By Terry Benish

Special to The Sports Paper


Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, Chuck Armstrong announced his retirement as president of the Seattle Mariners, ending a long run under two different ownership groups ‑ initially for George Argyros, a businessman from Southern California who has been depicted as a slumlord; Armstrong helped him in that enterprise.

Then Argyros sold to Jeff Smulyan of Indianapolis, a small time radio guy who owned stations. He fired Armstrong, who then became the interim athletic at the University of Washington between Mike Lude and Barbara Hedges, who like Armstrong was a California carpetbagger.

When the current ownership group came together and saved the team from being sold to TampaBay, Armstrong was rehired and the group finagled a stadium, four winning years, and now the Mariners are worth about $1 billion.

The Mariners’ CEO, Howard Lincoln, came out of the darkness to give two interviews about going Chuck-less in Seattle. One was with Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Radio, and the second interview was with Ryan Divish now of the Seattle Times.

Both interviews were very good. Drayer’s was first and it was linear as he talked about Chuck leaving and the process to come. Towards the end, in his phraseology, he reveals he thinks of the team in segments and baseball is just one of those segments. To which I would suggest that the organizational chart for the Mariners is virtually the same as the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants,  but the prime emphasis for the Cardinals and Giants is on having a winning baseball team and all else follows.

Lincoln said that we have everything going good, we just need to get this baseball thing going. It is a shading, I admit, but it is revelatory as to how Howard thinks about this team, which is very important stuff. Here it is for you to make your own determination:

Then Ryan Divish followed with his interview, and while the same ground was covered he elicited from Howard some of the same stuff about the business of baseball. But he went on to talk about Chuck in one of the most fascinating set of statements I have read about a local sports team from a sports figure.

In the Divish interview, Lincoln says this: “This guy (Armstrong) knows everybody in baseball from the commissioner on down. He even knows the umpires. He knows all the owners, the club presidents, the CEOs, the general managers, the field managers. He literally knows everyone in baseball.

“Anybody who takes this job is going to have to have an understanding of what a cash flow statement is and have to know about accounting, finance, sales and marketing, those are skills that you can have that don’t have anything to do with baseball. But when it comes to the business of baseball, that’s different and the person who succeeds Chuck is going to have to have the knowledge of the business of baseball. He has to know his way around the game. He has to know the players. I’m not talking about baseball players, but the players in the game. He has to know the people that run major league baseball – the people that we compete with and are partners with – other owners, other CEOs, other presidents and general managers. This person has to have those kinds of contacts or he can’t perform his job.”

Please read Lincoln’s comments several times and cogitate about it a bit. I am seriously flabbergasted which does not occur much, or maybe it should. As I reread the picture it conveys I see a guy that is in touch with everybody and has his hand on the pulse of baseball and is Branch Rickey reborn.

Do you think Lincoln is being nice to Chuck, as if he’s at his wake? If he is sincere then it explains a lot. This is a team that has been bad in 24 of Chuck’s 28 years as club president. It is really bad ‑ St. Louis Browns bad ‑ as bad as any major league sport’s franchise in any sport might be bad.

So Lincoln announces his plan to Drayer and reaffirms his plan to Divish, which is to have somebody hired to replace Chuck by the end of January or there about.

Time line people, time line. Forty days from spring training he wants to hire a club president with somebody else’s GM, Jack Zduriencik in place. It is enough of a problem and mistake to impede any quality guy from taking the job, having Jack around.

The next club president is going to want to succeed or fail with his people.

So maybe Jack stays around for a year, because this promises to be a really brutal year if somebody new comes in.

Think about it:

1. Somebody else’s GM

2. Somebody else’s manager

3. Somebody else’s players.

This is starting to feel like a butcher’s fest with the last man standing the new president.

Lincoln did say they will spend all kinds of money this off season. He has not been keeping up on the business of baseball apparently with most of the types of free agents the Mariners wanted now being gone.

Here is the link to Divish’s piece: