The Mariners Must Lose This Weekend!

This whole crappy season comes down to this:  a 3-game series against the Oakland Athletics.  This isn’t quite as dire as 2008, when we swept the A’s in the final 3-game series and lost out on the chance to draft Stephen Strasburg #1 overall (settling for Dustin Ackley), but it’s close.

If the season ended today, the Mariners would draft 11th.  What does that matter?  Well, if the Mariners can figure out a way to get into the Top 10, that draft pick would be protected in the event that the Mariners try to go out and sign a bigtime free agent this offseason – which I have to think they’d want to do.

So, who stands in our way (besides ourselves, of course)?  Well, the top 7 draft picks are pretty well secure.  We can get as high as the 8th draft pick, or as low as the 16th (I think).  I’ll admit I’m not really up on tiebreakers for this sort of thing.

Here’s what I know:  the Mariners are 75-84 with three games to go.  The White Sox are 74-84, with four games to go.  They host the division-winning Royals tonight, then they host the Tigers for three this weekend.  The Tigers, as chance would have it, are 73-85, with three games to go (I believe one of their games was rained out and won’t be made up, because the Tigers are out of the race).  If the Tigers go 2-1, they would have a winning percentage of .465; if the Mariners go 0-3, we would have a winning percentage of .463.  If the Tigers go 3-0, they’d be .472; if the Mariners go 1-2, we’d be .469.  If the Mariners go 2-1 or 3-0, there’s no way the Tigers will end up with a higher winning percentage, so that can’t happen.

Getting back to the White Sox.  Let’s say they finish 2-2.  If they do that, they’ll be 76-86.  Now, if this article is still accurate (see published date of 2009, but I can’t find anything more recent), for draft order purposes, if two teams have the same record, they look at the previous year’s record to determine who gets the higher draft pick.  The White Sox had a losing record in 2014; the Mariners had a winning record in 2014.  As such, if we tie the White Sox in record this year, they will draft ahead of us.  So, if the White Sox finish 2-2, the Mariners would have to go 0-3.  If the White Sox finish worse than 2-2, they’re guaranteed to draft ahead of us.  If the White Sox finish 3-1, the Mariners could finish 1-2 and come out ahead; if the White Sox finish 4-0, the Mariners could finish 2-1.

The only other team with a worse record than the Mariners right now – who we could theoretically overcome – is the San Diego Padres.  They are currently 73-85, with 4 games to go.  The Padres also had a losing record in 2014, so if we end up with the same record as them, they too will draft ahead of us.  The Padres play their home finale tonight against a hapless Milwaukee Brewers team.  Then, the Padres go to Los Angeles to play three games against the division champion Dodgers.  The Dodgers still theoretically have something to play for, I guess, as they could overtake the Mets for 2nd-best record in the NL among division winners, but I don’t know what that would get them.  I don’t feel like these games would be a huge priority for them, but what do I know?  If the Padres finish the season 2-2 or worse, they will draft ahead of the Mariners.  We need them to go 3-1 (while we go 0-3), or we need them to go 4-0 (while we go 1-2) for us to pass them for the higher draft pick.

In short, these are the scenarios for the Mariners to hop into the Top 10 (remember, the Tigers play the White Sox in the weekend series):

  • Tigers finish 2-1, Mariners finish 0-3
  • Tigers finish 3-0, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3
  • White Sox finish 2-2, Mariners finish 0-3
  • White Sox finish 3-1, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3
  • White Sox finish 4-0, Mariners finish 2-1, 1-2, or 0-3
  • Padres finish 3-1, Mariners finish 0-3
  • Padres finish 4-0, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3

The only way the Mariners can win 2 games and still get into the Top 10 is if the White Sox finish 4-0.  If the Mariners win all three games this weekend, we will be guaranteed to draft outside of the Top 10.

