Mariners Tidbit 53: Nelson Cruz Isn’t Doing The Home Run Derby

I’m just going to jump right in and pull a quote from the horse’s mouth about why Nelson Cruz isn’t going to participate in the Home Run Derby at this year’s All Star Game:

I would love to do it. But at the same time, I have to think about my teammates and my team. If I go there, it can wear me out for two or three days after. And that’s not fair to my teammates, and it’s not fair for my team. That’s just the way it is.

This was said by a guy playing for a team that – at the time – was 8 games under .500.  Ostensibly, this is the sentiment of a “team player” who’s more interested in his team winning ballgames.  But, come on!  Is it REALLY all that draining to stand up there and swing the bat a bunch of times?  I thought you were a baseball player.  Isn’t that something you do literally almost every single day for over half the calendar year?  It’s not an “Inside-The-Park Home Run Derby”; you’re not being asked to run or do anything else.  Just stand up there and take some hacks at some batting practice pitches for a few minutes.

I dunno.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe it’s draining.  Maybe he’ll be bed-ridden for the next few days after such laborious hard work.  Or, maybe he’s hiding some ever-so-minor injury, and unnecessarily swinging the bat for no good reason will only exacerbate things.  That might explain why he had 18 home runs through May and had only 1 in all of June.  But, it seems to me a guy in this much of a funk – 1 homer in his last 29 games – could stand to benefit from a few homer-centric swings of the bat on a national stage.  Maybe it gets him back on track to where he was when he was the best hitter in baseball the first two months of the season.

Or, maybe not, but I just can’t see how this hurts him.  Maybe other guys – guys who aren’t powerful homer hitters – might see a change in their mechanics after participating in the Home Run Derby.  Maybe those guys go into a bit of a lull in the days that follow.  But, Cruz is MADE for this event!  And, quite frankly, it does the fans a disservice for him to back out.

Why do I care if Nelson Cruz is an All Star?  As the DH, he’ll get what, 2 at bats?  Big fucking deal!  The game itself is a total joke!  It’s all about the pomp and circumstance leading up to it, including the ancillary events like the Home Run Derby itself.

I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t an issue to get all bent out of shape about.  It’s the Home Run Derby, who cares, right?  I don’t, really.  But, I might have, had a Mariner chosen to be involved.  As it stands, it’s just the biggest cop-out in the world.  Like how the best dunkers in the NBA choose to sit out of the dunk contest, and we’re left with the dregs.  If you don’t want to be involved, then how about this:  don’t go to the All Star Game at all!  If it’s such a burden, and you’d rather have the rest, then just stay home.

For Whom Might The Seahawks Trade Russell Wilson?

‘Tis the season for rampant speculation on matters we know nothing about!  It’s a glorious time to be alive, what with the Internets and whatnot.

I read this over the weekend from Mike Florio with Pro Football Talk.  It references another option in the Russell Wilson Contract Saga that nobody’s really talking about:  in lieu of signing him, or franchising him, the Seahawks might feel like they need to trade him.

For the record, this is the last thing I want to see happen.  I’m of the school of thought that you do NOT trade your franchise quarterback for anything!  Unless he’s too old and broken down, and even then I’d be pretty sad to see him go.  Nevertheless, I was reading that story and it got me to thinking.  I’m not so much interested in the super-bounty of draft picks, but I am interested in the part where it talks about, “the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.”

So, consider that the premise for this post:  who would the Seahawks realistically get in return for a Russell Wilson?

Before we get started, I agree with Mike Florio in the article:  regardless of what happens, I 100% doubt that the Seahawks are trading Russell Wilson in 2015.  Even if we’re a billion dollars apart in our contract terms, I still think we ride this season out and hope for another ring.  So, what we’re looking at – in this hypothetical world where the endgame is Russell Wilson being traded – is the Seahawks putting one of the franchise tags on him, then sending him away.

So, I’m going to go through all the quarterbacks who are either starting for their teams, or are in some kind of a timeshare/training camp battle because none of them on that particular team are all that good.

Here we have a list of quarterbacks whose teams would never trade them to us:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Joe Flacco
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Ryan Tannehill

Rodgers, I feel, is pretty obvious:  he’s the best quarterback in the league and I don’t think Green Bay is in for an over-priced step down.  Luck’s not quite there yet, but he clearly WILL be the best quarterback in the league, and I would wager sooner rather than later.  Joe Flacco is already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; I don’t see Baltimore giving him up.  You could argue he’s making too much money and looking to shed some salary, but remember in this scenario:  Russell Wilson is looking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the game.  I think Ryan, Newton, and Tannehill are too young, and they’ve just gotten paid.  Plus, I don’t think those teams could afford to take the cap hit that Wilson’s going to bring (especially Miami, what with Ndamukong Suh making all the money he’s making).

