The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

The Official 2016 Mariners Preview

I got into a bunch of stuff last week, if you missed it.

So, without further ado, why not kick this post off by talking about the hitters and fielders?

I’ve been on record for a while now as being pretty impressed by the collection of hitters the Mariners have amassed this year.  I think we’re across-the-board better than we were last year, and better than we’ve been in I can’t remember how many years.  Adam Lind should be an improvement over the streaky LoMo.  I’m not really all that high on Brad Miller (again, streaky), so I think we’ll get more consistency out of Ketel Marte.  Chris Iannetta should be leaps & bounds better than the black hole that was Mike Zunino.  Nori Aoki should be a HUGE upgrade over Dustin Ackley.  And, considering there was absolutely nothing special about Austin Jackson, that means we’re not taking much of a hit offensively with Leonys Martin, while at the same time getting a bigtime player defensively in center.

When you tack that onto Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz still in their primes, the improved health of Robinson Cano leading to a dramatic return to form, and the steady presence of Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez in a platoon situation, I think we’re going to see this team be quite competitive offensively, compared to in years past where most of the time we were struggling just to score a run or two.

In fact, I’ll take it one step further.  I think we’re going to see a high number of shootouts, where the Mariners are scoring 7+ runs, while at the same time giving up 7+ runs.  While the obvious home run numbers won’t be there, I think this COULD prove to be the best offense we’ve had since 2001.

Which is a shame, because usually it’s the pitching I have the most confidence in.  This year, terms like “potential” and “cautiously optimistic” have been uttered by me when talking about the collection of starters and relievers we’ve got on the roster.  It’s less than ideal.  You can make the case for and against just about every one of these guys.

I’m like 85-90% sure Felix Hernandez is going to continue being great.  But, while I won’t damn him for the so-called poor finish to his season last year, I will say there were a disturbing number of appearances where he got absolutely annihilated.  8 runs against Houston, where he only got 1 out.  7 runs each against the Yankees and Diamondbacks.  10 runs in 2.1 innings against Boston.  I’m not used to seeing my guy struggle like he did in these games.  I mean, I didn’t think I’d EVER see a time where he couldn’t get out of the first inning!  It’s not cause to be alarmed, but it’s cause to be on alert.  King Felix is still performing at a high level for the most part, but winter is coming.

On any given day, I’m 50/50 as to whether we’ll see Good Iwakuma or Crap Iwakuma.  He had that 2013 season where he was amazing (and amazingly healthy), but he’s followed it up with two so-so years.  While he finished pretty consistently strong, he had a run from late 2014 through early 2015 where he was giving up homers at an insane rate.  Even in his best year, he was giving up almost a homer a game, so that’s not entirely a negative issue with him.  But, keeping guys off base and keeping the ball from looking like a juicy piece of meat for opposing batters to mash will always be the key.

Wade Miley is more or less an effective innings eater, but he reminds me of every soft-tossing lefty starter we’ve had here in the last 8 years or so.  Vargas, Saunders, Elias, Happ, Washburn, Rowland-Smith, and I’m sure I’m forgetting countless others.  Vargas was probably the best of the bunch, but he didn’t come as a finished product and had his share of growing pains along the way.  Does Miley have an effective out pitch?  If he doesn’t have an awesome splitter or change up or something, I don’t have high hopes for him being very good.

Taijuan Walker seems to have the most promise among players taking a big leap forward.  But, at the same time, he could just be who he is.  When his command is on, he’ll be tough, but ultimately falling short of that elite, Ace status.

Then, there’s what’s sure to be a revolving door of sorts at the bottom of the rotation.  Karns is young, and I don’t really know what he has.  Paxton is down in Tacoma, waiting for either Karns to slip up, or someone else to get injured.  Neither one of them inspire too much confidence (I mean, our main injury insurance in Paxton is himself injury-prone!).

Ultimately, this is going to be the highest variance season we’ve seen out of the Mariners since 2007.  You know how, in every Preview post I’ve ever written about the Mariners, I talk about the Best Case Scenario?  Well, usually my scenarios are based in far-off delusions (Ackley/Smoak/Montero/Miller/Zunino will hopefully be ready to take the next step into being a productive and elite member of baseball society).  But, the actual variance in possibilities isn’t usually that great.  A normal range of outcomes is usually anywhere from 70-80 wins.  But, this year?  I could see this team winning anywhere from 65 games to 90 games and not have it be totally crazy.

What does a 65-win Mariners team look like?  Well, probably injury-riddled at its core.  One would think that team will have to face significant time with King Felix on the shelf, and at least one of the big three (Cano/Cruz/Seager).  As this team doesn’t really have a ton of depth, nor a ton of talent coming up through the pipeline, it just won’t be able to overcome significant health issues at its premium positions.

What does a 75-win Mariners team look like?  Well, tbh, a lot like last year’s team.  The bullpen struggles, the starters are somewhat effective, but have their own peaks & valleys to deal with, and the hitters aren’t as good as we thought going in.  That means Iannetta is just as black of a hole as Zunino; Lind isn’t much of an upgrade over LoMo, as he struggles to adjust to Safeco Field; Ketel Marte is drastically worse than the low bar Brad Miller had set for us; Nori Aoki looks more like Austin Jackson than we care to admit; and Leonys Martin looks more like James Jones than we care to admit.  That team also has one of the big three (let’s say Cruz, for shits and giggles, since he would appear to be due for some regression towards the mean) unexpectedly struggling a lot more than they did last year, due to nagging health issues or simply advanced age.

What does an 85-win Mariners team look like?  Well, for starters, the hitters match my expectations of being the strength of this team.  The pitching likely struggles at spots, and maybe Iwakuma or Karns miss a month or two due to injury (probably at different points in the season, giving us a lot more of Paxton than we expected).  The bullpen goes through hot periods and extra cold periods, but the offense is just clutch enough to give us a Kansas City Royals-esque spate of walk-off wins.  This team stays relevant throughout the season – giving Seattle fans lots to talk about all summer – and might even break that streak of seasons without a postseason appearance, depending on how things shake out in the rest of the American League.  Ultimately, this team probably disappoints in the playoffs (if it does get there), but it gives fans a ton of hope going into the 2017 season.

