Read some interesting comments this morning by Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, who told Jerry Brewer that the seven-year, $175 million contract given to ace pitcher Felix Hernandez is a sign the team’s ownership is committed to building a winner.
“This signing, given the size and length of the contract, is the best evidence that the ownership group is committed to winning and doing what it takes to win,” Lincoln said. “It ought to remove any doubts about how the ownership group feels and what its objectives are.”
If only things were that simple.
Lincoln is right about the team’s commitment to Hernandez being huge and, frankly, imperative. For fans desperate for some positive sign from ownership, this was a big step indeed.
But Lincoln sounds as if he believes Hernandez is the cherry on the team’s championship sundae. In reality, Hernandez right now is exactly what he was three years ago, the last time the Mariners gave him an early extension — a true ace pitcher on a fourth-place team. Yes, the Mariners should win more than they lose this year and might even secure 85 victories like they did back in 2009, the last time they didn’t finish fourth. But looking at the AL West on paper, few experts anywhere are going to pick the Mariners to finish any higher than the Rangers, Angels and Athletics in their own division.
And unless the Mariners can beat out two of those teams, they won’t be going to the post-season anytime soon.
To make that jump will require more than just locking up Hernandez. Those lessons of the past three seasons — when the team lost 101, 95 and 87 games, respectively, with Hernandez fronting the rotation — should be abundanty clear by now.
The hard, factual history of this team is that the ownership group touted by Lincoln has been cutting payroll ever since the collapse of the world’s stock markets towards the end of 2008 and the decline in personal wealth of Hiroshi Yamauchi and Chris Larson, the team’s two largest owners with roughly 85 percent combined control. Yamauchi did cede his ownership shares to Redmond-based Nintendo of America prior to that for “estate planning purposes” but retains titular control of the team.
That decision to cut payroll by the Mariners coincided with the collapse of the 101-loss team in 2008 — which cost $117 million to assemble — and has enabled a selective, fortuitous retelling of history where the team is concerned.More