Very Important Mariners Of 2017: Nelson Cruz

Click HERE for the list of other Very Important Mariners Of 2017.

There’s a pretty stark contrast between the Jack Zduriencik Mariners and the Jerry Dipoto Mariners.  Things were so dire and deficient – one might even say decrepit! – that Jackie Z found himself scouring the ends of the Earth for some right-handed power bats.  Guys were slow, they had a terrible eye for the strikezone, and while they were able to mash some dingers on occasion, WAY more often than not they struck out or otherwise failed to produce.

Pretty clear that Jackie Z’s eventual vision didn’t pan out.  He may have come to Seattle like a Jerry Dipoto on steroids, but he quickly pivoted when Chone Figgins failed to pan out and the rest of our Speed & Defense All Stars failed to score any runs.

Nelson Cruz is a guy transcending these two eras.  He obviously represents the best of what Jackie Z had to offer – a massively successful right-handed power bat, purchased in free agency, at what was once thought to be a reach, but has thus far been a bargain – but clearly he’s a relic of bygone days.  Fortunately, the Mariners play in the American League, and the designated hitter is a big part of the offensive program.  While Cruz is a lumbering outfielder who probably shouldn’t get too many starts in the field at his age, Dipoto has stocked this organization with fast, rangy outfielders who can run down everything (thereby making up for their lack of pop in the lineup with their speed on the basepaths).  It’s a new day!  A new, defensively sound day.

Nelson Cruz has been truly remarkable the last three years.  He’s played at least 152 games per year, hit over 40 homers per year, and his batting average and on-base percentage dwarfs what he was able to do with the Rangers.  A couple days ago, I talked about Felix’s Second Act, and how he’s going to need to step up if he wants to be a Hall of Famer; well, it’s truly unbelievable to see how great Nelson Cruz’s second act has been.  He’ll be 37 on July 1st, but he’s really showing no signs of slowing down.  He was always solid-but-unspectacular with the Rangers, but he’s been an elite power hitter the last three years, and there’s no reason to expect that to fall off now.

The Mariners just need him to hit.  Stay healthy and hit.  Resist the urge to put him in right field (outside of National League road games) and let him hit.  OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WON’T YOU PLEASE LET THE MAN HIT!?!?

The biggest reason for the Mariners’ offensive turnaround towards the end of the Jackie Z era has been the free agent signings of Cano and Cruz.  It’s one of the rare gifts he was able to leave this organization.  Obviously, Cano has the 10-year deal (7 more years to go!), and we’re all anxiously awaiting his career downturn; but Cruz is only heading into Year 3 of 4.  If he can produce this year like he has in his last three seasons, he could drop dead on Day 1 of Year 4 and his contract would be a steal!  Nearly every great team has that one hitter who does it all.  Hits for average, hits for power, takes lots of walks, and is otherwise a menace in the cleanup spot in the lineup.  You can believe whatever you want about lineup construction, but I take a lot of solace having him smack dab in the middle of Cano and Seager.  That’s a fantastic Pick Your Poison situation for the Mariners.  Any one of those guys can burn you, and frequently they do!

We just need to squeeze one more year out of Cruz.  Keep on truckin’.  With the pitching as sketchy as it is, we’re going to need all the offense we can get.

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

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.

Mariners Sign Nelson Cruz To A 4-Year Deal

4 years, $57 million.

That’s what it finally took to make Nelson Cruz a Mariner.  Of course, based on rumors leaked sometime in the past year, the Mariners could have had him much cheaper LAST offseason (based on his 1 year, $8 million deal with the Orioles, it could’ve been pennies on this year’s dollar), but there were concerns of him coming off of a steroids suspension (namely:  would he still have the same pop now that he’s clean?), and so ownership vetoed the deal.

Nelson Cruz was a guy nobody wanted last year, as far as Mariners fans are concerned.  I think that had more to do with his skillset, over concerns about his steroids use.  He’s a poor defensive outfielder and a poor baserunner.  He bats righty and relies mostly on his power, which is the antithesis of what Safeco Field and Seattle, Washington are all about.  The main thing that’s changed between last year and this year is that the Mariners are officially a contender.

Last year, we brought in Cano and a few other, smaller pieces.  We figured we were a better baseball team than in years past, but we had no idea how much better.  By season’s end, we were 1 game out of the playoffs.  If just a few things broke differently, we would have been in there and once you’re in there, who knows what’ll happen?  The Kansas City Royals made it and got to Game 7 of the World Series!