What does a 90-win (or 90+ win) Mariners team look like?  Well, here’s your Best Case Scenario.  Here’s where absolutely everything that needed to break right DOES break right.  Felix is in the Cy Young conversation.  Iwakuma is back to his 2013 tricks.  Wade Miley comes better than advertised and not only eats up innings, but figures out how to be an effective #2 or #3 starter.  Taijuan Walker goes thermonuclear.  And, the duo of Karns/Paxton are pleasant surprises whose ability to pitch finally catches up to their raw stuff.  This team gets strong seasons out of its primary 8th & 9th inning bullpen guys, and gets enough out of the rest of the bullpen to make it one of the top five units in the league.  And the hitting is not only as good as I think it’s going to be, but it still manages to come through on that clutchness factor, where we’re winning a vast majority of 1-run games (what some would say is an unsustainable rate of winning in those types of close games).  This team probably catches some luck among the rest of the A.L. West and takes the division, and cruises right into the ALCS.  Felix gets to show the world what it’s been missing by not having him in the playoffs, as he blows away the field in his post-season starts, and this team makes its first-ever World Series appearance (where it goes on to lose in five games, because this is Seattle, and we can’t have nice things).

So, where do I have my money?

In Tahoe, there was a Futures bet.  The over/under for the Mariners was 82 wins.  Now, considering I had 1 good betting day out of 4 when I was down there, you can take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt.  If I still had money on the last day there, I would’ve bet everything I had on the Mariners winning under 82 games.  What does that mean?  Well, my gambling prowess notwithstanding, I believe there is a greater than 50% chance that the shit hits the fan with this team (either with injuries, or a struggling bullpen, or the hitters just not being as good as we expected) and the Mariners struggle to remain competitive.  You know me, I hate a team that doesn’t pitch well.  Even if the key guys stay healthy, I still think this team – at the end of the day – will look a lot like it did last year, at least in the win/loss column.

That having been said, there’s a part of me that believes in this team more than last year’s team.  I wonder if that’s just because it looks so different (13 of the 25 players we have going into Opening Day will be playing their first games as Mariners).  I mean, different = better, right?  Well, at least different = more exciting, for the first few weeks anyway.

My hunch is that the offense will ultimately be one of the better ones we’ve seen in recent history, but it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see this offense get off to yet ANOTHER slow start in the month of April.  All the better to make me look foolish in my predictions (because everything in the world revolves around me and what I think).  Conversely, the pitching will probably start out on fire, and this team will be a couple games under .500 going into May.  It’ll tread water – as the Mariners like to do – through the All Star Break, and then on that road trip at the end of July the Mariners will go something like 1-7 and play themselves right out of contention (and a season-saving deadline deal).  From there, it’ll just be a matter of playing out the string of yet another losing season.  I think the record will be 77-85.

I like this team, but I’ve been burned too many times in the past.  I’ll go into this year expecting the worst, because why shouldn’t I?  We’ve got national morons predicting the Mariners will shock the world – like we read about just about every single year – but what are they basing it on?  The same things I’m basing my prediction on:  the high variance nature of this roster.  When has that ever worked out in our favor to spell out a post-season appearance?  Not bloody often.

Mariners Tidbit 14: Erasmo Ramirez Traded For A Bust

Well, this played out pretty much like everyone expected.  The starting rotation – in some order or another – will be Felix, Paxton, Iwakuma, Happ, and Walker, with Elias waiting in the wings as needed.  Erasmo Ramirez never had a shot, but he was never really GOING to have a shot so long as the six guys above him on the depth chart stayed healthy.

Erasmo Ramirez probably isn’t a guy who’s ever going to be a starting pitcher in the Major Leagues.  He’ll get opportunities, because he’s young and cheap and under club control for however much longer.  He’ll start, but he won’t be a starter.  Unless he lands on a very bad team – and who knows, maybe the Rays are that bad team – I don’t think he’ll ever consistently win a job in a starting rotation.

He’s a decent fill-in guy.  Someone who – if you can afford to keep him around on your 25-man roster – will spot start for you when someone else goes down.  But, I highly doubt we’re looking at someone who’s going to make the significant leap required to be an everyday Major Leaguer.

It’s pretty amazing that the Mariners got anything for him at all.  Then again, that’s what we said about the Jarrod Washburn trade, the Carlos Silva trade, the Jeff Clement trade, and so on and so forth.  On the one hand, you feel over the moon that you got ANYBODY; the ol’ “I’ll Take A Bag Of Balls & A Couple Batting Donuts” deal.  You see what you get in return and you try to start plugging holes with your new acquisition.  But, you gotta remember that whenever you’re trading away a disappointment, odds are you’re getting another disappointment in return.

Mike Montgomery was a first round pick out of high school for the Kansas City Royals.  He’s a lefty with a good fastball and a decent change up, without a third pitch or the confidence to hack it.  He was poised to break out in 2011 but immediately went in the tank.  His 2012 actually saw him sent from AAA to AA before being traded.  The Rays were in the process of converting him into a reliever, which sounds like the way to go.  It worked for Brandon Maurer, after all.  The only thing is, he’s a lefty who’s better against right-handed bats, because he could never figure out how to throw his curve ball effectively and consistently.

The important thing is:  he has options.  Well, option.  He’ll get to start out in Tacoma, he’ll continue to work out of the bullpen, and he’ll get to take this year to do nothing but work on his craft.  No pressure of him being called up immediately.  Just let him do his thing and see if the conversion does the trick.  Maybe when September rolls around, he’ll have earned himself a call up.  At which point, we’ll get a better look at him ahead of next year’s Spring Training to see if he’s worthy of a shot at our bullpen in 2016.

This is probably as good as we could’ve hoped for.  We got something in return – another left-handed bullpen arm to throw onto the pile – we traded him out of the division – in the event he goes Full Noesi and comes back to bite us in the ass every time we face him – and it frees up the spot on our 25-man roster.  Now, let’s put this in the rearview and go win us a division.

Random Week 13 Mariners Thoughts

Last week, the Mariners went 4-2.  The week before, it was 5-2.  In this critical stretch of games leading up to the All Star Break, the Mariners have gone 18-10 in their last 28 games.  We currently hold the 4th-best record in the American League, we hold the 2nd spot in the Wild Card standings by 1.5 games (over both KC & Baltimore), yet we’re still a full two games behind the Angels and 7.5 games behind the A’s.

This American League West is pretty fucking good this year.  I daresay it’s the NFC West of baseball divisions.

The Mariners crushed the Red Sox in the first two games last week, winning by a combined 20-5.  In the finale, Boston jumped out to a good lead, but we still managed to come back and pull within one run, with runners on base in the bottom of the ninth before our fortunes ran out.  Nevertheless, we came right back and took 2 of 3 from Cleveland, featuring a solid Chris Young performance, a night where the Mariners’ bats failed to show up to the ballpark, and an afternoon where Felix was absolutely masterful.  Cleveland 1-hit us on Saturday; we 1-hit them on Sunday.  Anything you can do, we can do better, because we’re the Seattle Mariners, so fuck you!

