Jim Moore has some ideas to make the 2019 Mariners entertaining
Baseball’s winter meetings are under way in Las Vegas, and they promise to be active for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who has already shuffled the deck with five major trades involving Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Alex Colomé, Jean Segura, Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz.
Dipoto has publicly indicated that the Mariners are taking a step back to move forward as stronger contenders in 2020 or 2021, maybe 2022 or later than that. Point being, we all know that 2019 is not going to be the year that ends an 18-season playoff drought. I like this plan because I’d argue the Mariners really did not win 89 games last year even though the standings show that they did. After posting a 54-32 record, they went 35-43 the rest of the way. I don’t think they were as good as their start or as bad as their finish, but somewhere in between doesn’t cut it anyway, not when you’re trying to beat the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians and A’s.
So the 2019 season will require patience and a sense of humor. Tacoma Rainiers and Arkansas Travelers box scores will tell us more about the state of the franchise than those from T-Mobile Park or whatever they’re going to call Safeco Field next year.
A sense of humor might be more necessary than patience – at least for the sake of this column. I got a kick out of some suggestions on social media last week from a guy named Matthew, whose Twitter handle is @mroberson22. (Editor’s note: Matthew Roberson is a writer for Mariners community blog Lookout Landing.) To help make the Mariners more watchable in 2019, Matthew thinks they should sign 45-year-old Bartolo Colon, make Félix Hernández the closer and get new home jerseys. I like ’em all.
For some crazy reason, love the thought of Felix as the closer. If he blows a few saves in a rebuilding season, so what? If he somehow finds himself in a new role, terrific. Either way, it would be interesting to see how it played out. #GoCougs https://t.co/JXjrTlPCPu
— Jim Moore (@cougsgo) December 7, 2018
With Colon, you’d add a starter to a rotation that needs one. I know, he’s not as good as he used to be, and there’s a great chance he’ll be lit up from time to time, but so what? It would still be fun to watch Big Sexy in a Mariners uniform, and every time he starts a game, you could have half-price garlic fries as a promotion. I would also guess that Colon might have a strong influence on the Mariners’ young pitchers, passing along tricks of the trade from his years of experience.
The idea of Félix being the closer is my favorite suggestion of all. If I’m thinking clearly, it shouldn’t be my favorite suggestion – what I’d really like to happen with Félix is an outright release. Eat the $27 million you owe him this year and put someone, anyone in his place on the roster. Sounds cold, and it wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do to a legend like the King, but I’d feel worse about it if he had been more willing to accept the changes the Mariners have wanted him to make over the past two years.
Problem is, I think he still felt like he was the King and still had the King’s stuff, but he doesn’t anymore. Yet it seems like he’s the only one who doesn’t get that. Dipoto says the Mariners plan to put him back in the rotation, and I don’t see the point of that. Dipoto would be better off to listen to Matthew and turn Félix into a closer.
Hey, didn’t it work with John Smoltz? Couldn’t it work with Félix? Yes, I understand that Félix’s first inning is typically his worst, and if he’s only out there for one inning, the ninth inning would be his first inning, but still. If he’s going to be on the team, wouldn’t you rather have him trying to get three outs instead of 15 or 16? Can you picture how much fun it would be with Félix running to the mound from the bullpen as a fading star who has recovered his fame and his stuff? As much as he’s looked terrible at times over the past two years, there have still been glimpses of his former greatness with a changeup and assortment of breaking pitches that can still get the job done.
And what if he blows saves? Again, so what? Like it’s going to matter during a step-back season. Let’s say he blows eight saves. You win 62 games instead of 70. So I say why not give it a try? While Félix is trying to close games, groom a younger reliever for that role like you did with Díaz.
This would also allow you to keep a semblance of King’s Court, but I would change the name to the King’s Small-Claims Court because now you’re trying to squeeze pennies from your outrageous investment.
Plus, by all means, have some fun with the uniforms. Every week during the college football season, I like seeing which color combination the Cougars are going to wear. Do the same thing at the major-league level. Hey, Mariners fans, for the Yankees series we’re gonna wear pinstripes too! For the Red Sox series, we’re gonna wear all teal or all blue or all neon green. Go all over the map with it. Let a lucky fan decide what they’ll wear for the next series by spinning a wheel, and wherever the arrow lands, that’s what it will be.
Certainly some fans will dislike the color combinations that other fans love. That’s part of the fun, debating things that don’t really matter like this. But make no mistake, uniforms are a big deal – the Seahawks made a splash of their own Monday night with their Action Greens.
And I’m guessing the Mariners would be on board with all of it since they’d have more color combinations to sell at their team stores, increasing revenue in a year that figures to be slow at the gate. Speaking of which, since we’ll be watching a team that will be somewhere between below average and bad, why not really lower ticket prices for some series? You’ve heard of dynamic pricing for big series against the Yankees and Red Sox, go the other way with it and have a Five-Buck Night for select games against the Royals and White Sox. Every seat for Five Bucks.
Think about it. You’d have a chance for a 40,000 sellout on a night when you would have otherwise gotten 12,000 at the park. That would give you 28,000 more fans buying concessions and souvenirs. While you’re at it, pick five nights against lesser teams and offer free parking at the Safeco and CenturyLink Field garages.
I would also fully endorse bobblehead nights for ROOT Sports and KIRO Radio broadcasters since we know all of them and won’t know many of the players. Start with a “Rick Rizzs Bobblehead Night” and follow it up with an “Angie Mentink Bobblehead Night” complete with an orange Gatorade bucket at her side. Then make it a two-fer on “Aaron Goldsmith and Brad Adam Bobblehead Night” featuring a mirror and combs and all of that hair.
Then make Scott Servais wear a suit and tie in the dugout. That would set the Mariners apart and draw national attention for doing something that baseball should have done a long time ago – getting its managers out of baseball uniforms. I’ve never understood that. Do NBA and NFL coaches wear uniforms? No. Is the manager going to play? No. So why is he wearing a uniform?
Finally, if you’re going to have Ichiro play in a game in Japan in March, that tells me everything is open for consideration in 2019. At some point in the season – at any point to add to the drama – Servais should signal to the press box instead of the bullpen and bring in Ryan Rowland-Smith to face a left-handed batter. Or short of that, hold a “Ryan Rowland-Smith Night” and have a koala bear throw or roll out the first pitch and replace Felix’s section with a “Kangaroo Court” for one game.
I know that a lot of these suggestions range from plausible to out-of-the-box to downright stupid, but with the Mariners’ 2019 season, might as well prepare for just about anything.
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