In the world of modern sportswriting, "narrative" is a dirty word. What was once a profession devoted to finding splendid tales and then sharing them eloquently now faces endless backlash from a boisterous hive that hurls handpicked evidence back at every piece with even an ounce of hyperbole.
That is, unless the narrative fits the hoard's existing beliefs and runs concurrent with its repetitive opinions. If that’s the case, then the full body of evidence need not be considered—and certainly not sought out.
The narrative I’m referring to, if the headline doesn’t give it away, is that the Mariners are incompetent beyond belief, their desperation knows no bounds and no story underscoring such points should be given second thought before being passed along as fact.
The soup of the day on that front is that the Seattle Mariners bid against themselves on the climactic Friday that landed them the 2014 free agent class’s best player, in a deal described by multiple experts—Jonah Keri and even the hyper-critical Dan Szymborski among them—as being appropriate and fair-market value.
The passage, if you haven’t already seen it, comes from Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News:
By mid-day Friday, Seattle had heard that some team bid nine years and $225 million for Robinson Cano, so the Mariners upped their bid to $240 million and 10 years before apparently realizing the initial bid had come from themselves, too.
The sentence has since been shared across baseball’s online community, and beyond. The thing is, there's no truth to it at all:
@lonestarball more tongue in cheek, but they had bid 225/9 and nobody came close, then went 10/240— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) December 9, 2013
I’ll give Grant the benefit of the doubt here, that it was just the poorly-worded joke he claims it to be (as the even-keeled individuals among us initially thought), and not the curiously-vague link-suck it ended up being.
Now, that said, I understand the quick jump to conclusions has a lot to do with preexisting opinions of this team, opinions exacerbated by Geoff Baker's three-page exposé in Sunday's Seattle Times. This isn't intended to be a response to that, as I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to form their own opinions on the piece and this front office in general—and, if you want my own, they aren't hard to find.
But, I will offer this: the next couple weeks, possibly the next couple days, will say more about this front office and the direction of the franchise than that well-reported piece and the past few years it covers. I understand the desire to try to decipher the current state of the organization and the philosophies it values, because I've been there before.
For months, I wondered how the Mariners would fare during the most important offseason under Zduriencik's watch. Would they finally spend big and land a premier free agent target? Would payroll rise to levels appropriate for a team that supposedly has a cable deal near that of the Angels and Rangers? Would we see the "panic moves" many feared? I counted down the days to the Winter Meetings, as I knew we'd have something by now to give us an indication about which way things would break and—hey, look at that—the "something" is Robbie Cano.
I'm not normally one to tell fans what to talk about but, holy hell, can we all calm down? We're here already.
Deny it all you want, but the Mariners are well-positioned right now. With the best player on the market signed, the Mariners have more than $30 million left to spend and a glut of cost-controlled talent in their back pocket. Now, Jack, Chuck and Howard may have fallen back-asswards into the whole thing (I wouldn't bank on it), but this is the offseason we've been waiting for.
The Mariners may yet sign Nelson Cruz to a franchise-crippling overpay. Or they could outbid another big-budget team for an elite hitter. I'm publishing this now, at 10:00pm Monday night, because either could happen before we wake up in the morning. That's how close we could be to knowing.
All I ask is this: be patient. The Mariners may well deserve the skewering most seem anxious to give, and if they do, the time will come for it. But an equal chance remains that the time will not come, and this is the offseason that sets a positive course for the next decade or more.
We're almost there, and we almost know. Just hang in there.