No World Series 'Unfortunate Legacy' for Retiring Mariners Pres.

Nov 29, 2013

Retiring Mariners president Chuck Armstrong did a lot for the team in his nearly three decades in the front office. But it’s what he wasn’t able to accomplish that will be his lasting legacy: get the Mariners to the World Series.

Armstrong’s retirement announcement this week comes at a time of major discontent among fans. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says even more change is needed at the top.

'Significant Contributions' But No World Series

Chuck Armstrong was instrumental in many Mariners milestones: the drafting of Ken Griffey, Jr., keeping the team in Seattle, the construction of Safeco Field, their first post-season appearance in 1995, acquiring Ichiro Suzuki, and the team's 116-win season in 2001.

There is one glaring omission: the Mariners have never made it to the World Series. They're only one of two teams that have not played in the Fall Classic (the other being the Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos).

"It's really been bad in the last 10 years when so much parity has happened in baseball so that many teams—many forlorn teams, many hopeless teams—have made the World Series at least once," Art said. "But the Mariners continue to be, really, almost non-competitive. And, unfortunately for Chuck, that's going to be his legacy."

Mariners' management has come under criticism after going the last 12 seasons without reaching the playoffs.

CEO Lincoln Needs to Go

According to Art, for real change to happen in the Mariners organization, CEO Howard Lincoln needs to leave.

"Howard has been the bottleneck in this thing," he said. This sentiment is echoed in a column on Sportspress Northwest

"Chuck was very well plugged into all of baseball but knowing everybody hasn't translated into wins," Art continued. 

The problem, Art said, is "Howard's lack of knowledge about baseball, and lack of understanding of the game," he said.

"It was often Chuck's charge to pick up after the mistakes that Howard made either in public relations or some other public endeavor," he said. 

Art said Lincoln's emphasis has always been on the ballpark experience.

"There's nothing wrong with that but that's his priority first, second and third over winning baseball, and that's what fans want," he said. 

Difference Between What Team Needs, Will Get

Armstrong's departure comes at a time of great transition in the Mariners' front office. The team will have a new manager, Lloyd McClendon, next season. And majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi died earlier this year.

Art said it's hard to tell what's going to happen next.

"Howard ran an odd ship in which Chuck was his right-hand guy, and I don't know that a baseball executive would want to assume that role," he said. "What they need is a  younger, more dynamic guy whose charge is exclusively to make the team win."

And there's one more thing: spare no expense.

"Now that they own their own regional sports network in Root Sports, the money is there," Art said. "There's still a passionate fan base, even though it dwindled to 1.6 million the last couple of years. There are a lot of people here who still want these guys win, to be successful. Despite all the criticism, it comes because people care.

"This new guy is going to have really to be able to walk a fine line between handling Howard and also providing a dynamic, exciting baseball team. I'm sure there are people out there, but I'm not sure that Howard will want to hire one."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.