In roster transaction news, Erasmo Ramirez was sent down to eventually make way for Taijuan Walker.  As it happened, the Mariners replaced Ramirez with Brandon Maurer.  Maurer the starter is a suck-ass who doesn’t deserve legitimate playing time beyond the AAA level.  Maurer the reliever is a dominant force who can throw 99mph, has control of a wicked change up, and still has that slider that does so well against righties (and, apparently, a 93mph cut-fastball, which sounds ridiculous, but is true).  I’m not sure I want to see Maurer the reliever ever leave this team!  Can we keep him here forever?  Can he one day be our future closer?  Please?

Towards the end of the week, Jesus Montero was indeed demoted for Michael Saunders.  No surprise there.  Over the weekend, Saunders started three times and went 3 for 11, with a double and 2 runs scored.  Nice to have you back, Michael.

Then, after the game on Sunday, it was announced that Stefen Romero is finally being relieved of his duties.  Thank God.  I mean, I don’t hate the kid or anything, but he’s obviously still got a lot to work on.  He certainly has the potential to be a solid line drive hitting machine, but he’s got to figure out a plan when going into at bats.  And he needs to improve his pitch recognition.  Few more walks couldn’t hurt either.

It’s assumed Taijuan Walker is going to replace Romero on the roster, which is interesting, because that means Maurer is still here for the time being.  Maybe it’s only a matter of time (say, until Justin Smoak is ready to return).  Either way, it would be wise to take advantage of Maurer’s services while we still have him here.  An 8-man bullpen is a nice luxury, but not a luxury you can afford long term.  Not with the likes of John Buck as your DH.

Don’t look now, but it appears that the Mariners have a position of strength from which they can trade.  It’ll be interesting if we can ship off a couple of young bullpen arms for a bat.  At the very least, it beats the alternative of trading away starting pitching, which is at a premium for us right now.

Taijuan Walker goes tonight.  It would be nice if he’s good right out of the gate.  Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about the Mariners trading for one of the Cubs’ starting pitchers, when it’s so obvious to everyone in the world that the Mariners need help with their hitting.  I know everyone fears the day when Chris Young turns into a pumpkin, but I feel like even a few more bad games out of him over the second half of the season won’t make much of a difference, especially if Walker is the real deal.

The Mariners have now played 82 games.  Yesterday was technically the first game of the second half of the season.  2009 was the last time we were this good (at least, as far as record is concerned), when we finished 85-77.  Those Mariners ended up 10 games out of the Wild Card and 12 games out in the division.  Those Mariners also had a -52 run differential and only had that winning record thanks to insane luck in close games.  There wasn’t any 17-game losing streak like there was in 2011 (when the Mariners sort of contended through the first three months of the season), but there just weren’t the pieces in place to push that 2009 team over the top.  If you’ll recall, the only moves the Mariners made in the run-up to the July 31st Trade Deadline that year was:

  • A trade for Jack Hannahan (a bench infielder who made zero impact at the plate)
  • A trade for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell (a defense-only short stop and a crap starting pitcher)
  • The trading of Wladimir Balentien & Jarrod Washburn for prospects (prospects who turned out to be absolutely nothing)

We can’t make that mistake again this year.  There is a clear need:  hitting.  There are guys we can trade who aren’t Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.  I’m not asking the Mariners to bring me Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout, for crying out loud!  Just bring me someone who is better than Corey Hart or Justin Smoak or Dustin Ackley.  It can’t be THAT hard.

The Hope & The Frustration About The Seattle Mariners

If I were just now jumping on the Seattle Mariners bandwagon – assuming I’d never been a fan of the team or any baseball team before this point – I would be able to look at what’s going on here and be extremely excited.  A GM who looks like he knows what he’s doing, having taken our farm system from the wasteland he inherited to one of the best in all of baseball.  A manager who’s a straight-shooter, who knows how to get the best out of his players.  A young core of talented, cheap players at the Major League level and near the Major League level, all of whom have the possibility for greatness.  There’s a lot to like!

There’s a lot to like.  In three years, the Mariners will be able to renegotiate their TV deal.  At which time, the young talent should hopefully have blossomed into superstars.  Maybe at that point we’re just a major free agent signing or two away from contending for a World Series.  Huh?  How about it!  Doesn’t that sound awesome?  Being in on the ground floor, to root on a team from the depths of despair to the heights of everlasting glory?  How about THAT?

Yeah, that would be nice.  I would like that very much.  And, if I were just sitting down to become a Mariners fan right this instant, I could sit here and tell you, “It won’t be so bad.  Pretty soon, this team is going to be great.”

But, the thing is, I’ve been a Mariners fan since pretty much everyone else in the Pacific Northwest became a Mariners fan, 1995.  We jumped on at the height of Refuse To Lose excitement, we rode that wave into the playoffs, and we got to witness 6-8 good years of competitive baseball.  Then, starting with 2004, it all went to shit and it’s remained in shit ever since.

Yeah, there’s hope.  There’s ALWAYS hope.  But, three years?  I’ve got to wait three MORE years?  I’ve already put in seven terrible seasons, and now I’ve got to wait upwards of three MORE?

That’s the mindset of most Mariners fans out there right now.  It’s not enough to have hope.  Wish in one hand and shit in the other, you know?  So, when I read articles like this one, with a headline:  “Mariners Going Forward With What They Have Got”, it’s a little depressing!  This is a team that won the third-fewest games last season.  And, pretty much, all we did was trade a hotshot pitching prospect for a hotshot hitting prospect.  That’s it!  Everything else is almost exactly the same as what we finished with last season.

And make no mistake, what we finished with last season wasn’t all that spectacular.  Our starting pitching took a REAL hit by losing Fister and Bedard to trade.  Tack onto that losing Pineda and what are we talking about here?  Felix and pray for 4 days of rain?  With a batting lineup that hinges ENTIRELY on young players developing into steady pros.

I wish I could sit here and think fondly about 2015, when all of these caterpillars MIGHT turn into butterflies, but haven’t I already suffered enough?

I really wish I was a brand new Seattle Mariners fan.  Then, the words Bill Bavasi would have no meaning to me.  I wouldn’t know who Richie Sexson or Jarrod Washburn were.  And I’d get to grow up idolizing guys like Felix Hernandez and Dustin Ackley (instead of the guys I used to idolize, who are long gone from the MLB landscape).

On the plus side, it’s only going to be three years until something great might happen.  On the downside, it’s been 10+ years since the LAST great thing happened.  With that kind of history, with that kind of heartbreak, it’s hard to believe that ANYTHING good will EVER happen.

But, I’ll tell you what, there better be a fucking point to all of this!  No fanbase deserves to go through what we’ve gone through without there being a light at the end of the tunnel.  If it isn’t with this core group of prospects, I don’t know how much longer I can hang on.  The futility of rooting for a team that’s never going to win a God damn thing is too monumentally tragic to even think about.

