When the Seahawks starters are introduced before their game against Atlanta on Monday night, it likely will find Seattle general manager John Schneider in the same melancholy mood as the rest of the crowd at CenturyLink Field.
Cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor won’t be in uniform. Both are nursing injuries severe enough to end seasons and — let’s be honest about this — imperil careers.
Absent a pair of its pillars, the Legion of Boom is an entity in name only, rather like the Four Tops still touring the casino-club circuit as the Four Tops. They perform the hits, and the band plays on, but the act is a mirage.
As he observes the present state of the Seahawks, Schneider must begin mulling the team’s future. He also might want to consider the mistakes in the past. Specifically, mistakes committed by the Hawks SoDo neighbors, the Seattle Mariners.
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Football and baseball share some roster-construction similarities at the professional level. There are budgets to keep and difficult decisions to make about extending the contracts of veterans who’ve come to be regarded as fan favorites.
Three years removed from their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks are facing the same dilemma that challenged the Mariners in 2004, three years removed from their own historic season.
For the M’s, the choice was simple: Do we keep our core group together for a last hurrah, or get a head start on retooling? The Mariners determined loyalty to be a more pressing priority than long-term stability.
The hearts of ownership were in the right place, and maybe their heads were, as well. It should be noted the transformation from 116-game winners in 2001 to a team perpetually eliminated from the playoffs wasn’t immediate.
The Mariners finished 93-69 in 2002, Lou Piniella’s last year as manager, and went 93-69 under Bob Melvin in 2003. Because the second wild-card berth wasn’t awarded until 2012, neither of those 93-victory clubs advanced to the postseason.
But they were talented. The players knew their roles and got along with each other. The notion of girding for a playoff push in 2004 didn’t seem all that wrong.
In retrospect, the notion wasn’t just wrong. It was absurd.
Catcher Dan Wilson was 35 years old, as was first baseman John Olerud and second baseman Bret Boone. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez was 41.
The average age of the nine regulars in the batting order was 33.4. None of the nine was younger than 30.
With so many former All-Stars nearing retirement, the Mariners flopped on the field — they lost 99 games, costing Melvin his job — but did well at the box office, drawing 2.9-million to Safeco Field.
Ichiro Suzuki’s successful quest to break the record for hits in a single season contributed to the healthy attendance numbers, but the more salient factor was the connection the long-past-their-prime players had with the public.
You had to love those guys, as the Mariners marketing-campaign slogan once pointed out, and you showed the team unconditional love until, like, you didn’t.
Since finishing with five 90-plus victory seasons and four playoff berths between 1995 and 2003, the Mariners have accomplished neither under nine different field managers, four different general managers and an ownership change.
The chaos can be traced to 2004, when the front office trusted obviously aging players would produce numbers consistent with those posted on the backs of some very old baseball cards.
Schneider and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll are approaching the same predicament that derailed the Mariners 13 years ago. They want to show loyalty to the veteran players who were the cornerstones of a Super Bowl championship team.
Loyalty is an admirable virtue, the key component in keeping family ties and sustaining lifelong friendships. But when the issue regards the construction of a pro sports team’s roster, loyalty is less a virtue than a horror-movie staple.
Just when you think the coast is clear, it haunts some more.