I Like The Idea Of A 50-Game MLB Season

I agree with a lot of what this opinion piece has to say. For instance, I too want baseball back in my life. I’m not a super-fan or anything, but sports are sports, and right now baseball would be significantly better than nothing. I also don’t care how they split the money; just fucking get the deal struck and let’s get on with it! All this in-fighting can’t be good for the longevity of the game and its popularity in America; but, then again, as Americans it’s our right to live our lives like goldfish, forgetting even our recent past, and be distracted by the next shiny new thing to take our minds off of the drudgery of everyday existence.

But, I have no problem with them setting up a shortened MLB season. 114 games, 82 games, 50 games; it would seem to me, the fewer the better!

Everyone likes to point to the canceled World Series in 1994 as a major turning point in baseball’s popularity in America. They also like to point out how the steroids-fuelled home run races of the late 90’s helped revive it, but overall the consensus is the same: Major League Baseball never QUITE recovered. It’s no longer America’s National Pastime and it never will be again.

I would argue: that fading in popularity would’ve happened regardless. Baseball is long and boring and stodgy and slow. Its financial system is atrocious, often forcing simple-minded teams to be stuck with poor personnel choices long beyond the point of reason, forcing those teams to tank in order to free up enough money – and build up enough draft capital – to try to rebuild into contenders once again. Saying that you want to rebuild, of course, is easier said than done, because even if you make sound, logical decisions, they could blow up in your face in any number of unforeseen ways. It breeds resentment among fans – like Mariners fans – who have to wallow in mediocrity for decades, in both the underperforming players (getting paid WAY more than what they’re worth, based on past performance) and the franchises whose jerseys we root for.

Honestly, I think the only way to increase interest in the game IS to drastically reduce the number of games played per season!

The writer of that article states, “Baseball is a game appreciated for its daily, serial journey. The endurance is part of the joy.” I think that’s a flawed argument; I think for really hardcore baseball fans, that’s true. But, for the vast majority of casual fans, it renders most of the season completely meaningless. Games cease to mean as much in April, May, and to an extent even June, because there are SO MANY, what does it matter if you drop a close contest here or there? The good teams ultimately rise to the top, while the bad teams eventually reveal their true colors over the course of a 162-game season; it takes any suspense whatsoever out of the sport until maybe the final week or two in September, when your team might be in contention for a wild card spot or divisional championship. But, by then, the remaining games are littered with teams that are already out of it, and therefore not necessarily playing their best guys in an effort to put an eye toward the future.

You know why the NFL is so great and so much more popular? There are 16 regular season games. Every WEEK is do-or-die! If you gag away too many close contests in September, you’re FUCKED when it comes playoff time! You see teams every single season leap from among the worst in the league one year to among the best the next; you could play the same season across a million different simulations and get tons of dramatically different results! Whereas, if you played the same 162-game MLB season a million different times, there would be a lot of sameness; with too many teams knowing they’re already eliminated from contention by Memorial Day.

What would a 50-game MLB season look like under normal circumstances? That’s slightly over 8 games per month. You could play them all on Fridays & Saturdays or Saturdays & Sundays. There would be lots of built-in rest days for the players, which means there would be MUCH fewer injuries (especially to pitchers). You wouldn’t have to employ more than maybe 2-3 starters (meaning that the level of talent would be seriously increased). You’d be free to stock your bullpen full of specialists. You could have more substantial benches for pinch hitters late in games. You wouldn’t need to employ as many minor leaguers. You could PROBABLY substantially lower salaries.

And, most importantly, EVERY game would be do-or-die!

Imagine it! Like football, we’d have all week to sit around and obsess over what happened the previous weekend and what’s coming up! It would give the game a chance to BREATHE! Remember all those weird, wild finishes you’ve seen throughout the years, where your team does something amazing in extra innings or something? Those are the games you want to obsess over for DAYS, but they’re always immediately forgotten 12 hours later as the daily baseball grind beats the recent past out of our minds.

I mean, obviously, this will never happen, because owners are greedy, and there’s too much money to be made over a 162-game season. You wouldn’t see enough savings from personnel to counteract the loss of tickets and consessions and local TV deals. But, just imagine the gameday excitement if there were only two games per week! The stadia would be FILLED just about every game! The in-game atmosphere would be tremendous! Contrast that against your average Tuesday in May, when the weather is shitty, the crowd is maybe a fifth of capacity, and you can hear every fucking yokel’s insult as clear as a bell for most of the 3-hour timeframe. I mean, that’s hardly different than the proposed COVID-19 fan-less experience we’re talking about now!

Maybe a 50-game season is extreme. But, I’d love to see all MLB games relegated to Friday/Saturday/Sunday; three games per week for six months. That comes out to 81-game seasons, if every season was 27 weeks long. That ain’t bad! Cut out all the bullshit, improve the product on the field, and fan interest would SOAR.

2020 Could Be More Of A Disaster For The Mariners Than We Originally Expected

The obvious discussion around this year’s Mariners squad has been: WHO CARES how the Major League club does, because it’s all about the prospects in the minor leagues developing into future stars! But, what happens if there are no minor league games this year?

SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s the rumor, anyway, and I find it pretty credible. The Major Leagues, of course, are also at risk of not having a season – if the teams and the players’ union can’t get on the same page regarding compensation – but with various TV deals, combined with players probably wanting to make SOME money in 2020, I find it hard to believe we won’t see professional baseball this year. But, the minors don’t have TV deals. They rely on ticket sales, among presumably other things (including money from the parent club, I’m assuming). And, if fans aren’t allowed to congregate in minor league stadia, then what’s the financial incentive for minor league organizations to field teams?

It already wasn’t going to be an ideal situation, considering at the very least we would be talking about a drastic reduction in games played; so the Mariners already won’t be getting the usual complement of time for their prospects to develop. The best way to develop, of course, is playing actual baseball games; they can throw scrimmages and whatnot in extended spring training, I suppose, but without that juice of real competition, I just don’t see what teams will be able to glean from this.

Even if – in some alternate universe – this baseball season had gone according to plan, we’d still be talking about the major sports franchise in North America with the longest playoff drought being – AT BEST – two years away from legitimately competing for a playoff spot (regardless of whatever rules changes are implemented to increase our chances). Now, go ahead and throw away a year’s worth of development, tack on however many years on top of that as minor league players get rusty without game action from this lay-off and need to readjust to playing again (and getting back into game shape, and recover from whatever injuries they develop as they TRY to get back into game shape, as well as whatever variables I’m incapable of seeing at the moment), and what do we have? 2024 or 2025 as the first seasons this Mariners rebuild MIGHT be playoff ready?

This post-season drought will probably be able to rent an automobile by the time the Mariners see the playoffs again!

What’s worse than any of it is the fact that we’ll be losing a season’s worth of team control for all these guys. For an organization that’s always been at least medium-tight fisted with their money, that’s not nothing! Of course, having our prospects develop into superstars who command big-money contracts is a good problem to have, but it obviously hampers us in filling in the roster around those guys with veteran free agents/trade acquisitions, as the Mariners don’t have the flexibility that the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers choose to have (by being more willing to spend tons more money).

