Yes, this was actually said to me during my 1st baseball season in Seattle while I was working at Washington Mutual. This person was seriously convinced that he could lobby me to leave my lifelong devotion to the Yankees and start cheering for the Mariners. My immediate response to him was, "if you moved to New York, would you become a Yankees fan?" Of course, he said no but he still seemed dumbfounded on why I couldn't support the Mariners as my #1 team because "they were such nice guys!"
Let me be clear. If the Mariners do well, it is good for the city of Seattle, which is good for me. More people spending money downtown around Safeco Field and in the stadium is good because that means they need more people to serve the patrons of those establishments. That means jobs and those folks then pumping money into the local economy.
With that said, my loyalty will ALWAYS be with the Yankees no matter how long I live in Seattle. It is the team I grew up with and the team I chose when my brother and I were fighting as kids when we were 5 or 6. He warned, "Once you pick a team, you can't change." And whatever Glenn did, I did the opposite and hence, I was welcomed to the "Bronx Zoo". For some reason, my parents chose NOT to tell me about the infamous "wife swapping" incident that took place a couple of years earlier. Wonder why?
I know most people think that Yankees fans are insufferable, arrogant and entitled pains in the neck. I get that but I won't apologize for it. I am proud to support a team that has an owner that is 100% committed to putting the best product out on the field. And if he has to line the pockets of his competitors in the process to do it (see 'tax, luxury'), so be it. The Steinbrenner family is committed to playing for the World Series every year, and that makes me very happy.
I have friends that say that they respect the Yankees but do not like Steinbrenner. Why? Who paid for the players to be on the roster? It wasn't the 'Tooth Fairy'. Has George Steinbrenner done a few controversial things? Yeah, but let's start digging into all of the owners, right? But George has also been very loyal to former Yankee greats who have had their share of problems post-baseball. We won't even get into the many "under the radar" charitable donations that are made by the Steinbrenners, including numerous ones to the "Jimmy Fund", the primary charity of the Boston Red Sox.
So how does this impact my ability to cheer for the Mariners? The 2010 season is quickly looking more and more like the debacle season in 2008 where the Mariners achieved the dubious distinction of spending over $100 million dollars and still losing over 100 games. The season was over for them by this time 2 years ago and attendance was an absolute joke except when the Yankees and Red Sox came to town. We had partial season packages for 5 years prior and after 2008, when the Mariners decided not to give discounts for 2009 to the folks who had to SUFFER through 2008 or throw in extra games, we were done. We figured that we could just buy tickets to the games we were interested in and that would be it. It's clear that the Marketing people for the Mariners are not nearly as bright and in-touch with the fan base as the folks who work for the Sounders are.
Obviously there was lots of tension and infighting in the clubhouse given the amount of losses, so the new GM (Jack Z.) decided to bring back the Mariners' savior in the mid-90s – Ken Griffey, Jr. To me, it was a cheap move to get people to buy season ticket plans after the '08 nightmare, especially considering that Junior was way past his prime even if he just DH'ed. As it turns out, the Mariners overachieved in 2009 and the clubhouse was way more loose and cohesive, probably because of Junior's influence. I was wrong about the impact Junior would have on the clubhouse. We went to Junior's last game of 2009 thinking this would be the end considering his bat was gone but knowing he was integral in changing the clubhouse for the better.
WRONG! The Mariners decided to bring Griffey back for another year. Why would you go into the season knowingly having a platoon DH (Designated Hitter), one of whom you know can't really hit anymore? Isn't that the whole point of a DH?? When you start making moves like those, that tells me you are not committed to putting the best product on the field for your fans.
Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were both available as free agents, and definitely would have done damage in Safeco, plus they had already succeeded in high pressure markets. They are both considered "good clubhouse guys". And while Johnny Damon's arm is terrible for throwing, at least he could fill in as an emergency left fielder (he actually played 1st base a couple of times for the Yanks during some tough times with injuries on the roster). And the DH market was crowded, which meant there were definite bargains out there.
With just over 6 weeks into the season, we are in the midst of "Sleepgate" here in Seattle with Ken Griffey being ratted out for sleeping during a game and not being able to pinch-hit in a close game. No one knows what happened, but it seems odd that the TWO people who acted as the sources for this story made this up. And no evidence has really come up to contradict this. I'm sorry, Mike Sweeney threatening to beat up the sources in a locker room fight and no one taking him up on that offer – that just doesn't count as evidence that the beat writer made the story up. Of course, the big joke is that some people were hoping that Sweeney would fight someone so he could throw his back out and go on the DL – again (!), so someone else could be added to the roster.
The 2010 Mariners team was put together under the mindset that pitching and defense are supreme. Well, the starting pitching has been phenomenal for the most part. I am not kidding. But since the bullpen is a disaster and since there are no real offensive juggernauts, except for Ichiro, it leaves no room for error in your pitching and fielding. So now you have 4 out of the 5 members of the starting rotations sporting very solid ERAs, but too many one-run losses and walk-off losses to show for it.
Another thing that irks me about the Mariners is how much they cater to Ichiro Suzuki. Apparently it is common knowledge among the Japanese media that Ichiro and Hideki Matsui are not BFFs, although I am told it is more because Ichiro has always been in Matsui's shadow. Well if Ichiro was focused on winning, he would have lobbied the Mariners execs to bring Matsui over (Seattle is a VERY Japanese-friendly market) as a DH. Matsui had just won the World Series MVP and it was evident that the Yankees were going to let him go as a free agent.
Furthermore when the Mariners signed Chone Figgins as a free agent, my take was that he should bat lead-off and Ichiro should bat 2nd. Why? I've seen Ichiro's power and while Ichiro is fast, I felt like Figgins was more aggressive on the basepaths and remembering him causing the Yanks a lot more havoc if he got on base. But everything I read said that Ichiro was going to retain his #1 line-up spot. Now someone is saying to bat Figgins 9th, so Ichiro can follow him when the line-up turns over. Nothing for nothing, Ichiro has been hitting #1 for quite some time now and it hasn't really resulted in any playoff appearances. Maybe it's time for a change.
Finally, do not even get me started on the blind love affair that people in Seattle have with Ken Griffey, Jr. after he essentially forced a trade out of Seattle in 1999 and handcuffed the organization into who they could trade with. The Mariners could not maximize the value they could have in return for who arguably was the game's best player at the time. If that is not selfish, I don't know what is.
But yet, Alex Rodriguez is vilified every time he visits Seattle. As a matter of fact, it is the most noise you will hear from Mariners fans all season – pathetic. Don't start blaming the PED stuff because the hatred was visceral before that came out, and you never know who else was on that infamous 2003 list or did stuff prior to the new drug testing rules. A-Rod left as a FREE AGENT and some players have come out and said that they feel an extraordinary amount of pressure to take the highest offer and not take a "hometown discount". See Morgan Ensberg's take here (scroll through comments). At least the Mariners got free agent compensation in the form of draft picks of their choosing as opposed to whatever was available in the Reds farm system (yech!).
As a baseball fan, I do not want to settle for sentiment over talent, or loyalty over ability. I want to cheer for a team and an organization committed to winning. It doesn't always happen, but I know the Yanks do their best.