Sigh, The Russell Wilson Temper Tantrum Continues

What did I JUST SAY? God, this is so dumb.

There was a big article that came out yesterday that I didn’t read, because I don’t subscribe to The Athletic. But, I follow enough Seahawks-adjacent people on Twitter to get the jist of it. Russell Wilson – according to some – “approached the Seahawks about a trade”. Now, just to keep things above board, according to Wilson’s camp, he did not demand a trade, but if such a deal were to happen, they did give a list of teams he would agree to go to.

How thoughtful of you.

I mean, call it what you want, but when you have a No-Trade Clause built into your contract, and you approach your current organization with a list of teams you’d be willing to play for – if something were to magically form out of thin air, I guess! – can we please stop shitting a shitter and just call it what it is? You can nudge-nudge, wink-wink your way through all of this if you want, but we all know what’s happening here.

In the report in The Athletic, the teams mentioned were the Jets, Dolphins, Raiders, and Saints. However, according to Wilson’s crew, those teams are actually the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, and Bears.

Here’s the thing: Russell Wilson isn’t the be-all, end-all of quarterbacks in the NFL. We all know that. Yes, he’s VERY good. Yes, he’s one of the 3-5 best quarterbacks in the game today. Yes, he is that proverbial Franchise Quarterback everyone talks about. You obviously don’t need Russell Wilson to win a championship in the NFL, but you DO need a franchise quarterback. And so, while I am willing to listen to any trade offers, they will be a total non-starter if we don’t get a franchise quarterback in return.

There aren’t many teams who have that to pony up. Of the four teams on Wilson’s list, arguably only the Cowboys have someone they could send us, but that’s Dak Prescott (who would need to be franchise tagged first, who is also coming off of a DEVASTATING injury to his ankle). I have no interest in the Raiders’ Derek Carr, nor whoever the Bears and Saints have on their scrap heap.

Of the teams The Athletic brought up, the Jets and Dolphins make the most sense. I don’t know how the Seahawks feel about Tua Tagovailoa, but if they believe in his potential to hit it big, between that and all the draft picks they could send our way, I don’t think the Seahawks would take much of a hit in the short term, before returning back to prominence. As for the Jets, they can keep Sam Darnold, or fucking throw him to the God damn wolves, but I want no part of him on the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets do, however, have about a million high draft picks (including #2 overall, as well as both of the first rounders we sent to them in the Jamal Adams trade). I’d be willing to entertain a conversation that afforded the Seahawks the opportunity to draft the second quarterback this year.

New York and Miami would be obvious choices for Wilson as well when it comes to whatever business empire he’s building for his post-football life. Frankly, I don’t see why he wouldn’t want to go to those teams.

But, that’s everything, isn’t it? He gets to choose. He gets to hold the Seahawks hostage in this deal. I know I JUST talked about not automatically jumping to the defense of the billionaire organizations in these types of arguments, but what can I say? I root for clothes. I’ll say this: I think the no-trade clause is a brilliant idea for the player. You shouldn’t have to worry about waking up one day and find out you’ve just been dealt to some also-ran because your team got tired of you. But, if YOU are the one demanding (or requesting, or approaching, or whatever) for a trade, then you can’t just waive your no-trade clause for the few teams you like. You have to leave the team open to maximize its value for you. Remember, YOU want out; the team would rather honor its contract. So, it makes no sense to then restrict the Seahawks.

Really, Russell Wilson needs to get his priorities together. Does he want to win football games? Or does he want to put up tons of numbers and win MVP awards? It’s fine to want both, but you HAVE to value one over the other, so which is it? If he truly wants to win, then as I’ve argued before, Seattle is one of the best places for him. But, if he’s going to be a poopy pants about the offense not being high-flying enough, then he’s full of shit when he says his ultimate goal is to win.

You know what winners say? Winners say, “I don’t care if I have to hand the ball off 100% of the time, as long as our team comes away victorious.” You know what stats-obsessed prima donnas say? “I’m tired of being hit so much and I want to run the offense my way.”

As has been discussed, Russell Wilson is one of the most media-savvy people in the NFL. He’s been able to elude controversy just as he has so many defensive linemen barrelling down on him. But, there’s a tremendous amount of insincerity when you know exactly what he’s going to say before he’s said it, because he’s already said it a million times before. He’s phony. When his brain is on autopilot in an interview, and his mouth is running a thousand words per minute, there’s no one who says less with more. But, when he’s pressed to give an honest answer – like in that infamous Dan Patrick interview a few weeks ago – he stammers and stutters and sometimes lets slip out the actual, honest truth. It’s rare, though. But, in those moments, you can see what Russell Wilson is all about.

Russell Wilson is all about Russell Wilson. That shouldn’t be shocking; there are countless other quarterbacks on countless other football teams who are the exact same way. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, or a bad player. But, as a fan, it’s hard, because it feels like we’re all being gaslighted. I don’t know how else to reconcile the lip-service he pays towards winning, while at the same time forcing himself out of one of the winningest organizations in the league.

I dunno, maybe Pete Carroll really sucks that much. That’s always on the table too, I suppose.

I Am Part Of The Problem

I would recommend clicking HERE and reading all of this, because it says it all.

There are two types of sports fans in the world: those who side with the players, and those who side with ownership. I always find myself in the latter camp, which is strange, because politically-speaking, that’s the opposite of what I espouse. I’m not Team Amazon, or Team Google, or Team Facebook; I’m Team Workers’ Rights. Trickle-Down Economics is a scam, because that money NEEEEEEVER trickles down. The rich ALWAYS get richer, and everyone else stays the fucking same. That’s why you see such a widening disparity in the income gap from the 1970’s to today. It’s capitalism run amok thanks to a neverending supply of greed and one-upmanship. I wouldn’t say I’m as liberal as it gets, but I will say that the wealthy in this country have nobody’s interests at heart except themselves (until they get so old, and so rich, that they decide to dedicate their lives to atonement through charity, at which point the damage has already been done); in short, they’re fucking scumbags.

