I don't want the Royals to win the World Series. I've tried multiple times to get behind this supposed team of destiny, sometimes for as long as five minutes at a time, but I can't do it. It isn't them. There's nothing wrong with the team. There's more than a little bit to love. But every time they do something good—and if they're at home, The K roars to life—I can't stand it. Yes, I'm still bitter.
I don't know if the Mariners actually are as good as the Royals. There are some numbers saying they are, and just as many saying they aren't—with those nine postseason wins, and how they've performed in them, being some of the biggest. But for those Mariners fans, like me, still feeling some level of jealousy and spite, it was more about style than overall talent level.
On a shallow level, the Royals are not a great team. They only won 89, so that's the starting point. Then there's the part where they get by on a solid starting rotation, a great bullpen and strong defense. There are variances in this—with the Mariners and Royals not truly being equals in any of these areas—but the stylistic similarities are there. The belief has been then that this could (should?) be the M's.
An even better perspective, offered by the optimists around these parts, is that if the Royals can do it, so can the Mariners.
But in looking at what might be accomplished by the Mariners if things go right, finding a similar team and hoping for similar results—why not aim a little higher? Why not aim for the Giants?
This idea first took hold in my mind some years ago, that there might be some parallels here. Looking at how the team captured the city the way it had during that first recent World Series run, how could you not be envious? Then they won another one, now are appearing in their third in five years and that part seems a bit unrealistic—but that level of sustained success should (and really always has been) the goal.
When you look at what the Giants have accomplished in the past few years, it is, again, impressive. If they win three more games and pick up that third World Series in five years, they'll be looked at as something of a dynasty despite never really having the appearance of a dominant team. In their three pennant-winning seasons, they never won 95 or more games and only once—the 92-win 2012 team—did they finish in the top five by run differential.
They got by on being consistently good—just always being there in the end and capitalizing on that Even Year Bullshit in the playoffs. The foundation of their success, of course, is built on the back of homegrown pitching talent—just as it will be here in Seattle if the Mariners see the level of winning they would like to. There's bound to be some level of attrition, just as there was with the Giants—because this is pitching, after all—but that still can carry you if you have enough of it, which the Mariners do on the high end.
Then again, the Giants have been better on offense—though not worlds better than where the Mariners stood recently. The last time the Giants played in a World Series, in 2012, they had a team wRC+ of 101. The M's were at 87. This year, San Francisco sat again at that 101 mark as the Mariners climbed to a wRC+ of 93, good for 19th in the league. Though homegrown development of guys like Kyle Seager has played a big role, and continued development of others will as well, further improvement on offense is going to depend largely on key acquisitions—free agents in particular.
On that note, I have an interesting chart for you, a look at these two organizations' respective Opening Day payrolls (as reported by the AP), going back to the last time the Mariners opened a campaign with a roster costing more than $100 million.
As recently as 2010, a year in which the Giants won the World Series, the Mariners were spending more on their roster. Of course, the Giants have blown by Seattle and spent the seventh-most in the game in 2014, and spending upwards of $150 million in payroll is hard envision here anytime soon—but it's perfectly reasonable to think the Mariners are much closer to the Giants than they are the Royals.
After all, Howard Lincoln did say the Mariners' recent cable deal should put them in position to compete financially with the likes of the Angels and Rangers. You know who sat sandwiched right between those two in the payroll rankings in 2014? That's right, the Giants.
But this goes beyond what we see in the realm of baseball. San Francisco and the surrounding area (San Jose/Silicon Valley) especially, is a hub for economic activity. Spurred by growth in the technology sector and all the young talent (and wealth) that's bringing to the area, the city is on the ups more than about any in the country—possibly the world. Of course, it does help to have two of the five best-performing metros in the immediate vicinity when it comes to boosting support, and then payroll, but Seattle is coming into its own economically.
In those previously linked-to rankings, put together by the Miken Institute, the Seattle-Bellevue metro ranks sixth. Beyond that, Seattle is also the fastest growing city in the country according to the most recent Census data. All of this matters enormously when looking at the potential financial growth of a franchise.
From a resource standpoint, the strategic allocation of said resources is even more important than just having them available, and there are question marks on Seattle's side for sure—but even Giants' GM Brian Sabean has shown an executive can go from almost universal derision to at least guarded praise.
Beyond that, I highlight the growth of the team's respective cities for the soft side of this as well. When I asked why so many people dislike the Giants on Twitter the other night, the answers weren't great—with the most common response being something about their fans. And even those seemed to qualify the perceived obnoxiousness with the fact that they've been wildly successful and that the support is understandable.
Again, I don't think it's anywhere near realistic to hope the Mariners can make it to multiple World Series in the next few years, but it's that level of support I want as much as anything. Many of us view it as obnoxious, the "bandwagon" nature of these newfound Giants-backers, but you really don't want that here?
I know Seattle, right now, is a Seahawks town—and I'm coming to grips with the idea that this city won't ever be truly controlled by the Mariners, if it can ever really be owned by one team. But I do know that baseball can capture a city and spurn civic pride more than any other sport. Though I'm sure the nostalgic romanticism plays a role, it's a simple numbers thing—there are just more games. A dominant team storming to a Super Bowl title will bring out support, but a division-winning team rolling towards a deep playoff run is an everyday thing—and a Friday night at Safeco is an experience considerably more financially accessible than a Sunday afternoon at the CLink.
The Mariners have a long way to go, undoubtedly, but the opportunity is there. This city as shown that it will reward year-to-year winning, something the organization hasn't provided in a long time. 2014 was a step, one this organization and its fans desperately needed, but it's time to—as the Giants have done—keep taking another one.
And with 2015 being an odd year, there's no better time to do it.