Dick Williams Says the Outlook Is Rosy for Lowly Mariners
Despite being manager of the Seattle Mariners during their 10th consecutive losing season, Dick Williams insists he likes what he has seen since taking over the club five months ago.
“I think the future looks very bright, I really do,” the 57-year-old Williams said. “We have a lot of people to build a franchise on.”
While Jim Presley, Danny Tartabull and Phil Bradley have put together strong years, the Mariners have struggled on the field and at the gate.
Under a lease agreement hammered out last year with King County, owner and operator of the Kingdome, the Mariners can leave Seattle after the 1987 season if they don’t draw 2.8 million fans in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. They’re below last season’s attendance of 1,073,836.
George Argyros, a Southern California land developer, says he wants to keep the team in Seattle, although he has lost millions of dollars in his six years of owning the Mariners.
Williams, hired in May to replace the fired Chuck Cottier, doesn’t want to talk about the prospects of the team staying in Seattle. He was hired to manage on the field and not sell tickets, he said.
The Mariners are in a trading mood to get better in 1987, he said.
“I’m not going to get into names but I do know this: If you finish down the line, everybody is available for a price although some prices are a lot higher than others,” he said.
The franchise is the only one in major league baseball that never has had a winning season. But that could change as soon as next season, said Williams.
“It could turn up over the winter,” he said. “It all depends on what we do as far as personnel and what we do in the spring.
“I’m not going to say we can go into next season with the personnel we have now and win, because I don’t think we can. But we can make headway. If we get a key man here or there, it could spring a lot of things open for us.”
Williams came to Seattle with the reputation of being a big winner. But despite a series of moves, he hasn’t been able to turn around the club’s fortunes--yet.
“I’m not really frustrated,” he said. “I came in to see what we could do and we’ve got a pretty good idea what we need to do.”
After Williams became Seattle’s sixth manager, he talked Argyros into releasing four high-priced veterans: Gorman Thomas, Barry Bonnell, Al Cowens and Milt Wilcox.
General Manager Dick Balderson traded outfielder Ivan Calderon, who was in the Mariners’ doghouse, to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Scott Bradley.
And the Mariners swapped shortstop Spike Owen and outfielder Dave Henderson to the Boston Red Sox for shortstop Rey Quinones and pitchers Mike Brown and Mike Trujillo.
In an effort to give his club more defense, Williams has installed Harold Reynolds at second base.
“I’ve seen some good things and I’ve seen some things not so good,” he said. “We’ll try to work off the good things and see what we can do.”
Williams said he likes “the arms” of the Mariners but admits “we need more consistency with our pitching.” Featuring left-hander Mark Langston and right-hander Mike Moore, the Mariners’ pitching staff has struggled most of the season.
“But the arms are there,” said Williams. “They’re young fellas and they have their whole future in front of them if they stay healthy.”
The mention of Presley, Bradley and Tartabull brings a smile to Williams’ face. All have had exceptional offensive seasons.
Williams said one thing the Mariners need is a consistent leadoff man. He’s tried John Moses, Mickey Brantley and Reynolds there this season.
“If we get a good leadoff man, that’ll change some of my other positions,” he said.
He also said it’s important for him to see the Mariners all the way through spring training.
“You have to remember I haven’t seen these people through a spring training,” he said. “When I do that, I’ll be able to evaluate it more.”