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The Mariners fans who cried (for) Wolf

By Danny O'Neil

One week before the season started, Seattle let go of a veteran who figured to be part of the rotation to keep from guaranteeing a million-dollar salary.

But then maybe you forgot all that transpired with Clinton McDonald and the Seahawks.

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Seattle released Clinton McDonald before the start of last season in order to avoid paying his $1.3 million salary. (AP)
See, Randy Wolf isn't the only player subject to some bare-knuckles negotiating a week before the season began. The fact that McDonald's release caused barely more than a furrowed brow while Wolf's precipitated an afternoon of dueling statements to the press says way more about the public perception of the Mariners than it does about their chances this season.

Seattle decided that Wolf was good enough to make the club coming out of spring training, but not good enough to commit to paying all of his $1 million salary. The Mariners wanted him to sign a form that would have given the team 45 days to release him without paying his full salary.

Is that really all that shocking? Wolf hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues in more than a year, and this spring training he has given up six home runs. On Sunday, he also became only the second Mariners pitcher to throw six innings in a spring-training game. Given the injuries to Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma, Wolf was going to make the starting rotation. Given the recovery of Walker and Iwakuma – both of whom could be back before May – the Mariners weren't confident Wolf was going to stay there.

So the Mariners sought to preserve some financial flexibility. Kind of like the Seahawks did with McDonald.

The difference? No one ranted and raved about the Seahawks franchise when McDonald was released. This was a guy who was on the team the previous two seasons and had been tendered a qualifying offer of $1.3 million as a restricted free agent. Instead of paying that salary, though, Seattle cut McDonald one week before the regular season began.

McDonald was re-signed a week later for a reduced salary and went on to have an eminently productive season as the nose tackle in Seattle's nickel defense. He had 5.5 sacks. He started in the Super Bowl. But that only happened after the Seahawks rolled the dice by letting McDonald go so they could save $500,000.

The Mariners are making a value assessment when it comes to Wolf. They believed he was a better option for the starting rotation than Blake Beavan, but they did not believe Wolf to be so much better to guarantee him $1 million.

The rationale isn't all that different to the logic the Seahawks used with regard to McDonald. The difference is how the fans have reacted.

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