Next up, quarterbacks whose teams ALMOST CERTAINLY won’t trade them:

  • Tom Brady
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Matthew Stafford

With Brady and Roethlisberger, I just think they’re too tied to their respective teams and cities.  But, those organizations have been known to be ruthless with their veterans, so if they felt like either one might be slipping, and they had a chance to get a young stud QB in return, they MIGHT pounce on him.  I’d put Romo and Manning in the same boat (too tied to their teams & cities), just on a lesser scale because they’re not as good.  Stafford’s interesting because I think he’s right on the edge of being good and being overrated.  Seemingly every year I have a different opinion about him.  Ultimately, I think Detroit feels he’s good enough to get the job done, and likely wouldn’t trade him away for a guy like Wilson.

The Division Rivals:

  • Carson Palmer
  • Nick Foles
  • Colin Kaepernick

The overarching theme of this section is:  under no circumstances do you EVER trade your franchise quarterback to a team in your division.  Putting that aside, I think all three of these teams would trade their starters for Russell Wilson in a heartbeat.  Carson Palmer is obviously too old and too injury prone to be counted upon.  Nick Foles is interesting, but ultimately not worth facing Wilson twice a year (especially with their offensive line and defense overall, I think the Rams would be a total dynasty with Wilson at the helm).  And honestly, Colin Kaepernick might be the best fit in the league for our offense – given his scrambling ability.  I think if you reined him in, forcing him to be a little more conservative with his throws, he wouldn’t be much of a step down at all compared to Wilson.  Hell, under Harbaugh he went to three straight NFC Championship Games; I think he’d do okay here as well.

The Young Ones:

  • E.J. Manuel
  • Geno Smith
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage
  • Blake Bortles
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Derek Carr

Manuel, Smith, and Manziel are just too bad.  No way the Seahawks take them in return.  I think the Seahawks would think long and hard about Bridgewater and Winston, but if Bridgewater makes steady improvement in 2015, I don’t think the Vikings will want to get rid of him (and if he takes a step back, I don’t think the Seahawks would want him).  The Bucs are just too committed to Winston as part of their rebuild, so I don’t think he’d work out in this scenario.  Mallett and Savage are a couple of unknowns, but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be all that great as starters.  I feel like Bortles and Mariota are a couple of future backups being thrust into roles they’re not good enough for.  I think the Seahawks might take Carr in a heartbeat, but I don’t think the Raiders will give up on him (for the record, I’m pretty high on Carr and think he’s going to have a great second year).

Too Over-The-Hill:

  • Peyton Manning
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh McCown

Pretty much says it all, if you ask me.  Manning is signed through 2016, but you have to wonder if he’s even going to be around.  He almost opted to retire THIS year.  After getting banged around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (where I FULLY expect to see Manning seriously injured at some point), I’m almost convinced he’ll be done.  Either way, I don’t think you can throw Russell Wilson away on a guy who’s going to be 40 next year, who MIGHT have 1-2 years at the most left in his career.  Cassel and McCown aren’t even worth the words.

Too Terrible:

  • Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley/Tim Tebow
  • RGIII/Kirk Cousins
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brian Hoyer

Speaking of “aren’t even worth the words,” we have the poo-poo platter that the Eagles have in camp this year.  It should go without saying, but Bradford is TOO DAMN INJURY PRONE.  The rest of those guys are the total beans and the Eagles are going to be lucky to win five games this year.  RGIII is also too injury prone, plus he’s a terrible leader who doesn’t follow directions, plus he’s just a bad all around quarterback.  Cousins is Just Another Guy, same as Hoyer.  Jay Cutler seems enticing, but that’s just because of that cannon he’s got for an arm.  Squint a little more closely and you’ll see he’s easily the second coming of Jeff George (not a compliment).

The Definite Possibilities:

  • Drew Brees
  • Philip Rivers
  • Alex Smith
  • Andy Dalton

I know Brees and Rivers feel like those guys up top who are too tied in with their teams and cities (Brees especially).  But, I have my reasons for having these guys down here.  For starters, I think New Orleans is in full on rebuild mode.  Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints are probably five years away from being a championship-type team again.  They MIGHT decide to give Brees a chance to win a title elsewhere.  And, considering we’ve already done that deal for Jimmy Graham, it honestly might be the most perfect fit we could hope for.  On the downside, Brees will be 37 years old next year, and it’ll be the last year of his current deal.  At best, you hope he’s got three more elite years left after 2015, but realistically it might be closer to one or two.  A trade for Brees gives us the best “Win Now” option.  When you consider Pete Carroll’s on the short contract (by design, as he might opt to retire or move to another team), Brees might be the next best thing to just keeping Russell Wilson forever.

Philip Rivers will only be 34 in 2016, so you gotta like your chances with him longer term.  Honestly though, this probably doesn’t work because 2015 is the final year of his deal, and I don’t know if they can franchise tag him or not.  The other variable is whether or not the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles.  Will Rivers want to stay?  If not, maybe they work out a sign & trade with the Seahawks.  The downside to that is, I’ve read reports that should Los Angeles get two teams – which seems to be the way this is going – there’s the possibility of the Chargers moving to the NFC West.  And, as I said above, you do NOT trade Wilson to a team in your own division – even a team that might one day move to your division.