The best part is:  we know exactly what we need to thrive.  We need a big thumper of a bat to put in the lineup between Cano and Seager.  We need our DH position to not be a black hole for the first time since Edgar Martinez retired.  Well, now we’ve got that.

The size of the deal is a bit much, but if the Mariners are willing to spend it, who are we to complain?  It’s not our money, and frankly, I’m just happy they’re FINALLY opening up the ol’ wallet.  I don’t expect we’ll get our full money’s worth, but as long as we can get another good year or two out of him, it might all work out.

The real concern is – as it was last year after the Cano signing – is this it?  Is this the one big move the Mariners are going to make, and then they’ll just cut corners the rest of the way in hopes that Cruz is the final piece to the puzzle and not one of the final pieces (plural).  Or, in other words, does this signing cost us so much money that we could have used to pick up two cheaper, but arguably better pieces?

I suppose you have to take all the moves the Mariners make in context when you make your opinion on something.  Many people will never be on board with Nelson Cruz as a Mariner, no matter the cost or the benefits of having him in our lineup.  I’m willing to get behind this deal.

For starters, you can’t be afraid of every 4-year deal with an aging veteran.  They’re not all Chone Figgins; they’re not all going to immediately fall off the face of the Earth.  I’m going into this deal expecting him to be just about as good as he was last year, with diminishing returns every year after that.  By Year 3, this is probably an ugly deal.  By Year 4, Cruz is probably a catastrophe and getting benched on the reg for some facsimile of Carlos Peguero trying to make it out of Tacoma.  But, I don’t care about those last years; I just care about 2015.

Will Nelson Cruz help the Seattle Mariners win baseball games in 2015?  I think he will.  Therefore, I’m in favor of this signing.

Also, I’m going to be of the opinion that the Mariners aren’t finished building.  We’ve got another outfielder to sign or trade for.  If we can hit on that one, like I’m assuming we’ll have hit on with Cruz (at least for the first year), then this team can be really special.

For the record, if you can manage to keep the short-term outlook paramount in your mind, you won’t drive yourself crazy with this move.  Nelson Cruz WILL help us in 2015, I promise!  After that, and the Mariners win it all, the world will implode upon itself anyway and we won’t HAVE any other years of this deal to worry about, because we’ll all be dead!  There, don’t you feel better now?

Justin Smoak Is A Toronto Blue Jay

When I started this blog, however many moons ago, one of my primary objectives was to highlight all the ways the city of Seattle has been fucked over by underperforming and incompetent sports teams.  This was prior to the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl, obviously, and since I was born AFTER the Supersonics won the title in ’79, there had been no real champions in my lifetime (caveat:  I was not a Husky fan until I went to the University in 1999).  If this blog is remembered for anything, I would hope it’s for my ongoing collection of Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings (see the menu bar at the top of the page; you can sort by professional team, as well as view the master list without all of my rambling commentary on each deal).  It is truly my pride and joy.  My muse, my flame.  I certainly don’t give it the attention it deserves; I should really be updating it more as we run across these shitty deals and after these drafts sink in.  But, I try to be fair above all else, and let a deal play out before I deem it a failure.

Today, October 30, 2014, I updated those pages for the first time in over a year.  Again, I certainly could have added this one sooner, but with Justin Smoak this week getting picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays, I officially added The Cliff Lee Deal to the annals of Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings.

I feel like, at this point in the post, you should be imagining very prosperous music with lots of horns and drums playing loudly for all to hear.

(also, with less fanfare, I finally got around to adding the Michael Pineda Deal; I’m telling you, this page is like my neglected wife whose nether regions I’ve finally tended to for the first time in ages)

What can you say about Justin Smoak?  The term “Of The Future” is bandied about quite a bit around losing baseball clubs.  When you’re rebuilding, you’re really looking to solidify your team one position at a time.  Once you lock something down, then you can move on to other areas of need.  On July 9, 2010, Justin Smoak immediately became the Seattle Mariners’ First Baseman Of The Future.  It was a glorious time to be alive, except not really.

After a somewhat successful run in 2009 where the Mariners had a winning record, but fell oh so short of the post-season, we thought we were just a guy or two away from going that extra mile.  Cliff Lee, we hoped, was one of those guys.  After the abject failure of Erik Bedard in 2008 (who was still on the team, as it stood), Cliff Lee was a certainty.  A slam dunk.  A Cy Young candidate to go with our other Cy Young Candidate, Felix Hernandez (who, as chances would have it, went on to WIN that Cy Young award that very same year).

