I Slept Through The Mariners Game Last Night

What’s the opposite of FOMO?  GTBMO?  Glad To Be Missing Out?  That’s what I have with the Mariners.

I didn’t watch a single minute of the Mariners last night, but I would check in on Twitter, in between catching up on episodes of Another Period.  I wanna say I finally gave up and went to sleep just after the Mariners scored to go up 2-0.  Paxton was cruising along on some crazy-low pitch count, and I figured one of two things would happen:  he’d continue to dominate and we’d get a much-needed shutout victory; or the shit would hit the fan.  And, in the case of the shit hitting the fan, let’s just say I’d rather not stay up and watch.

And so it came to pass.  Apparently Paxton passed up an opportunity to start a double play in the 8th inning, and would eventually give up 2 runs to end his night.  With a 3-2 lead, the Mariners opted to bring in their closer, even though Paxton had only tossed 78 pitches, and really only struggled for the one inning.

Now, if this were the very beginning of the season, I’d be more understanding.  You have a closer, that’s what he’s there to do:  close games.  And, early in the season, you might want to watch your starter’s pitch count or innings load.  But, we’re smack dab in the middle of this thing.  Moreover, you’ve seen what this bullpen is capable of.  It’s not exactly lockdown.  In fact, in the month of June, it was tremendously over-worked!  Now, obviously, the Mariners stunk down in Houston, and as such Cishek has had a nice, long break in between outings.

But, I’m sorry, Scott Servais is a fucking idiot for not at least bringing in Paxton to start the 9th.  This isn’t coming from some macho dude who thinks it should be like the “Good Ol’ Days” where starters finished their games on the reg.  This is from a guy who DOES, however, think it’s ridiculous to pull a starter who has thrown less than 80 pitches in a game he’s sufficiently been dominating.

And I don’t give a flying fuck what the numbers say!  Fuck your numbers!  Teams could be batting 1.000 against Paxton the 3rd or 4th time around; the Royals weren’t going to do shit against him last night!  Not based on what I’ve read, and from highlights I’ve seen.  If there was EVER a time to give your starter a chance to get the complete game, last night was it.

And instead, what happened?  The manager kowtowed to expectations.  Oooo, it’s the 9th inning, gotta get that closer in there!  Bullshit.  This group was supposed to be different, was supposed to THINK differently.  But, Servais is the same slave to convention that Lloyd McClendon was, that Eric Wedge was, that every other schmuck was who has managed the Mariners since their inception.

What a collosal disappointment.  Football season can’t start soon enough.

Mariners Hire Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Sports World Goes Right On Not Giving A Shit

Lloyd McClendon has been the hitting coach for a successful Detroit Tigers team for many a moon.  Prior to that, he was the manager for a terrible Pittsburgh Pirates team for fewer moons.  Prior to that, I guess he was a Major League baseball player, mostly a backup/utility-type guy.  All I can say is:  at least we’re not getting another fucking former catcher.

Seriously?  What’s with all the catchers?  What makes a shitty, no-hitting catcher so qualified to manage baseball teams?  Not for nothing, but wouldn’t you want a guy who was successful at being a baseball player?  I dunno.  It probably doesn’t matter.  But, if you insist on going the former-player route, you might as well go with someone good.

I have no opinion on the Lloyd McClendon hire, just like I had no opinion on the Eric Wedge hire, just like I probably had no opinion on the … whoever the hell it was before Wedge.  Wak?  There was someone in between for a few months, right?  I dunno, who can keep track?  More importantly, who WANTS to keep track?  These are the Mariners!  By the time you finish that there cigarette, it’ll be time for the Mariners to hire a new one!

Honestly – and I know most people probably won’t give a shit about this – the most important aspect of the Mariners hiring McClendon isn’t his track record of working with great hitters, nor is it his experience handling a young, inexperienced ballclub.  No, the most important thing is the fact that he is one of, like what, three black baseball managers currently in the game?  I’m not saying that makes him qualified, or that he will be any GOOD, but I’m just sayin’.  It’s something.  Good for the Mariners.  Who knows, maybe it’ll buy us some karma points.

Like I said, I can’t get too excited about this.  Have you seen our players?  Have you seen our upper management?  Have you seen this team over the past decade?  Lloyd McClendon could be the second-coming of … whoever was the best baseball manager in the history of the universe, and we’d still finish somewhere below .500.  Or, we’ll throw away all of our young prospects in a feeble attempt to win now and STILL finish somewhere below .500.

I’ll tell you one thing, though.  Those Mariners commercial guys are going to have a field day with that incident where McClendon walked away with a base after being ejected by an umpire.  And, at least we should have some exciting, heated arguments to look forward to the next time Felix gets squeezed by the strike zone; a little McClendon/C.B. Bucknor action!  Who doesn’t love a good managerial tirade?

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part III: Looking Ahead

Catch Part I HERE.
Catch Part II HERE.

First thing’s first, we’re going to need a manager.  I guess.  There’s a pretty compelling argument to just go without.  Jokes are funny and all, but why the Hell NOT go without a manager?  It literally could not get any worse.  Well, I suppose it could; someone could kidnap me, tie me to a chair, and force me to watch all 162 games of this team next season.

To clear up some misconceptions, Eric Wedge did not quit.  He simply let his contract expire, then chose to not re-sign with the team.  You know how they always have those deals to get ESPN The Magazine for, like, five bucks for a 1-year subscription, and you do it because you want to get ESPN Insider for, like, five bucks?  And then the deal runs out and you’ve got to start paying full price, so you let your subscription to The Magazine lapse because who in their right mind actually reads ESPN The Magazine?  The Seattle Mariners are the ESPN The Magazine of Major League Baseball manager jobs.  Although, with the magazine subscription, you get a nice little bonus by having Insider for a year; I can’t imagine what the bonus is for managing the Mariners.  A few million dollars?  Do baseball managers make millions of dollars?  They probably do, right?

So, the Mariners are going to hire a new manager.  They’ll most likely HAVE to sign this person to a 2- or 3-year deal, because who’s going to sign for one year?  That means, of course, that our new manager will theoretically have more job security than our current General Manager, but like Howard Lincoln said a few weeks back, it’s not like you can’t fire someone in the middle of his deal.  So, let’s not get too caught-up in the length of the manager’s deal.  He’s on a 1-year trial-run just like everyone else.

And, they’re going after the usual suspects:  bench coaches, former managers, whathaveyou.  I’ve already stated what I think the Mariners should do, but they’ll never listen to me.  What is the one organization that seems to get it right all the time?  The St. Louis Cardinals.  They’re the San Antonio Spurs of MLB.  Shit, they’re the Pittsburgh Steelers of MLB!  This is an organization that is almost ALWAYS in the playoffs and contending for division titles!  And when they’re down, they’re not down long.  If you want to model your organization after anyone, it’s the Cardinals.