Alex Smith might be the best type of guy we can hope for.  He’ll be 32 next year, and 2018 is the final year of his deal.  He’s not making all that much money – which would allow us to spread the wealth to other positions.  He’s the consummate Game Manager:  doesn’t make mistakes, is decently mobile, is comfortable playing in a run-first offense.  The downside is, obviously, his downfield throwing.  We wouldn’t get those chunk plays that we like to get.  But, with weapons like Jimmy Graham around him, and with the emergence of some of our younger receivers, I think he’d be good enough to get the job done.  He sort of reminds me of a Brad Johnson type.  Brad Johnson won a title with the Bucs, why couldn’t Alex Smith do that with the Seahawks?

Andy Dalton is the guy I most fear the Seahawks pursuing.  He’ll be 28 years old next year, and his deal runs through the 2020 season.  He too isn’t making any serious kind of money (his biggest cap hit is in the final year, and it’s only $17.7 million).  By 2020, that’s going to be peanuts!  He’s shown a propensity to hit on the deep ball, but that’s with the likes of A.J. Green.  More importantly is Dalton’s shoddy decision-making and his inflated sense of self-worth.  He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s better than he really is, which is going to make it difficult when he can’t make all the throws he needs to make.  As it is, he’s had more career meltdown games than you like to see; what’s he going to be like in three years when he’s that much older and beaten down?  Furthermore, playing behind our offensive line, how’s he going to handle the near-constant pressure?  I think Dalton is a guy the Bengals would gladly unload for the chance to sign Wilson (yes, even with how stingy their ownership is; I think they’d feel like Wilson would be worth it).  And, I think, if the Seahawks didn’t get blown away by any other deal they saw, they’d pull the trigger on a Dalton-centric trade.  I just hope like hell this never comes to fruition.

Mariners Tidbit 52: Potential Sell-Off Pieces

The next five weeks will define the season.  Right now, the Mariners are 33-40.  Right now, the Mariners are in last place in the A.L. West (yes, that’s right, the lowly A’s have come roaring back, as we all knew they would, because they’re the fucking A’s).  Right now, the Mariners are the 3rd worst team in the American League, a half game up on the White Sox and a game and a half up on the Red Sox.  Right now, the Mariners are another shitty weekend away from being the absolute worst.

In five weeks, it’ll be the July 31st trade deadline.  This is it!  The time is now!  Either the Mariners – in the next five weeks – decide to flip the switch and start winning ballgames hand over fist, or they play the way they’ve been playing and we kiss the season goodbye.

On the one hand, if the Mariners improve, then great!  Let’s see if that improvement can continue through the end of the season and maybe lock in a Wild Card spot.  I wouldn’t expect any major deadline deals to make this roster better, because I don’t think they have anyone good enough to trade that’s not already ON this roster.

On the flipside, though, if the Mariners continue to stink, then it’s time to sell.

Every year, a few teams dwelling at the bottom of their respective leagues realize this fact early enough, and those teams are rewarded with a bounty of prospects and salary dumping.  If the Mariners are where they’re at now, in five weeks, then they better recognize that it’s not going to fucking magically get better.  And they better trim the fat accordingly.  Here are some players to think about moving.

Hisashi Iwakuma – He’s in the last year of his deal.  He’s 34 years old.  If all goes well with his rehab, he should have 3-4 weeks to showcase his talents.  Some contending team in need of solid pitching depth should be able to give up a nice little player for two months of Iwakuma.  If he can prove he’s the same #2-type starting pitcher that he’s been the last couple years, then there should definitely be a market for his services.

Fernando Rodney – He’s also in the last year of his deal.  Of course, now that he’s lost his closer’s job, I don’t know how much value he has left.  But, he was great just a year ago, and some team may see this as just a simple rough patch.  After all, he hasn’t lost the zip on his fastball; he just needs to locate better.  And, not for nothing, but he hasn’t given up a run in his last five appearances, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

Joe Beimel – The bullpen has three lefties.  The bullpen probably doesn’t need three lefties.  I wouldn’t expect much in return, but he could be a guy you attach to another guy to get a deal done.

J.A. Happ – Last year of his deal (noticing a trend?).  The team might be in dire straits if they opt to trade both Happ and Iwakuma, but then again, doesn’t that just help us tank better and shoot for a higher draft pick?  Anyway, with Montgomery showing us he’s not nearly as worthless as Erasmo Ramirez was, and with Paxton returning to the rotation EVENTUALLY, there should be enough pitching to get us through the last few months.  Happ has proven to be an effective innings eater.  He’s not as intriguing as Iwakuma, but contending teams always like to have a stockpile of arms.

