Shock Of The Fucking Century: Pete Carroll & John Schneider Signed Extensions

Look, I get it.  In this day and age of disposable media and trying to generate as much content as humanly possible, it’s harder than ever to scrape together enough interesting stories to satiate the howling maw of consumerism.  This is particularly true in the world of sports bloggery, where the NFL is king and generates more pageviews than a Kardashian sucking a Trump’s dick at a Black Lives Matter rally.

But, if you spent even a minute crafting an article or a post on the importance of the Seahawks extending their head coach and general manager this offseason, you’re a worthless piece of shit and you deserve to have your credentials revoked.

I mean, come on, was there ever any doubt?  Absolutely fucking not!  And if you made an argument to the contrary, then you’re an idiot.  But, really, you’re worse than an idiot.  You’re a shallow, cynical, pandering hack trying to create a story out of thin air because you can’t think of anything else better to write about.

In what world would the Seahawks and Paul Allen not get this done?  Is it the same world where Paul Allen is one of the richest men on the planet?  Is it the same one where John Schneider is one of the top 2 or 3 GMs in the league?  Is it the one with the visionary, Super Bowl winning head coach?

On the flipside, in what world would Schneider and Carroll not want to return?  It’s obviously no secret that Schneider’s dream job is with the Green Bay Packers, but that position is happily filled by one of his mentors in Ted Thompson, who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (and, not for nothing, but it’s likely to be handed down to the son of another of his mentors in Ron Wolf).  So, if we’ve established that money is practically no object with our owner, tell me why John Schneider would want to leave a situation where he has the perfect fit.  He gets to run things his way, partnered with a head coach who gets it and shares the same sentiment as far as roster construction is concerned, with an owner who decidedly doesn’t meddle in their affairs.  Tell me!  Tell me your theory as to why he’d want to leave!  Fear of TOO MUCH success!  Fear of winning multiple Super Bowls and generating an endless string of raises until he decides to retire?

Same with Carroll.  Oh, what, he’s just biding his time until Jeff Fisher is shit-canned so he can move back to Los Angeles?  Here’s a news flash!  And it applies to both Carroll and Schneider:  these guys can break their contracts WHENEVER THEY WANT!  It’s not like they’re players in the NFL; coaches and GMs actually have the power to leave if they don’t like a situation.  If they tell the owner they want out, the owner will gladly oblige, because why keep a head coach or a GM under contract if they don’t really want to be here?  Sign a 3-year deal, sign a 5-year deal, hell, sign a 300-year deal!  What’s the fucking difference, they’re here as long as they perform and as long as they want to remain.  Period.

So no, this isn’t some “huge story” like everyone wants to make it out to be.  Successful, well-run organizations pride themselves on stability over everything.  Except winning, I guess, but if you’re already winning, why fuck with a good thing?

It’ll be a big story when one of these guys retires, or when one of them breaks his contract.  Until then, let us never think about the contract statuses of John Schneider and Pete Carroll ever again.

Yesterday’s Game Was The Most Poorly Managed of Scott Servais’ Career

It really felt like our manager threw one away last night.  Now, I know, Gerrit Cole was rolling, and it might not have mattered either way.  In the end, he pitched a complete game, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, no walks, and 6 strikeouts.  He very well could have done the same exact thing had the game stayed at a more reasonable 3-1 score.  But, it’s impossible to know the type of effort we would have seen out of the Mariners hitters.  I mean, let’s face it, I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they were a LITTLE more engaged in a 2-run game, as opposed to a game you’re losing by 6, and then 9 runs.  And, that’s ignoring a potential save situation if the game is still close; would Pittsburgh have gone to their closer had it been 3-1 in the 9th?  We’ll never know.

The problem isn’t that Servais botched this one game; it happens.  But, what’s truly galling is that this might have long-term (relatively speaking) ramifications for a recently-acquired, struggling relief pitcher in Drew Storen.

We know his story, we just heard all about it the day before when the Mariners traded Joaquin Benoit for him.  Storen is a guy who has been great as recently as 2015, but who has been God-awful this year, to the point that the Blue Jays had released him just before trading him to the Mariners.  Our general manager admitted this is a Change of Scenery deal, in hopes to get him on the right track.  “Change of Scenery” are just words until you think about the meaning behind them:  getting a player out of a bad situation in hopes that he’ll clear his head, and the fresh start will help get him back to playing like his glory days.

But it doesn’t FUCKING work unless you put him in a position to succeed, you jackass!

The Mariners were smart to put him in a game right away.  James Paxton had his usual James Paxton performance:  one bad inning marring what was otherwise a fine – albeit short – day.  Storen came into the game in the 6th inning after the Mariners had just manufactured a run to bring the game to 3-1.  Awesome.  I’m all for it.  Get him in there, see what he can do, hope for the best.  He was facing nothing but righties, the Mariners were losing (so it wasn’t a pressure-packed situation with blown-save potential), but it was still close enough that it didn’t TOTALLY feel like a soft landing.  It felt like game we were capable of coming back in, ergo, it felt like we were trusting the new guy to keep us in it.