Let’s hear it for tanking!  For our part, we’ve shut down Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker for the season.  There have been rumblings this week that Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano would both sit out the weekend series due to nagging injuries.  So, you know, the organization is TRYING to tank, which you have to appreciate.  The starters this series are Iwakuma on Friday, Elias on Saturday, and Nuno on Sunday.  On the flipside, the A’s are trying to stay in the Top 4 – or maybe climb into the Top 3 – in draft order, and they’ve got two no-name pitchers starting Friday & Saturday, with TBD going on Sunday.

It’s a bucket ride to Hell over the weekend.  Let’s hope we’ve got what it takes to lose like champions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 21 Random Mariners Thoughts

This is a legitimate question:  what are you more excited for, at this very moment:  the Seahawks or the Mariners?

Ask most people in Seattle (who also happen to follow both sports), and most of them will probably say the Seahawks.  But, to even be in the discussion right now is a God damn miracle AND I WANT YOU TO FUCKING ACKNOWLEDGE IT!

The Mariners are scorching the baseball landscape right now.  4-2 in the last week.  6-3 on the most recent road trip.  14-4 dating back to the start of the last homestand.  15-6 in the month of August.  The pitching is still awesome, the hitting is starting to figure it out, and this team is a contender – a REAL contender – for the first time since 2003.  Don’t give me this shit with 2007 and 2009, because those teams were flawed and at this point in those seasons, they were over-achieving like you wouldn’t believe (or apparently, over-achieving like you don’t remember).  This is a TRUE playoff team, and it’s peaking at the right time.

Unfortunately, so are a few other teams.  Kansas City is still defying all odds and leading their division.  Detroit is hanging right there with us and they’ve got an offense that certainly won’t quit.  Their pitching woes could easily right themselves in the coming few weeks and they could make a run to ruin our day.  The Yankees are right there and likely won’t fade until late.  Toronto could always go on a super run like they were on before.  The Mariners are only 1 game up in the Wild Card standings, and that’s scary, because it’s required one helluva run just to get to this point.  Can we keep up this pace?

Of note is the fact that the Mariners are 6 games behind Anaheim for the division lead, and only 5 games behind Oakland for the first Wild Card spot.  Yes, the Angels look amazing, and yes, the A’s are struggling.  But, they’re both good teams and we play them a combined 13 times in the final month.

To answer my own question at the top, I’m about 50/50 split in my excitement between the Mariners and Seahawks.  That may sound like a cop out, but remember:  the Seahawks are the best team in football, and the Mariners are still – in spite of this hot run of baseball – a fringe playoff team.  I’m over here having visions of the Seahawks with their Best Offense In The Game winning 14+ games and repeating as Super Bowl champs!  Talk to me as the week progresses – if the Mariners can pull out a series win against the Rangers today thru Wednesday – and you’ll likely see that scale tip in the Mariners’ favor (besides, even I can’t muster up the strength to give a shit about a fourth pre-season game against the Raiders).

I missed almost all of the Boston series, as I was camping with my family.  Beer pong tournaments and Spades tournaments and Bud Lights and hot dogs for days.  In the mountains, with no phone service … by God, it was GLORIOUS!  So, consider my delight when – on the drive back – I turned on my phone and discovered the Mariners won the first couple games in dramatic fashion!  Normally, when I return home from my annual camping trip, I plug in to discover that the Mariners have stunk in my absence (thus allowing me to feel good about my missing that mess).  This year, I would have been entertained and enthralled!

The starting pitching was a mess, but that’s sort of to be expected in Boston.  I hate playing games there; it’s no wonder that’s the first time the Mariners ever swept them in a 3-game road series.

I’m more excited about the hitting.  Dustin Ackley’s hot run has somehow continued.  Austin Jackson has been just what the doctor ordered.  Kendrys Morales is starting to pick up steam.  Seager and Cano have been steady, if maybe falling off EVER so slightly from their mid-season pace.  If LoMo can just be solid – not GREAT, but just solid – that’s a potent lineup.  Especially when you consider Zunino’s occasional power, the steady play out of our right field platoon, and Chris Taylor coming to the Majors with guns a-blazing.