Things, of course, have to go about as perfectly as possible when you’re talking about teams competing for a World Series title. But, some teams are able to overcome a few misfires in personnel, whereas the Mariners straddle a fine line by never REALLY giving it their 100% all when it comes to pushing to be a championship-winning ballclub. So, things like not having a minor league season hurts us more than most.

I know Rays and A’s fans aren’t feeling too sorry for us, but at least they’ve had the benefit of rooting for organizations who don’t have their heads completely up their own asses when it comes to drafting and developing players! At least they’ve had a WHIFF of success at the Major League level a few times in the last 20+ years!

The Nothing Continues: Here’s Something About The Mariners’ Bullpen (Part 3)

Last week, we got into the everyday players and the starting rotation for the 2020 Seattle Mariners. I’ve put it off long enough – this is the equivalent of having already eaten my dessert and main course, leaving just the garbage cole slaw sweating its way across my plate two hours later (as I’m not allowed to leave the dinner table until I’ve eaten my vegetables) – so I present to you some VERY unhelpful words on the bullpen.

I’ll split this in two sections and see how it goes. First, we’ll look at the guys who played for the Mariners last year, then we’ll look at the newcomers to the ballclub (again, this is based on the Depth Chart section of the official Mariners roster). The “fun” thing about this one is: they’re all effectively new to me, because I have no idea who any of these guys are!

(let’s get this over with)

Holdovers

  • Matt Magill
  • Erik Swanson
  • Brandon Brennan
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Taylor Guilbeau
  • Gerson Bautista
  • Austin Adams

Looks like Matt Magill came over from the Twins before the trade deadline as he was released and the M’s picked up his contract. He’s been a middling reliever pretty steadily with the Twins since 2018, but doesn’t really do anything particularly well. He’s a right-handed 30-year old, so I guess there’s still time to turn it around, but for now he screams journeyman.

Erik Swanson came over in the James Paxton deal. There was initially hope that he could be part of a 1-2 punch with Justus Sheffield in the starting rotation, but it looks pretty clear that the Mariners believe Swanson’s destiny is as a bullpen arm. He started in 8 of his 27 appearances with the M’s in 2019 – his first whiff of the Major Leagues – but that clearly looked to be too much for him, as he was sent down to AAA in mid-May. When he returned in August, it was exclusively as a reliever who’d go 1-2 innings per appearance. Sort of a disappointing result for someone who looked like a promising mid-rotation starter, but that’s what happens when you over-value Yankees prospects.

Brandon Brennan was a Rule 5 guy the Mariners selected last year who managed to stay on the big league club all season. He was probably our best reliever last year through the first half of the season before going on the Injured List. His last two outings before going down were total disasters, which really hampered an otherwise pretty-good season. I don’t know if he has closer potential or not, but he’s at least somewhat interesting as is.

Dan Altavilla (pictured here looking like his head was photoshopped onto his body really awkwardly) feels like he’s been around forever. He’s got an arm like a rocket, but otherwise hasn’t been able to put together anything close to consistency (unless “consistently terrible” is what you’re looking for). With the stuff he’s got, combined with the fact that he’s only 27 years old, you can’t really write him off. But, we’ve been waiting around since 2016 when he made his Major League debut; ANY TIME NOW, ALTAVILLA!

Taylor Guilbeau sounds like a made-up name. Not in the way all names are made up, but like a clearly-fake alias a famous person gives a hotel manager when he’s out of town and wants to fuck some prostitutes. He apparently came over in the Roenis Elias trade with the Nationals last year, and got a lot of play in the last two months of 2019. He had two bad outings (resulting in blown saves) but was otherwise fine. Last year was the first time he’d gotten to either AAA or the bigs, so there’s still room to dream with this kid.

Gerson Bautista came over in the Cano/Diaz deal with the Mets, a right savaging of epic proportions. If memory serves, this kid throws hard, but my memory is for shit, so don’t take my word for it. He appeared in 8 games with the M’s last year and sucked, but he’s only 25 years old in May, so let’s hope that’s just a bad start to an otherwise stellar professional career.

Austin Adams came over in a separate deal with the Nationals last year. He’s in the running with Brennan for best reliever who finished the season with the M’s in 2019. It doesn’t seem like he’s got closer potential either though, so I dunno.

Newcomers

  • Yoshihisa Hirano
  • Carl Edwards Jr.
  • Yohan Ramirez

Yoshihisa Hirano is a buy-low candidate on a cheap 1-year deal. He had a great year in Arizona in 2018 as a rookie, but totally fell apart in 2019. After a long, successful career in Japan, he’ll be 36 years old this year and really just trying to maximize the last of his Major League value before presumably retiring or returning to Japan. I wouldn’t expect a lot; maybe we can flip him at the deadline this year if there’s a season and he plays well.

Carl Edwards Jr. was pretty awesome with the Cubs from 2016-2018, but had just a shitty 2019, which led to him signing with the Mariners this past offseason. He’ll only be 28 years old this year, so that makes him a far-more-interesting buy-low candidate than Hirano.

Yohan Ramirez was taken by the Mariners in this past offseason’s Rule 5 Draft from the Astros, so we know a couple things: he’s probably pretty good (though, obviously not good enough for them to protect him), and he knows how to cheat. I want both of those things for the Mariners!

There’s Still Nothing Going On, So Let’s Look At The Mariners’ Roster (Part 2)

In case you missed it, this week’s been a little light on the content side of things. Sue me, there isn’t fuck-all going on. BUT! I did … well, I did a dive a couple days ago (I can’t, and frankly I won’t, call it a Deep Dive, because come on, I’ve been mailing in my Mariners fandom for the better part of a year now) on the position players of note for the hypothetical 2020 season.

If that half-assed effort floats your boat, then have I got quite the solo buttcheek for you now! You’d think, “Hey, he did the everyday players in the first part; I bet he’ll get around to all the pitchers today!” and you’d be partially-correct. Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, this bullpen. I mean, you could’ve picked a dozen names out of the phone book (those things still exist, right?) and slapped ’em down on a page with stock ballplayer photos and I wouldn’t know the difference! So, today we’re gonna stick with the starting rotation candidates, because just the thought of trying to learn about every single one of these fuckers is as exhausting as it is pointless (I say that because – if I stuck with the same categories as the previous post – they’d all belong in the Placeholders section; I have very little faith in any of them sticking around long-term).

For the record, I’m doing away with the categories entirely for the rest of this, because we’re really not dealing with a large number of humans. Okay, enough preamble, let’s do this thing; it’s Quarantine Friday and I’ve got a lot of twiddling my thumbs left to do!

Projected 2020 Rotation

  • Marco Gonzales (LHP)
  • Yusei Kikuchi (LHP)
  • Kendall Graveman (RHP)
  • Justus Sheffield (LHP)
  • Taijuan Walker (RHP)

It’s hard to predict the set order on this thing, because both of the righties are coming off of injuries, and so we don’t know how much the team wants to put on their plates right out of the box. If you numbered them 1-5 in a vacuum, you’d probably put Sheffield third because – as the top Major League-ready starting pitching prospect – he’s a virtual lock to make the team out of Spring Training, but I know how much managers like to split up their rotations so there aren’t too many lefties throwing in a row (and he feels like the safest bet to have his outings limited in both pitch counts and overall appearances, with this being his first real stab at the bigs).