I’m like a seven year old kid, and the Mariners winning a World Series championship is like Santa Claus.  I’m at the point where I have a pretty good idea that he doesn’t exist, but I’m willing to give it one more go-around just to be on the safe side.  But, at some point, I’m going to grow out of believing in this bullshit and find something better to do with my years than constantly obsess over some stupid shit that isn’t real.

Help me believe, Mariners.  Help me keep that youthful innocence.  I don’t want to be a jaded teenager, but I fear you’ll give me no other choice.

The Mariners Are Getting F’d In The A

I can’t believe the Angels signed Pujols.  This is absolutely unREAL!

I remember in 2004 when the Angels signed Vlad; it was probably the worst day of my life.  That’s only a SLIGHT exaggeration!  Over the next six seasons, he earned every cent of that $82 million deal just by being the single greatest Mariner killer who ever lived.  And why didn’t we get him?  I’m sure we would’ve ponied up the dough – in fact, we did less than a year later with Sexson and Beltre (two guys combined who didn’t come close to what Vlad did by himself) – but in the end it had to have been the years.

The Mariners FOREVER have been one of those teams who have been more than reluctant to give out anything beyond four year deals.  Which means we’ve been stuck with an endless string of Washburns and Figgins’s and Sexsons.

You know what?  It’s a gamble!  It’s ALWAYS a gamble!  Giving a guy anything more than a ONE year deal is a gamble!  But, sometimes you’ve just got to bite the bullet and take the plunge.  Be open to making a mistake, just so long as you’re willing to do what it takes to compensate for that mistake later (instead of tucking your tail between your legs and reverting back to your penny-pinching ways).

Yes, at his age, signing Pujols for 10 years and $250 million is pretty idiotic.  He’ll be in his early 40s when it’s all over, and when have we ever seen a guy worth upwards of $25 million per year in his 40s?

But, you know what?  It’s not out of the question for Pujols to keep producing at a high level for 5 of those years!  And if he’s the missing piece to their puzzle, wouldn’t you pay that kind of money if it means a World Series championship or two in the next five years?  If it means being in the playoffs in each of those five years?  If it means always being in contention, having your ballpark sold out every night, having the national media talk about you all the time?

These are the kinds of things nobody thinks about after you’ve had a 100-loss season with a $100 million-plus payroll.  When THAT happens, everyone freaks the fuck out!  They overcompensate by saying things like, “Nobody is worth that kind of money!”  Hell, I’VE said that on many an occasion!  And to an extent, it’s true:  no one man is worth $250 million.  Even if he’s the single best hitter in each of those 10 seasons, he’s still not worth all of THAT.

But, if he’s the final piece.  If he’s able to build up those hitting around him.  If he takes your team from 85 wins to 95 wins and makes them a World Series contender, can you really put a price tag on what that’s worth?

I know if I had the money, and I was the owner of the Mariners, I’d shell out whatever it took to put us over the top.  I’d buy EVERY God damned free agent and I’d cut them the instant they started looking like they’ve lost a step!  But, I don’t have that kind of money, and I’m not the owner of the Mariners.  Some fucking corporation owns the Mariners and they run them strictly like a business.

It’s a disgrace.  We should’ve had Prince Fielder signed WEEKS ago!  And we should’ve padded this roster with a bunch of other studs too!  Instead, we’re making back-alley deals for minor leaguers in hopes that one day we might swap them for something useful.  Fat fucking chance.

We’re currently MUCH worse than both the Angels and Rangers.  Happy fucking 2012 everyone!  Enjoy your fucking losers!

Mariners 2011 Season Overview: Felix Hernandez

I’m probably NOT going to do one of these on every player, but this will be a running theme over the next month or so.  I figured, if we’re going to look back on the team that was, we might as well start at the top.

Felix Hernandez has been on a tear.  Over the last three seasons – when the Seattle Mariners FINALLY let the King rip to his full potential – these are just a smattering of his numbers:

2009:  238.2 IP, 71 BB, 217 K’s, 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 19-5 record
2010:  249.2 IP, 70 BB, 232 K’s, 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13-12 record
2011:  233.2 IP, 67 BB, 222 K’s, 3.47 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 14-14 record

To start, he’s not just giving you 200 innings every year, he’s huffing and puffing and blowing 200’s house in!  He’s giving you well over 200 strike outs while doing a great job of otherwise keeping guys off the base paths.  His traditional numbers are excellent and his sabermetric numbers are elite level.

Still, it’s plain to see that there was something a tad off about his 2011 season.  And I’m not just looking at an uptick in ERA to come to this conclusion.  You could just SEE it out there, with your eyes, Felix wasn’t the same Felix he was last year.  And I find that somewhat odd.

I don’t remember many, if any, games where he was that dominant force down the stretch in the later innings.  Remember those?  Games where he’d give up a cheap run in the first inning, then mow them down for the next eight.  His change up getting nastier and nastier with each passing inning, as if the sweat dripping from his right hand gave the ball magical bat-avoiding powers.  Instead, it seemed like Felix was a little more mortal this season.  He would tire in the later innings.  Laboring on the mound, reaching deep into his aresnal to find the perfect pitch, ultimately watching in horror as that pitch didn’t do what he wanted it to do.

I remember a lot of cheap runs coming LATE in ballgames this year.  I won’t say it looked like Felix was giving up out there; I’m just saying he didn’t exactly look otherworldly as he had in 2009 & 2010.

It says on his stat line that he had 5 complete games, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you that any of them stood out.  And it’s not like Felix is Mr. Shutout or anything, but he ends the season with 0.  In fact, there was only one game all season where he left with the other team having scored 0 runs (actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not, I bet the bullpen let inherited runners score a time or two).  In 2009 & 2010, I remember Felix posting 0’s left and right!  Maybe not complete game shutouts, but he’d go 7 or 8 with 0 runs scored for the other team.

His best month of 2011 was August, but it’s not like you can look at that – or any other stretch of quality games – and say that he was truly DOMINANT.  Remember in 2009, after the month of May when Wak laid into him about giving up stolen bases and overall being a leader?  Remember his month of June in 2009 when he gave up 4 earned runs?  FOUR!  In nearly 40 innings, he allowed FOUR earned runs.  Or that September when he gave up 7 earned runs in 46+ innings?  Or in August of last year (plus his first start in September) when he gave up THREE earned runs in over 50 innings pitched?  Those were some dominant stretches of baseball.  Dominant stretches we never quite got to see this year.

So, what is our answer to the question of Why?  He gave up a few more hits than the last couple years, but he still walked slightly less.  His number of home runs given up is only 2 more than last year; there doesn’t appear to be anything mechanically wrong with him.