I’m willing to write off the pitching struggles in Boston as a fluke of being in Fenway.  But, even if it’s not a fluke – even if we’re starting to see some of that dreaded regression we’ve been talking about all year – they’re not just going to fall apart.  The pendulum isn’t going to completely swing the opposite way; these guys aren’t going to just forget how to get hitters out!  They may come back down to Earth a little bit, but they’re still going to shine more often than not.

And, with the way the offense has been picking up the slack in August, it’s reasonable to expect that this team can CONTINUE winning at a dramatic rate, even IF the pitching isn’t doing all the heavy lifting.

Three at home against the suck-ass Rangers and three at home against the first place Nationals coming up.  For the record, Felix faces the Rangers on Wednesday, and we’ve got a tough road ahead with the pitchers we face against Washington.  They’re running out Zimmerman and Strasburg Friday and Saturday, with a good young starter going on Sunday.  Iwakuma and Strasburg will be one to watch, for sure.

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

I swear I’m going to mention the Seahawks’ draft on this site very soon, but for now there’s this.

The Mariners just finished their first month of the season with a 12-17 record.  GOD THEY’RE THE WORST!

It’s no longer early.  Get ready to hear that phrase about a million times in the ensuing days & weeks.  It’s no longer early, so what the fuck?  What the fuck, Mariners?  You got something for me?  Where the fuck’s my money!  You got my fuckin’ money, Mariners?  Maybe my associate with his 9mm will help you remember …

I don’t know what that was.  The point is, no more excuses.  You’ve had 29 fucking games in 30 fucking days, if you haven’t shown us something we can use, then fuck you, go home and play with your fucking kids.

Kyle Seager has shown me something.  .292 batting average, 10 doubles (14 total extra-base hits), good for an .850 OPS.  That’s something!  That’s something you can hang your hat on!  Be proud of yourself, Seager.  You’re a hitter on the Mariners I genuinely enjoy watching.  Bringing the grand total to 1.

I’m coming around on Jason Bay, mostly because he’s not the total trainwreck everyone thought he’d be.  Now, in an ideal world, the trainwrecks on this team would, in fact, BE guys like Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and the like.  In an ideal world, the trainwrecks certainly wouldn’t be Smoak, Ackley, and Montero.  But, we live in Seattle, where it’s never an ideal world.

To be fair, Ackley appears to be coming around a little bit.  After starting the year batting a lowly .091 after April 12th, he has raised his average to a whopping .253.  Now, his OPS still sucks, because he never walks and he only has the 3 doubles, but I’ll takes what I can gets.  Is this “hot” streak just a streak?  Is he about to go into another slump which sees him flatlining around the Mendoza line for the bulk of the season?  Let’s hope not.  At this point, I’m willing to live with Dustin Ackley:  Singles Hitter.  It’s better than Dustin Ackley:  Ground Out To Second Base.

Morales and Morse, after somewhat torrid starts, have come down to Earth.  Of course, Morse has that pinky issue he’s trying to pretend isn’t an issue, while Morales is a big fat guy who doesn’t want to be here, so how much can we expect from these two before the trade deadline?  It’s not like they have to try all that hard to get interest from contending teams.  You’d like to think they’d try hard to showcase themselves and get us the best possible players in return that we can get, but go back a couple of paragraphs to that whole “ideal world” thing.

On the pitching side of things, Felix and Iwakuma are in a dead heat for the early Cy Young race.  Both have sub-2 ERAs, both are striking out around 9 batters per 9 innings, both have 5 of 6 starts as Quality Starts, and both have winning records in spite of this grotesque offense.  Words cannot express how much I love these two guys.

Everyone else:  not so much.  Joe Saunders has given up exactly 2 earned runs over 22.1 innings in three home games this season.  Joe Saunders has given up exactly 19 earned runs over 13.2 innings in three road games this season.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I would SERIOUSLY consider running with a 6-man starting rotation and handcuffing Joe Saunders to his Safeco Field locker.