Never has any of this sentiment been more applicable than in the world of sports ownership. The value of professional franchises (in the United States, we’re talking mostly about the NFL, MLB, NBA, and to a lesser extent the NHL) have skyrocketed over the last four decades; it’s the single best investment we have going right now! This is for any number of reasons, but at its essence it boils down to the fact that there are SO MANY different ways to monetize your team. TV deals, merchandise, ticket sales, stadium naming rights, luxury boxes, advertisements, you name it. If there’s a buck to be had, it WILL be had.

I think where the main disconnect lies is with these arbitrary and self-imposed limits teams and leagues put on themselves when it comes to salaries for their employees. I would argue that I’m not ACTUALLY on the side of ownership, but I’m just a fan who lives in the real world. Would it be nice if all teams spent whatever it took to bring in the very best players? Of course, but I live in the real world where it’s been decided that this isn’t an option, unless you’re in New York or Los Angeles or a small handful of other large cities. Would it be nice if teams actually TRIED to win, and didn’t just give lip-service to that desire? Again, of course, but teams are always going to be more interested in making money, and there will always be money to be made, even in losing.

For as much of a cynic as I can be, or a pessimist on even a good day, I can’t help but hold out hope on the things I want the most, no matter how far-fetched they are. Never is that carrot dangled more tantalizingly than with the sports teams I follow. That hope is the only thing that keeps me coming back for more and more torment! Why else would any rational human being continue to stand by the Seattle Mariners for this long? Why would you welcome back the Seahawks with open arms again after the nadir that was the 1990’s? It’s a sickness in the human mind – Dan Savage refers to it as Dickful Thinking when talking about sex – that allows you to warp and twist your thinking in such a way as to delude yourself into believing that continuing on this path is a smart idea.

I like to think I’ve moved beyond the mentality of “Shut Up & Honor Your Contract” when it comes to disgruntled players (admittedly, I was very much in that camp until probably a few years ago); owners time and time again refuse to honor contracts, so why should players have to sit there and accept it? For the longest time, I begrudged Alex Rodriguez for taking that money from the Texas Rangers, but you know what? If they’re going to offer that kind of money, you’d be an idiot not to accept it!

But, it’s time to take this personal growth to the next level. I still have to work within the confines of reality – I’m still going to be in favor of the Seahawks making smart decisions within their own salary cap, a la K.J. Wright – but that doesn’t prevent me from also demanding that the system itself should change. That our reality – as we now know it – doesn’t have to remain so forever. Maybe use a little of that Dickful Thinking when it comes to sports and sprinkle some of it on a hope that teams and their respective ownership groups should, you know, TRY to win. Not just once in a while, but all the time!

It’s grotesque that there are so many viable and quality free agents out there without deals, or who have to accept below-market contracts, because Major League Baseball invented a “Luxury Tax” system that effectively works as a Salary Cap without using those exact words. It’s grotesque where – in a sport that prints money – we have such disparity in payrolls from roster to roster, yet provide everyone with the same profit-sharing mechanism to perpetuate their unwillingness to spend. If there’s going to be a Salary Cap – er, excuse me, a Luxury Tax – then there has to be a Salary Floor, and a significant one. Really, the bottom end should be damn close to where the top is. And, if you’re a team in a city that can’t afford to provide in this fashion, then either you need to move or you need to sell to an ownership group that’s smarter and better able to monetize their product.

You’re telling me the team in St. Louis, MO, can frequently land in the Top 10 in payroll every single year, while the team in Oakland, CA – in the heart of Silicon Valley – is always at or near the bottom? In what world does that sort of ineptitude get rewarded?

Oh, that’s right, in the REAL world, where the rich always get richer, and everyone else can go and fuck off!

K.J. Wright Won’t Be Giving The Seahawks A Hometown Discount

I believe these were sentiments Wright brought up a couple years ago when he was a free agent, and I think he’s done multiple interviews recently – as, again, a free agent – telling people that he won’t be giving the Seahawks a deal when it comes to re-signing K.J. Wright. To which I reply … okay?

Look, I know the coaching staff and front office have their guys that they love to death. Leadership, performance on the field, who they are as people, all of it is top notch. But, at some point, you have to pull the plug and move on with your life. I appreciate that he’s letting the team – and, by extension, the fans – know where he stands. I think that sort of honest and open communication is important; don’t leave it up to assumptions. I don’t care who you are, people prefer to be optimistic; they’re always hoping beyond hope for the ideal circumstances to come to pass. Reality, more often than not, gets in the way of that. The reality here is: K.J. Wright will be 32 years old next season. It will be his 11th year in the league. He’s been very durable and very good at his job to date. There are only so many more years left in him where he’ll be playing at such a high level, so this could very well be his final opportunity to get paid a significant amount of money. He SHOULD try to squeeze every last dollar out of his NFL career while the getting’s good!

And the Seahawks SHOULD NOT be the team that helps him along that path.

Fuck it, man: linebackers are a dime a dozen, there I said it! I would rather the Seahawks play nobody but guys on rookie deals at those three spots for the rest of my football-viewing life, as opposed to giving ANYONE a second contract, let alone a third or fourth one. Because, for starters, with defenses needing to be in Dime defense so often (usually 2/3 of the time at a minimum), you’re much more likely to only need two linebackers as opposed to three! We’re already paying Bobby Wagner at the top of the middle linebacker market, now we’re supposed to pay upwards of $10 million per year to keep K.J. Wright around on top of that? When we JUST drafted Jordyn Brooks to be his replacement? When we previously drafted Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven the year prior? When we can go on the scrap heap at any time and sign a competent free agent for the bare minimum? I mean, what are we doing here?! What are we talking about here?!

I say this all the time, but I’ll say it again: the Seahawks are not flush with cash. The Seahawks are also riddled with holes to fill. And, as I’ve mentioned, just bringing back the same guys from last year isn’t going to be enough to push this team over the hump.

Let’s really look at that last part, because more than anything I’m afraid this is where we’re headed. It is RARE for a team to only need to keep its guys intact and either be as good or better than they were the previous season. If you look at the Chiefs, for instance, they won a Super Bowl and largely just kept the team the same (with draft picks and small signings filling in the cracks here and there); they were able to make it BACK to the Super Bowl, but of course, lost to Tampa. Even THAT loaded team, with the best quarterback alive, couldn’t win back-to-back titles.