Most people want to blame a lack of focus because he’s on a terrible team.  I COULD buy that, except for two very important reasons.  First, he was on a terrible team last year and that seemed to only fuel his fire to get his first Cy Young Award all the more.  He needed perfection night-in and night-out last season and that quest only made him better.  Second, these Mariners WERE in contention through June.  And yet, Felix’s numbers through June were pretty much what they are now at season’s end.  Good, not great.

If nothing else, Felix has been steady this season.  There were never any real big ups or downs with him.  He came out, he got his work in, he led by example, and he wasn’t dominant.  But, even still, Felix is so talented – so breathtakingly talented – that him at his sub-par is still a sight to behold.  If one pitch doesn’t seem to have any life on a given night, he can reach for 3 or 4 other pitches to carry him through to the quality start.  And when he IS on (like that 13-strikeout, 0-walk game against San Diego back in May), he will punish you and make you wish you’d never even HEARD of the game of baseball.

The only reason I can come up with, like an itch in my brain that can’t be scratched because it’s entirely conjecture, is that Felix was one man on a mission in 2009 and 2010.  The Mariners let him off his leash, let him push his talents and his body to the limits, in that quest for the first Cy Young Award of his career.  2009 was a snowball rolling down a mountain after the month of May; unfortunately, Zack Greinke was just THAT much better than him.  2010 was a different story entirely.  That year was All-Felix All The Time.  He forced the Baseball Writers to vote for him in spite of a VERY pedestrian win/loss record by the simple fact that he WAS the best pitcher in baseball; numbers be damned.  You could just SEE it; like you could see Felix wasn’t All-Felix this year.

My point is, those two seasons may never come around again for Felix in a Mariners uniform.  Hell, they may never come around again for Felix period.  But, he went through a lot to get his hardware last year.  Two solid years of intense focus and back-breaking labor to grasp the prize that was so deservedly his.

Can you begrudge a man one hangover season, especially when that season is still very good compared to most other pitchers in the Major Leagues?  Let the man recharge.  Let him regroup his focus.  Let him come out next year and light the motherfucking world on fire like Sherman’s march to the sea.

One thing to keep in mind:  Felix appears to be pushed by greatness.  In 2009, Felix still had Erik Bedard on his team, as well as a rejuvenated Jarrod Washburn (for approximately half a season each); in 2010, Felix had Cliff Lee (again, for about half a season).  Those were established veterans having career years in the presence of the King; Felix HAD to assert his dominance over the rest!  In 2011, Felix was clearly the Alpha Male by a country mile; it wasn’t even close.  In 2012, though, Pineda will be in year two.  Will we see a guy who’s ready to push Felix back into that dominant role of Greatness we’re so used to seeing?

Count on it.

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings (Part 2)

Editor’s NoteThis is the original blog post.  If you want to see the comprehensive list, click HERE.  I update the master list semi-regularly, whenever I can find the time.

Here we are with Part 2 of the series.  Look for the link in the menu bar above to be updated accordingly with my exhaustive timeline of a generation’s worth of bungling.  There will likely be a Part 3 of the series, but in that one I’ll focus on supposed bad moves made by the Good Guys that I’ll end up defending as “not that bad”.  It’s in this “Omissions” article where you’ll find the likes of the Randy Johnson Trade and the Ken Griffey Jr. Trade.

Of course, this is by no means a complete list.  And again, I welcome any and all suggestions from the peanut gallery.

June 26, 1991 – (Sonics) – Rich King 1st Round Draft Pick:  14th overall.  I don’t want to say this is the “first” in a long line of busted centers for the Seattle Supersonics, but he’s certainly the first on my list.  7 feet 2 inches of complete and utter worthlessness.  The guy gave us absolutely nothing for four straight years before signing elsewhere at the end of his rookie deal.  To be fair, I don’t know much about the guy – maybe he suffered through chronic injuries or something.  Regardless, for a team on the rise, the Sonics really missed on this pick.  The only way you could defend the team on this one is that there really weren’t any studs left once Dale Davis was snapped up 1 pick prior.  Nevertheless, there’s nothing I can’t stand more than a tall, unathletic white guy who does little else than take up space.

September 1, 1993 – (Sonics) – Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson & 1st Round Pick to Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill & 1st Round Pick:  for me, Kendall Gill is Public Enemy #2 among Sonics in the 1990s (just below Jim McIlvaine).  We were looking for a solid shooting guard to play alongside GP and the boys; what we got was a dour, cancerous sideshow.  Is it any surprise that he was on the first ever 1-seed to lose to an 8-seed?  Is it any surprise that his play and his attitude destroyed what should’ve been another championship run in the ’94-’95 season?  Not in my book.  Kendall Gill was an assclown before Milton Bradley stole his crown.  To make matters worse, Barros was a stud sharpshooter and Eddie Johnson was a quality all-around player.  Fortunately, to make matters much better, on June 27, 1995, the Sonics traded him BACK to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate.  Result:  Sonics team chemistry skyrockets and they go to the NBA Finals.  Coincidence?  You better believe NOT.

July 18, 1994 – (Sonics) – Ricky Pierce, Carlos Rogers & Two 1995 2nd Round Picks to Golden State Warriors for Sarunas Marciulionis & Byron Houston:  I remember nothing about Byron Houston, probably because he DID nothing for us.  Ricky Pierce, on the other hand, was a veteran guard who could come off the bench and still give you quality minutes (and, in fact, he did for a few years after this trade).  The real culprit here, though, is Sarunas Marciulionis.  The guy was supposed to come in and be Instant Offense.  Instead, for his lone season with us (that disaster of a ’94-’95 campaign) he averaged 9.3 points per game while playing abysmal defense.  If you can’t tell, there was a lot to hate about that ’94-’95 team.  Fortunately, glory would shine down upon us when we flipped both Marciulionis and Houston on September 18, 1995 to Sacramento for Frank Brickowski.  You know what they say:  if you’re going to be an unathletic white center, you better bring the pain on your opponents (okay, so maybe they don’t say that, but they should).

July 22, 1996 – (Sonics) – Jim McIlvaine signs 7-year $33.6 million deal:  the beginning of the end.  This one wasn’t just a team-destroyer, this was a franchise-destroyer.  First of all, McIlvaine was a nothing backup for the Bullets for 2 seasons.  We sign him to this monster deal RIGHT after our run to the Finals when we should have God damned signed Shawn Kemp to a nice fat extension.  Instead, Kemp is unhappy, plays another season where we lose in the 2nd round (with McIlvaine giving us no help whatsoever), forces a trade where we get 1 good season out of Vin Baker (before the strike-shortened season gets him all fat), and then the wheels come off (ultimately leading to a bunch of up-and-down Sonics teams, and finalized by those Oklahoma City chickenfuckers stealing our team).  Maybe it wasn’t all Jim McIlvaine’s fault; but it was CERTAINLY the fault of Wally Walker and company.  We had no business bringing in this guy, nor giving him the kind of money that would make All Pros like Shawn Kemp jealous.  He broke up our golden team, and for that this sin of signing him is unforgivable.  There was plenty of good basketball left with GP and Kemp; it’s a crime we didn’t get to see it.

