Adversity Will Either Crush These Seahawks Or Make Them Better Than Ever

The 2013 Seahawks had quite a large number of things going against them.  Playing in the toughest division in the NFL primary among them.  There were also injuries/suspensions:  Unger, Okung, Giacomini, Irvin, Browner, Thurmond, Wagner, Wright, Rice, Harvin, and I’m sure a number of others that I’m forgetting all missed various amounts of time last year, and yet somehow the Seahawks overcame.  It can be argued that a difficult schedule will actually make you a more formidable opponent come playoff time.  The caveat, of course, is that you still have to be good enough to MAKE the playoffs.

I’m in no position to comment on the locker room environment of that 2013 squad; while there are reports that Harvin was a problem last year in addition to being a cancer this year, it seems pretty obvious to me that the locker room environment is probably worse this time around.  Guys getting paid, other guys being jealous of those guys getting paid, disgruntled stars not getting enough touches or making enough plays, it can all come to a head and boil over if the team isn’t winning.  When you factor that in, along with the NFC West being just as tough – if not moreso – than last year, and the injuries that are currently piling up (Okung, Unger, Wagner, Maxwell, Lane, Marsh, Coleman, Miller, Willson, Chancellor, etc.), it can be argued that the adversity the Seahawks are facing now is the greatest it’s ever been.

The expectations for this team were off-the-charts when the season started.  Now, seven weeks in, the Seahawks are 3-3 and in third place in the NFC West.  If the season ended today, the Seahawks would have to leapfrog TWO teams just to crack a Wild Card spot.  It may be time to temper our expectations as our world seemingly crumbles down around us.

But, here’s the truth:  the Seahawks do have a chance to not only get back into the divisional race, but even the race toward the top two seeds (who get a first round BYE).  When you think about the best teams, it boils down to your overall record, your record within your conference, and your record within your own division.  Obviously, losing to the Cowboys and Rams is less than ideal.  To have a realistic shot at winning the division, the Seahawks are probably going to have to win the rest of their divisional games.  Thankfully, they get to play the 49ers and Cardinals twice each, and the Rams at home in Week 17.  The possibilities are limitless, as long as we’re able to take care of business.

As for the rest of the conference, it might be a tougher road.  The victory over Green Bay is perfect.  If they happen to lose their division to the Lions, that gives us a little security, if we manage to have the same record as the Packers at season’s end.  The defeat to Dallas hurts just as bad as the Packers game helps, of course.  At this point, we’re either rooting for the Cowboys to fall apart (like they usually do), or win their division running away (we do, after all, play the Eagles later this year, which could give us a tie-breaker over them if we win).

Want to look at another potential tie-breaker opportunity?  Look no further than this Sunday in Carolina.  Yes, they’re leading their division now, but that’s not guaranteed.  I could see the Saints or even the Falcons go on a second-half run to overtake the Panthers.  If that happens, we’ll want to have this win on Sunday to ensure an edge over another potent NFC club (of course, the Panthers DO have that tie on their record, so it’s probably a moot point, as we likely won’t have the same record as they do at season’s end; nevertheless, beating the Panthers helps our overall conference record, and that’s what’s REALLY important at this point.  That, and not falling too far behind the other teams ahead of us).

No one said repeating as champions would be easy.  Nevertheless, I think this is more difficult than any of us imagined.  We play 10 more games over the next 10 weeks.  We’re on the edge of making a big run, but we’re also on the edge of falling completely apart.  You’d like to think the worst is behind us.  With the tumor removed, maybe we can Fresh Slate this thing and start anew.

You know what will go a long way in determining the Seahawks’ fate?  Altering our expectations and adjusting accordingly.  The 2014 Seahawks aren’t what we thought they’d be.  They’re not the 2013 Seahawks by damn sight.  We’re not going to step onto the field and blow you away like we did in the Super Bowl.  Our defense isn’t going to wear you down and create multiple turnovers per game.  Our crowd isn’t going to affect opposing offenses like it used to.  And, we’re not going to utilize Percy Harvin and his big-play potential like we thought.

It’s a new team, and we all need to realize that.  Not just the fans, but the coaches and the players as well.  The coaches need to realize that the OFFENSE is ahead of the defense, and not the other way around.  It’s going to require more precision in our offensive execution.  It’s also probably going to require a little more hurry-up, and not just when the chips are down and we’re losing by three scores.  The offense is going to need to get out to fast starts, especially on the road.  We’re going to have to help out our defense a little bit.

Obviously, the defense isn’t living up to its reputation.  The sacks aren’t there, the pressure isn’t there, and that means the turnovers aren’t there.  How do we remedy that?  I think it DOES mean we have to blitz more.  We can’t just stay back, play zone all game, and rely on the talent of our superstars.  They’re not producing like we expect, which means we have to make adjustments.  Manufacture pressure any way possible, even if that means taking guys out of coverage and throwing them headfirst into the quarterback (not literally, of course).  Will that mean possibly allowing extra big plays here and there?  It might.  But, look at what’s happening now, without all the blitzing I’m advocating!  They’re getting those big plays anyway, and they’re KILLING us in the red zone!

Blitzing should help.  Scoring early should help (with the thought being:  you take a big lead, you force the other team to pass more to catch up).  We can’t remain stubborn and do only what worked in 2013.  We have to adapt to what other teams are doing to us.  If our defense is struggling because other teams are playing hurry-up and not allowing us to substitute players, then flip it on them and have OUR offense play hurry-up for the same reasons.  It’s not rocket science, it’s just football.

Yeah, we’re getting the best effort out of everyone we play.  But, that’s no excuse for us not giving OUR best effort.  If we can improve upon that – knowing that we can’t afford to lose too many more games, or else our season will be over before we know it – then we might make it through the fire tougher than ever before.  The kind of adversity that comes from a mediocre start after a Super Bowl-winning season is what determines whether or not you’re truly destined for greatness.  Either the Seahawks start picking each other up and showing the rest of football WHY they’re the defending champions, or they become just another statistic.

Just another Super Bowl participant who fails to make the playoffs the following year.

I don’t want to hear any more excuses.  I don’t want to hear about injuries, I don’t want to hear about the refs, and I don’t want to hear about locker room chemistry.  Are you a championship football team or aren’t you?  That’s what I want to know.  It starts this week.  This game against Carolina is as “must win” as a game in October gets.  Because you know what happens when the Seahawks aren’t good enough to win a game on the road against a mediocre Panthers team?  You give up on the Seahawks being a legitimate threat in 2014 and you seriously start to wonder about their prospects going forward.

I don’t want to think about that right now.  I don’t want to think about all the holes we have on this team and all the potential holes we’ll have after a loss to the Panthers.  I don’t want to think about how Russell Wilson is literally the ONLY good thing about this team in the coming seasons, because for as fabulous as he is, he can’t do it all.

Looking Back On The Bright Side Of The 2014 Seattle Mariners

As I grow older, I find that for the most part I’m capable of only two emotions:  apathetic and surly.  This certainly describes my disposition when it comes to the Mariners.  In my surlier moods, I’ll take a hard line and let everyone know that there are NO MORAL VICTORIES.  Either you win or you don’t; either you make the playoffs or you fail.  Those opinions are no less valid just because at times I find myself waffling over to the other side.

The fact of the matter is, when I sit back and apathetically look at The Season That Was, I can see the ways in which 2014 was a success.  Everyone needed this season.  The organization needed it, just to get everyone to stop breathing down their necks.  The players needed it, to show that it IS possible to be a winning ballclub and still play half your games in Seattle.  And, quite frankly, the fans needed it more than anyone.

Let’s face it, there has been a gloomy, dark cloud hanging over the Seattle Mariners for over a decade.  Obviously, everyone knows the last playoff appearance was in 2001.  Since that time – including 2014 – there have been five seasons where the Mariners finished with a winning record.  In 2002 & 2003, the Mariners were still really good, but they were surrounded by teams who were even better, and thus failed to make the playoffs.  Then, the Mariners fell off the cliff, but looked to make something of a comeback in 2007, when they were 88-74.  Of course, you were looking at a team that was 14 games over .500 with a negative run differential, who did remarkably well in 1-run games.  2007 proved to be a fluke, and as the Mariners went all-in with the Erik Bedard deal, everything fell apart in 2008 (and would continue to more-or-less fall apart for many years to come).

2009 would prove to be another even-flukier season, where the Mariners went 85-77, but had a much worse run differential.  Undoubtedly, the Mariners fell into a sinkhole of despair in 2010, from which they are only NOW climbing out of.

Ever since the end of that 2010 season - where we sort of went all-in again with the Cliff Lee deal and the Chone Figgins signing – this organization has been in the tank.  We were able to flip Cliff Lee mid-season, but that deal turned out to be the Justin Smoak disaster.  We would go on to flip Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero after the 2011 season, and from then on it’s been all about Building From Within.  Which, quite honestly, is what you have to do if you’re a losing ballclub and you’re not ready to spend New York Yankees-type money in free agency.

And, it hasn’t been easy!  Many of our first-wave youngsters have come up and failed miserably.  Smoak and Montero and Ackley have largely been disappointing (until Ackley’s second half this past season).  For every Kyle Seager that we’ve hit upon, there have been dozens of Carlos Pegueros.

Finally, as the 2013 season ended (with the Mariners finishing 71-91), the organization had apparently seen enough to finally open up their wallets.

There have been rumors of the Mariners being “in on” any number of big-money free agents over the last several seasons, from Josh Hamilton to Prince Fielder, but they finally settled on Robinson Cano (who, really, has the highest floor of any of these guys).  Why this was the right time, or he was the right player, only the Mariners can say, but it turned out to be a huge success in the first year.  At the time of signing, Cano instantly became the best position player on the team.  His performance in the 2014 season was right in line with those expectations.  He was our 3-hole hitter and he never let us down.

On top of that, Kyle Seager took that next step in his progression, finally becoming an All Star (and deservedly so).  His defense is stellar, the pop is still in his bat, his batting average isn’t ideal, but he’s becoming more consistent and less streaky.

Then, we had a number of smaller players picking up the slack at times.  Logan Morrison was a positive, once he got healthy and was placed in the everyday lineup at first base.  Dustin Ackley – as I mentioned before – had that torrid second half to cement his status as our 2-hole hitter.  Mike Zunino surpassed 20 homers and played quality defense.  Role players like Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders, and Chris Taylor all made big impacts.  While, at the same time, the bullpen was a force to be reckoned with; and for most of the year we had four really good starting pitchers with Felix, Kuma, Young, and Elias.  The hitting, for the most part, did just enough to get the job done; and our bullpen locked it down in the later innings.  That’s a recipe for winning baseball.  Specifically, a team that finished 87-75, a single game out of the Wild Card.

