The Mariners Won An Important Series Against The Pirates

It’s cool to defeat the A’s – it certainly beats the alternative – but at some point the Mariners need to start winning series against competent teams, not just the absolute bottom-feeders. Obviously, the M’s are desperate, so any and all victories are welcome (except moral victories, they can fuck right off), but if nothing else, for our confidence, we needed to take down a team that’s actually decent.

Enter: the Pittsburgh Pirates.

No one’s confusing them with the Astros or Rays. But, they’re a team that has pretty much the same record as the Mariners. They have a good amount of offense, and not the worst pitching in the world, so in my book that’s a worthy challenge to see where we are coming off of that 4-game sweep of the A’s.

Immediately losing 11-6 on Friday sure didn’t do much for my well-being! That’s about as big of an anomaly as you’ll see, though. George Kirby has been the best pitcher on this team – and one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues – so I wouldn’t expect to see him giving up 4 homers in a game again anytime soon. All told, he couldn’t get through five, while giving up 7 runs (all earned) on 9 hits.

If you are looking for a moral victory, it’s the fact that the M’s scored 6 runs, and the way we scored them. The Pirates went up 1-0 in the first; we got a run back in the bottom half, then scored again in the second to take a short-lived 2-1 lead. The Pirates re-tied it in the 4th, then scored a whopping 5 more in the fifth. But, we got 2 more in the bottom half to make it somewhat interesting at 7-4. Unfortunately, our bullpen also didn’t have it, and kept letting them score. It was 10-4 in the bottom of the seventh, when we got two more runs. Every time we got it within reaching distance, they stepped on the gas. It was somewhat encouraging, but overall more of the same. This Mariners team just finds ways to lose. Sometimes, they’re a broken record, sometimes they find ways to surprise us. This time was a definite shocker.

As we do, though, the pitching bounced back. Luis Castillo on Saturday went 6 shutout innings, striking out 10. It was masterful! The bullpen completed the task and we ended up winning 5-0. J.P., Ty, and Julio had 2 hits each, and Suarez had a couple big RBIs.

Then came the Sunday rubber match. All too often, these series have been swung by the rubber match, which often comes down to a single run or a single at bat. In this case, behind a strong start from Marco (5.2 innings, 1 run), we had a 3-1 lead heading into the eighth inning. But, the combo of Topa and Sewald blew it, sending us into extras. This time, however, we managed to keep them off the board, and Suarez won it for us in the bottom of the 10th with a 3-run blast. His power numbers had been severely lacking, so this weekend was a welcome return to form for our third baseman.

All in all, this was a pretty great weekend for our struggling hitters. Suarez, Julio, Ty, and even Teoscar had key hits to lift up the offense. Not a moment too soon, as the Yankees come to town this week. We’re going to need all the bats we can get if we want to make it back-to-back-to-back series victories.

The One Thing The 2023 Mariners Are Good At: Sweeping The A’s

When people start talking about the ________ of all time, I tend to tune out. The phrase Greatest Of All Time – and particularly its acronym – is so over-used, even my enjoyment of the actual farm animal is in jeopardy. Recency Bias is a fucking scourge of American life, and in no way is it worse than in sports.

That being said, we might literally be watching the most inept team in baseball history in the Oakland Athletics. Or, at the very least, in the “modern era”, whatever that means to you and your god.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t tend to pay great attention to the baseball teams outside of Seattle. But, I can’t for the life of me ever remember a team starting 10-42. That’s an insane, unreal set of numbers to me. What was the old Ron Fairly line? Everyone wins 60 games and loses 60 games, and it’s what you do with the other 42 that determines your season? Forget 60, are the A’s even going to get to 42 victories? We’re at a point in the season where you can legitimately make the argument that this A’s squad is going to lose more games than anyone ever.

Talk about playing the right team at the right time!

The Mariners needed this. I don’t want to say anything comes easy in professional sports, but the Mariners needed an easy 4-game sweep of a crap team in front of our home fans. And, we more or less got it (it’s debatable how “easy” two of those games were), while adding a couple wins to our 1-run game ledger to boot.

Monday’s game featured an offensive explosion, a quality rebound from Luis Castillo, and some much-needed work for the guys in the back of our bullpen. All told, it added up to an 11-2 victory. France, Julio, Kelenic, and Suarez all had multi-hit games; these are EXACTLY the four guys you’d want to have multi-hit games. These are the studs we need to rely on if we’re going to turn this season around.

Tuesday’s game was an incredibly interesting 3-2 victory. Marco gave up two runs in the first inning – one start after giving up 8 runs and not getting out of the second frame – and we all expected it was another Shitty Marco performance. But, he buckled down and left after six innings, still having given up just the two runs. Meanwhile, the M’s scored all three of their runs on back-to-back homers in the fifth by J.P. and Ty. The bullpen successfully made it the final three innings for the save (sans Brash, by the way, who has fallen out of favor for those high leverage spots).

Wednesday’s game was another blowout affair, with the M’s winning 6-1. We scored five of those runs in an extended rally in the 4th, before Teoscar hit a solo homer late for a little insurance. In this one, J.P., Julio, Cal, and Pollock all had multi-hit games. Meanwhile, Bryce Miller had another phenomenal start: 6 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, all on 90 pitches. He lowered his ERA to 1.15, while lowering his WHIP to 0.51! The lone run was allowed … by Brash, who got knocked around for 3 more hits in his one inning of work.

The Mariners finished off the sweep with another come-from-behind 3-2 victory. Logan Gilbert gave up a 2-run homer in the first, before settling down, finishing 8 very strong innings, giving up 3 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 6, all on only 77 pitches. Paul Sewald got the save, his 11th on the season so far. This one was the Ty France Show. Two days after getting hit on the hand, and one day after having to sit out because of that hand, he was back and hitting bombs. Solo homer in the first, solo homer in the sixth, and scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth off of a bases loaded Suarez walk. It wasn’t the most impressive offensive performance I’ve ever seen, but Julio had a couple of hits to start to work out of his funk.