So, pull your heads out of your asses, Mariners!  Blow this whole thing up, take the St. Louis GM’s second-in-command to replace Jackie Z, and go from there!  What did the Sonics/Thunder do when they wanted to turn things around in a hurry?  They poached from San Antonio to get Sam Presti (who has done a phenomenal job since day 1, even with their salary constraints down in OKC).  What did the Seahawks do when they wanted to turn things around in a hurry?  They poached from another elite NFL organization, the Green Bay Packers, to get John Schneider (who, with Pete Carroll, has rebuilt a cellar-dwelling franchise in three short years).  It makes sense, and the best part is, you don’t even have to think about it!  I’ve done all the thinking for you!

If you want to be a winning organization, you don’t steal from the Milwaukee Brewers!  They had, like, a couple good years after about a million terrible ones!  You don’t go after the teams in your division and try to steal their talent, just because you play them the most and you’re most familiar with them.  Let’s think just a LITTLE outside the box on this one.  Cardinals.  I want to root for the Cardinals.  So, become the Cardinals, however you think you can manage that.

Of course, that’s never going to happen as long as we have the current organizational structure in place.  This team SO needs to be sold, it’s not even funny anymore.  You’re telling me we can’t get Mark Cuban to pay top dollar for the Seattle Mariners?  Say what you will about him, but when he bought the Mavericks, they were the fucking joke of the NBA.  It was his passion, his foresight, his money, and his personality that made them into the champions they became.  If he’s as interested in owning a baseball team as I seem to remember him being, he could very well be the Paul Allen to our Seattle Seahawks.

This isn’t the same situation as we had with the Sonics.  Our lease-agreement with Safeco Field isn’t about to run out anytime soon.  So, even if out-of-town investors come in to buy the team, it doesn’t mean we’re in immediate danger of losing baseball in the Pacific Northwest.  And, quite frankly, I don’t see the Mariners EVER leaving Seattle, no matter who buys it or how bad it gets around here.  The Mariners represent a whole, huge region of the United States and Canada!  MLB isn’t going to lose this foothold because some owner wants to bring this team to Nebraska or some shit.

Anyone.  Anyone, come and buy this team!  Save us all from our cruel and thoughtless overlords!  We’re never going to climb out of this nosedive until new ownership is set in place!

As for players to bring in, I don’t know what to tell you.  Read this comment from yesterday’s post on the subject; this guy’s got some valid and intelligent points.  Nobody wants to come to Seattle.  Because apparently everyone lives in Florida and would rather play for a team that has Spring Training there.  Shit, even people FROM SEATTLE don’t want to come here!  Unless they’re a million years old, coming off three surgeries, and absolutely can’t get a hint of an offer anywhere else.

I hope you’re not tired of hearing things like “youth movement” and “building from within”, because it’s not going to stop anytime soon.  To attract quality veterans, and not completely break the bank in the process, you have to actually develop a solid core.  Right now, the Mariners have two guys:  Felix & Seager.  That’s our proven core.  Everyone else is too young to have a strong opinion on (Franklin, Miller, Zunino) or we’re praying on our hands and knees they figure it out and turn their careers around (Ackley, Smoak, Saunders).  Either way, you can’t count anyone but Felix & Seager in our core, because they haven’t proven dick over the long haul!

You can’t have a core of two people and expect to attract quality.  So, what are our options?  Well, obviously we’re looking at another extended run with Zunino, Miller, and probably Franklin.  They might have to put Nick back in Tacoma if he doesn’t get off to a good start in the month of April, but the other two have probably bought themselves a little longer bit of leash.

Everyone is talking about the Mariners making a huge push for Jacoby Ellsbury, but I dunno.  Yeah, he’s certainly going to be an upgrade over who we have now in the outfield, but big deal.  A guy at a quarter of his cost would be an upgrade!  I’m just kinda over the whole High-Priced Free Agent in baseball.  They almost NEVER pan out!  Because you’re paying them based on what they’ve already done.  Just because they’ve hit one way for the last three or four years doesn’t mean they’re automatically destined to hit that way for the next six or seven.  And even if they do, does that make them worth upwards of $20 million a year?

I know, in the past, I’ve been pounding the drum for the Mariners to start spending money like some of the other elite ballclubs in baseball, but I’ve come to realize that there’s a big difference between spending multiple millions of dollars on your own homegrown studs vs. going out and spending top dollar on other teams’ studs who no longer want them.

This is baseball.  If a player is worth it, he will spend his very best years with the team that drafted him.  If you want to be a winning franchise, you do whatever you can to keep your in-house talent.  That’s why guys like Joey Votto and Joe Mauer and Justin Verlander sign these huge extensions even before they hit the free agent market.  The best of the best don’t tend to go anywhere.  It’s these other guys, guys like Ellsbury and Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton who hit the market.  Guys who are huge question marks.  Guys who command extremely long deals and extremely high amounts of money.  Guys who realistically are getting their final “big deals” in baseball; for the next deals they sign will be after they’re already over-the-hill and just trying to cling to former glories.  These are the guys you really DON’T want.  Because eventually they’ll break down, and more often than not it’ll be sooner rather than later.

You think the Tigers would pay over $200 million for Prince Fielder NOW?  Of course not.  Ditto the Angels with Hamilton & Pujols.  Because they paid for what those players did in the past, not what they would do going forward.

So, quite frankly, I hope the Mariners DON’T sign someone in the free agent leftover bin to a huge contract.  Why should they?  It’s not like we’re one or two players away from contending anyway.  If this team really is gearing up for a big sale in two years when their deal with Root Sports kicks in, then I’d almost rather the Mariners keep treading water with these short-term deals to make them more attractive for potential buyers.  Not because I necessarily care about this current ownership group getting their full money’s worth, but because I don’t want them to get cold feet thanks to a tepid market.

Any way you slice it, I’m not expecting anything out of the 2014 Mariners.  They can go out and crush the free agent market, make all the ESPN headlines, sign the top two or three guys out there to gargantuan deals, maybe make a couple of win-now trades to put the Mariners on everybody’s radar, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.  Likewise, they can go out there, make some value-signings for the short term, and continue to rely on the kids, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.

Or, shit, they can do absolutely nothing, fill in roster spots with guys in the organization, hire a chimp to be our skipper, and they’ll still most likely end up 3rd or 4th in the AL West.