Now, look at the 2020 Seahawks. 12-4, NFC West Champs … lost in the Wild Card round at home to a divisional rival. A rival who, not for nothing, got significantly better by trading Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford (and whose only significant loss to date was having their Passing Game Coordinator – a made-up title for a coach who does next-to-nothing – go to the Seahawks to run the offense). If we run THAT Seahawks team back again in 2021 somehow, you’re still talking about a squad that almost certainly won’t be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Seahawks need to get BETTER, not stay the same.

For the sake of argument, are there any opportunities for the Seahawks currently under contract to get better on their own? I’m sure I’ll enjoy what Damien Lewis looks like in year two, since he was so great as a rookie. There could be some defensive linemen who continue to incrementally improve. The offense – under a new scheme – will hopefully make things easier for everyone on that side of the ball.

But, if I’m being honest, I think the biggest leap in production might come from the aforementioned Jordyn Brooks! He showed a lot of improvement as his rookie season went along, to the point where he had supplanted Wright in the base defense. I would like to see what Brooks is able to do with the job full-time, with the knowledge he has from a year in the league, and the growth he’ll show by being comfortable in being a professional.

As far as I’m concerned, the $10 million (or whatever) that Wright is looking for: that’s money that can be used to sign other guys. Between that, the money we get for converting Russell Wilson’s base salary into a signing bonus, and maybe reworking a few other deals, that should be enough to fill the holes we REALLY need to fill. Along the offensive and defensive lines, as well as tight end (apparently).

It’s a cliché in the NFL because it’s true: it’s better to give up on someone a year too early rather than a year too late. Extending Wright yet again feels like a “year too late” proposition that I would rather not see come to fruition. So, let him go get his money. Apparently there are Seahawks fans out there who cringe at the notion of Wright in another team’s uniform. I am decidedly NOT one of those fans. It will be a bummer, but I’m smart enough to know this is a business. And in business, you have to take emotion out of it.

Kevin Mather Resigned From The Mariners Instead

As soon as word spread about what former Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather said at that Rotary Club online event on February 5th, it was clear he needed to go one way or another. Obviously, firing him would have been much more satisfying, and sent a more powerful message to the rest of the organization and the fanbase as a whole, but accepting his resignation yesterday works too (while, presumably, reducing the legal ramifications for the club in having to separate from a high-level executive).

To their extremely minimal credit, the remaining Mariners executives are saying the right things, sort of. They’re obviously downplaying Mather’s sentiments as his own, rather than the organization’s (which is, of course, bullshit). As I said before, and as is clear to anyone with half a brain cell, Mather wasn’t just making up total fabrications, he was being just about as candid as possible, without literally tossing out racial epithets. The president of a major sports team is privy to all of the inner-workings of that organization, as well as its plan of action for the next however-many years. What’s that quote? “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That certainly applies here. Don’t believe Mather’s toothless apology Sunday night after he got caught; believe the 45-minute speech and Q&A that he didn’t realize was being recorded to later be published on the Internet.

Yesterday, John Stanton – majority owner – had to face the music to the press. He will be taking over as president on an interim basis until they find a permanent replacement. That’s not as interesting to me. What’s interesting is how he’s trying to walk back Mather’s statements as one man going rogue. Kind of a play on the One Bad Apple policeman analogy, that totally dismisses the systemic issues at the heart of the Seattle Mariners.

It’s a delicate dance, because the smart thing IS to manipulate with a player’s service time. Look, this is the system that we have in place. There’s no formal salary cap – the players won that battle a long time ago – but in its place, we have this system of Team Control, that might arguably be worse for players than it would be to have a hard cap. Professional sports owners are greedy and fucking RUTHLESS, man. If they’re conceding something to you, I would take a hard look at what you’re agreeing to, because somewhere in there is a huge blindspot that the owners will be more than happy to take advantage of.

Getting back to the dance, though, you have to play all sides. You have to tell the players, “It’s all about competition and having the best players out there to help the Major League club win ballgames,” while at the same time telling them, “Well, you’re young, and don’t have enough minor league reps yet, so we’re going to play this underqualified retread/has-been until you ARE ready,” which just so happens to be however long it takes to maximize that player’s Team Control. You have to tell the fans to be patient, that it’ll be worth it in the end when all of these young prospects are up with the big ballclub, so just hang in there! And, you have to bend to the will of the ownership group, who will cut any corner if it means saving money in the short term. Owners will TELL you they’re desperate to bring back a winner, but in reality, that only matters if it comes with lots of fanfare and beaucoup bucks.

So, where are we now? I would argue, trust in the Seattle Mariners is at an all-time low. The fans are, obviously, outraged, to see that management has – ONCE AGAIN – bungled in the face of zero adversity. The players are, justifiably, outraged, to see that their worst suspicions have been not only confirmed, but given a name and a face to place their scorn. And, shit, the other Major League ownership groups are outraged because everyone knows Kevin Mather and the Mariners aren’t the only ones who think and act this way; and, of course, the Players Association is outraged because they’re looking out for the players who keep getting dicked around in this fashion.

How do we fix it? Well, not fucking up royally again for a while will surely help! Time fixes all wounds or some damn thing. I would also say the Mariners are heading into Spring Training with one arm tied behind their backs. ALL EYES will be on them and the way they go about deciding who makes the Opening Day roster. I would say it’s all but assured that at least Jarred Kelenic is in Seattle at the beginning of April, rather than the end of it. He might not be the only prospect making his Major League debut on such a timetable.

If you’re worried about Kelenic’s Team Control concluding with the 2026 season as opposed to the 2027 season, fear not! If he makes the Mariners effective Opening Day, presumably that means the Mariners will have him starting every day (there’s no reason to call him up and sit him on the bench). If he struggles, they can always send him to Tacoma for a month, telling everyone, “See, we told you, he’s not quite ready yet!” And we’ll get our extra year of Team Control. Of course, if he succeeds, then GREAT, we’ve got another quality outfielder helping us win games right away. This is win-win all around.