This brings the Mariners to 26-24, with the Pittsburgh Pirates coming to town this weekend. Let’s see if we can keep this going, or if we need to restructure the schedule to only play the Athletics from here on out.

Biggest Disappointments (So Far) Of The 2023 Mariners

Yesterday, I got into some of the bright spots. Today, it’s time to shine a light on the pits of despair.

As always, there’s a lot of blame to go around when a team is as mediocre as the Mariners. To put things in perspective, as of the moment of this writing, the M’s are 10-1 against Oakland, Colorado, and St. Louis (three of the worst, or at least most-underperforming, teams on our schedule to date). Against everyone else, we’re 14-23.

But, I don’t want this post to be 300 pages long. So, we’re not going to get into the bottom part of the order too much. Frankly, I never expected much out of La Stella or Pollock or even Wong; they all felt like poor fits to me, and I was never going to be surprised that they sucked. It also isn’t terribly shocking that Haggerty has been bad at the plate, or that Murphy got off to a slow start, or that Trammell & Hummel are more Quad-A guys than actual Major Leaguers. If you went into this season banking on one or more of these guys to be catalysts to our success, you were always bound to be disappointed.

What’s more concerning has been our studs, who have been decidedly unstudly. We’re never going to go anywhere if these guys don’t pick it up.

With so many other storylines going on, Julio Rodriguez was kind of sliding under the radar for a while. But, he’s been pretty far from what we had come to expect from him. Somewhere in between the dregs of last April and the rest of the season, but a helluva lot closer to the poor end of that spectrum. I don’t think it was out of line for people to already have notions of MVPs dancing in their heads, so an OPS under .700 this far into May is fairly discouraging. I don’t think anyone believes this is who he’s going to be the rest of the year, but he can snap out of this funk anytime now, as far as I’m concerned.

Teoscar gets a lot of the flak, and sort of gets lumped in with the other shitty newcomers, but I don’t think he’s unsalvageable. I also don’t think he’s necessarily been anything other than what we should have expected. Maybe he’s a little light in the extra-base hits, maybe he’s striking out a bit more than normal. But, he was always a guy who struck out a lot. He was always Boom Or Bust. I think where the disconnect lays – and I’m as guilty of it as anyone – is projecting him to be some sort of Home Run King or something upon arriving here. We saw a guy with a lot of talent, a guy entering a contract year, and a guy with enough power to overcome the challenges of playing half his games in Marine Layer, U.S.A. But, I think this is just who he is. He’s not going to become the next Nelson Cruz in a Mariners uniform. He’s going to muddle his way through this season, and take the biggest deal he can get with another team next year. I do expect he’ll pick it up a little bit at some point, but I also don’t think he’s going to be a huge guy for us.

I think I’m officially starting to sour on the Ty France experience. I certainly, 100% don’t want to see him reach a second contract with the Mariners. We’re talking about a guy who, sure, when he’s healthy, he’s probably my favorite type of hitter on this team. But, part of that quality that makes him so rootable also tends to get him hurt. He crowds the plate and takes an inordinate number of pitches off his body. Last year, he went on the IL while playing in the field, and when he returned he was pretty much worthless for the rest of the season. It turned out – obviously – that he was playing in a considerable amount of pain. And, at least for him, he can’t seem to perform when he’s trying to fight through nagging injuries. Already this year, we’ve seen him go in the tank; is he already dealing with injuries and we’re not even two full months in yet? I just wish Evan White wasn’t also so injury prone (with MUCH more devastating conditions), because I was really hoping to see what he could do before his contract starts getting expensive. Either way, Ty’s home run power seems to be dwindling, and he’s not even really putting up an impressive batting average. I think it’s a long, slow decline from here on out.

Eugenio Suarez is quite off of his power pace from last year, and while I don’t think this is bound to continue forever – he tends to hit them in bunches – it’s yet another major reason why the M’s have had so much trouble scoring runs this year. Last year at this time, he had 9 homers and 9 doubles; this year it’s 5 and 5. Just boil it down to that. Everything else being pretty much equal, you have to imagine the additional RBI of just equalling what he did last year (adding 4 more doubles and 4 more homers to his current total) might be worth a small handful of games by themselves, considering what our record is in 1-run games.

It’s easy to shit on Marco Gonzales – I do it all the time! If you put him in perspective, I’ll admit you could do a lot worse for a #5 starter. But, we’re 9 starts in and I would argue he didn’t give us a chance to win 3 of them based on his performance. He’s reached 6 innings (and no further) 4 times, in spite of extremely reasonable pitch counts in all of his starts. That shows me a guy who can, at times, be effective, but even then he can’t be trusted. We’re trying to squeeze as much as we can out of this dried sponge, and then getting him the hell off the mound.

I would say Matt Brash isn’t exactly the force of nature we were promised by pretty much everyone this offseason. The stuff is still there, but he’s disturbingly hittable for a guy we’ve been trying to shoehorn into high leverage spots. It makes me wonder if he’s ever going to figure it out. I was still holding out some hope that he’d one day return to a starting role, but if he can’t even master a single inning, how would we be able to trust him with 6+?

Finally, let’s dump on Chris Flexen. On the one hand, maybe we should be praising him; for, if he hadn’t stunk so hard in his limited duty as a 6th starter – following Ray’s injury – we wouldn’t have gotten to see Bryce Miller this early. But, his entire package – even as a reliever – has been appalling. He’s in a contract year, he had been pretty reliable as a back-of-the-rotation starter until this season, and there was every reason to believe we might trade him at the deadline for a prospect, or as part of a package to bring in a hitter to help us for the stretch run. Instead, his value is pretty much nothing, and we’d be trading him just to get him off our roster. I would say that maybe there’s hope he can rebuild his reputation in the bullpen, but we don’t have very many opportunities to make use of a long reliever with the rotation arms we have now. And he’s not a leverage reliever in the slightest; you can pretty much only use him in blowouts. Sure, he’s had five consecutive scoreless outings (8 total innings) since his ERA hit its zenith of 8.86, but it’s taken him a little over 3 weeks just to accrue those outings. He’s a last resort, and he’s going to have to be near-perfect from now until the end of July to have any value at all.

