About eight months ago, Matthew and I were seated among a host of baseball officials and executives at the First Annual PITCHf/x Summit in San Francisco. One of the people sitting at our table was none other than Mat Olkin. He didn't say much, but we noticed that, when asked, he introduced himself as an employee of the Royals.
I think that's about as low as I've ever felt as a Mariners fan. It was at that point I realized that either our team no longer had a sabermatrician on staff, or the sabermatrician they had on staff was so embarrassed by the connection that he'd sooner admit to working with Kansas City. I spent the rest of my weekend consumed with thoughts of how I was devoting myself to a baseball team for whom the clock of intellectual evolution was ticking steadily backwards.
Now it's 2009, and I can't even begin to wrap my head around how different this organization looks. Yeah, ownership is still the same, but it isn't, because Armstrong and Lincoln have elected to defer to a brand new front office that seems to know exactly what it's doing. Zduriencik, Blengino, McNamara, Fusco, Grifol - there's intelligence. There's real-life, legitimate, powerful intelligence at the top, and in just half an offseason the new crew has already made a case for its being one of the strongest front offices in baseball. And now, to top things off, it's been made public that Tom Tango's going to be working as a consultant (along with Olkin, who will have a more appropriate role). Regardless of how much Tango actually goes on to contribute, and how much consideration will be given to his input, the fact that the Seattle Mariners went out and hired probably the greatest publicly accessible statistical analyst in the world speaks immeasurable volumes about how much this team has changed. Bavasi may have wanted to make this organization better, but the bottom line is that Zduriencik and the rest of his front office seem to actually know how to do it.
Tom Tango works for the Mariners. Given everything we've gone through over the past five years, it's absolutely flooring to see how good our organization suddenly looks on paper. And while we can't yet be certain how things will work out in the long run, it's the groups that look the best on paper that have the strongest odds of success, so with that in mind, I am more than prepared to usher in a new era of Mariners baseball. An era of pride, an era of relevance - an era of winning. For the first time in my life, I believe with all my heart that the people in charge of my baseball team are the right people to take it where we all want it to go.
And I can't explain how weird that sounds.