But, that’s a short-term solution. In the long-term, you want to know how the Mariners get over this controversy? SPEND SOME FUCKING MONEY.

Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. You talk a good game about wanting to be a World Class, World Championship organization. Well, you gotta spend money to make money in this game. Or, you gotta spend money to make wins, at least. Because, quite honestly, the Mariners don’t develop to the same high-quality level as the Rays or A’s to think they can get away with being fucking tightwads now and forever. It’s time to put up or shut up, Mariners.

Frankly, it was time to shut up a few weeks ago!

The Mariners Absolutely Must Fire President Kevin Mather Immediately

I don’t come to these types of reactionary decisions lightly. I’m not waiting around, scrolling Twitter all day, just looking for something to be offended by. Indeed, when I come across something that either already has blown up, or clearly WILL blow up in the very near future, I tend to chuckle and think, “Well, that person just ended their own life.”

These types of responses – so and so must be fired immediately – get lumped in with this phony concept of Cancel Culture. For starters, it doesn’t exist. No one is ever canceled; at worst, they go in Time Out for a while and then get to resume earning a living again. If Brett Ratner can get another job directing a major motion picture, if Mel Gibson can be welcomed back into the Hollywood fold, if Louis C.K. can start touring again after a nine-month vacation, you tell me who’s really canceled. Beyond that, you know who NEVER seems to get canceled? Good people. Isn’t that strange? It’s only the fucking assholes, or the idiots who can’t keep their mouths shut and need to boost their own egos constantly who end up taking themselves down (for a period of time). Furthermore, if you don’t know how the game is played by now, it’s your own fault. If you do or say shitty things, you will be exposed eventually … SO JUST DON’T DO OR SAY SHITTY THINGS! Because it very much is a game, and you’re losing if you get found out; there’s no money in being a martyr. Just because good people don’t get canceled doesn’t mean there aren’t bad people absolutely THRIVING; they’re just smart enough to know how the world works.

In fact, I’m annoyed that Kevin Mather’s speech at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club (whatever the FUCK that is; I’m assuming it’s full of the absolute worst of what this area has to offer, when it comes to entitled wealthy pricks) is even SLIGHTLY brushing up against racism, because while he’s certainly being one of those entitled wealthy pricks in his comments about Iwakuma (and other players, not noted in the link above; go find the full transcript for all of his bon mots), and while those are indeed fireable sentiments, I’m not here to tell you what you don’t already know: rich old white guy looks down on those from other ethnicities, news at 11.

I think Kevin Mather should be fired because he’s fucking terrible at his job!

When you are a president of something, your primary job is to be a leader. Handing out all of the Mariners’ internal secrets – when it comes to sabotaging a player’s service time, when it comes to exposing (in broad strokes) the organization’s financial situation, when it comes to fucking badmouthing your employees (you know, the guys you rely on to play the fucking game of baseball) – that’s not being a leader. I mean, in political terms, it’s the baseball equivalent of Joe Biden handing all of our nuclear codes to the Russians; Kevin Mather is helping THE REST OF THE LEAGUE destroy the Mariners.

If you’re a player in the organization, how can you trust anything that anyone says, from manager Scott Servais, to GM Jerry Dipoto, to primary owner and CEO John Stanton? If you are a free agent, why would you ever sign with a team that has this much contempt for its players? IT’S ALREADY HARD ENOUGH TO GET FREE AGENTS TO COME TO FUCKING SEATTLE! Because we’re so far out of the way, because we’ve sucked for almost the entirety of this organization’s existence, and because the weather is fucking shit! Now you’re chopping off both of the organization’s arms and legs, tossing us a sword, and telling us to go fight?

Someone who WANTED to get fired, who went into his boss’s office and shat on his desk and motherfuckered everyone in the most public and ostentatious way possible couldn’t have done a better job than what Mather did at this meaningless online event. He name-drops just about everyone, and NOT in a good way; in fact, he has something derogatory to say about just about everyone.

The thing is, did he lie? As far as I can tell, no. He said what everyone was already thinking. We knew there was no chance that any of the high-level prospects were going to get a shot at the Major Leagues in 2020. We knew that Jarred Kelenic wouldn’t likely be called up until May of 2021, to ensure that the Mariners control his services through 2027. We knew, financially, the Mariners are in good shape, because they have a controlling stake in their own cable channel that earns them countless millions of dollars that they get to hide from the rest of the league (there’s no profit-sharing in Regional Sports Networks; that’s all M’s, baby!). But, you can’t say those things out loud! Major League Baseball has another huge collective bargaining agreement to work out with the player’s union very soon! Do you think the rest of the league wants this type of dirty laundry aired for all to see (and to be used against them)?!

What galls me is that Kevin Mather talked about how confident he is that the Mariners are going to be world champions with this group. First of all, don’t you God damn jinx it! Secondly, if you’re ostensibly so high on these players, why are you making it nearly impossible for them to want to stick around longer than they absolutely have to? Why do I envision some of these guys refusing to play, and forcing their way out of Seattle eventually? Why do I see those championship hopes slipping through our fingers like the sands of fucking time, because one way or another we’re going to shoot ourselves in the fucking foot?

That’s what this is: the ultimate act of self-sabotage. His comments are no good for the Seattle Mariners organization BECAUSE they are the truth. They are the truth and everyone knows it, because there are 29 other MLB organizations who feel the same way about their own players (the only difference is, the other 29 presidents aren’t so fucking STUPID as to speak these words into a recorded Zoom meeting – allegedly while not knowing that it was being recorded in the first place, because he’s old and technologically inept). In that sense, this is the most Mariners thing he could have possibly done. The Mariners are ALWAYS fucking things up for themselves, in new and profoundly shocking and moronic ways. It’s like we’re fucking allergic to winning!

I am usually inclined to give people a second chance, if they speak out of turn or let some small thing slip out in conversation, or if something is taken out of context, but we’re talking about a keynote speech. This isn’t something he just blurted into a hot mic; this is something he worked on and maybe even rehearsed. To not know that this would get out into the world is BEYOND arrogant and/or asinine, because EVERYTHING gets out into the world! Shit man, even Ted Cruz can’t sneak away to Cancun for a weekend – abandoning his state in its time of need like the miserable fucking snake oil salesman that he is – without his picture (ON THE PLANE) circulating throughout every corner of the Internet. You think, you, Kevin Mather, are somehow exempt from the world that is 2021?

