The truth is, I don’t hate the Mariners. I never have, never will. You don’t hate the Mariners, either, I imagine. You might say you do, but you don’t. No one hates the Mariners. The Mariners don’t invoke hatred. Outside of the bubble that is Mariners fandom, the world could care less about this team. They are a punch line, if that. Rival fans — and I use the word “rival” very loosely — don’t give a damn about Seattle. For those of us who do give a damn, the passions evoked by our favorite baseball team are far more painstaking than detachment. What the Mariners inspire is a feeling that borders on apathy, yet results in frustration. It is that emotion, a reluctant resignation to a fate with a tragic ending, that makes this situation unique in a very sad, special way.
As fans, we are imprisoned by a love for this godforsaken team, a love not unlike that which a parent has for a troubled child. No matter what that kid does, no matter how stupid the decisions he makes may be, we cannot help but hope that the next time will be different. There is no other way to approach each letdown. We have to believe in something better because this love refuses to let us believe anything otherwise. On a daily basis, that is what this team does to us.
We all deal with our disappointment differently. Some of us get mad and unleash our angst on the organization or other fans. Some of us feign indifference and ignore the team to the best of our abilities. Others, like me, crack jokes and ooze cynicism, almost daring the M’s to call our bluff and shut us up with wins. Regardless, there is an acute awareness from all that none of these circumstances are either positive or happy.
But how could anyone be happy in an environment like this? What the Mariners organization has bred is a losing culture combined with a lack of accountability for the scorched earth upon which its creators walk. This is Biff Tannen’s Hill Valley and in Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong — team CEO and President, respectively — we have our antagonists. They’ve masterminded this hellish alternate reality in which they and they alone come out on top. Everyone else is simply collateral damage.
The organization’s problems run so deep that it can be hard to trace the rivulets of failure back to an original source. Make no mistake about it, though, this is the fault of Armstrong and Lincoln. Combined, they are the waterfall that spawns cascading misfortune unto all descending outlets of their regime, ultimately resulting in a cesspool of despair at the bottom.
It is Chuck and Howard who have endorsed the endorsers, hiring Jack Zduriencik to manage the general operations of the ballclub and Eric Wedge the lineup. It is Chuck and Howard who have green-lit free agent signings and financial investments, Chuck and Howard who have puppeteered a disaster of a show. If you loathe a certain player, you in turn loathe the manager who plays him and the general manager who acquired him. And above that? By relation, you must likewise loathe those who entrusted the subjects of your loathing to do right by each and every one of us, those who have the power to end all of this despondence. Therefore, beyond all else, it should be understood that all roads of blame lead back to two parties who are responsible for the bulk of this mess: Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln.
Some of us want Eric Wedge fired. That’s all well and good, but who will hire his replacement?
Some of us want the man responsible for finding Wedge’s replacement, Jack Zduriencik, fired as well. And who, pray tell, will hire his replacement?
At each stop along the chain you come to realize that this circle of anguish is held together by a hierarchy that remains unaltered at its apex. You can hack the limbs all you want, but until the braintrust is destroyed, this monster will continue to exist. Chuck and Howard are the braintrust. Chuck and Howard are what keep this monster alive.
Like I said before, we all deal with our disappointment differently. There is anger, there is disdain, there is snarkiness, there is infighting. But at some point, we have to acknowledge a shared logic. Logic says that this can all go away if Chuck and Howard go away. We don’t need to be angry anymore. We don’t need to fabricate lassitude, lob grenades in the form of witty barbs, or attack one another over what each one of us truly believes to be the cause of all this pain. We can just make this all disappear.
If you love the Mariners like I do, like many of us do, than you know that this affection will never cease. Chuck and Howard know that, too. They’ve been banking on it for years. It’s why they constantly remind us of the past, it’s why they go out of their way to fill the roster with players we adore for reasons separate from statistics. They’ve done all they can do to keep us loving this team besides win. They’re damn good at it. But it’s time we put away the smoke and mirrors and focused on the nuts and bolts of this 36-year romance with defeat.
We want to win now. And we need Chuck and Howard to go away in order to win. It won’t happen until they leave. So Chuck, Howard, I urge both of you to resign. You can leave and be remembered as catalysts of the Mariners’ success, rather than obstacles, which is what your legacies will be should you stay. You will either die in office as villains or ride off into retirement as heroes. You can be helpers or hindrances, the choice is yours.
We’ve been conditioned to believe in a certain destiny that results in losing for more than three decades now. That pattern needs to stop. Our fate should be better than that, and it can be. There is no divine power that has prophesied our futility. But there is organizational power, represented by a President and CEO that have led us astray.
Chuck and Howard, it’s time for you to go.