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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

October 7, 2010 at 10:46 AM

Mariners are at the stage of ultimate no-confidence

I don’t envy the management of the Seattle Mariners at this point (and I know even that statement will subject me to backlash). They seem to have sunk below politicians, used-car-salesmen and even sportswriters on the public-confidence scale.

Never, ever, even in the worst days of 2008, have I received more scathing correspondence — voice mails, e-mails, blog comments, even snail mail — from people railing about the mismanagement by the M’s.

Yes, obviously, they’ve brought much of it upon themselves, and the regression of the ballclub in recent years is fair game for criticism. When you compound matters with a disastrous season such as this one, it’s natural that people are riled up. They have good reason to be.

But what is happening now is that the anger and disillusionment is so raw that people see evidence of stupidity and mismanagement at every turn. Including places where, in a winning environment, the team would get the benefit of the doubt.

For instance, the M’s make a difficult, defensible decision to shut down Felix Hernandez and it’s viewed in many quarters as yet another sign that they a) don’t know what the hell they’re doing; b) have no regard for the fans; and c) don’t know what the hell they’re doing. The way I look at that one, you can agree or disagree whether Felix should have been allowed to make that Sunday start; but I think any reasonable person would have to concede that there were compelling reasons for either decision — pitch him or hold him back — and there really was no “right” or “wrong” decision. Yet when you reach the stage of no-confidence the Mariners have, fans now just assume the Mariners are screwing up.

I notice a similar dynamic in the scathing comments on the stories by myself and Geoff about John Gibbons being interviewed for the manager’s job. Gibbons is a good baseball man who had some success in the tough AL East and will probably manage somewhere in the future — a perfectly reasonable addition to what will certainly be a managerial candidate’s list of a half-dozen or maybe more. Yet you’d think the Mariners were bringing in John Wilkes Booth instead of John Gibbons. Somehow, this is viewed as another prime example of their incompetence and the certainty they will bungle the manager’s search.

Yet another example is the e-mail sent out by Howard Lincoln and Jack Zduriencik, which to me was pretty much boilerplate, innocuous stuff, the sort of “better times are ahead” message that any team in any sport would send out to their fans after a rotten season. Yet people have been parsing each sentence and seeing nothing but evidence of ever more incompetence and/or disdain for the fan. I simply see a P.R. document with the hopeless task of trying to appease the masses at an un-appeasable time.

Believe me, I fully understand the festering anger that has built up in people, and I’m not about to tell you how you’re supposed to react. And don’t construe this as a defense of the Mariners, because it isn’t. Just an observation of the toxic climate that has developed. The Mariners are just going to have to live with the reality that until things turn around, on a tangible basis — the standings being the best place to start — most people are going to continue to fervently believe, in almost every case, they don’t know what the heck they are doing.

Even in those instances when they do.

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