Josh Hamilton is off the market and I’m OK with that, but not everyone feels the same way.

In fact, based on the response from most of the people I’ve spoken to and read, the Mariners‘ whiffing on Hamilton is a bit of a problem.

Upon hearing the news, a good friend and long-time M’s fan sighed, “It’s going to be a long winter and summer at the rate things are going.”

Another friend lamented, “Are the M’s ever going to turn things around, or are we all kidding ourselves?”

I tried to reason with him for a few minutes, but he wasn’t having it, as the situation seems well beyond repair at this point.  Funny thing is, he wasn’t even all that keen on signing Hamilton in the first place.  

For some though, the lost opportunity seemed to cut deeper and offered the perfect chance to exact retribution for the team’s most recent missteps.  Steve Kelley at The Seattle Times believed the M’s should have done whatever it took to sign him, but he couldn’t resist throwing a few jabs at the organization for letting Hamilton get away:

Surely we know by now that we can’t expect the Mariners, who still seem to be putting most of their efforts into squashing the proposed SoDo arena project, to also have the time and concentration to go after expensive free agents.

Look, you can’t have everything. You should be happy about the new center-field scoreboard that has a TV screen the size of a Mount Kilimanjaro glacier. You were also expecting the Mariners to sign Josh Hamilton to play in the outfield, underneath that scoreboard?

Fortunately, not everyone was as bitter, as Dave Cameron at USS Mariner took a different approach by combating emotion with facts while urging everyone to stay calm in the wake of Hamilton’s signing:

I’m not suggesting the Mariners should just sit back and do nothing. I am suggesting, however, that those who continue to yell from the rooftops that offseason spending determines future on-field outcomes don’t know what they’re talking about.

Don’t be one of the mouth-breathers that overreacts to every free-agent acquisition by the Angels or Rangers. Let them yell and scream about how the world is ending. They weren’t right about this last year, and they’re not right about it now.

Cameron, as usual, offers us a rational point of view, but it’s hard to ignore, suppress or dismiss the emotions most of us are feeling right now.  

Of all the opinions I’ve read thus far, John McGrath’s at The Tacoma New Tribune seems the most even-handed by simply looking at the M’s decision strictly from a financial standpoint. 

It’s convenient to criticize the Mariners for operating on the cheap, and to mock Zduriencik as a ventriloquist’s puppet whose mouth moves when ownership pulls the strings. But declining to invest $125 million in an injury-prone player unlikely to contribute beyond three seasons doesn’t match any definition of cheap.

Cheap? I’d call it a prudent business decision for an organization challenged to keep ace pitcher Felix Hernandez on board after his contract expires at the end of the 2014 season. Don’t underestimate the thickness of that plot.

When you think of it in those terms, $125 million over five years for a man with more than a few issues, suddenly, it’s a little easier to move back off the ledge.  

At the same time, what happens next is what will really be telling. 

Until then, the team projects as a loser both on and off the field, and I would wager that is what has fans most upset at the moment.  Deep down, no one wants to root for a loser, certainly not one that fails to entertain or aspire to something bigger or better. 

Everyone knew that Hamilton wouldn’t solve all the M’s problems, but at the same time, he provided a sense of hope that the organization was committed to building a winner on the field and generating excitement off it as well.

The same thing could have been said this time last year when discussing Prince Fielder, and at this rate, it will likely happen again next year with whatever big name is available. 

The loss of Hamilton hurts a bit more, though, for two reasons.  

For starters, the M’s genuinely seemed to be in pursuit of Hamilton rather than simply paying lip service, like they did last year to Fielder. 

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the fact that we’ve all just lived through yet another season of watching Felix Hernandez pitch brilliantly alongside an uninspiring, albeit young supporting cast.  

It leaves a lot to be desired and questioned amongst a continually dwindling fanbase.  

Can this franchise rebound?

Will they sign someone decent ever again in free agency?

Will the youngsters ever amount to anything?

Do we need to trade our prospects, or should we hold on to them?

What should we do with Felix?

Is there any reason to keeping Felix if he’s never going to be anything more than a .500 pitcher on a lousy team?

If the Mariners do keep him, can they afford him?

Today, nobody has answers to these questions, but Larry Stone at The Seattle Times certainly put together a few thoughts on the issue of what to do with Felix and concluded:       

It’s an agonizing dilemma for the Mariners, made all the more poignant by their decline in popularity, and their low standing in the estimation of their fans, who would certainly view a trade of Hernandez in a highly negative fashion. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out—and the moment of truth is rapidly approaching.

OK, I’m getting bummed out again.

Does anyone have Nick Swisher‘s phone number?

How about the number of his wife’s agent?

What if the Mariners were to develop/produce a TV show that shoots either in Seattle or Vancouver as a means of luring Joanna Garcia to the Pacific Northwest for a starring role as a means of sweetening a deal for Swisher?

Would that work?

Successful TV shows usually run three to four seasons, so that should align quite well with Swisher’s expectations, right?

I’ll confess, I’m grasping at straws here on this one, but if anyone else has a better idea, I’m all ears.

Until next time, hang in there, Seattle fans, and perhaps cross your fingers that Jack Zduriencik has something up his sleeve far better than a script for a sitcom pilot starring Joanna Garcia. 

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