Then, of course, Cliff Lee got hurt in Spring Training and missed a month of 2010.  By the time he returned, we were effectively out of the race; it wasn’t all his fault, the team was flawed from the start.  Nevertheless, by mid-season, we were looking for trading partners to flip our greatest non-Felix asset.  There were many suitors, but there could only be one trade.

When you think of The Cliff Lee Deal, you don’t think of the one we made prior to 2010 to GET him.  Those guys we gave to the Phillies were losers!  Draftees of the prior regime who would go on to do nothing for the teams that acquired them (“teams” being the Mariners, Phillies, and whoever else they would play for).  That was, objectively, a GREAT deal by Jackie Z.  One of his best, if I may be so bold, sir!

No, the Cliff Lee Deal that we all think about is the one that brought in Justin Smoak, among others.  Others being some guy, an alleged date raping reliever, and a AAA starter.  Those guys don’t really matter.  Yes, the reliever was flipped for John Jaso, a useful bat who also played catcher; but he was never appreciated for what he was, so the Mariners ended up giving him away to the A’s where he has gone on to help them to multiple post-season berths.  Jaso begat the return of Mike Morse, who had one injury-filled season with the Mariners before hitting the go-ahead RBI in last night’s Game 7 of the World Series for the San Francisco Giants (he may have done other stuff between those two events, but I don’t care to know what that stuff was).

Justin Smoak was the cheese of The Cliff Lee Deal, and boy did he stink!

Four seasons and change, nearly 2,000 at bats, 158 extra-base hits, a .224/.309/.380 batting line.  Good for a whopping 1.3 WAR.  No, not per season, but in his entire Mariners career.  The only positives he brought to the table were:  his low salary figure, and his pretty-good defense (at a position where defense isn’t really a priority).

Our “First Baseman Of The Future” played in 496 games with the Seattle Mariners.  He earned $4,065,600 ($2.6 million of that coming in 2014, where he played in all of 80 games en route to losing his job to LoMo), and he was set to earn approximately $3.65 million in 2015 in arbitration if the Mariners opted to retain him (with a buy-out of $150,000).

Again, this is how wacky the salary structure is in Major League Baseball:  he was set to get a RAISE for next year, even though he lost his job and played in less than half of the games in 2014 due to injury and ineffectiveness.  Only in fucking America …

Luckily, the Mariners realized the error in their ways and cut ties.  Even luckier still, the Blue Jays decided to claim him, thereby saving the Mariners $150K.

Do I begrudge the Mariners for giving him all of those chances?  No.  I lament the deal in the first place.  You’d like to get a reasonable player in return for someone of Cliff Lee’s calibre.  But, when you’re talking about the Mariners of 2010-2013, you’re talking about teams who were MUCH more than a Justin Smoak away from contending.  This team had so many holes to fill.  Yes, they could have gone out and blew dozens of millions of dollars to try to bring in a first baseman in free agency, but by the time this team was actually ready to contend, that first baseman likely would’ve been on the downside of his career anyway.  Besides, it’s not so easy to just get guys to come here willingly.  Safeco Field SUCKS for hitters.  Seattle is where you go to watch your career die.

So, we HAD to see what Smoak could do.  He’d run into stretches of great competence and we’d always wonder, “Could he keep it up for a full year?  Could THIS be the turning point, where it clicks and he starts to get it?”  Ultimately:  no.  He couldn’t keep it up for a full year.  This was NOT the turning point.  And he never got it.  Maybe, with a better stadium situation in Toronto, where it’s easier to hit for extra bases, he can turn his career around.  But, it was never going to turn around in Seattle.

Ultimately, we’re all going to remember Justin Smoak as the butt of our jokes and scorn.  The few-and-far-between Smoak Bombs.  The Smoakamotive.  That Mariners commercial where he punched down a tree to make his own bat or something.  I’ll always marvel at the sheer volume of Warning Track Fly Balls.  I’ll always shake my head and sigh at the number of times I snookered myself into believing he was ready to turn a corner at any moment.  Taking any positive as a sign of his potential to break out.  I mean, at one time he was a highly-regarded prospect!  You don’t reach that status for no reason!  In the end, he probably doesn’t have what it takes to hack it, and won’t be long for this league.

For the record, I could seriously see him raking over in Japan if he ever decides to go that way.

