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Some other questions facing the Mariners in 2015

The year ahead is an important one for a surging M's franchise seeking their first postseason berth in over a decade. But we are the ones that have to watch it all.

Rich Lam/Getty Images

The last week in December is undeniably an awful time to be a baseball writer. With the industry on a week-long hiatus, required news posts are unfortunately relegated to either contextualizing completed moves (like, what the hell is going on in San Diego?) or guesstimating the next steps of the offseason through a look at roster holes and remaining free agents (seriously, what is A.J. Preller's deal?). It's not that you want anyone to get The Call while they are opening presents with their kids, but...I mean...a little news would be nice, wouldn't it?

To solve this conundrum, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune recently posted an article looking ahead to the biggest unanswered questions for the 2015 Seattle Mariners. It's a great analysis of what Jack Z and crew have left to do before the 2015 season officially begins, from deciding what to do with Brad Miller, to finding a backup for the injury-prone Logan Morrison, and of course, solidifying a fit for the newly acquired Justin Ruggiano into their to-be completed outfield plan. Dutton's informed insight is very valuable, and it makes me wish I had front-office connections to know that Jack Z is, in fact, interested in someone like Seth Smith to fill a gaping hole in the outfield.

I, of course, have no such connections. I also do not have decades of baseball analysis under my belt, nor an ability to put a bunch of numbers together on a spreadsheet and tell you why X player is a poor investment for the future of the club. Instead, I have a television and a computer through which I subject myself to hours upon hours of Seattle Mariners baseball every season, mediated through Dave Sims, Mike Blowers, and the ROOT Sports broadcast crew. I also have a handful of games inside Safeco each year, and the experience of following a bumpy road with the same 25 guys throughout a better part of the calendar year.

There are, to be sure, many unanswered questions about the future of this roster as it tries to chase its first postseason berth in over a decade. But I have a couple of unanswered questions about our experience of the Mariners that I would like answered before the start of 2015. So here we go:

1. Can we ban the goddamned wave already?

Now, sure. The Mariners would never do it. Safeco's M.O. has been a "family friendly" experience since day one, and Howard Lincoln got a whole bunch of flak for admitting as much in last year's bizarre post-season sit-down session with Ryan Divish. There are stories of people getting booted by security for little to no reason, beyond possibly upsetting a family of four inside a stadium that serves people gallons of alcohol while they sit out in the blistering sun. Banning the wave is just not in the cards.

But the days of selling the Safeco experience simply as a "family event" are over. The Mariners are winning, games in September have stakes, and nobody needs to be distracted by a bunch of overgrown frat kids trying to distract themselves (and the players) from an on-field product that nobody wants to be paying attention to. I don't care if it was "invented in the Kingdome." The wave needs to stop, and the only way it will is if someone actually does something about it.


I hate the Texas Rangers. One of the reasons I hate the Texas Rangers is because their stadium experience seems to stand for everything I hate about modern commercialized baseball (which Safeco is by no means immune to), from a $30 dollar two-foot heart-attack hot-dogs to ubiquitous beer ads championing liquid pee from a company that insidiously tries to destroy their competition rather than adapt to a shifting market. But in 2011, these very same Texas Rangers started posting an Anti-Wave warning (above) on their video screen that jokingly discouraged fans from participating in the most obnoxious behavior imaginable by claiming participants would be sold to the circus or break their arms in the process. The Rangers' senior vice president was on board, inspired by fan reaction and Royals' reliever Greg Holland's website, Even the Rockies and Brewers have gotten in on discouraging the action. This is what the Mariners need to do to make the experience of competitive baseball better than the experience of begging people to come watch a shitty team lose games under the auspices of "family entertainment."

I don't want to claim that any of those teams "get" it, or that their fans somehow care more about winning than getting plastered on $10 beers while sitting in plastic chairs. But for fuck's sake, there is a way to do this without actually banning the wave and pissing people off, because people and players are already pissed off to have to sit through such asininity in the first place. Ban the wave.

2. Is Dave Sims OK?

Nobody wants a robot on their team's call, especially in a sport where each game lasts longer than the extended edition of the Return of the King and its requisite 9,000 endings. But during last season, Dave Sims had a few on-air moments that were legitimately terrifying, and had many viewers concerned our beloved fedora man may be at his wits' end--awkward silences, misread names, unintelligible sequences and of course, a rapidly diminishing ability to judge the distance of fly balls compared to home runs. Was our beloved announcer having strokes on air? Was his programming set to Harrelson mode? Is senility kicking in too early? Does he get all his announcing powers from his hats, left to wither without a skull-shaped battery in tow?