Brandon Maurer is pretty much exactly what you would expect of a middling prospect who has made the jump from AA to the Bigs.  Stephen Strasburg he isn’t.  Growing Pains is the euphemistic way of saying he’s not very good.  He’s had three crap games, two okay games against the Rangers, and one really good game against the Angels last week.  Right now, he’s a two-pitch pitcher with a slider and a fastball and no way to get left-handed hitters out.  Not for nothing, but this is why you keep a guy like Jon Garland out of Spring Training.  Even if you’re not 100% convinced he will keep over a full season, it’s still probably better than rushing Maurer too soon.  He needs to be in Tacoma developing and working on his change up.  Either that, or he needs to be throwing his change up more NOW while he’s with the Mariners.  Chock this season up as a lost cause and start developing his gifts for future seasons where hopefully we won’t suck so bad.

The less said about Aaron Harang, the better.  That guy is a fucking nightmare where I can’t wake up and a horrible monster is eating me alive.

The bullpen has more or less been as expected.  Wilhelmsen and Capps are rocking the party, Perez has been fine, Furbush has been okay, and Loe has been DFA’d.  Because he sucks.  Almost as hard as Aaron Harang.

In all honesty, I can’t wait until Aaron Harang is let go so I can immediately forget he was ever a Seattle Mariner until someone, somewhere, points out in a few years that he was on the team for a few of the most miserable weeks/months of my life, and I’ll go, “Oh yeah …” and then I’ll immediately forget he was ever a Seattle Mariner again.

There’s already talk of the team making moves, and not just the predictable moves of firing the GM and the manager.  At some point, you get tired of watching young prospects get rushed up too soon, struggle, and then have everyone else shrug their shoulders and say, “Welp, we tried!  And now there’s no one below them ready to replace them, so I guess we’re stuck!”  I hate the fact that the Mariners suck, I hate the fact that there isn’t anyone who is ready to come up to replace the suckier of the sucky Mariners, and I hate being reminded on a daily basis that this team sucks.

So, here’s a suggestion:  stop sucking!  Figure it the fuck out, win some fucking games, and give this city something to fucking cheer for!  We’re all a little sick and fucking tired of your bullshit.

Brandon Maurer Cracks The Opening Week Starting Rotation

In short:  I’m for it.

Boom.  Post finished.

OK, not so fast.  I guess I’ll throw some weight behind this argument a little bit.  What we’re talking about here is a situation where there were two open spots in the rotation.  Originally, there were five guys realistically in the running:  Jon Garland, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, Jeremy Bonderman, and Brandon Maurer.  Coming into Spring Training, everyone believed Bonderman was one of the longest shots simply because he’s older, he’s coming off an injury, he hasn’t pitched in a while, and even when he WAS healthy, he wasn’t that good.  But, you know, you sign him to a minor league deal, you throw a pittance at him, you invite him to camp, and you see what he can do.

Garland, in my opinion, was the biggest lock of the group.  Granted, he too was coming off of a major injury and a major layoff from pitching, but he struck me as a guy who was a little farther along in his recovery (having almost pitched last season before shutting himself down as a precautionary measure) and he was a guy with a better track record of success.  Aside from this one injury, he’d had a nice career eating up innings and doing just enough on the field to make himself useful.

In between those two extremes, you had three younger guys of varying Major League experience (ranging from Some to None), all with minor league options.  You could make the argument for any of those guys to start the season in Tacoma.  Beavan could’ve used more time in the minors to work on his new delivery.  Ramirez could’ve used more time to work on his secondary pitches.  Maurer could’ve used more seasoning, especially considering he has never even pitched in triple-A (let alone the Majors).  Of the three, Beavan has the most experience in the Majors, but he also has the lowest upside.  Maurer has no experience, but he has the highest upside; so the argument for starting him in Tacoma is probably even stronger because you’d delay starting his service time and have an extra year’s worth of team control at a reasonable-to-cheap salary.