Justin Smoak was a failure we won’t soon forget.  Hell, he was one of the primary reasons why Jackie Z almost lost his job!  He’s definitely #1 in the All Time Jackie Z Worst Personnel Moves list, even above Figgins and Montero if you can believe it.  But, in the end, he seemed like a good enough guy who tried his hardest to live up to what we all hoped he’d be.  He never struck me as a guy who pouted or was a distraction like some other players I’d rather not point out again.  He was legitimately one of the good guys on this team that has underachieved for so long.  I won’t go so far as say that he will be missed.  I’ll just say that it would’ve been nice if he would’ve lived up to all the hype.

Part of me hopes he turns it around in Toronto.  He very well could be one of those Change of Scenery guys, but I highly doubt it.  Besides, the rest of me would be quite annoyed if he did turn it around.  Because then, he’d be just another ex-Mariner doing it for someone else when he sure as shit couldn’t do it for us.

Looking Back On The Bright Side Of The 2014 Seattle Mariners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

  • DH
  • Right Field

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Zduriencik Receives “Multi-Year” Extension

Nobody really has any idea what this means, other than Jackie Z is getting rewarded for what is really his first successful season as a general manager.  Obviously, success is measured by how well your Major League ballclub does, and this year we’re looking at a team that’s 13 games above .500.

I must say, I’ve been quite pleased with the job Z has done this year.  The Cano deal looks like a slam dunk, the trade for LoMo has been a vast improvement over Justin Smoak, and the deals at the deadline were reasonable while at the same time not giving away all of our prized young talent.

I probably see these things a little differently than most, but the bottom line is:  Kendrys Morales is an improvement over the designated hitters we’ve had here before.  Austin Jackson is an improvement over James Jones and Abe Almonte.  Chris Denorfia gives us a solid right-handed platoon in right field.

Then, you have to factor in the pitching.  The Mariners REALLY got lucky that Randy Wolf threw a hissy fit and walked, thereby opening the door for Chris Young.  Nevertheless, Z went out and got him to sign and he’s been a thrilling success story.  Same goes for Fernando Rodney, who has been tasked with locking down this bullpen for two years.  Joe Beimel was another low-cost prospect who panned out.

At this point, it’s probably easier to look at which moves DIDN’T work, because that number is much smaller.  Corey Hart is an obvious disappointment, but you had to like the reasoning behind that signing when it happened.  John Buck is a guy who didn’t really work out, but who’s going to put a guy on blast for not hitting on a backup catcher?  Willie Bloomquist has been okay, but then he got hurt, and now you wonder why we’d go out and sign him to a 2-year deal when he probably should’ve been had for less.  Granted, we needed his versatility as a utility infielder early in the season, but was he ever going to be necessary in 2015?

The point is, after starting out this year at an all-time low as far as fan confidence is concerned, Z has rebounded quite nicely.  Cautiously optimistic is probably the phrase I’d use.  It doesn’t hurt that some of the younger guys are coming around a little bit (Ackley, for instance, if this thing is indeed for real).  I mean, when you’ve got the likes of Smoak, Montero, Ackley up until a few weeks ago, the Fister deal, the Figgins signing, and the 2013 outfield all under your belt … that’s a LOT to recover from!  You’d be foolish to revert back to In Jack We Trust again, but for now, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Frankly, it’s as much as he deserves, at least until we see some sustained success over a number of years.

This extension is like giving your teenage child the keys to your car the day they receive their driver’s license.  Yeah, you “trust” them, because you have to, but that doesn’t mean you’re not constantly worried for your car’s safety every moment they’re out there alone on those city streets.

Week Four Random Mariners Thoughts

The Mariners were well on their way to a ninth straight defeat with no end in sight.  Against the Astros of all teams!  If you look at the series we’ve played, going back to the 11th, we played Oakland (very good), then Texas (still good, but not as), then Miami (pretty bad), then Houston (the worst).  In that run of games, we beat Oakland once and Texas once and that was it.  Houston was officially two outs away from sweeping us and sending us into the weekend series against Texas officially reeling without any shred of a prayer.

And then, Kyle Seager busted out of his slump in a HUGE way!  He had already homered in the 7th inning to bring the game to within one (3-2).  With runners on first and second, Seager blasted one out to right field and ended our collective misery, if only for a couple days.

Friday saw another rousing comeback, where we plated four runs in the 8th inning to take a 6-3 lead.  Friday was notable for another mini-meltdown out of Fernando Rodney.  As soon as we took that lead in the bottom of the 8th, he proceeded to give away two more to make the score 6-5.  With the bases loaded, Adrian Beltre hit a screaming liner towards the right field line that was somehow miraculously caught by Justin Smoak, who walked over to the bag for the double play.

