Mariners Tidbit 39: Potential In-House Replacements For Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker feels like the clubhouse leader for most disappointing Mariners pitcher of 2015 (which puts him in the running with Dustin Ackley for most disappointing player on the 25-man roster).  Don’t you just get the sense that every fifth day, we’re in for a real clunker?  He’s been so shitty this year, he hasn’t missed a start and yet he STILL doesn’t qualify for the E.R.A. title because he doesn’t have enough innings pitched!  Not that he’d be anywhere NEAR that title, with his team-worst 7.33 dragging the collective unit down with his sub-mediocrity, but it’s insane that he doesn’t even qualify.

Taijuan Walker has started 9 games this year.  He’s gone 6 innings or more in two of those games.  6 innings is NOT asking a lot out of a starter!  And yet, here is 20% of our starting rotation who has more games with fewer than 5 innings pitched (4! out of 9!) than he does with 6 innings or more.  It’s pretty obvious that he’s not ready to be an everyday Major League starter, but unfortunately, there hasn’t been much of anything the Mariners could do about it.

Hisashi Iwakuma probably won’t be back before the All Star Break in July.  I’m wondering if he’ll even be back before the rosters expand in September.  In case you haven’t looked at a calendar yet, there’s a huge chunk of games between now and the Break (and an even huger chunk between now and September).  It’s too early to be thinking about a trade (as teams rarely give up on guys before the month of July, as they don’t want their fanbase to get wise to the fact that they’re nowhere near contention), but I don’t even want to speculate on trades anyway.  There’s a near-infinite number of possibilities for the Mariners outside the organization, but here’s the deal:  all of our potential prospects to trade away are already at the Major League level.  Nobody wants Dustin Ackley, so stop believing that the Mariners can just trade him for Cole Hamels straight up (or package him with one of our under-performing short stops, because it’s NOT ENOUGH, YOU BLOODY BOWSERS).  Probably the best prospect the Mariners could trade would be Taijuan Walker, and are you really that excited to trade him away just yet?

For as much as I may be ripping on the guy for his performance this year, I don’t think I want him pitching for another organization.  I just think he needs to work on his secondary pitches in the minors.  Given how he was injured for most of last year, it’s not like he’s had this huge bounty of innings pitched in the upper minors.  The way he’s getting slapped around – even with his plus fastball – you can tell he’s not hitting his spots and his offspeed stuff could be a lot sharper.

With Iwakuma many weeks away, and ditto any possible trade help, that leaves us with the here and now.  The last week of May, the entire month of June, and upwards of 4 weeks of the month of July depending on various variables.  A huge chunk of games where I don’t necessarily want to see Taijuan Walker starting every day.

The only viable options are sitting there in Tacoma.  At the top of the list, we’ve got Mike Montgomery, who has literally never made an appearance in the Major Leagues.  He’s got lots of mostly-mediocre numbers at the AAA level, leading him into this year where he’s made 8 starts and has a 3.83 E.R.A. across 47 innings with a respectable 40 strikeouts.  One knock against him is that he’s another left-hander, which would mean we’d have 4 lefties in the rotation if he replaced Walker.  Considering he’d probably have the worst stuff of the four, I don’t relish the prospects of his starts (especially the ones away from Safeco).

Next on the list, we’ve got Sam Gaviglio, who has made 9 starts and has a 5.63 E.R.A. (you can see the very-big drop-off, and it really only gets worse from here) across 46.1 innings with 41 strikeouts.  He’s been about as erratic as Walker (a decent game here, a grotesque game there, lots of short outings) and you have to imagine he doesn’t have any of the potential to turn things around as Walker would.  He’s a guy you’d bring up if you needed a warm body, but at the same time he’s not someone you’d promote before Montgomery.

Jordan Pries was starting to turn a corner before he went on the DL in early May.  I have no idea when he’d be ready to pitch again.  Stephen Landazuri was just called up from AA and had a horrific start last Friday, so he’s not ready.  Forrest Snow is a fringe starter who has bounced around from AA to AAA in recent seasons.  He’s been starting for Tacoma for the last three weeks and one wonders if his arm has been sufficiently built up.  Justin Germano is apparently a minor league lifer who’s been starting since the beginning of the month.  He’s coming off of a stinker of an outing – but was sort of okay before that – and he’s not on the 40-man, so that’s another strike against him.

As most of these guys aren’t on the 40-man, that makes a move even more difficult.  When you consider none of these guys are clear upgrades over Walker, you can see why this has been a difficult situation for the organization.  Hell, the Mariners just called up Austin Jackson from the DL and sent down Danny Farquhar to work on some things.  Meaning:  the Mariners would rather go with a temporary 6-man bullpen than DFA Willie Bloomquist.  Or Weeks, but shit man, they have to get rid of one of these guys if they’re going to keep Miller & Taylor on the roster!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Danny Hultzen is still plugging away in AA, trying to build his arm back up.  He’s made 3 starts and gone a total of 8 innings in those starts, so no, he’s not ready either, and he probably won’t be until 2016.

In conclusion, I don’t know if there’s any point in calling for Walker’s head, because I doubt he’s going anywhere, unless the train REALLY goes off the rails.  I’m talking another 3-4 starts where he gives up near-double digit runs.  At that point, I don’t think the team would have any choice but to see what Montgomery can do.  But, I think the Mariners want to wait this out as long as humanly possible to see if either Walker is able to turn things around, or if they can work out a trade for a back-end starter where they don’t have to give up too much.

Sounds exciting, right?  If you want my advice, just watch something else whenever it’s Walker’s turn in the rotation.  Either you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you look at the box score the next day, or you’ll be glad you missed another stinker.

Mariners Tidbit 38: Twiddling Our Thumbs

Sorta feels like the season is slipping away, doesn’t it?

My way-too-smug, self-satisfied photo of a sunset to beat this theme to death ...

My way-too-smug, self-satisfied photo of a sunset to beat this theme to death …

I usually hate the end of the month of May when it comes to baseball because it’s around this time where I have my ultimate freakout.  Invariably, that’s because the season truly IS slipping away, because usually the Mariners are terrible.  All the “Everything Must Go Exactly Right” scenarios we dreamed up before the season started have been debunked and what we’re left with is the hard, cold reality of what has come to pass.

This year was supposed to be different.  This year, we had to dream up scenarios where things might go wrong, because in our heart of hearts we all KNEW this team was different.  This team was going to buck the trend!  This team would FUCKING FINALLY put us back into the playoffs for the first time in a God Damn eternity.

And yet, here we are, headed into Memorial Day weekend, 4 games under .500.  Had you told me before the season started that the Mariners would be in this position and I would’ve told you, “That’s what happens when injuries decimate your roster.”  But, what injuries?  A short stint on the DL for Wilhelmsen, a longer stint for Austin Jackson, and a longer-still stint for Iwakuma (which in and of itself doesn’t feel like much of a bad thing, given how shitty he’s been dating back to the end of last year).  You can’t blame injuries for this!  Wilhelmsen’s back!  A-Jax is nearly back, and besides that the season was never going to hinge on his level of production anyway.

The point of that last paragraph is:  help is NOT on the way.  Chris Taylor has been called up and he’s done squat.  Roenis Elias has been called up and has done the lord’s work (making every single one of us second-guess the Mariners choosing Taijuan Walker over him out of Spring Training).  We traded a struggling reliever for a backup catcher, but come on, he’s a backup catcher!  Once again, the number of black holes on this team is crippling us (and it doesn’t help that Cano and Seager have started off beyond sluggish), so even if we WANTED to mortgage every last ounce of future prospects we have in our farm system – to trade for help from outside the organization – it still likely wouldn’t be enough to help turn things around.

