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!

Marco Gonzales Will Be With The Mariners For A While

Right after the Super Bowl ended, the MLB twitter page sent out a photo full of baseball stars (any and all Astros players were suspiciously absent in their promotional strategy) with the sentiment of something to the effect of, “We Got Next.” I don’t follow the MLB twitter account, but someone I do follow re-tweeted it, which is why I saw it. It stuck out to me because the Seattle Mariners sent out a tweet right around the same time (almost certainly a leaguewide coordinated effort, but I refuse to do the research), with the exact same sentiment, and it was the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen … at least, it would’ve been, if it didn’t sound so much like a threat.

Oh REALLY, Mariners?! You’ve got next! What will you and your 64 wins be doing for us, exactly, other than boring the everloving shit out of everyone?

I don’t really have a lot to say, other than the big rebuild continues apace. How well that rebuild shakes out will hinge on how the younger prospects continue to develop. Same news, different day.

Until yesterday, when we got NEW news! Marco Gonzales was signed to an extension that buys out all of his arbitration years, and could potentially keep him around through 2025 at a reasonable rate. I say “reasonable” because with the way baseball salaries are continuing to skyrocket, 4 years and $30 million could be a bargain even for a soft-tossing lefty who’s able to eat a … number of innings per year. He threw a cool 203 innings in 2019, which is probably right around what you should expect (as starting pitchers continue to decline while bullpens pick up more of the load).

I’m fine with the deal. We traded for Marco in 2017, and he’s gotten better each of the last two years. I would argue he’s probably reached his ceiling as of last year (3.99 ERA, 3.2 WAR), but he’s young enough to keep right at that level for the duration of his contract. As has been discussed since 2018, he’s a fine #3 starter in this league; he’s less ideal as your team’s ace (which he had to be last season by default).

I’m actually more interested in this new strategy the Mariners are employing. I know, at this point, you can’t really waffle on the rebuild: either you’re all in, or everyone gets fired anyway. But, first with Evan White, and now Gonzales, we’re starting to see more of this core get locked up for the long term; buying out the cheaper arbitration years to hopefully get a discount on what these players might be worth on the open market for a year or two. Not only are the Mariners all in, but they’re DOUBLING DOWN on the rebuild, which I find fascinating.

If they’re right, they continue to lock up these younger guys to long-term deals, and this team hits it big, we could be set up for great success throughout the first half of the 2020’s. If they’re wrong, these younger guys never develop into the stars the Mariners think they’ll become, then HOO DOGGIES will this be a huge shitshow of a disaster!

The sensible thing probably would’ve been to let AT LEAST 2020 play out before we invest too heartily in some of these guys. But, you could argue the Mariners have done nothing but the sensible thing since they joined the league. Maybe it’s time to take some huge swings!

It’s a bold strategy, Cotton …

Seattle Hasn’t Had Anyone Like Kobe

I’m not here to write another puff piece about how the death of Kobe Bryant affected my life. I thought it was startling, I thought it was a bummer, it sucks not just for his family but all the other families who were involved. But, look, I wasn’t the biggest Kobe fan. I wasn’t necessarily a Kobe hater either; I’m Kobe Ambivalent.

And, as a Sonics fan who stopped following the NBA in 2008, I’ve always kinda hated the Lakers, so what did you really expect from me?

Successful people really REALLY loved Kobe, and I get that. He’s the personification of an intense desire to achieve all of your hopes and dreams. He’s a beacon to anyone looking to get ahead and make a name for themselves. I am … NOT successful. I don’t have that drive to be the best at everything I do. I have a drive to be okay at a lot of things, and sample the variety that is life.

So, you know, I can’t relate. To that part of it, anyway.

As a sports fan, I can certainly relate to the loss of a beloved player you’ve followed your entire life. A player who brought you nothing but joy for an extended period of time, and most importantly, a player who brought you that success that every fan craves for their favorite teams.

Which got me to thinking: who would be that massive loss for Seattle fans?

Ken Griffey Jr. pops immediately to mind, and as far as personal achievements are concerned, he’s certainly the best professional athlete we’ve ever had. He reached the top of his sport, he was known and admired throughout the world, and an entire generation of baseball players all wore their caps backwards and pretended to be HIM at the plate (like today’s generation, I’m sure, will all try to be the next Mike Trout).

And, yeah, while the Mariners had some good teams during his tenure, and there are a lot of positive memories of those teams, he never brought us a championship, let alone multiple championships like Kobe did.