I’m gonna be honest with you, I gave up on that Friday game pretty early on.  Our hitters let some opportunities slip in the first few innings, and the Rangers didn’t.  The last straw was the RBI double out of Beltre; the last thing I want to watch is Beltre succeeding like he’s doing.  So, I shut off the game and went to bed and woke up to the most pleasant surprise I could imagine.

The Mariners actually managed to give Felix a 3-0 lead going into the fifth inning on Saturday, but wouldn’t you know it?  This just wasn’t Felix’s day.  It also wasn’t really the bullpen’s day either, as we ended up losing 6-3.  There were chances late to come back, but three runs would be too much on this night.  Still, nice to see another homer out of Seager in this game.  And, Michael Saunders became only the second player on the team to leadoff the game, pushing Almonte to the 2-hole.

That brings us to Sunday.  Going into that game, we were winless on Sundays, and yesterday looked to continue the trend.  We were down 5-0 in the blink of an eye thanks to Brandon Maurer just not having it.  Still, I liked how we looked at the plate pretty much all day.  They shot us down in order through the first three innings, but after that, we put pressure on them pretty much every inning thereafter.  Not an easy task when you’ve got Willie Bloomquist, John Buck, and Cole Gillespie starting for you.

We slowly clawed our way back with 1 in the fourth, sixth, and seventh, leaving us at 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth, with our bullpen set on shut-down mode after Maurer left.  Two quick strikeouts figured to put an end to our fight real quick, but then Smoak doubled to left (that a better fielder probably would have caught), Ackley reached on an infield single just out of reach of Beltre at third running to his left, and once again Kyle Seager came up to bat with runners on, late in the game, with the Mariners down.

And once again, Kyle Seager won the game with a 3-run home run, his second of the game and fifth of the week (the most shocking part of all, a 1-2-3 ninth inning out of Rodney to close it out).

Let me tell you about Kyle Seager’s week, by the way.  He went into that final Astros game with a slash line of .156/.280/.219/.499.  Five days later, his line looks like this:  .228/.330/.468/.798.  That’s nearly 300 points of OPS in four games!  He had five homers (his first five of the season), 11 of his 12 RBI, and 9 of his season’s 17 hits over the last week.  In these six games, Seager went 9 of 22 and scored 8 of his season’s 10 runs.

He has these streaks in him.  That’s why everyone talks about how they don’t worry about Seager.  He’s a pro.  Like any pro, sometimes they dig themselves a huge hole.  But, if he’s worth his weight, he’ll dig himself out and make you forget all about the first three weeks of the season.  If Kyle Seager isn’t the A.L.’s player of the week, then I’ll be pissed.  I mean, he almost single-handedly won two of the last four games!

In other news, it’s nice that Almonte has finally been given a day off.  Not that I’m the biggest Michael Saunders fan in the world, but it would probably be a smart idea to go easy on the playing time of Almonte.

Stefen Romero is starting to really grow on me.  Here’s to hoping he gets more chances to play (and here’s to hoping he is actually allowed to hit against right handed pitchers once in a while).

Also, how about we scale back on the Willie Bloomquist, huh?  He’s giving me legitimate Chone Figgins flashbacks over here.

Hisashi Iwakuma can’t come back soon enough.  Right now, there are two MASSIVE black holes in our rotation.  Erasmo Ramirez probably shouldn’t be in the Major Leagues, and the same can be said for Brandon Maurer.  After today’s off-day, we play 17 games in 16 days (thanks inept Oakland groundscrew), so we might be stuck with one or both of them for the time being.  Given the way some of these starters are struggling to even go four innings, I bet we’re stuck with one of those guys as a long reliever until at least the middle of the month.

This bullpen has been plenty taxed of late.  On the plus side, if Sunday’s win against Texas is any indication, it looks like Danny Farquhar has supplanted Tom Wilhelmsen as the team’s 8th inning guy.  Baby steps for Lloyd McClendon.

#22 – James Carpenter

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2013, click here.

I think I’ve brought this up before, but it bears repeating:  on paper, the Seahawks have the best team in football.  From A to Z, if you took the best possible 53 guys currently on the Seahawks’ roster and pitted them against every other team’s best possible 53 guys, I’m telling you right now that the Seahawks would win that Paper Super Bowl.