2023 Mariners Bright Spots So Far

It can be easy to dump all over this season, for good reason. The Mariners were expected to compete for the A.L. West, or at the very least somehow make it back to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2000-2001. We’re very nearly two months into the year and the Mariners are 23-24. It’s embarrassing, it’s infuriating, and it’s starting to feel like we’re getting to the point of desperation. It’s starting to feel like this team needs to go on a massive tear just to get to where they should’ve been all along. Essentially, we’re required to bank on what happened last year – when the M’s won 14 in a row and 22 out of 25 – except the problem is, this team has thus far failed in what they’ve been so good at recently: winning in 1-run games. Sure, there have been blowouts so far that have contributed to a +27 run differential, but that just means we’re 3 games off of the pace of where we should be.

We’re 6 games out of first place. AND we have three other teams to leapfrog to get there. That’s not where you want to be, if the expectations coming into the season were to – again – compete for a division title.

On the flipside, it’s not like we’re the A’s. It’s not like we’re the White Sox. The Mariners are a team with a lot of talented players, and while there are a plethora of disappointments, there’s also a lot of bright spots that we didn’t necessarily see coming either.

My tendency is – when a team plays down to this level – to throw away the season and focus on next year. The problem with that is – unlike in years past – there’s still enough talent on this team, and it is still early enough (even though I hate that line of thinking as much as anyone), that we’re in our window right this second. I don’t WANT to focus on next year. Because, sure, while it’s interesting to imagine what this team might look like in 2024 and beyond, there are also a number of the same underperforming players who will be back as well. It’s not a matter of these bright spots continuing to make their mark; it’s a matter of everyone else playing up to the backs of their baseball cards. It’s about everyone being good at the same time and putting together a magical season. We’ve had the experience of 2022. We’ve made the playoffs, we won a series, and we played the eventual World Series champs the toughest of anyone they played in their entire post-season run last year. Now it’s time to take the next step.

But, instead of belaboring our woes, let’s look at the silver linings of 2023 through 47 games.

You have to start with Jarred Kelenic, obviously. Some people are on record – at least back in April – of saying they’d trade a slow team start for Kelenic turning into The Real Deal. I was definitely uncomfortable with that line of thinking, but I do think it’s a franchise-changer for Kelenic to not only be a solid platoon guy, but to be an All Star everyday player, against both righties and lefties. To have played himself not only into a starter role, but someone batting in the top third or top half of the lineup. It still might be too soon to take this to the bank – I mean, look at Julio’s 2022 vs. 2023 – but I also don’t think Kelenic is a flash in the pan. I think this is who he is, he’s unlocked something extra-special – something we all saw in him as a prospect since the Cano deal – and he projects going forward to be a vital piece of this team’s success. His average has dipped ever-so-slightly below .300, but the whole offensive package is exactly what you want. He’s the best player on this team this season, period. That’s extraordinary! It certainly wasn’t something I was anticipating coming in.

I’m not going to completely abandon the regulars from here on out, but let’s shift over to the pitching for awhile.

George Kirby has built on an already-phenomenal start to his career. He’s been the best pitcher on this team all season. 8 quality starts out of 9, and that one was his first start of the season, whch I’m more than happy to write off. He’s getting deep into games, he’s economical with his pitches, and he’s giving this team a chance to win every five days. The fact that we’re only 5-3 in his quality starts says more about this offense and how it’s let the team down.

Bryce Miller has obviously come from out of nowhere, to a degree. He was on everyone’s radar coming out of Spring Training, but in another universe, he wouldn’t have gotten the call-up until late May or June. He’s 4 for 4 in quality starts, and two of them came against the Astros and Braves. He’s also getting deep into games, he’s also economical with his pitches, and more importantly, he’s helping us all forget how much we were counting on Robbie Ray to be a central part of this rotation. We essentially replaced a former Cy Young Award winner with another Cy Young-calibre arm.

There are a number of nice bullpen pieces who have stepped up, even if the bullpen as a whole has been a little inconsistent (and not quite up to snuff compared to recent seasons). Justin Topa, Gabe Speier, Trevor Gott, and Juan Then all have quality stuff and solid numbers so far. They’ve helped us through some poor outings by Brash, Castillo, Festa, and Sewald, and injuries to Munoz and Murfee. It’s kind of mind-blowing how we’re able to keep reloading a stacked bullpen, while overcoming the expected high-variance year-to-year performances you get with a segment of the team that’s always so volatile.

While I don’t want to dismiss the inconsistencies of Logan Gilbert and Luis Castillo, they’ve also had some dynamic outings so far, and it’s not hard to see these guys continue to chug along and give you the quality outings you’ve come to expect so far in their careers. The starting rotation is, far and away, the strength of this team, and pretty much the only reason why we’ve even managed to hang around .500. The hitting will start to come around at some point, so having our 1-4 spots in the rotation being so good will give us a great chance to go on that significant winning streak we need to climb back into contention.

I’m happy to shout out J.P. Crawford in this particular blog post, because I think a lot of us were really down on him after his 2022 (especially the way it ended with a whimper). He’s always been kinda streaky, but all too often he goes in the tank for long stretches, leaving his overall numbers a little lackluster. But, especially as we started this year with so many hitters in the tank, it was nice to have some consistent production from our slap-hitting short stop. Indeed, he’s actually hitting a good number of extra-base hits for him – mostly doubles – but more importantly he’s still getting on base at a great clip. His on-base percentage leads the team among qualified players, and he has since elevated himself to leadoff hitter once again (thanks in large part to Julio’s struggles, but still). And just anecdotally, the only hitter I’m more comfortable with right now in a big spot than J.P. is Kelenic. J.P. is one of the great leaders on this team, and so far he’s been leading his ass off!

