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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

November 11, 2008 at 11:54 AM

Lincecum delivers K to M’s

Let’s get some housekeeping out of the way before moving on to today’s blog topic. I keep forgetting to post this because the Mariners release on it kept getting lost in yesterday’s shuffle. But Tom McNamara has been named Director of Amateur Scouting by the Mariners and Carmen Fusco is Director of Pro Scouting. Tony Blengino becomes Special Assistant to the GM for Baseball Operations. Now, all of this is important because the Mariners, as good as they’ve been at scouting in some areas, left some stuff to be desired in others under the Bill Bavasi regime.
For many Mariners fans, the failure of the team to draft Tim Lincecum from the University of Washington remains the gift that keeps on taking. Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award today, outdistancing Arizona’s Brandon Webb. So, another stab through the heart of M’s fans. My advice? Get over it.
While I’m sure Lincecum’s emergence as a frontline starter for the San Francisco Giants didn’t help the cause of former scouting director Bob Fontaine, it was not his most glaring misstep. This stuff happens all the time. The M’s reasoning at not taking Lincecum — that his small frame and violent delivery would lead to injury down the road — was sound. Yes, Lincecum has stayed healthy two years into his career. We’ll see what happens long-term.
Right now, he has a Cy Young and zero World Series titles. The M’s are down one Cy Young. But that’s it. The world hasn’t ended. And it’s not as if the M’s got hosed completely in the deal. Brandon Morrow has delivered two excellent seasons in the bullpen when the Mariners needed him most. He remains a key part of this rebuilding team’s future and we’ve only started to see what he can do. Morrow in the bullpen helped keep the Mariners in a playoff hunt until early September of 2007, which is more than Lincecum has done for the pennant hopes of the Giants.
Not taking anything away from Lincecum here. But I’m not sure his being in Seattle in 2008 was going to make this year’s M’s play with more heart, avoid clubhouse infighting, miss out on crushing injuries and suddenly become prime-time players instead of paper tigers. In the end, really, the Mariners so far are really down only one trophy in the Lincecum miss — and not a trophy that matters to anyone but the recipient.
Morrow still has tremendous upside. I sometimes feel for him, realizing the pressure he must be under hearing everyone comparing him to Lincecum despite all the good he’s done so far in a role he didn’t plan on.
But I understand the frustration of fans. It’s easy to play the “what if?” game. When I was growing up in Montreal, where hockey is far more fanatically followed than any sport in Seattle (or any sport in any other North American city I can think of), the NHL’s Canadiens could have drafted Dennis Savard out of their own backyard in 1980. Instead, they used the No. 1 overall pick on Doug Wickenheiser. In 1976, in a situation more comparable to Lincecum, they used their first-round pick on a guy named Mark Napier. They and several other teams passed over another guy named Mike Bossy — who played junior hockey in my hometown of Laval.
Both Savard and Bossy went on to Hall of Fame careers. Bossy became one of the greatest scorers in the game’s history, tallying a number of 60-goal seasons. His New York Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1984, duplicating what the Canadiens had just accomplished from 1976-1979. Savard became one of the great playmakers of his generation with the Chicago Blackhawks (who fired him as their head coach four games into this current season, but I digress).
In Montreal, Wickenheiser struggled under a microscope. He became a 30-goal scorer, much of it with other teams, but died of cancer in his 30s. His younger cousin, Haley, became more famous internationally as an Olympic women’s hockey star and role model to young girls than Doug ever was in the men’s game. Napier was a 40-goal scorer, but lacked the pure magic Bossy had.
I’ve always contended that had Montreal made those two “easy” picks, they would have won eight Stanley Cups in a row — the four they won in the late 1970s plus the four the Islanders wound up winning with Bossy. So, if you think the M’s are getting hosed because of Lincecum not being drafted, consider my plight as a hockey fan.
My team threw away a shot at eight straight titles. The Mariners are down a Cy Young.
Not a fair trade.
The point of all this? Get over it. This stuff has been going on in pro sports for generations. It happens. Good people make educated guesses and not all of them pan out perfectly. In Seattle’s case, it’s not as if they got stuck with the second coming of Jeff Weaver. Morrow has a future. It’s just going to take a little longer for this all to play out. In the end, he still could prove a more-than-worthy first-round pick.
The folks who made the Morrow pick over Lincecum are now gone. Hard as it may seem today, this organization has more pressing issues to deal with than the rear-view mirror.

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