Thiel: Mariners so foolish, anger seems futile

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by Art Thiel

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Updated Saturday, Oct 27 at 8:30 AM

The latest mis-step by the Mariners front office is so pathetic that anger seems futile. It's like watching a kid falling off his bike into a puddle. Neither yelling nor laughing is the right thing, so pick him up, wipe off the tears and mud and send him on his way.

At a time when the franchise reputation is lower than the U.S. Army's supply of horses and bayonets, the Mariners forgot to tell their most loyal customers, the season-ticket holders, that a price increase was on the way.

The courtesy heads-up is business 101. I'm told that even Boeing lets the government know when the price of military-airplane toilet seats goes up 50 percent to $10,000. But the Mariners bosses, in the fashion of so many of their hitters, whiffed. An apology was sent this week from Bob Aylward, senior vice president of business operations:

We apologize. The Mariners organization works hard to have an open line of communication with our Season Ticket Holders, whom we value and consider the backbone of our fan base.

However, recently we sent you a season ticket renewal notice without making it clear that there were price increases for many accounts. We had planned to have our account managers speak personally to all our Season Ticket Holders to explain the changes for 2013 and get your feedback. That didn't happen in a timely manner.

Our goal was to provide you with personalized attention. Unfortunately, we didn't get it right.

We recognize the financial and emotional investment you have made in Mariners Baseball. We are sorry for our miscommunication. And we pledge to do better.

By itself, the blunder is not a big deal. It wasn't as if getting a heads-up was going to produce a price rollback.

But a blunt-force price increase coming after another lousy season and amid the open wound of their arena opposition that has some part of the Seattle sports community looking away in disgust, compounded the folly. And then having it come during October's annual celebration of baseball . . .  the rolling debacle goes beyond anger to sadness.

Fergawdsakes, I and most everyone in town wishes success upon the Mariners. They keep fighting us off.

The episode's timing coincided with the annual scab-picking that finds another 10 teams getting a little somethin'-somethin' from the postseason while the Mariners are 11 years without, yet are capable of committing an E-franchise three weeks after their season ended.

Watching the World Series and the Detroit Tigers' considerable midsection lineup of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young, the realization struck that the Mariners don't have one guy like them on the 40-man roster, if not the whole organization. And then Pablo Sandoval of the Giants, 5-foot-11 and 250 pounds, in Game 1 pounds out three home runs in the most hitter-unfriendly park in baseball.

Move in the fences? How about letting out the pants?

I realize it was a freak occurrence for any team; hitting home runs by itself is not a barometer of baseball success. But in baseball, as in football, there's a little bit of an eye test that applies. When Washington coach Steve Sarkisian stood on the pre-game sidelines in Baton Rouge in September and looked at Louisiana State and then at Washington, he knew right away the Huskies brought pillows to a chainsaw fight.

I mean, Dustin Ackley is a nice ballplayer, but he does not ripple the pond, much less make a splash. Same with every Mariners position player. The only scary dude, Felix Hernandez, plays every fifth day. For 10 years, the franchise player was Ichiro, master of the 60-foot worm-disturber.

It's just weird. Since the days of Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and even gnarly vets like Mark McLemore, the Mariners have been a dial tone. Even Doug Fister, the Tigers' Game 2 starter who was a Mariner a year ago until he was traded for four potentially adequate players, had a steely resolve about him that became obvious to the world Thursday night when he was struck in the head by a line drive and still pitched six innings of one-run ball.

Yes, there's more to baseball than looks. But the Mariners neither look nor act like a championship operation. But you knew that, knew that for so long that it's hard to work up enough passion for a chuckle or a heckle. Just wipe the mud and tears, skip the anger and go to straight to pity.

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