Finally, let’s round out this post with Jose Caballero. It’s WAY too early to lower the Mission Accomplished banner with him, but the M’s have been in a desperate search to shore up the second base position since the Cano deal, opting to go with veteran savvy on short-term deals the last two years. Adam Frazier was a dud, and so far Kolten Wong has made us long for the days of Adam Frazier (it’s not surprising to see him have a little bit of a bounce-back season with the Orioles so far). Once Caballero started seeing playing time (we got him as sort of an A-ball level Just A Guy in a deadline deal with the Diamondbacks in 2019 for Mike Leake), I think we all thought he’d only be keeping Dylan Moore’s bench spot warm for him until he healed up. But, with Wong sucking, Caballero has gotten more and more opportunities, and he’s certainly made the most of them! So far, Caballero has played in 8 fewer games and had 38 fewer at bats than Wong, but he has the same number of doubles, infinity more homers, is crushing him in all slash figures (OPS of .802 vs. .468), and already has a 2 WAR advantage (0.8 vs. -1.3)! All in his first-ever Major League season! I mean, what the fuck?! I don’t know if this is going to continue for Caballero, but it certainly looks like he’s getting more comfortable in all facets of the game. We’ll see if he sticks as a long-term solution to our second base woes. But, right now? Caballero is a godsend, and the Mariners can certainly use more of that.

The Mariners Capped Off A Losing Road Trip With Another 1-Run Defeat

It’s just the same shit on a different day, you know? How long are we going to continue spinning our wheels in this muck?

What the Mariners need to do is string together a bunch of series wins in a row against the okay-to-good teams, and sprinkle in some sweeps against the bad teams. The Mariners failed on all fronts during this road trip. And, really, it’s been just one long continuation since the season started. We blew the finale in Detroit, which might’ve saved us and at least given us a winning record for the road trip. That meant we had to defeat a good team 2 out of 3 times, and we just weren’t up to the task. We got manhandled in the final two games of the Red Sox series, then for good measure we dropped the rubber match against the Braves the only way we’re capable of: regressing HARD.

It’s not just regression for the Mariners in 1-run games, with our 4-12 record, it’s a fucking over-correction. At this point, we need some regression just to get back to fucking .500!

We started off the series Friday losing 6-2. Bryce Miller had his first bit of struggles, though I will say that 2 of the 3 runs he gave up were helped along by our bullpen – specifically Trevor Gott – not doing its fucking job. He still went 6.1 innings (on a day where the bullpen was also understaffed due to recent over-work) and limited that potent Braves lineup to 4 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 4.

That performance gave Miller his first career Major League loss, as the offense couldn’t do jack shit. The bullpen went on to give up 3 more runs in a 6-2 defeat.

We recovered on Saturday for a 7-3 victory. But, that coincided with a Braves Bullpen Day, so I don’t know how much credit the offense gets for its relative explosion. Suarez had 2 hits and 3 RBI. Kelenic had 2 hits and 2 runs scored. Crawford had 2 hits and an RBI; Hernandez and Trammell both had one hit and RBI each. And even Julio walked 3 times and scored twice. It was a nice all-around day for everyone but Ty France.

Logan Gilbert got the relatively easy victory, and looked pretty good doing it. 6 innings, 2 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk, with 9 strikeouts. He busted out his splitter for the first time with any regularity and consistency, and it generated some quality results! That’ll be a nice little weapon for him going forward; assuming it doesn’t lead to any arm injuries.

Then came the 3-2 defeat on Sunday. George Kirby gave up all three runs in his 7 innings of work. The Braves had some hard hits, but otherwise it was a pretty masterful performance. Kirby limited them to 6 hits and a walk, while striking out 6; he did what he was supposed to do: keep us in the game. But, the Braves’ offense did what it was supposed to do: give its team a lead against a good pitcher anyway. I don’t know if the starter the Braves trotted out there was worth a damn, but taking a peek at his ERA, it tells me probably not. Yet, he limited us to 1 run across 6 innings. We got to witness a Kelenic homer early, and Jose Caballero’s first career homer late. But, otherwise, it was fucking nothing AGAIN from this offense.

When are we going to heat up, boys? The weather’s BEEN fucking nice! It’s time to start hitting like you mean it, and start winning games like your season fucking depends on it! Because, guess what? Your season fucking depends on it!

Have The Seahawks Done Enough To Overtake The 49ers?

That’s the question we’re asking ourselves all offseason. It’s really the only relevant question to the 2023 season from a Seahawks perspective.

The 49ers were 13-4 last year, and very clearly the second-best team in the NFC. They were the #2 seed in the playoffs, they met Philly in the NFC Championship Game (the #1 seed, naturally), and they got pounded into submission.

The 49ers had one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. They’re well-coached, and they have a quality offensive system that allows them to plug & play literally any quarterback (including Brock Purdy, a rookie last year who was taken with the literal final pick in the NFL Draft), and they’re STACKED where it counts. They have one of the best running backs (when healthy) in Christian McCaffrey. They have one of the best wide receivers (when healthy) in Deebo Samuel. They have one of the best tight ends (when healthy) in George Kittle. They have one of the best defensive linemen (when healthy) in Nick Bosa. They have one of the best middle linebackers (who’s always healthy) in Fred Warner. Now, the fact that almost all of these guys have had major injuries recently – yet were all healthy in 2022 – tells me the 49ers were exceedingly lucky last year. One has to wonder if that’s going to carry over; perhaps that’s a feather in our cap.

Where the 49ers are most in flux is at quarterback. Jimmy G is gone. Brock Purdy got injured at season’s end and is no sure thing to return by the start of this regular season. Trey Lance got hurt early on and was lost for most of 2022; he’ll be back, but now there are questions about his viability as a starter going forward. And their big hedge in all this is Sam Darnold, I guess?