Of course, I had completely forgotten about how Mather was wrapped up in that sexual harassment scandal (and somehow got away scot-free with his employment with the organization intact). I was going to say that even though this is his first strike (it would, in fact, be his second strike … that we are aware of), he needs to be fired immediately, because this goes above and beyond damaging to the Seattle Mariners. It’s fucking sabotage.

His apology (riddled with spelling and grammatical errors as it is; perhaps he needs an English interpreter to help him with his statements) is meaningless. It’s also the first time he’s lied to us in this entire ordeal. Those comments are his own, because they are also reflective of the Seattle Mariners’ organization. They come off of years of strategy meetings and conversations with the rest of the higher ups, formulating their plan on how to run this rebuild. He can work to make amends all he wants, but that needs to be done with a pink slip in his back pocket.

Kevin Mather clearly can’t be trusted with delicate, valuable information related to the Seattle Mariners. Furthermore, I don’t know of a damn thing he has EVER done that makes him worthy of keeping his job. The best thing you could say about Mather up to this point is that he managed to stay OUT of the news (again, aside from the sexual harassment scandal). That’s something Chuck Armstrong – his predecessor – couldn’t seem to accomplish, as he kept sticking his big foot in his mouth in seemingly every interview. But, to blow up whatever good will he’d built up in such spectacular fashion is akin to striking out the side on a single pitch.

ONETWOTHREESTRIKESYOU’REOUT, Kevin Mather. I know you’re only fluent in Dumb, but I trust you won’t need anyone else to spell it out for you to help you understand.

All The Russell Wilson Chatter Is Boring To Me

Russell Wilson’s personality is as bland and vanilla as it gets in sports. He spews an avalanche of clichés in every single interview, as if his brain is on autopilot, and some artificial intelligence pulls random clips from its central database, shoving them out of his mouth as quickly as his vocal chords can formulate the sounds. Do you want to meet the absolute KING of being non-controversial? I have yet to find anyone who says less with more than Russell Wilson.

Which is why his recent barnstorming of national sports media entities has been so noteworthy. It feels like he’s finally saying something! Maybe even – *GASP* – speaking his own mind?!

Apparently, in this world we live in today, you always have to take a side (as if the issues aren’t more nuanced and complex than that, be it politics, religion, or the highest paid member of a football team and his desire to not be hit so fucking much). Some people are upset with Russell Wilson; they feel he’s throwing both the offensive line and the organization as a whole under the bus (especially those in charge of personnel). I can see that, in a sense. He’s the highest paid player on the team and one of the highest paid players in the entire league; quit your bitching and do your fucking job. If you’re going to hamstring an organization with your astronomical salary – when guys like Tom Brady (guys you’re envious of, because he wins so much) take slightly less in guaranteed money to help their teams fill out their rosters with higher-calibre talent – then you don’t get to complain when they don’t have enough money to stack the O-Line full of All Pros.

I mean, I guess they could stack the line like that, if they wanted to have zero talent whatsoever on defense.

It’s a team game. Football teams are quite large. You have to pay 53 of them and then some, and there’s only so many high-value contracts to go around. When one player – like, say, the quarterback – takes up anywhere from 15-20% of the salary cap, that’s obviously going to be to the detriment of the rest of the roster. As any douchebag on the prowl in a nightclub will tell you, it’s a numbers game!

That being said, Russell Wilson has a point. He’s being sacked too damn much. He’s being hit too damn much. While he has been remarkably durable in his nine seasons – never missing a game – if we’re not more careful, one of those hits WILL seriously injure him. And then where will we be?

Now, obviously, as I said before, this is a team game. It’s not all on the offensive line. Russell Wilson shoulders his share of the blame, and he’s owned up to that. People seem to want to gloss over that fact, particularly when they think he’s denigrating his O-Line; I guess people will always hear what they want to hear, and read into things when they’re not necessarily there. But, it’s also true that TOO OFTEN, he’s being pressured before he has anywhere to go with the football. As a winner, as a never-give-up kind of guy (a trait we’ve come to admire since he got here), Wilson is going to try to do whatever it takes to make a play. Think of all the dazzling highlights over the years that have come off of busted plays! Those are firmly entrenched in our memory banks for the rest of time!

While the O-Line had a pretty good rate of success in pass protection this past season, I would question who the competition is from game to game. Are the games against inferior defenses propping up the utter disasters, like we saw against the Rams (THREE FUCKING TIMES), when they ran roughshod over our O-Line like they were a wet paper sack? I don’t care about our pass protection success rate against the likes of the Jets, Falcons, and an injury-ravaged 49ers team; I care when we’re going up against the elite defenses and can’t do a God damned thing offensively to move the ball!

That isn’t Russell’s fault. Especially those fucking Rams games.

If I were Wilson, I’d be furious too, seeing what Tom Brady had to enjoy in his playoff run. They played three games, all on the road, leading up to hosting the Super Bowl, and he was NEVER pressured all that much. Maybe a little in that Green Bay game, but they still put up plenty of points. To absolutely dominate a solid Chiefs defense in that Super Bowl was a masterclass in protection and play-calling.

Which gets me back to the whole team aspect. It’s not all on Wilson’s shoulders, nor is it all on the O-Line, but you have to throw play-calling and offensive scheme into the mix.

Ultimately, this makes the timing of this media campaign so confusing, because the Seahawks seemed to have already put in the work to deal with this issue in hiring Shane Waldron from the Rams. We’re assuming, with good reason, that our offense going forward will feature a much quicker passing game, based on timing and improved route running to get guys open easier. So, Wilson won’t have to spend more than 2.5 seconds on the regular waiting for guys to get open, only to huck up a 50/50 ball or throw it out of bounds while getting smashed by very large defensive linemen.

This is a guy, not for nothing, who was reported to be a favored choice of Wilson to boot! He got what he wanted: he had input about the team’s next offensive coordinator (and, by design, input into how the offense will function going forward). And he’s still complaining? What’s the endgame here?

