There was a time not so long ago when the Seattle Mariners were a playoff team. Even after stars such as Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriquez, and Ken Griffey Jr. left town, Ichiro, Mike Cameron, Bret Boone, and John Olerud had fans packing Safeco field and enjoying a 116-win season as they enjoyed a division and Wild Card winning team.
This was a time when things were good in Seattle, and the team enjoyed being one of the top revenue generators in baseball with the promise of better days ahead.
Sadly, the wheels have flown off the cart, and the Mariners are a rudderless ship going nowhere fast. A series of bad movies by the front office in terms of player moves as well as public relation fiascoes has seen the team set new record lows for attendance the past two games.
While it is easy to point fingers at the offensive issues the team has endured in recent years as the reason the team has floundered at the gate, the real reasons are far more in-depth.
The biggest issue is a general disconnect with the fans and a series of moves made by the front office that have not gone over well with fans. Aside from the belief that the team has not been able to properly evaluate major league talent, fans are convinced that the front office is more concerned with profit than in actually fielding a winner.
Despite declining attendance, the team has been able to stay in the black thanks to their radio and television contracts which help boost their current revenue streams.
The team has stated they are building with you, but fans have become tired of seeing proven free agents not sign and prospects such as Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, and continue to struggle as well as see a pitching staff serve up batting practice to opposing teams.
The front office decided to raise ticket prices for season ticket holders in the offseason, and did so without even telling them they were doing in. When the Seattle Times broke the story of this practice, you can imagine the negative backlash the fans had against the team.
Combine this with the team’s very vocal opposition to the planned new arena in which would return the beloved Seattle Sonics to the city, and you can easily see how quickly fans can turn on a franchise.
It is one thing to put a bad product on the field year after year, but when fans believe you do not care about them or the community and take them for granted, how can they be shocked when empty seats result?
I personally believe the best thing the Mariners can do is sell the team to an owner who is willing to do what it takes to make the team a first-class winner. Paul Allen and Mark Cuban are just two examples of owners with the finances, ability, and track records to make the Mariners a winner, and the big question is if ownership is willing to let them.
For now, the answer is that the team is not for sale, but if the attendance figures so far are any indication, the fans may finally be showing the team’s ownership and front office the door as quickly as they can.