And he didn’t let us down!  He did his exact job:  getting 3 groundball outs in a clean inning of work.  Boom.  Successful day achieved.

That should have been the start of a beautiful working relationship between a struggling relief pitcher and his new team.  Instead, it was just the beginning of a nightmare scenario, as bewildering managerial decisions dictated his demise.

The Mariners (obviously) failed to score in the 7th inning.  And, even though he had thrown somewhere around 15 pitches, here was Drew Storen coming out for another inning of work.  WHAT?  WHY?

The Mariners have had 2 off-days in the last week, with another off-day yet to come (today).  The bullpen was NOT tired!  The bullpen was NOT over-worked!  The bullpen would have PLENTY of time to recover!

When you factor in we’ve got Karns in there, I think Servais lost his fucking mind.  Storen gave up two hits before getting a strikeout, then proceeded to give up another single to load the bases.  And yet, Servais KEPT HIM IN THE GAME WHEN HE WAS CLEARLY GASSED!  What the fuck?  It wasn’t until Storen walked in a run that he finally pulled him.  It’s like Servais was trying to haze the new guy with diabolical Mean Girls tactics, to mentally destroy a hated rival.

The cherry on top, of course, is that with the bases loaded and only 1 out, he put Karns in a shitty spot.  Karns promptly giving up a bases-clearing 3-run double was the cherry on top.  Storen’s ERA gets to skyrocket, AND Karns gets to feel like shit as well!  Servais got to fuck up two relievers for the price of one!

Had he simply done the sensible, SMART thing, and put Karns in to START the seventh, we might have been looking at a completely different ballgame.  Instead, Servais decided to get cute, and in the process made a bad season worse for the newcomer Storen, as well as Karns.  Bravo, Mr. Manager, you had your worst game ever.  How does it feel?

Mariners Traded Joaquin Benoit For Drew Storen

The Mariners and Blue Jays swapped one miserable fucking failure for another.  Both making upwards of $8 million, both on the final years of their deals, both with a recent history of kicking ass, but both with 2016’s that have sucked all dicks around town.

For most of his career, Drew Storen has been a lockdown reliever in the National League (sound familiar?).  He was traded to Toronto for a journeyman outfielder and has been knocked around pretty good.  His velocity being down considerably is the primary culprit, along with a little regression to the mean (as he’d been pretty lucky in the usual batted-ball metrics heading into this season).  Hopefully, it’s a matter of maybe tweaking with his mechanics a little bit to get that velo back in range.  If nothing else, you hope a change in scenery will do him some good.  His confidence has to be at an all-time low since he was DFA’d just prior to this trade.

Joaquin Benoit has had the dead horse beaten out of him all year.  We traded a couple of minor league nobodies to bring him in, but that’s not the point.  He’d been a rock for almost his entire career – and it’s been a LONG one – and was supposed to stabilize the back-end of a bullpen that had struggled mightily in 2015.  Instead, he got injured, went on the DL, and has been the opposite of a rock when not injured.  He just turned 39 years old yesterday, so Happy Fucking Birthday, now get your ass to Canada.

Honestly, the most interesting thing about this trade – aside from the hopeful Change of Scenery theory – is the cash that Toronto is sending our way.  Notoriously tight-fisted Mariners management might not be willing to increase payroll at the deadline for a .500 team with long odds to make the post-season (and too many holes to fill to boot).  I don’t know if we’re talking about a considerable amount of cash coming Seattle’s way, but you have to think it’ll be used in yet another future deal sometime in the next few days.

Shit, at the very least, we won’t have to suffer through any more 45-minute half innings with Benoit huffing and puffing and blowing our houses in on the mound.

Ken Griffey Jr. Is A Hall Of Famer, You Guys! (Part 1)

On Sunday, we had the induction ceremony for Ken Griffey Jr.  Probably the greatest and certainly the most popular athlete in Seattle sports history has gone into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum AS a Mariner, with the highest voting percentage in history, cementing one of the greatest baseball careers of my generation.

I only very recently started to get excited about all of this.  Part of me is still a little subdued about the whole thing, and I’m trying to figure out what it’s all about.

As I’ve stated many times over (I’m absolutely not ashamed about it), I first became a Mariners fan like most bandwagoners, in the 1995 race to their first divisional title.  So, while I’ve been there for every bit of Mariners success with that iconic group through the 2001 season (and NO MORE SUCCESS FOR US AFTER THAT I GUESS!), and I became an immediate die-hard, watching most every game in that span, I don’t really feel the same connection to Griffey (or the rest of those guys) that I did as a teenager.