If it’s telling the front office to find a better left guard, I think they got the hint. If Mike Iupati is re-signed one more fucking time, I’ll fucking lose my shit! He is TOO OLD! Retire already; you are literally going to kill yourself decades prematurely at this rate! Other than that, and maybe improving the center spot, I think you have to be relatively happy with the offensive line we have. Duane Brown is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, Damien Lewis looks like an entrenched starter at right guard for the next decade, and Brandon Shell played MUCH better than any of us expected, until someone rolled up on his ankle and he had to miss time and play hurt the rest of the way.

If it has to do with protection under those circumstances – of injury and the like – then a better scheme (not just with routes, but also extra protections/chips on the end of the line) should help fix that as well.

But, if Wilson’s ultimate objective is more ulterior, then clearly we have a bigger problem on our hands. Many believe this is his way of ultimately forcing his way out of Seattle. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone, particularly when he ended up marrying Ciara; not that I would put the blame on her in any way. I believe Russell Wilson wants to be a mogul and he’s always had that as his goal; marrying someone like Ciara is just part of that. But, he wants to be a mover and a shaker, and for some reason you can’t do that in a place like Seattle? It has to be L.A. or New York or maybe Florida or Texas or Chicago.

If this was just about football, and being the best quarterback of all time, there’s no reason why he couldn’t do that here. The Seahawks are one of the most stable, successful organizations in the NFL; if he wanted to, he could win all he wants here. But, he’s about more than football.

I agree with the point that Mike Salk made on the Brock & Salk podcast this week; I think this is the beginning of the end. It started a teensy bit last year when he made a comment about wanting more stars on the Seahawks. It’s ballooned out here with his latest comments about not wanting to be hit so hard. This coincides with a reduction of the NFL’s salary cap, at a time when the Seahawks have little wiggle room to acquiesce to his demands. If you think the Seahawks are in a position to go out and sign a high-priced offensive lineman, you’re out of your mind! So, when the Seahawks ultimately fail to cave in to Wilson’s demands – not because they’re unreasonable, but because they financially can’t afford to at this moment in time – Wilson can look back and say, “Hey, I tried, but they won’t play ball with me, so I want out.” That could be as early as next offseason – assuming we fail to win it all, as we most likely won’t – but I bet if it doesn’t, it’s at least within the next two years.

If Russell Wilson ends up signing another extension with the Seahawks – beyond this one that is set to expire after 2023, not counting Franchise Tag years – I will be SHOCKED.

At which point, assuming the Seahawks don’t win a Super Bowl next season, maybe he’ll be doing us a favor by demanding a trade. If we can get a crazy-high draft pick, or take on some other team’s disgruntled superstar quarterback, maybe it’ll be better for everyone?

But, for right now, it’s all just noise and speculation. I wouldn’t even be writing about it if there was literally ANYTHING ELSE in Seattle sports to talk about.

Shed Long Is The Mariners’ Forgotten Man

Okay, I’ve put it off long enough.

Shed Long came over in a deal prior to the 2019 season. He was an infielder in the upper minors who seemed to have potential to be more than just a utility guy. Maybe not A LOT more, but enough for the Mariners to give him a legitimate shot at winning a spot on this team. He played in two stints with the M’s – in between jaunts to and from the Tacoma Rainiers – and … was okay. He showed promise. He was good enough for the Mariners to hand him the starting second baseman job in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. With the pop in his bat and quality glove work, it wasn’t hard to squint and see him as an everyday player maybe.

At the very least, with how bad the 2020 Mariners were projected to be, it made perfect sense to at least give him a chance and see if he could prove himself.

Unfortunately, Shed Long ended up falling flat on his face. Now, apparently, he was trying to play through a shin injury that would require surgery after his season ended (instead of, you know, getting it taken care of beforehand), but his numbers really cratered and there was never a time where he looked like the answer. He eventually got benched for Dylan Moore and others, and now he’s a man without a home.

Word on the street is: the Mariners are designating him as a Super Sub. He can play any infield spot in a pinch, as well as corner outfield (we’ll see about that one). The way I see it, until Jarred Kelenic earns his call-up, there WILL be an opening for Shed Long to try to re-prove his worth. But, he’s going to have about a month and change to do it, before Kelenic gets the nod and the organization has to do some roster shuffling.

I’ll say this: I’m intrigued to see what a healthy Shed Long can do. But, I have extreme doubts. He’s never been a guy who hits for a high average, and even though – for a little guy – he has a lot of pop in his bat, I don’t believe he will hit for enough power to sustain a regular Major League career. That isn’t to say he will NEVER figure it out, but I don’t think he will manage it in the next couple months. He also, not for nothing, strikes me as a Spring Training dandy who turns back into a pumpkin when the Regular Season starts. Prove me wrong, Shed!

2021 is a Now Or Never year for a lot of Mariners, but it’s most pronounced for someone like him. It is LITERALLY now or never, in that he better hit the ground running at a furious pace to earn his playing time. But, my hunch is that he’ll be trade fodder at some point down the line; a throw-in to a deal to bring back someone (hopefully) better.

This Will Not Be Bobby Wagner’s Last Season With The Seahawks

Contrary to my theory last October, it looks like Bobby Wagner will be here to stay, at least for a little while longer.

Funny thing about these contracts signed by future Hall of Famers: sometimes they come with roster bonuses you don’t see coming (unless you read the fine print).

Effective February 12, 2021, Bobby Wagner’s contract saw an additional $5 million become guaranteed money, raising his “dead cap” figure from $7.5 million to an untenable $12.5 million. What was – at one time – a possible savings of around $10 million (had we cut him timely), has now morphed into a relatively meaningless potential savings of $4.65 million. It’s not happening.

Not that I REALLY believed it would, but now here we are. While the salary cap probably won’t be in a dreaded $170-$175 million range, it’s probably not going to be significantly higher than $180 million, which is a far cry from the $198.2 million it was in 2020. The Seahawks – as I’ve belabored over and over again – are pretty much right up against that $180 million figure (when you factor in draft picks, practice squad, and Injured Reserve replacements) thanks to a number of high-money veterans currently under contract (including one Bobby Wagner). In order to do all the things we need to do (like extend Jamal Adams, or … you know, field a 53-man roster), the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING.