For all that’s gone wrong, I would argue just as much has gone right.  No regression for Felix so far is a miracle in and of itself.  J.A. Happ has easily been the second-best starter in the rotation, and has already surpassed all my expectations.  Nelson Cruz has been the motherfucking best hitter in baseball for shit’s sake!  Who expected THAT?

So, at what point do we admit that the sun is setting on this season?  We’re 8 games behind Houston, who looks like the best team in the American League.  We’re two months into the season and closer to fourth place than we are to second place in the West.  We’ve shown an incredible ability to lose games in every way imaginable – our record truly being a team effort – so when do we throw our hands up and cry “Uncle!”?

I’ve grown very detached from this season.  As a fan, as much as it’s pained me, it’s been all too easy to adjust my expectations for this team.  At this point, I’m no longer expecting us to make the playoffs.  I’m not even expecting us to win over 87 games (which I’ve got $100 riding on at the moment, from a sportsbook in Tahoe).  Hell, I thought that was the easiest money of any sports bet I made earlier this year, and now I’m not even sure the Mariners will be a team that wins more games than it loses!

At this point, just give me a little drunken excitement when I watch the games with family or friends on the weekends.  That’s really all I ask.  Yeah, sure, hover around .500.  Go ahead and continue to drive everyone batshit crazy, Mariners, it’s what you do best.  But, give me something to cheer about on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and I’ll be fine.  Placing high expectations on the Mariners isn’t really fair; they’re always going to find a way to screw it all up (through no fault of their own, of course).

It’s almost the end of May, time to put this season to bed.  As the Mariners go through the motions, hovering somewhere around .500, but never really getting back into a position to win the division, you’ll have a much more peaceful go of it if you’re like me and you shift your expectations drastically.

Mariners Tidbit 37: M’s Trade For New Catcher, Unknowingly Help Me Win A Bet With My Brother

The Mariners traded Yoervis Medina this week to the Chicago Cubs for a catcher by the name of Welington Castillo.  For some reason, the Cubs had three catchers on their 25-man roster, so they’re probably happy to just get anything in return.  The Mariners, by comparison, had about half a catcher taking up two full roster spots on their 25-man, so this can only be an improvement.

Jesus Sucre is probably nothing more than a career minor leaguer.  His defense is rock solid, but he might as well be swinging one of those swimming pool noodles whenever he’s at the plate, because he’s fucking God awful.  Over the weekend, I bet my brother that Jesus Sucre would never hit a home run for the Seattle Mariners this year.  With this trade, and his subsequent demotion to Tacoma, it appears I’ve got one late-night pizza party coming my way courtesy of my brother’s wallet.

Welington “One L Whenever The Fuck I Feel Like It” Castillo should probably be a moderate upgrade at the plate over Sucre, in that he can do more than slap singles through the hole the other way.  He’s also bound to be a huge liability behind the plate, catching balls and strikes, because you don’t get to trade for fully formed Major Leaguers when all you give up is a Yoervis Medina.  Will all this turn out to be a wash then?  I suppose that depends on how frequently he plays, and what his presence means for the ongoing development of Mike Zunino.

It’s no secret that Zunino has been overworked.  He’s starting damn near every game, and when he’s not starting, he’s more likely than not going to come in late in the game as a pinch hitter, because all the Mariners do is be involved in close games and we can’t afford to throw outs away in the later innings just to give Sucre that elusive 4th at bat.  It might be different if, on occasion, the Mariners could rip off a blowout victory in those Sucre starts, but as the Rolling Stones once said, you can’t always get what you want, “We’re the Rolling Stones and we’re here to say, give us all your cocaine and get out of the way.”

Maybe Castillo comes in and gives us just enough production to give Zunino a second day off per week.  Maybe, with that extra rest to recharge and refocus, Zunino is better able to produce quality at bats.  Or, maybe Zunino goes right on struggling and Castillo continues to eat into his playing time until we’re involved with a 50/50 timeshare.  Or, maybe Zunino’s slide forces him to be the team’s backup, or forces him down to Tacoma to work things out.

Or, maybe Castillo comes here, gives us nothing out of the backup catcher position, and Zunino is forced to remain a catcher who plays nearly every day.  Limitless possibilities!

I like the move, because I don’t think much of Sucre, and I don’t think much of Medina.  It would’ve been nice if we could’ve gotten the Medina of the last two seasons – might have made it easier to demote Farquhar so he can work through whatever the fuck he’s working through now – but we didn’t get that Medina.  We got this all new Medina who’s striking out fewer batters and throwing fastballs with reduced velocity.  He might have lost it, or he might just need to tweak some things, but either way, he’s worth the cost to bring in someone better than Sucre.

How Concerned Should We Be About Russell Wilson?

The end of Super Bowl XLIX didn’t only send me in a sports fandom tailspin from which I’m only now starting to really recover, nor did it only put into question this coaching staff’s gameday tactics, but it also COMPLETELY overshadowed everything that came before it for the Seattle Seahawks.  Like, for instance, are you able to appreciate the Super Bowl victory over Denver the same way?  I don’t want to say it’s tainted for me, but for as great as the victory was, the defeat was much more impactful and Earth shattering.

I am the lizard king ...

I am the lizard king …

What gets tossed aside is the fact that the Seahawks have won back-to-back NFC Championships.  That’s not nothing.  What also gets tossed aside is that the Seahawks are STILL one of the best teams – if not THE best team – in all of football.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  Getting back to those NFC Championship games, I don’t think you’re ever going to find two more exciting games, with two more closely-matched opponents, or two more thrilling finishes than you will in these games against the 49ers in 2014 and the Packers in 2015.  Both ended in victory, but just as easily could’ve ended in defeat.  The game against the Packers was more improbable, and that kicks off the main point of this post.

What goes unspoken for the most part is how the end of Super Bowl XLIX dwarfs Russell Wilson’s overall performance in the last two games of the season.  He didn’t look great against the Patriots.  While I’m not blaming him for the call on the field, or how that play turned out – as it was sufficiently blown up by Brandon Browner and the rest of the defense – it was just a tough all around game for Wilson.  Their secondary, for the most part, shut our receivers down.  It took a miracle game from Chris Matthews, and a few other well-timed long passes to make Wilson’s numbers look respectable.  Overall, I wouldn’t call that game alone a harbinger of bad things to come.

But, when combined with his performance against the Packers, you could argue that he ended the season with two real stinkers.  And, at a time where he’s looking to be the highest paid quarterback in football, you have to wonder what lies ahead for the face of our franchise.

Against Green Bay, he threw 1 TD against 4 INTs, to go with 209 yards and a completion percentage under 50%.  Combine it with his Super Bowl, and you’re looking at the following 2-game turd sandwich to close out the 2014 season:

  • 26/50 for 456 yards, 3 TDs, 5 INTs

Obviously, we’re talking about an incredibly small sample size, and that’s fine.  I’m not really here to bombard you with numbers.  It’s more of a theory based on a feeling.  For me, that game against Green Bay was an eye-opener.  You never know how great someone can be until you see it in a game.  Russell Wilson has had some magical games in his career, and what’s exciting is that he probably hasn’t hit his ceiling yet.  There’s bound to be a game where he tops every number he’s ever put up, putting various other performances where he’s put the team on his back to shame.  But, on the flipside, you never know how bad someone can be until you see their very worst game.  And, that NFC Championship Game was Russell Wilson’s very worst game to date.  4 interceptions, 5 sacks, and a fumble that the Packers didn’t recover.  Had we lost that game, we would’ve been killing Russell Wilson the next day.  Instead, with the comeback and the game-winning touchdown, we were lauding him and this team for its Never Say Die attitude.