Which is stupid, because if anything, I should have THE BIGGEST connection with the players on the teams I grew up with, in my formative baseball years.  I certainly shouldn’t connect better with players now, on teams that haven’t done jack shit!  But, I’ll tell you, while I could have gone to see Griffey get inducted in person, if I REALLY wanted to blow it out and spend thousands of dollars, I opted to stay here and watch his speech on the Internet instead (because apparently ESPN doesn’t cover the ceremony anymore for some reason?).  BUT, if Felix Hernandez should ever make it into the Hall, you bet your sweet, sweet ass I’ll be there, with my giant Felix-head t-shirt on!

So, what gives?

Well, for starters, I think my lack of enthusiasm has everything to do with how the Mariners have performed from 2004 onward.  You know what you get sick and tired of hearing about, when you root for the baseball team with the longest active post-season drought?  The Good Ol’ Days.  You know what’s particularly obnoxious about this franchise, with regards to said Good Ol’ Days?  They were so few.  So very, very few.

Yes, my friends, I – like many of you – have 1995 Fatigue.  And I REALLY have 2001 Fatigue.  And I have fatigue of every year in between (and a different sort of fatigue from 2002 onward, but fatigue nonetheless).  The History of the Mariners is 4 years of making the post-season and that’s it.  It’s about the most pathetic history you could possibly imagine.  And yet, those teams are constantly brought up because – what choice does the organization have?  Where else can you look to and say, “Hey, weren’t those some fun times?”  You mean those Mariners teams of the 70s and 80s, when we were laughingstocks?  You mean those Hargrove months, where he opted to quit when he was skipper of a winning team, rather than finish the season under such onerous management?

And so on and so forth.

The Griffey years feel like a lifetime ago!  He was traded after the 1999 season.  That’s, what, 17 years ago?  Do you know how much my life has changed in 17 years?  Shit, 17 years ago, I was 18 years old!  I’ve almost doubled my life span in the time since Griffey’s first run of games in a Mariners uniform ended!  And, since my brain has been ravaged by years of alcohol abuse, caffeine addiction, loud music, and a tremendous slate of television shows in these Golden and Platinum Ages of TV, my memory isn’t what it once was (if it EVER was, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’ll go back to the well again:  those aren’t my Mariners.  Not anymore.  MY Mariners are on an endless loop of eternal sucking.  MY Mariners don’t know how to win consistently, compete for divisional championships, and get oh so close to the World Series.  MY Mariners haven’t been complete (or near-complete) squads like those teams from 1995-2001.  Those are somebody else’s Mariners teams.  In the before time, the long, long ago.

It’s tragic, really.  It’s like the end of The Notebook, over here!  I can’t remember what those good Mariners teams were like!  Ken Griffey Jr. played here?  I don’t recall that!  I mean, I sort of remember him here at the tail-end of his career, but isn’t he that guy from the Reds who was injured all the time?  SOMEBODY PULL THE PLUG ON ME!!!

I have to remind myself constantly:  Seattle had one of the very best baseball players of all time, in his formative and his prime years.  And, he wasn’t just the face of the franchise, but he was the face of ALL of Major League Baseball!  He was known all over the world!  He was like baseball’s version of Michael Jackson, without all the child abuse.  He was one of the most naturally-gifted players I’ll ever see, with hands down the most beautiful swing that’s ever existed.  On top of that, he was one of the most dynamic centerfielders in the history of the game, who could WOW you in just about every aspect of the game.

And now he’s where he belongs:  in the Hall of Fame, with all the other Greats.  Congratulations, Junior!  I’ll see you in Safeco in a couple weeks!

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back In Toronto

The pitching was halfway decent this weekend!  James Paxton went a strong 7 innings on Friday, only giving up 1 run.  Iwakuma & LeBlanc combined to not shit the bed when given 14 runs of support on Saturday.  And even Wade Miley came away with a Miley Quality Start, which is a lot like a regular quality start (6 innings, 2 runs), but should’ve probably been a lot better since he started to falter around pitch 70 and struggled to get through that 6th inning (and, not for nothing, but left the game at 89 pitches, yet had to be pulled before the 7th, because Miley).

All told, it added up to a series win, though fell short of a series sweep, because J.A. Happ has been a fucking machine ever since he left Seattle, because that makes sense.  Because soft-tossing lefties like him – with all that space out there in Safeco Field – should be terrible in Seattle and BETTER everywhere else he’s called home.  Yeah.  That’s just fucking great.  If Happ had been this version of Happ when he was with us, he’d likely still be in Seattle, and we wouldn’t have to suffer Miley’s mediocrity on a regular basis!

