Here are three quick thoughts on Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, who according to source will resign Wednesday.
This is a seismic day in Mariners history.
For better or worse — lately, more of the latter — Howard Lincoln has been the man in charge of the Mariners since Sept. 27, 1999, when he was named chairman and chief executive officer, replacing John Ellis.
Now, after 16-plus years at the helm, Lincoln is stepping down and reportedly could be replaced as chairman by John Stanton, though it remains unclear to what extent, if any, the ownership would be restructured.
Here are three quick thoughts on the move:
1. This change is bound to be rapturously received by most Mariners fans
Lincoln and former team president Chuck Armstrong had become symbols of the Mariners’ ongoing struggles. Armstrong retired two years ago, and now Lincoln, at age 76, is joining him.
Lincoln has been under heavy fire since 2008, when after a 101-loss season he famously declared that he was on the hot seat and would remain so until the team turned around its fortunes. Since then, they have had just two winning seasons, and the organization’s streak of missing the playoffs has reached 14 years, the longest in Major League Baseball.
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Lincoln simply couldn’t get the organization back on track. They are on their third general manager since Pat Gillick, architect of their two most recent playoff teams, stepped down in 2003. And Scott Servais is their seventh manager since Lou Piniella left for Tampa Bay after the 2002 season.
There are positive signs that the new regime might be headed for better times, but Lincoln walks away having failed to fulfill his stated goal to get the Mariners back to championship caliber.
2. Lincoln deserves credit for saving baseball in Seattle
It may seem that Lincoln’s regime was all negative, but he deserves credit for his role in saving the franchise for Seattle by helping to secure the ownership of Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi when the ballclub was on the verge of moving to St. Petersburg, Fla. Lincoln also played a significant role in securing funding for Safeco Field.
In the early years of Lincoln’s tenure as chairman and CEO, the Mariners had tremendous success, albeit falling short of the elusive World Series appearance. Though he presided over the difficult and controversial departures of Ken Griffey Jr. (as well as his return a decade later) and Alex Rodriguez, the ballclub set a record with 116 wins in 2001 and led the major leagues in attendance for two seasons.
3. That said, it’s time for new blood and a new vision.
By 2012, attendance had been halved from the peak of 3.5 million in 2001 and ’02, and confidence among fans in the Mariners’ stewardship is negligible. Here’s are words I once wrote at a time when people were calling for the general manager and manager to be fired: “ …The result is the untenable mess that exists now: A team that always seems to be in disarray with vague hope of a better future that never comes … and with more and more fans losing faith that it ever will. And the reality is that there’s no easy way out, despite all the calls for this head and that. You could fire everybody, sure. But as long as the existing chain of command doesn’t change — ie, from the top down — it’s hard to see how that’s going to make things better.”
That was written on June 3, 2013 — two managers and one GM ago. Not much got better — except the ballclub’s bottom line as their net worth continues to soar. But now the Mariners have a chance to see if a new voice at the top can bring the long-overdue sustained success on the field that largely has eluded the ballclub.