The harsh reality is, of course, that Shit Happens.  Guys inevitably get injured.  Injuries range from guys being lost for the season before the season has even started, all the way down to Zach Miller’s foot (or, in other words, a nagging piece of shit injury that probably won’t cause him to miss any time, but will overall hamper his ability to play at an elite level all day every day).  Somewhere in the middle, we have James “Pancakes” Carpenter.

On paper, Pancakes is the guy you want in that left guard position.  Even though he started out Training Camp in the backup spot behind Paul McQuistan, you could tell that Pancakes had the inside track on this race, and it was only a matter of time before he supplanted the veteran.  Because this is a running team, and Pancakes is the team’s best run blocking offensive lineman … when he’s healthy.

And, since Shit Happens, OF COURSE Pancakes developed a foot injury prior to the first pre-season game.  This not only puts his starting job in jeopardy, but it puts his whole season in jeopardy!

There are various types of busts in sports.  There is the veteran free agent signing who comes to a new team and immediately falls off the cliff (or, the “Chone Figgins”); there is the highly-drafted sure-thing who waltzes into a starting job only to turn out to be terrible (or, the “Aaron Curry”); there is the pretty-good draft pick who may not be terrible, but whose entire career with that team is defined by the super-amazing stud the very same team passed on (or, the “Brandon Morrow”); and there is the guy you bring in who is legitimately talented and who legitimately makes your team better, but for whatever reason can’t stay on the field and whose career is over in 5 years or less (or, the “Marcus Tubbs”).  I think you know where Pancakes is slotted right now in the Periodic Table of the Bust Elements (Bustements), and I think it’s a damn shame.

Regardless of how this whole foot thing turns out, I think we can all agree that Pancakes’ football career biological clock is on its final ovarian eggs.  I mean, you can’t fuck with an offensive lineman’s knees!  Once they go, it’s only a matter of time before you’re fitting him for a microphone and a sports anchor gig (or, in this case, it’s more likely to be a video camera and a Northwest Motorsport commercial).  At this point, you don’t even hope to get a full season out of the guy.  Best-case scenario:  he’s healthy for the run-up to the playoffs and the entirety of our Super Bowl run.

If you ask me, I say don’t even bother trying to bring him back to start the regular season.  Let him rest that foot until it’s brand new.  Put him on the PUP list if you have to!  It’s not like you don’t have options.  At this point, the safest job on the entire team is Paul McQuistan:  Left Guard.  No one on Earth is supplanting this guy, so why fuck around with Carpenter at a time like this?  So he can be anywhere from 50-80% of his full abilities for most of a season before he’s shut down?  Fuck that.  Rest him, bring him in fresh.  In any given season, his shelf-life is 7 games max.  Would you rather those 7 games come at the beginning or at the end of a season?

If we can get Pancakes back for a stretch run, there’s no telling what this offense is capable of.  He makes the best rushing offense even better, and that’s just for starters.  I’d go on, but I’m getting tired just THINKING about all the pancakes we’re going to get out of this guy in the playoffs.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part I

You’ll forgive me if I’m not exactly in the most chipper of moods.  That’s what happens when some useless cunt brings bedbugs into your apartment building and you spend a sleepless week itching, cleaning, and bagging up all your shit.  Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly looking on the bright side of things.

I actually had this idea before.  It was supposed to be a series of posts dedicated to the most loathed sports figures in Seattle history.  Over two years have passed and I’ve let it go by the wayside, but while it has been neglected, the idea has not been forgotten.

The primary reason for this site’s existence is that notion that there is a Culture of Losing in Seattle.  Losing has become commonplace.  Losing has been the norm.  And losing has been accepted, which is most damning of all.  It’s the main reason why I can’t stand most Seattle sports fans, because they’ve cultivated this Everybody Gets A Trophy attitude about the sports they follow.  Granted, it’s probably HEALTHIER; it’s a hard fact of life that we certainly take sports too seriously.  But, it still pisses me off.

Oh, good try sweetie!

It doesn’t matter who wins, all that matters is how you play the game!

Well, we didn’t win, but if you had a good time that’s all that matters!

You played hard out there fellas, now let’s all go out and get some ice cream!

There’s always next year!

This is what I have to put up with whenever a Seattle team ends its season.  Nobody in Seattle ever expects to do well, so when a Seattle team makes the playoffs THAT’S a thrill in and of itself!  Like just making the playoffs is “good enough”.  Sure, winning a championship would be an incredible bonus, but isn’t being one of the top 4-8 teams in the league reward enough, you guys?