I don’t know what you can say about Sunday’s 1-hit effort, aside from it just being one of those days.  Funny though, it seems like Sunday is ALWAYS one of those days, as the Mariners are a whopping 4-12 on The Lord’s Day.  I don’t know what it says about the Mariners that they’re 8-8 on Shomer Shabbos; I think I’ll leave that for the comments section.

I’d like to point out that I’m pretty thrilled with what James Paxton was able to do, against a potent Blue Jays lineup.  Part of me still believes we have something special in this kid, and should make every effort to keep him around.  But, there’s another part of me who wouldn’t mind seeing Chris Sale in a Mariners uniform, and believes Paxton might be the centerpiece of a nice little trade package.  Throw in D.J. Peterson, Vidal Nuno, maybe a couple of lower-level minor leaguers, I think that gets it done!  Come on, we’ll take your prima donna off your hands!

In other news, Hisashi Iwakuma has 11 wins and an ERA under 4 for the first time in forever.  Don’t look now, but he’s in a nice little groove.

Looking ahead, the Mariners have two off-days this week, which is insane when you look into August and see the Mariners will be on a streak – starting this weekend – where they play 33 games in 34 days.  23 of those games happen on the West Coast, so at least that’s something.  But, I just hope everyone has a lot of fun today and Thursday, because those are the last easy days for a while.

2-game series in Pittsburgh starting tomorrow.  Those should be fun.  Then, a 3-game series against the Cubbies that I’m going to miss because I’ll be camping all weekend.

Should The Mariners Be Sellers?

I’ve talked about the Mariners potentially selling the farm and going all in this year, but for some reason I haven’t gone in depth about whether or not the Mariners should do the opposite.

Make no mistake, watching the organization give up on yet another season would be a HUGE demoralizing blow, psychologically.  Starting with the team’s promising 2014, expectations in Seattle have grown as a core group of veterans have been established.  Felix, Cano, Seager, Cruz starting in 2015.  Seth Smith, Iwakuma, Guti to a lesser extent.  With vets like Lind, Aoki, Miley, and Iannetta, alongside potential reclamation projects like Leonys Martin, Steve Cishek, and various other bullpen pieces, 2016 had the feel of something special – particularly when the team got out to that fantastic start over the first two months of the season.

But, as things have fallen apart, the hard questions must be asked.  Should the Mariners sell?  And, if so, WHO should they sell?

I had every intention of either blowing this post off, or at least pushing it back into next week (closer to the trade deadline), because it’s not something – as a fan – I enjoy thinking about.  Giving up.  Going back to the fucking drawing board.  AGAIN.  Building up the farm system to, what?  To try to find that special sort of magic the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s found?  The kind of magic teams like the Royals and Astros of today enjoy?  Those are forged in many multiple last place seasons, combined with a tremendous amount of luck!  At what point have the Mariners been able to generate that type of luck?  Even when we lose – even when we’re THE WORST – we still fuck up somehow!

So, no, this isn’t a particularly enjoyable post for me.  But, then I got to thinking.  Specifically, I got to thinking about Nelson Cruz.

He’s an interesting case, isn’t he?  I’d go so far as to say Nelson Cruz is at his peak, today, right now.  Truth be told, his actual peak might have been 2015, but let’s say he’s still close enough to his 2015 production to have as much value as he’s ever going to have.  He’s hitting the tar off the ball, hitting for a solid average, and he’s doing it in Seattle of all places.  If he can do it here, surely he can exceed expectations for a winning ballclub that needs that one piece to be World Series contenders!

Cruz has two more years on his contract after this year.  Obviously, you can make the argument he’s not in the long-term plans of the organization.  He’s 36 years old as of July 1st, so there’s that.  He’s making $14 million a year, which isn’t chump change, but it’s also not outrageous for a guy producing at his level.  While it’s reasonable – and probably smart – to expect a decline starting as early as next year, you could easily make the argument that 2017 Nelson Cruz will still have SOME value.  He’ll still hit dingers.  He’ll still make your lineup better.  But, maybe his average dips.  Maybe he hits into some more double plays.  Maybe his defense gets even more laughably bad.  And maybe in 2018, when he’s hitting 38 years of age, things start to REALLY bottom out, and you’re stuck with a guy who’s now overpaid, and an active liability to your team in every capacity (see:  Richie Sexson’s 2008 season).

Do you want to trade Cruz at his peak value?  Or, do you want to hold onto him, try to squeeze every last drop out of him, and risk not only being stuck with him, but having the fans resent you for not opting out of this thing when you had a chance to sell high?

Now, if you REALLY believe that 2017 is THE year to make it all happen – if you have some sort of plan set in place that will get us another Ace starting pitcher, and really shape this team into a valid contender for 162 games, plus post-season – then by all means, roll the dice on Cruz one more time and see what happens.  But, if we’re stuck trying to fill holes with veterans, trying to find value in obscure places, hoping for more bounce-back years from guys in key roles, and otherwise just trying to see if some spark will ignite a magical run, then maybe we go ahead and do that with Cruz in another uniform.

