Saturday night, your last-place Seattle Mariners traded two young players for one old one. Media reaction was swift and negative.
“I thought it was a hoax,” sniffed the Seattle Times‘ Geoff Baker. “I’m trying to see all the angles with the Branyan trade, but I’m not sure I see the one where it makes sense,” wrote ESPN710’s Mike Salk. USSMariner’s Dave Cameron titled his reaction post “I Don’t Get It.” Wrote he: “Yeah, the team needed power, but they needed power when it mattered. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
It may not matter to Cameron, who lives in North Carolina and follows the M’s on TV, or to Baker and Salk, who cover the team for a living. But it matters a great deal for those of us who are season-ticket holders. And by “us” I mean “me.”
I’ve paid for 20 Mariner games this year, at $40 a pop. I think I’m entitled to a little bit of value for those seats. And by “value” I mean “a first baseman who can hit.”
Welcome back, Russell Branyan, who led the Mariners in home runs last season with 31. The M’s as a team have hit just 44 so far this year. They simply cannot compete on a game-to-game basis with their current powerless offense. Branyan gives them a fighting chance at scoring runs, and us fans a fighting chance at leaving Safeco with a smile.
I know where Baker, Salk, and Cameron are coming from. If the question is, “What move is most likely to get the Mariners to a World Series in the future?” the answer is not, “Trade two prospects for an aging slugger.” But I’m not sure that is the question.
What if the question is: “How do we put the best product on the field for our fans?” In that case, yes, trading for Branyan makes sense. At $40 per game, plus paying for parking, and time away from surfing the online air sickness bags museum, we fans deserve better than “Now batting: First Baseman Jack Wilson.” And by “Jack Wilson,” I mean “Josh Wilson.”
General manager Jack Zduriencik did not mention the fans in explaining the Branyan trade, instead arguing that young players need to experience winning to develop. Well, fans need to experience winning not to decide to spend their season ticket dollars on, say, plane tickets to Europe, or laser eye surgery, or a vintage ukelele, instead of on the 2011 Mariners.