But, I suppose it’s not all the fans’ fault.  I mean, THIS is all they’ve known.  These shitty Seattle teams who have always let us down every year since 1979.  Yes, the level of shittiness fluctuates, but they’re shitty all the same because it’s been over 30 years since we’ve tasted the sweet nectar of championship victory in this city.

I have a list of people here – athletes, GMs, and owners – who are more or less universally despised.  My list is by no means complete, and I encourage anyone who has names to add to come forth and state why you feel that way.  I may eventually return to my “Seattle Hates …” series and single out these losers in their own individual posts, but for now I thought I’d just list as many as I can think of and go from there.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are far-and-away leading the pack of the most hated Seattle sports figures.  It’s almost impossible to rank them, but I’m going to give it a shot.

This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s definitely true today:  the most loathed Mariners figures of all time are now Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.  I’ve written about these two before, so I’ll keep this brief.  Rest assured, it’ll be a happy day in Seattle history when the team is sold and these two lame-asses are shit-canned.  Why they haven’t resigned in shame years ago is beyond me.

Time makes the heart grow fonder is the famous quote by some guy.  In this case, time makes the heart grow less enraged.  At one point, I would argue that no one could possibly be hated more than Bobby Ayala.  Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t fair.  Then again, I’m sitting here with my eyes closed and I can still picture it:

Ayala hurls a split-fingered fastball that hangs in the middle of the plate as he falls off of the left side of the mound.  Opposing Batter X takes a mighty hack and launches the ball into the Kingdome seats.  Ayala turns to watch the ball leave the yard as the cascading boos provide the perfect soundtrack to the four opposing runners trotting across home plate.  Ayala, takes his cap off and wipes his sweaty brow with his sleeve as Lou Pinella walks out of the dugout, pointing at his left arm.

Bobby Ayala was kind of a joke (seriously, what grown man goes by the name “Bobby”), but the target of our vitriol shouldn’t have stopped with him.  Bobby Ayala represents the total and utter futility of those Mariners bullpens from 1995 … really through 2001.  In the mid-to-late 90s, those bullpens were terrible.  Granted, we were playing in a bandbox known as the Kingdome, but still.  Even after we left that concrete prison and moved into the pitcher’s paradise that is Safeco, and even after we drastically upgraded our bullpen talent with guys like Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Kaz Sasaki, our bullpen STILL let us down.  Nevertheless, you rarely hear about Seattle fans bashing The Sheriff.  You almost NEVER hear people killing Rhodes or Sasaki.  You might get some grumbling about Heathcliff Slocumb, but who are you madder at:  the pitcher who wasn’t any good, or the bumbling idiots who traded two studs (Varitek and Lowe) for the pitcher who wasn’t any good?

Nope, the hatred always comes back to Bobby Ayala.  To this day, I don’t understand it.  But, at the time, back in the day, I could certainly condone it.

A more-recent villain in this saga of the Mariners sucking is Bill Bavasi.  I know, for me, he’s one of my most hated Seattle sports figures of all time (not involved with the Sonics leaving Seattle, that is).  This website is pretty much a love letter to how much I can’t stand that guy; I don’t know if I’ve ever gone more than a few weeks without referencing him and lamenting how terrible he is at life.  At this point, it goes without saying.  But, if you need any fuel, I suggest taking a look at his very large section of idiocy.

I don’t really have the heart to do the research on these next few guys to see who was ACTUALLY the worst as a Mariner, but I’ll give you my opinion on who I disliked the most.

I’ll start with Richie Sexson.  He was the first installment in my “Seattle Hates …” series, so I won’t go too in depth here.  What I will say is that it has always boggled my mind a little bit that Adrian Beltre never saw the same amount of invective.  He made more money than Sexson, he signed for more years, and he was coming off of this 2004 season with the Dodgers:

200 hits, 48 homers, 121 RBI, .334 batting average, 1.017 OPS

Here is what he averaged in five seasons with the Mariners:

150 hits, 21 homers, 79 RBI, .266 batting average, .759 OPS

I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m calling Steroids on this bullshit not going to make wild accusations about something I know nothing about, even though this guy doesn’t pass the smell test by any means.  For funsies, here is what Beltre averaged in the three seasons since he left Seattle:

176 hits, 32 homers, 103 RBI, .314 batting average, .912 OPS

Are you kidding me?  OK, maybe that steroids crack was out of line, but COME ON!  How are you, as supposed Mariners fans, not enraged by this?  You boo and throw money at A-Rod decades after he left for an insane deal with the Rangers … why aren’t you fucking raining down sandbags at this fucking gold-bricker???  Adrian Beltre is a fucking bullshit artist and I’m leading the bandwagon to turn the tide against him; who’s with me?  Good defense at third base?  Fuck you, go home and play with your kids.  You were brought in here to fucking hit.  You hit with the Dodgers, you hit with the Red Sox, you’ve hit with the Rangers.  Man up and quit blaming the stadium for your insecurities you fucking mental midget.