Instead of cutting Wagner – which again, was ALWAYS a long shot at best – we might be in a spot where we have no choice but to rework his deal (taking his base salary – of $13.15 million – and converting it into a signing bonus spread out over the remaining years of his deal). Without extending him, that means a savings of $6.575 million, which is a start (we could save even more if we tack on another year or two to his current deal, which would make him a Seahawks mainstay until the age of 35 potentially (if it’s a 2-year extension).

Everything I’ve been told about the NFL and its salary cap is: the worst thing you can do is continually kick the can down the road. Because, eventually, shit hits the fan and you’re stuck in Cap Hell for a year or two. It’s how you get these crazy swings from teams like the Dallas Cowboys (who go from 12 wins to 4 wins at the drop of a hat). Now, obviously, the pandemic changes things, as a lot of teams are going to have to kick the can in this fashion – extending their veterans, converting base salary into bonuses – just to make ends meet for the time being. But, now everything I’m reading is telling me that this is suddenly okay? That “creative financing” in the NFL happens all the time, and teams are pretty much free to do whatever they want as long as they cook their books accordingly?

I dunno, seems sketchy. Seems like a great way to run into some REALLY lean years sooner or later. I like a good escape hatch. When things get bad, I like to know I have an easy out, without a lot of repercussions. Getting stuck with aging veterans past their prime, who you can’t cut because they’re guaranteed too much money, isn’t my idea of a great Sunday afternoon in front of the television.

The janky-ass thing about all of this is that it’s not likely to stop with Bobby. I don’t know about you, but I’m not super stoked about seeing Carlos Dunlap walk; not after I watched this defense before and after he arrived this past season! Gotta extend him! And, I don’t know if you heard, but the Seahawks haven’t developed a competent, in-house left tackle since Russell Okung in 2010; so that probably means extending Duane Brown until he’s 40! I mean, I could go on and on, but there are a bunch of guys I’d like to have back on this team in 2021, who are free agents; but, just running back the same dudes doesn’t figure to see much in the way of improvement over a team that lost in the Wild Card round last season! Not when you KNOW this team needs to trim some fat – guys like Chris Carson or K.J. Wright, who play non-premium positions, yet will be asking for premium dollars – and could conceivably be worse at running back and linebacker heading into this season as a result.

I dunno. I don’t know what the Seahawks are going to do. What I DO know is: whatever that ends up being, it’s going to include Bobby Wagner in the middle of that defense.

I Don’t Know If The Mariners Are High On Ty France, But I Am!

Ty France seems to be one of those players without a position. That seems to be a trend with a lot of quote/unquote third basemen who come up through the minors at that spot, especially when they’re more known for their bats than their gloves. Do natural third basemen even exist? Or are they just plus-sized second basemen or slow-footed short stops? You be the judge!

Ty France, apparently, is coming at it from another angle, as a slightly-more-athletic first baseman type. Like, imagine if Daniel Vogelbach was 2/3 of his actual size, but, you know, could still actually hit a baseball.

These types of supposedly-deficient defenders always intrigue me, because if his 2020 season was any indication, the bat is there! He slashed .305/.368/.468 in 43 games across two teams (coming over in the Austin Nola deal with the Padres), with not really much of a dropoff at all during the transition. Ideally, you probably want a little more than the 14 extra base hits in that span, but a high batting average and competent on-base percentage makes up for a lot of ills in the power game for me. I’d rather someone come from this type of floor, because you can tweak a swing to create more loft if need be; but that kind of eye for balls and strikes is much harder to teach by the time you get to the Major League level. Knowing when to swing and what to swing at is an art, and most baseball players fail miserably at it.

He’s also only 26 years old, with up to five seasons of team control (including arbitration years), and while he’s not proficient at any one position, he’s capable of filling in at just about any spot on the infield (and by that I mean first, second, or third base).

It’s hard to talk about Ty France without talking about Dylan Moore, because both of them look to factor heavily on this team in the early going of the 2021 season. Presumably, that puts Moore in left field (next to Kyle Lewis in center, and Mitch Haniger in right) and that puts France at second base (between Evan White at first and J.P. Crawford at short, with Kyle Seager at his trusty third base spot). While we know Moore can play anywhere, it’s unknown at this time if we can hide France in one of the corner outfield spots in a pinch, but given our history of left fielders, it wouldn’t shock me to see the team give it a go (it just depends on how much of a liability France is up the middle).

As I alluded to, France’s “natural” position is third base. One would hope, if Seager ends up leaving after this season, that France could slide in there and we won’t miss a beat. But, if France isn’t any good at third, you’d have to wonder about his ability to play second, where I would assume – even between a couple of Gold Glovers in White & Crawford – defensive range is more of an issue.

Worst case scenario has the Mariners playing France primarily as the team’s Designated Hitter. You would think, given our history with Edgar Martinez (and our complete inability to properly replace Gar since his retirement), that the Mariners – more than most – can appreciate what an elite DH can bring to the table. But, like most teams, we’re trying to live in the 21st Century, where the DH is more of a rotational job, to give guys days off from playing in the field every day. Which means that, in their mind, you probably don’t want to be saddled with France at DH more than 3-4 times per week, which means he will need to be at least an adequate fielder 2-3 times per week. If he’s completely inept, that’s a problem, as it drastically reduces your lineup versatility.

That’s why guys like France – more often than not – aren’t foundational pieces, but instead guys who bounce around in deals like the one we made last year. He has value – so long as he’s hitting – but rarely gets the opportunity to stick in any one place thanks to his mediocre glove.

I’m, nevertheless, quite high on him for the reasons I’ve stated. The Mariners also have one of the best infield coaches in the Major Leagues, so I would hope that he can mold France into something passable in the field. Because, if we can work that out, that’s a HUGE hole we don’t need to fill later.

