Questions about Leadership as M's Wrap Up Another Losing Season

Sep 27, 2013

The Mariners end the 2013 season on Sunday. It’s their eighth losing season in 10 years. KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it's time for some big changes, but he doubts any will be made.  

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

That was the question this week for both Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik and Manager Eric Wedge, who both have contracts that expire at the end of the season.

The Mariners answered the question regarding Zduriencik, but only when asked by a reporter. He got a one-year extension.

"It's another episode of magnum dither by the Mariners," Art said. "This is the most directionless team I've ever been around."

Art called Zduriencik's one-year extension an "odd move" and said nothing good can come of it.

"What does one year do? Either the ownership is buying into his vision of the future and would extend him two, three or four years. Or they should fire him. One year makes it worse," he said.

Wedge angrily told reporters on Wednesday that he's been left hanging by the team, uncertain of his future. Update since story was produced: Wedge announced Friday that he would finish out this season with the team and declined a one-year extension.

Playoff Drought Continues

As the Mariners wrap up yet another losing season, Art said he couldn't help but compare it to what happened this week in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are celebrating their first appearance in the playoffs in 21 years.

"The significance for Seattle is that there are only two teams left who've been out of the playoffs longer than the Mariners, which was in 2001. Kansas City hasn't been there since '85, Toronto hasn't been there since '93 and now the Mariners are third with a bullet because I think they're a lot farther away from the playoffs than either Kansas City or Toronto," Art said.

New Era of Ownership? Doubt It

Art said he's hopeful but doubtful that the death of Mariners majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi last week will signal major changes at the top of the organization. In 2004, Yamauchi transferred his team ownership to his company, Nintendo of America, based in Redmond. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the club has no plans to be sold.

"Many fans have been eager for Nintendo to sell to one of the minority owners," Art said. "Lincoln said there are no plans, but that doesn't mean it can't happen tomorrow."

What's Next?

Art said it's really hard to predict what the team's next move will be.

"I throw my hands in the air. The team should be sold because that is really the only way forward," he said. "They've changed managers and general managers, they've churned the roster, and they keep getting worse. I'm not saying that there isn't hope for several players on this team. But the hope is that they might be average Major Leaguers."

"I don't see any real solution if Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong, the team president, are retained and Nintendo keeps its 'commitment' to the Mariners. What is the commitment? To lose half your fan base and 90 games every year? That's not commitment; that's just failure," he said.

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