The order, of course, makes no difference after the first week, and will ultimately get jumbled along the way with injuries, ineffectiveness, and other random events (like having a bunch of planned doubleheaders to cram in as many games as possible due to coronavirus delays), so let’s just start at the top and work our way down.

Marco Gonzales. He’s our ace again! Sigh. Listen, I like the guy. He’s a local kid, we got him for relatively cheap in that Cardinals trade, and he’s made pretty steady improvement since he came over in 2017. But, there’s an obvious ceiling here that we have to talk about every time we talk about him (even moreso when he’s the best pitcher in your starting rotation two years running). 2019 was his best year yet, and on any other (good) team he would’ve been a #3 or #4 starter. I won’t say that’s the best he’s capable of, but I also can’t guarantee he continues this (slightly) upward trajectory. If he figures out how increase his strikeout percentage (it actually went down from 2018 to 2019, 7.83 K/9 to 6.52 K/9) I could reasonably see his peak being as a #2; but he’s not an ace. You’re never going to be confident in handing him the ball in Game 1 of any playoff series, and I feel like as far as Eyeball Tests go, that’s all you really need. Just like you know porn when you see it, you know an Ace when you see it, and Marco Gonzales is that old photo of the navy guy kissing that nurse-looking lady on V-J Day in Times Square: it’ll get the job done in a pinch, but you REALLY need to use your imagination!

Yusei Kikuchi. As an elderly veteran rookie from Japan, he had a pretty rough start to his Major League career last year. It wasn’t a complete disaster, because I don’t think it would’ve been fair to put too many expectations on a guy put in that position: new team, new country, all new sets of players to pitch against – the best in the world – plus let’s face it, it’s not like the Mariners were too focused on Wins & Losses. In a rebuild, you just want your prospects to gain valuable experience, show signs of improvement, make adjustments as needed, and most importantly stay healthy. Kikuchi got that experience, and he managed to stay healthy, but I think the concern lies in the other two components: I don’t think he made all that much improvement as the season went along, and I think it was because he tinkered too much when he tried to make adjustments.

The Kikuchi talking points all Spring Traning long – before the world went to shit – was having him settle on one arm angle, one throwing motion, and make that his natural form by repeating it exactly. And, to his credit, reports were pretty positive for him. He accepted the criticism and learned from his first season, and it looks like we could be in for a nice rebound from him. Thankfully, as the M’s are still in rebuild mode, expectations for team success remain low in 2020. But, we REALLY need to see some significant signs of improvement out of Kikuchi if we expect to rely on him during the potential upswing.

Kendall Graveman. You might remember him from so many Oakland A’s teams. He hasn’t pitched a full Major League season since 2016 (indeed, he missed all of 2019 with arm injuries). I remember him being relatively impressive – and indeed he was the A’s Opening Day starter two years in a row – but he’s also not really someone you need to have high expectations for. He’s making $2 million this year, with a club option for 2021 at $3.5 million, which is totally reasonable. I actually really like it as a roll of the dice, because he’s still under 30 years old and if he does well, you’ve got a reliable rotation guy for the next two years at an insanely-low salary. If he gets re-injured or otherwise sucks, then what has he cost you, really?

Justus Sheffield. The Great Mariners Hope! We shipped James Paxton off to the Yankees for him – at the time, the best starter the Mariners had (when he was healthy) – when we started this whole rebuild thing, and of the starting pitchers we’ve since accumulated, Sheffield has the most promise to actually BE that Ace I’ve been talking about. He’s got a live fastball, he’s clearly Major League-ready after pitching in the minors since 2014, but he’s also a Yankees prospect that they willingly traded away (as an intelligently-run organization, they tend to keep the guys who look like the biggest locks to hit it big, while sending away guys who are overrated because they were Yankees prospects in the first place).

He started for the Mariners from late-August onward last year, and was spotty. There isn’t really anything you can hang your hat on with this guy just yet, but here we go! 2020 is the year where he’ll be given every opportunity to grow and learn and try to figure out how to be a Major League starter. Like Kikuchi, you don’t need him to be perfect, but the hope is he’s a better pitcher by season’s end than he is in the early going. How this truncated season will affect him remains to be seen, but considering none outside of the truly insane expect the Mariners to be contending in 2021 either, I think it’s fair to give him at least next year as well to really blossom into someone worthy of that #1 starter’s job.

Taijuan Walker. The move to bring back Walker on a 1-year, $2 million deal REALLY delighted me to no end! Like Graveman, he’s coming off of two SERIOUSLY injury-plagued seasons (making just one appearance in 2019 after only three in 2018), but he’s fully healthy and ready to re-start his career. It’s the perfect buy-low scenario, because again there’s no risk whatsoever, in money or in team reputation (which is in the gutter). Of course, Walker most likely won’t look like the guy we traded to Arizona a few years ago, but that’s what makes this move so interesting. Walker the fireballer was exciting, a real Ace prospect; but we don’t know what Walker the pitcher looks like. Can he finesse his way into a Major League career? He’s only 27 years old. Also, can he get some of that old juice he had back? I wouldn’t ever expect him to hit the upper 90’s on his fastball, but can he work in the 93-94 mph range? That would be truly great, not just for him but for the Mariners (assuming they’d want to extend him longterm if he succeeds this year).

Secondary Starting Prospects

  • Justin Dunn
  • Nestor Cortes
  • Wei-Yin Chen

I’m sure there are countless other options among the rotation candidates for the Tacoma Rainiers, but I’m going to stick to the guys listed on the official Mariners roster depth chart, which rolls eight-deep these days. So, if I left out your favorite prospect, I don’t care.

Justin Dunn. At 24-years old, and one of the more highly-rated prospects in the Mariners’ organization, I feel like the team is in no hurry to rush him to the bigs. He had a cup of coffee in Seattle last year, as a de facto Opener (starting in all four of his appearances, but going no more than 2.0 innings), and really only had one bad outing. I’m sure there’s a vocal segment of M’s fans clamoring for him to open 2020 in the Majors, but he hasn’t even thrown a single pitch in AAA for crying out loud! I’d like to see a little more seasoning on his arm before we start putting a whole trough of food on his plate. Nevertheless, the future looks seriously bright for this kid. If we do end up competing for stuff in 2022, Dunn and Sheffield will be big reasons why.

Nestor Cortes. He’s another former-Yankees prospect who’s had a lot of time in the minors, but very little success in the Majors. For some reason, he’s listed among the starters on the depth chart, but that doesn’t appear to actually be his function. Looks like he might be a long-man out of the bullpen though, and in that role you’d expect him to get his share of spot starts (particularly with all the doubleheaders and whatnot). We traded essentially nothing to get him here, so again, another buy-low lottery ticket.

Wei-Yin Chen. He’s an older fella looking to rebuild his value on a bad team. He hasn’t started a game since 2018, and he signed only a minor league deal with the Mariners. Figure he’s one of these veterans who starts out in Tacoma, and either pitches well enough to earn a call up, or stinks and gets released (with the third option being: he pitches well, the Mariners have no room for him, and he opts out after a month or so to see if he can get a Big League job elsewhere). I dunno what to tell you here, he’s a body. If the shit hits the fan (or MLB expands rosters to handle all the games we end up playing in such a short period of time), I guess it’s good he’s here, but I wouldn’t expect greatness (or, really, even goodness).