If we’re looking to break the playoff drought in 2021 – at least a year ahead of schedule – then we’re going to need more consistency out of our everyday lineup. While the pitching is shaky, as we saw last year, our coaches were able to mitigate things by keeping close tabs on the starters in their individual starts (not leaving them out there to get out of jams too often in the third/fourth times through the lineup). Obviously, the bullpen needs to drastically improve, but given the natural volatility of even high-level relievers, sheer randomness could always come into play to help us out this season. But, we need the hitters to hit, and not go into super-long funks.

That means, of course, that our stars – Lewis, Haniger, and Seager – need to perform to their potential/abilities, and that means some of these diamonds in the rough that we’ve stumbled upon – Moore, our catchers, Crawford, White, and France – need to be more consistent, and help pick up the slack when others are struggling. I have no doubt that France’s bat can be a big pick-me-up for this team. But, he just needs to not be a total wasteland out in the field.

I believe he can do it! And I hope that Austin Nola deal continues to pay huge dividends for many years to come!

The Mariners Brought Back James Paxton!

For athletes not named Felix Hernandez (my one and only), it’s usually Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind whenever someone leaves the Seattle orbit. To be fair, with fantasy football what it is, it’s relatively easy to keep tabs on ex-Huskies who have moved on to better things; and I always enjoy whenever the Husky basketball Twitter feed updates me on all the goings on of our pro Dawgs. But, I’m rarely going out of my way to keep tabs on players once they’ve left the Seattle area.

The Mariners traded James Paxton to the Yankees after the 2018 season, for Justus Sheffield and others. I knew at the time that he didn’t have a lot of club control left, but I couldn’t have pinpointed with any certainty when that contract was set to expire. He went to the Yankees with high expectations, and even though his numbers ended up being relatively in line with past performance (maybe just a tick worse, but negligible overall), and even though he started a career-high 29 games, he obviously fell short of those expectations. If we’re being honest, though, it’s almost impossible to meet expectations when it comes to the Yankees; if you’re not leading them to a World Series, then you’re probably falling short in some way.

Regardless, 2020 was as close to a disaster as it gets. Even in a pandemic-shortened year, Paxton’s season was further cut short due to injuries, and he managed only five starts. Before the season even started, he had surgery on his back that would’ve cost him 3-4 months, then his recurring forearm issue returned and that was that. The Yankees apparently just let him walk, rather than extend him any further offers.

I guess we know which team won THAT trade!

When I heard Paxton was still a free agent a month into 2021, those whispers that he might prefer a return to Seattle became a lot more interesting. There has, of course, been a lot of lobbying from a segment of the fanbase for the Mariners to “spend money”, if not to win now, at least to put us into a better position to win in 2022, when some of the highly-touted prospects start showing up. Even though this is only a one year deal, it makes a lot of sense to bring Paxton back now, to see what he has left in the tank.

It’s a one year deal for $8.5 million. I’m told there are incentives tied to the number of starts (or maybe just appearances) he makes: $750,000 for 10 starts, and another $750,000 if he makes it to 20 (max value of $10 million, in other words). That seems like a pretty achievable goal; he could spend a good chunk of the season on the Injured List and still make it to 20 starts no problem.

I like the move because I like James Paxton. When he’s healthy, there aren’t many left-handed pitchers who are more dominant. He’ll be 32 years old this year, and as we all know, durability isn’t his strong suit, so I don’t know if it’ll ever be wise to trust him with a huge-money, multi-year contract. But, at this point – even if he makes it through 2021 unscathed (which, the smart money says he’ll be at least a LITTLE scathed eventually, based on history) – I don’t think there’s enough trust in him to guarantee anything more than a 3-year deal at best. So, if he’s great again, and the Mariners like what they see, another extension a year from now shouldn’t break the bank.

Plus, get this: he actually LIKES Seattle! Who knew THAT was possible?! I’m used to professional Seattle teams having to over-pay to bring in quality free agents; it’s rare for this to be an ideal landing spot for an incoming player.

The bottom line is, it’s a win-win for both parties. Paxton gets a low-pressure environment to showcase his abilities, and the Mariners get a relatively cheap starter to throw onto the pile. It works to both parties’ advantage that we’re rolling back the six-man rotation as well. Obviously, it seems like this is the best way to maximize Paxton without over-working his arm, while still giving the Mariners an opportunity to build up the arms of some of our younger prospects.

Ultimately, I think it boils down to this: no one was super-excited about Chris Flexen. I think we can all agree – for a team like the Mariners, in the middle of a rebuild – the Flexen signing is a relatively smart one. But, he’s still a big question mark when it comes to being a Major League starter. Considering all the other big question marks we have in this rotation, it’s only natural to want to bolster this part of the roster.

So, what are we looking at now? Not a bad little rotation, all things considered:

  • Marco Gonzales
  • James Paxton
  • Yusei Kikuchi
  • Justus Sheffield
  • Chris Flexen
  • Justin Dunn

Even though Paxton is more of your prototypical Ace-type starter, there’s no way he’s taking over Marco’s spot in the rotation, which is probably for the best if you think about it. That further takes the pressure off of Paxton – he can be just one of the guys – and obviously doesn’t create a rift on the team, considering Marco is one of the main leaders on the roster. Also, since Paxton’s fastball is so much faster than Marco’s, it makes more sense for him to go after, that way whenever we face the same team, they won’t be all geared up to crush Marco’s softer stuff (what that means for the guy who ultimately has to follow Paxton is, of course, troublesome, but that’s neither here nor there).

Obviously, I have no idea the actual order of the rotation; that won’t be made clear until we get into Spring Training. But, those are the guys likeliest to qualify for the rotation, so barring any surprises, I think we’re pretty set. It wouldn’t shock me to see Flexen moved up in the rotation, just to break things up, since the way I have it would mean four consecutive left-handed starters in a row, but again, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

I like the top two guys a lot! The next two, I have relatively high hopes for; and the last two are total wild cards.

This being baseball, I wouldn’t expect the rotation to remain static. There will be injuries. There may be demotions. And, of course, there will be guys in the upper minors who are pounding on the door, just itching to make their marks.

The only question that remains between now and when the players report to camp is: will the Mariners make any more signings? Taijuan Walker is STILL a free agent, you know …