This is not the time to get excited about the Seattle Mariners.  This is the time to collect as many cans of food as you can, buy toilet paper in bulk, fill up your freezer with cuts of meat, load up your shed to the rooftop with chopped wood, and hunker down with a few hundred unread books for the winter.  As a Mariners fan, we’re in the most brutal stretch of winter we’ve been in since the 1980s (when I was happily unaware of any of the goings on of this team, because I was a child who blissfully hated baseball).  We’re Jack Torrance, the Mariners are the Overlook Hotel, and it’s now a battle against our own sanity.  How long can we withstand this harsh, unforgiving winter before we break and start chopping down doors and chasing our families around with an ax?  I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m starting to see Lloyd the bartender everywhere I go.  And my wife’s starting to REALLY get on my nerves …

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, September 2013 Edition

Remember last month when I said that I had checked out of the Mariners?  I wasn’t joking.  Here are two things I gleaned by paying cursory attention to this team in the month of September:

  1. Eric Wedge decided to let his contract expire without signing the extension offered to him by the organization.
  2. James Paxton looked pretty good.

That’s it.

The Mariners finished September with a 9-18 record, which was their worst month of the season.  Granted, we played a lot of teams who either made the playoffs or were close to making the playoffs, but that’s just a terrible month any way you slice it.

I’m going to get around to doing some sort of State of the Union post on the 2013 Mariners and how things look going forward, so I’ll keep this one brief.

Here is all you need to know about the Seattle Mariners in the month of September, 2013:  they played the Houston Astros four times (three at home, with a solo road game that spilled over into this month from a 4-game series that started at the end of August) and they lost all four games.

Now, we have no manager, and the organization is scrambling to do every possible interview it can to stem the tidal wave of indifference that’s overwhelming this team.  Literally within seconds of one another last night, Greg Johns and Ryan Divish tweeted about separate interviews they did with Howard Lincoln.  Normally, this would be like throwing raw meat to a rabid dog for me, but I just don’t think I can muster up the hate anymore.

My inevitable divorce with this team is in the “Sleeping In Separate Beds” phase.  We both know there is a problem – they’re always quick to acknowledge what they’ve done wrong in the personnel realm while at the same time hyping up what little they’ve done right, though at this point it’s falling on deaf ears.  I don’t feel like I can trust this team anymore, because they’ve lied and cheated so much over this rocky period in our relationship.  They keep saying the same things, “I can change!  I can change!”  But, then they fall back into their same old habits and routines of hiring mediocre veterans and managers and front office people.  At some point, “Let’s stay together for the kids” loses its impact.  THE KIDS ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE TOO!

The Seattle Mariners have until Felix Hernandez graduates high school and moves out of the house.  If they haven’t started winning by then, I’m starting divorce proceedings.  Baseball is a boring, overrated sport anyway.

The Mariners Are The Abomination Of Obama’s Nation

It’s been a veritable Era Of Good Feelings around these parts for the past month or so, what with the Seahawks and Huskies going a combined 6-0 to start their seasons.  You could say that I’ve seemingly lost sight of this website’s mission statement (then again, you could also say that I’m really going overboard on all the Sunshine & Lollipops sentiment to set myself up for the big, heartbreaking fall when everything turns to shit, but you didn’t hear that from me).

But, of course, you have to factor in how it has been 4 weeks since I’ve written anything about the Seattle Mariners.  I’d venture to say that ANYONE’S outlook on life would be a little rosier if they chose to blatantly ignore the worst thing in the world.

Eric Wedge just said that he’d be leaving the team after the weekend series with the A’s.  There’s your impetus for this particular post.  With this news comes a range of emotions, mostly negative.  Here’s what it boils down to:  prior to the season (and/or during the season), the organization came to Wedge and said they’d like to sign him to an extension through 2014.  They did the same thing to Jackie Z and he signed (news of his extension came out sometime mid-season as a bit of a shock, because no news came with it about Wedge).  As the year has drawn to a close, everyone wanted to know what they were going to do with Wedge.  His having a stroke back in July muddied things, as strokes are wont to do, and we all wondered, “Would the Mariners fire Wedge while retaining Jackie Z?”  How does that even work, anyway?  Who in their RIGHT MIND would come into this situation knowing that the general manager is on the shortest of short leashes?

As a bit of a tangent, I’d like to comment on something Jackie Z said on the radio last night.  It’s something to the effect of, “Organizations fire managers & general managers all the time, so length of contract really shouldn’t matter.”  That is 100% true.  There is nothing stopping this team from signing Jackie Z or Eric Wedge to crisp, new 5-year extensions and then firing them after the 2014 season when we inevitably go 70-92 again.  And yet, the organization is even unwilling to do THAT.  What does it say about the situation – the fucking QUAGMIRE – we’re in now that this organization is unwilling to do what literally every other organization does?  Things are so bad here, we can’t even fake it by giving guys extensions of more than a single year.

Knowing that, getting back to my last point:  no self-respecting manager is going to sign with the Seattle Mariners knowing that the general manager is on the final year of his deal and is apparently on a year-to-year situation like a guy at the end of his apartment lease who is going month-to-month until he can find a better home.  Because when that general manager is inevitably fired, guess what!  You’re fired too, because the new GM is going to want to hire HIS guy.  Period.

Eric Wedge, of course, IS a self-respecting manager.  He knows it’s bullshit to be hung out to dry with these 1-year extensions.  He has the balls to do what Jackie Z couldn’t:  tell the Mariners to take their 1-year deal and SHOVE IT UP THEIR ASSES!  Eric Wedge would rather be an unemployed dick in the yard with the stigma of a “quitter” around the rest of the Major Leagues (which will ultimately be brought up every time he tries to find another job) than accept your bullshit offer of temporary job security.

Here’s the thing, though:  in the end, I don’t know if I’m all that upset to see Eric Wedge go.  Some people are glad he’s gone and think he was actively hurting the organization with his in-game tactics and his dependency on “leadership” over outright talent.  Trying to shove one of the worst defensive outfields in the history of baseball down our throats (featuring a regular spot for Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse) even though what those guys bring to the plate is far out-weighed by their ineptitude in the field and on the basepaths.  I find it hard to believe that there are too many people all that broken up about Wedge leaving; the best I’ve heard about him so far is that the way the guys have played this season isn’t all his fault.  Not really a ringing endorsement, if you ask me.

In the end, this decision of Wedge’s – and the revelation that the organization has been dicking around with him in this way – brings about more boiling contempt for the people at the top.  It’s yet another excuse to bemoan the fact that Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are still twiddling their dicks at the top of this sinking fucking disaster.  While all signs point to this organization setting itself up for a record-breaking sale (no long-term contracts outside of Felix Hernandez, the new TV deal set to kick in in 2015, one of the smaller payrolls in baseball even though we’re far from the smallest market in baseball), that doesn’t change how things are right now.

Right now?

Right now there is no reason to expect that things will ever change.  Because we have no reason to expect them to change.  The organization has denied all rumors linking this team to a potential sale.  Of course, if there WAS a potential sale, they would be saying the same thing, because no one wants to queer the deal by having a bunch of reporters actively digging into the negotiations.  On the flipside, you can’t ignore the possibility that, for once, the Seattle Mariners AREN’T lying right to our faces.  Maybe there ISN’T any plan in place to sell the team within the next year or two!  Maybe this fucking horse shit is going to go on FOR-FUCKING-EVER!