There’s Absolutely Nothing Else To Do, So Let’s Look At The Mariners’ Roster (Part 1)

I would’ve normally done this weeks ago, but since we all died in early March and are now currently in a loop of the last episode of Lost, I guess I’ll get to it now.

There’s probably going to be baseball this year, right? I’m, like, 81% confident we’ll see the MLB in some form (though, for real, it would be cool if ALL the states could get on the same page with the fucking social distancing and whatnot; it’s gonna suck when certain areas see the curve flatten and re-rise again because other fucknuts around the country aren’t taking this seriously enough). So, we should probably have some sort of idea of who the Mariners are that we’ll get to watch eventually.

I’ll save the disaster that is this team’s pitching staff for the next post in this series, because I can’t even right now. The everyday players are actually – if you squint really hard while wearing your cataractiest pair of rose-colored glasses – kind of, sort of, in a way, a little bit interesting.

Here’s what we’re gonna do. I could sit here and go Position By Position with you and you’ll catch what I’m putting down and we’ll all go about our days a little bit dumber more informed probably. But, that insults your intelligence and, quite frankly, is something I’d be doing if I didn’t have all the damn free time in the world because everything has shut down. So, instead, we’ll group everyone on the Active Roster into categories: Veterans, Placeholders, One-More-Chance Guys, Quad-A Players, and Legitimate Prospects. This should give us all a pretty good idea of where things stand in the Mariners’ rebuild, and it’ll be cool to look back on later and see how wrong I was!

Veterans

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • Dee Gordon (2B)
  • Carlos Gonzalez (OF)

These are the least-interesting guys on the team, because none of them figure to be around for the Next Great Mariners Squad (though, to be fair, if we’re being realistic here those hypothetical guys probably haven’t even been BORN yet … is how long it will be … because they’re such a poorly-run, inept organization … you get it). So, let’s get these guys out of the way really quick.

Seager is still under contract through 2021, with an option for 2022 (though I can’t envision a scenario where he’s here for that long; hell, at the first sign of competence I have to imagine the team will look to trade him to a needy contender). He actually had a nice, bounce-back year in 2019 – even though his batting average continues to suffer at the hands of the dreaded Infield Shift – as the second-most valuable position player behind Tom Murphy in an injury-shortened season. He almost certainly won’t ever set foot in the playoffs in a Mariners uniform though, so let’s move on.

Dee Gordon is signed through this season, with an option for 2021 that vests with 600 plate appearances. Considering all that’s going on, it’s a virtual lock he won’t see that happen, which is to all of our great relief. Look, Dee’s a fun guy. He’s super fast, he can be flashy with the glove, and he’s streaky as hell (which means SOMETIMES he gets on fire and looks like one of the best leadoff hitters of all time); but usually he’s just mediocre and overpaid. So, you know, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have … Dee Gordon.

CarGo isn’t even (I don’t think) on the Active Roster at the moment. He was more Haniger insurance than anything, I think. Is anyone hurt more by this COVID-19 than CarGo? The way things are shaking out, Haniger might actually make a full recovery from his surgery in time to start the season! I mean, yeah, people have died and whatnot, but a 34-year old over-the-hill outfielder might’ve just missed out on his last chance at Major League glory mediocrity!

Placeholders

  • Tom Murphy (C)
  • Austin Nola (C/1B)
  • Dylan Moore (OF/INF)
  • Tim Lopes (OF/INF)

Controversy, right out of the box! Murphy’s only 29-years old, so it’s not inconceivable that he cements himself as the Everyday Starting Catcher for the next however many years. But, come on. Let’s get serious here, huh? Can we get serious?! Cal Raleigh is the consensus Catcher Of The Future in this organization! We just need Murphy to buy us a couple more years – maybe mentor the future stud a little bit – and then step away gracefully (ideally, when his Arbitration years expire, so some other team can sign him to a needlessly-expensive deal).

I’ll be honest, I hardly know who Austin Nola is. I know he came up last year and was remarkably efficient in his limited playing time, but if you threw him in a lineup with five other honkies, there’s no way I’d be able to find him (and I’m LITERALLY looking at his thumbnail photo right now!). I know he played a lot of first base, and I think maybe some outfield? Yet, all of a sudden he’s the 2020 Mariners’ backup catcher. Bold Strategy Cotton and all that. Maybe he sticks with the Mariners as some futuristic Super Sub, but I have my doubts.

Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes are CURRENTLY Quad-A guys, but they’ve sort of established themselves as bench guys around the infield and outfield, so I’m putting them in this spot because these guys are dimes-a-dozen. You know how when you play Yahtzee and you always get the Full House every single game without really trying? Because let’s say you’re going for 3’s and on your second or third roll you just luck into the Full House for an easy 25 points? That’s what Moore and Lopes are; they’re a Yahtzee Full House, the easiest thing to find in all of board games.

One-More-Chance Guys

  • Daniel Vogelbach (DH/1B)
  • Mallex Smith (CF)
  • Mitch Haniger (RF)

Also known as: The Vogey Special. Daniel Vogelbach is living a pretty charmed life. He got here at just the right time. We traded for him in 2016, he got to mash his way through the minors, and just as everything was falling apart in the Major League clubhouse, he was promoted to help fill the void of power at the plate. With Nelson Cruz no longer blocking him at designated hitter, Vogey got his fill in 2019. While he started off pretty hot, he cooled off significantly in the back-half of the season. Now 27-years old, with no discernable value defensively, this is really his last shot to make it with the Mariners. We know he can hit 30 homers; he did just that last year. Now, we need either more consistency, or another 10-15 homers on top of that to justify his worth. Seems unlikely.

Mallex Smith kind of had the opposite-type of year in 2019 as Vogey; he started off TERRIBLY after coming over in a trade from the Rays. So bad, in fact, that we had to send him down to Tacoma to work on … everything. His bat stunk, his defense stunk (somehow, even though he’s ostensibly a centerfielder), his confidence plummeted, he was over-thinking everything. It was an absolute unmitigated disaster. When he came back up, though, he was able to turn it around somewhat (though, the damage had largely been done). His 2018 season saw him as a potential leadoff hitter for the next decade; now he’s languishing at the bottom of the order and is hanging onto this organization by a thread. A 2020 like his 2019 will see him elsewhere in 2021.