I think, no matter how great you are, no matter how many Hall of Fame votes you get, you’re always going to get bumped up another level every time you win a title for your city, at least when it comes to the fans of that team. I’m sure, if Griffey died in a tragic accident, the city of Seattle would mourn like crazy. But, I can guarantee the world wouldn’t mourn as massively as they have for Kobe, and I think it has a lot to do with his team success on the court as much as his individual success (taking nothing away, of course, from the people who truly mourn the loss of the others in that crash; I’m talking strictly from a sports fan perspective).

When you boil it down to that, Seattle doesn’t have many candidates. Gary Payton is probably the most beloved Sonics player, but that wouldn’t have the resonance. We’re too far removed from the 1979 championship team for it to matter as much.

The closest person Seattle has to someone like Kobe is probably Russell Wilson. He has that drive to be the best, he’ll almost certainly have a long and Hall of Fame career when it’s all said and done. Now, it’s just a matter of winning a few more titles. Russell Wilson might go down as the greatest Seattle athlete of all time, even surpassing the likes of Griffey, which is fun to think about. It’s fun because we’re still smack dab in the middle of his career; we’ve got so much more time left!

Let’s just hope, you know, his off-the-field shenanigans are more of the dorky variety and not … you know what? Nevermind, let’s just leave it alone.

Some Thoughts On The Astros’ Cheating Scandal

I’d like to point out, for starters, that I hated the Astros before it was cool to hate the Astros. So, I feel like I’m a LITTLE bit more with it than the rest of the Johnny Come Lately’s. I’ve been on record for years now saying that – while MLB was probably correct to re-align the leagues to 15 teams apiece – they never should’ve moved Houston when there were less-established teams (Colorado and Arizona, for instance) who would’ve been a MUCH better fit in the A.L. West.

I’m happy to be blunt about my next point: the Astros are fucking cheaters, and deserve a punishment even more drastic than what they’ve received. That having been said, count me in the camp that firmly believes they weren’t the only ones cheating in this manner. Of course, Major League Baseball has been overwhelmed with cheating since the dawn of the game itself, from the Black Sox to doctoring baseballs to rampant use of illicit pharmaceutical substances to bat corking to run-of-the-mill sign-stealing to this electronic nonsense to whatever else has been going on that we don’t even know about. If it’s not one thing, it’s a million others, and nothing would surprise me at this point.

It’s the culture of baseball itself that should be on trial here, from the bogus “unwritten rules” to the overwhelming practice of players internally protecting the widespread act of cheating; whereas the NFL has always been about protecting the shield at all costs, baseball players prefer instead to wallow in corruption. The NFL, of course, has problems of its own that it should reflect upon; I don’t know what’s more destructive in the long run. All I know is that the game of baseball is a fucking joke, and it’s impossible to take any of it seriously when “credibility” has never been its pursuit.

You don’t reach the heights of major professional sports without a fierce dedication to a competitive spirit, and as such the people involved will always look for a hidden edge to defeat their opponents; that’s just to be expected. But, the enthusiasm to go outside the lines of fairness and legality has always set the game apart. Any professional athlete, coach, manager, and owner in any sport would be more than willing to cheat in the name of winning (see: the New England Patriots, for instance); what sets baseball apart from the other sports is its upper management’s – from the commissioner on down – willingness and desire to continually look the other way when they know its teams and players are cheating, only taking punitive action after everyone has accepted whatever hot-button form of cheating has been accepted as commonplace and The New Norm. When the Patriots get caught breaking the rules, they get punished; the NFL doesn’t wait around for 9 or 10 teams to follow suit, only to THEN act accordingly when the public finds out about it.

I wanted to compare baseball to the WWE, but the difference there is that wrestling is scripted and – more importantly – entertaining. Baseball is just crooked, masquerading as credible, so I don’t see how anyone can have faith in its legitimacy.

Lots of people want to compare these sign-stealing shenanigans to the Steroids Epidemic of the 1990’s. I think this is far worse. I would MUCH rather face someone on the juice than someone who literally knows what pitch I’m about to throw. I would argue steroids are a necessary evil based on the antiquated format of the game itself. 162 games a year, plus Spring Training, plus the post-season, is just too many fucking games. How can you possibly expect these people to survive an entire season of this kind of daily grind without getting injured? Besides that, there just isn’t enough of an offseason for most of these guys to recuperate! Even if you do make it through an entire season, you’re most likely dealing with some sort of injury that will require a significant chunk of your offseason to recover from; how are you then supposed to build up your body following that rehab period in time for the next year?

