By Shannon Drayer
After reading some of the reaction both on MyNorthwest.com and other sites to the Mariners' announcement that they are installing the largest video board in Major League Baseball, I wanted to take a second to point out that this expenditure does not rule the Mariners out of anything they are trying to do this off-season in regard to player acquisition. The capital budget and payroll budget are two completely separate budgets.
The Mariners, in fact, will spend a huge amount on expenses not related to payroll this off-season and, despite this, have still said on the record that they expect to spend more this year than the $82-$85 million they spent on the opening day payroll in 2012. There are indications they could go over the $90 million mark. They don't get credit until they actually do that but it is still encouraging to see them making public declarations (in the past they have avoided talking about payroll) that they intend to spend this off-season.
I am not taking this for granted. Heading into the off-season, I was nervous that we could be looking at a winter spending budget similar to what we have seen the past two years. To refresh your memory: in 2011 the Mariners brought in Jack Cust, Miguel Olivo, Chris Ray, Adam Kennedy, Luis Rodriguez and signed Brendan Ryan to a two year deal after trading for him at a total cost of $8.35 million. Last year's acquisitions of George Sherrill, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kevin Millwood, Munenori Kawasaki, Shawn Camp and Hong-Chih Kuo came at a price tag of 5.475 million. This year will be different. Why did I think there was the possibility it would not be?
The common belief was the money from the salaries that came off the books at the end of 2012 would be available to Jack Zduriencik to spend this winter. The question I had been asking myself for some time was, were Ichiro's dollars earmarked for Ichiro only or would that $18 million be there for other players? It appears those dollars will be, from what numerous people in the organization have said in the last couple of weeks. This is good news. Those weren't superstar only dollars. My next concern was, what about the capital expenses? They are significant. I have known about the scoreboard for some time. Bringing the fences in is another sizable expense. There is a costly but necessary roof expense that has come up as well, that is not included in the $15 million in the maintenance and capital improvement plan that was mentioned in the press release, Thursday, for the new big board. In addition to these expenses, the Mariners are spending $7 million on a new academy in the Dominican Republic. This comes from a different budget altogether. The Mariners are spending millions of additional dollars this year, moving forward, doing the things they need to do to organizationally and not taking money from payroll to do so.
Another thing that should be noted is that the scoreboard improvement has been in the works for years and budgeted for accordingly. On a personal note, I think it is time for this upgrade. Despite my preference to watch baseball in a more traditional setting, it is hard to ignore the video experience in other stadiums. In my travels throughout baseball in the last ten years, I think I can say with full confidence that outside of the landmark parks of Wrigley and Fenway, the only stadium that has a worse video board than Safeco is Oakland.
Regardless, the best way to enhance the viewing experience at Safeco Field is to put a winning product on the field. An HD screen will not interfere with what Zduriencik is trying to do to improve his team.