2018! It was certainly A Year. There was an Olympics with a dramatic women’s hockey win that actually made Canadians act rude for like, a day, and a World Cup that somehow still happened even though the US wasn’t in it. Elon Musk pretended like he was going to rescue some kids from a cave, but really just wanted to invent a smaller, dumber submarine, before he went on to invent a smaller, dumber, more dangerous subway. There was a royal wedding, a missile scare in Hawaii (that broke and then saved PornHub, because 2018!), a Triple Crown winner, and folk hero/nightmare spawn Gritty was born. Oh, and Black Panther came out. (For some reason it’s that last one that throws the members of the staff here off the most, with Gotty going full Mandela Effect and swearing it came out in 2017. It did not.)
It was also a pretty wild year for the Mariners baseball club of Seattle. Ichiro was a Mariner again, and then Special Assistant to the Chairman, and also wore a disguise in a dugout. Robinson Canó started off the year looking like an All-Star, was suspended for PEDs, and now, halfway through what was the largest free-agency signing in Mariners’ history, is no longer a Mariner. Fans banded together to #SendSegura to the All-Star Game in a weeks-long lovefest, and then Segura was sent packing to Philadelphia for cheap. Nelson Cruz tried to kill us all with his sleeveless jersey on Turn Ahead the Clock Night. Edwin Díaz almost set the single-season saves record, and now is no longer a Mariner. Relatedly, the Mariners farm system jumped from being worst in baseball to solidly middle of the pack in a matter of weeks. Félix Hernández got hit by a comebacker in Spring Training and everyone worried he’d miss time. By the All-Star Break, he was pitching out of the bullpen. An eagle landed on James Paxton, and then he threw a no-hitter, and now he’s a Yankee. The Mariners were definitely going to make the playoffs, and then they most definitely weren’t. A decade-old sexual harassment scandal was brought to light, and a brand-new scandal regarding a much-ballyhooed hire emerged. The team colors now include magenta, and if you call it pink you will be corrected, nicely, but swiftly. There was an ice skating rink on the infield, which feels like a metaphor, somehow.
2019 will be a year of transition for the ballclub, which means it’s a good time to step back and set some goals. Here are some things the Lookout Landing staff would like to see from the Mariners, and also some goals we’re setting for ourselves as we look towards another year of covering the team from our little perch on the internet.
For the Mariners: I want the Mariners to come out of 2019 with a clearer direction toward the future, whether that’s realizing that they’re closer to contention than they realized, and making the subsequent moves to own the 2020s, or continuing to ship off the older pieces for newer, potential-laden ones. The entire point of a rebuild is to take stock of the franchise and keep the players who can help you in the future, while flipping the over-the-hill guys for ones that fit easier into the first category. That should be their entire goal for this upcoming season.
Also, GET. NEW. HOME. JERSEYS.
For myself: This season will be an exercise in patience. I will need to unlearn success as a win-loss binary and instead focus on the process over results. This will mean diving into Minor League Baseball for the first time in my life and keeping tabs on the mini-Mariners that carry the weight of the organization on their developing shoulders. I cannot wait to have strong opinions on the Modesto Nuts’ pitch-count management by mid-June.
For the Mariners: I would like Jerry Dipoto to resolve to be a little more patient. Dipoto is that kid in class who always wanted to be the Line Leader because he can’t stand the thought of not being the first one someplace. And while the early bird does get the worm, sometimes that worm is a lefty pitcher whose arm is three strands away from exploding who’s better off left in the ground. Acting early isn’t always the wisest course of action, especially when you’re paying ten cents over on the dollar just to be first (or taking ten cents less). While it’s common to resolve to exercise more in the New Year, I hope Dipoto & Co. will resolve to exercise more patience.
For myself: I feel duty-bound to watch every pitch of every Mariners game, start to finish. This year, I would like to give myself permission to walk away from a game that’s not going well and finish listening on the radio, while I walk vigorously along a path, breathing in fresh air and health and light and breathing out the Mariners blowing late-game leads, and people complaining about the team on social media, and watching Ryon Healy strike out for the 40422th time. My cheeks will be flush with health and vigor, and my mind will be clear of Same Old Mariners, and my steps will be so, so light.
For the Mariners: Lower. Ticket. Prices. I am completely on board with rebuilding for a few seasons, burt that means no more $35 plus 300 level tickets and if bleacher seats are ever more than $12, we riot. Make another attempt at some kind of monthly stadium pass (RIP MoviePass) and make it like $50 a month, but limit it to bleachers and 300 level seats. For Sunday home games, give all kids 10 and under free admission. Why not? Kids eat so much food. Food is expensive at the stadium. What you lose on ticket sales I swear you’ll triple in concessions feeding those hordes of hungry, wild ass children who are having the time of their lives at a major league ballpark regardless of what’s happening on the field.
For Myself: Try not to be too terribly disappointed if Daniel Vogelbach, Full-Time Designated Hitter either doesn’t happen at all or does not pan out like I hope it will.
