Chuck Armstrong at 71 has been President of the Seattle Mariners for 28 of the teams 37 years of existence. His last day is January 31, 2014, about two months from now. National baseball writer, Bob Nightengale tweeted that Armstrong was “a terrific person and one of baseball’s most popular men.” But most in Seattle will be glad to see Armstrong leave because of the on field mediocrity that Seattle baseball fans have increasingly become disenchanted with; the Mariners seeing attendance drop dramatically as if Safeco was a Zombie infected detention center.
I don’t know Chuck Armstrong, so will take the word he is a nice guy, but Mariner fans don’t care if he is Santa Claus (many will liken him to Scrooge) because they want a winner and in 28 years Armstrong, rightly or wrongly was held to blame, in fact still is. I think he does need to take blame for many things as each organization, each business, must have success at the top in order to succeed.
What is needed is a baseball man in charge, not a businessman. He may have guided the Mariners to a successful bank account, but those who go to ballgames are not business fans, they are baseball fans.
I had one encounter with Armstrong in the early 1980’s when George Argyros owned the team. I think it was 1984 or 85 because the conversation involved Mark Langston. I was on the Kingdome concourse near a souvenir stand, minding my own business, when I see George and Chuck coming towards me. Out of nowhere George says to me, “Can you believe Mark Langston is not on the all-star ballot?” He did not wait for my answer, it being strictly rhetorical, as he went off on a little rant about how Mark was deserving and how could baseball not put him on the ballot. He said something to Chuck who agreed with George and said he would look into it.
They then walked away, and I was not able to get a word in, that being that pitchers are not on the all-star ballot, they were chosen by American and National League mangers with input from other managers and coaches. I don’t know if Chuck was placating George, or did not want to embarrass George with facts in front of me. If he is a nice guy, the latter could be the reason. But during George’s ownership of the Mariners he was more reviled than Chuck ever has been, owners being better targets.
I am sure Armstrong will get his due accolades because people are nice to those who are nice guys. While I welcome the change, sometimes the enemy you know is better than the one you don’t know. I hope the new president is a real nice guy, one who loves baseball. And I hope he gets fans back to Safeco after he clears out the zombies.