If there was any question as to whether the Mariners are the worst organization in all of baseball, let Wedge’s decision put your worries to rest.  The Seattle Mariners are THE WORST ORGANIZATION IN ALL OF BASEBALL!  Someone needs to make a giant banner, climb the facade of Safeco Field, and hang it for the world to see.  The Mariners, by default, are in the running for Worst Organization in All of Professional Sports, with the likes of the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and I don’t know enough about the NBA or NHL, but I would assume the likes of the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and the Washington Wizards.  Worst Organization of All Time?  That puts the Mariners in the running with the recent Los Angeles Clippers (before they miraculously got good), Cincinnati Bengals, the Matt Millen-led Detroit Lions, Portland Jailblazers, and the Maloof-led Sacramento Kings.

Here’s something:  when do you ever see a baseball manager quit?  Answer:  you don’t.  You don’t!  It just doesn’t fucking happen!  There are 30 of these jobs in Major League Baseball; it’s one of the most-coveted jobs in all of sports.  You get paid millions of dollars to sit around and “manage” a baseball team.  What does that even mean?  You set lineup cards and make pitching changes and hope like crazy that your players come through in the clutch.  And, if you’re Joe Maddon, you play around with your infield defensive alignment.  That’s pretty much it!  You toss in some tirades when the going gets tough, you talk to the media day-in and day-out, and you get winters off to relax when it’s all over.  Hell, you play your cards right and you’re finished by the end of September; who are these suckers working their fingers to the bone in October anyway?  Mamas’ boys!  Teachers’ pets!

And here is Wedge, throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime, because he has enough pride and self-worth to know that this is a bullshit organization.  And even if he never again gets another opportunity to manage a baseball team, it’s still better than the alternative:  one more fucking year with the Seattle Mariners.

Lou Piniella quit after the 2002 season.  Since then, the Mariners have ran through 7 managers in 11 seasons.  Three were fired, two quit, and two were interim managers not retained past their partial seasons.  Just because I don’t place a lot of importance on what a manager actually DOES for a baseball team doesn’t mean I can’t see the problem with this.  While I’m a skeptic, players aren’t.  Players already in this organization want stability.  More importantly, players OUTSIDE this organization want stability, if they even THINK about considering Seattle as a potential landing spot.

While building your team through free agency isn’t necessarily the smartest plan for a franchise that has intentions on winning, the fact remains that this team will need to supplement the talent we have in place with guys outside the organization.  By all accounts, the Mariners have money to spend and the willingness to spend it.  And yet, who in his right mind would sign with this team, considering all the instability at the manager and general manager positions?  I’ll tell you who:  the same dickless bottom-feeders we’ve seen for the last decade.  Your Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman types.  Guys clinging for dear life WELL past their sell-by dates!  Hope you enjoyed Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and the like, because that’s who you’re getting for 2014!

The outlook for the 2014 season is so unbelievably bleak, I don’t even know why I bother.  I should just cut ties with this fucking mess right now and get it over with.  What’s the point?  Sitting around, watching a bunch of .240 hitters, with a bunch of feast-or-famine pitchers (and Felix and Iwakuma)?

The other day, I asked a buddy of mine if he would even miss the Seattle Mariners if they said they were going to pick up and move to Albuquerque tomorrow.  He said he would, but not me.  At this point in the season, where I’m at my most fed-up with this fucking team, I wouldn’t give two shits if the Seattle Mariners left my life forever.  Most likely, I’d follow Felix around and root for whatever team he played for.  Then, when he retires, I’d retire my desire for baseball, probably forever.

Hiroshi Yamauchi died on September 19th and a lot of tributes were written.  Most of them were positive, as he purchased the team when it was still in a state of flux.  The Seattle Mariners very nearly moved to Tampa Bay and if they’d done so, we never would have enjoyed that 1995 season and all the good times that followed, through 2001.  Of course, there was a decent amount of negativity written as well.  Yamauchi was an absentee owner, there’s no other way to say it.  I don’t care if he never attended a Mariners game, and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad thing that he was as hands-off as he was.  There are too many cases of meddling owners fucking things up in the world of sports.  Honestly, Yamauchi was a refreshing change in that regard.  Nevertheless, you can’t ignore the fact that he put Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong in charge.  In spite of countless pleas from I would say about 98% of the Mariners fanbase, he stuck by them and left them in charge.  You can’t even say their names during the Hall of Fame ceremony for Ken Griffey Jr. without expecting a cascade of boos from an otherwise cheery crowd!  I understand the importance of loyalty as much as the next guy, but Howard and Chuck are the biggest fucking boobs on the planet!

So, yeah, Yamauchi gets a lot of credit for “saving baseball in Seattle” as well as a lot of flak for allowing the organization to suck as much dick as it has this past decade-plus.  But, why doesn’t anyone comment on the fact that Yamauchi could have saved us a LOT of headaches by simply NOT buying the Seattle Mariners and letting them inevitably move to Tampa Bay?

I became a fan of the Seattle Mariners during their stretch run of 1995.  Before that year, I hadn’t seen a single baseball game, and I was 14 at the time!  It was football, then basketball with me (and to this day, still is).  Had the Mariners moved in 1992 or whenever the fuck, I never would’ve had the opportunity to be sucked in!  Seattle would have lost Major League Baseball and to this day we probably would have yet to get it back (or, we’d currently be the Seattle Rays, who with proper ownership, would be contending for annual playoff spots).

Yes, we would lose all of those wonderful memories of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez and all of that.  But we’d gain years of our lives back!  Years where we wouldn’t have to dwell on the piss-poor baseball being played in our own backyard!  Is it really better to have loved & lost than to have never loved at all?  I don’t know!  What if that “love” of which you speak is never really lost, but sticks with you, festering?  Soured by years of neglect and taking one another for granted.  Hiroshi Yamauchi could have done me a real solid by looking at the offer to purchase the Seattle Mariners and saying, “No thanks.”

Who knows?  Maybe I would’ve become a baseball fan anyway.  Maybe I would’ve become one of those insufferable Red Sox fans back in 2004.  Yeah, we mock all of those Bellevue Red Sox fans, but do you know how many fucks they give?  Zero.  Zero fucks.  Because, right or wrong, they root for a team that has won two titles in the past decade.  They root for a team that knows how to win and make the playoffs consistently.  They root for an organization that has one down year and then immediately reloads for another pennant chase.  AND, they don’t have to live in Boston, so it’s win-win-win-win-win.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, July 2013 Edition

Well, that 8-game winning streak sure was fun, right?