People who tried to defend the Astros for living in the 21st century, and taking advantage of the technology available to us, are missing the point. They also have the technology to bug an opposing play-caller’s microphone in the NFL; would you celebrate a football team for knowing its opponent’s play call before every snap? Or, would you think that’s a shitty thing to do, and against the spirit of the game?

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe it’s foolish of me to expect a fair game. But, if you don’t level the playing field and rid the game of this crap, where does it end?

Compared to the other sports, I’ve never been the biggest baseball fan in the world, and I attribute that 100% to the Mariners being the worst-run organization in all of professional athletics. If the shoe was on the other foot, and it was the Mariners destroying everyone and cheating to do it, I’m sure I’d have many different feelings. But, if my team is too inept to put a winning product on the field, it’s SURELY not smart enough to find a way to cheat to get an edge. Nevertheless, I’ve never felt it easier to give up on the game of baseball completely. As I mentioned above, these people will just find a brand new way to flout the rules until there’s another massive scandal that rocks the game to its foundations. So, why should I care? Why should I watch the games on television? Why should I follow the day-to-day minutiae? Even if I had any faith whatsoever in this current Mariners rebuild, why should I bother putting in the effort when I can ignore Major League Baseball completely, other than the small handful of games I attend in any given season? I usually just go to games with friends anyway, so it’s more of a reason to get together and hang out than it is to appreciate the game itself.

Maybe if they got their shit together and instituted real change, but again I ask: why should I trust anything that Major League Baseball does to try to make the game more honest? They’ve lied and cheated for well over a century now, the culture of the game is utterly bankrupt. This is the real shame of it all. When people talk about “what’s wrong with baseball” they focus on the pace and length of the individual games, when they should really be focusing on the character of the sport.

In the short term, all this talk of buzzers and 21st century technology has me thinking (for what it’s worth, I understand no one has actually copped to using buzzers, and hiding a conspiracy that vast would be nearly impossible on this scale – then again, never underestimate the sport’s eagerness to protect its most vile individuals – but I’ll choose to continue to believe the Astros, and probably others, were buzzing one another the upcoming pitches until the day I die): why do we still have hand signals in baseball at all? We have smart watches now, for Christ’s sake! Have the catcher push a button from a device he can store in his pocket that relays to the pitcher what pitch they want thrown; that way the runner standing on second base can focus on, you know, playing the game, as opposed to whatever combination of fingers are being flashed between the catcher’s legs.

In the big picture, though, this is a difficult scandal for me to reconcile. For the longest time, I used to say, “I’m not a baseball fan, I’m a Mariners fan.” Then, during the darkness of the last decade, I adjusted that sentiment to, “I’m not a Mariners fan, I’m a King Felix fan.” And now I have to wonder, was his career in Seattle cut short – and rendered completely asunder – because teams (plural) like the Astros knew what he was throwing? It’s hard not to notice that the effectiveness of his devastating change up lost a lot of its luster right around the time period when this scandal was in its infancy. How did the majority of Major League hitters go from helplessly whiffing at his change ups in the dirt, to all of a sudden laying off of them completely, even though they arrived at nearly the same speed as his fastball, looking nearly identical until they fell off the map? Just a coincidence, or were the Astros and their deciples not the only ones taking part in all of this sign-stealing horseshit?

I think this was a league-wide scourge, and everyone chose to just look the other way. The logic at that point is, “Since everyone is doing it, is it really cheating?” I’ll answer that for you: yes. Yes, it is cheating, and the people who SHOULD give a damn about that clearly do not.

There’s the old cliche about such-and-such being “as American as baseball and apple pie”, but that’s a phrase that needs to be put to bed forever. You know what’s inherently American? Graft, corruption, and a total lacking of scruples. Such is baseball.

If I were running the marketing campaign for Apple Pie, I’d want to distance myself from those other two entities as quickly as humanly possible!

