Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home Grown Team

I don't think unfair to say that teams that produce their own talent are easier to get behind as fans. Yes, teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have the most (bandwagon) fans, but the real Red Sox fans are excited about Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon. Those are guys that debuted with the team and are going to be cornerstones of that franchise for years to come. The Seattle Mariners have had winning teams with self-produced talent. In the mid-to-late 1990s the Mariners had teams built around home grown guys like Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey and Tino Martinez, and players that came to the Mariners as young, raw talent like Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner and Dan Wilson. Those were the players we loved, because we could only picture them in a Mariner uniform. It's the visions of Ken Griffey sliding across home plate after the famous Edgar Martinez double, while Alex Rodriguez starts the mob. It's Dan Wilson jumping onto the Big Unit's lanky frame, while Johnson points to the sky. Having teams built around these types of players are what turn casual fans into diehard fans. If someone is just getting into the Mariners, but don't follow them the way you or I do, then they can never keep track of the players. Case and point: my entire family. In the '90s we would make multiple trips to the Kingdome each season. Now they look at the TV and simply say, "I don't know any of these guys. Who's Miguel Batista?" Sure, after a few seasons a veteran acquisition can identify with the home crowd, like Jaime Moyer did with the Mariners and how Manny Ramirez has with the Red Sox, but everyone loves the hometown hero.

How great would it be as fans to have team based around the players that debuted with the Mariners like Jeff Clement, Raul Ibanez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, Adam Jones, Brandon Morrow, Mike Morse and practically our entire current bullpen? It would be great, and the best part about it is that we can still do this and win, if we can use the right combination of non-home grown ballplayers. In the early '90s the Mariners weren't so good, but they got better and better as their youth developed, namely Ken Griffey, Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson. We have an opportunity to build a team the home town fans can really get behind.

I could go either way with the Johan Santana issue. There's no doubt that having a one-two punch of Johan Santana and Felix Hernandez could make us instant contenders, and that's why I wouldn't be disappointed if Bavasi made it happen, but the team identity would take a big hit. Giving up three of your top major league ready prospects is hard to deal with, no matter who you get in return. The Mariners can acquire the pieces they need without sacrificing our youth. You can trade for another ace-quality pitcher like Erik Beddard without having to give up 3/4 of your top prospects. You could gamble in free agency, there's other options out there. It all depends on what Bill Bavasi's plan is.

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