Access is a funny thing. It is dishonest to pretend that getting to share a space with almost the entirety of the Mariner front office and local sports media isn't something you aspire to do when you start blogging. It's an affirmation, to walk into a room like that and feel, at least partially, like you belong.
The question is what value to the audience does access add? Is there something inherently special about what I have to say about yesterday's event that say, Ryan Divish, Bob Dutton, or Greg Johns don't?
Let's see if we can find out.
- The first thing to note is that, to a man, this front office does an excellent job presenting a unified front. Divish centered his post around the concept of communication, and that's probably the right takeaway. Emphasis on things like "shared vision", "unification of speech", and many other buzzwords that will be written on hallways and banners in Safeco if the team wins, and made fun of here at great length if they lose.
Assistant GM Jeff Kingston, one of two Zduriencik holdovers, admitted flatly that the previous front office "failed in the process of communicating to players." There's been a lot said and speculated about what went wrong with the 2015 Mariners, and how players like Mike Zunino failed so spectacularly. The new guys in charge have made it their mission to keep the entire organization to a singular, simple emphasis. "Control the Zone" or whatever you want to call it. These guys are together.
Of course that's easy to do when you're 0-0 and everything's in front of you. As with anything, the real challenge is not establishing something, but seeing it through. Whether the concepts espoused by Andy McKay, Tom Allison, Scott Servais and the others holds together in the face of adversity will be the true test. We can't know, for now.
- I stood right next to Andy McKay, the mysterious mental skills guru, for about 25 minutes. He is very tanned, and has large feet.
- One of the things you couldn't see or hear if you were digesting the press conference is the palpable relief most of the speakers imparted when their time to speak and answer questions was over. It's easy to forget through the TV how human all these people are, and how public speaking is a bit outside some of their skillsets. There certainly weren't any glaringly awkward faux pas or missteps, but being there you could see the deep exhale that accompanied stepping off that podium.
Baseball executives, they're just like us, if we're white middle-aged dudes in suits of course.
- That previous point absolutely, 100% does not apply to Jerry Dipoto, who showed up in a sea of monochrome sport coats and ties with a plaid-forward ensemble fit for a night at the theater, and who radiates a confidence and ease of being that is impossible to not gravitate towards.
There is almost no way that Dipoto is as confident in himself and his organization as he comes off, but I bet he's damn close. One thing I know is I would rather undergo a tax audit with Jerry Dipoto as the IRS officer than play one inning of baseball with Mike Scioscia as my manager. The Mariners head man is a blast, and you can see a noticeable trickle down already in multiple sides of the organization. Hell, they've started letting me hang around them more. Here's to hoping it leads to wins, and a personable, fun team to root for.
- I spent a good 15-20 minutes talking to play by play man Aaron Goldsmith. His voice is perfect, his hair is more perfect. He is impossibly nice. I have no idea who found the guy, or what the competition was, but the team made a hell of a choice.
There is no universe where anyone will ever replace Dave Niehaus. But Aaron knows that, and he's young enough, and good enough that he could be the Voice of the Mariners for the next generation, even generations, of fans. We are very, very lucky to have him.
- The Mariners fed me lunch! I had: A caprese salad (excellent), a
cessarcaesar salad (fine), a sourdough roll (not great), a chicken breast (ok), and two cannolis (helllllllllllllll yeah). More than the quality of food though was the fact that I ate it and it was free and it was from the team, which was very nice of them. There's an oft-repeated joke about sportswriters and their love of free food. To that I say what's the joke? Free food is awesome as hell, and should be enjoyed whenever possible regardless of quality without shame.
Get yours, beat writers. Pull that handle to the soft serve machine. Treat yoself.
- Scott Servais, a Wisconsin native and documented Green Bay Packer fan, has a head shaped not unlike a head of cheese.
- Brock Huard, former UW/Seahawks QB and now morning drive radio host, asked a question. It was a perfectly good question, although I forget what it was. More striking was the man's voice, which sounded as though someone coated the Horn of Helm Hammerhand in graveled honey and implanted it next to a person's voice box. I assume this is a prerequisite to being a world-class athlete, and now feel less shame that my athletic exploits had such a low ceiling. Sinus issues have lead to a lifetime of poor breath and diaphragm support. Ah well.
- As I said in the intro, the access is affirming on a personal level. But, and I think this is an observation that extends to LL's staff, community, and even the shifting culture of media, it affirms what we do here, and our larger vision for what the site is, and can be.
We will tell the truth, and make dumb/silly jokes, and even rant on players/executives when we get frustrated. This isn't a newspaper, and we aren't beat writers. We are fans. But the image of someone sitting alone in front of a computer, revolutionizing the way we all see the game, is mostly past. With it is the idea that we can write about these teams, employees, and players in a way that is as detached as it has been in the past. That's a tradeoff for access, and it's an imperfect and constantly shifting balancing act. I and we will do our best to not screw it up.
We're thankful to the Mariners for acknowledging the site, and allowing us a small place at the table. As the idea and expectations of a fan site's role in team coverage evolves and grows, we'll be here, and effort to continue to provide you, the reader, with the best experience we possibly can.