But, I think that game is a real red flag going forward.  I don’t expect him to completely fall apart a la Jake Delhomme or Jay Cutler or something, but there are two things at play here.  First, as Russell Wilson matures – and as he gets paid among the top five players at his position sometime in the near future – he’s going to start wallowing in his own hype.  The aforementioned Big Head Syndrome I’ve alluded to in the past.  These guys who get to the highest level, then prove they belong, then have great success, always seem to let it go to their heads.  They start thinking that they’re the ones who have to take it all on their shoulders.  They start trying to jam throws into windows that aren’t there.  They get loose and reckless with the football.  Instead of making the safe throw that continues the drive, they go for the jugular with mixed results.

Invariably, this happens in conjunction with the rest of the team around them getting appreciably worse.  It stands to reason, as the starting quarterback accounts for a higher and higher percentage of the team’s overall salary cap, you can’t afford to pay everyone you want to pay, and therefore the team around the quarterback gets worse.  It’s the way the NFL works.  You NEED that franchise quarterback and you do everything in your power to keep him.  Over time, other erstwhile star players are cut in favor of replacement-level rookies.  And, as a result, the team needs the quarterback to do more to win games; because maybe the defense is mediocre, or maybe there isn’t a quality running game to rely upon anymore.

What we have to ask ourselves is:  will Russell Wilson be as effective as he’s been in his 3-year career if he’s asked to do everything?  If he has to pick up the slack for a running game once Beastmode gets injured or leaves us.  If he has to bring the team back from a deficit because maybe most of the Legion of Boom has been let go or is otherwise on the shelf.  As the team works furiously to improve a mediocre passing attack from 2014, Wilson will have more weapons to throw to than he has at any point in his career.  Will he see this as a referendum to throw the ball at will and change the face of this offense from run-first to pass-first?  I know the coaching staff has a say in how these things shake out, but when Wilson is making $20+ million per year, the team is going to want to take advantage of the superstar making the most money.

I’m looking at guys like Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, and Joe Flacco.  Superstars who have had their share of mediocre seasons post-contract extension.  Guys who have been asked to do too much and have been all too eager to take on that challenge.  Guys with limited success being The Man and great success when they have teams around them willing to help share the load.  These are players who have been prone to have the 4-INT games.  Much more common than true, all-world quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady.

So, where is Russell Wilson?  Is he in that elite, top category?  Or, is he in that still-very-good second tier, with guys who need quality defenses and running games to win consistently?  Manning, Rodgers, and Brady never miss the playoffs when healthy.  Those other guys?  They’ve got some spotty records when the rest of their teams aren’t quite up to snuff.  I worry about Wilson being in that realm.

I hope that NFC Championship Game was just a small blip and not a sign of things to come.  I like the way this team constructs its roster.  I like how the Seahawks scheme for their opponents.  I like how we’re based around a stout defense and a hard-nosed run game.  I DON’T like change!  And I get annoyed very easily when pretty-boy quarterbacks decide to go rogue and start costing my team wins.

How Likable Are The Seattle Seahawks Right Now?

Remember 2013?  Remember how long ago that currently feels?  I’m not sure that question makes any sense, but go with me on this one.

In 2013, everything was absolutely perfect.  The Seahawks were winning games hand over fist, our favorite players were healthy (for the most part) and playing for peanuts (again, for the most part).  We were the youngest team and the best team, which meant we’d have the opportunity – if we played our cards right – to be the best team for many years to come.

Not only all of that, but remember how much you loved each and every player and coach on the Seahawks?  The rest of the league probably thought we were brash, or offensive, or just plain dicks, but we loved our Seahawks, and no one embodied the Us Against The World mentality more than the Seattle Seahawks and our legion of 12′s.  The world was sick of us, but we couldn’t get enough (it didn’t hurt that Percy Harvin was injured for almost all of 2013).

Then, guys started getting paid.  And for good reason!  Because, good for them!  They were unheralded, they played their asses off, and they got the reward that was waiting for them.  Sure, we’d have to rework the books a bit, let some players go we’d otherwise rather keep around, but as long as we could keep the core in place, everything would be all right.

It’s hard to tell where most fans side when it comes to contract disputes.  Most in the media tend to side with the players – get what you can while the getting’s good and all that, because nothing’s guaranteed in the NFL – but they have to be as objective as they can (while at the same time knowing that any contract dispute could mean weeks and weeks of articles writing themselves).  The fans, in theory, should be siding with ownership, because any extra money going to a malcontent under contract who’s threatening to sit out actively hurts the organization by not having that money to use elsewhere to better the team.  But, I suppose you have to take that on a case by case basis.

I’m pretty much always going to side with the team when it comes to contract disputes.  I love that there aren’t fully-guaranteed contracts in the NFL, because I think you should be able to cut someone without much of a penalty if they start to slip in their production.  Being forced to watch players dog it out there, well past their primes, because a team was foolish enough to over-pay for what a player did prior to his contract signing is a fucking travesty in sports.  The NFL has a happy medium where, if you’re worth it, you’ll earn your full contract (or at least most of it).  If you’re over-paid, you’re gone (as it should be).  And, if you’re under-paid, then you have the option to ride that rollercoaster of holding out for more money.  It happens.  It’s not smart, because that player tends to get his legs cut off pretty quickly once Training Camp starts; daily fines and all that.  But, it’s something that looms, a dark cloud that hangs over the team.

It’s only natural to want a totally harmonious locker room.  But, that’s impossible when some guys are getting paid a ton, and other guys are getting nothing.  You like to think those players making nothing will put their heads down and work even harder to EARN the money they think they deserve, but that’s not always the case.

I don’t remember many holdouts for the Seahawks – under the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime – until Marshawn Lynch decided he wasn’t being paid enough commensurate to his production in our offense (and his role in our overall success).  While I understand why players hold out, I’m still almost always going to be against it.  But, when it comes to someone like Lynch, would I rather he get an extra million or two, or would I rather he retire and our team takes a bigger hit than we would have had we just paid him his money?  Ultimately, I have no problem with how the whole Lynch ordeal turned out.  He got a little bump in pay going into last season, then he re-worked his contract to get an even bigger bump this offseason.  He still might not be long for this team, but for now things are stable.  I’m willing to take it a year at a time and hold my breath about him staying or leaving.  He’s Beastmode, for crying out loud!  If I’m going to put up with shenanigans, it’s going to be Beastmode shenanigans.

Of late, there have been rumblings of Michael Bennett being dissatisfied with his most recent contract.  He came here via free agency in 2013 under a VERY team-friendly 1-year deal.  He turned out to be our very best defensive lineman that year as we won the Super Bowl, thus earning a hefty extension.  That turned out to be a 4-year, $28.5 million deal, with $16 million of it guaranteed.  He received an $8 million signing bonus, along with $2 million guaranteed last year.  He also has a $6 million base salary in 2015 that’s fully guaranteed (hence, the $16 million).  Essentially, after 2015, the team could cut him and save money.