And, not for nothing, but a team that also had a +80 run differential.  With that run differential, you should theoretically be looking at a 91-win ballclub, so it can be argued that the Mariners were, in fact, a little UNLUCKY.

***

This is the part where I’m supposed to shift gears and tell you all the things that were wrong with the 2014 Mariners, but I don’t really have it in me.  We all know where the Mariners need to improve before 2015:

  • DH
  • Right Field

Beyond that, it’s a matter of the younger players continuing to improve.  It’s Ackley building off of his second half.  It’s one of the two short stops (Miller or Taylor) winning that job and not looking back.  It’s Austin Jackson figuring out how to hit again.  It’s LoMo staying healthy.  It’s the bullpen not regressing too far.  And, it’s leaning on our starting pitching once again to keep us in ballgames.

It’s consistency in all three phases.  Fewer times being shut out.  And, if we have to make trades to get the pieces we want, it’s all about not giving up too much from our areas of strength.  And, of course, it’s about the right kind of luck.

Like 2008 and 2010, the 2015 season could see the Mariners go right back into the tank if things go horribly wrong.  The difference between now and those last two winning seasons is:  we’ve got a better foundation.  We’re not coming off of a smoke & mirrors season where the Mariners SOMEHOW generated a winning record despite a negative run differential.  And, the only players we’re losing to free agency are players we probably won’t miss too much (I’m looking at you, Kendrys Morales).

As we watch the Royals return from the doldrums to make the World Series for the first time in almost 30 years, this offseason will surely bring about feelings of, “Why Not Us?”  Hell, if the Seahawks can win the Super Bowl, why can’t the Mariners get back to the fucking playoffs?

Now is the time for the Best Offseason Ever.  The buzz is starting to return to this team.  2014 saw an increase in attendance for the first time in a long time.  If we can land a big free agent, I’m pretty sure 2015 will be the most-anticipated baseball season in Seattle since the 1990s.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 7

No fancy intro today.  Just straight power rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (5-1) – Not missing a beat from last year.
  2. San Diego Chargers (5-2) – I’m not going to knock down a team too much for losing a tough game against a good divisional opponent.  As for this week, either they beat Denver and return to the top spot, or they lose again and likely fall out of the Top 5.
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) – I still think they’re a LITTLE better than Dallas.
  4. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) – I still think they’re a LITTLE bit of a fraud.  A fraud with an amazing offensive line and a much better-than-expected defense.  Who knew Jason Garrett had the wherewithal to stick with the run for this long?
  5. Detroit Lions (5-2) – Excellent defense.  And an offense that should only get better once Calvin Johnson is able to recover.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (5-2) – Andrew Luck is a fucking stud, plain and simple, and the top reason why our fantasy football keeper league is fighting hard for a total re-draft next year.  It also helps that their defense has taken a big step forward this year, to not put EVERYTHING on Luck’s shoulders.  This team could go far.
  7. Green Bay Packers (5-2) – They’re really ramping up against the bad teams.  Looking forward to this game against the Saints on Sunday.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (5-1) – Their schedule gets remarkably more difficult the rest of the way:  Phi, @Dal, St.L, Det, @Sea, @Atl, KC, @St.L, Sea, @SF.  Just sayin’, don’t punch their ticket to a division title just yet.  It’s pretty easy to be 5-1 when you play the Giants, Redskins, and Raiders in three of those games.
  9. San Francisco 49ers (4-3) – Sometimes, I get a wild hair up my ass and think some ridiculous thoughts.  Like, in my weekly pick ‘em game with my friends, sometimes I’ll latch onto a team and pick them week after week, because I think I have special jinxing-type powers where if I pick a team, that team will lose.  Sort of a mutual spiting, if you will.  This year, it’s been the 49ers, and I’d say my plan is working perfectly, wouldn’t you?
  10. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) – Without a doubt, I underestimated the Ravens and overestimated the Bengals coming into this season.  I don’t think you can make it any more clear:  the Ravens are the best team in the AFC North.  That having been said, this week they travel to Cincy.  They already lost in week 1 to the Bengals; if they lose this week, they’ll be in a serious hole.  For the record, I don’t think the Ravens will lose.
  11. New England Patriots (5-2) – A narrow victory over the Jets isn’t enough to vault the Pats into the Top 10.  Strength of schedule is still VERY iffy for a team that will likely cruise to another division title.
  12. Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) – I don’t think I’ll ever wrap my head around how this team lost to the Titans in week 1.  They knocked the Dolphins and Patriots on their asses, played the 49ers tough on the road, and won a hard-fought game on the road down in San Diego.  Don’t look now, but the Chiefs have played 4 of their first 6 games on the road.  They still get Oakland twice, the Jets & St. Louis at home, the Bills & Steelers on the road, with their only tough non-Divisional game being on the road in Arizona.  This is still a team very much in the hunt for that final wild card spot; the rest of the AFC should be worried.
  13. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) – If the Seahawks can’t go to St. Louis and look even remotely competent, why would we expect them to go into Carolina and win?  Because the NFL is fucked up and retarded, that’s why.  The Seahawks probably have no business being able to shut down an underrated Panthers offense, but watch it happen.  Just watch it happen.
  14. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) – The Bengals are reeling!  They’re on the ropes, clinging for dear life!  Loss, Tie, Loss to the Pats, Panthers, and Colts.  Their schedule the rest of the way is still pretty soft, with the likes of Jacksonville, Cleveland twice, New Orleans, Houston, Tampa, and Pittsburgh twice; they’re far from a lost cause.  Nevertheless, they’re going to want to get back on the horse this week and lock up a tiebreaker against the Ravens, because I don’t know if they’ll have enough wins to make a Wild Card.
  15. Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) – This team is impossible to predict, except that their defense is terrible.
  16. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) – Not a good team, but probably the best of the mediocre.  And yet, that Bucs loss?
  17. Miami Dolphins (3-3) – They’re going to have to be WAY more consistent if they’re going to fight for a playoff spot.
  18. New York Giants (3-4) – They’re 1-2 in their division, but all three games have been on the road.  So, you know, that’s something to keep in mind going forward, I guess.
  19. Houston Texans (3-4) – I have it, on record, guaranteeing a Texans victory this week in Tennessee.  I may have been drinking when I made this guarantee.  Either way, don’t make me look like a twat, Houston!
  20. Chicago Bears (3-4) – Is this a joke?  Seriously, is this some kind of joke?
  21. New Orleans Saints (2-4) – Rob Ryan’s updating his resume as we speak.  He should probably be looking at being a coordinator for college or something; seems more his style.
  22. Buffalo Bills (4-3) – That was quite the game-winning drive last week against the Vikings.  NFL Sunday Ticket is ridiculously overpriced, but it’s finishes like these that make it all worthwhile.
  23. Cleveland Browns (3-3) – Just when you were starting to get excited about the new regime, BAM, loss to the winless Jags.
  24. St. Louis Rams (2-4) – They needed all the flukey shit in the world and STILL almost blew the game against us.
  25. Atlanta Falcons (2-5) – Bad defense, even worse offensive line.  And, for some reason, Steven Jackson is still around.
  26. Washington Redskins (2-5) – I’m more offended by Colt McCoy still getting an opportunity to be a starting quarterback than I am by the name “Redskins”.
  27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) – Sometimes-competent to completely-useless, you never know what you’re going to get out of the Bucs, but odds are it won’t be them winning a football game.
  28. New York Jets (1-6) – Here’s to Percy Harvin being on his best behavior, the Jets retaining him for 2015, and the Seahawks bumping that draft pick up to a 4th rounder.
  29. Minnesota Vikings (2-5) – Yeah, I dunno.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-5) – Ditto.
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – Seriously.
  32. Oakland Raiders (0-6) – Whatever.

Percy Harvin: Reviewing A Human Failure

This whole Percy Harvin situation deserves more than just a single off-the-cuff missive in the hours following pure Internet anarchy.  With a game post-Harvin under our belts, I feel like it has finally started to sink in.  Still with a lot of fresh and twisted feelings boiling over, of course.

In cases like these, I always wonder what I felt at the time we first acquired someone like Percy Harvin.  Luckily for all of us, I have a blog!  A blog where I get to write down my feelings about things.  Things like:  the Seahawks trading a 1st, 3rd, and 7th round pick for Percy Harvin.  In that first of three posts about the coming of Percy Harvin, I mostly stated my concern over his health.  Seeing as he missed just about all of his first year with the team, I’d say those reservations were pretty well-founded.

Then, I started getting really excited about how great the Seahawks would be with him in the lineup.  Certainly a Glass Half Full outlook, while at the same time acknowledging how he was a head case and a diva back in Minnesota.  Finally, I wrapped up my 3-day Harvin binge with a comparison to the Deion Branch trade with New England way back when.  Ultimately, the Deion Branch trade was bad, but knowing now what I didn’t know then, is the Harvin trade worse?

The bottom line is:  when you make a deal for someone like Percy Harvin, you can’t help – as a fan – to gloss over all the negatives and play the “What If” game.  You always think YOUR team is going to succeed where others failed.  The Seahawks had the added benefit of being really, really good, and it’s ALWAYS more fun to be on a winning team than a losing one.  Finally, when you consider Pete Carroll as a head coach, you think of someone who is pretty easy to work for (compared to some bitter hard-ass like Jim Harbaugh, for instance).

Even if you were a total Negative Nellie at the time the Seahawks brought him in, you had to admit that we would’ve AT LEAST had a couple years of quality Harvin output before things went south.

I mean, how could you look at this guy and not think, “The Sky Is The Limit”?  Great run game, great run-first scheme, young quarterback on the rise, and solid players around him who should benefit from his mere presence.  PLUS, we just signed him to that huge deal; how could he not be happy for at least a couple years?  Especially when one of those years he had to have felt pretty low about himself, considering he missed almost all of it with injury.  It’s hard to second-guess your contract status when you’re injured for 100% of it; you can’t rightly think you’re worth MORE money without being a psychopath.

So, if you’re one to believe in “honeymoon phases”, and you hear about all the anger issues with Harvin not only this year, but LAST year as well, then you have to admit that there’s something seriously wrong with Percy Harvin, mentally.  Quite frankly, he’s not fit to associate with a team of any kind.