The Mariners Head Into 2020 Following The Quietest Hot Stove Period In Recent Memory

Look, I’m not BASHING them for this. If you’re going to commit to a rebuild, then commit to the damn rebuild and stop half-assing it like you’ve been doing for the last 20 years! I’m just saying, these are the biggest Mariners moves of the offseason:

  • No Arbitration for Domingo Santana (who is still a free agent as of this writing)
  • Traded Omar Narvaez to the Brewers for minor league pitcher Adam Hill and a draft pick in 2020
  • Extended Evan White 6 years & $24 million
  • Signed Kendall Graveman 1 year, $1.5 million (with option for 2021)
  • Selected Yohan Ramirez in the Rule 5 Draft

Those are the BIGGEST moves, mind you. There are a bevy of smaller moves, involving relievers and utility players and whatnot. But, the sexy is right there. If this Mariners offseason was a porno, it would be a picture of two people in giant puffy winter coats, pants, and mittens holding hands.

It’s weird, is what I’m getting at. It’s weird for the Mariners – I can’t remember the last time nothing even moderately interesting happened for an entire offseason – and it’s especially weird for Jerry Dipoto, who seemingly has never seen a trade offer he didn’t immediately agree to.

It’s also a little refreshing, if I’m being honest. After last year’s 68-win campaign – where I had thoroughly checked out by mid May – the last thing I wanted to do was spend Football Season thinking about the Mariners. It’s almost like a self-imposed time out; they couldn’t do anything else except sit there and think about what they’d done.

For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with any of the moves they’ve made. It sounds like they tried to shop Santana, but found no takers. I find it odd that NOBODY wants a 20/20 guy; it’s even more strange that he’s still on the market this close to Spring Training. But, Santana never really made defense a priority. He was one of the worst defensive outfielders in all of baseball! So, I’d rather let him walk than over-pay for someone who’s probably best suited to be a DH (we’ve already got one of those, his name is Daniel Vogelbach).

I also like trading high on Omar Narvaez. I don’t think his value was ever going to go up from what he did in 2019; unfortunately (again) defense plays a role in limiting his ceiling. The draft pick (in the late 60’s or early 70’s) is probably the most valuable piece in return. But, it also opens up what could’ve been a logjam at catcher, allowing some of our higher-upside prospects a chance to compete for playing time.

The Evan White deal is by far the most noteworthy thing the Mariners did since the season ended. It’s pretty rare by MLB standards, and it’s (I think) a first for the Mariners: extending a player long-term who has yet to surpass the AA level of the minors. He gets $22 million for six years, with a $2 million buyout after that. There are also three more relatively team-friendly option years after that, with buyouts built into each one of those as well. All told, it could amount to $55.5 million over 9 years which is definitely the best-case scenario. You WANT to see Evan White get the full value of his deal, because it means his play on the field almost certainly exceeded expectations.

I love the idea. Considering the economics of Major League Baseball, it’s a relatively low risk with the potential for a very high reward. By all accounts, White’s defense is ready for the Major Leagues right now; if things break right he could win many multiple Gold Gloves at first base. The downside, of course, is that it’s first base (not necessarily the most glamorous of defensive positions on the field).

What we don’t know is how his bat will play. Again, he’s yet to get above AA. He’ll be 24 years old in April. There’s almost certainly going to be growing pains over (probably) the first three years of this deal. He’ll get every opportunity to win the job out of Spring Training (which is the correct move), so fingers crossed he isn’t a total disaster at the plate.

My concern, long-term, is what is Evan White? He doesn’t strike me as a guy who will ever have much home run power. Can he hit enough doubles – and hit for a high-enough average overall – to be worth keeping around for the next decade? Or, will it all be walks and defense with this guy? I’m not saying that’s necessarily the worst thing in the world, but if you’re committing to someone with these types of guarantees, you’d like to get a great return on investment. All of that faith needs to be rewarded, otherwise this rebuild could sink in a hurry.

As for Graveman and Ramirez and all the other little moves, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. I’ll get into this more the closer we get to the regular season – and I’m sure I’ll belabor the point all year long – but I have zero expectations for the 2020 Mariners from a win/loss perspective. Again, much like 2019, I’d love for this team to show improvement from the prospects, while losing a ton of games and getting another Top 10 draft pick (preferably by blowing late leads with another shaky bullpen).

The most important thing will be those prospects making strides towards being everyday Major Leaguers, and even more crucially, All Stars. You can’t win championships without superstars (plural, more than one). So, let’s take a ride on the Development Train! Choo choo!

Feel. The. Damn. Excitement.

The Mariners Are Officially The Last MLB Team To Have Never Reached The World Series

It was only a matter of time before the final domino fell. With the Washington Nationals (formally the Montreal Expos) in the process of blowing a 2-0 lead to the Houston Astros, the only team left standing in the Futility Pool is the same team with the longest playoff drought in all of the 4 major professional North American sports (apologies to the MLS for being a second-class North American sports entity).