Austin Jackson – Last year of his deal.  AND, he’s actually greatly improved over his performance in 2014!  He very well could S a D in the next 5 weeks, but if he holds up, he’s got to be a guy someone wants.  After all, if he does what he does in Seattle, you gotta figure he’s going to be even BETTER when he gets out of Safeco.

Dustin Ackley – If anyone will take him.  He’s going to be arbitration eligible after this season, which means he’s probably in line for a raise.  How much of a raise remains to be seen, but he’s been a starter for this team in some capacity since 2011.  Do we REALLY want to give this guy a pay increase?  Did you know he’s making $2.6 million dollars in this year alone?  That’s all due to his being a #2 overall draft pick.  So, what’s he going to get if we keep him for 2016?  $4 million?  $5 million?  Are you JOKING me?  GIVE HIM AWAY FOR A BAG OF BASEBALLS!  This guy needs to get out of my sight, because he’s seriously pissing me off now that I actually know how much money he’s making to suck this much ass-cheese.

Robinson Cano and/or Nelson Cruz – These guys might be tricky, as they probably have some sort of no-trade clause in their contracts.  It all depends on whether the Mariners want to completely start over, or if they want to keep the core and try to build around it better.  Cano and Cruz would certainly be part of the “core”, to go along with Seager and Felix.  I’m not saying the Mariners SHOULD trade Cano and/or Cruz, as I think they can still win with these guys.  But, who knows?  Maybe the organization wants to cut bait and cut salary to let the next GM have a more-or-less clean slate.  For the record, I highly doubt either of these guys get moved.  But, if you’re looking for an opportunity to get rid of these guys before they start to REALLY hit the downside of their careers, now would absolutely be the time.

Mariners Tidbit 51: Edgar Is Your New Hitting Coach

Of course, I’m a few days behind on this, but does it really matter?

I’m generally in favor of having Edgar Martinez as the hitting coach.  He’s the single greatest hitter I’ve ever seen in my life and he’s one of the best Mariners we’ve ever had.  If being a hitting coach means anything and has ANY effect on how the players actually function as hitters, then we’ll find out if the guys respond to the instruction of one of the best hitters ever.

I’m of the opinion that the hitting coach is essentially pointless.  He’s there to watch for things in your swing and make suggestions on mechanics and whatnot, but ultimately it’s up to the hitters to hit.  They’ve been playing this game all their lives, once they make it to the big leagues, there’s not a lot left to teach.  Either they’ve got it or they don’t.  Most of the players the Mariners bring up through the farm system simply don’t have it.  I doubt that Edgar or Howard Johnson or whoever’s universally considered the greatest hitting coach in the history of the game could turn this bunch of turds into a quality-hitting group.

The hitting coach is the #1 Scapegoat of any baseball team (followed very closely by the pitching coach).  He’s the guy you fire when things aren’t going as planned and someone’s head needs to roll, but you don’t quite have the stomach to shit-can the entire staff wholesale.  Doing it mid-season is more of a “Wake Up Call” than it is a strategic maneuver.  It’s yet another reminder that the players need to get their shit together (as if they didn’t already realize that, given their batting averages and this team’s overall lack of run support).

The fact that it’s Edgar replacing Howard Johnson lends this decision a little more heft.  The Mariners aren’t replacing HoJo with Just Another Guy.  This is Edgar Fucking Martinez!  Howard Johnson is a guy who had a nice career, with a couple good years as a hitter; Edgar Martinez is a fringe Hall of Famer and the greatest Designated Hitter of all time.  Not that the guys didn’t listen to and respect HoJo, but the words coming out of Edgar’s mouth on the subject of hitting mean a little bit more.

Some fans see this move as putting lipstick on the pig that is the Mariners’ 2015 season, like the organization is trying to disguise the fact that the team is terrible by jingling a shiny set of car keys and telling everyone to “look over here!”  While admittedly, the organization was in dire need of some – ANY – positive news, I think even the most dim-witted of fans isn’t so inept as to not see this for what it really is:  change for the sake of change, in hopes that it jumpstarts some sort of season-saving rally.  No one is going to look at Edgar and think THIS is where it all turns around.

Because, the sad truth is – and I’ve been saying this for the better part of this first half of the season – there is no Quick Fix.  There’s no hotshot stud in the minors ready to Yasiel Puig his way into the team ripping off a .650 winning percentage the rest of the way.  There aren’t any Major League-ready prospects we can trade – as all of our Major League-ready prospects are already on the Major League roster – and there really aren’t any injured players looking to make a second half impact when healthy.  Our main injured guys are starting pitchers, and as I noted before, the back-end of the rotation has been pretty rock solid of late (last night’s Elias performance notwithstanding).

The only “fix” for the Mariners is having the guys who are already here start to play better.  Cano needs to be Cano.  Cruz needs to pull out of his nosedive.  Seager needs to continue to be Seager.  Zunino, Ackley, Miller, Trumbo, and LoMo need to pick it up, and Austin Jackson needs to continue his hot play of late.  This team needs to hit better with runners in scoring position, and they need the bullpen to be more like it was in 2014.