Here’s the deal: talking about injuries, or pontificating on who the quarterback is going to be, leaves a lot of variables in play. I’m not interested in “What Ifs” when it comes to the 49ers. I think Brock Purdy will come back and play again; I believe he’ll be in the majority of the games this season. I also believe – as noted up top – they can roll with anyone (including Sam Darnold) and be fine on offense. They have enough talent at the skill spots to move the chains, and they have a deep enough defense to not need a lot of points to win games. Now, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to fill things out in the draft – and eventually the chickens will come home to roost for this franchise – but I’m going into 2023 believing the 49ers will be pretty much as good as they were in 2022. Without even looking at their schedule, I’ll pencil them in for 11-13 wins right now.

I want to focus on the Seahawks more than the 49ers, for obvious reasons. I follow the Seahawks more closely. This is a Seattle-centric blog. And the onus is on the Seahawks to have done enough to bridge the gap.

The 2022 Seahawks were also in the playoffs, as a wild card team, with a 9-8 record. For our hard work, we were rewarded by playing the 49ers in the first round. We got obliterated. Indeed, we lost three games to the 49ers last year, and none of them were particularly close. We couldn’t move the ball! That’s the long and the short of it; we couldn’t move the ball until we were already getting killed, and by that point it didn’t matter. None of the games were competitive, and that’s hard to do when both teams are playoff teams, who are in the same division. We know the 49ers! There were no surprises. They just beat our fucking asses, mano a mano.

This post isn’t just about beating the 49ers this year. It’s about overtaking them for the NFC West title. Any team on any given Sunday and all that; we could fuck around and luck into a win. But, I’m more interested in going toe-to-toe with the 49ers over the long haul. So, what have the Seahawks done?

  • We signed Jason Myers to an extension. He’s great every other year, so I’m a little worried about what 2023 has in store. That being said, the 49ers just drafted a kicker, so I’d be more concerned if I were them.
  • We signed Geno Smith to an extension. Obviously, this is much bigger news than a kicker. His contract is pretty well tied up with his performance; if he does even a fraction of a percent better than he did last year, he’ll get PAID. If he fails to live up to what he did last year, he’ll still get paid, but considerably less.
  • We signed Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to plug the middle of our defensive line. They both feature vast improvements in pass rush ability, with moderate improvements in run stuffing.
  • We filled out our offensive line with trusted veterans (on short-term deals) and exciting rookies (on long-term deals). Gabe Jackson is no more, but Phil Haynes returns (and figures to get first crack at one of the guard spots opposite Damien Lewis). Evan Brown was brought in to compete at center; he replaces Austin Blythe (who was a detriment for us last year) and figures to be much more competent. We also drafted a couple of thrilling prospects in Anthony Bradford (humongous guard taken in the 4th round) and Olu Oluwatimi (a savvy 5th round pick who many project to become our starting center as early as game 1).
  • We signed Devin Bush and Julian Love at inside linebacker and safety, respectively. Bush is a potential reclamation project who – at the very least – should be a slight improvement over Cody Barton. Love is much more interesting, as he figures to be a major hedge against the inevitable Jamal Adams injury. Love essentially cost us Ryan Neal, but it still feels like a solid upgrade at the position.
  • We brought back Bobby Wagner, which was vitally important, considering how mediocre we were at linebacker last year (again, see: Cody Barton), as well as factoring in the Jordyn Brooks injury (who figures to start this year on the PUP list, and might not be back to normal again until 2024). This improves our run defense, our communication on defense, and gives us another brilliant mind on this side of the ball to ensure players are in the right spots and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • Then, we went out and drafted the best cornerback and wide receiver in the class. We also brought in a couple of very promising running backs (to replace Penny and Homer), a few defensive linemen to fill out our depth, and even another safety who is getting all kinds of kudos (Jerrick Reed won’t be a starter – or even much of a defensive participant – in year one, but he figures to cut his teeth on Special Teams, and could eventually develop into a Quandre Diggs replacement down the road). It appears to be the second consecutive elite draft class by the Seahawks – with a major emphasis on Best Player Available – and as we all know, there’s no better way to quickly turn around your franchise than to draft the way we did from 2010-2012.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? The previous iteration of a championship-level Seahawks squad took three drafts to reach. So far, this one has only had (MAYBE) the two. Granted, finding even ONE elite draft class is a stretch, for any organization. But, if we want to keep up with the Joneses, we gotta be on the ball. I will say – in comparison to the L.O.B. squad – that we are starting from a MUCH better spot compared to what the Seahawks were from 2009 to 2010 (when Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over). So, an optimist might say that we only NEED the two elite draft classes.

What do I like? Let’s start there.

I’m absolutely enamored with the non-quarterback skill guys on offense. D.K., Tyler, and JSN are all incredible; here’s hoping JSN gets healthy and stays there (it’s disconcerting that he’s still dealing with an injury he suffered in college). Kenneth Walker returns (along with DeeJay Dallas, I guess), and gets paired with a couple of rookies who look tremendous. The tight ends are fine Seahawks tight ends.

I like the potential of this offensive line. Our two hotshot tackles had a full (healthy) year to experience everything the NFL had to offer; the hope is they take a big step forward in year two. The interior should be solid, if not improved over the dead weight we jettisoned this offseason. Any amount of extra time we can give Geno Smith is only going to help him when it comes to finding all his weapons.

Speaking of, I don’t hate the Geno signing, but I especially love how incentivized it is. He’s hungry, he proved he’s at least a capable starter in this league, now we’ll see if – with all this talent around him – he can take his game to another level.

And, how do you not like the secondary? Tariq Woolen as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a top cover guy. Coby Bryant as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a quality nickel guy. We still have Quandre Diggs playing at a high level (as another veteran leader to keep guys in line). We still have Jamal Adams (who is dynamic when he’s on the field). We still have promising depth in Tre Brown and Mike Jackson. Then, you add the consensus best cornerback in this draft class, to go opposite Woolen. That makes the whole room CONSIDERABLY better. Then, you add one of the top free agent safety acquisitions in Love. Then, you add another rookie safety to the mix who looks like a valuable depth piece. The secondary is fucking LOADED. It might eventually be better than it ever was, and that’s saying something.