Which ultimately is what burns my ass the most.  What a fucking piece of shit!  What a worthless cuntbag of a prick!  Just because he’s fast, he thinks he can dictate terms to the people who employ him.  He thinks he can tell the coaches how to be used and when he’ll go into the game.  If you don’t cater every single fucking thing to this cocksucker, he’s either going to pout or he’s going to clock you in the face.

Make no mistake:  Percy Harvin isn’t worth the money he commands.  If you have to put up with all of his nonsense, he’s not even worth having on your team for free!  He’s not worth the roster spot, let alone the millions he thinks he deserves … and for what?  For being fast?  There are lots of fast guys in the league who don’t poison locker rooms.  Who won’t piss and moan like a fucking infant because they’re not getting the ball enough.

And, let’s face it, it’s not like he’s even that good.  If a guy is going to get injured – or fake injuries – as much as Harvin has in his career, who would you rather have:  Harvin, or an “average” receiver who suits up and plays like a man every week?  Harvin’s not a man; he’s a little child with no moral compass who doesn’t get along with others and doesn’t know how to share.  I don’t know who raised Percy Harvin, but they unquestionably failed as parents, if this is the man he has become as an “adult”.

In the end, I was no more prophetic than I was in this post, comparing Percy Harvin to a Jaguar automobile.  Yes, like a Jag, you spend way too much to get one, because you’re just so excited to be getting your dream car.  And, like any Jag owner knows, you’re selling that bitch for pennies on the dollar just to be rid of the regular maintenance involved in owning one long term.

Here’s the thing, though:  I was willing to put up with the injury concerns.  What I won’t tolerate is what we’ve learned about since the trade last Friday:  how he doesn’t get along with others and how he holds the team hostage by not going into football games.  How he essentially took himself out of that Cowboys game for God knows what reason.  That just sends me into a tailspin of rage.  Only topped by the thought of What Could’ve Been.

There are two paths you can choose to engage.  The first What Could’ve Been scenario is:  Percy Harvin comes to the Seahawks for an exorbitant price and flourishes.  It’s easy to see why the Seahawks were enticed by him, just as Seahawks fans came to believe we were getting the final ingredient to a long and fruitful reign of dominance.  If Harvin would have been willing to play ball and accept his role within the offense, it all could have been really special.  Instead, the coaches felt like they had to build everything around him, which is pretty much what you DON’T want to do.  No wide receiver is that good.  Especially no wide receiver who’s a total head-case.

The other What Could’ve Been scenario is:  What if the Seahawks never traded for him to begin with?

Well, I’ll tell you this much:  we’d still be World Champs.  That will never be taken away from us.  On top of that, there’s a good chance we could’ve kept Golden Tate as our #1 receiver.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s KILLING me seeing him do so well in Detroit.  He’s ours!  We found him, we cultivated his talents, and we thrived under his antics (both on and off the field).  When the Seahawks lost Golden Tate, they lost a lot of heart and a lot of the fun that comes with rooting on this team.  Beastmode is fun to root for too – and he certainly represents the identity we’ve tried to establish since he came here – but he’s a different sort of head case.  Like most head cases, when things are going well, Lynch is great to have around.  But, when the chips are down, can we count on him to continue to be the player we need him to be?  Let’s see how the rest of this 2014 season goes before I answer that.

Russell Wilson is fun to root for, but he’s more machine than man.  Doug Baldwin is great to have on the team, but he’s always so serious.  Golden Tate is just pure joy.  I hate to say it, but we’re all going to look back at losing Tate as the reason this team failed to repeat as champions.  And that has a direct correlation with the signing of Harvin to that massive contract extension.

Likewise, him signing here – and us running into that balloon payment in 2014 – resulted in our losing Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Walter Thurmond, Clinton McDonald, and maybe a couple other guys.  Granted, you can’t hold on to everyone forever, but just knowing that we were a championship ballclub without Harvin REALLY makes this whole fiasco a kick in the crotch.  To have some of those guys – even if it’s just through this year – would have been SO MUCH better.  Especially when you look at the younger replacements we’ve brought in over the last two drafts and see how they’re not doing a fucking thing to help us maintain that championship level.

All of this falls on the shoulders of the Harvin trade and signing.  Yes, it IS easily the biggest mistake of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider collaboration.  There haven’t been a huge amount of these types of boners (the Charlie Whitehurst ordeal comes immediately to mind), but you can see a running theme:  desperation.  The smartest and best franchises never reveal a sense of desperation.  I’m sure, over the years, there have been guys the New England Patriots REALLY REALLY wanted, but they didn’t succumb to their impulses by offering the moon and the stars to get them.  Well-run organizations are on the opposite end:  they wait for great players to fall into their laps, taking advantage of desperate teams willing to unload.

Come to think of it, it’s kind of shocking that they weren’t a trade partner for the Seahawks.  This seems like JUST the type of deal a team like New England would make:  relatively low cost and no risk, as he can be cut after this season with no cap ramifications.

No doubt about it, the Vikings fleeced us like we haven’t been fleeced since the last time they fleeced us in the Steve Hutchinson deal.  I hope their search for a franchise quarterback lasts another hundred years, because Fuck The Vikings.  That trade is a fucking SAVAGING knowing what we know now.  Not only did they get three draft picks, but they got rid of a fucking irredeemable asshole.  The Seahawks got 8 mostly nondescript games of no- or low-impact on Harvin’s part, followed by a 6th round draft pick that can be bounced up to a 4th rounder if he’s on the Jets in 2015 (which, at this point, doesn’t seem TOO likely).  Unless Harvin returns to form and doesn’t drive everyone crazy in the process, while giving the Jets either a few good years of production, or a nice return in trade this off-season, I’m not willing to say we were also fleeced by the Jets, but there’s certainly that chance.  The most important thing here is:  the cancer is gone.  Now, the question remains:  is it too late to save the patient?

No one is going to come out and say that the Seahawks are better off now, without Harvin in the lineup.  But, that’s because most people can’t differentiate Harvin’s Potential from Harvin’s Reality.  Since what’s reported is only his on-field impact (and what’s discarded is how he’s a bad teammate … that is, until AFTER he’s been traded, and then all the horror stories come flooding out), all anyone can think about is the best case scenario of a healthy Harvin added to a young and talented offensive group.

But, the reality is twofold:  Harvin wasn’t bringing enough to the table to be worth the cost, and the Seahawks weren’t using him properly to facilitate him being worth the cost.  I mean, if you’re not even going to ATTEMPT to throw him the ball downfield, how do you expect him to thrive?  Or, for that matter, the offense as a whole?  Yeah, he’s better with the ball in space, near the line of scrimmage, where he can make guys miss and break long gains.  But, if teams are expecting that and only that, Percy Harvin is actually pretty easy to game plan for.  Just zone up in the middle of the field and gang tackle when he has the ball.  See, I just did it, give me a million dollars to be your defensive coordinator.

So, if you accept the reality of our situation, then yes, the Seahawks are better now than they were two weeks ago.  Did it show in that Rams game?  Sort of, as the game went on, the Seahawks’ offense really started to click.  We’ll know more as the season goes along, but I’ll tell you this much:  if we didn’t waste all that fucking time trying to build the offense around Harvin, we’d be much further ahead now than we are.

In the end, there was really no winning with that Percy Harvin deal.  He simply cost us too much in draft picks and in cap space.  The only way he would’ve been worth it is if he played all of 2013 and was a direct contributor to our world championship.  Since we largely did it without him, that really spelled doom for Harvin.

You want to know why so many Seahawks fans have turned on him so quickly and so harshly?  Because Percy Harvin did absolutely nothing to endear himself to the fans.  When you lose a year to injury, then come back in year two and do nothing for us, you’re going to be loathed for that alone.  Then, to top it all off with the stories of him fighting with teammates, and the realization that some of our favorite ex-Seahawks are out there thriving for other teams, there might not be a more hated individual in all 12th Man-ville.

Big money free agents are always at a disadvantage, because they’re always paid a premium for past accomplishments they almost never live up to.  They’re also at a disadvantage because fans automatically gravitate towards players their team drafted and nurtured.  Percy Harvin was a hired gun who meant nothing to us until he started wearing our jersey.  To win our admiration, he would have needed to contribute to our culture of winning.  Instead, he decided to create a culture of animosity and distrust.  Now, he’s gone, and in his wake we have a .500 football team with a lot of injuries and a lot of over-paid stars already not living up to their contracts.  Best case scenario is Addition By Subtraction.

Worst case scenario is:  this is just the first swirling of toilet water in a season being flushed down the drain.  Lord help us …

The Seahawks Lose To St. Louis In The Dumbest Way Possible

It’s all just such cliched bullshit.  Why is it that every fucking time we go into St. Louis, Jeff Fisher turns into Vince Lombardi and Pete Carroll becomes fucking Rich Kotite?  And how many times are we going to lose to the Rams on some flukey special teams nonsense?

The punt return I actually thought was pretty impressive.  That’s a real Wheel of Cheese moment.  I disagree with the notion that the Rams “saw something on tape.”  That shit could’ve worked against any team with a halfway competent punter who knows how to angle his kicks and down them inside the 20.  That shit’s not Seahawks-specific, necessarily.  The Rams just knew that it would work against us and so they pulled it out at the absolute worst time.  Because they like embarrassing us; don’t ask me why.

But, how in the fuck do you let them pull off a fake punt to ice the game?  Are you kidding me?  There are one of two ways you can play that.  The first is to send 10 guys running towards the punter in full Punt Block Mode.  Let’s see how well their punter throws the ball when he’s about to get fucking exploded.  The other way is to just play defense and go into full Punt Safe Mode.  Put a body on an eligible body and make sure they kick that ball.

What you DON’T do is treat is just like any ordinary punt, because guess what:  the Rams like to take these moments to catch us napping!  Why more teams don’t go all-out on freak special teams plays when they game plan against us, I’ll never know.  We’re like an excited puppy running around out there.  We know one thing:  GET THE BALL!  So, we’ll fall for pretty much any sort of fake-out you can give us.

It’s also all such cliched bullshit because, here we go.  Just another Super Bowl team who struggles the following year.  Be it injuries, or key losses in personnel, or your superstars not playing up to their ability.