For the Mariners: If you are of the ilk to care about off-the-field issues in baseball, you likely feel that something is rotten in the state of the Mariners. The sexual harassment story that broke this summer regarding current CEO Kevin Mather and Dr. Lorena Martin’s allegations of racism and sexism have been disturbing and upsetting. The organization’s response to all of these events has been disappointing. An apology for the sexual harassment story was good, but all that was done, clearly in the hope the story would disappear. Following Dr. Martin’s public disclosure of her allegations, the team released strong denials that read like a five-year-old slapped them together. The Mariners owe their fans more. These issues are things that affect a large portion of the fan base and are not easy to move on from. In a year where beloved players have been traded for prospects, ticket prices have been raised, and we stare down the dark tunnel of another rebuild, it is the off-the-field issues that make me want to turn my back on the team. The Mariners must resolve to at least pretend like they respect their fans. We deserve better.
For Myself: I’ve never cared about prospects before. I’m sure they’re all lovely people, but like non-radio music, they just seem like a lot of work to get into. In 2019, that all changes. I live close to Cheney Stadium, the Mariners are rebuilding, and I find myself with a little more time on my hands. This year, I’ll know about the players on Tacoma’s roster. I’ll know about the players on other minor league rosters. I will be able to pontificate at dinner parties about the Mariner’s developmental system, if I ever go to any dinner parties. I do know I’ll be in attendance at Cheney Stadium, prospect knowledge packed along with my scorebook.
For the Mariners: I’m with Eric here: lower the damn ticket prices. While I’m looking forward to snagging cheap Gametime tickets come June, I’m still stung by last year’s exorbitant prices. The Blue Jays weekend August series didn’t have a single ticket cheaper than $35-40 for any of the games, whether that was through third parties or the team itself. That is a war crime. Opening Day and other festivities aside, if any 300-level seat is over $30, expect some strong words.
For me: During every game I recapped this pat season, I kept a hand-drawn chart of each starter’s pitch log. Pitch-by-pitch, batter-by-batter, it was a great way to stay focused on the game and learn more and more about how each pitcher worked. My resolution is to learn even more about pitching, and work on my scouting eye—though I could often tell when a certain pitch wasn’t working, I struggled to understand the “why” behind it. With less of my attention focused on winning each game, I hope to hone my eye and analysis even more next year.
For the Mariners: Beyond the obvious frustrations with the organization and the messes of Kevin Mather, ownership, and the entire debacle around the Dr. Lorena Martin situation, I want to see the organization I root for take chances. Seattle is now a below-average team with an average farm system. They must get the most out of everyone they have. That demands creative thinking and treatment of players at every level, and unique plans for each one. There is true talent all throughout Seattle’s system, but they must get the best out of it all. They cannot be afraid to fail in that effort, and even for general managers and coaches on 1-to-3 year contracts, the safe route is a greater risk than trying to be bold.
For me: I’d like to scout more games live. Video analysis from grainy MiLB footage is sometimes all we can do, but when possible I want to bring fresh eyes and additional perspective in what I write. I have played for and rooted on dozens of terrible teams in my life; the prospect of bad baseball doesn’t faze me. But finding a way to grow and improve myself with this opportunity is worthwhile, and I’m excited at the challenge.
For the Mariners: Have some prospect—any prospect, but especially maybe Jarred or Julio—blow the roof off their ceiling. It’s been a long, long stretch of fits and starts and yes Kyle Seager was great but he’s been in the majors for longer than I’ve been out of school and that’s an annoyingly long time. They need a true, huge win in the development department. There are players with the youth and tools to do it, and I need to see a teenager in triple-A or Kyle Lewis smacking dingers in Safeco in August. We all need it.
For me: Enjoy more AquaSox games. Safeco is great, but the team is (1) not making an effort to compete (which is fine with me, truly) but (2) also not, you know, cutting prices (or keeping prices level!). I’ll be paying a lot more attention to lower Mariners levels this year, and I’ll be looking forward to cheap, quiet baseball games in Everett with a more relaxed atmosphere that doesn’t leave me feeling like the mark the moment I walk through the center field gates.
For the Mariners: Actually sell out for the proposed 2020/2021 window of contention. That’s the window that the team has been selling with their moves, if not with their explicit statements. Aside from Jarred Kelenic, most of the marquee players acquired by the Mariners should be ready to contribute in a meaningful way by 2021. So please, Mariners, actually go for it. Barring a miraculous run in 2019 (that won’t happen), trade everyone who isn’t going to help in 2021. Trade Mike Leake. Trade Kyle Seager, if he bounces back. If we’re going to get rid of all the players that we loved, then do it right and get rid of all of them. Except Mitch. Please.
For me: Follow these Mariners like I learned to follow the Mariners of the early 2010’s. I can look back at my social media history and see my past posts getting pumped up over walk off home runs when the team was 20 games below .500. The past few years have seen the Mariners as a fringe contender, but I think I’m most at home rooting for a dumpster fire.