April, May, June.  What’s the buzzword for July?  What’s my overarching feeling about this Mariners team as we head into the final two months of the season?  Meh.  That’s how I feel.  Meh.  The Mariners picked up five games in their quest to finish the season at .500, with a 15-10 record in July.  The Mariners had a CHANCE to do so much more, but of course because they’re the Mariners, they couldn’t let a month go by without double-digit losses.

July started out rock-solid, with a 4-2 road trip against the likes of Texas and Cincinnati.  Then, the Mariners came crashing down to Earth with a 3-1 series defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  I’m sure everyone was thinking as I was, “Same ol’ Mariners,” but then something amazing happened.

Yes, the 8-game winning streak.  The streak that defined the month.  Three over the Angels, three over the Astros, and two more over the Indians.  Things were looking VERY good.  The delusional among us were even contemplating the impending possibility of playoff contention.  Then, the Mariners split a 4-game series to the lowly Twins and followed that up with these last two road losses to the Red Sox.  This 2-5 finish has really put a damper on what was once an exciting month.

I said it last night and I’ll say it again:  my opinion on the Mariners’ month of July totally depended on how yesterday’s game ended.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  A second consecutive defeat to the Red Sox meant it was yet another series the Mariners wouldn’t win.  More than that, it’s the ultimate example of how the Mariners are not There yet.  They’re not a player.  They would have no business being in the playoffs, because there are still truly great teams out there like the Red Sox to thump us back down the beanstalk.

But, what does that mean?  Yesterday was one game.  It was the difference between either 15-10 or 16-9.  I say that knowing full well it’s a ludicrous statement, and yet here we are.  I wouldn’t call July a failure, but it’s certainly a disappointment considering it could’ve been so much better.  Tack on a couple more wins – last night’s game and the Felix nine-inning no-decision to the Twins – and I’m a lot more pleased.  But, what are you gonna do?  They are who they are.

July saw the return of Erasmo Ramirez, which also meant we got to say goodbye to Jeremy Bonderman.  Win/win.  July also saw the fracturing of the hamate bone of Mike Zunino, which also means Henry Blanco is now a semi-full time starter along with some other scrub.  Lose/lose.  Mike Morse returned from the DL and Jason Bay was DFA’d … same/same.  Eric Wedge had a minor stroke and has been away from the team for the last couple weeks … let’s move on.

August is going to suck.  I’m just going to put that out there right now.  The Mariners won’t be going on any 8-game winning streaks this month; nor will they end the month with a winning record.  Raul Ibanez is in the toilet right now.  Miller and Franklin have their good days and their dreadful days.  The bottom of our lineup includes a pile of crap (Ackley), a pile of crap that plays good defense (Saunders), and a cover-your-eyes honest-to-goodness shit-hole that is whoever is catching that day.  Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales are the only two people batting worth a damn, the team is jerking around Smoak’s playing time in favor of watching Morse strike out five times a day (three in the game and two more in the batting cage just for practice), and at this point I don’t even know why Brendan Ryan is even on the team anymore.

Oh, and by the way, why are the Mariners so insistent on playing Ackley in center and bumping Saunders over to one of the corner outfield spots?  Ackley’s arm is terrible, his range isn’t all that great, and he’s clearly the inferior defender.  You’re supposed to hide those types of guys in left field!  But, then again, I guess they really can’t when they’re already hiding Ibanez’s broken ass in left.  Hey, here’s a great idea:  play a 41 year old every fucking day because he was on a hot streak for a month.  That’s a genius way to make sure the guy gets overworked and turns into a pathetic flailing mess at the plate!

Defying all expectations, Aaron Harang is still a thang (!).  I give it two more weeks before the team picks up whatever triple-A pitcher is going best and dumps Harang on his ass (James Paxton alert!  Please keep going on that roll you’re on!).

Felix is still mowing people down and looks like he’s got the inside track for the Cy Young Award.  That’s exciting.  Iwakuma is still plugging along, though he won’t be getting any Cy Young consideration.  Joe Saunders is Joe Saunders.  Erasmo is still working the kinks out, but I fully expect him to deliver a quality outing any time now.

The bullpen feels to me like it has been slightly better of late.  I know it’s hard to judge, what with the late-game & extra-innings defeats lately.  Wilhelmsen has his closer’s job back.  The team didn’t trade Oliver Perez.  Hector Noesi was sent back to Tacoma recently (hopefully for good).  And I can’t bring myself to talk about anyone else.

Like I said, I fully expect August to be terrible.  But, that’s okay, because one week from today, we’ll be looking at the first Seahawks pre-season game.  And even if the starters only play a couple of drives, who cares?  It’s football!  Football isn’t baseball!  Which means that football is good!  God I hate baseball with all of my being!

Mariners Complete First Sweep Of The Season

I decided to get my sports nerd on this weekend.  It all started on Saturday morning.  I was coming off of a night of comedy at the Moore Theater (Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary treated us to the likes of Marc Maron, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Jon Benjamin, Jon Glaser, Kyle Dunnigan, and Kurt Braunohler.  Somehow, I escaped the night unscathed by hangover, which left me most of the day Saturday to fuck around (before going to the Sub Pop music fest in Georgetown that night, featuring Mudhoney & Built To Spill).

On a lark, I started following DJ’s Sportscards on Facebook and noted they had a 25% off sale in celebration of their 25th anniversary.  As a child, I collected massive amounts of football cards.  Starting in 1988 and running through 1990 (with a little spillover into 1991), I was treated to a pack or two of football cards every week (as I had pretty nasty allergies and had to go in for allergy shots 1-2 times a week).  1988 Topps (of which I now have a complete set), 1989 Pro Set, Topps, and Score (of which I have a smattering), and 1990 Pro Set (of which I now have a complete set, which is pretty massive and required a lot of help from eBay).  My furor for buying packs of cards started to wane in 1991 (my tenth year of existence) in favor of buying individual cards of my most favorite players (which would cost more money, but were much more satisfying to display).

Over time, I gave up on football cards altogether in an effort to amass the biggest collection of rock n’ roll compact discs you’ve ever seen (at one point, I was signed up for Columbia House’s CD club under three different family names, to buy the minimum and quit, before starting all over again).  Nowadays, I keep my sports memorabilia to a minimum.  Part of that has to do with the fact that there haven’t been too many Seattle sports stars of late that I’ve wanted to openly display my affection for.  Part of that has to do with me not having a whole lot of disposable income (until recently).

But, with the knowledge of Felix’s long-term extension, and with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman on the Seahawks, I can feel the bug starting to burrow itself into the part of my brain that’s willing to throw money around in large clumps.