Oh, I WENT THERE! You like Mitch Haniger, I like Mitch Haniger, the Mariners OBVIOUSLY like Mitch Haniger (after all, when we were shipping off everything of value that wasn’t nailed down before last season, the M’s opted to hang onto him as the centerpiece to the big rebuild), but his injury issues that cost him most of last year (continuing, infuriatingly, into this year somehow) are starting to snowball into something much more sinister than we ever could’ve imagined. Look, he had a pretty great 2018 season, but that’s just one year! He has in no way established himself as a superstar or even an everyday player at this point! Injuries were part of his background before he even got here, so it’s not like we can say this is a fluke; he might be the next Franklin Gutierrez for all we know. I’m not saying the Mariners will necessarily cut bait if he doesn’t prove himself in 2020, but some of those trade rumors are starting to look more and more plausible with him. If the younger outfield prospects have big years, Haniger might find himself pushed aside for a flashier crop of dudes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Quad-A Players

  • Shed Long (INF/OF)
  • Jake Fraley (OF)

These guys are going to get every opportunity to shine in 2020 – as should be the case, because what else do the Mariners have to lose at this point – but the bottom line is: I don’t believe either of these guys are bona fide Major League talents. Shed Long looks like he could be a decent utility player in the future. He can play all around the infield and corner outfield spots, he’s got an impressive amount of pop in his bat for a guy of his size; but I just don’t think he’s a starter.

As for Fraley, I don’t think he’s even a Major Leaguer period! He strikes me as a guy who will make most of his living in AAA, with brief appearances in the Major Leagues as a replacement bench guy for injured outfielders. Moving on.

Legitimate Prospects

  • Evan White (1B)
  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Kyle Lewis (OF)

Obviously, there are more legitimate prospects in the minor leagues, but this isn’t a post about them. We all know who they are and what they mean to the future of this organization. I’m more interested in the guys who are on the Mariners RIGHT NOW.

Evan White is one of the bigger names we have to look forward to. He was a first round draft pick in 2017, and they just signed him to a 6-year deal with three more option years. He’s the First Baseman Of The Future, and the Future Is Now Motherfuckers! So, he goes into this category because he HAS to go here. The Mariners NEED him to be a cornerstone, otherwise all hope will continue being lost.

I’m really on the fence with J.P. Crawford. Gun to my head: I don’t think he’ll ever be great. But, he’s obviously not a Quad-A guy, and he’ll obviously be given more than just this year to prove himself as a starter. I think he’ll be fine. If we’re lucky, he’ll have a career like Carlos Guillen or something (though, hopefully his best years will be here and not in Detroit). If we’re unlucky, he’ll turn into Brad Miller and we’ll curse the day we ever became Mariners fans in the first place (damn you 1995!).

I am drinking all the Kyle Lewis Kool Aid you’ve got! I freaking LOVE this kid! He’s had such a hard road after being this team’s #1 draft pick in 2016, starting with tearing his ACL a few weeks later as a rookie. From there, after all the rehab, he struggled to find his game again, until finally putting it all together last season. When he got his cup of coffee with the Mariners in September, he made the absolute most of his 18 games, hitting 6 homers and 5 doubles. I hope he crushes it this year and never looks back, because he’s got real All Star potential if he can put it all together.

Mariners’ Opening Day Came & Went With No Baseball

Yesterday was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. We had tickets to the Mariners hosting the Rangers, but of course that didn’t happen. Nothing’s happened in quite some time!

Here’s a great article on where things stand now. At this point, we’re looking at no baseball until June as a BEST-case scenario. Even then, we’re still talking about playing games in front of no fans; like those shitty bands in dive bars who only play for the other bands and their significant others. Then, there’s all the behind-the-scenes employees who might be looking at furloughs after April (an industry – worth billions, that will CERTAINLY bounce back after all this – that can’t bring itself to continue paying these people indefinitely is everything that’s wrong with the world); shit’s BLEAK!

As a Mariners fan, this is probably the worst non-baseball event to happen since 9/11 (I’ll never forget how that 2001 team lost so much momentum with the two weeks off that September, and how it might’ve cost us a shot at getting to the World Series). We all know this team was going nowhere this year, but 2020 was/is absolutely CRITICAL for developing the next crop of disappointments possible stars who will just get injured and be out of the league in the next three years anyway might break the streak and get this team to within a game or two of the second wild card spot before fucking it up in the end to all of our eternal dismay back into the post-season (will someone get that Debbie Downer out of here and let me finish this blog post?!).

The point is, we NEED baseball to be played! As much of it as possible! Otherwise, a timeline that was generously set for this team to start looking competitive by 2021 (realistically, we were always looking at 2022 for this team to contend, as a legitimate best-case scenario) gets pushed back a year. And with it, a year of service time for all of these prospects we need to be looking at, working with, and teaching up!

On the other hand, we’re coming upon the 20th anniversary of the last time the Mariners made the playoffs (Why Do We Put Ourselves Through This?). Disappointment in all things baseball is like a hard, crusty callous that’s enveloped our hearts. Of course M’s fans will make it through this mostly intact! We’ve all secretly stitched the phrase Same Shit, Different Day into the folds of all our team merch. The people who are REALLY feeling this are the true contenders. If you’re in Win Now mode, you’ve got to be freaking out! Just when we thought the Astros were knocked down a peg – and thus the World Series looked wide open – now we’re looking at a likely-truncated season, with an outside shot of no season whatsoever.

It’ll be interesting to see what that truncated season might look like. I get the idea of playing into October (although, Jesus, the number of late-season rainouts will surely soar!), and I actually like the idea of more planned double-headers, but there’s just no way to come close to playing the full slate of games in 2/3 of the time! And here’s the thing: the 162-game season is the great equalizer; you rarely see a team go all the way that doesn’t REALLY deserve it. The cream ALWAYS rises to the top (same way it does in the NBA). You can argue it’s that way across all sports (except hockey), but every once in a while you’ll see an NFL team shock the world (at the very least, you frequently see NFL teams go from worst-to-first in their divisions).

But, we’ve all seen those baseball teams that play hot through 2/3 of the season, before coming down to Earth as their lack of talent/depth reveals them for the frauds that they’ve been. I mean, shit, at least a few of those have been Mariners teams the last 20 years, who tantalized us for a while, before the inevitable swoon.

In a short season, there could be real chaos! We could see an unlikely team not only make the playoffs, but manage to get hot at the right time and go all the way!

We won’t get to see any of that, though, if this thing doesn’t get under control and we don’t return to some semblance of normalcy. I’ve left my house, I think, twice in the last 2+ weeks. My poor car has sat un-driven for so long. I’m not NOT going crazy, is the point.

Come back soon, baseball! I need to be predictably crushed by the weight of the Mariners failing to live up to even the most modest of expectations! I need to feel something nothing again!

The Biggest Blunders In Seattle Sports History

There’s always a reason to be disgruntled about what’s going on with sports in the Seattle area. We’re far from burdened with championship squads, unless the MLS or WNBA is your bag (which is fine if they are, but they’re just not mine). I don’t have a good handle on the breakdown, but essentially most sports fans complain about one of two things: something unfortunate happened to our team that’s outside of their control, or our team did something fucking stupid that effectively sabotaged all hope for success.

If we were talking about the former, I’d bring up something like Super Bowl XL (where I’ll go down to my dying breath contending we were jobbed by the refs at every turn), various good-looking trades that just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (Percy Harvin, Vin Baker, the deal to bring Cliff Lee in), or the countless injuries to promising young stars/prospects who could’ve been great had their bodies only held together (Franklin Gutierrez, Malik McDowell, Danny Hultzen, our entire secondary right before Super Bowl XL).

But, I’m talking about the blunders! The dumb-looking shit that was dumb-looking at the time and only proceeded to grow ever more mind-boggling with each passing year. It’s a rough sketch, but here are the top ten worst self-inflicted wounds I can think of in Seattle sports history.

