Fortunately for Seattle, the Mariners have not followed the Pilots' tack. The 1969 Pilots charged some of the highest prices in baseball to watch one of the sport's worst teams, and only about 685,000 people availed themselves of the opportunity. The new Mariners have priced their tickets between $1.50 and $5—among the lowest scales in baseball—and, as a result, have sold some 4,000 season tickets. They also have the Kingdome at their disposal, not Sicks' Stadium, where Pilot fans always arrived with their umbrellas. "The Kingdome is a big selling advantage," says Les Smith, one of the Seattle owners. "People can plan far in advance and know the games will not be rained out."
It is probably only a coincidence that a born-and-bred National Leaguer—Peter Bavasi, the 34-year-old son of Buzzie Bavasi, who was general manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 17 years and now is president of the San Diego Padres—is in charge of Toronto's baseball operation. Last season Toronto expected to be a member of the National League, not the American. At that time Toronto investors reached an "agreement in principle" to buy the San Francisco Giants for $13.25 million and move them to Canada. But while Torontonians were celebrating the acquisition of another losing team, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone obtained a restraining order against the sale and Kuhn put a hold on franchise shifts. Soon after, Giants Owner Horace Stoneham sold the team to San Francisco interests, and Toronto was left with nothing.
"The political wolves were at my door," says Metropolitan Chairman Paul Godfrey, "I had rebuilt a stadium with taxpayers' money and had no tenant. The National League showed a great deal of indecision. The league could have moved the Giants here or given us an expansion franchise. I think we would have had a love affair with the Giants unprecedented in baseball." Godfrey's lingering resentment is understandable. Toronto would have been a natural National League rival for Montreal, and because the Expos have been baseball's worst-run expansion team, Toronto certainly would have profited by comparison.
Peter Bavasi, who was general manager of the Padres, seems aware of the pitfalls that face an expansion team. "You realize the importance of patience when you handle a team like ours," he says. "If you draft young, as we did, you have to bite the bullet. You don't want to make wholesale changes too quickly. If you do, you wind up mixing and matching and eventually rebuilding. The same goes for financing. In San Diego we had to trade three good pitchers—Pat Dobson, Fred Norman and Dave Giusti—for financial reasons. If we had bitten the bullet and made other financial adjustments, we would have been sitting pretty. But we had no other choice. Fortunately, we have the financial resources in Toronto to forestall any such difficulties."
Nevertheless, Bavasi has already made a few intriguing deals. He selected Rico Carty from Cleveland in the expansion draft, then promptly returned him to the Indians in exchange for young Catcher Rick Cerone and handyman John Lowenstein. He also drafted Pitcher Al Fitzmorris, a 15-game winner last season, from Kansas City and shuttled him off to Cleveland for Catcher Alan Ash-by and utilityman Doug Howard. Now Bavasi has a surplus of young catchers, and the California Angels, among other teams, have made attractive offers for Ashby. Bavasi has hired Roy Hartsfield, who worked for him in the San Diego system, as field manager and Bob Miller, an original New York Met, as pitching coach. "Maybe they'll start me on opening day," says Miller.
No chance. If Miller pitches for Toronto, not even Bowie Kuhn would have much to cheer about.