It’s been 77 days since the Seattle Mariners finished in last place for the third year in a row, and they haven’t done a single thing to make anyone think they won’t be crashing in the basement again in 2013.
For once, money isn’t the obstacle. With Ichiro off the books, the Mariners have the cash to improve their roster. Problem is, no one will take it. This is no surprise — of the 46 contracts in baseball history worth more than $90 million, only four have been signed with teams that finished in last place the year before. To put it plainly: Good players do not want to play for bad teams.
So the Mariners are stuck in a Catch-22. They can’t attract an elite player at a reasonable price until they’re out of last place, but they can’t climb out of last place — not right away — without an elite player.
It’s a predictable but disastrous situation for an organization that has been a non-star both on and off the field. In 2012 the Mariners were even worse at public relations than they were at baseball. The team’s tin-eared opposition to a new Sonics arena was augmented by a colossal concessions foul-up during the best-attended game of the season, and, after another year of last-place baseball, unannounced price increases that pissed off their remaining season ticket holders.
The Mariners need to create some goodwill and excitement, which is why I propose that they release this letter:
Dear Mariners Fans,
Despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to significantly upgrade our roster for the 2013 season. Potential trading partners asked for a return that would’ve crippled our ability to compete in future years, and free agent hitters asked for long-term contracts that would’ve done likewise.
Of course we aren’t throwing in the towel on the 2013 season –but we do expect it to be another developmental year for our young core of players.
On the bright side, we are left with a significantly lower payroll than we expected. And, in return for the patience you have shown over the past few years, we would like to return that savings to you.
Effective immediately, we are cutting prices 30%.
That’s everything from box seats to signed baseballs to beer. This offer extends to our season ticket holders as well — each of you will pay 30% less than you did last year.
We expect to contend soon, but while we work toward that goal, we want to encourage you fans to fill Safeco Field and support our young players.
We could’ve spent this money on a free agent, but looking at the available market we felt that investing in bigger crowds and more support would be a wiser play. We’re convinced that loud, passionate crowds will help our young, hungry team develop better than an aging, financially-secure hitter would have.
We think that the talent we have in our minor league system will bring a World Series championship to Seattle in the next five years. We want you to be a part of our rise. Please come out to Safeco this summer and help motivate our young players to new heights. You’ll be glad you did.
Drastic? Unprecedented? Likely to cause fistfights in the corporate suite? Yes. But when your customer base has experienced the worst 10-year decline in your industry, drastic action is what’s needed. One thing I can say for sure — and I speak from personal experience, as I’ve yet to renew my season tickets this year — without something for fans to get excited about, attendance will decline yet again. As Yogi Berra said: “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s gonna stop ’em.”