You know what I’m sick of hearing? “Oh, your time is gonna come! Hang in there, it’s gonna be so great when it happens for you!”

First of all, shove your pity right up your ass! I’m sick and tired of hearing from people who have no idea what it’s like to root for this God-foresaken team. You can only talk to me if you’ve put in at least two decades of punishment with the Mariners; otherwise back the fuck off and mind your own fucking business.

Secondly, how do you know? What could possibly lead you to believe that the Mariners have a chance in hell of going on a World Series run? The inept ownership? The even-more-inept general managers? The collective organizational Heads Up Their Asses from the very top all the way through the lowest levels of the minors? The prospects who can’t stay healthy or fail to improve? The fact that we have to overpay every worthwhile free agent because nobody wants to live in this city or hit in this stadium or play for an organization full of perennial losers?

I appreciate some of our minor league prospects going out of their way to pump everyone up with platitudes, but I’ll believe it when I see it. And since, let’s face it, I could live to be 100 and will never see it, I won’t be holding my breath.

On top of the Mariners’ own rampant incompetence, how about the fact that they play in the American League West? They’re in the same division as the Astros who’ve won 100+ games in three consecutive seasons, and are about to win their second World Series title in three years. We’re also in a division with the low-spending, but well-run Athletics organization that always seems to get one over on us when we contend for the post-season. And, we play alongside the Angels and Rangers, who are no strangers to high payrolls and special homegrown talent. Then, on top of that, we have to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox over in the A.L. East, not to mention the similarly low-spending, but well-run Rays. And, if that weren’t enough, we have to deal with whatever Central team sprouts up to dominate on the regular (the Indians, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox have all either played in or won a World Series title since the last time the Mariners made the playoffs, so you can’t count any of them out).

The point is, it’s considerably harder to make it through the American League gauntlet with the vast pool of wealth and talented players/teams. Who do you have to deal with in the National League? The Dodgers and Cardinals and sometimes Cubs? It’s no comparison.

Baseball is dumb. The Mariners are dumber. And, with the rise of the Three True Outcomes – on top of King Felix moving on – I’m starting to wonder if I should continue giving a damn anymore. Hockey is on its way to Seattle. And, while I’m EXTREMELY doubtful that the Sonics will ever return, I’ll tell you this much: I’d bet everything I own that we get the Sonics back before the Mariners ever play in a World Series game!

I’ll also say this: I paid as little attention to the 2019 Mariners as I ever have since I started following them in their 1995 run, and here I am, still breathing. Maybe that’s just the way I should treat the Mariners from now on. Go full on Fair Weather Fan. Go to a few games here and there, but treat them as reasons to socialize with friends over having an actual fulfilling baseball experience. And, really only watch on TV if there’s absolutely nothing else to do … or if the team just so happens to be good at some point.

Why should I put in any effort with this team if they’re not going to put in any effort to win? Oh, they always talk a good game, but you HAVE to tell the fans that you’re trying to win. Then, you see some mystifying personnel move – or you see other, smarter teams making good moves that we easily could’ve done to improve our ballclub – and you have your answer. The Mariners seemingly spend money commensurate with other mid-tier ballclubs, then you see them cutting corners unexpectedly, or failing to go that extra inch to push them over the top, and again you have your answer. The answer to how hard this team is ACTUALLY working to legitimately contend for a World Series.

Here’s a hint: not very.

The Mariners never go the extra mile. We’re always in-between. We won’t spend like the Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers; we also won’t tank for multiple seasons like the Astros or Cubs. Here a half-measure, there a half-measure, everywhere a half-measure. The best this team’s had to hope for is contending for the 2nd wild card spot – seemingly created just to keep fanbases like ours interested well into the second halves of seasons – and we couldn’t even finish THAT relatively easy job.

Sure, the M’s tanked in 2019, but apparently that’s all this organization is willing to stomach. Now, everyone’s in Job Saving Mode. Start improving steadily in the Wins & Losses department, or start finding new jobs. Which, if the tenures of Bill Bavasi and Jack Zduriencik are any indication (and they should be), that means winning by any means necessary. Panic trades, pushing guys through the minors before they’re ready, forcing guys to play through injuries, anything and everything to cripple this organization in the long term just for the illusion of contention in the short term. We’ve seen it repeatedly, and we’ll continue to see it, until the end of time.