So, with nothing else to do on Saturday, I went to DJ’s Sportscards and bought a box of 2012 Topps football cards (specifically 2012 Topps Magic).  24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, with a guarantee of 3 autographs per box.  Truth be told, these are some pretty cool-looking cards, with lots of different types of random inserts (and, for some reason, identical cards that are 2/3 the size of a normal card).  I was hoping to get a rookie Russell Wilson, but no dice.  I did get two different RGIII rookies, two different Luke Kuechly rookies, two different Doug Martin rookies, two different LaMichael James rookies, a Kirk Cousins rookie and a Stevan Ridley rookie.  And, for some local flavor, I got a Jermaine Kearse rookie, a Sidney Rice, a Robert Turbin rookie, a Chris Polk rookie (for some reason, even though he hardly played last season), a Golden Tate, and a Bobby Wagner rookie.  The signed cards were less than impressive:  Quinton Coples, Ryan Broyles, and Montario Hardesty.  Also, randomly, this set includes some old timers, so I have the likes of Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders.  One box gets me nowhere NEAR the complete set, but I like them enough to at least make a second attempt at a box (which is pretty pricey at over $100, so suffice it to say this won’t be a weekly endeavor).

Which leads me into Sunday, where I woke up once again sans hangover.  At around 10am, with a 1:10pm first pitch, I decided to head over to the Mariners game.  I left my apartment at 11, walked to the Link tunnel downtown, and was inside Safeco by noon-ish.  I bought a ticket at the box office and it was like the lady could read my mind!  I told her I wanted an outfield seat.  She said she could get me in the third row in the lower right field, but if I wanted to sit back a ways, I wouldn’t be surrounded by so many people.  I told her that sounds delightful, let’s try to get me on an aisle.  So, I sat in the first seat in the last row in section 108 and pretty much had the row to myself for the first couple innings before people started filling in around me.

The Mariners featured a dream line-up for me (which goes to show you how uninteresting my dreams are):

  1. Brad Miller (SS)
  2. Nick Franklin (2B)
  3. Raul Ibanez (LF)
  4. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Justin Smoak (1B)
  7. Michael Saunders (RF)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Dustin Ackley (CF)

Sundays are so often squandered with giving guys days off (or “rest” even though, come on, it’s baseball, you can’t play every day?) and playing your bench.  I can’t stand it!  But, we were treated to a day without Jason Bay, without Henry Blanco, without Brendan Ryan, and without Endy Chavez.  Who could ask for anything more?

On the line, we had a bunch of compelling stories.  First and foremost, would the Mariners extend their team-record string of games with a home run to 22?  Answer:  yes, thanks to Michael Saunders’ two-run bomb in the second inning to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Also on the line:  would guys like Miller, Franklin, Seager, and Smoak continue their hot-hitting ways?  Answer:  yeah, sort of.  Miller went 1-4 with a run scored to bring his slash line to .246/.324/.393.  It’s not the best line you’ve ever seen, but after a semi-slow start, it’s exciting to see what this kid is capable of.  Franklin went 0-1 with three walks in his first three plate appearances, to bring his slash line to .268/.337/.451.  He’s a little on-base machine and it looks like he’s going to be putting up high-quality at-bats and making life miserable for opposing pitchers for years to come.  Seager went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, to bring his team-leading line to .293/.359/.488.  This guy is going to be a perennial All Star VERY soon.  And, finally, Smoak went 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a run scored to bring his line to a very-respectable .272/.372/.431.  Those are four guys who represent a core foundation for this team.  When was the last time we could say we had four hitters we could count on?

Shit, fuck that, because there’s also Ibanez and Morales to consider.  SIX!  Six guys we can count on in our line-up!  Unreal.

The third storyline:  what about our struggling youngsters?  Saunders, Zunino, and Ackley.  Well, like I said above, Saunders had that 2-run homer in his 1-3 day.  He’s currently batting .225, but it feels like any time now he’s going to go on a hot streak and bring that up to the .260-.270 range.  Zunino, I would argue, is looking better every day.  He had a hit and a sac-fly to bring in a run (in a text-book manufactured run-scoring situation in the fourth inning, with a single, a walk, and a Saunders sac-fly preceeding Zunino’s RBI).  Also, Zunino’s strong throwing arm makes me quiver with sexual excitement, so there’s that.  Ackley, unfortunately, has not brought his success in Tacoma with him to the Majors.  He went 0-4 and is still batting .205.  His at-bats don’t look QUITE as hopeless as before he was sent down, but he’s not getting any kind of results either.

The final storyline going into this game was Hisashi Iwakuma.  Coming into this game, he was riding a string of five consecutive sub-par starts:

  • 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts in Oakland
  • 7 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts vs. Oakland
  • 8 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts vs. Chicago Cubs
  • 6 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 1 walks, 2 strikeouts in Texas
  • 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts vs. Boston

All told, that’s five starts, a little less than 6 innings per, with 6 and a half hits per, 4 and a half runs per, less than 4 strikeouts per, and a whopping 10 total homers.  Not good numbers for any starting pitcher, but ESPECIALLY not good for a guy going into his first All Star Game.  You’ve got people talking about how he didn’t deserve the honor (even though he had the American League’s leading ERA when he was picked) and you even have people talking about trading him at this year’s deadline to see what we can salvage from him.  For the record, I don’t think we should trade him.  I think he had a cold streak as all pitchers do.  Still, it was important for him to come out and be on top of his game.

And, to his credit, he was very strong against the Angels.  7 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 homer, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.  The homer was a solo shot by Mark Trumbo, but for the most part he was able to keep them off-balance and spread the hits out.  After a shaky 6th inning where he gave up 2 runs to bring the game to within a run, I thought Wedge was playing with fire by keeping him in there.  At that point, batters 1-8 had all seen him three times (with #9 hitter Erick Aybar already having gone 2-2).  Yes, his pitch count was low (in the 80s), but with the top of the lineup (featuring best player in the game Mike Trout in the 2-hole) coming up in the 7th, I didn’t like our chances.  But, again to his credit, Iwakuma went out there and shut ’em down in order (punctuating it with a strikeout of Trout).

Which brought up a bonus storyline:  how would the bullpen fare?  To be sure, the bullpen has struggled to say the least this season.  Not this time, however, as Furbush nailed down the 8th inning hold and Tom Wilhelmsen (still in a sort of time-share with the closing duties) locked up his 19th save of the season.  I like Wilhelmsen (well, really, I like all these guys, more or less), so I hope he’s able to turn it back on and start dominating again.  Of note was his complete lack of any strikeouts today.  His strikeout rate is pretty pisspoor, so that’s gonna have to change.

Nevertheless, the Mariners won 4-3.  It’s the first sweep of the season, and their first 3-game winning streak since the beginning of May (there is no 4-game winning streak).  They go into the All Star break 9 games under .500 and still in fourth place in the AL West, but they also go into the All Star break on an 8-5 streak.  We’re not talking about the Mariners in contention or even scratching their way back into contention.  Right now, we’re just talking about some exciting baseball.  With the kids starting to improve by the day, relying less and less on the veterans to win ballgames.  And, we’re talking about the team trying to save the jobs of Eric Wedge and Jackie Z.  The second half should be VERY interesting (that is, until the Seahawks start to take over the city like a rampaging Cloverfield).