I should point out that in any scenario where the Mariners trade Nelson Cruz, we better be getting back a MAJOR piece or set of pieces.  Like, a young, cost-controlled, stud corner outfielder or something.

Moving beyond Cruz, you’ve gotta take a look at the roster going forward.

Obviously, Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee are possibilities, since they’re not under contract after this season.  Aoki, Cishek, and Miley have all, for the most part, underperformed this year, so you’re talking about selling low on those guys (maybe if you take off your glasses and squint, you can find an interesting package with one or more of those guys that another team will swallow, but I doubt it).  If we’re going full sell-off mode, you have to look at the guys other teams actually covet!

Aside from Cruz, the core going forward is still Felix, Cano, and Seager.  Leonys Martin is arbitration eligible for the next two seasons, has played outstanding defense, and his bat is coming around, so he’s probably not going anywhere.  Ketel Marte and Edwin Diaz are young potential stars in this league, so you figure they’re off the table.  Seth Smith and Iwakuma are both signed at least through next year, and they’re useful enough to either keep around for one more year or to trade for probably some pretty solid pieces.  Then, there’s always Paxton and Walker, who you’d think the organization has earmarked for the future, but injury issues have slowed their development considerably the last few years.

The prime candidates are the Big 4, though.  Cruz, Felix, Cano, and Seager.  Cruz, I’ve talked about.  Felix, I don’t even want to consider.  I’m not saying he’s untouchable, I’m just saying I don’t want to think about it.  Cano has 7 more seasons left, making $24 million per year.  He’s probably still got at least 3 more prime years left in him, and should still be good-enough for another couple years beyond that (those final couple years though, YEESH).  Getting rid of Cano would signal a total and complete rebuild, so I highly doubt we’re looking into that at this time.  Maybe in a year or two, if the team totally falls apart.  And, as for Seager, I think he’s probably the biggest lock of anyone to remain in Seattle for the foreseeable future.  His contract is reasonable, he’s playing at a high level, he’s still got LOTS of years left on his career; he’s not going anywhere.

In all likelihood, I don’t know if the Mariners can be sellers even if they want to!  Aside from a couple of smaller deals, or a potential blockbuster Cruz deal, I think the core of this team is going to be around at least through the first half of next year.

Mariners Trade Mike Montgomery To Cubs For Dan Vogelbach

That’s the headline, anyway.  The Mariners also received minor league pitcher Paul Blackburn, and gave away minor league pitcher Jordan Pries.

When you think about the weird journey of Mike Montgomery – a former first round pick who couldn’t quite make the jump to the Bigs, traded to Seattle for Erasmo Ramirez of all people, coming into Spring Training this year without a spot on the team, then winning a bullpen role thanks to injuries and his own step forward in development – this really feels like the organization selling high on a middling prospect.

When I think about any trade, I think about the ceilings of all involved – particularly the stars of the trade.  What’s Mike Montgomery’s ceiling?  If his performance this year is any indication, he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter, or he could be a pretty solid reliever.  If he puts it all together?  Maybe he could become a #3 starter, but if that happens, we’re probably a ways away.  Fortunately for the Cubs, they’ll have lots of time to get to know him.  While I believe he’s out of options, Montgomery still has 2 years of team control over him, followed by 3 more arbitration years after that.  When you consider his salary this year is only $515,000, there is potentially GREAT value in this guy.  The Cubs just got a young, cost-controlled left-handed pitcher who can start, who can relieve, and who theoretically is still getting better.

Then again, he could just be who he is.  An okay lefty, with okay stuff, but not all that special.  He’ll have good years and bad years, he’ll eat up innings for you probably (if you stick him in the rotation), but he might very well be an underwhelming starter.  At which point, the Cubs traded away an even younger, more cost-controlled, potential middle-of-the-order bat, for a lefty long reliever who will most likely never close out your games.

From a Mariners perspective, losing Montgomery hurts way more in the short term.  In the long term, I don’t know how much I’d trust handing him a rotation spot.  I think we could do better, and I think it wouldn’t be that hard.  In the short term, though, I’m on record as saying he’s probably the third-best starter we have right now, considering Walker’s injury issues won’t be resolving until after the season ends (and it appears he’ll be playing through this foot issue until the offseason, when he has surgery to repair it), and he’s easily our second-best reliever.  When you figure the Mariners’ greatest need is, was, and will always be pitching for the rest of this season, it’s a lot to stomach.  In that sense, it almost DOES feel like the Mariners are being sellers.

Of course, I can’t really make a definitive claim on that score until I see what other moves the Mariners end up making.  This almost certainly will NOT be the only trade we see from the Mariners this year.