What don’t I like?

I’m going to single out the linebackers here, but specifically I’m talking about the inside linebackers. We were already one of the worst units last year; we might be worse this year. Bobby Wagner gets a lot of credit for what he did with the Rams last year, especially with everything crumbling around him thanks to injuries and the team losing. But, how good was he really? I think a lot of Seahawks fans saw what he did in those two games against Seattle – where he was hyper-motivated to rub it in our faces – but are ignoring the rest. And are ignoring how he’s looked the last few seasons, when he’s been in unquestionable decline compared to his prime. Eventually, it’s going to come crashing down for Bobby; maybe that’s 2023. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we get his exact 2022 production; is that better than what a healthy Jordyn Brooks gave us? I dunno. There’s also a lot of doubt about Bush, and some second thoughts about Cody Barton (especially with Barton getting a multi-year deal with the erstwhile Washington Football Team). If Bobby’s worse than Brooks, and Bush is worse than Barton, YE GODS! That’s a nightmare scenario.

Then, there’s just the blanket Defensive Line, but it’s really broken down into Pass Rush and Run Defense.

I thought the pass rush last year was good, not great. It took a while before the team understood how to properly utilize Darrell Taylor (he’s not an every-down outside linebacker/defensive end; he’s more strictly a guy you want to save for obvious pass rushing situations). Uchenna Nwosu was our best performer all year. Boye Mafe was just okay as a rookie, but I’m not expecting much from him ever. Derick Hall gets the honor of being this year’s Boye Mafe – and he’s getting rave reviews so far in OTAs – but I’m not expecting anything here either. Mario Edwards was just signed as a low-priced veteran defensive end, but he’s never done much in pass rush in his career.

What should we expect from our pass rush? At best, probably what we saw last year. Dre’Mont Jones is a wild card here; if he can consistently blow things up in the middle, that’s going to make everyone’s jobs on the outside a lot easier. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. At worst, the pass rush takes a step back, and this is still our #1 priority next offseason (just like it was this offseason).

I thought – as does literally everyone – the run defense last year was total and complete shit. We lopped off a lot of dead weight: gone are Al Woods, Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, and L.J. Collier, among others. And we brought in Jones, Reed, Edwards, and rookies Cameron Young and Mike Morris. We retained Bryan Mone, but he’s injured and it’s not clear when he’s going to be ready to play again. We could’ve had Jalen Carter, so that’ll forever be a major What If. We also could’ve held onto Al Woods for not much more money than what his dead cap figure amounts to, but we’re up against the salary cap and already had to convert some Tyler Lockett money into signing bonus proration, just to sign our rookies.

Could the run defense be worse this year? It was so bad last year, I find that hard to believe, but I guess I have to admit it’s possible. I’m hoping that continuity among the coaching staff will lead to a better understanding of the scheme by the players, as well as a better understanding by the personnel people as to who needs to be on this roster, to fit in with that scheme. Is there a run-plugging diamond in the rough, either among the rookies or the back-of-the-roster holdovers from last year? Poona Ford and Bryan Mone both came from out of nowhere to be major contributors for this team, so anything’s possible.

All told, where does that put us compared to last year?

If we get modest improvements out of the run defense and pass rush, we should see tremendous value from our secondary and enough explosiveness from our offense to be improved over last year. I could see the Seahawks winning anywhere from 9-12 games, as long as we don’t suffer too many major injuries. I’ve got the 49ers at 11-13 wins, so what I’ll say is I think the Seahawks have given themselves a chance. I think we’ve done enough to compete on their level. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting us to blow them out ever; I think we can eke out one victory in the regular season, and be within a game of them by season’s end.

Gun to my head, if I have to make a definitive prediction, I would say the Seahawks finish a game back. Or, maybe tied in record, but losing to them via tiebreakers. Bottom line, I’m still predicting the 49ers win the NFC West; but I do think we’ll have a better wild card spot than we did a year ago, and hopefully that means we won’t have to play them in the first round again.

So, no, I don’t think the Seahawks have done enough to overtake the 49ers in 2023. But, at this rate, 2024 is ON THE TABLE.

More Mariners Inconsistency Cost Them The Red Sox Series

We’re, what, a little over a month and a half into the season? This Mariners team isn’t fun to watch.

It’s not JUST that they’re losing more games than they’re winning, though I don’t know if anyone expected us to be 21-22 and mired in fourth place in the A.L. West. It’s how we’re losing. It’s having a +19 run differential and being a good 3 wins off the pace you should be at. It’s being 4-11 in one-run games. It’s – once again – having a losing record at home, and a losing record against all the teams you’re projected to be competing with for a playoff spot (Cleveland, Texas, Toronto, and now Boston). It’s being saddled with the struggles of Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez, Matt Brash, Marco Gonzales, and Luis Castillo of late; to say nothing of the bottom of the roster players like Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, and Sam Haggerty.

What’s worse, there isn’t one overwhelming reason why we’re as mediocre as we are. Nor is there an easy fix.

The annoying thing about this Red Sox series is that it got off to such a phenomenal start. A 10-1 victory on Monday, punctuated by Cal Raleigh becoming the first catcher to ever hit homers from both sides of the plate in the same game in Fenway Park. This game was everything this team is capable of; unfortunately, they used up all their mojo in this one contest. Multi-hit games by France, Kelenic, Suarez, Hernandez, Pollock, and the aforementioned Raleigh. George Kirby pitching into the 7th inning, giving up just the 1 run. Awesome bullpen work, competent fielding, the whole package.