In other words, the problem with the Mariners is the same problem we’ve had pretty much since Edgar was still PLAYING for the Mariners:  the guys we have need to be better than they are.  I could have (and DID haz) made this same argument every single year for the last decade.  It all boils down to:  The Mariners Need Better Baseball Players.  And, I just don’t think Edgar (or anyone else) is capable of making them better baseball players.

In conclusion, there was this thing that happened.  You may go about your lives now.

Mariners Tidbit 50: A Pitching Dilemma

Last night, Mike Montgomery pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 10 and walking zero.  If you want to talk about pleasant surprises and how they’re in short supply around this team, Mike Montgomery is the clear exception.  He’s been FANTASTIC since being called up to replace Paxton in the rotation!  He’s gone at least 6 innings in every start, he’s given up 2 runs or less in all but one, and in that one start he still pitched into the 8th inning while only giving up 4 runs.  He’s kept us in every ballgame he’s started, and with last night’s outing, he’s giving the Mariners a happy little problem to deal with:  who do we send down when Hisashi Iwakuma is ready to return?

Maybe what we expected Montgomery to be ...

Maybe what we expected Montgomery to be …

I should point out that Montgomery is far from perfect.  He pounds the strike zone, doesn’t walk a ton of guys, and thus far has kept the ball in the ballpark for the most part.  But, he’s not going to generate a ton of swinging strikes, and he’s dead even in his ground ball to fly ball ratio.  He’s got a leg up on the competition because he’s relatively new – a 25 year old in his first call-up to the big leagues – but once there’s a book on him, it’s easy to see how he might take a nosedive in the second half of this season (should he manage to keep his rotation spot).

Nevertheless, Montgomery has put himself in the discussion.  Unfortunately for him, the other two guys in that discussion – Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias – have also picked their games up of late.

Walker had a pretty atrocious start to this season, but he’s been nails of late.  In his last five starts, dating back to May 29th (so, pretty much across the same amount of time as Montgomery), Walker has gone 35.1 innings, giving up 8 runs, striking out 38 and walking only 3.  That averages out to about 7 innings per start, 1.6 runs per game, 7.6 strikeouts per game, and less than a walk per game.  Not too shabby.  He’s lowered his ERA over two full runs in that span.

Elias – aside from a couple slip ups – has been a Quality Start machine since being called up for Iwakuma.  He did have that breakdown in Houston two starts ago, but bounced back (against the same team no less) to go 7 innings of shutout ball, striking out 10 in his last start.  Elias has picked up right where he left off last year, and I would argue he’s been a little bit better.

All in all, it’s been an impressive effort out of the back-end of our rotation.  What they’ve succeeded in accomplishing above all else is allow the organization to not rush Iwakuma back into the fold.  They were able to let Iwakuma fully rest his injury, and give him the full run of rehab starts to build his arm back up.  Iwakuma is set to throw in Tacoma this week, and might even be another start or two away from returning, so it doesn’t sound like the team has to make a decision immediately.  But, they will eventually, and these guys aren’t making it easy.

My Review of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay

Just so we’re clear:  I’m not a golf fan.  So, don’t expect this to be riddled with insight on the game.  Before this tournament, if you asked me to name all the golfers I could name, I’d be able to come up with the usual suspects pretty easy – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els – and if you gave me a list of the full field, I’d probably be able to recall another few handfuls of names.  But, I couldn’t tell you where anyone ranks, what their strengths or weaknesses are, or how many tournaments they’ve won.  At best, I’m not even a casual viewer of golf.  Whenever I watch golf, it’s because I’m too hungover to even use a remote control and I just want background noise so I can take a nap.  And, considering I’m a semi-pro in the art of Weekend Warrioring, those types of all-encompassing hangovers don’t happen too often.

I’m writing about golf today because the U.S. Open just took place at Chambers Bay, which is sort of in my backyard.  I live in Seattle, but I grew up in Tacoma, and I still go down there frequently to hang out with my family and friends who live there.  Chambers Bay is about 6 miles from my dad’s house, so it’s pretty cool to think that the elite of the elite golfers in the world were all congregated RIGHT THERE, so close to my childhood home, for the better part of a week.

To backtrack a bit, my disdain for golf doesn’t stop at the boredom induced by watching it on TV.  I also hate the physical act of going out there, schlepping a bag of clubs around, and whacking a little white ball to and fro.  I don’t hate it the way most golfers hate it, but still go out there every week for whatever God-foresaken reason; I hate it in the way that a true American patriot hates golf!  I tried it out a few times, tagging along with my dad to the driving range and a few courses, I sucked DIIIIIIIICK at it about as hard as anyone can suck at anything that you’d think would be relatively simple, and I formally gave it up forever.  Because, as I said before, I suck at it.  And because it’s a stupid game for stupid-heads.