All in all, a great weekend for geeking out on sports, comedy, and music.  To put a capper on it, they introduced the All Star Game jerseys.  They’re blue and pretty cool looking, so when I got home after the game I bought a Felix jersey.  It should be here in a week or two, and I plan to wear the hell out of it.

The Winning Percentages of Seattle Head Coaches & Managers

As I go onto say in this link (which can be found under the heading The Best Of Seattle at the top), this is merely research for a larger project.  Few things of note:

Lorenzo Romar is the second-best Husky basketball head coach of all time.  JUST SAYIN’.

Obviously, Lou Piniella is the only manager who has led the Mariners to the playoffs.  18 managers, only one has been good.  Also, 10 of those 18 had to be replaced mid-season, either by firing or because of resignation.  That’s beyond pathetic, and another reason to NOT fire Eric Wedge in the middle of this season.  Let’s show a little fucking self-control, huh Mariners?

Also, Eric Wedge:  he’s in the top half of all Mariners managers.  Didn’t see that one coming.  But, then again, considering the organization, maybe I should have.

Sark has a long way to go to be one of the all-time Husky greats, but it’s a good sign to see that he already has a winning record this early into his career.  Also, back-to-back head coaches Gilby and Willingham:  two of the VERY worst all-time.  No wonder we’ve had such a long climb back to relevancy.

Pete Carroll is already one of the best Seahawks coaches in franchise history and has a real chance to go down as THE best.  Didn’t see that one coming at the time of his hire, but now I can’t NOT see it coming …

Here’s the link.

The 2013 Year In Mariners Catching

It’s all just a lot of stupid small stuff, but when you add it all up … it’s all just a lot of stupid small stuff.

Kelly Shoppach was abruptly DFA’d this week, in favor of some guy named Henry Blanco.  This doesn’t mean much, except that what once might have been an equal, 50/50 time-share at catcher between Shoppach and Zunino has turned into Zunino:  Starting Catcher, with some guy in his 40s playing once or twice a week, maybe.

This means that when Jesus Sucre returns from the DL, he’s almost certainly going to be the starting catcher in Tacoma.  I don’t think you go to all the trouble of signing a veteran catcher to be a mentor, just to turn around and waive that guy in two weeks when Sucre gets healthy.  You sign a mentor to BE a mentor.  And, with Sucre’s limited upside, you’re obviously not bringing in Blanco to be Sucre’s mentor.

So, that’s that.  Mike Zunino is officially a Major League catcher.  He’s not a mere stopgap presence to be sent back down for more seasoning; he’s here to learn on the job and consequences be damned!

Now, if it were me running the team (which, really, could I be any worse at this point?), it wouldn’t have ended up this way.  Let’s look back on the 2013 Year In Mariners Catching:

  • Mariners trade John Jaso for Mike Morse

OK, I’m with you so far.  Sure, I liked Jaso, but there was a need for a starting outfielder and there was a need for a middle-of-the-order bat.

  • Mariners make Jesus Montero the starting catcher

Fine.  Let’s see what the kid can do.  Obviously, he’s not going to be a long-term answer, but for right now, what’s the harm?  If he turns out to be halfway decent behind the plate, all the better.  That way, in the future, when Zunino is the starter, Montero can back him up on days he’s not DHing.

  • Mariners sign Kelly Shoppach to be the backup catcher

Yeah, this makes sense.  The team needs a veteran presence to back up Montero.  He’s played for Wedge before, so you figure he’s a good clubhouse guy.  And, in a pinch, if Montero struggles, you can throw Shoppach in there for more starts and he shouldn’t be a total trainwreck.

  • Montero struggles, team names Shoppach the starting catcher

This didn’t quite stick as advertised; the catching situation turned into more of a 50/50 deal, as the organization could ill afford to have Montero riding pine.  It wouldn’t benefit his development to have him not doing anything, nor would it work to increase his trade value, should the organization opt to cut and run.

  • Montero continues to struggle, is sent down to Tacoma
  • Jesus Sucre is brought up to replace Montero
  • Sucre to back up Shoppach at the Major League level

Well, what are you gonna do?  Montero was the worst defensive catcher in the Major Leagues, AND he was terrible at the plate!  You couldn’t very well expect him to get any better while he’s mired in this endless funk.  Better to send him down, let him work on his shit, let him get his confidence back, and let him work in an arena without so much pressure.

Sucre was kind of a nothing guy, but you need to have a warm body backing up your starting catcher.  Sucre did, however, provide quality defense, which is something at least.  Over time (albeit, a very short time), Sucre earned more starts.

  • Sucre is injured after taking a back-swing to his left wrist

He wasn’t placed on the DL, as the organization thought he might get better in a very short time.  Wish in one hand and shit in the other, you know?

  • Jesus Montero tears meniscus, put on 60-day DL

This happened in Tacoma.  Montero, after being sent down, was in the process of being converted to a defensive first baseman.  He was to continue playing some backup catcher, but primarily they wanted him to work out at first base.  This wasn’t entirely unexpected; even when we traded for the guy, most people projected him to either be a full time DH or first baseman.  I don’t really know how he was injured, but it certainly threw the organization into a tailspin.

  • Brandon Bantz called up to back up Shoppach while Sucre recovers

Had Montero not torn his meniscus, I have little doubt the Mariners would’ve immediately backtracked on their vow to have him work out his shit in the minors.  Just like Smoak last year, when injury strikes, long-term plans go out the window.  But, with Montero out, the Mariners had no choice but to bring up a guy who really wasn’t good enough to even play in AAA, let alone the Majors.  The team never wanted to start Bantz, because you don’t want to embarrass a kid who isn’t ready for the Majors (and probably will never be ready for the Majors).  But, they had no choice.  Bantz made one start, going 0 for 2.

  • Jesus Sucre put on the DL

Bantz was meant to be a short-term stopgap.  One start at the most, just to provide relief for Shoppach who was catching too many days in a row, including every pitch of a 16-inning barn-burner.  Ideally, Bantz would’ve been out of here within a week as Sucre healed.  But, Sucre couldn’t heal fast enough, and the Mariners didn’t want to risk giving a guy like Bantz multiple starts.

  • Mariners call up Zunino, DFA Bantz

OK, so I was with you up until this point.  Every move up until now was at least reasonable.  They made sense.  The Mariners were doing the best with what they were dealt.  But, calling up Zunino this fast was hardly a wise and well-reasoned move.

For the record, Bantz cleared waivers and is back in the minors, so no harm done there.

The Mariners could have just as easily signed a guy like Henry Blanco then, instead of calling up Zunino.  Run out an all-veteran backstop position until Sucre returned from the DL.  There were available catchers with Major League experience on the waiver wire, it wouldn’t have taken but a phone call.  Instead, the Mariners thought it would be a good idea to give their #1 prospect his first taste of the Major League life.