Then, we turned around and lost the second game 9-4. Luis Castillo had his fifth consecutive dogshit outing (and the 4th time in 5 games where he failed to go beyond five innings). 7 runs, 5 earned, a whopping 3 homers. We were down 4-0 after one inning; in effect, he gave us no shot to win the game. That’s not what an ace does. That’s not ace material. That’s positively Flexen-ian!

And, to add insult to injury, we lost the rubber match 12-3. Marco couldn’t get out of the second inning; finishing with a ridiculous line of 1.2 IP, 8 hits, 8 runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout. What are you supposed to do with that? Sure, the M’s blew a ton of chances offensively (2/15 with runners in scoring position), but you can’t expect a team to outscore 12 runs!

That’s not the Mariners baseball I’ve come to appreciate in recent years. I know all anyone ever talks about is run differential, but this team has a negative thousand fun differential, and whether it’s sustainable or not, I’d rather have the team with the negative run differential that’s winning more games than its losing, than the other way around.

So, yeah, cool road trip bros. Now we go to Atlanta to play the red-hot Braves. I can’t wait for the sucking that’s in store this weekend.

Time To Complain: The 2023 Seahawks Have A Schedule

I don’t want to say we got a raw deal, but we did end up drawing what looks like a particularly difficult schedule. The AFC North is top-heavy with Cincinnati and Baltimore (both on the road, of course), but Pittsburgh looks up-and-coming, and the Browns are poised for a bounce-back now that Deshaun Watson doesn’t have his legal issues hanging over him.

Then, to add insult to injury, we get saddled with the NFC East? The Giants and Cowboys are elite, and of course the Eagles are reigning Super Bowl losers. And, to wrap it up, we get the Lions and Panthers (both teams on the rise), and go on the road to face a Titans team looking to rebound from an injury-riddled 2022 (they’re still well-coached and veteran in all the right places; far from an easy victory).

I would try to be thankful that the NFC West isn’t its usual gauntlet, but the 49ers are still – top-to-bottom – one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL, the Rams still have elite players at important positions (and have been known to take us out with far less talent), and the Cards always seem to find a way to beat us when they absolutely shouldn’t.

  • Week 1 – L.A. Rams
  • Week 2 – @ Detroit (10am)
  • Week 3 – Carolina
  • Week 4 – @ N.Y. Giants (MNF)
  • Week 5 – BYE
  • Week 6 – @ Cincinnati (10am)
  • Week 7 – Arizona
  • Week 8 – Cleveland
  • Week 9 – @ Baltimore (10am)
  • Week 10 – Washington
  • Week 11 – @ L.A. Rams
  • Week 12 – San Francisco (Thanksgiving)
  • Week 13 – @ Dallas (TNF)
  • Week 14 – @ San Francisco
  • Week 15 – Philadelphia
  • Week 16 – @ Tennessee (10am)
  • Week 17 – Pittsburgh
  • Week 18 – @ Arizona

Right off that bat, an annual gripe: every single team should be lumped into one of two BYE weeks, in the middle of the season. Either that, or start giving teams two BYEs apiece. It’s ridiculous that we get our BYE in early October! Fuck the NFL, figure it the fuck out!

We’re looking at four 10am games, which I don’t even put on my radar as things to complain about anymore, ever since Pete Carroll came here and gave us the secret sauce for winning on the road in the early morning. At this point, it’s just a good excuse to wake up early, go to my dad’s, and have some breakfast while watching some football.

Only three primetime games, two of which land on Thursdays. And, a big bummer in that I think this is the second year in a row where we’re left off of the Sunday Night Football lineup. That’s the best game! Honestly, I don’t even like Monday Night Football. It’s better now that Troy and Buck are calling them, but I think their talents are wasted on that timeslot. This isn’t the 70’s, no one cares about MNF anymore.

I do think it’s incredibly cool that we get to play on Thanksgiving. I freaking LOVE playing that day! Even if it’s only the night game, I don’t care. It’s always special to be one of the teams going on the biggest football day of the year (outside of the Super Bowl).

I also kinda get a kick out of being on back-to-back Thursdays.

I don’t hate how balanced it is from a road/home standpoint. The only back-to-back road situations are split up by a BYE week, or a Thursday-related quasi-BYE week. It’s still INCREDIBLY stupid that seasons are an odd number of games, and so this year we’re saddled with one less home contest. Just make it 18 games already and cut the fucking bullshit!

The only thing left to do is predict the outcome of all the games, right? Okay, let’s get it over with.

I think we start the season 2-2, with wins over the Panthers and Giants. I think we lose in an annoying fashion to the Rams in week 1, followed by a high-scoring defeat to the Lions in week 2.

Then, I think we go 2-2 in the next four games, losing to both the Bengals and Ravens, while beating the Cards and Browns. Then, I think we rip off a 3-game winning streak over the Commanders, Rams, and 49ers on Thanksgiving, before losing to Dallas and San Fran the following two weeks. That brings us to 7-6.

Then, I think we finish the season 3-1, with an upset over the Eagles, a win over the Titans, an upset loss to the Steelers, and a bounce-back victory over the Cardinals to close it out. 10-7. A slight improvement over last year, but not the towering achievement we were all hoping for.

The Kraken Couldn’t Get By The Stars In Game 7

That was a crazy last two games by the Kraken! Every time you think they’re dead, they somehow come back to life. Until they finally didn’t; until it all became too much.

Game 6 on Saturday was in the running for the Kraken’s best game of the entire playoffs. We were back home, on the brink of elimination, and finally managed to turn up the intensity after meekly losing the previous two games. We scored six goals from five different players, we knocked out their goalie in the second period, and we kept up the pressure for the full 60 minutes (scoring 2 goals in each period). Grubauer was good enough, resulting in a 6-3 victory.

That led to last night’s Game 7 – back in Dallas – where it was everything I’ve come to expect from a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs. Extremely intense. Low scoring. Hard hitting. Power plays few and far between. Unfortunately for the Kraken, we just didn’t have that magic to power through, losing 2-1.