The last time I golfed was for a friend’s bachelor party.  I got sloshed on homemade Jack & Cokes, spent most of the time driving the golf cart like a maniac trying to Tokyo Drift, and even spent one hole trying to see how many “strokes” it would take to throw a golf ball on a Par 4.  I’m more of the Calvinball school of golfing.

I also readily admit that I MUCH prefer watching tennis to golf.  So, yeah, that’s me.

But, when the U.S. Open comes to town, it’s not something as a sports fan I could just ignore.  That’s a BIG deal!  The Pacific Northwest has never hosted a major golf tournament for the PGA!  And now it’s here, just south of Tacoma.

I ended up watching about 2-3 hours of it on Thursday, none of it on Friday or Saturday, and then almost all of it on Sunday.  Here’s what I gleaned as the major storylines:

  • Tiger Woods sucked HARD and missed the cut
  • Jason Day has vertigo and struggled with that for the duration, yet was tied for the lead going into the final day
  • Rory McIlroy made a hard charge on the last day to try to catch up to the leaders, but ultimately fell short
  • Jordan Spieth won his second consecutive Major, putting him on pace to win the single-year Grand Slam
  • Dustin Johnson blew it BIG TIME
  • And, just about everyone has a negative opinion of the course

I’ll say this about Chambers Bay:  it has potential to be one of the most beautiful and amazing golf courses in the country.  The view of the water, the train, the single tree, all the hills and bunkers, the length of the course:  it’s all great!  But, I’m sorry, that grass is a fucking disaster!

As I said up top, I don’t know anything about golf.  I’m sure the fescue is just like what they have in British links courses (whatever that string of words means), but I don’t care.  What I do know is what’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and a bunch of dead looking grass surrounded by taller, deader looking grass is not what I expect to look at when I’m watching ANY golf tournament, let alone a Major.  And those greens?  I have no opinion whatsoever on how they played – though, by most accounts, they were pretty crappy (including that one time where the dude putted and the ball literally bounced up in the air for no reason other than the fact that the green was bumpy as shit) – but the greens LOOKED terrible.  All discolored and splotchy, it was like the greens had fucking lupus!

Photo by Erick Smith ...

Photo by Erick Smith …

Again, maybe that type of grass is supposed to look like that.  Maybe it’s authentic as fuck and golf purists get huge boners over it.  But, to the average fan just watching because it’s a Major, or because they live in the area, it’s grotesque.  Fool us!  Bring in the type of grass that stays green all the time!  Make it look nice!  Don’t embarrass the region all in the name of authenticity.

And, speaking of embarrassing sycophants, the local media should take a long look at themselves for their rampant homerism this week.  Don’t defend that grass!  It’s horrific!  It’s okay to make fun of crybaby golfers like Billy Horschel for acting like a loon out there on the course, but don’t pretend like these guys don’t have a point.  Everyone sees it – everyone with the ability of sight anyway – and everyone thinks it’s ugly as sin.  The ol’ “face only a mother could love” in full effect.  So, don’t pretend you think it’s aesthetically pleasing when it’s so clearly not.

Of course, that being said, it sure made for some interesting game play.  The quality of the greens and the course itself, I’m sure, got into more than a few golfers’ heads.  Watching the cream of the crop rise to the challenge and finish with amazing final rounds was really something to behold and appreciate.  Hell, the fact that Jason Day was even able to finish the four rounds at all deserves a round of applause!

I haven’t seen many tournaments, but I can’t imagine a more exciting finish.  Spieth (with a 2-stroke lead) double-bogeyed the Par 3 17 to fall to a tie for first with Louis Oosthuizen (who’d already wrapped up his round and was in the clubhouse) and Dustin Johnson (who would go on to birdie 17 as he was a hole behind Spieth).  Then, Spieth turned it right around to birdie the Par 5 18 to take a 1-stroke lead (missing a reasonable – though by no means easy – eagle attempt).  THEN, Johnson had an even easier eagle attempt on 18 (though, to be fair, at a slight decline, and of course on the crap-quality greens) to win it outright.  He missed that, then missed the birdie attempt to force an 18-hole playoff, and ended up in a tie for second.  Absolutely electrifying intensity all the way around.

All in all, despite the looks of the grass and the near-constant complaining by golfers and non-FOX pundits alike, I thought it was a great success.  The course itself is different, that’s for sure, and I think it’s something to take pride in.  That having been said, if Chambers Bay ever wants to grab its very own annual tournament (of the non-Major variety), they better compromise on that grass and get something a little more green and professional looking.  Because, there’s one thing even the homerest of homers can’t deny:  if this wasn’t the U.S. Open – if this was just the Taco Del Mar Invitational or whatever – I can guarantee most of the bigtime golfers would’ve skipped it altogether.  They would’ve heeded the advice of advanced scouts, reporters, whathaveyou, and they would’ve said, “No Thanks” to Chambers Bay.

