More often than not, a baseball team's ability to spend money is viewed as a positive. Money can be spent in order to acquire players, usually good ones, and baseball teams get better the more good players they have. Most teams are adequately transparent about the payroll they hope to manage, and fans are very good at roster construction arithmetic. We add contracts and arbitration estimates and vesting options, we subtract them from the payroll ceiling we trust to be generally true, and we let our minds run wild with what remains. It's not uncommon to fixate on this figure before a team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, or before the All-Star break, or even before the first pitch of the season is thrown. We know who the free agents to be are, and we know what our team will have to spend. It's easy, especially during a losing season, and especially if you're a Seattle Mariners fan, to start filling in the gaps.
It's an exercise in hope, and during most seasons, when faced with the stark numbers representing the Mariner's wins and losses, it's a welcome escape to a world where hitters get on base with regularity, defenders turn hits into outs, and Joe Saunders doesn't exist. The unknown is a blank canvas upon which we can project anything, and the more imaginary money we can reasonably dream up, the easier it is to envision superstar players and contracts below market value and a baseball team constructed to remain compelling well into September.
Most seasons, I'd be well on my way towards servicing these fantasies. There is unquestionably a great deal of very real money to spend, and there are many good baseball players who will enter the market. If I could bring myself to believe in the direction of this franchise, there's no limit to the hypothetical lineups and rotations I could envision. But we know the front office situation, what lies before us. There are shrill and piercing strings on the soundtrack. There's a noise sounding from the darkness but everyone lacks the courage to investigate. There are warnings we can only vaguely recall. What was once youthful enthusiasm and carefree frivolity has quickly turned to dread. We've seen this movie before, know how it ends. The phone is ringing. The call is coming from inside the organization.
Events have transpired this last calendar year that now cause me to turn from optimism and expect the worst when it comes to potential moves made by the Seattle Mariners. There's a fine line between a reasonable free agent acquisition and an albatross contract. Speed disappears, contact skills erode. Superstars plummet to replacement level in less than one season. Potential salvation and disaster exist in equal measure this offseason, each speeding away from each other in opposite directions along the spectrum of successful baseball. We're trapped in the house, waiting powerlessly as our fate is decided. There's a clearing in the forest, just beyond the reach of the porch light. If only we could run there, we might be able to escape. But no one ever makes it, do they? Best to hide, stay silent, hold out until morning. Close your eyes and rail against the inevitable.