But, you know, say what you will about the Seattle Mariners:  they don’t run their organization worrying about things like “service time” and “team control”.  Which is weird, because I’ve been killing this team for YEARS now for being so tight-fisted with their money and throwing away season after season in the name of lowering payroll (under the guise of “rebuilding” and “doing things the right way”).  But, they did it with Michael Pineda in 2011 and they’re doing it now, in 2013, with Brandon Maurer.

That isn’t to say they’re rushing these guys to the Majors.  In 2011, the Mariners had alternatives to Pineda, just as this year they have had alternatives to Maurer.  However, the sticky situation with Garland opting out of his deal last week, combined with Ramirez’s arm strength issues, pretty much made this a no-brainer.  Yeah, Maurer has pitched amazingly this spring, but it feels to me that this is more out of default than it is because he stormed onto the scene a la Pineda.

In 2011, all anyone could talk about was Pineda’s stuff.  His extreme fastball and his wicked curve.  He was a dynamo and it would’ve been an absolute crime to leave him off of the Major League roster.  This year … I mean, I guess some people talk about Maurer’s stuff.  But, it’s more in conjunction with his poise, his command, and his depth of arsenal.  Guy’s got four pitches and he can throw them in any count AND THAT’S GREAT.  But, does he have a 98 mile per hour fastball and gigantic hands that make the baseball look like a golf ball?

What I’m getting at is:  there isn’t quite the buzz surrounding Maurer that there was when Pineda cracked the team.  More than anything, that probably dates back to hype and expectations.  People were talking about Pineda in Seattle when he was an infant.  Maurer’s hype has been mired behind The Big Three of Hultzen, Paxton, and Walker.  Maurer – through his play last year (where he pitched in 24 AA games and generated 117 strikeouts in 137.2 innings, earning Pitcher of the Year honors in the Southern League) – worked his way into fans reluctantly re-dubbing them The Big Four, but even then no one really took him as seriously as the other three (or even Pineda, for that matter, when he was Mariners property).  Think about how you felt when the Mariners were trying to trade for Justin Upton and reports were coming out that one of The Big Three was being offered.  You weren’t sitting there wringing your hands, worrying about losing Brandon Maurer to the Diamondbacks, were you?

But, who knows?  Maybe you SHOULD have been concerned.  Because here he is, at the top of the mountain as the dust settles on this starting rotation race.  And I, for one, can’t wait to see how it shakes out.  Like many of you, I’d rather see the young guy with the serious upside in the Majors over a guy like Garland or Bonderman – neither of whom have any future with this team.  Yeah, Maurer will be on a strict pitch limit (a la Pineda in 2011).  Yeah, if the Mariners find themselves in contention in September, we will all be talking about how the M’s are planning on shutting Maurer down pretty soon (a la Strasburg with the Nationals).  And yeah, if Maurer sticks, we’re talking about losing a year’s worth of team control.  But, in the long run, I think this is really going to be worth our while.

Get the kid’s feet wet now, when we’re still not realistically expected to challenge for anything in the American League.  Get him that rookie experience now, so when next year comes around and the Mariners are looking to do even MORE damage, we won’t have to worry about Maurer’s pitch counts as much.  We won’t have to worry about shutting him down after five months.  Obviously, we’ll still be bringing him along slowly on the innings pitched front, but it won’t be as severe.  If we find ourselves in contention in 2014, and Maurer is leading the charge, we won’t lose him for any playoff run.

I know this is a lot of Big Think coming from a guy who generally believes this team is going to suck balls (until they show me otherwise) for years and years to come.  But, for entertainment’s sake, I’m GLAD we didn’t retain the Kevin Millwood type.  I’m GLAD the rookie gets a chance to prove himself.  And if he goes out and does the job, maybe that’ll give this organization more confidence going into next year.  They’ll be able to trust OTHER rookies.  They won’t have to bother with the runaround of giving aging, washed-up veterans minor league deals with Spring Training invites.  They won’t have to be so concerned with a “veteran presence” and they can, instead, just go with the best players available – regardless of age or Major League experience.