Bennett goes into 2016 with a non-guaranteed $4 million base salary, along with a roster bonus of $1 million based on game participation.  The team is looking at full cap hits of $7 million in 2016, and $9.5 million in 2017 (as his 2017 base salary jumps back up to $6 million, with a $1.5 million roster bonus).

When you look at his deal from a team standpoint, as things sit right now, Michael Bennett counts $8 million against our cap in 2015.  That figure is tied for third-most on the team, behind only Richard Sherman (whose cap hit runs up to $12.2 million) and Marshawn Lynch (whose new cap hit lands at $8.5 million).  Of course, since Bennett already got his signing bonus, he only looks to earn that $6 million in base salary.  Compared to what some of the other 4-3 defensive ends are earning, I can see why Bennett feels he deserves more.  Michael Bennett might not be leading the league in sacks anytime soon, but he’s certainly in the top 5 of most disruptive defensive linemen in the league.  But, in 2015, he’s really not earning anywhere near what he’s worth.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I UNDERSTAND why these guys think this way.  But, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.  We’re all of ONE YEAR into his 4-year deal!  He’s still going to earn a nice chunk of change, and if all goes well, I could even respect a guy trying to re-up his deal AFTER 2015.  But right now?  Really?  With all this other shit going on, I’ve got to be worried about Michael Bennett?

Other shit like Bruce Irvin, for instance.  He’s headed into the last year of his rookie deal.  Recently, we all learned that the Seahawks would not be picking up his 2016 option at over $7 million.  Sounds like a reasonable way to go.  I’m not so sure his position or what he brings to his position is worth a 1-year, $7.8 million deal.  After the 2015 season, I might look back at that statement and slap myself for being an idiot, but that’s the great thing about contract years:  guys tend to ramp up their effort to lock themselves into the biggest deal possible.

It was all there.  Either Bruce Irvin goes H.A.M. in 2015 and earns a knockout extension with the Seahawks, or he fails and either leaves or comes back on a much more team-friendly deal.  Then, he had to go run his mouth recently while watching an Atlanta Hawks playoff game about how much he wants to be in Atlanta after his contract here ends.  Truthfully, Bruce Irvin has done and said a lot of dumb shit over the years (on Twitter and whatnot), but I’ve always dismissed it because – for the most part – what he’s said or done hasn’t really hurt the team (adderall aside).  Fans tend to blow these things out of proportion because they’re stuffy and white and long for the days of old where everything was stuffy and white.

That having been said, if Bruce Irvin doesn’t want to be here, more power to him.  He’s not irreplaceable.  In fact, we’ve got guys on this team RIGHT NOW who could step up and take over for him.  He may one day turn out to be a dominant pass rushing force (and I tend to think that’s going to happen, as pure pass rushers tend to age pretty well), but if he wants to be a crybaby because his option year wasn’t picked up, then I don’t know what to tell him.  I guess he should’ve done more to deserve it being picked up.  I guess he should’ve been someone we could rely on (and not someone who’s one more adderall test gone wrong away from an even longer suspension).

You want that big money that makes you worth upwards of $8 million per year?  Go out and earn it!  Do what it takes to make a team WANT to pay you $8 million per year.  This is your contact year, with a high-profile franchise; you’ll never have a better opportunity to show the world what you can do.

Because, at this point, with the way you constantly run your mouth, all you’re doing is actively hurting your chances.  Do you think teams will be looking forward to dealing with the headaches that will come their way whenever you decide to run your mouth on Twitter?  Do you think other GMs like to see the way you badmouth the team that brought you into this league – as a player most pundits felt was a huge reach to be taken in the middle of the first round?  If you sign elsewhere, how long will it be before you’re badmouthing THAT team in a public forum?

You never had it as good as you’ve had it here in Seattle, with the coaching staff and the players around you.  Don’t take it for granted, Irvin.

I’m going to close things on a bit of a controversial subject, but bear with me.  The latest dispute has been just as public and looks just as ugly, depending on which reports are accurate:  Russell Wilson’s contract extension.

It’s not that this process – Russell Wilson trying to maximize his earning potential – is making him unlikable, per se.  But, for me anyway, it’s starting to chip away at the “I’m So Perfect” mystique.  Obviously, I still want Russell Wilson here, and I want him to be a Seahawk until he decides to retire.  But, do I think he deserves to make the most money of all the quarterbacks in the league?  Not particularly.  Going to the Super Bowl in two out of three years is pretty impressive, and winning one is something I’ll never forget, but why does he need to get all the money right now?  He’s bound to have at least two or three more opportunities to re-work his deal and eventually get paid among the game’s best.  But, can we not set the floor so high right now that it makes it impossible for this team to compete when he eventually reaches his ceiling?

I guess the bottom line is, I’d rather Russell Wilson didn’t play out his rookie deal.  I’d rather get him locked into an extension now that provides him some semblance of financial security while at the same time allowing the team to take advantage of the cheapness of this final year to buy us a bit of a discount on the total cost of the contract.  Let his NEXT contract extension be the one they write about in the history books.  Let’s have this one just be a nice, happy pay-out for a guy who has been far and away the league’s best bargain – maybe in the history of the NFL (at least since the merger).

This post has primarily been about contract extensions, so I’ll cut it off here.  But, I’ve got more I want to say about Russell Wilson a little later.  It’s what I like to call Big Head Syndrome, and I fear our franchise quarterback may have finally caught it.

Mariners Tidbit 36: The Good, I Guess Homestand

For a website called “Seattle Sports Hell”, things have been AWFULLY chipper and hopeful around here lately.  Thankfully, I was able to blow that out of the water with an opus of despair as I looked for the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.  I’m quite happy with how that one turned out, even if you can make arguments against my harebrained theories.  We’re getting back to the roots of what Seattle Sports Hell is all about!  Lamenting our misfortune at being Seattle sports fans.  The grass is always greener everywhere but here (sorry, been watching a lot of Mad Men lately and I think I have a mood disorder).

The Mariners just finished a 9-game homestand with a 6-3 record.  It’s the first winning “stand” of the year, home or away, and could be seen as a sign of things turning around.  James Paxton just pitched his ass off yesterday, going 8 shutout innings.  Happ has been a revelation and a testament to how little I know about baseball.  Felix ran into his first defeat of the season halfway through the month of May and has been throwing Cy Young type ball for as far back as I can remember (which is about a month and a half).  Nelson Cruz continues to be the best hitter in baseball, even if his home run barrage has slowed to a trickle of late.

There are encouraging signs, but not encouraging enough.  Take the aforementioned Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History (PLEASE!) and his .189 batting average.  Take Mike Zunino being even more lost at the plate than he was last year.  Take the fact that we don’t have an appropriate backup or replacement for either, when both of those players should probably have their loads lightened (Ackley shouldn’t be a starter anymore, period; and Zunino could probably benefit from not being the ONLY catcher on this team – sorry Sucre).

Still, others look like they’re turning things around.  Brad Miller, for one.  LoMo for another.  Cano and Seager are both about 50-points below where their averages should be, but at least they’re not totally worthless.  At least they’re not Rickie Weeks, Willie Bloomquist, or the aforementioned ghost of a player that is Jesus Sucre – none of whom deserve gainful Major League employment at this point in their careers.