One person stands out above everyone else in this game, and that’s Philipp Grubauer. He was a STUD. Dallas reclaimed their edge from the opening puck drop, and never relinquished it until it was far too late. They were in our zone and throwing up shot after shot after shot all game long. The stats will tell you they had 28 official shots on goal, but I’m here to tell you there was at least double that. There was a point in the second period where it was like Grubauer was a UFC figher on his back taking a repeated barrage of blows, yet he somehow held strong. It wasn’t until a puck annoyingly got by one of our guys, leading to a one-on-one situation that Grubauer STILL almost managed to block.

We went into the final period down 1-0, but we still couldn’t manage any sort of offensive consistency. Everything we dumped into their zone was immediately ejected. We allegedly took 23 shots on goal, but it felt like a quarter of that. Whatever we managed to direct towards the goal was right in the goalie’s breadbasket. Except for the two shots that clanged loudly off the bar.

The diameter of the metal tube frame of a hockey goal is roughly 2 inches. We had two phenomenal scoring opportunities that hit squarely on the wrong half of that frame. Between that and the Herculean effort by Grubauer, that’s how close the Kraken came to moving to the Western Conference Finals.

The Stars took advantage of another Kraken mistake midway through the third to take a 2-0 lead. It felt insurmountable – and indeed, it was – but it still led to some exciting hockey in the closing minutes.

Down two scores, we went without a goalie for the last three minutes and change. Most of that time was spent trying to corral the puck, while avoiding a couple of juicy empty-net opportunities by the Stars. Finally, with less than 20 seconds left in regulation, Oliver Bjorkstrand flipped one up and over the shoulder of the goalie to make it 2-1. Even when it was at its most hopeless, the Kraken still managed to stage a comeback. In spite of our inability to cleanly win any faceoffs, we still dumped into their zone, and fired off a near-miss with precious few seconds remaining. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but it sure was exciting.

Everything that everyone’s writing about is all the same. What a fun season. What an amazing turnaround from year 1 to year 2. The Kraken went further in the playoffs than anyone had any right to expect.

The Kraken are just getting started.

It’s cliche, but it’s also true. That was … wonderful! My instinct in these situations – when my team’s season has just ended – is to look ahead to next year, and pontificate on the possibilities of going even further. How do we get there? What moves do we need to make to take the next steps in our progression? How do we one day (soon) win the Stanley Cup?

Those are important and fun questions to ask – especially when you run your own blog – but sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. Sometimes you need to appreciate something great that just happened. The Kraken treated us to a winning season of hockey, two rounds of playoffs, and two game seven performances for the ages. They exceeded expectations, and there’s nowhere to go but up from here. We’re already THIS close to contending for the Western Conference Finals, and most of our core guys are already signed on for next season.

What a great time to be a hockey fan in Seattle!

On a personal note, now that I’m settled into my home, and have my sports-viewing situation figured out, I look forward to being more engaged on a weekly basis next season. There won’t be months between Kraken posts (at least, when the games start up again; there WILL be months between Kraken posts in the offseason).

But, I’ll say this, as a fair-weather fan, I needed this. I needed the Kraken to go on an enjoyable playoff run. I needed them to win a series and look good against quality opponents. I’ve watched more hockey in the last month than I’ve watched in my entire life before this! It’s everything I could’ve asked for, and I’m excited for what’s to come in the future.

The 2023/2024 season is going to be off the chain!

The Mariners Couldn’t Quite Complete The Sweep Of The Tigers

On the flipside: it’s a series win. Right now, just stringing together a bunch of series wins – even if they’re 2 of 3 – is what’s in order. Let’s hope we can keep it going for more than this one.

Friday’s game was an impressive 9-2 victory. Marco got another Quality Start under his belt (6 innings, 2 runs), the bullpen was nails, but the offense stole the show. Julio bounced back with 3 hits, 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Ty France had 2 hits, 2 runs, and an RBI. J.P. had a hit, 2 runs, and an RBI in the leadoff spot. Everyone in the lineup got on base, and everyone but Suarez either had an RBI, a run scored, or both.

Saturday’s game was even better! A 5-0 shutout starring Bryce Miller who went 7 of those innings, giving up just 3 hits and 0 walks, with 3 strikeouts. For those keeping track at home, that’s 3 starts for Miller at the Major League level. 19 total innings, 7 hits, 1 walk, 18 strikeouts, and yeah, just the 1 run allowed. It’s an insane start to a career! I don’t know how else to describe it; this is the stuff of legends!

Kelenic hit a 2-run bomb, Teoscar had 3 hits (including a homer) and 2 RBI, and that was more than enough.

Which brings us to Sunday, where we blew a 3-1 lead en route to a 5-3 defeat.

Logan Gilbert didn’t have the most amazing stuff going in this one, and really struggled to get through 5.2 innings. The shame of it all is that we knocked out their starter in the third inning, yet all we could manage was just the three runs. It was a combination of shitty Mariners hitting and REALLY shitty Mariners hitting.

Also, I’m not convinced the Mariners know what the fuck they’re doing with Matt Brash. Why is he going on back-to-back days when he’s been so fucking up and down this season? Why is he still being put into high-leverage situations when he’s wild as fuck and either walking the world or giving up huge chunks of the plate to get mashed? Why is he on the Mariners AT ALL, when he should be working through these issues in Tacoma?! Why isn’t Matt Festa back? Clearly he’s over-qualified for Tacoma; he’s given up 1 run in 15 innings.

That’s the kind of game that really sours an entire weekend. Yeah, the Mariners won 2 of 3, but it should’ve been a sweep and it wasn’t. This team just rolls over all too often. In this case, the biggest culprit was going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. The only cherry on top that we managed to avoid was this not being a 1-run game, of which we still have that abysmal record.

We’re 20-20 through 40 games. We have a +24 run differential, but we’re currently in 4th place in the A.L. West. Now, we’re continuing our East Coast road trip with a 3-spot in Boston, before an off-day and another 3-spot in Atlanta. We’ll see, I guess.