In return, we get this guy.  Dan Vogelbach.  A lot of people are saying he’s a left-handed hitting Billy Butler.  Technically, I suppose the kid can play first base, but it doesn’t sound like anyone really trusts him to stick there.  Which means his future likely rests at designated hitter (or, in some sort of rotation between the two).  The Mariners, as you know, already have a pretty awesome DH in Nelson Cruz.  But, since Cruz can ostensibly play right field, you justify the trade by telling everyone that, and downplaying how this hurts your outfield defense.  You’re robbing Peter to pay Paul one way or the other.  Either you struggle with first base defense, or you struggle with right field defense.  I don’t know what’s worse, but then again, I’ve never seen Vogelbach play.

The kid has a quality bat, though!  Where have we heard that before?  Oh, that’s right, with every single 1B/DH prospect Jackie Z brought in here!  But, while Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Logan Morrison, and others were all pretty one-dimensional, Vogelbach’s bat looks like it can legitimately play at the Major League level.  Montero and LoMo were always prone to being handcuffed by same-handed pitchers; they also struggled to take a walk and avoid swinging at those low-and-away breaking balls.  Vogelbach appears to have a good grasp of the strike zone, and looks like he can hit both lefties and righties.  High walk rates and low strikeout rates are EXACTLY what I want to see out of a guy in AAA who is just itching to bust through in the Majors.

As I talked about yesterday, it would seem Adam Lind’s days are numbered with the team, just as he’s starting to really assert himself and become the player we all thought we were getting.  Part of me hopes that’s not necessarily the case, as part of me still holds out the delusion that the Mariners will be playing for something important in September, and he could be a big part of that.  Trading Lind would be another telltale sign of the Mariners being sellers, as you’re swapping out a trusted veteran on an upswing for a kid who’s never played at this level before.  Highly-rated prospect or not, Vogelbach is going to have some growing pains to start.  I almost hope he just stays in Tacoma until September call-ups, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Bat-First, or rather, Bat-Only players like Vogelbach tend to give me the willies.  If I knew without a doubt we’d be getting the next Edgar Martinez, and we’d just plug him into the DH role for the next 15 years, that’s one thing.  But, to be a valuable player in this league, when you’re not playing a defensive position, you REALLY need to hit the fuck out of the ball.  You need to put up crazy-high batting averages, get on base a lot, AND you need to consistently hit for power.  20-30 homers per year and 30-40 doubles per year.  If he comes here and is just sorta okay, but maybe hits .270, struggles against lefties, and is on the lower end of those power numbers, then what have you got?  A clogged artery in the middle of your hitting lineup completely blocking your roster flexibility – and one who needs a platoon partner to boot!

I’m not saying that’s what he’ll be, but these ARE the Seattle Mariners.  The same cursed franchise that drafts the greatest prospect we’ve seen around here since Adam Jones, in Kyle Lewis, who proceeds to tear up his knee one month into his professional career and is out for the year, if not longer.  Great.  I’m sure a massively fucked up knee won’t completely sap all his speed and athleticism …

Also kind of annoying about this Vogelbach move is that he also blocks some of our prospects coming up through the minors who are ALSO predominantly limited defensively, but have big swingin’ bats (I’m looking at you, D.J. Peterson).  Maybe this opens us up to other trade possibilities, though, particularly if Vogelbach makes it big in the Majors.

I have nothing to say about the swapped minor league pitchers.  Neither one looks like much of a promising prospect.  Regarding the main parts of the trade, I guess I’ll treat it like I treat every deal:  clench my buttocks and hope for the best.  It’s in the hands of the baseball gods now.  Or, I guess, to be more accurate, considering how these types of trades normally go for the Mariners, it’s in the hands of the baseball Satans.

Mariners Win In Felix’s Return, No Real Thanks To Felix

That title came off snarkier than I intended.  Love you, Felix!  Glad to have you back!

No, it wasn’t the greatest return for our ace.  10 hits, 5 runs, only 2 strikeouts.  But, he made it a couple outs into the 7th inning and kept the team SORT OF in the game.  The M’s were down 5-2 at the time, and the offense has certainly been scuffling lately, but I still like what we’ve got, and I figured we’d bust out of the slump at some point!

As it turned out, the return of Mike Zunino paid immediate dividends, as he hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 7th to get the game back to within a single run.  Zunino has been an absolute revelation so far in 2016!  Obviously – OBVIOUSLY – we’re talking about a sample size of three games.  The embattled catcher has always had power for days, so it’s too soon to tell if his approach has really changed from years past.  But, you know, it beats the alternative of him returning to the Bigs and posting nothing but goose eggs like he was doing for most of last year.  At the very least, it’s encouraging.