While 6-3 is all well and good, we’re still talking about a team that’s 17-20.  A team that’s a whopping 7.5 games out of first place.  How in THE HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK did the Houston Astros go from the world’s laughingstock to the best team in the A.L. West, zooming right past us in the process?  This was supposed to be OUR year to dominate from wire to wire!  Houston would have its chance, but they were supposed to be another year or two away at least!  THIS IS NOT HOW THINGS WERE SUPPOSED TO WORK OUT!

The Mariners are going to need a shitload of more 6-3 homestands and road trips to get to where they need to be.  Excuses are like assholes, and the Mariners have 25 of them.  I don’t want to hear about injuries, I don’t want to hear about guys “coming around”, and I sure as shit don’t want to hear about this upcoming 9-game East coast road trip (or the 36 games in 37 days we’ve got to look forward to, starting tomorrow).  I just want to see more wins than losses and a huge bite taken out of the Astros’ lead by the end of this 36-game run.  Stop talking; we’ve had enough talk.  Just do.  Win the fucking games and let’s get this monkey off our backs.

Is Dustin Ackley The Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History?

Right off the bat, don’t talk to me about the Sounders, the Storm, or any other lesser sport I don’t care as much about.  This is a Seahawks/Sonics/Mariners discussion, so LAY OFF!

Also, we’re talking straight draft picks.  Believe me, I’m well aware of all the bad trades and free agent signings, as well as the draft picks we’ve traded away, but this is a look at the most disappointing players we’ve seen drafted in this city for those three professional franchises.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Dustin Ackley was taken with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  In 2008, the Seattle Mariners finished 61-101 for the right to pick #2 overall.  You may recall that, going into the final three games of the 2008 season, the Mariners were 58-101 and in line for the #1 overall pick.  The Washington Nationals, with three games to go, were 59-99.  So, what happened?  The Mariners swept the A’s and the Nationals got swept by the Phillies.  As such, the Nationals were graced with the #1 overall pick and the right to draft the hottest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens:  Stephen Strasburg.

You can say what you want about the injury-plagued start to Strasburg’s career, but you can’t deny he has elite stuff and you can’t deny he’s had three very good seasons from 2012-2014.  We don’t know where his career will take him – and obviously, with Mike Trout being selected by the Angels with the 25th overall pick, it’s not like he’s the best player in that draft – but one thing we do know is that he’s a HELLUVA lot better than Dustin Ackley will ever be.

We got screwed.  Dustin Ackley was supposed to be the clear best hitter and most Major League-ready player in that draft.  We were going to get an athletic guy who could play the outfield or various infield spots, and a mainstay in our lineup.  Your prototypical 2-hole hitter.  He was supposed to have a good eye, get on base at a fantastic clip, and even hit for a bit of power (mostly doubles, but the occasional homer), with just enough speed on the basepaths to keep everyone honest.

What we GOT was a guy with a poor eye at the plate, poor pitch selection, a noodle-arm, who rolls over on balls to the second or first baseman 80% of the time.  At a time (coming off of our attrocious 2008 season, continuing through our 2010 season where we were one of the worst offenses of all time), Ackley was supposed to breeze through the minors and give our lineup a boost.  Instead, he’s been spoken in the same breath as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero WAY too often for comfort.

He sucks us in because he’s a #2-overall pick, and because he sometimes has these wonderful second halves to seasons that trick us into thinking he’s finally gotten everything figured out.  Then, he turns right back around the following spring and hits:

  • .200/.222/.341/.563, with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 RBI, and about 50,000 runners left on base in 30 games

This is his fifth year in the Major Leagues.  Here are his career numbers:  .243/.305/.365.  You have to wonder, if he doesn’t turn it around and I mean SOON, if this is his last chance with the Mariners.  I can’t imagine we go into 2016 with him as a starter, but I have to wonder if we go into 2016 with him even on the roster at all!

Does this make him the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?  Well, let’s take a little look back.  Too soon to talk about Alex Jackson (2014) or D.J. Peterson (2013).  Mike Zunino was the 3rd overall pick in 2012; he’s been less than ideal at the plate.  But, he’s still probably too young (and at least hits for SOME power) to make a judgment.  Danny Hultzen was the 2nd overall pick in 2011 and has been severely injured for much of his career of late, so he has to be in the running, right?  Except, the thing is, he’s a pitcher, and the Mariners have been fairly flush with pitching in recent years since he was selected.  Hard to call him as much of a disappointment when we haven’t really needed to rely on him for anything.

Maybe we should take a look at what it means to be disappointing in a sports setting.  For starters, I feel like you have to be a first round pick.  These are the guys who – in theory – should be the closest to helping your team right away.  In baseball, you expect these guys to be on the fast track, to hit the Major Leagues in 2-4 years, depending on their development.  In football and basketball, depending on how deep your roster is, you expect these guys to contribute immediately, and in some instances even start for you immediately.  So, when they fail to live up to those reasonable expectations, they’re disappointments.  Obviously, the higher you draft them, the bigger the disappointments.

Going back, here are the rest of the Mariners’ top-10 draft picks through the years:

  • 2006 – Brandon Morrow (5)
  • 2005 – Jeff Clement (3)
  • 1995 – Jose Cruz Jr (3)
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez (1)
  • 1990 – Marc Newfield (6)
  • 1989 – Roger Salkeld (3)
  • 1987 – Ken Griffey Jr (1)
  • 1986 – Patrick Lennon (8)
  • 1985 – Mike Campbell (7)
  • 1984 – Bill Swift (2)
  • 1983 - Darrel Akerfelds (7)
  • 1981 – Mike Moore (1)
  • 1980 - Darnell Coles (6)
  • 1979 - Al Chambers (1)
  • 1978 - Tito Nanni (6)

Sure, Brandon Morrow was disappointing, but for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, we should’ve taken UW’s Tim Lincecum instead.  Second, we kept dicking around with Morrow by starting off his career in the bullpen.  Third, we probably gave up on him and traded him away too soon (for Brandon League, who was an all-around disaster).  Ackley still has Morrow beat in the disappointment department.

Clement was disappointing, but I think we were all more disappointed in our front office moreso than the player.  That 2005 draft was FUCKING STACKED; 6 of the first 7 players selected have been All Stars (with Clement being the only dud), and 8 of the first 12 have played in an All Star Game.  Bill Bavasi at his finest!

Jose Cruz Jr was solid when he was a Mariner, then we traded him away for two shitty relievers, then he got really bad, and then he was gone.  Again, more disappointed in our front office for giving up on a quality prospect too soon.

A-Rod was disappointing because he was a greedy scumbag & soon-to-be cheater.  But, his level of play on the field was unmatched, so there’s no way I’m calling him a bigger disappointment than Ackley (also, yes, I would have taken the money and played for the Rangers, so eat me, he’s still a greedy fuck).

Anyone before A-Rod is out of my wheelhouse (aside from Griffey, of course, who was the single greatest draft pick in franchise history).  You can post your reasons in the comments as to why you think some of those old timers might be more disappointing than Dustin Ackley, but for now, I’m saying this with full confidence:  Dustin Ackley is the most disappointing draft pick in Mariners history.