#10 – We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score

You gotta have stakes in this thing, so any individual event has to come in the playoffs at a minimum. This one happened in the Wild Card round of the 2003 season. It’s not JUST that the Seahawks won the coin flip heading into overtime and Matt Hasselbeck made that unfortunate guarantee (indeed, I thought it was cool then, and I would gladly welcome such bravado anytime), but combine that with the fateful call.

Let’s go back: remember, this was back when the first score of overtime wins, regardless; so all we needed to do was get into field goal range. We got a first down and had the ball at our own 45 yard line. A stuffed run and an incompletion made it 3rd & 11. And, for some reason, Mike Holmgren decided to call a 5-wide receiver set. For some reason on top of that, Hasselbeck decided to throw the ball to our 5th receiver, Alex Bannister. For some reason on top of THAT, it was an out-pass – the easiest one to undercut and run back for a pick-six – that the receiver didn’t even get beyond the 11 yards needed for the first down! And, of course, not for nothing, but the pass was simply terribly thrown. The rest is history, and so began our continued demise whenever we play a playoff game in Lambeau Field.

#9 – The Deal To Trade Cliff Lee Away

It was supposed to be the epitome of a no-brainer. Cliff Lee was heading into the final year of his deal in 2010. At the time, he already had a Cy Young Award under his belt and was probably the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game. The Mariners traded three nobodies to the Phillies to bring Lee to Seattle and the plan was simple. The M’s were coming off of a winning season in 2009, and Lee – paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez – was going to help push us over the top and back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately, Cliff Lee got injured in Spring Training, and didn’t make his first start until the last day of April. In spite of Lee going 7 shutout innings that day, the Mariners lost 2-0 to drop their record to 11-12 on the season. On July 9th, our record fell to 34-52, and it was clear no playoffs would be forthcoming. That’s okay! We had a backup plan if things fell apart in spectacular fashion (which they did, as we would go on to lose 101 games). Since Cliff Lee was so great – indeed, his numbers after two months with the Mariners were among the best of his entire career – his value should’ve been sky high for a pitching-needy team looking to cement their status as a championship contender.

But, we had Jackie Z at the helm, and our return – Justin Smoak and three other nobodies – was far from inspiring. This was supposed to jumpstart our big rebuild, and Smoak was supposed to be the centerpiece. Instead, we rode his wave of warning track power into mediocre season after mediocre season. You could throw any number of trades Jackie Z made for the Mariners on the list of greatest blunders, but I’m putting this one here because Cliff Lee was amazing, and we BLEW IT.

#8 – Steve Hutchinson Transition Tag

The Seahawks were riding high after their appearance in Super Bowl XL. The only thing we could do to screw it up was dick around with our best players.

Tim Ruskell’s seat in Hell is being kept warm for him by the resentment and hatred of thousands upon thousands of Seahawks fans. What a buffoon! The offensive line was not only the backbone of the Seahawks’ offense, but it was easily the best part of the entire team, anchored on the left side by two Hall of Famers: Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson. Through them, we had an MVP in running back Shaun Alexander. Through them, a sixth-round quarterback was able to play at a Pro Bowl level. We had the money, we had the desire, and indeed we had NO ANSWER for Hutch’s replacement when he eventually signed the Vikings’ Poison Pill contract!

The hit to the Seahawks was immediate and obvious. Bottom line was: the Seahawks were never the same again, and didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until the 2013 season (with an all-new regime and set of superstars at the helm).

#7 – The Erik Bedard Trade

There’s no need to clarify; we all know which Bedard trade I’m talking about. In February of 2008, we gave up Adam Jones (5-time All Star center fielder; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), Chris Tillman (an All Star starting pitcher who would go on to have a 38-16 record from 2012-2014; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), and George Sherrill (an All Star reliever who would save 52 games from 2008-2009; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), among two other stiffs.

What we got back in return was a starter in Bedard who – like Lee before him – was brought in to be paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez, coming off of a winning 2007 season. Instead, we got a guy who could never really stay healthy, whose style constantly saw his pitch counts inflated early in games, which meant you could only count on him for about 5 innings per start at best. On top of that, there were rumors abound about how he didn’t really give a shit about baseball or winning and was just in it for the paycheck (more power to you, I guess). He sucked so hard, the Mariners couldn’t even flip him for any semblance of value, which meant Bedard had to go down with the sinking ship that is our Mariners existence. On the plus side, this was the final straw to getting Bill Bavasi fired (on the down side, see: Jackie Z)

#6 – The Lowe/Varitek Trade

Woody Woodward stumbled into a lot of success in his tenure as GM of the Mariners. To our dismay, he had no idea what to do with this team once we started reaching those heights.

The 1997 Mariners were a fun bunch. Tons of heavy hitters all up and down the lineup. Led by Randy Johnson, the starting pitching was good enough to take us all the way, assuming the hitters hit and the relievers didn’t totally shit the bed.

As you might have guessed, there was A LOT of bed shitting in 1997; worst year for bed shitting I’ve ever seen, if I’m being honest! Woody Woodward, not knowing what he was doing or how he could rectify the problem, made two of the worst panic-deals for three of the worst relief pitchers I can imagine. The absolute worst was sending Derek Lowe (a 2-time All Star who would go on to win 176 games in his 17-year career) and Jason Varitek (a 3-time All Star catcher for the Red Sox over 15 seasons) for Heathcliff Slocumb (a turd).

Like most of these deals, this one wasn’t helpful in the short term (the M’s would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs) and it was an outright disaster in the long-term (we either could’ve had two great players for the next decade, or at least flipped them for better players/prospects).

#5 – Jim McIlvaine Signing

Really the beginning of the end of the great run of Supersonics teams of the 90’s. Almost immediately following our hard-fought defeat in the NBA Finals to the greatest team of all time in six games, the Sonics looked like a team that could easily run it back and re-join the Bulls the very next year. You could argue center was our weakest spot on a team riddled with strengths all the way up and down the roster. So, enter Jim McIlvaine – a guy who had done NOTHING to that point – on a 7-year, $33.6 million deal (which was a lot at the time, trust me). He had a whopping TWO years under his belt at that point, as a reserve on the Washington Bullets, where his big claim to fame was averaging a hair over 2 blocks per game the year before in just under 15 minutes per.

This ungodly amount of money – for a guy who’d proven nothing in his brief pro career – obviously angered a lot of players on the Sonics, particularly Shawn Kemp, who effectively forced his way off the team in a deal that would bring in Vin Baker. Now, you can argue both Kemp and Baker – particularly after the strike season – did a lot to damage their own careers as we headed into the new Willennium, so who’s to say what would’ve happened to the Sonics had we gone in a different direction?

All I know is, McIlvaine instantly became entrenched in the starting lineup his first year with us, averaging 18 of the most worthless minutes of each and every game he was in, bringing NOTHING to the table. He actively made the team worse with his play alone, regardless of what happened to the chemistry in the locker room (which is exceedingly important in the NBA, with how long the season is, and how many games they have to play). We ended up losing in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals, and that was as good as it got for the rest of the decade.