The whole defense is a joke.  Just want to put that out there.  Do we have injuries?  Of course, but everyone has injuries.  We’ve still got a lot of really good, really healthy players out there who are doing NOTHING.  Earl Thomas, where you at?  Richard Sherman, how about it, buddy?  I’m gonna leave Kam Chancellor out of this because he’s dealing with some nagging injuries.  But, Avril & Bennett, could I trouble you for some sacks this year?  Is it too much to ask, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin, and Malcolm Smith, for a little play-making?

We just made a team that has looked terrible all season running the football look like the fucking Bo Jackson/Marcus Allen Raiders of Tecmo Bowl.  They were 3 for 3 in red zone touchdowns!  I mean, are you shitting me with this?  I get the rationale behind “Bend/Don’t Break” Defense, but that only works if you DON’T FUCKING BREAK!  It’s not supposed to get EASIER for these teams to move the ball the closer they get to the endzone!  And yet, the Rams looked like an avalanche rolling down hill once they got inside the 20.

Do the Seahawks have it bad right now with injuries?  Yeah, but we’ve got it better than most.  Supposedly, this is a “depth” issue, but you pay playmakers to make plays, and our playmakers haven’t done SHIT this year!

On the other side of the ball, God damn this offensive line.  I mean, what can you do?  It’s not just an injury issue – though, from the looks of things, it appears that most of these guys are dealing with some serious shit – but a talent issue.  James Carpenter is nobody’s first round draft pick.  J.R. Sweezy was picked in the seventh round for a reason.  Britt might end up being something, but right now he’s pretty worthless.  And, if Okung and Unger can’t stay healthy for more than a few games, then I don’t think they should be around anymore.

Bottom line:  offensive line needs to be the #1 priority for this team in the draft going forward.  We need an infusion of talent, which means injecting HIGH draft picks into this all-important unit.  Russell Okung probably shouldn’t be re-signed once his contract runs out.  James Carpenter also probably shouldn’t be retained.  We should be actively seeking out Max Unger’s replacement as soon as possible, and it would probably be a good idea to invest a little more heavily into “backup center”, because at this point it’s a guarantee that he’ll get his share of playing time.

So, here we are, 3-3.  In the great Post-BYE easy stretch of games where we were SUPPOSED to go 8-0 (or, at worst, 7-1), we have started out 1-2.  The defense has taken the year off, and the offense just isn’t good enough to pick up the slack.  As a result, we’re destined to fall back to 8-8 and miss the playoffs, while all these smug, asshole national media types get to sit around telling us, “I Told You So.”  Because they used flawed logic to reach a correct conclusion.

Until the defense rises from its slumber, the Seahawks are fucked.  We go to Carolina next week; are you at all confident that we can stop them?  Because I’m not.  Shit, we couldn’t even stop the Rams!  What makes you think we’re going to get a handle on Cam Newton?  He’s going to slice and dice us with his nobody-scrubs he’s got around him!

Good God, who would have ever predicted that it would be October 20th and we’d already be looking forward to the next Mariners season?

Seahawks Traded Percy Harvin To The Jets … wait, what?

It’s real, and it’s spectacular!

It was right around 3pm.  I was at work, on hold, trying to get one last phone call in before 3:30 (quitting time).  While waiting, I clicked on Twitter and much to my surprise, it was absolutely BOILING OVER with news about the Harvin deal.

WHAT THE FUCK?

Exactly.  What we know for sure is that Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets for a draft pick.  A conditional draft pick, likely somewhere between the 2nd & 4th rounds **UPDATED** – a 6th rounder that will bump up to a 4th rounder if Harvin is on the Jets’ roster in 2015.  I guess depending on how healthy he remains going forward.  And we know that our financial obligation to Harvin ends after this season.  The Jets pay his salary going forward; all we have to do is move up the signing bonus cap hit to this year (which, not paying his $7 million-or-so that he’s still due will more than make up for).

What we think we know is:  Percy Harvin is a God damn cancer.

We’ve got media people reporting on Harvin’s “anger management” issues.  How he’s not getting along with coaches and/or players.  How he apparently punched Golden Tate in the face – giving him a black eye – before the Super Bowl last year (WHAT???).  How he might have gotten into it – either verbally or physically – with Russell Wilson in the past week.  I don’t know how much of that is true, just as I don’t know what ELSE has been kept from us by the team in an attempt to show a united front.

What I do know is this:  teams don’t just throw away superstar players for no reason.  You MIGHT get rid of a superstar because he makes too much money and you’d rather allocate that elsewhere; but you almost never see that happen in the middle of the season in the NFL.  If Percy Harvin is, indeed, a Top 5 talent in the NFL – which, I’m not sure that he is, but he’s definitely up there – and he’s not absolutely crippling your salary cap (which Harvin wasn’t, regardless of what people will end up saying after today), then you keep him … UNLESS, he’s a fucking cancer in the locker room.

In which case, you know what?  The Seahawks won 16 games last year – including the Super Bowl – without him.  Oh, he was there for three games, but he wasn’t the reason we won any of those three games.

It is being argued that the Seahawks didn’t use Harvin properly, and that’s what set him over the edge.  Being “used properly” meaning:  ”often enough”.  But, the fact of the matter is, Percy Harvin should never be the number one focal point of any offense.  He’s a perfectly great complementary piece.  Used as a decoy to open up rushing lanes.  Given the ball in space occasionally to take advantage of his speed.  And yes, used in down-field patterns.

I agree that Harvin wasn’t being used properly, because I think he was being used too MUCH.  They were trying to bend over backwards to make the offense about him and that was never going to work.  And, seeing this trade happen today, I don’t think he was going to let it work.  He was going to keep demanding touches and holding this offense back.  Watch us, going forward, be a MUCH better offense without him.  Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

I’m of the opinion that the Dallas game was the last straw, but it was far from the only example of the team not working well with Harvin (or, vice versa, I guess).  If you ask me, Doug Baldwin’s rant after the game is more telling now than ever before.  He’s a guy you don’t want on your bad side.  He won’t settle for your bullshit and if you’re not giving your all out there, you’re going to hear about it from him.  He’s the unquestioned leader in that wide receiver room, and frankly I trust his judgment even more than I do Pete Carroll’s or John Schneider’s.  It wouldn’t shock me in the least that he had a big part in Harvin’s going away.

There will be time later to talk about what this means going forward, but frankly I’m in too much shock STILL to have coherent thoughts.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part II

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

Click HERE for Part I

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the rest of the pitchers.

Yoervis Medina - This is all you REALLY need to know about Medina’s 2014.

If only they had the Internet back when Gil Meche caught Mo Vaughn looking.

Everyone absolutely LOVES to get off on hating on Medina.  I don’t get it!  Is he the best reliever this team has?  No.  Is he the guy you ideally want to see in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame?  Probably not.  But, way more often than not, he gets the job done.  He averages over a strikeout per inning, gotta like that.  He’s a little over 2:1 strikeout-to-walk, which isn’t the greatest, but it’s far from terrible.  Opposing batters hit .229 off of him, which is very good.  His OPS against is under .650.

I mean, seriously!  What more do you want out of the guy?  He’s durable, he’s good to go pretty much whenever you need him.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard any sort of variation on the phrase, “Medina isn’t available in today’s game because he’s pitched too many days in a row.”  He’s a 2-year pro whose ERA is below three in both years.  Even by more advanced metrics, he’s not bad.  So, why all the hate?

Fuck if I know.  He does tend to be a little wild sometimes.  He’s not quite Fernando Rodney Experience levels of cardiac arrest, but he’ll certainly raise the ol’ blood pressure from time to time.

When I look at a reliever, though, I like to look at meltdowns.  Is he going to be awesome for a while and then go all Brandon League on you?  That’s not good.  If you count ‘em out, though, of his 66 appearances in 2014, he gave up at least one run only 12 times.  So, in 18% of his appearances, he’s giving up a run.  Granted, when he’s going in higher leverage situations, those runs tend to mean a little more.  But, I would venture to say of those 12 games where he gave up at least one run, he wasn’t the sole reason why we lost most of those.  Relievers can give up a run here and there and not have it bite them in the ass.

For my money, he’s young, he throws hard, he strikes people out; that’s worth him getting into and out of a few jams every now and then.

Outlook for 2015:  A lot of my talk yesterday was about how the Mariners are destined to trade a reliever or two for hitting help.  I’d venture to say Medina – along with Wilhelmsen – is probably on the lower end of the rankings.  My point being:  get used to seeing his mug come out of the bullpen on the reg in 2015.  And, if I’m right about Farquhar, Maurer, and/or Leone getting shipped off, that will only strengthen LMC’s resolve on using Medina in the 8th inning.  If he stays healthy, I’d bank on him being his usual, reliable, sometimes-scary self.

Hector Noesi - I want to say Noesi was out of options and that’s why he made the Mariners out of Spring Training.  I mean, his numbers were okay, but when you compare them to the rest of his Mariners career, I don’t think any fan thought he DESERVED to be here.

On April 2nd, he pitched an inning of relief in Anaheim, giving up 2 runs in a single inning.  It was a blowout Mariners victory, so people let it slide.

Then, on April 3rd, he came into a tie game in the bottom of the 12th down in Oakland.  He threw two pitches to Coco Crisp, the second of which was a game-winning home run.  Considering we missed out on the playoffs by 1 game to those very same Oakland A’s, you COULD say Hector Noesi is the reason why we fell short.

He moved on to the Rangers and made three appearances.  In his final appearance, against the White Sox, Noesi went a single inning and gave up 7 runs.  Fuck if I know what they saw, because after the Rangers released him the following day, the White Sox would go on to pick him up and pitch him less than a week later.  Noesi eventually cracked the White Sox’s rotation (because shit went very VERY wrong for that organization in 2014) and did all right.

He even got to start against the Mariners twice.  The White Sox would win both games (1-0 over in Chicago, 2-1 in Seattle), while Noesi combined to throw 14 innings, giving up 10 hits, 1 run, 0 earned runs, while striking out 9 and walking only 3.

If this is the point where you kill yourself, I totes understand.

Outlook for 2015:  Who the fuck cares?  Fuck that guy!

James Paxton - Paxton made 4 starts in September of 2013 and really plowed through the competish.  With that, he factored into the battle for the starting rotation in 2014 and easily won a job.  He made two starts, winning both, and then had to be shut down with a strained lat muscle.