***

Let’s jump right into the Seattle Seahawks.  Who is their most disappointing first round draft pick?  Again, I’ll run through all the top 10 picks (even though I think we all have a pretty good idea who this is going to end up being):

  • 2010 – Russell Okung (6)
  • 2009 – Aaron Curry (4)
  • 2001 – Koren Robinson (9)
  • 1997 – Shawn Springs (3)
  • 1997 – Walter Jones (6)
  • 1995 – Joey Galloway (8)
  • 1994 – Sam Adams (8)
  • 1993 – Rick Mirer (2)
  • 1992 – Ray Roberts (10)
  • 1990 – Cortez Kennedy (3)
  • 1983 – Curt Warner (3)
  • 1982 – Jeff Bryant (6)
  • 1981 – Kenny Easley (4)
  • 1980 – Jacob Green (10)
  • 1978 – Keith Simpson (9)
  • 1976 – Steve Niehaus (2)

Not gonna lie to you, I’m not up on my Steve Niehaus or Keith Simpson knowledge, but let’s just assume they’re not the most disappointing draft picks in Seahawks history.  Green, Easley, and Bryant were mainstays of a dominant defense in the 1980s, so count them out.  Curt Warner was only disappointing because we didn’t use that pick to try to trade up for John Elway (or trade back to take one of the other amazing quarterbacks in that class).  Curt Warner the player was dynamic when he was healthy.

Cortez and Walter Jones are probably tied for the very best draft picks in Seahawks history, as both are Hall of Famers.  Ray Roberts was a solid offensive lineman in his career (if not specifically his Seahawks career).  Sam Adams was a fringe Hall of Famer for the Ravens, but had a nice and long career elsewhere (including Seattle for a few productive seasons).  Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs were studs who had their best years away from the northwest (but, again, were no slouches in a Seahawks uniform).  Okung has been a steady starter at left tackle (and a fine Walter Jones replacement when healthy) since he was a rookie.

For me, the disappointments come down to Aaron Curry, Koren Robinson, and Rick Mirer.  But, before I talk about this trio of Top 10 turds, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions from a little lower in the first round.

Lawrence Jackson was taken 28th overall.  He was supposed to come in and breathe life into our tepid pass rush.  Instead, he joined our team in 2008 as the franchise bottomed out, let Mike Holmgren walk, and eventually ushered in the Era of Good Feelings that has been Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  Oh yeah, and Jackson stunk the whole while and it wasn’t long before Carroll traded him away for scraps.

In 2006, the Seahawks selected Kelly Jennings with the 31st overall pick.  Coming off of our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, we were in desperate need of shoring up our secondary.  Kelly Jennings was no help in this regard.  While it’s hard to expect super-greatness out of your 31st overall draft pick, he was still a member of this team – and a starter at that – for far too long, leading us to suffer a barrage of long bombs over his outstretched midget arms.

In 2002, the Seahawks selected Jerramy Stevens 28th overall.  That’s all I need to say about this wretch.

In the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft, the Seahawks took Brian Bosworth with what amounts to a first round draft pick.  He was subsequently given the largest contract in franchise history, and rewarded us with lackluster and often embarrassing play.  He was a better action movie star than a football player, and that’s REALLY not saying much.

But, let’s get back to our Top 3 disappointments from before.  I’m scratching off Koren Robinson, for starters.  Yes, he had the talent to be elite – and pissed it all away with addiction – but one has to wonder if he was even the right fit for this type of offense to begin with.  And, while he wasn’t spectacular, he was far from dreadful.  I’m giving him a pass.

This boils down to Aaron Curry and Rick Mirer.  You may recall with Aaron Curry, we were coming off of our dreadful 2008 season.  With the 4th overall pick, people were screaming for the Seahawks to take a quarterback.  With Matthew Stafford already off the board, and Mark Sanchez sitting there, the Seahawks opted to do the prudent thing:  take the “safest pick in the draft”.  Aaron Curry was an outside linebacker and – depending on who you talked to – was some mix of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.  We were going to pair him with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to have the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Instead, he was slow to pick up the game mentally, slow to pick up the intricacies of his position, and just all-around slow on the field.  He did practically nothing for us, wound up being traded for a low-round draft pick, and was replaced on the field by a mid-round draft pick.  But, considering the Seahawks were bottoming out all over the roster, it’s hard to peg all of our troubles on Curry.  Even if he’d panned out as we’d hoped, he still would have been just a good player on a crappy team.

Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was supposed to save us.  In 1992, the Seahawks shared the worst record in the NFL with the New England Patriots at 2-14.  Thanks to our victory over those very same Patriots, they held the tie-breaker for the #1 overall pick.  As a result, they got to select the best quarterback of that class – Wazzu’s Drew Bledsoe – while we had to settle for Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame.

Mirer came out of the gate on fire, breaking many rookie quarterback records that would eventually be broken by Peyton Manning (the only time Rick Mirer should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton Manning, by the way).  He quickly either regressed or simply failed to develop, but either way, he SUUUUUUCKED thereafter.  Adding fuel to the fire of his disappointment, I recently was referred to this article (hat tip to Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard) that revealed there was an outside shot of the Seahawks getting Steve Young from the 49ers for the rights to allow the 49ers to draft Mirer to be Joe Montana’s heir apparent.  Isn’t THAT just the ultimate kick to the groin?  Doesn’t that make Rick Mirer the ultimate slam dunk most disappointing draft pick in Seahawks history?

I want to say yes, but RACING PAST THE PACK ON THE OUTSIDE, OUR DARK-HORSE CONTENDER:  1991′s 16th overall draft pick, Dan McGwire!

What’s the meaning of THIS?  Well, I’ll tell you:  the Seahawks brass was very high on the 6’8 towering suckferno, while Chuck Knox – easily our greatest head coach in franchise history to that point – wanted to select a little guy out of Southern Mississippi, the 6’2 Brett Favre.

Dan McGwire started all of five games with the Seahawks in four seasons.  Chuck Knox left the franchise after 1991, right before everything bottomed out in 1992.  As stated above, the Seahawks would use the #2 overall pick on yet another quarterback two years later, and the franchise overall would founder in mediocrity for a decade until Mike Holmgren turned things around.  All of this MAY have been avoided, if Chuck Knox had his way and we’d drafted a certain hall of famer who owns or owned just about every passing record in NFL history.

Most disappointing draft pick?  For all those reasons, I’m going with Dan McGwire by a nose over Rick Mirer (bottom line:  at least Mirer had ONE good season).

***

In an effort to prevent this post from going beyond the 5,000 word mark, I’m going to give the abbreviated version of the Sonics’ most disappointing draft pick:  it doesn’t compare to what the Seahawks and Mariners have stacked against them.  Purely for disappointment’s sake, it’s disappointing to see Scottie Pippen’s name as our #5 overall draft pick in 1987 (he would be traded to the Bulls and replaced by Olden Polynice, but again, this isn’t a post about trades), but at least Pippen’s departure eventually led to Shawn Kemp’s rise.

The fact of the matter is, the Sonics – for the most part, until the last decade or so – were a well-run and successful organization (crazy, I know).  Our first round draft picks were generally low in the round, if we had them at all.  The high ones tended to pan out (Payton, #2 overall; McKey, #9 overall; McDaniel, #4 overall).  And, since once again I’m not all that familiar with all the old-timers, I’m not even going to go there and you can hash it out in the comments.

In an effort to save time, let’s just say the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle Sonics history is Robert Swift (#12 overall in 2004, when we were in DESPERATE need of a big man; he would be the first of three consecutive first round draft pick duds – Petro & Sene to follow – that would ultimately cost this franchise dearly).  Now, let’s call it a day and everyone agree that Robert Swift is nowhere NEAR as disappointing as Dan McGwire or Dustin Ackley.