#4 – Randy Johnson Trade

I did a deep dive on this a few years ago that you can check out (as chance would have it, a lot of these other blunders find their way into this piece!), but the bottom line is this: the Mariners were cheap, and Randy Johnson’s best years were still AHEAD of him.

Moreover, I would argue that while the value looked pretty good at the time – indeed, two starting pitchers and a starting infielder isn’t a bad return – the very best Mariners teams of 2000 & 2001 were in such desperate need for a true #1 ace, that Randy Johnson would’ve been perfect for those teams. I’m sorry, I like Freddy Garcia as much as the next guy, but he’s no Randy. Randy who would go on to win four Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 (again, the years where the Mariners were playing the very best ball in franchise history); you don’t think he could’ve helped those teams get over the hump, and maybe even win a World Series title?

#3 – Not Drafting Brett Favre

Chuck Knox ran the Seahawks efficiently and to the best of his abilities from 1983-1991. You could argue he got more than anyone could’ve expected him to out of a bunch of ragtag guys, especially with at best a mediocre quarterback in Dave Krieg. When it finally came time to move on, Knox had one man in mind in the 1991 NFL Draft: Brett Favre. Ownership, however, refused to see it, and refused to listen to their legendary head coach, opting to go with Dan McGwire with the 16th overall pick (Favre would fall to the Falcons in the second round).

See, McGwire was 6’8. You know, that insanely crazy height that no NFL teams want, because it’s too damn tall to be an effective quarterback? If you don’t remember McGwire, you’re lucky; he was trash. Knox would leave the Seahawks following the 1991 season, and immediately we’d fall to such lows that we’d have to draft yet another dud in 1993 (Rick Mirer, with the #2 overall pick, after losing an opportunity to draft Drew Bledsoe). That went on to cost us the rest of the 90’s, before Mike Holmgren came to town and properly revived this franchise. Had we had Brett Favre? Who knows?! There’s an alternate universe out there where the Seahawks were one of the great teams of the 1990’s.

By that same token, there’s an alternate universe out there where we had to deal with Favre constantly threatening to retire, then return, then retire, and so on. So, maybe we lucked out in the long run?

#2 – Not Properly Renovating Key Arena

By the early 1990’s, the Seattle Center Coliseum was in shambles. Teams around the league were updating their own arenas and it was time for Seattle to join in. Unfortunately – even though this was set up prior to the Kingdome implosion being a twinkle in any of our eyes – the city and county ultimately went the cheap, tight-ass route in renovating the arena. By the time it re-opened in 1995 – while it was a fine place to enjoy a basketball game, from a fan perspective – it was already out-of-date by NBA standards, and apparently impossible to derive any sort of profit from, again by NBA standards.

Say what you will about the league, or about tax payers funding sports venues, but you can’t deny the fact that the Sonics were the first in this city to start the trend of venue renovations, and they fucking blew it HARD. By the time subsequent ownership groups demanded the funds for a proper NBA facility, the Seahawks and Mariners had already gotten brand new stadia. Considering it had been such a short time since the opening of Key Arena, combined with public fatigue over the matter, it’s not shocking in the slightest that the Sonics were shot down.

You could obviously argue the biggest blunder was selling the Sonics to Howard Schultz, or the Schultz Group buying the load of horseshit from the OKC people. But, all of that stems from the inferior building that was presented to the world ahead of the 1995 season. Had we just gotten THAT right, everything else would’ve fallen into proper order, and we’d still have our fucking basketball team. Instead, 25+ years later, we’re finally getting around to doing what we should’ve done then, and for our troubles we get the NHL instead. An okay consolation prize, but obviously not what I’d prefer.

#1 – Slant At The Goalline

It’s hard to top losing a fucking NBA franchise on the list of biggest sports blunders, but costing your team a championship in the most demoralizing way possible? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

I would hope, by now, that consensus has found its head when it comes to the decision to throw in that scenario. The Seahawks had one time out remaining, it was second down. Run it and fail, and we’ve got zero time outs and they know we’re throwing two consecutive times (considering how that play ended up, you can’t tell me it wasn’t on the docket for at least one of those possible attempts).

Long story short: throwing was the correct call. Throwing a fucking SLANT at the goalline, to a fourth receiver in Ricardo Lockette (shades of the Bannister play up top), was absolutely the biggest blunder in Seattle sports history.

If you’re going to throw a slant, throw it to Baldwin or Kearse! But, no, DON’T THROW A SLANT! Throw literally anything else! Throw a fade to Chris Matthews – who, to that point, had been carving up the Patriots’ defense – or shit, just throw the ball 30 yards out of bounds! Anything but that!

Okay, that’s all. I have to go lay down now. Where’s my fainting couch?!

Is Being A Fair-Weather Fan A Bad Thing?

I think it was on this week’s Brock & Salk podcast where they were talking about the XFL in Seattle, and whether the awesome turnout for the game last week is meaningful or not. Were they there because they’re hardcore football fans who can’t get enough? Or, were they there because it’s a new shiny thing, and if the Dragons start losing a bunch of games, the novelty will wear off and we’ll see dismal attendance numbers?

Which got me to thinking: who in their right mind would go watch the Dragons in person if they were fucking terrible?

But, you always see people at games, regardless of how bad the team is! Even when the Mariners were losing 90+ games last year, you’d still see people in the stands on a 40-degree rainy Tuesday night in May. I think those people would tell you: it’s not about how good or bad they are, it’s about supporting the team. Which I find difficult to understand. Like, we owe them for all the good times we used to have? We honestly don’t owe them anything! We pay for the stadia, we pay for tickets, we pay for concessions, we pay for souvenirs, we pay for the cable that pays for the channel that they broadcast on (if they broadcast on cable; sometimes the team even owns the channel – Mariners – and it’s like we’re paying them directly again!). I think the least they can do is put out a compelling product to watch and spend our money on.

To which someone might argue: if we don’t support the team financially, they might decide to relocate the club. Which, yeah, owners are fuckheads. But, I would counter that it’s easier said than done. Building leases go for decades and they’re hard to get out of (though, as the Sonics proved, not impossible). Besides that, teams always find a way to make money one way or another. Obviously, the best way to make money is to win, but you can cut corners and make creative advertising deals and all sorts of things.

The point is: don’t feel bad about the bottom line of sports teams. You support them your way, and I’ll support them my way.

Which way that is, obviously, depends on the sport. I’ll watch every Seahawks game, no matter how terrible they are, because there’s only 16 per regular season (for now). But, for the Mariners, it’s going to be pretty infrequent in 2020, for instance. First, I need to have the ability (I can’t be asleep, getting ready for the next work day). Second, I need to have nothing else better to do (which, usually … no I don’t have much else better to do). Third, ideally there will be an urgent reason to watch (like if a highly-touted prospect is making his debut, or if there looks to be a fun matchup lined up). That’s really just to watch the game from the opening pitch. Usually, my go-to is to watch something else, follow along with the action on Twitter, and turn it to the game when it looks like the game is getting good.

There are 162 regular season games. If they’re losing nearly 2/3 of them, that’s a lot of disappointment to suffer in a 6-month span! I can’t, in good conscience, put myself through that.