He was only supposed to miss a few weeks to a month, but he didn’t actually make his Major League return until August thanks to a number of setbacks.  Once he got his strength back, he was the stud we’ve all come to expect (for the most part).

Outlook for 2015:  Definite front-runner for a rotation spot once again.  Will he be able to stay healthy?  Hopefully, the organization figured out what was wrong and how to avoid it in the future.  The sky is the limit with this kid if he can stay healthy.  Best-case scenario is:  he turns into a legitimate #2 starter behind Felix one day.  The sooner that day comes, the better our chances at making the post-season.

Stephen Pryor - Pryor flashed onto the scene in the later parts of 2012 and showed a rocket arm with closer-type stuff.  He figured to be a staple of our bullpen in 2013, but got injured.  All sorts of shoulder-type stuff.  That carried over into 2014.  He made a single appearance, on July 9th, giving up an unearned run.  I think he was called up to be a warm body (kinda like Luetge) to eat a couple innings.  In the end, he was sent back down and eventually traded to the Twins for Kendrys Morales.

Outlook for 2015:  It looked like he lost quite a bit off of his fastball.  He never did make any appearances for the Twins after he was traded, so that leads me to believe he’s still working his way back in the minors.  Hope he gets his stuff back; seemed like a good enough guy.

Erasmo Ramirez - Every year, from 2012 onward, we’ve had high hopes for this kid.  Good control, nice change up.  But, he throws a very straight, hittable ball.  And, sometimes he loses that control that’s his bread & butter.  Once that happens, he’s one of the ugliest pitchers you’ll ever watch.

He made 14 starts for the Mariners in 2014 (17 appearances overall).  With Iwakuma out, Ramirez made the rotation out of Spring Training.  He proved to be unreliable and eventually lost his job to Brandon Maurer (who proved to be even worse).  He re-entered the rotation in June, when he managed to more-or-less put up zeroes, but also couldn’t go deep into games because who could trust him to?  It was all spot starts after that, whenever we wanted to push guys back or otherwise give them extra rest.

Outlook for 2015:  Fodder for Tacoma, with Emergency Starter potential.  If he makes the rotation out of Spring Training again, something has gone horribly wrong (again).

Fernando Rodney - Meet your new Single-Season Saves Leader in Franchise History!

48 baby!  Hot dog!  Only 3 blown saves!  Gee willikers!  19 out of 69 games where he gave up at least 1 run!  Actually, that’s not the best figure in the world.

They don’t call it the Fernando Rodney Experience for nothing.

10.31 K’s per 9.  He’s got that fastball that runs anywhere from 93-99 miles per hour.  He’s got that change up that runs in the low 80s.  He’s got batters in between those two speeds MOST of the time.  And, every once in a while, he has a gnarly little meltdown.

Whatever you do, don’t bring him into the 9th inning of a tie game.  You WILL be losing that shit in short order.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s signed for one more season.  Another $7 million.  If we get similar production to what we got in 2014, he’ll be worth every penny.  If he takes even a modest step back, it could be a real trainwreck for the senses.  I’m fairly confident he’ll be what we expect him to be, but I make no guarantees.

Carson Smith - Nine games, all in September.  He would’ve been here sooner, but our Major League bullpen was kicking too many asses and taking too many names.  There was a roster crunch that got even crunchier when Brandon Maurer discovered 6 extra MPH on his fastball.

What we saw out of Smith, however, shows me this is the real fucking deal.  In those 9 games, he threw 8.1 innings (in a playoff chase, I might add!  In some pretty serious moments!), gave up 0 runs, 2 hits, struck out 10, and walked only 3.  Lots of movement on his hard fastball, with a wicked slider.

Outlook for 2015:  Theoretically, he could be another one of those Trade Chip guys, but teams generally like to have proven commodities.  I mean, these were the first 9 appearances of his Major League career!  I think he stays for that reason alone.  And, he’s the reason why I wouldn’t be absolutely heartbroken if we lost a Farquhar or a Maurer.  He can easily slide right in there as a 7th or 8th inning set up guy.  Eventually?  Another future closer, if he stays healthy.

Taijuan Walker - Another guy who got a September call-up in 2013.  Another guy who looked good during his cup of coffee.  Another guy who figured to be in the rotation battle in Spring Training 2014.  And, another guy who got injured and missed a significant portion of the year.

We might thank that injury for his still being here.  As, you have to figure it sapped some of his value from around the league.  You never know, if he was healthy and dominating, maybe it’s Walker who we trade at the deadline for a super-amazing, non-Kendrys bat.

I wish I could look into some alternate dimension where Iwakuma, Paxton, and Walker were all healthy out of Spring Training and healthy for the duration of the year.  What would’ve happened to the 2014 Mariners in this universe?  Could’ve been fucking amazing, if you ask me.

Shoulder impingement.  Had him shut down in Spring Training and didn’t allow him to return to the Majors until the end of June.  He made three sporadic starts before September, but spent the majority of the year down in Tacoma.  Working on his arm strength, and later working on his control.  He returned in September and looked much better, closing out his regular season with an 8-inning, 1-run game against the Blue Jays that we ended up losing 1-0 (essentially the nail in the coffin to our season, though we did finish with four straight victories to come within a game of a play-in game to the play-in game).

Outlook for 2015:  They stuck Walker down in the Arizona Fall League to get some work in.  By all accounts, he’s looked great.  He’ll be back in Spring Training fighting for a rotation spot.  If all goes according to plan, your 2015 rotation will look like this:  Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Walker, Elias.  But, then again, when does anything ever go according to plan?  Count on the Mariners bringing in a veteran or two to fight for the final rotation spot, so nothing will be handed to Walker.  But, if he’s got his head on straight and puts in the work necessary to make it, he should be fine.

Tom Wilhelmsen - He took over as closer in 2012 for the displaced Brandon League.  He lost his job as closer in 2013, suffering from Brandon League disease.  People wondered if he’d be traded prior to 2014.  People wondered if he’d even make the Big League roster out of Spring Training.

Not only did he make it, but he earned the trust of LMC to the point that he was THE guy behind Rodney.  He rewarded that trust by having a pretty mediocre April.  Calls for his head soon followed, but you know what?  Instead of doing what these relievers normally do – totally implode until they’ve been DFA’d or traded for a bag of baseballs – he figured his shit out and had a nice little 2014 season!

Wilhelmsen was lights out from May until the very end of September (for the record, the entire bullpen was lights out from May until the very end of September, hence the reason why we lost so many games towards the end there).  He ceded his 8th inning duties to Medina & Farquhar, but he earned something a little more important:  long relief & the occasional spot start on Bullpen Days.

He was made for this role, so I’m glad it’s clicked.  There’s been chatter here and there about him converting back into a starter, but I doubt it’ll happen.

Outlook for 2015:  I think he’ll be right here, doing what he did in 2014.  It’ll be nice to have him back (never would’ve caught myself saying that at the end of 2013).

Chris Young - The Mariners signed Randy Wolf to a minor league contract heading into Spring Training.  He was given a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness out of some of our younger guys (Maurer, Beavan, others).

Scott Baker was another guy the Mariners signed prior to Spring.  He was ALSO given a legitimate opportunity at cracking the starting rotation.  He ended up being pretty awful in his four starts and asked for his release (since we weren’t ready to anoint him the starter, he used an opt-out clause in his deal).  This opened the door wide open for Wolf, who wasn’t a WHOLE lot better in his five spring starts, but it beat going into the season with AAA guys.

But, here’s the rub:  the Mariners asked Wolf to sign a contract with a clause that stated if the Mariners waived him after 45 days, they wouldn’t have to pay his full $1 million salary.  Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit (over what was a pretty standard clause for guys in his position) and refused, also asking for his release.  It was so granted.

Meanwhile, Chris Young was fighting for a spot with the Washington Nationals.  Prior to the season, the Nationals traded for Doug Fister (remember him?), and thus no longer had an opening for Young.  Young was released and the Mariners signed him.

He went ahead and agreed to the contract with the 45-day clause.  He was not only rewarded with a rotation spot for almost the full season (he broke down a bit towards the end and was benched), but he very well should be the frontrunner for Comeback Player of the Year.  AND, he probably rejuvenated his career to the point that, in 2015, he’ll get a guaranteed contract (and MAYBE even a multi-year deal).

Young’s first appearance of the year was out of the bullpen.  This was to build up some innings, as he’d had a gap between his release from the Nats and his pickup by the M’s.  His next 29 appearances were all starts, as injuries and ineffectiveness reared their heads.

3.65 ERA, 12-9 record, 108 strikeouts in 165 innings, with only 143 hits and 60 walks.  All of this after many years in the baseball wilderness.  Before 2014, he hadn’t made 29 starts since 2007.  Indeed, he missed ALL of 2013.  Comeback Player of the Year?  I think so.

Outlook for 2015:  My guess is, he’ll command more money elsewhere.  It’s also my hope, because I don’t think he’s going to catch this lightning in a bottle twice.  It was nice having him here, it was nice watching him fight the regression dragon as long as humanly possible, but I’ve seen the 83 MPH fastball and the damage done.  If he’s not inducing weak infield pop-ups, he’s getting crushed.  Pity the team that overpays him in 2015.

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Pitchers, Part I

Turns out there’s A LOT more to say about the 2014 Mariners than I originally thought.  Anyway, last week I wrote about all the position players used by the Mariners throughout the season.  It turned out to be a massive, 7,000+ word monstrosity that took over four hours to write and had to be split over three days.

This one figures to be a lot somewhat shorter simply because we used a total of 24 different position players and only 20 pitchers.  Here’s to me keeping this to a modest TWO posts!

(Part II tomorrow)

In case you missed it, here’s the breakdown of the hitters from last week:

And now, without further ado, let’s talk about the pitchers.

Blake Beavan - On April 15th, Blake Beavan made his one and only appearance for the Seattle Mariners in 2014.  It was a start (presumably because we lost Paxton to injury a few days earlier, and because Iwakuma was still a couple weeks away from making his debut, and because we still weren’t too confident in Maurer’s abilities – but would have to be five days later because injuries), and he lasted four innings.  In those four innings, he gave up two solo home runs and we all thought he was being pulled due to ineffectiveness.  It would later be revealed that Beavan had a shoulder injury that kept him out until July.  After that, it looks like he finished the year in relief, down in Tacoma, going no more than 2.2 innings per appearance the rest of the way.