It’s also encouraging to see he’s going to get more of a time-share with Chris Iannetta the rest of the way (assuming, of course, he rises to the challenge).  Iannetta is still under contract through next year, so we could be seeing a lot of this pairing the next year and a half, but as I’ve said all along, we’re going to learn a lot about Zunino’s future in this organization in the final two months of this season.  At the very least, spelling Iannetta from playing every single day should work wonders for everyone involved.

As the game headed into the 8th inning, word was coming down on Twitter of the Mike Montgomery trade to the Cubs.  I’ll have my thoughts on that in a separate post, but as it turned out, the Mariners received a left-handed (batting) first baseman/designated hitter from the Cubs’ AAA squad by the name of Dan Vogelbach.  The kid looks poised to break into the Majors (he was blocked by a quality first baseman on the Cubs, and the NL obviously doesn’t have the DH), so it’s not TOTALLY a story of the Mariners giving up on 2016.  It looks more like a move you have to look at in the Bigger Picture sense.

For instance:  don’t the Mariners already HAVE a left-handed (batting) first baseman/designated hitter on the 25-man roster in Adam Lind?  Sure seems like his days with the organization are numbered.  He’s already on a deal that will expire after this year, and you’re not going to keep him and trade Dae-ho Lee, who’s right-handed.  Ergo, one would think Lind is on the trading block as we speak …

AND WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!  Just as the trade was going down and people like me were putting 2 and 2 together, Adam Lind was at it again with the late-game heroics!  A solo, opposite-field 8th inning blast to tie the game at 5-5!

Cue Independence Day speech, with Adam Lind at the mic.

He may be a goner, but he’s going to go down blasting.  If and when the Mariners send him packing, I don’t know how I’ll feel, but I’ll say it yet again:  I think Lind is going to have a monster second half to this season.  For what lucky team?  That’s to be determined.

Behind some awesome bullpen work – Wilhelmsen finished off the 7th for Felix, Diaz struck out the side AGAIN in the 8th, Cishek made it through a couple of scoreless innings against all odds, Nuno worked a perfect 11th – the Mariners kept themselves in a position to steal a second victory in this series in the final at bat.  In this case, it was the guy who started it all off.

Leonys Martin chipped away at an early 4-run deficit with a 2-run bomb in the 2nd inning.  To prove his power surge this year is no fluke, Martin was able to get ahold of another one, a solo shot in the bottom of the 11th to win it.

The 6th walk-off home run this season to tie a franchise record, the 2nd walk-off home run from Martin to pull even with Lind, who also has two.  That’ll get the ol’ juices flowing!

I would like to point out that Aoki got the start today, and led off the game.  He didn’t do a ton, but he got a hit and a walk and saw 27 pitches in his plate appearances.  When you compare that kind of veteran presence to the O’Malleys and Robertsons of the world, it’s nice to have that stability.  He figures to get a lot of play, mostly against righties, and I’m okay with that.

After a lot of turmoil on this roster the last couple months – and not just in the pitching staff – with Aoki back, and when Marte returns from this illness he’s suffering from, with Martin’s injury seemingly in the rearview as he gets his timing back at the plate, I think we’re going to see a real return to form out of our hitters going forward.  Now, whether or not the pitching staff will return to form with Felix back, is another matter entirely.

At this point, we might have to hope for the hitters to start mashing and averaging 6-7 runs per game if we want to get back into contention.  That, and see what sort of pitching help we can get with a Lind trade.

Felix, Zunino, and Aoki Return Today

Down goes David Rollins, Jesus Sucre, and Dan Robertson.

We all knew Felix was coming back, we just didn’t know whose spot he was going to take.  As far as roster spots go, the odd man out is David Rollins, left-handed bullpen relief.  In taking a look at the upcoming pitching probables, one name is conspicuously missing:  Mike Montgomery.  Which means Wade LeBlanc holds onto his rotation spot a little bit longer, and Wade Miley somehow still has a job period.  Maybe they can pick J.A. Happ’s brain this weekend, to find out what alien species inhabited his body the minute he left Seattle last year, causing him to pitch lights out ever since.

Zunino takes over as backup catcher for Jesus Sucre, because duh.  Because Sucre at the plate is the equivalent of having a pitcher bat.  Because there is no future with Sucre in it, aside from being AAA fodder and an occasional injury-replacement backup.  With today’s move, we return to the original plan:  seeing what Zunino has as a Major League hitter, and whether he is, indeed, the future at the catcher position for the Seattle Mariners.

Aoki returns, having done quite a bit of damage down in Tacoma.  He replaces Dan Robertson, who isn’t really anything.  We all know what Aoki is at this point, and his time away has proven without a shadow of a doubt that he is, indeed, this organization’s top 4th outfielder.  You figure he’ll slot back into a regular playing role against right-handed pitchers, whenever we’re not trying to squeeze Lind and Lee into the same lineup.