I mean, let’s face it, you’re already talking about a huge challenge just to get people to want to fly all the way up here in the first place.  It’s Washington State!  Unless you’re a golfer who lives on the west coast, you don’t want any part of a cross-country flight to SeaTac.  Then, it’s a buttfuck of a drive from SeaTac to Chambers Bay or anywhere else that’s cool and exciting.  On a good day, it’s taking you about 45 minutes to get there from the airport, and when are there ever any good traffic days in Western Washington?  Then, you want to pile those puke greens on top of it?  I guarantee none of the good golfers would show up and we’d be stuck with the likes of Numbnuts McGee.

Then again, if it means a tournament without Sergio Garcia, could it be THAT bad?

Finally, I’ll end on this:  did the U.S. Open change my views on golf?  I’ll admit, I’m a little more open to it now.  You still sure as shit won’t catch me playing it anytime soon, but I could see myself partaking of more weekend tournaments on the TV.

Especially since my brother and I crafted the perfect drinking game!

  • 1 drink for every birdie
  • 2 drinks for every eagle
  • 1 drink for every bogey
  • 2 drinks for every bogey (and keep increasing drinks for every shot a player hits over par)
  • 1 drink for every time someone says the name of the grass (which would’ve had everyone blacking out for all the times they said “fescue”)
  • Start a “waterfall” (see King’s Cup for the definition of a waterfall) whenever someone in the crowd yells, “Get in the hole!”  You can’t stop drinking until the ball stops rolling.  And, if it’s said on a drive or any shot outside the green – and that shot ends up going in the hole – you have to finish your drink

We’re thinking about doing this next Saturday.  I hope they have golf next Saturday …

Mariners Tidbit 49: Jesus Sucre Is The Worst Hitter In Baseball

This is neither here nor there, but do you know the Mariners’ record in games where Jesus Sucre starts?  3-6.  In one of those wins, he was pulled after two at bats and we won in extras; in the next, the Mariners somehow magically scored 11 runs while getting nothing out of Sucre; in another, we witnessed literally the ONLY hit Sucre has had all year:  a single, on which he would eventually score.

That single and that run are the only offensive stats he’s managed to put up, aside from 6 strikeouts.  Even pitchers manage to wildly flail away at a baseball thrown towards them for more hits than Sucre.  This is fucking embarrassing and there’s got to be literally anyone else who can come up and be better.  I mean, are you kidding me?  We’re almost halfway through the season and he’s got one hit, and he can’t be started more than 3-4 times per month because he’s so pathetically worthless?  Why even HAVE a backup catcher?  Why don’t we just shuttle him up and down from Tacoma every 10 days, so on days where he’s not giving Zunino a spell, we can use the bench spot for someone who’s capable of actually playing the game of baseball?

You seriously can’t tell me that Bumfuck Jones down in Tacoma is worse than Sucre.  Hell, there has to be someone on the streets right now who could step in and produce.  So far, the Trumbo trade is a predictable bust, and not just because he’s stunk at the plate.  He’s also forced us into playing Sucre again, and that might be the biggest Fuck You of all.

Mariners Tidbit 48: Apathy

You may or may not notice a general lack of consistent writing of late.  I’ve been taking much more than my usual 2-day weekends off.  That’s because, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of writing about the Mariners.  It’s the same depressing incompetence we’re all confronted with on an ALMOST annual basis.  There are only so many fucking ways you can talk about how much this team sucks, and I’ll admit I’ve had my fill.

So, I’ll only write about this team when I damn well feel like it.  Which probably won’t be that often, considering I spend more days NOT watching the Mariners than I do watching the Mariners.  I feel like words can only do so much damage when you’re talking about a sports team.  LACK of words – or of any attention paid whatsoever – speaks volumes.  I’m not going to tell you how to live your lives, but maybe more of you should try it.  Get off of the daily grind.  Stop bashing your heads against the wall and pestering the beat writers on an hourly basis.  It’s not THEIR fault the Mariners are terrible.  You want to make a difference?  Start eating into the ratings.  Turn off Root Sports, turn off 710 AM.  Do something else.

Watch Felix!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like you should give them up cold turkey or something!  Felix starts are still generally something bordering on entertainment.  He deserves our praise and recognition and acknowledgement.  But, you know, don’t let the Mariners put you in an early grave.  The heart disease that comes with watching this team on a daily basis is doing us no good!

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got.  Maybe I’ll have more to say next week.

Seattle Playoff Futility: 1983 Seattle Seahawks

This is a series of posts I’ve neglected in recent years.  You can find it at the top of the page; I’ve already done all the Mariners playoff appearances.  Now, I’m working on the others.

Next up:  the 1983 Seahawks.  There were two truly awesome Seahawks teams in the 1980s and this was one of them.  It was also the franchise’s first-ever playoff appearance, so that’s fun.  Throughout the summer, I hope to get to finish a few more of these.

