Friday, July 30, 2010

R.I.P. BEN KEITH 1937-2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


As much of an irritant as George Steinbrenner was to all other Major League Baseball teams besides his own, I must say that I admired the guy as much as I loathed him.

Love them or hate them, the Yankees are a smart, well-run organization and have been this way through much of their history. In recent times, Steinbrenner played a big part in that.

I'm a Seattle Mariners fan, and I had the pleasure of watching the Yankees play the M's at Safeco Field on Sunday. The Yankees won 8-2, and it was nothing resembling a contest on the field, and I realized, off the field as well.

What fan wouldn't want their team owned by such a devoted fanatic with such focus and such deep pockets? He was despicable at times, but I have always envied the Yankees fans because George Steinbrenner looked after them all so very well.

I find myself wishing the Mariners franchise was run by such people as Steinbrenner. As it is, if the Mariners have a winning season it seems it is despite the higher-ups in the organization, not because of them.

I'm glad the current Seattle ownership stepped in and kept the team from moving to Indianapolis or wherever the last owner Jeff Smulyan wanted to take them. It is very nice that Nintendo's Mr. Yamuchi gives the Mariners a decent payroll. And while I find myself wishing the current ownership stays the same, I also wish Yamuchi would step in and do something to take the franchise in a more aggressive direction.

Like Steinbrenner did with the Yankees.

I am proud to be a Mariner fan despite the general history of losing. Seattle is always my team, has been since they started, and will be until I'm gone.

But I can say there are a few other franchises I am jealous of... The Yankees are definitely one of those.

Of course some of the disparity between the M's and the Yankees is due to the latter's rich history and deep pockets, but it seems to me the two organizations take different approaches to things. One is aggressive, on the attack all the time, thoroughly focused. The Mariners? Well, I find it frustrating and disappointing sometimes that things seem so mellow and nice in the Emerald City.

The money disparity between the Yankees and other teams is obvious. But some of it also seems like the higher-ups in Yankee World want to take the rest of baseball by the short hairs... the Yankees are relentless and they are focused. Steinbrenner demanded perfection, and while such demands led to absurdities such as his firing of one manager four times, he resuscitated the Yankees franchise.

I want my team to be elevated, to get to that next step. And to that end, I believe the addition of some pride and swagger would be helpful.

Is Mark Cuban really interested in buying the Texas Rangers? If he is, look out. If he becomes the principal owner of that ball club, he will be thoroughly despised by the rest of the baseball world, as Steinbrenner was. And I believe this is because if he becomes owner, he will take an extremely aggressive approach and transform that franchise into a perennial winner.

Where will the Mariners be in five years? Still trying to be a winner despite the higher-ups in the organization? Things are kind of stagnant in the Emerald City.

Team President Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln are the ones who basically run the show. They have put the kibosh on numerous trades and suggested directions for the team to take. At least they hired a General Manager with some smarts in Jack Zduriencik a couple of years ago to clean up the mess left by former GM Bill Bavasi. "Z" has made a few great trades and signings, and he has had a few duds. If nothing else, he has a history as a good player-development guy who knows how to draft and develop young players. But in order for him to do his best, I believe he needs to have higher-ups who will simply turn him loose, not tie his hands.

If the M's don't have someone as abrasive (or sometimes freakish) as Steinbrenner in charge, I would at least like to see some people with a take-no-prisoners attitude running this show.

Mariner fans deserve to experience the approach in ownership and front-office management that Yankee fans have come to know and love over the last 30 years.

I'd say "Rest in peace, George Steinbrenner", but wherever he is, he is probably not resting and he is probably not peaceful. Neither ever seemed to have been in his nature.

So instead I'll say, "Keep giving 'em hell, George... wherever you are!"