The Seattle Mariners: A 2008 Thriller Gone Flop
Seattle fans like myself have waited over four years for a playoff berth, and nothing—and I mean nothing—has happened.
I've been a Mariners fan since I was 5 years old, never in my entire life have I seen a franchise with over $100 million in payroll become play to the worst record in the American League, and second worst in baseball.
Compare this team to the Tampa Bay Rays; with a new look this year, Tampa fans have seen the greatest turnaround in any Major League Baseball franchise. Only spending about a quarter of the Seattle Mariners' payroll, the Rays have taken over the AL East, ahead of the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox by 4.5 games. The Rays have an amazing mix of talent.
So we thought the Mariners would, too.
Early, before the season started, ESPN had the Mariners ruling the AL West and some thought Seattle was World Series-bound with the amount of talent they had picked up. They were also poised to benefit from the management skills of John McLaren, who had 17 years of bench coaching behind Lou Pinella and Bob Melvin.
Now, McLaren is somewhere in retirement land with his good buddy, last season's surprise retiree Mike Hargrove.
Another person that is taking some time off is ex-general manager Bill Bavasi. Many fans think that a lot of bad choices were made while Bavasi was in Seattle. I ultimately agree; for some reason, when players make their way up to Seattle, it seems they run into a slump.
Let's look at Freddy Garcia. The former Mariners icon had a slump season under Bavasi, but, when traded to Chicago, led the White Sox to a World Series win. Richie Sexson, standing at 6'8", experienced his worst years in Seattle—at times hitting in the Nos. 4, 5, and 6 spots with a .212 average—before he was let go by the organization this season with less-than-expected advancement.
Though I do give kudos to Bavasi for bringing Japan to the Northwest, Bavasi himself made a huge flop in opting to renew Kenji Johjima's contract for the upcoming year. There has been a remarkable dropoff in Johjima's performance this year from his 2006 batting average of .291 average to this year's .213.
I experienced one of the Mariners' few wins at Safeco Field two weeks ago against the Rays, but, even though they won, the stadium seemed empty, and fans were disgruntled. "Fire Armstrong!" yells (referring to team president Chuck Armstrong) broke the crowd's silence.
Erik Bedard, Brad Wilkerson, Greg Norton, Carlos Silva—just a few names that signed with the Mariners during the 2008 Season.
Yet all four didn't contribute as much as we thought they would. Wilkerson and Norton were both designated for assignment, and Silva and Bedard, who both signed huge multi-year contracts, are now sitting on the bench just waiting till their paychecks come in the mail due to injury.
As the Sodo Mojo and Safeco Field stadium lights fade out into darkness for another mediocre season in Seattle, we ask ourselves: What happened?
We're all asking, wishing and waiting. And boy wouldn't I like to be paid millions of dollars for sitting on a bench while we only win 60-some-odd games in the meantime.
My take is there was no one to lead the team, there was no one that pushed these talented individuals filled with contract options for multi-year terms, and that led to the disaster of the Seattle Mariners of 2008.
I just hope we keep "King" Felix Hernandez. At least he's living up to his potential.
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