Howard Lincoln talks

Dripping confidence - Otto Greule Jr

TNT's Ryan Divish sits down with the Seattle Mariners CEO.

I took a good five minutes to stare at the blank canvas in our admin area. As the cursor blinked, daring me to write every emotion I'm feeling, I almost caved to the pressure. After that, I closed the tab. I wasn't going to write. Then I started another new post and began staring again.

Fitting.

Much like the product the Mariners have been rolling out on the field the last several seasons, I know that the outcome of watching a game is likely to be bad. But, there I sat. Watching and waiting for the inevitable. Sometimes it happens after an inning, sometimes we hang in the balance watching a good game only to see it turn very badly late. I might turn the game off in frustration, but it finds its way back onto my television in short order.

Howard Lincoln sat down with The News Tribune's Ryan Divish -- and, separately, MLB.com's Greg Johns and The Seattle Times' Jerry Brewer -- for a long interview that was fully transcribed. You should probably read it because, well, who doesn't want to know about Howard's fishing trips where he laughs about how bad the team is?

Trying to read this objectively was a task I knew would be a bit of a challenge. Lincoln doesn't talk much. When he does, he tends to say things that come off as uncaring toward the portion of the fan base that deeply cares about the on-field product. He's not quite as bad as Chuck Armstrong -- oh boy, what I'd give to hear what he'd say if someone talked to him for 44 minutes -- but he just utters things that rub me incredibly bad.

I don’t judge it just by wins and losses.

What other way SHOULD you judge a team that has lost 90-plus games a season several times in the last decade and only mustered a couple winning campaigns?

If I go around the infield (Kyle) Seager, (Brad) Miller, (Nick) Franklin, (Justin) Smoak, (Mike) Zunino – I think that’s our future. As I look at the starting pitching, not only Felix (Hernandez), but (Hisashi) Iwakuma had a fabulous year. And we’ve got guys like (James) Paxton, Taijuan Walker and (Brandon) Maurer and (Erasmo) Ramirez – we’ve got a solid foundation there.

While Lincoln omitted Dustin Ackley, he was specifically talking about the infield and the starting pitching. Maybe he sees Ackley as purely an outfielder now. I'm not going to read too deeply into that. I'm less concerned about who he left out, and more concerned about who he included.

The Justin Smoak project just isn't working. He's not really a young player anymore. He's entering what should be the prime of his career and is still trying to piece together a solid stretch that lasts longer than a month. Nick Franklin put up a nice little stretch when he was called up, but he showed plenty of holes in his game for a longer period afterward. Mike Zunino looks like a solid leader candidate and someone who could grow into something really nice behind the plate, but he shouldn't be figuring out his baseball skills in the majors because of his leadership potential. And the rotation behind Felix and Iwakuma? Plenty of hope, but plenty of risk.

If he's really expecting that list of players to be what this team builds around next year, that means we should expect two or three new outfielders, some bench fodder and, uh, more losses.

Eric’s moved on to greener pastures and that didn’t have to happen.

Wait, what? Freudian slip, much?

I think we’ve got really an outstanding front office. Let’s separate baseball out. All of the other parts of the organization are running at full speed and doing a great job.
So, the baseball part of the business is lousy, but we should totally discard that when judging your front office?

You run a freaking baseball team, Howard. We don't remove the "baseball part" when judging how well you and your team have done. That is, literally, the most important part of your company. I don't buy over-priced hats and jackets that have marketing guy's faces on them or jerseys with your IT dude's name on the back. You sound like a car salesman trying to convince me that I should ignore the missing motor and focus on the perfect paint and tires.
My fishing buddies are fans. I hear it from them. That’s all I heard on that trip to Alaska. ‘Why don’t you fix this? Why don’t you fix that?’ It’s kind of a little joke because I think they actually support me
A little joke? You think they support you? Do you realize how incredibly hard it is to digest what you just said? Is this you and your rich buddies having a good laugh at the expense of the awful baseball team you are responsible for, or them asking you serious questions that you laugh off? Neither looks good, but both sound totally believable based on your track record.
There’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot – public trust – in terms of what a pro sports franchise is doing. Do you believe you have the public trust? Do you believe it’s been diminished at all?

Let’s go back to 1992... I think if fans will step back... they kept it here so that we could enjoy major league baseball... forgetting about the losses for just a moment.

Those four snippets from his answer to Divish's question (in bold), are really telling. Of course he rehashing the role he and his partners played in saving the team -- which they do deserve credit for -- but then tells us to forget about the losses. Apparently, what they did in 1992 gave them a license to not be good at running the team because, hey you ungrateful fans, they might be in Tampa instead.

Oh, and, Howard, you might not have noticed: We're not enjoying what we're watching. I'd rather pass a sack of plastic turds down to my kids than this product.

I answer to Nintendo of America – the majority owner, which is wholly owned by Nintendo Company Limited of Japan. If Mr. Yamauchi, Mr. Iwada or Mr. Kimashima didn’t have confidence in me I wouldn’t be here. I answer to the board of directors of Seattle Baseball Inc., the managing general partner of baseball of Seattle L.P. – limited partnership. If that board didn’t have confidence in me going forward, I wouldn’t be here. If any of our members of our ownership group, or a sizable a group of our owners, didn’t have confidence in me going forward, I wouldn’t be here. But right now, I retain that confidence.

Welp. We're fucked.

You can see it coming. And the fans are going to love to watch that. So there’s a lot of good things at the Mariners besides the disappointment of the losing season.

We can? There is?

This is why I prefer Lincoln to just remain quiet. He says things that we should probably just take as a grain of salt. But, he's the leader of this franchise. With a fan base that is desperate for a better product, you have to know that people are going to bust out their microscopes and analyze every word. Clearly, Lincoln is just going to say what he's going to say regardless of the question and talk like you'd expect a lawyer to talk.

Believe a whole lot bigger, friends.

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