Up next, we have Chone Figgins.  Who was a much better player when everyone thought his first name was pronounced “Ch-own”.  He signed a 4-year deal and sucked more and more every year he was on this team.  What’s worse, he didn’t appear to be even remotely sorry for the fact that he was the most over-paid piece of shit in the Major Leagues.  You’d hear stories about how hard he was working behind the scenes, but then you’d watch him play and what would you see?  An emotionless pile of shit striking out.  An emotionless pile of shit letting a ground ball go right past him.  An emotionless pile of shit unable to catch a routine fly ball.  Then, after the game, whenever he’d consent to an interview, you’d hear about how he needed MORE playing time to “play his way out of it”.  Or, if by the grace of fucking God he managed to have one of his three good games as a Mariner, he’d chirp his fucking head off after the game, talking about how he’s “still got it” and how he should be playing every day.  What a motherfucker.  To the bitter end, he left here thinking that he was a legit Major Leaguer.  I suppose that’s why he was released by the Miami Marlins in Spring Training this year.

Chone Figgins is a guy who grabbed his big payday, then proceeded to dog it until he was run out of town.  He didn’t give a shit!  He got his money and that’s all he cared about.  Now, he gets to sit on his ass while making upwards of $9 million for doing absolutely nothing.

Carlos Silva is another fan favorite, if by Fan Favorite I mean guy who we’d like to tar and feather.  He was supposed to be this adequate ground baller who would earn his money tenfold by pitching in the cavernous Safeco Field.  Instead, he got shelled, constantly.  And since he was signed for so long (4 years) and for so much money ($48 million), we had to give him every opportunity to try and turn things around.  Imagine it:  you and me and most everyone we know will live our entire lives scraping by like a dog on the streets; meanwhile Carlos Silva received nearly $50 million to suck dick.  Kinda makes you want to stop following sports, doesn’t it?

I’m going to wrap up this Mariners section with some rapid-fire.  Because it’s going on far too long and because I’ve got other things to do.

Jeff Cirillo was brought in after our 116-win season to lock down third base.  He was supposed to be one of the final pieces to push us over the top as a championship contender.  Instead, he was terrible.  My booze-addled mind has mostly blacked out the Jeff Cirillo stint as a Mariner, so bully for me.

Alex Rodriguez is a different animal entirely, but I can’t leave him off this list.  Where he differs from the rest is that – as a player wearing a Mariners uniform – he was universally beloved.  A-Rod was on the fast track to being as beloved as Ken Griffey Jr.  And, had he taken less money to remain a Mariner (or, had the Mariners ponied up a proper offer, depending on which story you choose to believe), A-Rod would PROBABLY be #1 on the all-time favorite Seattle sports figure list.  Instead, the moment he signed that 10-year, $250 million deal and put on a Texas Rangers uniform, A-Rod was Public Enemy #1.

Not by me, mind you.  Even at the time, I didn’t understand the sentiment.  Who WOULDN’T take that deal?  It was the biggest deal in MLB history!  How can you fault a guy for accepting that deal when it’s universally known that the Mariners weren’t able to come CLOSE to matching?  On top of that, the deal essentially crippled the Rangers and it took him until 2009 to finally win a World Series.  He’s been a laughingstock everywhere he’s been, he doesn’t appear to know how to relate to people, he has an addiction to strip clubs and banging chicks with muscular, dude-like bodies, and – oh yeah – he’s a steroids cheat.  Even if you don’t think he would’ve helped us win a World Series in 2001-2003, don’t you think we kinda dodged a bullet by NOT having him embarrass us seemingly every year?

In recent years, there have been any number of hated Mariners, as this franchise has found new depths of ineptitude.  Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Erik Bedard, Brandon League, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brad Wilkerson, Eric Byrnes, Kenji Johjima, Casey Kotchman, Rob Johnson, Ian Snell, Jack Cust, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan … just to name a bunch.  As long as there are losing Mariners teams, there will always be people to hate.

I’m going to stop here and continue with the other teams another time.  This has been a lot more involved than I originally anticipated.