From close up, Larry Stone writes about where the Mariners went wrong and he's exactly right. The big finish:
- It's time for the Mariners, in the wake of this disastrous season, to step back and realize that to leap forward, they must not get lured again into abandoning the master plan. Let Jack Z do what he does best, which is continue to ramp up the farm system while finding hidden gems — like Franklin Gutierrez, David Aardsma, Jason Vargas and Russell Branyan. There will be a time to jump full-force into free agency, when they are truly on the verge of contention, but this is not that time.
Here's the hidden bonus: Fans will actually get behind a team they believe they can grow with. This year's Mariners team is so maddening in large part because it seems to have such a limited future. Fans know intuitively that the bulk of the current players are vagabonds, dispatched as soon as something better comes along. Just about the only joy is watching the progress of young players with a future such as Michael Saunders and Adam Moore, and eyeing from afar the help on the way in the form of Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda and Justin Smoak, among others.
I'm convinced fans are on board for rebuilding, even with the inevitable growing pains. I'm even convinced that the Mariners are far closer to respectability than it appears.
They just need to stay the course, once and for all.
They do need to stay the course. And I agree, absolutely, with everything that Stone wrote before the "hidden bonus" ... but that, I just don't believe.
People like Larry Stone and Dave Cameron and Rob Neyer really, really, really want to believe that if you start building something cool, everybody's going to want to watch.
But fans aren't like that. People aren't like that. If you build model airplanes, just opening the box and seeing all those pieces is exciting. Once you start building the thing, there are pieces here and pieces there, landing-gear assemblies and wings held together by smelly glue and clothes-pins. To you -- and few model-plan aficianodos you know -- it's a beautiful thing, even in this state.
To most people, though, it's just a big mess. Nobody wants to see the kit, or all the pieces and the airplane glue and the paint thinner. Everybody wants to see the completed model, with the paint and the decals, hung from the ceiling with fishing line.
I wish it weren't so. I wish more than a tiny minority of fans were interested in the pieces, unassembled and disordered. But they're just not. The fans in Seattle will come back when the airplane's built, and flying high. But not until then.