Outlook for 2015:  I honestly have no idea.  I mean, I have some idea:  he won’t be playing for the Mariners.  Presumably, he still has options left, so I’m going to say he’ll be in Tacoma to start.  But, will he BE a starter?  Not gonna lie to you, once Beavan went on the DL, all the Beavan news sort of dried up.

Joe Beimel - One of the lesser-heralded moves made by the Mariners ahead of the 2014 season.  Beimel didn’t cost much, he won a job out of Spring Training, and he was easily the most-effective lefty out of the bullpen.  He’s a 14-year veteran who didn’t pitch in the Majors in 2012 & 2013 due to injuries and – I’m guessing – ineffectiveness.

This year, he appeared in 56 games, almost exclusively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist.  45 innings, 2.20 ERA, not a bad little year all told.  I sure as shit liked him more than the wild and erratic Charlie Furbush.

Outlook for 2015:  I could see the Mariners signing him again, but not if he’s going to cost an arm and a leg.  I don’t know how many lefty relievers the Mariners have coming up the pike, but I’m pretty certain we can find one on the cheap somewhere.  This is the same management group that found a diamond in the rough the last few years with guys like Beimel and Oliver Perez.  There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.  I’m giving him a 33.333% chance of returning.  But, he’ll certainly get a guaranteed contract from SOMEONE.

Roenis Elias - Probably the biggest feel-good story of the Mariners organization in 2014.  Cuban defector, made the leap from AA to the Bigs in one Spring Training, AND pretty much made it through the whole season!

29 starts, 163.2 innings, 143 K’s, 64 BB’s, 3.85 ERA, 10-12 record.  All good stuff.

(also, I forgot about his 5-shutout-inning start in Tacoma in August when the Mariners sent him down to limit his overall innings count)

He made his final start on September 16th, where he had to leave early with an elbow strain.  The team – in the middle of a Wild Card chase – rightly played it safe and shut him down.  The best part of his rookie season was probably how he didn’t really slump.  He’d have 2-3 bad outings in a row, but not very often; and he always found a way to bounce back.  And, while the team tried to limit his innings per start, if you discount the final game where he left injured, he failed to go five innings only three times all year.

His most obvious high point was the June 1st start at home against Detroit where he went the full nine, shutting them out on 3 hits, with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.  He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s a lefty with good control and a wicked curve.  When he has his change up working, he’s tough to beat.  And, considering he turned 26 in August, his poise is off the charts.  No jam is too overwhelming.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s certainly earned the right to be a frontrunner for a starting rotation spot.  I’d slide him right in after Felix, Iwakuma, and Paxton as a fourth starter (though, for purposes of splitting up the lefties, you’ll probably see him in the 5-hole).  He pitched 148.1 minor league innings in 2012 and 130 more in 2013, so you have to wonder whether the Mariners will let him go hog-wild in 2015 or not.  It might be unfair to expect him to go 200+ next year, but I could easily see him in the 180-200 range.  Here’s to hoping that elbow issue is nothing and he’s right as rain from the get-go.

Danny Farquhar - Aside from a small number of bad outings, Danny Farquhar was arguably the best reliever on the team all season long.  And yet, it took LMC and Co. a while before they realized it and used him in high leverage situations.

Just another hard-throwing righty in a bullpen full of ‘em.  Good movement on his fastball, great cutter, and some nice control with his offspeed stuff.  While Lloyd would interchange him, Medina, and Wilhelmsen in that 8th inning role (because, quite frankly, all three of them got the job done for the most part), it was Farqhuar who earned the role of defacto closer whenever Rodney was unable to go.  Love to see that.

Outlook for 2015:  Should be another year of lockdown relief.  I could see the bad kind of regression out of guys like Wilhelmsen, Medina, Leone, Rodney, and pretty much anyone else in that bullpen.  But, for whatever reason, I have the utmost confidence that Farquhar will be our rock.  That having been said, he could also be one of the better trade chips we have, if we decided to work out a blockbuster deal for a bat or something.  It would hurt to lose Danny, but you have to like the thought process behind such a move (the thought process being:  the Mariners have a ton of relievers that could easily step up and keep our bullpen intact and dominating).

Charlie Furbush - Furbush had the 2nd-most appearances of anyone on the pitching staff, but the 7th-most innings pitched among relievers (not counting Maurer, who only pitched around 37 innings of relief, with the rest of his innings in that ill-advised starter role).  Furbush was, like Beimel, mostly a lefty specialist.  Unlike Beimel, he was used more often because we wanted to keep Beimel’s appearances down (given his, shall we say, “advanced years”).

Furbush was also probably the least-effective reliever on the team, among the relievers who were with us the full year.  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s feast or famine with Furbush.  Which was kind of a bummer because I remember him being a lot more effective in 2013.  Of course, he wasn’t ACTUALLY “a lot” more effective last year, but perceptions can be tricky.

Furbush is who he is.  He’s got a dynamic arm angle which should make it tough on any lefty trying to hit off of him.  But, he doesn’t really have dramatic splits:

  • Vs. Lefty:  79 AB, .241 avg against, .277 OBP, .594 OPS
  • Vs. Righty:  83 AB, .253 avg against, .315 OBP, .701 OPS

That comes out to a difference of 5 more walks to righties and 2 more homers (with 1 fewer double).  His career splits are much more in line with expectations, but you have to factor in how he was a starter to begin his career.

Outlook for 2015:  He’ll almost certainly be back, and be right back in that lefty specialist role in the bullpen.  Since relievers tend to be wildly inconsistent from year to year, the odds are just as good that he’ll be super amazing or fucking terrible.  Maybe just bank on him being what he’s been the last two years as a full-time Major League reliever and keep your eyes shut during the scary parts.  I’ll tell you when you can open your eyes again.

Felix Hernandez - Our little Cy Young winner!

34 starts.  27 quality starts.  236 innings.  15-6 record.  170 hits.  248 strikeouts.  46 walks.  6.8 WAR.  0.92 WHIP.  2.14 ERA.

He led the American League in ERA and WHIP.  Second in Innings Pitched and WAR among pitchers.  Fourth in strikeouts.  Among pitchers who went 200 innings or more, he gave up BY FAR the fewest hits (next lowest was 187).  And the fifth-fewest walks.

Oh yeah, and he had those 16 consecutive starts where he went 7 or more innings AND gave up 2 runs or less, breaking the Major League all-time record.  SIXTEEN!  From May 18th through August 11th, he was by far and away the best pitcher in the American League and probably all of baseball.  That’s not to say he was dogging it those other 18 starts, but that kind of consistency is fucking amazing and deserves to be recognized.

If Felix didn’t already have that one Cy Young Award to his name, I’m sure I’d throw the biggest hissy-fit of all time if he doesn’t win it this year.  But, regardless, it’ll be a pretty sizable hissy-fit if he gets edged out.  Thankfully, the fact that he already has one is actually a good thing.  Baseball Writers who vote for these things are nothing if not sheep.  Felix is a name.  He’s understood as being one of the greats in the game today.  Moreover, he’s a good guy, who played for a good team, who came 1 game short of the playoffs.  Corey Kluber is NOT a name.  He’s a guy no one ever heard of outside of Cleveland until this year.  If he wins the Cy Young, then they should also go back and retroactively give the MVP to A-Rod over Juan Gonzalez in 1996, because that shit was some BULLshit.

Felix was pretty great in 2010 when he won, but this year he was WITHOUT QUESTION even better.  His 2014 was the best season of his career so far.  I hope everyone enjoyed it.

Outlook for 2015:  The Ace of the team.  He’s here for the duration.  He might not be a Cy Young winner, but he’ll be pretty fucking awesome and still among the best pitchers in the game.

Hisashi Iwakuma - Kuma fucked up the middle finger on his throwing hand when he got it caught in some netting while practicing a baseball drill.  As a result, he didn’t make his first start for the Mariners until May 3rd.  He was a little up and down in those first couple months, then settled down in July and August to be his usual remarkable self.  Then, he completely fell apart in September and absolutely could not be counted on to keep us in ballgames.

From August 24th onward, Kuma made seven starts.  He averaged less than five innings per start, going 32 innings total; and he averaged 4 runs per start, giving up 28 in total.  He gave up 40 hits in those innings, to go along with 9 walks, and boy did other teams take advantage of those hits & walks!

I find it hard to believe that’s a trend with him, because in 2013 his September ERA was under 1.  And that was a year where he DIDN’T miss a month of the season to injury!  My thinking is:  it’s just one of those things, and you just hope it doesn’t carry over to next year.

Overall, I still think Kuma is a rock solid #2 starter.  His 2014 was good for the most part, but considering the start and the finish, we all might be better off just forgetting it even happened.

Outlook for 2015:  The team will most definitely pick up his $7 million option.  So, that’s cool.  We get another legit #2 starter for a VERY reasonable salary.  The question going forward is:  what do we do long-term?  It looked like – after his 2012 season where he came on strong in the second half once his arm got right – he could’ve commanded quite the bounty on the open market.  The fact that we got him for essentially 3 years, $21 million, was quite the shock.  And, it still is, to tell you the truth.  I think he’s still got some good mileage left on his arm, so I wouldn’t be against another 3-year extension if the terms are right.

Dominic Leone - 16th round draft pick in the 2012 draft.  He’s been great every step of the way.

He played in Everett in 2012, then spent the duration of 2013 in the minors, going from A to AA, dominating all the way.  Then, sure as shit, he continued his ass-kicking parade in Spring Training this year, which earned him a role on the Mariners that he never gave up.

He was never really a guy the team turned to in the 8th inning of a winning ballgame, but he certainly earned higher-leverage situations as the season went along.  And, I’m looking at his numbers here, and I can only count 2, maybe 3 bad outings all year, out of 57 appearances.

By WAR, he was the second-best reliever on the team behind Wilhelmsen of all people.  He had the fourth-highest K/9 among relievers who stuck with the Mariners the full season.  And he somehow finished with an 8-2 record out of the bullpen, which is meaningless but still kinda fun.

Hard-throwing righty with good movement.  Obviously, his secondary pitches were pretty solid, if he managed to stick the full season.  Best of all, I never really felt all that nervous with him on the mound.  Considering he had this much success as a rookie tells me if he can stay healthy, he’s got a long, fruitful career ahead of him.