With Husky Basketball, now, WOOF. My family and I watched the game last Saturday on mute on our little TV while the boxing match was going on the big TV, but otherwise I can’t even be bothered. It’s been the same fucking story since conference play started: play well, hang in there, then fuck it all up in the last five minutes. Why would I pay to go see that live when I’ve seen that fucking show a million times already?

See, we’re told it’s bad to be a fair-weather fan, but you know what I like? Fair weather! You want to go sit out in the rain for three hours getting dumped on, shivering and huddling together for warmth? I want to go out in the sunshine! Little bit of cloud cover, nice cool breeze, the birds are chirping. 70 degrees (and honestly, that might even be too warm). Fair Weather Steven, that’s what all my friends always call me! I have zero other untoward nicknames.

I think these hardcore fans like to feel better about themselves, so they denigrate us fair-weather fans as if it’s a bad thing to have other interests. I mean, shit, I have a whole blog devoted to the Seattle sports scene – so I’d say I’m fanlier than most – but go fuck yourself if you think I’m paying to go to a game to watch a bunch of losers … unless it’s with my friends, a few tallboys of Coors Banquet, and in the sole exercise of mocking those losers we’re there to watch.

If you’re taking it much more seriously than that, then congratulations, you’re the king of the fans. Here’s your crown, it’s made of bobblehead dolls and t-shirts fresh from the cannon.

Of course, I say that, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood screaming in Husky Stadium while another team is just ramming it down our fucking throats. That’s the thing about sports fandom, it makes no sense. There’s no rhyme or reason. I can belittle the Dragons, the Mariners, and even the Husky basketball team; but when it comes to Husky football, I’m entirely fucking humorless. The fact that I went to ANY game in 2008, let alone multiple games, should confirm that I’m – if nothing else – king of the hypocrites.

My crown is made of empty Mike’s Hard Lemonade bottles and torn up Amazon boxes.

How Many 2020 Mariners Can I Name Off The Top Of My Head, With Just A Minimal Amount Of Coffee Inside Me?

I listen to this podcast called Threedom, which features three of my favorite podcast comedians sitting around and bullshitting for an hour. And, last week I listened to the episode where Lauren was trying to list off as many different characters and whatnot as she could from the Star Wars franchise, having never (at the time) seen the movies. Essentially just going off of what pop culture has referenced that’s seeped into her subconscious. I thought that was a lot of fun, especially because I have my own blind spots; I’d be curious to see how many characters I could pull from something like the Harry Potter series, for instance. There’s Harry, of course. Hermione. The red-headed freak. Snape? Snope? Voldemort, for sure. From there, it’s all a jumble of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, so let’s move on.

I’m stealing this idea to see how many players from the 2020 Mariners I can name, without cheating. You’re bound to see a few guys from the minors in this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve said it before, but in 2019 I checked out on the Seattle Mariners. Part of that had to do with my work schedule – waking up at 4am, going to bed by 8pm, not wanting to be thoroughly irritated right before it’s time to sleep – but most of that had to do with the Mariners being just awful. I’ve put up with a lot of bad baseball in my 20-something years of following this team, but I refuse to lose sleep over them! Especially when the object isn’t to win games, but see the young guys develop.

Well, that carries over into 2020. In fact, the team might actually lose a lot MORE games than they did last year (and 94 losses is quite a lot on its own). So, suffice it to say, it’s going to be difficult to get any interest ramped up for this team.

So, without further ado, here is the (pitiful) list of pitchers that I know based on memory alone:

  • Marco Gonzales
  • Yusei Kikuchi
  • Justus Sheffield
  • Erik … Samsonite? Swanson!
  • Julio Rodriguez
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Brandon … Brennan?
  • Festa?
  • Taijuan Walker!

That’s really all I got. And honestly, I don’t even feel like a bad fan! I think Rodriguez and Festa are minor leaguers, but I was close (except Rodriguez is actually an outfielder, so I was WAY OFF). The only one I probably should’ve remembered was Sam Tuivailala, as he’s been around a little bit and was a pretty significant return in one of those damn trades we made with the Cardinals.

Here’s all the catchers I know:

  • Tom Murphy

And that’s it. Do the M’s even HAVE a backup catcher in the Major Leagues? We’ll find out this spring.

Outfield:

  • Mitch Haniger (injured list)
  • Kyle Lewis
  • Mallex Smith
  • Braden … Bishop?
  • Jarred Kelenic

Kelenic is obviously in the minors, but I nailed the rest! I mean, yeah, I also missed a couple, but I got the big names.

Infield:

  • Evan White
  • Kyle Seager
  • J.P. Crawford
  • Dee Gordon
  • Daniel Vogelbach
  • Shed Long

I almost forgot Shed Long! I knew he had a short name, and almost biffed it, but it fell out of my brain at the last second. Considering the rest of the 40-man roster is filled with potential backups and minor leaguers, I feel good about my effort here. Shame I forgot Austin Nola (who, I guess, can also play backup catcher?!), but what can you do?

That’s 21 guys. Honestly, better than I would’ve expected. Thankfully, with Pitchers & Catchers just reporting this week, I’ll have plenty of time to learn about everyone else.

Did I say “thankfully”? I meant Dreadfully.

I Like The Proposed MLB Playoff Changes

I doubt they’ll happen, but that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, change simply for the sake of change is a good thing for baseball. Shit is BORING! Especially when your favorite team is the Mariners and they suck EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. YEAR.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t love everything about the proposed changes. But, I can understand why the league would want something like having teams choose their opponents: it makes for excellent sports radio and print fodder. ESPN would have, like, a whole hour of non-football-related content to devote to this!

While that part feels gimmicky, I’m almost always for expanding playoff teams, particularly in a game like baseball. If they wanted to shake things up for the better, they’d take away about 20 games from the regular season on top of this, but as has been said repeatedly since the dawn of man: that’s never happening. Owners will never willingly give up the revenue from those lost games (even though the games that remain would have increased significance, particularly since you’d be pulling from the lowest-attended days of the week – likely Mondays or Tuesdays).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 162-game seasons are a bear! You’re never making it through unscathed, and even if you do make it to the finish line, you’re so banged up and tired that it hardly seems fair to not at least guarantee teams one day off a week!

Again, neither here nor there.

The Wild Card system as we have it now is a joke. Reducing a full season’s worth of games for two teams in each league to a loser-goes-home match is as pitiful as it gets. If MLB does nothing else, they at least need to make the Wild Card a 3-game series (like they’re proposing here). I also like having the bottom two division winners involved in the fracas, because too many teams (I’m looking at you, A.L. Central) get to coast on inferior inter-divisional opponents only to slide right into the Divisional Series. No, the top team gets a BYE, and the rest of you should be fighting for your lives in a 3-game Wild Card round. Letting them host all three games feels like overkill a little bit (they should do a 1 & 2 series where the first game for the higher-seeded team is on the road, before hosting the final two), but beggars can’t be choosers.

Also, the fact that long-time baseball writers and old, stodgy fans hate this proposal means it can only be GOOD for the sport in the long run. They need to do more to generate interest in younger fans and the masses at large, besides belittling someone like Mike Trout for not making himself a bigger presence in media campaigns. Let the man hit; it’s the league’s job to generate popularity for its sport!