September 25, 1997 – (Sonics) – Shawn Kemp to Cleveland Cavaliers for Vin Baker (from Milwaukee Bucks in a 3-way deal):  I got into this one a little bit in the Jim McIlvaine section, but this definitely deserves to be on the list.  One could argue that, in the end, it was one overweight disappointment for another, but I refuse to see it that way.  First of all, Shawn Kemp wasn’t an alcoholic.  Gary Payton would’ve made DAMN sure to keep him in tip-top shape during that NBA Lockout.  And anyway, who could’ve seen the lockout coming (or, at least, who could have seen it costing us so many games that season)?  What you COULD see coming was breaking up a dynasty.  Yes, Kemp pretty much forced this trade upon us (and yes, Vin Baker WAS a quality player at the time on par with Kemp’s level of production), but since this correlates DIRECTLY with the Jim McIlvaine signing, the Sonics were doing nothing more than compounding one mistake on top of another.  Had we kept Kemp happy in the first place, none of these other things would’ve happened (and, as you’ll see, the trail of tears from that McIlvaine signing will continue).

August 9, 1999 – (Sonics) – Vernon Maxwell signs 3-year $5 million deal:  no, it wasn’t an exorbitant amount of money.  But, we were getting a guy whose prime was CLEARLY well behind him (and, even then, what kind of a “prime” can you really call it?) and we were getting a guy who couldn’t stick with a team.  He’d changed cities TEN times before he landed in Seattle!  You HAVE to think something’s not quite right with a guy when he’s got that kind of background (again, see:  Bradley, Milton).  Sure enough, he was turmoil incarnate when he joined the Sonics.  I mean, what kind of a dick throws a fucking free weight at a teammate?  He injured two of our guys while battling it out with GP, and wasn’t long for the team after that (he was traded on September 20, 2000 in that collosal Patrick Ewing deal).  Any shock to anyone that he was thereby waived 15 days later (and again in December of that same year)?

August 18, 1999 – (Sonics) – Vin Baker re-signs for 7-year $86 million deal:  and here we are, with the zenith of Jim McIlvaine’s horrorshow.  WHAT were we THINKING???  Vin Baker just finished a horrendous strike-shortened season – where of course he came back drunk and overweight – and we rewarded him with a max contract.  Incredible.  Un-fucking-believable.  We got three full seasons of lessened production out of this schlub, then we dealt him on July 22, 2002 to Boston with Shammond Williams for Kenny Anderson, Joseph Forte, Vitaly Potapenko.  I can’t imagine anyone really “won” that deal, but it’s just frustrating.  From ’96/’97 onward, we squandered Gary Payton’s prime with a subpar supporting cast.  On behalf of everyone in Seattle, I hereby apologize to GP for not getting you the ring you deserved when you were with us.

April 21, 2001 – (Seahawks) – Koren Robinson, 1st Round Draft Pick:  9th overall.  There were plenty of other wide receiver fish in the sea in the 2001 NFL draft, but we decided to go big with Koren Robinson.  He was supposed to be a Randy Moss-type of guy who would speed down the field and go up for the long bombs.  Instead, we got a lush who wasted all of his God-given ability.  Koren Robinson single-handedly turned me (and most of Seattle) off of drafting wide receivers high in the first round.

June 5, 2001 – (Mariners) – Michael Garciaparra, 1st Round Draft Pick:  this was a guy we seemingly drafted on name alone.  I mean, Nomar was such a great player for Boston, how could his brother not be equally as amazing?  And at the same short stop position no less!  Well, he was a dud.  This was our supplemental pick for losing A-Rod, so there’s some more salt for your wounds (I better hear plenty of extra boos for Pay-Rod now that you’re thusly reminded!).  Making matters worse:  David Wright was drafted by the Mets two picks later.  Wouldn’t it have been nice to have that third base position locked down all this time?

July 31, 2001 – (Sonics) – Calvin Booth signs 6-year $34 million deal:  now HERE’S where the rediculousness of the Sonics’ search for a starting center reached new heights.  I guess averaging 7.5 points per game (over merely 15 games) for the Dallas Mavericks means you’re worth a skyscraper of a deal (at long as the Sonics are the willing buyer).  And, as laughable as it sounds, we would’ve RELISHED 7.5 points per game!  Only for the Sonics could a suck-ass player manage to get markedly worse.  In the end, we traded his final three years away on July 26, 2004 BACK to the Mavs for Danny Fortson’s final three years.  You’d think after McIlvaine, we would’ve learned our lesson.  Of course, you’d think after McIlvaine AND Booth, we REALLY would’ve learned our lesson.  In a sense, I guess we did, since we opted henceforth (for the most part) to get our shitty centers direct from the NBA Draft.

July 18, 2002 – (Sonics) – Jerome James re-signs 3-year $15 million deal:  the thing I’ll never forget about this deal was in the 2002 NBA playoffs we played (and lost to) the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.  As a 7-seed, we took them to the brink of five games, and in those games Jerome James exploded for production up to that point unseen.  He was a monster.  Scoring, rebounding, defending.  He was our MVP and almost single-handedly led us to the next round.  Ignoring all of his regular season struggles up to that point, we gave him this contract and our starting center job.  He went on to revert right back to his old ways, then somehow snookered the Knicks into giving him a huge payday.

December 19, 2003 – (Mariners) – Scott Spiezio Signs 3-year $9.15 million deal:  we stole him away from the Angels (after their World Series win) and got nowhere near what we paid for.  He batted .215 for us over 112 games (a remarkable decline).  We played him for a bit in 2005 where he got 3 hits in 47 at bats, then we released him on August 19, 2005.  Nearly 4 years and 4 months later the Mariners would go on to steal Chone Figgins from the Angels.  Here’s a hint fellas:  Angels are only good when they’re Angels and they get to play 19 games against the Mariners!

January 8, 2004 – (Mariners) – Carlos Guillen to Detroit Tigers for Juan Gonzalez & Ramon Santiago:  not the Juan Gonzalez you’re thinking of.  This Juan Gonzalez was a minor leaguer who never cracked the majors.  Ramon Santiago was a glorified minor leaguer who SHOULD’VE never cracked the majors.  Meanwhile, Carlos Guillen went on to kick ass and take names.  We really missed his streaky-ass.

January 8, 2004 – (Mariners) – Rich Aurilia Signs 1-year $3.5 million deal:  on the SAME DAY.  We replaced a guy who went on to be a cornerstone for a quality Tigers run with a guy who’d be released 6 months later.  National Leaguers can NOT hit in Safeco!  Say it with me now!

