Following the Mariners clues

Dec 8, 2010, 8:55 AM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:52 pm

By Mike Salk

The Mariners are not going to make a big splash this offseason.

I know, I know. You already assumed that based on the caliber of player of the names you’ve been hearing. Luis Valbuena, Miguel Olivo, Matt Diaz and Mark Hendrickson may be interesting role players, but none is likely to spawn a trip to the box office for a season ticket package.

It’s hard to blame the fan who hears the rumors and gets irritated because the M’s aren’t involved with the marquee players. Maybe it’s because of budget problems, maybe they are truly committed to a long term plan, or maybe they just aren’t enamored with any of the potential targets in this year’s crop. But no matter what the reason, Jack Zduriencik seems content to eat around the crust without digging into the main meal.

“You have to take a realistic look at your organization and you have to answer questions about your guys,” Zduriencik told us in his suite last night. “You have to give them an opportunity [to prove themselves]. If they improve, then you reward them.”

Or, translated: We are going to play our young guys and find out if they are as good as we hope they are. If they are? Then great. If not, well…

You can’t always believe everything you hear and often baseball teams and front offices won’t give you the whole truth. You gave to read between the lines And when you connect all the dots and gather all the clues, it leads to one simple conclusion:

The Mariners are truly rebuilding.

They may not be able to say that word out loud because the general baseball public has heard that word too many times and associates it with failure. For too many people, “rebuilding” is just a euphemism for “losing.” To many, it’s just an admission that a team doesn’t have a chance to win but still wants you to come to the game. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t often the fastest path to the true goal: a playoff season and an eventual championship.

The M’s have now done a few things to show they are serious about a rebuild.

1. Howard Lincoln sent a letter to season ticket-holders where he wrote:

Will it take some time? Yes. Do you have the patience to see this through with us? I hope so. Our number one goal remains to bring championship baseball to Safeco Field. I’m sure we’ll get there.

By admitting it would take some time, he was essentially asking fans to consent to a rebuild.

2. In that same letter, Zduriencik highlighted some of the great young talent in the organization. Rather than focusing on the team’s veteran talent, he highlighted names like Ackley, Pineda, Franklin, Cortes and Robles. He reminded people that while the team is coming off another 100-loss season, the future can still be bright because of what they have done to strengthen their organization as a whole.

3. Speaking to Shannon Drayer at the Winter Meetings, President Chuck Armstrong said:

2011 will be an interesting year. We will get to see whether our kids can play. We are going to watch and evaluate. We know what are needs are and we will go from there.

4.When Eric Wedge joined our show on Tuesday, he said:

In regard to other big names going other places, we’re going to have our day with that. But, I also look at it like this. Some of those big names we developed in Cleveland. Some of these big people we’ve had in the past we taught them how to play and we’re going to do the same thing here. When I came to Cleveland they wanted name recognition with players, and to establish value with players and you know what? We’re going to do that here like we did in Cleveland.

Take any of those quotes alone, and you might wonder. But look at them together and the pattern is so obvious. It explains why we haven’t seen the M’s connected to any of the big names here in Orlando.

The message is simple: if we are patient and develop our talent and we are right about the players, we will win. If we get distracted and spend money on things we don’t need, we will set ourselves back again.

No one wants to wait. It’s easy to be jealous of the big names going elsewhere. But keep your eye on the prize, follow a successful model, and see what happens.

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