This week’s 24: Live Another Day moment: Benjamin Bratt’s character gave us a very Benjamin Bratt-like performance when he received the phone call that Jordan was dead and had to act surprised. “What? He’s dead? No way … that’s, like, totally not cool, bro!” And just like that, the main baddies are dead and now we’re on to this: Whack-A-Mole! Zing!
Taijuan Walker just threw a complete game shutout last night. Erasmo Ramirez once again couldn’t get through the fifth inning, showing poor poise and even worse command in walking five while only striking out two. This madness has to stop. I like Ramirez in that, at least he’s keeping us in the games he starts. That’s more than can be said for Brandon Maurer, who was just a fucking mess all over the floor of the bathroom. But, Ramirez is also taxing our bullpen with these impotent starts. Since he returned at the beginning of June, Ramirez has averaged 4.2 innings per start. How we’ve managed to go 3-2 in those five starts makes it feel the Mariners are committing some sort of felony.
Is Taijuan Walker a finished product? I wouldn’t say that. He’s made six starts down in Tacoma, but if you discount the first couple (where he was just building up arm strength), he’s been spotty at best. But, if last night’s game tells me anything (9 innings, 4 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts), it’s that he’s better than the Triple-A level of baseball. Even if he is still building up his arm and getting himself back in the groove of pitching every five days, I’d rather have him doing it up in the Majors (even if it means the occasional struggle) than watch another Erasmo Ramirez start.
Little by little, we’ve improved that #5 starter spot. Ramirez was a clear improvement over Maurer, just as Walker is a clear improvement over Ramirez. If worst comes to worst, and Walker re-injures himself, then it’s nice to know Ramirez is still out there, working on things, hopefully getting better with his command. But, for now, it’s time to take that next step and really see what this baseball team is capable of.
Speaking of which, some people seem to think that means trading Taijuan Walker. I REALLY have a hard time with this sort of logic. Yes, I’m sure his value is pretty high. Yes, I bet we CAN get a big haul for his services. But, unless you can guarantee me a quality starting pitcher, and an outfielder who’s an All Star and under team control for a good number of years, I’m not interested! We don’t need another handful of magic beans! We need impact players, regardless of position. In my opinion, Taijuan Walker is not only an impact player, but an impact player at a position of need.
I know that sounds foolish, considering the Mariners have one of the two or three best pitching staffs in the American League, but you can always improve. And, right now, we’ve got one big, wet, infected sore spot at the #5 starter. Replacing a stiff with an impact player can make all the difference over the last half of the season. Yes, it’s only a guy who plays every five days, but wouldn’t you like knowing that every five days, when his turn comes around, the Mariners won’t have to white knuckle it, waste their bullpen, and/or need to score a ton of runs to win?
You know what I’d want for Walker? Giancarlo Stanton and a couple other guys, or GTFO. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? There’s no way Walker is worth that, right? You’ll hear no arguments from me. But, here’s the thing: we’d be giving up a top-shelf starting pitcher (who would be more likely to stick around in Seattle beyond his rookie contract) for one of the best power bats in the game today (who will almost certainly flee the city of Seattle just as soon as he can). There’s no way in HELL the Mariners would be able to retain Stanton long term! And I don’t think the organization is going to be willing to shell out another $240 million anytime soon. So, yeah, for me to feel comfortable about a Taijuan Walker deal, I’m going to need to see an insane bounty.
Otherwise, I have no problem sticking to the program. Let’s see where this is headed. Teams with sub-par offenses have been able to make some noise in the playoffs before. If the starting rotation can keep up its end of the bargain, and if the bullpen can continue to be lights out, there’s no telling how far we can go.