***

So, where do we land on all of this?  Is Dustin Ackley the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history?

Welp, I’ve already discussed the cases for both he and Dan McGwire.  With Ackley, we’re still talking about an Incomplete.  We don’t know how his career is going to pan out, even if we have a pretty solid idea that he’s going to continue to be terrible.  With McGwire, we know how it panned out, and we know what we could’ve had with Favre.  McGwire FEELS like the more disappointing of the two, but before we give him the crown, we have to speculate on the ol’ butterfly effect.

Dan McGwire kept us from drafting Brett Favre (or, rather, the organization choosing to go with him over Knox’s preferred choice).  That’s the case, right in a nutshell.  So, we have to wonder:  how good could the Seahawks have been with Brett Favre at the helm?

Would Chuck Knox have stayed on past 1991?  Would the team have drafted appropriately around him?  It’s pretty safe to say that Brett Favre would’ve been great wherever he went, but how much of his career was molded by Mike Holmgren?  I wouldn’t call the Packers a bastion of a franchise when they traded for him, so it’s not like the team was great and then Favre appeared as the last piece of the puzzle.  He grew with that franchise to be one of the best in football.  Could that have rubbed off on the Seahawks?  Or, would our franchise bumbling have prevented Favre from being his very best?

I would argue that the Seahawks would’ve been rock solid throughout the 90s.  Much better than the string of .500 (or near-.500) records we were saddled with.  There was always talent on those 90s Seahawks teams, but we were ALWAYS missing out on the quarterback position.  Warren Moon had a couple good years, but that was at the tail end of his career, and he kept getting injured when we needed him most.  Every other quarterback we had in the 90s was terrible.

With Favre in Seattle, does Mike Holmgren become MIKE HOLMGREN in Green Bay?  Does he find another quarterback to mold and turn that franchise around?  I think it’s safe to say, Favre in Seattle means we never hire Holmgren later.  And, you have to wonder if we have the group in place that we have now.

Does Favre turn this franchise around before Ken Behring sells the team to Paul Allen?  Does he have a change of heart and decide to keep the Seahawks and keep them in Seattle?  Do we have what is now CenturyLink Field?  If Paul Allen isn’t the owner, we certainly don’t have our stadium in its current form; I’m sure it would look much different now.  And, I have to wonder if we have the Sounders either, for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, does Brett Favre lead the Seahawks to be world champions?  THAT, I’m not totally sure about.  It’s nice to think so, but you have to wonder how it happens.  How long does Chuck Knox stick around if we give him the quarterback he wants?  He was already getting up there in age by 1991; how many years does he stick around after that?  And, who becomes his replacement?  I would argue Tom Flores was the worst head coach we’ve ever had in Seahawks history; I don’t think he wins even with the mid-90s Cowboys.  Does he still replace Knox?  Do we grab someone else?

The point is:  there are SO MANY “what if’s” that go into the Brett Favre as a Seahawk scenario.  And, what I would argue is most important in all of this is:  if Brett Favre never leads us to a world championship (whether or not it’s his fault, or the fault of ownership, or just the players we saddled him with), then he is 100% not worth the trouble.  The way things actually happened – with the Seahawks winning it all in the 2013 season – made a lot of the previous suffering worth it.  That’s all that matters.

Now, if Brett Favre coming here means the Seahawks would’ve been a dynasty much earlier, then I think he is worth it and I think Dan McGwire wins the title of most disappointing draft pick.  Even if it means the team we have now (in this hypothetical universe) looks nothing like the team we have in our real, actual universe.

Ultimately, my gut tells me that even if the Seahawks had taken Brett Favre, and he’d turned into the franchise quarterback we waited SO LONG to get, I kinda doubt we ever would’ve won it all with him.  Too many variables.  We likely wouldn’t have had the type of hall of fame coaching staff that Holmgren assembled in Green Bay, and we likely wouldn’t have gotten the type of championship talent to put around Favre like they were able to do under Ron Wolf.  Let’s face it, for a lot of reasons, the Seahawks were just plain broken as a franchise in the 1990s.  It took all the tumult, the disaster of an owner, the mis-management of the general manager, the bumbling of the coaching staff, and the underperforming of the players to lead to Paul Allen, Mike Holmgren 2.0, Matt Hasselbeck and our success in the 2000s, the bottoming out in 2008 & 2009, and the foresight to bring in Pete Carroll and pairing him with John Schneider to finally turn this organization into a world-class sports franchise.

You COULD say that Dan McGwire was a big part in giving us all of this!  And, I must say, as a fan in my 30s, I’m certainly appreciating all of our good fortune MUCH more than I would have been as a fan in my teens in the 1990s.

Yes, Dustin Ackley is a disappointment.  Yes, there were truly great players taken after him (including the aforementioned Mike Trout).  And yes, he’s been a big part of all the sucking the Mariners have been a part of in his time in the Major Leagues.  He’s been given MANY more chances to start and play a huge part on this team, and he’s done JUST enough to keep earning those chances even though he’s never broken through to make good on all of his promise.  Dan McGwire, for as enraging as his selection was, was never much more than a longshot prospect.  His college career wasn’t some amazing slam dunk; we were picking him based on his size, his strong arm, and the fact that he “looked” like a starting quarterback.  These types of quarterbacks are selected in the first round every single year, and these types of quarterbacks end up falling well short of their potential every single year.

#2 overall Major League Baseball draft picks are supposed to be different.  At #2, you know you have the opportunity to draft that year’s very best pitcher or hitter.  In our case, we took the “best hitter”.  That guy isn’t supposed to continuously be as mediocre as Ackley has been.  Either he’s great, or he gets injured and we all sit around wondering “what if”.  Ackley has been nothing if not healthy, and he’s been sometimes intriguing, but most of all he’s been a complete failure.

The Mariners missed and missed big when they selected Dustin Ackley.  He not only prevented us from taking a better hitter, but he’s actively hurting us now with his sucking.  If he panned out – as the so-called best hitter in his class should have – we’d be looking at a monster lineup with him paired with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Instead, he’s one of our ever-growing cadre of black holes.  We can’t sit him, because we don’t have anyone better (depending on your opinion of Justin Ruggiano), we can’t trade him because we’ll get nothing in return, and we can’t cut him because – as I said before – we don’t have anyone better.  The bottom line in all of this is, while the Mariners are improving as a franchise, there are too many holes on this team for it to be a championship contender.  Dustin Ackley is a huge reason why there are as many holes as there are.  And, for that reason, I’m calling him our most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.

Mariners Tidbit 35: Felix Is Historically Great

It’s not that I need a particular reason to write about how Felix is great; I could get up here every single day and write about him over and over again without getting tired of it.  But, on Sunday, as he was devouring the Oakland A’s yet again, a couple of milestones popped up.

First, what everyone’s talking about:  Felix got his 2,000th strikeout!  He’s the 4th-youngest pitcher to achieve that feat, and by the day’s end, he passed Andy Benes for 72nd on the all time strikeouts list.  If he manages another 200 strikeouts, by the end of the year he could climb as high as number 54 on the all time list.  From there, it would be just a hop and a skip for him to get to the Top 10 (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

The second achievement was his 131st career victory, which puts him at #2 all time in Mariners history behind Jamie Moyer’s 145.  And, who knows?  At the rate he’s going, if he gets another 15 wins this year, he’ll be officially the best.