Which is exactly what they suggested it would be:  a taste.  They intimated that Zunino could come up for a couple of weeks, be observed by the Major League coaches to see where he’s at in his development, then be sent back down for more seasoning without hurting his psyche.  This was the argument used to rationalize Zunino’s premature presence.  The only thing was, they had to add him to the 40-man roster, which cost us a minor league prospect in Catricala (going to the A’s of all teams, so watch for him to be killing the Mariners in the next year or two).  And, now that Zunino is on the 40-man roster, he can never be taken back off again, lest we wish to lose him to the highest priority waiver team.  AND, if we keep him at the big league level for long enough this season, that risks making him a Super 2 player, which will cost us more in arbitration years.

All of that for a guy who may only be up here for a couple weeks?  Seems like a hefty price to pay.

  • Mariners DFA Shoppach, sign Blanco

Which brings us to this week.  Zunino is up for the long haul, Sucre is destined for Tacoma, Blanco is the Raul Ibanez of the catching position, and Shoppach has his reputation besmirched with rumors of him being a difficult clubhouse guy.

All in all, a Blanco for Shoppach swap doesn’t mean diddly.  Both are terrible with the bat, both are old and not long for the organization beyond this season, both are backups who have no business playing every day.

But, now Zunino.  Yesterday, he hit his first home run.  He’s 2 for 7 in his first two games, with a walk and two strikeouts.  And he’s our everyday catcher.  My oh my, Mariners; as Jackson said to Dux, “Aw jeez Frankie, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Where Is The Stanford Band: Mariners Call Up Mike Zunino

This isn’t just a hail mary.  This is the hail mary of all hail marys!  The writing is on the wall, in big ol’ capital letters:  START WINNING GAMES NOW, OR YOU’RE OUT ON YOUR ASS.

Don’t mind if I do …

It all starts with promise.  A universally loathed general manager is fired, a new guy comes in to replace him.  No matter what he does in the early going, he gets the benefit of the doubt.  He’s got a plan.  Give him time; he needs time to see his vision realized!  So, we give him time.  And the team keeps losing.  It gets a little better, but ultimately it keeps losing.  Then, after enough time has passed (anywhere from 3-5 years; anything less than 3 or more than 5 is just criminal), when we should start seeing this thing bear some fruit, the team not only stops improving, but actually looks worse than it did before.

In the case of the 2013 Mariners, it coincides with a few factors.  First, the organization crapped its pants in the offseason.  While paying oodles of lip-service to “building the right way”, they went out and filled the roster with over-the-hill geezers (Ibanez, Bay, Shoppach, Chavez, Saunders, Harang, Bonderman) and semi-studs on 1-year contracts (Morse & Morales).  Second, the “youth movement” has failed miserably, with Montero being sent down, then injuring himself (which requires surgery); with Ackley being sent down and torturing AAA pitching (because he’s not quite good enough to hack it in the Bigs, yet not quite bad enough to struggle in the minors); with Michael Saunders reverting back to his suck-ass form; with Smoak never making good on the promise he shows every Spring Training and every September (and now being injured, obvs); with Brandon Maurer being rushed to the Major Leagues too early (and without an out-pitch to lefties); with Hultzen and Ramirez constantly battling injuries; with Paxton constantly battling his own inconsistencies … the list goes on and on.

Finally, the third factor killing the 2013 Mariners has been that very same injury bug.  No shock that it struck Guti once again (who seriously MUST have some sort of debilitating disease that leaves him open to any and all types of injuries).  It also hit Stephen Pryor (up-and-coming reliever) which has contributed to our bullpen being less-than-consistent.  It has crushed our catcher position (losing Montero a few days after being sent down has been a bigger burden than originally anticipated thanks to also losing Jesus Sucre to the DL).  It has limited Smoak and Morse’s productivity.  There’s a possibility that it’s also limiting Michael Saunders’ productivity (and he’s just hiding it from everyone).

Put all of this together and what do you get?  A team that was supposed to approach a .500 record, that had an outside shot of contending for the playoffs, that is now underperforming so much that the organization is trying anything and everything in its power to turn things around.  Maybe not to the point of contention, but at the very least to the point of approaching .500 again.

This has come in the form of Nick Franklin being given the everyday second baseman job.  If you’re going to send three prospects back to Tacoma (Montero, Ackley, & Maurer), then you’ve got to come back with SOMETHING to get the fans excited.  Nick Franklin has been exactly that in his limited duty – exciting – so the team is trying another long-shot who is up in the Bigs too early:  uber-prospect Mike Zunino.

People were clamoring for Zunino back in April when he was red-hot and the Mariners were ice cold.  The team did the smart thing and held their ground, which has led us to today:  the Mariners are still ice cold, but now so is Zunino.  His numbers fell off the face of the Earth in the month of May and lo and behold, no one was calling for him to be brought up to Seattle – imagine that!  He’s still nowhere near the point where you’d feel comfortable handing him the keys to the starting catcher position for the Mariners, but who gives a shit, because he’s here!

This isn’t the very last Ace up the organization’s sleeve, but it’s certainly the biggest.  There’s still the Big Three, though as I mentioned, one is injured, one is struggling, and one is still in AA.  Erasmo Ramirez should be up relatively soon, but I’d wager on seeing Brandon Maurer back up here before we see any of the Big Three.

Essentially, the fates of Jackie Z and Eric Wedge rest on the bat of Mike Zunino.  It isn’t fair to him (because that’s a lot of pressure for someone who’s not ready) and it isn’t fair to them (because he’s NOT ready, only a year removed from being in college).  It’s not quite a no-win situation – after all, Zunino COULD shock the world and become the catching version of Mike Trout – but it’s as close to a no-win situation as it gets.

The best-case scenario isn’t all that likely.  The most-realistic scenario is that he struggles now, gets sent back to Tacoma eventually (whenever a respectable backup catcher is healthy enough to replace him), and is no worse for wear as in a year or two he returns to the Majors as an everyday catcher.  The worst-case scenario is that he struggles like no one has struggled before (see:  Shaq Thompson’s professional baseball career), his confidence is ruined, he gets injured, and he’s forever lost to the organization as a viable prospect going forward.  Either way, what we’re talking about here is a 99% likelihood that the organization cleans house and all new leadership gets implemented.

Mike Zunino:  the last great hope of the damned.  For the general manager, for the field manager, and quite frankly for the fans.  There’s always another reason for Hope right around the corner, but it would be a crushing blow to lose all confidence in both Ackley and Zunino in the very same season.  Two of the best, most assured prospects this organization has seen in twenty years … it’s enough to make a guy switch allegiances and start rooting for the Chicago White Sox!