The moves make the Mariners better, there’s no question about that.  But, will they make the Mariners good enough to return to the form they displayed in the first two months of the season?  I tend to have my doubts.

Felix is obviously a huge plus for the rotation, but I’d say a good 3/5 of that rotation is completely untrustworthy, with Iwakuma as a 50/50 wildcard of good days & bad days.  Montgomery unquestionably makes the bullpen better (for me, he’s probably the second-best reliever on the team behind Diaz), but is that to the detriment of the starting rotation?  Would Montgomery be better used starting?  With LeBlanc or Miley dumped into the bullpen?  I think so.

But, why quibble?  There are too many pitching issues to even deal right now.  With how baseball churns through hitting coaches like they’re nothing, I’ve gotta wonder why you don’t see a similar churn with pitching coaches.  Why does Mel Stottlemyre Jr. get a pass?  Because he’s got a famous and more-successful dad?  Because the average fan probably doesn’t know the difference between the two?

Stottlemyre has had over four months with these pitchers, if you count Spring Training.  Tell me, who has improved in that time?  Is ANYONE getting better under his tutelage?  I mean, shit, there are pitching coaches out there who can make J.A. Fucking Happ into a quality starter; there’s GOT to be hope for Miley!  Obviously, whatever that fix is, Stottlemyre isn’t equipped to diagnose it and cure it.  So, in that sense, he deserves to be on the hot seat in his first year with the team.

Adam Lind: Real American Hero!

To be perfectly honest, yesterday was going according to plan through the first eight innings.  Mind you, it wasn’t an IDEAL plan.  But, they had Chris Sale coming off of an All Star Game start and we didn’t.  Sale threw 100 pitches and gave up 1 hit and 3 walks, while striking out 6.  In the meantime, the White Sox pushed across 3 runs off of Wade LeBlanc (who managed to go a respectable 7 innings while also striking out 6, making 3 of his 4 starts at least 6 innings, which is Cy Young material when compared to the rest of the Mariners’ starting rotation).

Thanks to traditional baseball roles, the White Sox went to their closer, David Robertson, who had only blown 2 saves coming into last night’s game.  Aside from a couple of random meltdowns, Robertson has been a quality reliever for the White Sox this year.  Hindsight being what it is, if I was a White Sox fan last night, part of me would understand going to your closer in a 3-run game.  But, as someone who is quickly growing tired of traditional baseball roles, when you see your starter rolling through 8 innings, having only thrown 100 pitches, it’s hard to fathom why he wasn’t out there to at least start the 9th inning.  I mean, OBVIOUSLY, the Mariners wouldn’t have done anything!  They hadn’t gotten anything over a single off of him all day, and that was back in the first inning!  The most trouble he was in all day was the 7th, when he hit two guys, with the middle of the order coming up.  But, Cano, Cruz, and Seager all went down no problem; threat erased.

Of course, had Sale gone out in the 9th, and given up a couple of baserunners, I’m sure everyone would have flipped out on their manager anyway.  Going to your closer is an effective way to push blame off of the manager and onto the closer who couldn’t get the job done.  But, I dunno.  Wins are precious in baseball.  And managers are paid to lead.  No guts, no glory, my main man.

Anyway, that 9th inning was a thing of beauty.  Seager at the plate, 2 on, 2 out, singled to center to make it a 3-1 game.  Adam Lind hit for Iannetta – who has been in a pretty stiff funk so far in July, so much so that Jesus Sucre of all people started in back-to-back games, which should NEVER happen EVER – who was in a very similar situation back on June 24th, against the Cardinals.  That game also featured the Mariners down 3-1, with 2 runners on in the bottom of the 9th (the only difference was that there weren’t any outs that time, so arguably there was more pressure last night), before Lind jacked the game-winning homer.

I don’t want to try to make an argument that Lind is some sort of super-clutch godhead or something.  I will say that, while his season has been a bit of a disappointment, he certainly knows how to pick his moments.

As always, you wonder if these moments are catalysts for potential hot streaks.  Well, after the June 24th game, he had a couple of multi-hit games (including a 4-hit day) to generate a temporary boost, but then he had an 0 for 13 stretch of 5 games that brought him back down to Earth, to the point where after last night’s heroics, he’s pretty much right where he was back on June 24th.  In other words, it’s probably crazy to expect a huge bounce back to being productive again, but at least we know he still has this in him.  He hasn’t totally let the sagging numbers of this season destroy him mentally.  And, while you probably don’t want to EXPECT great things in the second half, it wouldn’t shock me to see steady improvement, as he’s continued to be put into appropriate situations where he can take advantage of his excellence against right-handed pitching.

Adam Lind:  the hero the Mariners deserve.  Let’s hope for a repeat tonight.