There’s a lot riding on this kid’s shoulders.  But, based on his Spring Training (2 runs in 20 innings, with 6 walks and 22 strikeouts), he has certainly earned it.

The Mariners Can’t Do Anything Right

I swear to Christ, that should be the headline for any article ever written about the Seattle Mariners.

I mean, how far back do you want to go?  They refuse to trade any of their farm pitchers back in 2000, 2001, 2002, or 2003 to get one more impact bat to put us over the top (said farm pitchers go on to mediocrity).  They try to cling to one more year of aging veterans with disasterous results in 2004.  They hire Bill Bavasi, they draft Jeff Clement, they trade for Erik Bedard.  They become the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose over 100 games in a season in 2008.  They win just enough games to NOT draft Stephen Strasburg.  They pick up the bloated corpses of Silva and Figgins.  They re-sign Griffey and then re-sign him AGAIN.  They trade for Justin Smoak.  They cut payroll every year for four straight years.  Their attendance has dwindled to an all-time low for Safeco Field.  They’ve suffered three straight last place seasons.  Their centerfielder can’t stay on the field.  Their offense has had to improve drastically just to still suck hard.  Their leadership has publicly come out against the Arena Deal which has since passed in both the county and the city.  And now this.

I’m not a season ticket holder for any sport.  I would hate to be locked into something so permanent, because with my luck I’d be locked into a perennial loser for decades to come.  But, if I were going to be a season ticket holder, the LAST organization I would buy from would be the Seattle Mariners!  And that’s BEFORE they had the nerve to jack up ticket prices without telling anyone, after everything in the previous paragraph that has happened in the last decade.

The Seattle Mariners have to be the most ineptly run organization in professional sports.  I say that knowing full well there are other franchises – the Pirates, the Clippers, the Browns, the Royals – with more seasons of frustration, but I would argue by now you know what you’re getting with those organizations.  It’s not that they don’t WANT to win, it’s that they have no incentive.  I have a feeling the Mariners (in spite of what I’ve been saying about them for years) really DO want to win … I just think they’re fucking TERRIBLE at it!  Their plans have all sucked, their execution has been even worse, and any winning records they’ve had in recent years (if you call 2007 and 2009 “recent”) have been in spite of their efforts, not because of them.

If an organization has EVER needed new ownership more than the Seattle Mariners, I’d gladly ask to borrow whatever piece of fiction you got that from, because that organization doesn’t exist in real life.  And I understand the economics of the situation (as much as a guy who doesn’t give a shit can understand the economics), but how retarded can you be?  If you just sent out a letter in advance saying, “Hey, thanks for your patronage over the years, but we’ve got to raise some prices to stay competitive in an increasingly turbulent market, blah blah blah,” we all would’ve understood.  We all still would’ve given you shit for it, because Jesus Christ, you’re REALLY going to charge MORE money to see this bogus product you’ve put out on the field for the past decade?  But, in the end, whatever.  It’s economics.  It’s the way the world works.  Things get more expensive over time and you either adapt or you die.

But to be all sneaky about it, I mean, who were you trying to fool?  I know your base – the people who can most afford and are most willing to buy full season tickets – is the elderly (because they just don’t know any better), but come on.  They’re not ALL saps!  You didn’t think the media would catch wind and make a huge stink about it?  A bigger stink than it really needed to be?

Who is RUNNING this organization?  Is what I’m trying to say.  I had more confidence in Clay Bennett keeping the Sonics in Seattle than I do this organization bringing home a World Series Championship.  If it were possible to impeach an ownership group, Seattle fans would have successfully ended their frustration YEARS ago.  It’s time, Mariners.  Do the right thing.  Free us of your incompetence!

2008: A Seattle Sports Apocalypse

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

Will Golden Spikes Award Winner Mike Zunino Be Great For The Mariners?

Uhh, so yeah, what I’m about to write here has pretty much nothing to do with … anything.  I’m just going to list off some of the past Golden Spikes Award winners – the award given to the best amateur baseball player of a given year – and how awesome (or not awesome) they have been.