In fact, let’s look at the Mariners career records.

  • Career WAR – Felix #1 with 47.6
  • ERA – Felix #1 with 3.05
  • Games Started – Felix #2 with 310 (Moyer #1 with 323)
  • Innings Pitched – Felix #1 with 2,109.1
  • Strikeouts – Felix #2 with 2,001 (Randy Johnson #1 with 2,162)
  • CG Shutouts – Felix #2 with 10 (Randy #1 with 19)

And, when you really start to dig around in the minutiae that is sabermetrics, Felix is your runaway leader in almost everything.  If all goes according to plan, by the end of the season, Felix will own the Mariners career ERA, games started, innings pitched, and strikeouts records, which is pretty damn great.

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for today.  If Felix isn’t your favorite Mariner of all time, you’re doing it wrong.

Mariners Tidbit 34: A Much-Needed Sweep

In continuing with the 2015 tradition of One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, the Mariners just took a step forward with their 3-game home sweep of the A’s.  That brings us to a record of 14-17 and sets us off on a month’s worth of games against opponents we haven’t seen yet.  Some things are starting to shake out.

The Astros are the real deal.  But, you already knew that.  They’re 20-12 and showing no signs of slowing down.

The A’s and Rangers are God-awful.  One would think the A’s might have a chance to turn things around – because they can be annoyingly streaky like that – but you have to wonder if they’ve dug themselves too big a hole.

The Mariners haven’t proven a damn thing yet.  We’ve got a -20 run differential which is more indicative of a few well-blown games and a lot of close defeats, but it nevertheless doesn’t look good on us.  Over the weekend, the Mariners won by a 7-2 margin, which was our largest margin of victory of the season.  Indeed, it was the only game the Mariners have won by more than 3 runs.  On a related note, this bullpen is majorly taxed.

Also on a related note:  the Mariners are 10-2 against the combo of the Rangers and A’s, and 4-15 against all other teams.  Those teams?

  • The Angels – 0.5 games ahead of us
  • The Dodgers – best record in the West
  • The Astros – best record in the A.L. West
  • The Twins – 4 games over .500

Granted, we haven’t played a TON of teams, but I’m getting a nasty trend out of this:  great against the dregs, terrible against any teams that are even REMOTELY good.  So, this next month will go a long way in determining what we really are.  The Padres and Red Sox are decent.  Same goes for the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays.  The Indians are off to a crappy start; the Yankees are off to a terrific start.  We play those seven teams a total of 29 games before we get saddled with the Astros again.  I anticipate the Astros will still be pretty good by then, but I also anticipate they will have cooled off some and be in a stretch of more or less .500 ball.  They’re the team we’ve got to catch, though, so they’re the team we need to be concerned about the most.

We HAVE to be a better baseball team in 30 games if we expect to hang with the Astros.  Now, there are a lot teams in the next four weeks who are pretty much right at our level.  We’ve proven we can beat the very worst; next up is beating the teams who are our equal.  You can say what you want, but I believe the season hangs in the balance in this next month.  We’re 3 games under .500.  By the time we play the Astros again, I’d like to see us 3-5 games over .500.  Best way to do that?  Go 18-11, to get us to 32-28.  If we can be 32-28 by the time we see the Astros again, I’ll start to believe in this season again.  It’s not asking a lot, but I hope it’s not asking too much.

Mariners Tidbit 33: Tangling With A Sports Addiction

I missed the entirety of last night’s game.  When I went to bed, the Mariners were down by the score of 2-1, but I didn’t watch any of the first few innings either.  If I’m being perfectly honest, watching a bunch of old episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia was more appealing than trying to get myself interested in a Mariners game against the Angels.  Two teams, 4 games under .500 coming into the evening, battling it out for sole possession of second place in the A.L. West.  That’s got Yawn written all over it.

I’ll be the first one to admit it, I don’t have the same juice that I had even a year ago.  I can’t remember the last time I saw a full game that I didn’t also attend in person.  I REALLY can’t remember the last time I saw a full game that I didn’t also attend in person that didn’t in some way feature Felix Hernandez on the mound.  And I wonder if I’m slowly going the way of the casual, fair-weather fan.

I read an article on Joss Whedon quitting Twitter.  Don’t ask me why; I’m not a particular fan of his work, nor was I a follower of his.  But, he said something interesting that struck a chord; he said, “When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict.”  That’s the absolute epitome of being an addict, expecially of hard drugs like heroin.  At first, it feels like the best thing ever.  So, you continue to do it.  By the time you realize that you feel nothing after having done it, that’s when you know you’re doing it just to not feel shitty all the time.

Watching the Seattle Mariners used to give me great pleasure.  I’d ride the highs by jumping around and cheering like a maniac.  I’d suffer the lows by swearing my face off and throwing things.  Every year – even over this last decade – I’d legitimately get myself all in a lather about our chances at contending.  And, every year, I’d have to suffer the season falling through our grasp.  Sometimes it happened in late May, sometimes it happened in late September.  But always with the crushing realization that we’d once again failed to make the playoffs.

2003 was the last time the Mariners won over 90 games.  Since that year, there have been three other winning seasons.  In 2007, the Mariners won 88 games.  In response to that, the Mariners went out and signed Carlos Silva and traded for Erik Bedard.  We were really going to make a push for the post-season based on all the promise we’d just experienced.  In 2008, the Mariners lost 101 games and everyone was fired.  In 2009, somehow the Mariners won another 85 games.  In response to that, the Mariners went out and signed Chone Figgins and traded for Cliff Lee.  THIS TIME, we’d do it right!  In 2010, the Mariners once again lost 101 games.

In 2014, the Mariners won 87 games.  In response to that, the Mariners went out and signed Nelson Cruz and traded for J.A. Happ.  The Mariners right now are 11-16 and well on their way to another 101-loss season.

All the things we should’ve seen coming – and indeed a lot of the things we DID see coming – have come.  Our young starters have been spotty.  Our bullpen – after an insanely great 2014 – has regressed terribly.  Our young hitters are struggling, no one is getting on base, and when they do, no one is really hitting with runners in scoring position.  We overlooked all of this going into the season, because all we could see was an 87-win squad from 2014, largely unchanged, with the addition of the big bopper we’d been sorely lacking.  And, with that bopper actually producing … we’ve still managed to be far worse.

Aside from Felix, this is a hard team to watch.  You could say that about any of the Mariners teams since he came into the league – and indeed, I HAVE been saying that for as far back as I can remember – but I’ll tell you this much:  even in our worst years, I still watched a higher percentage of Mariners games than I’ve bothered with this year.  Why sit through something when you know they’re just going to find a way to lose?  When you wake up insanely early like I do every day, it REALLY has to be worth your while to want to stay up until 10pm or later.  And, for the most part this season, I just haven’t had it in me.  I’d rather catch up on some sleep than watch this Mariners season die by a thousand papercuts.

Baseball has never really had a super strong hold on me.  It was always a sport growing up that I’d rather play in my backyard than watch on TV.  I’ve always said I’m not a baseball fan, I’m a Mariners fan.  Nothing has changed in that regard.  I’m still a Mariners fan, I suppose.  But, my desire to follow the team as closely – on television or in print – is waning considerably.

At this point, until the Mariners seriously start to turn this around, I’m a Felix fan.  Until further notice, I’ll be watching every fifth day.  This team is going to have to work at it to get me back, because I refuse to get my hopes up again for another losing season.