Wednesday, June 18, 2008

If I'm a Young GM Candidate...

...I move heaven and earth to try to get the Seattle Mariners job.

Yes, the last place, worst-in-the-majors, my-God-they-still-play-baseball here Mariners.

Because all the pieces are there for a turnaround, and with that turnaround the next GM is going to be a hero. (Unless, of course, the next GM is Steve Phillips, in which case the lahars coming down off Mt. Rainier might be seen as a more appealing alternative.)

Consider that the team has money, great gobs of it. Plus, ownership is willing to let other people spend it, an important distinction from spending it themselves. One nets you the 2004 Red Sox, the other gets you the Ed Whitson-era Yankees.

Consider also that the worst of the Bavasi-era contracts, Richie Sexson's subluxation of financial sanity, is about to go *poof* as the team kicks him to the curb. Even if they decide not to, his contract still wraps up at the end of the year. So, too, do the overpriced deals given to Raul "Fire Bad!" Ibanez and Jose Vidro. That's a lot of money coming off the books. In 2009, Batista and Washburn are done. Even if a bunch of that money goes to, say, resigning Erik Bedard, that's still a whole lot of money for the new GM to play with.

Consider also that the Mariners are so bad that whoever comes in next will likely have carte blanche to do anything he needs to. There's no move that could be made that any fan could really muster an argument against, unless it's switching J.J. Putz to handling a server station for garlic fries. That means it's finally safe to jettison Eckstein manque Willie Bloomquist. The team is so terrible with him that there's no longer an argument that can be made for keeping him. Even the shopworn "fan favorite" line can go now - fans' favorites are players who win games. And very, very few people on that roster are helping the Mariners win games.

Then there are the kids. With Bavasi gone and the somewhat eccentric lineup management of John McLaren shortly to follow, the new guy can mandate that they play the kids. And by kids we're talking monster prospects like Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balientin, guys who've gotten their feet went and experienced their growing pains, and who are now looking ready to step up bigtime. Just allowing them on the field regularly will be an improvement on the Ibanez-riffic Ancient Mariners, and they're only going to get better as they play more. The same can't be said of usual substitution faves like Miguel Cairo. This team almost can't help getting better.

Plus, the possibility exists to take over the town again, and fast. Consider the other sports options in Seattle. The Seahawks are poised for a down cycle. The Sonics are either leaving or litigating. UW football is, at best, meh. All of which means that even modest improvement will make the Mariners the toast of the town, and the man who engineered the almost-inevitable revival the toastiest.

Are there downsides? Sure. If there weren't, Bavasi would still have his job and the team wouldn't be in last place. There are still long-term contracts tied to overrated players, ones that will *cough cough Kenji Jojima* continue to haunt the team *cough cough Carlos Silva* for the next few years. The roster is mostly old, slow, and allergic to catching the baseball. Ichiro Suzuki clearly no longer has his heart in playing for this team, and it may not start winning soon enough to re-light his fire. Putz is injured, there's the looming spectre of free agency for Bedard, and the middle infield combo of Lopez and Betancourt seems to be regressing annually. That's a lot to overcome.

But with the advantages the Mariners have - money, the ability to blow the deadwood out the door, kids on the way - they seem like a good bet to overcome it.

And to make their next GM look very, very good.
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