Thiel: Mariners Can Learn From Cubs' Long Road To World Series Success

Nov 4, 2016

The Mariners and their fans may be able to learn some lessons from the Chicago Cubs, who are celebrating their first World Series championship in 108 years.

Sports commentator Art Thiel talked with 88.5’s Kirsten Kendrick about the Cubs’ big Game 7 win and how it applies to baseball in Seattle.

'A National Win'

"It might have been the best baseball game I've ever seen," Thiel said, referring to the Cubs' 8-7 win over the Indians in 10 innings in Game 7 of the World Series in Cleveland.

"It also brought in the rest of the country. You didn't have to be a baseball fan to understand that the Cubs were the cultural touchstone for futility in this country: 108 years!

"They became a national joke. They became beloved because of this.

"And they also became a lot of fans' second-favorite team. Because for many years in the '80s and '90s, they had a cable superstation, WGN, that brought Cubs' home games and road games into many American homes.

"So there was a huge passion for the Cubs to finally get this done.

"And, certainly, the longtimers in Chicago. This is five generations of fans passing down their agonies to their children and their children's children and their children's children's children.

"Knowing that history, I think, a lot of people embraced the team in a way like I've never seen in any other sports. This was, I think, a national win," said Thiel.

Former Mariner In Spotlight

A former Mariners pitcher was on the mound when the Cubs won the World Series. Mike Montgomery was called on to finish the game with two outs in the 10th inning.

"He closed the game Wednesday night with two pitches," Thiel said. "Got his first career save. And now is a civic hero after being, actually, quite a good pitcher for the Mariners.

"The Mariners traded him in July for first baseman/designated hitter Dan Vogelbach. Now, he's a minor leaguer with some promise, but he didn't do anything this year.

"When I wrote about the Mariners at the end of the season, I said the worst trade that new general manager Jerry Dipoto was Mike Montgomery for Vogelbach.

"Montgomery, in 2015, threw back-to-back complete game shutouts. And he proved that he was a versatile pitcher in Seattle who could both start and relieve, which he did for [manager] Joe Maddon in Chicago.

"He only made three appearances in the World Series. But he's yet another example of a guy that the Mariners gave away and got back little for.

"I hate to have Dipoto bear the burden of the Mariners' general managers of the past, but he did it again."

Curse Breaker

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is credited with getting two long-suffering Major League baseball teams World Series championships. Before he joined the Cubs, he built the team that won the World Series for the Boston Red Sox.

"[The Red Sox] had the 'curse of the Bambino.' The Cubs had, of course, the 'curse of the billy goat,'" Thiel explained.

"He got rid of both of those curses by exercising ... patience. And a very studious, sabermetric approach to player acquisition.

"Jerry Dipoto gets all this. And I see a lot of possibilities there in the future for the Mariners. Because the Cubs had five consecutive losing seasons, including a 100-loss season, before breaking through last year with 97 wins.

"And then had a breakthrough season [this year] of 103 wins. They sustained it through playoff series wins with the Giants and the Dodgers and then seven dramatic games [against the Indians] that ended in the 10th inning of the seventh — pulling every string possible.

"But the key element in Epstein's strategy is patience. I know the Mariner fans don't want to hear anything about patience after 40 years and the last 15 without any playoffs. But it's crucial.

"You can't just throw money at superstars. You've got to build piece-by-piece. And I think Dipoto understands that. Epstein offered up the blueprint.

"It was a remarkable thing. And I hope the Mariners can pick up on exactly what happened."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.