SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners president Chuck Armstrong announced Monday he will retire at the end of January after spending 28 of the past 30 seasons in that position with the ballclub, helping stabilize the team in the Pacific Northwest.
Armstrong built the Mariners into a contender then faced criticism for the past dozen seasons without a playoff appearance. He will retire effective Jan. 31 and the club said it is beginning the process of finding a successor and starting that transition.
The 71-year-old Armstrong joined the franchise as team president in 1983 and, outside of a two-year stint in the early 1990s, has been with the club in that role since. Armstrong said he wants to spend more time with his family and some recent deaths of friends helped bring Armstrong to this decision.
Armstrong first joined the club following the 1983 season under then-owner George Argyros. His most famous move during his first stint was making the decision to draft Ken Griffey Jr. with the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft. Armstrong left the club in 1990-91 when Jeff Smulyan owned the team and its future in Seattle was tenuous, but he returned to the job in 1992 after he helped in the Baseball Club of Seattle purchasing the franchise, the first step in keeping the club in Seattle.
Armstrong was instrumental in getting Safeco Field built, a move that solidified the franchise and came during the best run of success in franchise history. Starting with Seattle’s stirring comeback to win the AL West in 1995 and run to the AL championship series, the Mariners went to the playoffs in four of seven seasons and three times reached the ALCS. Seattle won a record-tying 116 games in 2001, but fell to the New York Yankees in the postseason.
“Through all the good times and the not-so-good times on the field since 1984, the goal always has been to win the World Series,” Armstrong said. “My only regret is that the entire region wasn’t able to enjoy a parade through the city to celebrate a world championship together.”
The 2001 season was the last time the Mariners reached the postseason and the 12-year drought has brought criticism to Seattle’s front office. Fans have soured on a product that has eight losing seasons in the past 12 years. A club that once sold-out Safeco Field with regularity last year had just one in 81 home games. That lone sellout came on the night the club honored Griffey.
Armstrong was born in Louisville, Ky., graduated from Purdue and received his law degree from Stanford in 1967. Along with his wife, Armstrong has three children and four grandchildren.
“Thanks to our outstanding ownership, the franchise is stable and will remain the Northwest’s team, playing in Safeco Field, a great ballpark and great example of a successful public-private partnership,” Armstrong said. “The team is in good hands and positioned for future success. I am thankful for this important part in my life.”