While some Seattle Mariners fans are content with the grinding pace of the team’s rebuild, a vocal segment of its fan base is not. They want results now. It’s been nearly two decades since the Mariners appeared in the postseason and they’re tired of it. Enough is enough!
Personally, I support the disciplined approach GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff are employing. That said; I understand and respect both side’s point of view. More so now after reading articles by Brent Stecker, editor of 710Sports.com and Dave “The Groz” Grosby, host emeritus of 710 ESPN Seattle.
Brent preaches staying the course. Don’t rush young players, retain prized prospects, build from within, add premium talent from outside only when ready to contend. Naturally, long-suffering Mariners fans weary from years of mediocrity, who’ve grown accustomed to shifting their attention to the Seahawks in August, disagree. That’s where Groz enters the conversation.
Groz believes the Mariners should act now. He’s not suggesting Dipoto should scrap the team’s ongoing rebuild. Instead, do something – anything – to excite the fan base before it’s too late.
As Groz astutely notes, the Seattle sports market is highly competitive and likely to become more so moving forward. There’s the Seahawks, who’ve seemingly taken up permanent residence in the minds of local fans. Both the Sounders and Storm have earned their niche in the Emerald City thanks to their sustained superior performance. And then there’s the new kids on the block – the Kraken.
In my mind’s eye, Seattle’s NHL entrant is the biggest threat to discretionary income currently spent on the local baseball team. The other franchises have already carved out their slice of the pie. But the Mariners’ lightweight status in MLB combined with diminishing fan interest leaves them vulnerable. Particularly to an incursion by a new and exciting organization determined to succeed immediately.
Sure, there will always be “die-hard” Mariners fans. But we shouldn’t ignore the reality that college-age natives of the Pacific Northwest have zero recollection of the team’s last postseason appearance. They don’t remember “The Double” because they weren’t alive when it happened. Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Jay Buhner were their parents’ favorite players. The best Mariner of their generation – Félix Hernández – is no longer here.
They want something new and they want it now.
That’s why those growing increasingly impatient with the rebuild’s pace are pining for top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh, Julio Rodriguez, Taylor Trammell, and even 19-year-old Noelvi Marte. After witnessing what 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis just did, they want more of that and less of what’s been going on at T-Mobile Park lately – losing.
That brings us back to the Mariners’ current situation. Should Dipoto and crew remain laser-focused on their strategy regardless of fan blowback and the looming competition from Climate Pledge Arena? Would abandoning the rebuild for a win-now approach be better for business? I have a third option likely to resonate with some of you, but not others.
What if the Mariners listened to both Brent and Groz instead?
Continue developing the kids, as Brent suggests. But heed Groz’s warning. Add free agent talent capable of energizing the fan base this year and contributing for several more seasons. I’m not talking about premium free agents like Trevor Bauer or J.T. Realmuto, although that would be fun. Why not target an established name with recent success, not a reclamation project. How about former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka?
I recently suggested Tanaka as a potential candidate to stabilize the Mariners’ young rotation as the club attempts to take the next step. The right-hander represents a veteran presence still capable of delivering results. Essentially, he could serve as a bridge to the organization’s heralded up-and-coming arms – Gilbert, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Juan Then, Sam Carlson, and Brandon Williamson.
Former Mariner Taijuan Walker or Jake Odorizzi could serve a similar purpose, although neither possess the cache Tanaka does. In the end, the specific names may not matter as much as the team simply making a good faith gesture to reward fans for remaining patient.
While my idea would buoy the team near-term, it wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a winning season in 2021. Still, it’d deliver the much needed dose of excitement Groz and so many others want and deserve. Moreover, this approach provides something Mariners fans are desperately craving – hope.
Of course, the impatient among us will demand much more than what I’m proposing. I get that. But consider this stark reality. Even if Dipoto traded for Blake Snell and Francisco Lindor this offseason, the Mariners would still begin 2021 as a fringe contender – that’s it.
The Mariners organization is deep with young, promising talent. Some of it arrived last season and more is on the way. But what the current team lacks more than anything right now is certainty. It’ll take a lot more than Snell and Lindor to change that. Other than Marco Gonzales, how much confidence do you have in the rest of the current roster?
Although Lewis appears on a path to becoming a historically good Mariner, it’s plausible he takes a step back or at least stumbles a bit in 2021. Remember, the Mercer product’s career is a whopping 76 games since debuting in September 2019.
Does Evan White take a big step forward or do we see more of the great glove, inconsistent bat on display in 2020? Like Lewis, White has very little MLB experience – just 54 contests. There’s a reason for both hope and concern with the Kentucky alum. Sure, he may flourish. But what if he doesn’t?
The same applies to others projected to be in the Mariners’ starting lineup. Tom Murphy will be back after missing last year. But what is he, actually? The native New Yorker has 491 career plate appearances. Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford has an 82 OPS+ through 218 games.
Dylan Moore hits the ball really hard and may turn out to be a diamond in the rough. Ty France looks like he can hit anytime anywhere. But can the duo sustain previous short-lived successes over a full 162-game season? Perhaps, but it’s worth noting Crawford has more career plate appearances than Moore and France do combined.
Justus Sheffield is another good news story from last year. Can he elevate to the next level in 2021? The 24-year-old seems primed to do so, but he too lacks a long record of success in the majors. And what about Yusei Kikuchi? It’s make-or-break time for the southpaw.
Where does Kyle Seager stand entering the final year of his contract and possibly his Mariners career? Will he be a strong presence in the middle of the team’s lineup? Or does he end up leaving Seattle simply remembered as the last remnant of previous failed regime?
Just to be clear, pointing out obvious blemishes and concerns with the 2021 roster doesn’t mean I’m souring on the Mainers’ direction. Quite the opposite. However, a lot has to go the team’s way for big strides – and a postseason berth – to become reality this year.
Now, a word of caution for the fans okay with sticking with the kids until they develop. Sorry folks, they’re all not going to pan out. Consider for a moment the Astros, a team that blew up its franchise and started from scratch. The end product was a championship and a half-decade of dominance. Yet, not everything went as planned with their rebuild.
It’s true Houston developed stars like José Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Lance McCullers Jr. But, as Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill recently noted, the same farm system yielded far less noteworthy names – Jake Marisnick, Hank Conger, A.J. Reed, Jason Castro, Matt Dominguez, Jordan Lyles and Jared Cosart. Haven’t heard of all of these players?
That’s my point.
Brent noted in his piece that rebuilds require optimism and that’s true. Thus far, Dipoto and ownership have demonstrated tremendous optimism and an inordinate amount of organizational discipline. That is something the Mariners have never displayed until now. It would be a shame to scuttle such a promising future for a possible whiff of fleeting success.
And let’s talk about that infamous postseason drought for a moment. Dipoto can’t undo nearly two decades of mediocrity and disappointment. His tasking is to overcome prior misfires and transform the organization. At the moment, it appears he’s on the right track and should be permitted to continue.
Even if the Mariners eventually reach the World Series or…gasp…actually win it, doing so won’t rewrite the team’s history. There will always be that long, barren period of organizational malaise and dysfunction in the record book. Sorry Seattle, nothing will ever erase that.
The most logical method to achieve what Mariners fans are clamoring for – a true contender – is continuing on the course set by Dipoto. But giving Mariners faithful something substantive to hold on to until the franchise begins to turn a corner isn’t too much to ask for. Is it?
I don’t think so.
My Oh My…
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