Mariners Tidbit 47: Jack Zduriencik Needs To Be Fired

You’re a fucking retard if you think the Seattle Mariners are making the playoffs this year.  Yes, I’m talking to you, on June 15th:  you’re a retard if you think there’s any way this team is going to right the ship.  7.5 games behind first place; 4th place overall in the A.L. West.  13th fucking place in the American League – meaning we’d have to pass over EIGHT teams just to get to a play-in game – it’s over.  RETARDS!  It’s over.

You know how I know it’s over?  Because this team’s roster is a fucking joke.  The defense is a joke, the hitting is a joke, and the pitching – God bless ‘em – just isn’t good enough to overcome the shitty defense and even shittier hitting.

And Jackie Z is the man behind all of it.  He’s had his chances.  He’s MORE than had his share of chances.  The organization would’ve been justified in letting him go after the 2010 season, and yet here we are.  He’s not the sloppy, back-alley abortion that Bill Bavasi was; Jackie Z didn’t completely gut our farm system in some pathetic Win Now maneuver. Jackie Z is terrible in completely new and fresh ways, but make no mistake, he IS terrible at what he does.

At best, with any trade he makes, we have to hope that both teams end up frustrated and unhappy.  Jackie Z is NEVER going to pull the wool over the eyes of another GM.  But, if the guy we get in return can manage to suck just as much as the players we send away, then it’s a victorious trade for Trader Jack.  What was the best deal he ever made?  It was the Vargas/Guti/Putz trade with the Indians and Mets way back when, and look at how well that worked out long term!  Vargas was a solid starter, who we traded away for a season’s worth of Kendrys Morales; Guti was a solid starter until his body completely broke down; and the guys we gave away didn’t totally murder us in the deal.  That’s unquestionably the BEST trade Jackie Z has ever made in his time with the Mariners!

Getting back to the roster construction, just look at this team.  It’s like the guy read “Moneyball” and proceeded to rip out the pages, one at a time, and wipe his ass with each and every one of them.  Anyone who even has a remote ability to work a count and take a walk might as well be screaming the N-word at the top of his lungs while every media outlet in the world is recording, because the Mariners under Jackie Z can’t get rid of these guys fast enough!  John Jaso is the primary example here, but I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.  The point is, this team hasn’t really even TRIED to bring in well-rounded hitters outside of overpaying for Robinson Cano, and look at how great he’s been in just his second season here.

The Mariners have the most myopic front office in the league.  Where have the Mariners struggled?  Right handed dingers!  So, they bring in Nelson Cruz, Rickie Weeks, Mark Trumbo, and they get rid of Justin Ruggiano because he doesn’t hit ENOUGH dingers, regardless of the fact that he’s one of the few hitters on this team who can work a Major League count.  If you’re taking walks and not hitting dingers, YOU’RE OFF THE TEAM!

And therefore, when this team hits dingers, it tends to do well.  When this team hits no dingers, it gets shut out by the likes of the fucking Astros two times in three days.  I mean, just look at these guys!

Austin Jackson – a good-enough role player on a stacked team, but no one you really want at the top of your order.

Seth Smith – another good-enough role player who probably shouldn’t be playing every day, and certainly someone else you don’t need at the top of your order.

Robinson Cano – Good player, probably not $24 million per year good.  But, beggars can’t be choosers.

Nelson Cruz – Good at dingers!  Not going to win you any Triple Crowns any time soon.  Should never be playing in the outfield.

Kyle Seager – Good all-around baseball player.  Literally the only one cultivated by the Jackie Z regime.

Logan Morrison – His slumps make him look like the worst hitter on the planet.  His hot streaks make him look like he belongs for a breathtaking short burst of time.  Better defensively at first base than any of us thought; should never play the outfield.

Dustin Ackley – The Most Disappointing Man In The World.  Can’t hit, can’t work a count (probably because the Jackie Z regime drilled that skill out of him in the name of dingers as soon as he was drafted), is okay defensively but has a terrible throwing arm, so he’s not really a guy you want to have out there because everyone is going to run on him.

Brad Miller – Doesn’t hit enough, is pretty good defensively, but still makes mind-boggling mistakes from time to time.

Mike Zunino – Doesn’t hit enough (but at least he hits a few dingers!), is pretty good defensively, and is playing almost every single day because this team’s backup catcher is literally the worst.

Mark Trumbo – Dingers, and that’s it.

Jackie Z has been a disaster almost the entire time he’s been the Mariners’ GM, except the team lucked into a couple of winning seasons during his tenure that’s allowed him to keep his job in spite of the fact that we’ve burned through three managers and are well on our way to burning through our fourth in Lloyd McClendon.  You don’t have to fire Jackie Z today, you don’t have to fire him tomorrow.  But, you should probably rein him in on any deadline deals that don’t involve shedding salary, and you absolutely MUST fire him by the time the season ends.

The old fucks who run the Mariners need to bring in someone younger and smarter than Jackie Z.  Someone who is willing to think outside the box (and get rid of LMC in favor of a manager who thinks the same way).  2015 better be the last fucking year we’re stuck with Jackie Z blowing smoke up our asses.