Outlook for 2015:  He should be back in the bullpen for the full go, but like Farquhar, he’s got a lot of value as a trade chip.  In fact, among the relievers on this team, he’s probably got the MOST value.  He’s got the full season under his belt, he was great this season, and among our Major League relievers, he’s got the most service time left.  Leone by himself could probably fetch us a semi-quality bat.  Package him with another guy or two and you could theoretically wrangle away a great hitter for the next year or two.  If I’m being honest with myself, I give it 2:1 odds that Leone is traded for someone awesome.  But, if he’s back, you could be looking at a future closing candidate when Fernando Rodney moves on.

Lucas Luetge - He made 12 appearances.  8 were in September.  The rest were sprinkled around in April and July as extra bullpen help during lean times where we had to go to the ‘pen quite a bit.

It’s hard to say Luetge was much more than a warm body, but then again he wasn’t given much of a chance.  We plucked him from Milwaukee in 2012 in the Rule 5 draft and he stuck that whole year with the club.  Since 2013, he’s been up and down from Tacoma, with middling results.  It’s tough, because he’s been more-or-less pretty good down in AAA, but it hasn’t quite carried over when he’s been called up.

Outlook for 2015:  He needs to refine his command and control.  He’ll contend for a Major League roster spot, but anything could happen.  If he’s great in Spring, he’ll most likely make it.  But, if we bring in a veteran on a small deal who also pitches well, we may opt to keep the vet & save Luetge down in the minors in the event of injury.  Either way, you WILL see him at some point in a Mariners uniform (unless, again, he’s thrown into a deal with another club, which could happen to almost any of our relievers).

Brandon Maurer - The Mariners drafted Maurer in 2008 in the 23rd round.  In 2012, he was in AA and earning comparisons to our Big 3 (Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker).  He earned so many comparisons, that we had to temporarily amend it to the Big 4 and put him in it!

In 2013, Maurer was the first of the Big 4 to break through.  Like Roenis Elias, he too made the jump from AA to the Bigs with an outstanding Spring Training.  He started for us for the first two months, generated an ERA near 7, and was demoted to Tacoma.  When he returned later that year, he was mostly used in relief and was mostly not at all good.  His 2013 in general was pretty pisspoor.

In 2014, Maurer did NOT earn a roster spot out of Spring.  But, injuries to Iwakuma, Paxton, and the aforementioned Blake Bevan left us desperate.  Maurer made his first Big League start on April 20th.  He would continue to make starts through the end of May and for the most part looked like his crappy 2013 self.

So, he was sent down to Tacoma again.

While in Tacoma, the organization decided to make him a full-time reliever.  Quite honestly, this has to go down as one of the Top 10 All Time Greatest Decisions The Seattle Mariners Have Ever Made.

Maurer returned on June 25th.  From what I recall, the Mariners didn’t necessarily NEED him at that time, but what they were getting from him in Tacoma was too good to deny.  Upon his return, he was consistently hitting the upper-90s with his fastball (whereas, he was in the mid-to-low 90s as a starter).  His slider was breaking like we haven’t seen around these parts since the heyday of Jeff Nelson.  He even found control of his change up that had eluded him throughout the duration of his time as a starter!  It’s one thing to gain some MPH on your fastball when you convert to a reliever, but how in GOD’S NAME do you mysteriously figure out your change up in the blink of an eye?

Maurer didn’t give up a run until his 11th relief appearance.  A stretch of 15 straight innings!  On the whole, his splits are blowing my mind:

  • As A Starter:  151 plate appearances over 7 games.  7.52 ERA, 1.21 strikeouts to walks, .321 avg against, .880 OPS, 4.7 K/9 innings, 1.763 WHIP
  • As A Reliever:  150 plate appearances over 31 games.  2.17 ERA, 7.60 strikeouts to walks, .217 avg against, .535 OPS, 9.2 K/9 innings, 0.964 WHIP

Are you kidding?  Those numbers aren’t just Night & Day, they’re Night & Oranges!

Outlook for 2015:  You could make the argument that Brandon Maurer was the best reliever on the team in the second half of this year (Carson Smith might have something to say about that, but we’ll get to him in due time).  Like Leone and Farquhar, you’ll find Maurer high on the Trade Chip list.  I’m telling you, at least ONE of those three WILL be traded before the 2015 season starts.  It just makes good sense.  If the Mariners are dead set on keeping Paxton and Walker, then the bullpen arms are the next-best pieces we have to move.  Or, at least, the next-most-desirable.  If he’s not traded, then he’ll be duking it out with Medina, Wilhelmsen, and whoever’s left for those coveted 8th innings.

Look for Part II tomorrow.

Seattle Sports Hell 2014 NFL Power Rankings – Week 6

Last week, we got into it with the defense a little bit.  Certainly, those issues are still around.  This is the second time the Seahawks have given up 30 points in a game this year; the Seahawks gave up 30 or more only once all of last year (including playoffs).  The Cowboys used the Chargers’ model of beating the Seahawks:  converting lots of third downs, running a lot of plays, churning lots of clock, and scoring touchdowns in the red zone instead of field goals.  The L.O.B. stinks right now, the defensive line is a shell of their 2013 selves, and injuries abound.  This is not a good unit and it’s looking like the prophecy was correct:  give these players big-money contracts and watch them dog it on the field.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I wrong?  Is that unfair?  Then, prove it, cuntbags!  Get out there and dominate like you’re supposed to!

Anyway, I’m through with the defense for now.  This week, we’re talking offense.

I go through ebbs and flows when it comes to listening to sports radio.  Sometimes, I have the radio on daily, sitting in my living room after work, catching up on the goings on.  Sometimes, I’ll go weeks without.  Let’s face it, sports radio can be a little irritating sometimes.

But, it’s always good to tap into the public discourse once in a while, to see what’s bothering the masses.  Sometimes, what’s bothering the masses this week is what they were falling all over themselves praising last week.  For instance, take Russell Wilson.

Last week, against the Redskins on Monday Night, Russell Wilson was the best player on the football field.  He practically single-handedly won us that game with his legs and his arms and his leg-arms (or, rather, his ability to throw while running away from immediate pressure).  He was great.  He proved once again that he’s a Top 5 quarterback in this league.

Then, six days later, against the Cowboys, Russell Wilson turned in one of the very-worst performances of his young career.  Now, all of a sudden, what makes him great – scrambling around, eluding pressure, keeping plays alive – are reasons to take him down a peg.  “He doesn’t step up into the pocket enough.”  That’s the biggest criticism I’m hearing this week on sports radio.  Instead of twirling all around, running backwards out of the pocket, he should step up into a throwing lane and make a play.

The thing is, what hardly gets acknowledged in this scenario is that quarterbacks who step up in the pocket to throw the football tend to take body-crushing hits.  Yeah, it’s macho to be that guy who “hangs in the pocket”, unleashing a perfect pass just as someone is burrowing his shoulder into your chest, but that shit adds up!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  live to fight another day.  I’d rather have Wilson scrambling all around, this way and that, vs. stepping up and getting destroyed.  That’s how ribs are broken.  That’s how hands are mashed against opposing helmets.  That’s how concussions start to ruin your life.

I hope Wilson NEVER listens to these sports radio yahoos who’ve never played a day of quarterback in their lives.  He can just keep doing what he’s doing.  For the most part, I have a lot of problems with how the offense is performing, but none of those problems involve #3.

My main problem involves the offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell.

After winning the Super Bowl last year, I tried making a pact with myself to leave the man alone.  I’ve been criticizing him pretty much from Day 1, when we were forced to go with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback thanks to the NFL lockout.  Slowly but surely, I’ve grown to appreciate his style, as I think it meshes well with what we’re trying to do:  ground & pound.

Here’s the thing, though.  For the last couple years, Darrell Bevell has been among the top head coaching candidates in the NFL.  He’s seen Gus Bradley get his shot.  He’s heard about Dan Quinn’s impending promotion.  With winning comes great notoriety; losing teams will look towards the winning ones to find out what they’re doing that works.  More often than not, winning clubs lose their coordinators as the losers of the world hope to catch that lightning in a bottle twice.  Maybe a little Pete Carroll magic has rubbed off on so-and-so.  It’s IMPOSSIBLE to think that this thought process hasn’t wormed its way into Bevell’s brain.  What I’m arguing here is that it’s not only something that’s on his mind, but it’s something that’s affecting his job performance.

Obviously, there’s nothing that can be done and nothing that will be done at this point in the season.  Our BYE week has come and gone.  Besides that, it would be a batshit crazy overreaction to fire Darrell Bevell.  But, one has to wonder:  is he doing more harm than good?

You know what Darrell Bevell is?  He’s a U.S. Senator running for President.  He’s on his way out!  It’s only a matter of time.  In his mind, he’s checked out.  His duties as Senator no longer interest him; all he can think about now is what he’s going to do when he’s in the Oval Office.  And so, instead of doing his job, he’s spending the next year actively campaigning around the country for something better.

What do I mean by this?  It’s plainly simple.  Darrell Bevell’s job is to call the plays that work best in this team’s system.  This is a team that runs the ball.  When it’s not running the ball, it’s throwing off of play-action.  And, at least 4-5 times a game, it’s having Russell Wilson throw deep for the home run.  That is what works for this team.  That is what has worked for the last two years.  Everyone else in the league knows what we’re doing and we do it anyway.

The thing is, Darrell Bevell isn’t DOING his job.  He’s gone out and created this whole other offense based around Percy Harvin (who I’ll get to in a bit).  Fly sweeps and lateral passing and screen plays and handoffs up the middle.  Yes, Percy Harvin is a great weapon to have.  Yes, he’s among the most dangerous weapons in all of football with his speed and elusiveness.  But, you can’t forget that this team has OTHER weapons that are just as good and effective in their own ways.

Marshawn Lynch is one of the most dynamic running backs in the game.  What the FUCK is he doing only getting 10 carries in a game, EVER?  I don’t care if Dallas hogged the football through most of the first half of that game.  I don’t care if it leads to repeat 3 & Outs, you better kick off the game by handing the rock to Beastmode!  On first AND second down if you have to!

Now, I know that’s not sexy.  Handing the ball to Lynch isn’t going to get you noticed as a coordinator; but it WORKS.

And that’s just it.  To get noticed as a coordinator, you’ve got to be running a well-oiled machine of an offense.  You’ve got to have that scoreboard spinning!  You’ve got to average around 30 points per game with lots of big plays from your skill positions.  In this case:  Russell Wilson & Percy Harvin.  So, he’s forcing Wilson to force the ball to Harvin as much as possible.