June 24, 2004 – (Sonics) – Robert Swift, 1st Round Draft Pick:  12th overall.  We could’ve had Al Jefferson; think HE could’ve helped out our front court?  Instead, we got the 7-foot project out of high school who spent more time rehabbing knees and getting tattoos than he did playing pro basketball.  What a magnificently frightening bust!

December 15, 2004 – (Mariners) – Richie Sexson Signs 4-year $50 million deal:  this was the beginning of a very happy week for Mariners fans.  We’d just wrapped a total collapse of a season where all of our veteran players died simultaneously.  This was after an epic string of Mariners seasons where 90 wins was the norm.  A lot of money was coming off the books.  I mean, a LOT of money.  In his first major foray with the team, Bill Bavasi was looking to both make a big splash and return the team to dominance.  First:  Richie Sexson.  He missed most of 2004 with injury, but before that he was a home run machine with the Brewers.  He had two seasons of 45 homers in a 3-year span; SURELY he’d bring that much needed bop over to Seattle!  And, to his credit, he did … for two seasons.  But, if you were paying attention, you’d know that was really 1.5 seasons; because in year 2 of his 4-year deal he got the bulk of his numbers in the 2nd half of the season when the team was already out of it.  2007 saw that first-half malaise push through to the full season; 2008 saw him clearly done.  He was making an ass-load of money by going out there making an ass of himself.  The team finally had the decency (to its fans) to release him on July 10, 2008, but by then the damage had been done.  That 2008 team was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, only matched (somehow) by 2010’s clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks.

December 17, 2004 – (Mariners) – Adrian Beltre Signs 5-year $64 million deal:  two days after landing the whale that was Richie Sexson, the Mariners went out and doubled down on Adrian Beltre.  Most of us, over time, came to respect Beltre for what he was:  a hard-nosed, inconsistent hitter with a little bit of power and a ton of defensive ability at the hot corner.  We could respect the guy for playing through pain (and massive shoulder injuries) and giving his absolute all to a consistently losing effort.  But, he wasn’t worth the money and it was obvious early on.  Coming off a career year (steroids anyone?) in Los Angeles where he hit .334 with 48 home runs (after his previous career high was only .290 and 23 home runs – not in the same season), he’s the epitome of a Contract Year Player.  Year 1 with the Mariners:  .255 with 19 homers.  Believe it or not, Beltre was the more loathed between him and Sexson.  That went on to change, but we’ll never forget the disappointment on all our faces when we realized that Beltre would never come NEAR to approaching .334 with 48 homers again.

January 4, 2005 – (Mariners) – Pokey Reese Signs 1-year $1.2 million deal:  it’s not the amount of money, it’s not the length of contract.  It was the fact that he never played a GAME.  Not for the Mariners in that year, not for another Major League Baseball team ever again!  In his place, we were introduced to Yuniesky Betancourt.  And the rest, as they say, is hostility.

June 7, 2005 – (Mariners) – Jeff Clement, 1st Round Draft Pick:  3rd overall.  Out of the top 7 picks, there was one bust, one mediocre player (who could still be decent if this year’s promise means anything), and five super studs.  Guess which one the Mariners drafted!  Let me run down the list:  1. Justin Upton, 2. Alex Gordon, 3. Clement, 4. Ryan Zimmerman, 5. Ryan Braun, 6. Ricky Romero, 7. Troy Tulowitzki.  Four of those guys have are considered All Stars and Romero is a quality starter for Toronto.  We screwed up ROYAL in this draft.  Where is Jeff Clement now?  Probably in the Pirates’ farm system (where he belongs; the worst Major League team’s minor leagues).  Who did we get in return?  Try Ian Snell and Jack Wilson.  I’ll give you a minute to bang your head against the wall.

July 30, 2005 – (Mariners) – Randy Winn to San Francisco Giants for Jesse Foppert & Yorvit Torrealba:  or, in other words:  “Randy Winn to San Francisco Giants for Nothing.”

December 22, 2005 – (Mariners) – Jarrod Washburn Signs 4-year $37.5 million deal:  hey, another Angels player they didn’t want!  I bet this turned out swell for the Good Guys!  Except it didn’t; we got three sub-par seasons before he miraculously turned it around long enough in 2009 so we could trade him to the Tigers on July 31st for Mauricio Robles & Luke French.  That was a Jackie-Z miracle if I ever witnessed one.  French is a back-end starter (currently toiling for the Rainiers) and Robles has the potential to be great.  Or, at least, greater than Washburn ever was for us.

January 4, 2006 – (Mariners) – Carl Everett Signs 1-year $3.4 million deal:  you can point to this signing as the beginning of the Mariners suffering through rent-a-veterans on their last legs.  He would be released on July 26th of that year, but not before hitting 11 homers and batting .227.  Funny thing is, what WOULDN’T we give to have 11 homers and a .227 batting average out of our designated hitter in 2011?

April 29, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Kelly Jennings, 1st Round Draft Pick:  undersized cornerback wanted for:  giving up long touchdowns and never intercepting the ball.  Must be able to occasionally ankle-tackle and make Marcus Trufant look like a Pro Bowler by comparison.  Start immediately.

June 6, 2006 – (Mariners) – Brandon Morrow, 1st Round Draft Pick:  5th overall.  This pick will forever be known as the time where the Mariners passed on multi-Cy Young winner (and local hero) Tim Lincecum.  Odds are, we would’ve ruined him the same way we did Morrow – by fucking with his confidence, and jerking him around between starting and relieving – but you never know.  Maybe not.  Maybe, if we would’ve gone with the proven winner over the guy with one year’s college experience, he would’ve commanded a starting rotation slot from the get-go.  We’ll never know; and San Francisco is all the luckier for it.

December 14, 2006 – (Mariners) – Miguel Batista Signs 3-year $24 million deal:  in what universe is Miguel Batista worth $24 million?  Well, THAT’S certainly a silly question!

December 18, 2006 – (Mariners) – Emiliano Fruto & Chris Snelling to Washington Nationals for Jose Vidro:  Vidro was awesome back in his prime.  You know, when he could play the field and hit well over .300.  By the time we got him, he was less than a shell of his former self.  Yet, he still managed a respectable batting average in the 2007 season – though, for a DH, his power numbers were attrocious.  Unfortunately, in 2008, the wheels came off (like they did for Sexson and pretty much the entire team).  We stuck with him for 85 excruciating games that season, then released him on August 13th.