2011’s winner, Trevor Bauer, has only made two recent starts in the Major Leagues for Arizona.  I’d say the jury is still out.  However, 2010’s winner, Bryce Harper, has been one of the most exciting rookies in all of baseball this year for the Nationals.

I think everyone’s aware of 2009’s winner – Stephen Strasburg – the guy we missed out on by drafting #2 overall.  I think the Nationals are pretty happy with their All Star so far.  As I think the Giants are pretty happy with 2008’s winner, Buster Posey.  Hell, here’s another catcher!  He wins the award in 2008, he makes his Major Legue debut in 2009, and in the middle of their World Series run in 2010 he takes over as their starting backstop!

I’d say 2007’s winner, David Price, has carved out a nice career for himself with the Rays.  He came in 2nd to Felix in the Cy Young race in 2010.  2006’s winner, Tim Lincecum, has famously won back-to-back Cy Young awards while not playing for the Seattle Mariners Who Could Have Drafted Him (the official title of the team, apparently).

The first guy on this list (going backward from the present) who has been kind of a dud thus far in his career is 2005’s Alex Gordon, third baseman for Kansas City.  Yes, he’s been in the show since 2007, but until 2011’s breakthrough (23 homers, 45 doubles), he has been subpar at best.  But, bouncing right back is 2004’s winner, Jered Weaver.  He’s only been one of the AL’s best starting pitchers since forever.

Before that, you’ve got 2003’s Rickie Weeks, second baseman out of Milwaukee.  While has made one All Star Game, I wouldn’t put him as high as everyone else.  Nevertheless, hes’ been a starter for a long time, and fairly productive.  Before that, we have Khalil Greene in 2002, short stop for San Diego.  I’ve never heard of him, and for good reason, because he hasn’t been too great.

I’ll stop with 2001’s winner, Mark Prior.  He was going to be a Hall of Fame type flame-thrower until injuries killed his blossoming career.  And I’ll stop there because going back any further is going to make me less and less excited about Mike Zunino winning this award.

For the record, if you JUST look at recent past winners of the Golden Spikes Award, you’ve got to like our chances.  But, if you take a step back and look at the fact that this is the SEATTLE Mariners, then your expectations will be tempered accordingly.  Still, I’d bet that the Golden Spikes Award Winner goes on to greater things – on average – than the Heisman Trophy Winner in football.  We’ll see, I guess.

My Favorite Seattle Sports Year

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 127

After another hum-drum loss at home to the Twins (on Ichiro Bobblehead Night?  The hell you say!), I turn to the least-exciting race in baseball:  the race to the Number 1 Pick in next year’s draft.  On June 17th, we were the 3rd-worst team in the majors, slightly ahead of Pittsburgh and 7 games ahead of Baltimore.  By July 12th, we were 5th-worst ahead of Cleveland, Baltimore, Arizona, and Pittsburgh (in some order).  And now, on August 28th, lo and behold we’re back to being 3rd-worst!  4.5 games up on Baltimore and whopping 7 games up on Pittsburgh (Arizona is only a half-game ahead of us, with Joe Saunders in the fold, so we better watch out; they’re comin’ for 3rd-worst!).  The best thing we have going for us is Baltimore’s hard-charge out of the cellar thanks to Buck Showalter really lighting a fire under those kids.  See, that’s the kind of late-season damage you can do when you field a team of youngsters!  Eventually – hopefully – they get it, it clicks, and you start seeing more positive results.  Pittsburgh will be a tough nut to crack though.  Either way, it’s pretty safe to say the Mariners won’t be signing any Type-A Free Agents this offseason.  No, there aren’t any Stephen Strasburgs out there; but then again the Phenom Himself recently acquired a taste for Tommy John and his miracle surgery.  So, I guess retroactive thanks are in order for Yuni and the gang beating up on the A’s at the end of 2008?  Ackley seems to be coming along nicely.