent of Seattle’s doubles, 40-percent of its home runs, and a .431 SLG.
That’s a lot of power to replace.
Perhaps management is willing to sacrifice some pop, if doing so leads to more men on base and ultimately more scoring opportunities. Still, some slug must be re-added to the mix to make next year’s offense go.
And let’s face it. Seattle’s run production effort was inconsistent throughout the 2023 season. The lineup essentially didn’t have enough good hitters. Removing Hernández, Suárez, Kelenic, Murphy, and Ford from the picture didn’t help the situation. Not yet, at least.
And as elite as the pitching staff was this year, increasing rotational depth should be on the Mariners radar, too. Same with reenforcing the bullpen. After all, both units faltered down the home stretch.
Yep, over the next two months or so, the Mariners will have a shot at restoring some goodwill with the fan base. But realistically, it’ll likely take on-field success to re-earn significant cache. As for long-term harmony, that’s going to require postseason success.
One more thing.
This take won’t be unpopular with some of you. But I want to reiterate my confidence in the strategy employed by Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, GM Justin Hollander, and their staff. I’m not going to dismiss everything they’ve done to revitalize interest in baseball in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest because of decisions they had no control over.
In the end, if the Mariners make moves commensurate with an organization serious about contending for the postseason in 2024, all is well with me. Otherwise, the team deserves the heat it’ll likely receive from fans and the media well into next season.
After all, you can’t argue with results.
My Oh My…
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