January 30, 2007 – (Mariners) – Jeff Weaver Signs 1-year $8.3 million deal:  and the hits just keep on coming for the Bill Bavasi era.  Pretty much because of a single World Series game for the Cardinals, Jeff Weaver “earned” $8.3 million for the Mariners.  “If he was so important to their success in 2006, why didn’t St. Louis want him back,” you might be asking yourself.  I don’t have an answer for you.  What I CAN tell you is that he gave us 27 of the most worthless games imaginable in 2007.  And HE wasn’t even the most loathesome starting pitcher for that team (thank you very much Horacio Ramirez).

December 20, 2007 – (Mariners) – Carlos Silva Signs 4-year $48 million deal:  or, The Straw That Broke Bavasi’s Back.  He was awful for his two seasons in Seattle.  I have nothing redeeming to say about the man.  We traded him on December 18, 2009 to the Chicago Cubs for Milton Bradley in a swap we hoped would be one of those “Change Of Scenery” deals.  Well, the scenery was different, but there would be no change.  Yeah, Silva had half a good season in 2010, but then he reverted right back and was cut before the 2011 season.  Bradley, of course, was miserable for the Mariners.  The worst part of it all?  Not only did we take on Milton Bradley, his contract, and all his emotional baggage (all of which the Cubs were DESPERATE to get rid of), but we ALSO had to pay them an additional $9 million.  How’s that for a nice Fuck You?  Wonder why the Mariners were so bad in 2010?  Wonder why we couldn’t get any free agents in 2011?  Look no further than the money we have on the books for both of these jack-wagons.

January 31, 2008 – (Mariners) – Brad Wilkerson Signs 1-year $3 million deal:  not only did he play right field – forcing Ichiro into the uncomfortable position of playing center – but he didn’t even make it out of the first month, released April 30th.  What a douche.

How Did I Get Into This Bloody Great Big Nutshell: 2010 Mariners (Part 2)

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Hot Stove Action (which, spoiler alert:  no big splashes for the M’s this year), I’m closing the case on the 2010 Mariners with a little rundown of the players.  Who WERE these people?  These people who comprised a team that was 30th in runs scored (513), 30th in batting average (.236), 30th in on-base percentage (.298), 30th in slugging percentage (.339), and 30th in home runs (101).

For your reference:  there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball.

Yes, it was a crappy, crappy year.  And instead of regurgitating thousands upon thousands of words on all the suck-asses – which I think I pretty well covered in my Award Winning Series “A Paragraph With The Mariners” – I’ll focus on the bright spots.  The shining lights.  The only reasons anyone should have cared about the 2010 Mariners and indeed the only reasons anyone should probably care about the 2011 squad.

#1 – Felix Hernandez

Our King has his Cy Young!  I won’t bore you with his numbers, you can find them anywhere (including many different points on this site), but here’s the one number you should keep in mind:  25.  That’s how old he will be at the start of next season.  Yeah, he’s 25 years old and has been in his prime for the last two years.  He might go down as one of the top five right handed pitchers of all time.

#2 – Ichiro

The only player to hit over .300.  The only batter who actually managed to do his fucking job.  He won his 10th Gold Glove, and as far as I know he’s the only guy to do that in his first 10 seasons in Major League Baseball.  Mr. Consistency is his game, with another 200-hit season under his belt.  I just can’t believe how incredible he is, at an age where players start breaking down physically, Ichiro keeps chugging along, getting just as many infield hits as ever.  He’s at 2,244 hits for his career; I think without question he gets to 3,000.  If he does so in a Mariners uniform, I gotta wonder, will he be the greatest Seattle Mariner of all time?  It’s up for debate.

#3 – Franklin Gutierrez

I know he faltered at the plate in the second half of the season, but a .245 batting average was still good for 3rd on this team.  Nevertheless, he won his first Gold Glove a year after the point where he SHOULD have won his first Gold Glove (I guess it takes at least a season for reputation to set in among the coaches and such).  Durability is certainly a concern with Franklin, as he’s broken down in the second halves of the last two years (not so much as to actually go on the DL, but enough to inhibit his productivity at the plate); but you know what?  I’ll take Gold Glove center fielding like his any day over the alternative.  One of these seasons, he’s going to take the next step with the bat, and when he does, he should be a cornerstone of a playoff baseball team.  Hopefully, he’s still with us when it happens.

#4 – Jason Vargas

31 starts, 21 quality starts.  The 27 year old left hander really took advantage of all that Safeco Field had to offer.  And it didn’t take him three over-paid seasons to do it Jarrod Washburn!  Vargas threw 192 innings all while making under a half a mil.  That’s bang for your buck!  With his ERA under 4, I will take a carbon copy of that season from him again and again and again.

#5 – Cliff Lee

Because he’s dreamy.  Because he makes my heart swoon.  And he’s this low because he only actually played for us for 2 months.  But they were 2 of the most glorious months on record!  89 strike outs, 6 walks, a 2.34 ERA and an 8-3 record in 13 starts.  He won’t be a part of the magic that is 2011, but here’s to hoping he also won’t be a part of the Yankees in 2011.

#6 – Doug Fister

Call him Vargas-lite.  He missed a month, but he was still an innings eater.  And his ERA stopped climbing once it got to 4.11 at season’s end, so there’s that.  Hopefully, with the full year under his belt, a little west and welaxation over the winter break, he’ll be strong enough for a 2011 season that will need more of the same from him if the team expects to not lose 100 games again.

To be honest with you, that’s all the praise I feel comfortable giving out.  Honorable mention to Aardsma for his 31 saves; here’s to hoping he’s the right trade chip at the right time to get back someone of substance this offseason.  Honorable mention also to Brandon League, future closer; here’s to hoping he rediscovers his forkball and stops fucking blowing saves hand over fist.  A final honorable mention to Russell Branyan; here’s to hoping you come back cheap, and if you don’t, then it was nice knowing you and your lofty solo homers.  Safeco will be the same without you.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 109

And here you go.  First Alan Cockrell and now the world.  Why today and not, say, the day Griffey soured the clubhouse on Wak?  Why not the day when Wak decided to make an example out of Figgins by making him bat 9th?  Why not immediately after the clubhouse brouhaha with Figgins?  Shit, why not in the second week in May when we were getting our lunch handed to us, or in that fateful series in Texas in early June?  I’ve already made my opinion felt on the matter, I don’t agree with the decision.  It’s funny though, everyone in the media was convinced it would happen 1 week ago today, when we had an off-day.  Instead, we’ve got a game to play tonight.  With the Rainiers manager joining the fracas.  Particularly interesting is why Rick Adair had to go; he’s pretty much overseen one of the greatest runs of pitching over the last two years that I can remember.  He made Jarrod Washburn into a useful trade prospect last year.  He’s bolstered Felix’s stock as one of the best pitchers in the game.  He’s molded Jason Vargas into a really solid starter out of pretty much nothing a year ago.  What more does a guy have to do; the pitching hasn’t been the problem (unless you count the bullpen, but look at all the injuries we’ve had to endure!).