When it’s working, Bevell looks like a genius.  Why did Gus Bradley get the Jacksonville job?  Because he turned around a defense that was among the very worst to one of the very best.  That’s what gets defensive coordinators jobs as head coaches.  How do offensive coordinators get jobs as head coaches?  Well, it starts at quarterback.

If Bevell can make Wilson a legit Top 5 quarterback in this league – and not the perceived Game Manager everyone thinks he is – then he will have done the impossible and he’ll have his choice of teams to head coach next year.  Russell Wilson isn’t going to shed that Game Manager label by handing the ball off to Lynch all day long; he’s got to throw the ball!  With Harvin as the team’s best weapon in the passing game, of course Bevell is going to organize the offense around his abilities!

So, that’s what we’re going to get.  The only problem is:  we’re going to get that type of offense to the detriment of the TEAM.  That’s a problem for Seahawks fans, but guess who it helps.  Guess who actually benefits if the Seahawks manage to lose a few too many games this year!  That’s right:  Darrell Bevell.  Because coordinators who make the Super Bowl don’t get hired as head coaches.  Because it takes too long, and other teams want to get a jump-start on their next seasons.  THAT’S why I think Darrell Bevell is doing more harm than good.  I’m not going to sit here and tell you that he’s actively trying to cost us ballgames.  But, I am saying that defeats aren’t going to linger with him the way they’re lingering with fans.  I’m also saying that he’s being pig-headed with this new offensive scheme and is going to stick with it – without making the necessary adjustments – for better and for worse.

Here’s what I’ll say about Harvin:  he works best as a complementary player.  A change-of-pace.  Because:

  1. You don’t want to give him the lion’s share of the touches because he might get injured.
  2. Teams know what to expect out of him after multiple viewings.

The injury thing is obvious.  He’s a small guy.  He takes vicious hits because he runs so fast and because defenders are so much bigger than he is.  But, it’s the second part that Bevell doesn’t seem to understand.

In the Super Bowl, Harvin was electric.  Why?  Because nobody had seen him play all that often in a Seahawks uniform.  They didn’t have a really good idea how we’d use him.  So, those fly sweeps went for big gains.  And, in the early going of this year, it was more of the same.  Those quick-hitters to Harvin went for big money because the Packers and Chargers didn’t know what was coming.

Now?  Teams know what we’re doing.  This isn’t college football.  You know why John Ross is so great as a Husky?  Because he’s a man among boys.  He’s an NFL player surrounded by glorified high schoolers.  All you have to do is give Ross the football and he’s going to make magic happen (evidenced by that 86-yard touchdown against Cal, which would’ve been stopped for a modest gain AT BEST in the NFL).

Harvin is a great weapon because of his usefulness as a decoy.  When we send him in motion towards the quarterback pre-snap, the defense has to be on alert:  will the Seahawks hand it off to him?  Will Wilson turn and throw it to him as he runs away from him, in sort of a swing pass?  They have to account for him, which opens up the handoff up the gut to Lynch.  That takes one guy from The Box and removes him from the play, making life easier for Beastmode and the blockers in front of him.

And yes, it’s good to get his hands on the football once in a while, in space, like a glorified handoff.  But, you’ve also got to run him out in patterns sometimes!  He’s a slot receiver; how about you fucking USE him like a slot receiver?  Run some slants with him.  Run some double-moves and get him going down field!  I know the deep passing thing isn’t his game, necessarily, but the threat has to be there!  They can’t always expect Harvin to be hovering around the line of scrimmage.

Go watch tape of Green Bay.  Go look at how they use Randall Cobb.  Make THAT part of Harvin’s game.  Let’s keep the defense on their toes.

The fact of the matter is, yeah, Bevell is getting stagnant with his scheme vis-a-vis Harvin.  And a little stubbornness going along with that stagnation.  But, that doesn’t absolve Harvin himself.  He’s making A LOT of money.  And I know his mere presence on the field as a decoy will help this offense in the long run.  But, he’s not getting all those millions of dollars to give us 22 receptions for a measly 133 yards and 0 receiving touchdowns across five football games.  He’s also not getting all those millions of dollars to give us 11 rushing attempts for 92 yards and a single rushing TD.  He needs to be doing more.  EVERYONE needs to be doing more, but Percy Harvin can never again have a fucking game where he gets the ball 6 times and has negative net yardage.  We didn’t pay him all this money to be a speedy kick return man.  Ted Ginn Jr. is out there if you want that.  Much cheaper, too.

Finally, I’ll just say this:  if you’re injured, stop playing.  Sit out.  Because you’re only making your injury worse, and you’re not functioning properly when you’re on the field.  You’re not helping!  You’re actively hurting us with your penalties and with you being constantly out of position.  I’m looking at you, Okung, and I’m looking at anyone else who’s playing injured in secret.  STOP IT!  Get well, then come back.  Don’t be Mr. Macho Man, because you’ll get no credit from me for playing through pain.  You’ll only get my scorn for making the team worse.  I know you think that You at 75% is better than someone else at 100%, but I promise you you’re wrong.  Take a seat.

***

  1. San Diego Chargers (5-1) – Could’ve used a better defensive performance in Oakland for fantasy purposes, but I suppose I can’t really hold it against them.  It’s always tough going on the road in your own division.  I still really like their body of work right now and think they match up really well with the Broncos.
  2. Denver Broncos (4-1) – Not for nothing, but they get dinged a little bit (and therefore stuck in the #2 spot) because they lost to the Seahawks, who REALLY aren’t as good as I thought they were.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (3-2) – I’m not willing to dump the Seahawks much farther than this spot right now, though - because I think a lot of teams are iffy at this point – but a few more injuries and unexpected defeats will surely plummet them quick.
  4. San Francisco 49ers (4-2) – And they’re only going to get better as the season goes on, with their injured guys returning and their later BYE week.
  5. Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) – I can’t believe how fast people jumped off their bandwagon this week.  SO MANY pundits took the Giants.  Just when you start to believe the Eagles’ offense is in a slump, they bust out.  Let that be a lesson.
  6. Dallas Cowboys (5-1) – As advertised:  one of the best offensive lines in all of football.  Limit Romo’s opportunities and you’ll limit his mistakes.  Simple Fucking Equation.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) – The defense is starting to mess me up in the head a little bit.
  8. Detroit Lions (4-2) – Frankly, the offense is starting to mess me up in the head a little bit.
  9. Indianapolis Colts (4-2) – Just Colts being Colts.
  10. Green Bay Packers (4-2) – Nice little underrated win, going down to Miami to steal one.
  11. Baltimore Ravens (4-2) – If only Flacco could play that well every week, he’d be a cinch for the Hall of Fame.
  12. New England Patriots (4-2) – Death, taxes, and the Patriots beating the Bills.
  13. Arizona Cardinals (4-1) – I’m beginning to think the NFC West – aside from the Rams – has the best collection of coaching staffs in all of football.  I don’t know what sort of voodoo Bruce Arians practices; I just know I don’t want to get on his bad side.
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) – I dunno, they had a BYE week.  Hard to look good on your BYE week, when better teams around you are kicking ass and taking names.
  15. New Orleans Saints (2-3) – They’re out of my Top 10.  Smell you later, Saints.  Smell you later forever!
  16. Chicago Bears (3-3) – Yeah, good luck going up against the Lions and Packers; you’ve got no shot at the division.
  17. Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) – What was once considered – by me – as possibly being the best division in football, the NFC South is now one of the worst?  Lump them in with their AFC counterparts and the South in general is just a fucked up pile of shit.  HEY, WAIT A MINUTE!
  18. Cleveland Browns (3-2) – Haha, Steelers.
  19. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) – Ha. Ha.
  20. New York Giants (3-3) – Poor Eli.
  21. Houston Texans (3-3) – Poor J.J.
  22. Atlanta Falcons (2-4) – I place them below the Texans because their offensive line is horrendous.  And if they ever went up against J.J. Watt, Matt Ryan would cease to be.
  23. Miami Dolphins (2-3) – Making me look bad, Dolphins!  You don’t want to see me when I’m angry.
  24. Buffalo Bills (3-3) – This is a frisky little team, but all the used-up, washed-out white quarterbacks in the world won’t help them make the playoffs.
  25. Washington Redskins (1-5) – I just learned this week that they have only one win and not two.  Because I pay attention to detail and have a solid awareness of what’s going on in the world.
  26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) – What the hell is up with this defense?  This is borderline offensive(!).
  27. New York Jets (1-5) – They’re going to have a mighty housecleaning if they don’t get improved quarterback play pretty soon.
  28. Minnesota Vikings (2-4) – This offense is a mess.  I think Norv has used up all his magic beans.
  29. St. Louis Rams (1-4) – Pretty tall order for a rookie quarterback to go up against the 49ers on Monday Night.
  30. Tennessee Titans (2-4) – You move up no spots because all you did was beat the fucking Jags.
  31. Oakland Raiders (0-5) – You move up one spot in the rankings because you’re not the Jags.
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) – Fuck you, Jags!  You’re supposed to be BETTER than this right now!  How many years in a row are you going to lead the league in being the 32nd-ranked team in the NFL?  Moreover, who ever told you that you could work with men?

Quick & Dirty: Going To The UW/Cal Game

So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days.  In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space.  It’s going to be glorious.

That makes travel between now and then … limited.  And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year.  The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways.  But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!

Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work.  As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday.  I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade).  Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours.  It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time.  Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.

I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place.  Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.

And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning!  Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking.  Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road.  This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly.  I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay.  From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards.  "Tailgating, how quaint!  Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!"

So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”

Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal.  Nerds, amirite?  Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such.  Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene.  Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.

My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself.  Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).

We were, like, a mile from the stadium.  I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill.  We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between.  Did I mention the oppressive heat?  There was oppressive heat.

We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice.  They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice.  Those old fucks were good sports, though.  We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.

Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game.  As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in.  I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario.  Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game ...

The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …

I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year?  40th?  1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way!  Is that Shaq?!?  No fucking WAY!  OH MY GOD IT IS!!!”  Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.

For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments.  Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half.  In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!

A lot of delayed gratification in this game.  We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is always never fun.  Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance.  The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.

Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game.  He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines.  Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.

The Husky defense was superb.  We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense.  That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before.  Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air.  Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.

It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook.  People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds.  Appreciate it now, while you still can!  And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end.  Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future.  We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.

Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant.  That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).

After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food.  I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think.  Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.

I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport.  My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended.  It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do.  Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game.  One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them.  And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.