Sunday, December 28, 2003

I hope everyone had a great holiday. I'm on vacation for another week and I hope to get even more relaxed :)

Watching the Seahawks yesterday reminded me of how precarious I think the Mariners situation is. The Seahawks were a major draw in Seattle for years, but a number of losing seasons brought the popularity of the team to a devastating low. The Sonics teams of Payton and Kemp were extremely popular. It seems to me that the formula for making money with pro sports in Seattle is incredibly straightforward - win and you will be popular.

For not recognizing the team's weaknesses, the Mariners have been out of the playoffs for two years now. The last similar stretch they had was the 1998-1999 seasons. Of course Safeco Field was new during the '99 season and in 2000 they went to the playoffs. Here is the attendance trend in the Safeco Field era:
Year  Game Ave.  Total

1999 35,999 2,915,908
2000 35,983 3,148,317
2001 43,362 3,512,326
2002 43,710 3,540,482
2003 40,351 3,268,509

Missing the playoffs in 2002 looks like it had an effect on the 2003 attendance. I think this trend will continue this year. Mariner attends always starts slow in the cold April weather. In both '02 and '03 the M's go off to great starts, which helped bring the fans in. Will this happen again this year? The Mariners have a truly great situation right now with their fans - but this is not Chicago or Boston. If the current trend continues and the Mariners continue to miss the playoffs the fans will not be there.

I've often said over the past few years that the strength of the Mariners pitching will always keep them at least competitive. The departure of Cameron has me wondering if this is really true. Yes, Safeco is a pitchers park, but the effectiveness of the Mariners defense cannot be denied. Winn in center and to a lesser extent Spiezio at third is going to have an impact. It's not clear that the offence this year has been upgraded enough to simply cover this gap, much less cause a move to the "next level" that Mariners fans have been waiting for.

There will be good things to watch this year, and indeed, in a diminished AL West, the M's could compete. The question that the M's front office needs to ask themselves is how long will competing be enough.


Post a Comment

<< Home