Beyond Howard and Chuck

It's easy to find folks ripping apart the M's right now. The M's make it too easy, with all the losses and a manager like Eric Wedge quitting before he can be fired. Mind you, Wedge insisted on finishing his tenure in Cleveland after he was fired, and was given the chance to do that. Eric Wedge isn't a quitter, to say the least, but something happened in Seattle that made him do that.

Personally, I had grown tired of the way Wedge used his bullpen. I also wonder if his constant mantras about working and grinding inhibited the production of guys like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero. I don't see much room to grind out hits if you are a good hitter spraying the ball around the ballpark. Then you're just getting good hits. Maybe the players internalize grinding differently than I do though.

So I am stuck in an awkward place as a fan. Maybe you are too. One one hand, woohoo! New manager on the way! Lots of money to spend in the offseason! Young players doing interesting things! On the other hand...the manager just quit...the young players have lots of room for growth...what manager will take a job from a GM in the final year of his deal...what player would want to come to Seattle right now?

Pessimism reigns supreme, thanks to another losing season that extends the M's current run on irrelevance. It's natural to point fingers at suspected culprits, and when the players, coaches, and front office executives completely cycle through without the on-field product changing all that much, it's pretty obvious the fingers will point at the folks not moving around.

Ownership. Or, in the case of the Mariners, the chairmen who represent the ownership, Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.

I don't know if I have much of meaning to say. I don't know how much Lincoln and Armstrong do (or don't) interact with the M's players and leadership. I'm not exactly sure what it means to be a good sports owner, either. Something seems systemically dysfunctional with the Mariners, given how much they've lost over an extended period of time, but pointing at ownership without solid reasons besides screaming, more or less, "I'M TIRED OF LOSING GO AND FIX IT BECAUSE YEAH" isn't very productive. The problem is likely more complicated than ownership, and I'll my case with a couple simple examples.

First of all, Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln have been around a long time. Yes, they have presided over the past decade of largely filth and irrelevance, but they also presided over the 116-win team in 2001, and were part of the leadership group during the late 90s run that produced this franchise's best teams. Granted, that was a while ago, but that was still them. Placing blame on them now for the team's struggles means also handing them praise for the success the team had around the turn of the millenium.

Second, look at the Miami Marlins. Their owner, Jeffrey Loria, is by all accounts terrible. I mean, really, really terrible. He is one of the few owners I can confidently say is bad for his franchise. However, the Marlins also won a world championship with him as owner in 2003.

I don't have any real solid reasons to defend Armstrong and Lincoln. Frankly, the Mariners haven't given them many reasons to be applauded for a while now. However, I am confident that the Mariners struggles extend well beyond ownership. Concentrating blame on Lincoln and Armstrong might warp the actual problem beyond comprehension. Bad owners have good seasons and good owners have bad seasons. I worry the Lincoln-Armstrong hate fest makes it seem like there is a perfect one-to-one relationship between ownership and winning.

I'm not convinced Lincoln and Armstrong are a great brain trust for the Mariners moving forward, but my biggest point is that they are just two parts (albeit two significant parts) in a larger interconnected system. Changing them would change all sorts of things, perhaps for the better, but they can also be changed by the parts connected to them. They've shown this in recent memory; apparently there was money available for Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder that wasn't available for other players.

Clearly, what's happened has been pretty bad. The real question is how all these moving pieces called the Seattle Mariners will interact moving forward. It takes a bit of a perfect storm to be bad for a long time, kind of like it takes a perfect storm to be good for a long time too. Ownership plays a role, not the only role. Food for thought.