Look, we could all use another "Kyle Ackley" or three this season. I'm not asking for a new announcer here or anything. I just want to make sure Sims is ready to go every day, and I'll take anyone in that booth to give Sims a day or two off. Well, except for Jay Buhner. Either way, we should be concerned about the Sims, and make sure to give him his needed rest during what is supposed to be the best season of Mariners baseball in years.

3. Can we cool it with those awful AMPM commercials?

Money is money in live television broadcasting. I get it. Advertising dollars keep the lights on, and I'd rather have baseball with an obnoxious ad or two than not have any baseball at all. But my god, you guys need to fucking cool it with these AMPM commercials that play during every pitching change, inning end, trip to the mound, bobbled ball, wiped brow, and throat clearing. Twice a week is enough to drive a man crazy. But when you watch 162 games of baseball and hear these as much as you do, your brain starts to push out other, more important things in favor of inscribing a gravely NOW DRINK THEM ALL onto the neurons floating around in your head. Just look at these:

Whoever uploaded this onto YouTube titled the video "HILARIOUS!!," which makes me feel incredible pity for their lifelong humor intake. It's not hilarious. No, it's incredibly stupid. Nobody would ever go into a convenience store an order four drinks for themselves, that's why they invented those gigantic BIG GULP cups in the first place! Do they even know how their own business model functions?

No, this abomination of an advertisement is what happens when a production company sits in a meeting with a bunch of crusty old execs who want to dictate the content of the ads that....they hired the production company to write for them in the first place.

EXEC: What get me here...

WRITER: Um okay,

EXEC: So a guy goes in to the store, right? And he tries to sample a number of our products that...

EXEC 2: Good good, yes, we have to highlight our coffee and soda fountain selections. As a subsidiary of British Petroleum and the provider of highly processed garbage food to thousands of Americans refuling their vehicles on a daily basis, our profitability can only function through an effort at total market saturation

EXEC: Right, right, so what if he comes in and wants ALL THE DRINKS? All of em. Two coffees, two sodas--

WRITER: Wait, but

EXEC 2 (laughing uncontrollably): By jove, you've done it again!

WRITER: But why would he

EXEC: Yes, Yes, Richard, this is certainly one for the books.

WRITER: I still don't see why h

EXEC: Alright, three down, what's the next one you got for us?

This one is THE WORST. No one has ever stood waiting in front of a self-serve hotdog topping table at a gas station and told another human being, "Man, you are taking forever." Ever. In the history of the world. Then again, maybe that's why the Roman soldier walks into the frame, just to add to the impossibility of the whole situation. I don't want to watch these every day when I watch baseball. I can do two, maybe three. But that's it. Not what has happened over the past couple of years, no.

ROOT: Please, PLEASE think about getting some new ads this season. Get rid of this AM PM shit and maybe even give Vern Fonk another couple of seconds of airtime. Yes, it's that bad. You won't, and my question has been answered. But maybe just think about it for a minute.

4. Is it time for new ballpark traditions?

This one is more of a legitimate question. Experiencing the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field over the past decade or so has been a turbulent ride, one that I'm sure has given the marketing team headed by Kevin Martinez any number of headaches over promoting such an unstable product. There have been really great traditions started at Safeco, ranging from the grandiosity of the King's Court and Hall-of-Fame inductions to fan-favorites like the Hydro Race and Beard Hat Night. But many of Safeco's traditions started during an era when going to see baseball meant literally everything other than "seeing baseball." I mean, the guy that designed the Hydro Races actually said "It's the thing that gets the most response from the fans every night" once, and that was on a team that had 93 wins, with Ichiro, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Cameron on their roster.

I don't want to suggest the M's retire the Hydro Race or anything. But most ballpark traditions come and go with the ebb and flow of time: the Ichimeter lady was forced to start making new cardboard messages in the middle of 2012, Ichirolls became simple Sushi, and you can't really chant Ed-Gar when you don't have someone on your team named Edgar. But just as many of us grew sick of the constant 1995 nostalgia over the past few years, I wonder if it could be time to start carving out new traditions rather than simply rely on recycled ones, despite the fact that we can never fully ignore the team's past. What do you think? What goes, what stays? What should be relegated to the dustbin of history?