I Feel Renewed Excitement About The Seahawks: So Why Am I So Down On Them?

I’m on record as having the world’s biggest hard-on for the draft haul the Seahawks just brought in.  There are – what appears to be – fantastic players and inspiring stories up and down that list of players.  Rashaad Penny looks like he could potentially come in and start right away at running back – a position of tremendous need for this team.  Will Dissly looks like he can come in and contribute right away as a blocking tight end – another position of tremendous need for this team.  Michael Dickson looks like he can come in and not only be our starting punter, but be a remarkable improvement at that spot.  Tre Flowers looks like a guy who could develop into a viable starting cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin as early as maybe midseason in his rookie year.  Shaquem Griffin looks like he can make an immediate impact on special teams, with an outside chance of contributing in various sub packages on defense as a linebacker/safety/pass rushing hybrid.  Guys like Rasheem Green and Jamarco Jones look like they have tremendous upside and while they’ll likely need a year to develop, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that they do develop into eventual starters as a defensive lineman and a left tackle respectively.  And that’s not even getting into the countless undrafted guys I don’t know about; you figure one or two of them have a chance of turning into something really useful.

It’s really a lot of fun to think about.  Obviously, not all of them are going to pan out, but that’s not the point.  Right now, the sky is the limit for each and every one of them!  And, what’s more, we’ll get to enjoy a year where more young guys are going to get an opportunity on this team than they have since 2011 and 2012!  We might not be a championship-calibre team today, or at all this year, but if things go right, it’s not crazy to say that we’re close to being right back to the team we were from 2012-2014.

So, why am I so down on 2018?  Why am I sitting here talking about 8-8 this and 8-8 that?  Well, let’s break it down.  Am I wildly off base?  Have they done enough to fill the holes they needed to fill?  The holes that rendered this team a 9-7 embarrassment in 2017?

I’d start by saying on offense, they’re about the same as they were last year.  Let’s start with the skill positions.

Quarterback – Obviously, Russell Wilson is here.  He’s a Top 5-calibre quarterback in this league, and as a result your team is never really out of any game.  As long as he’s healthy, this team will never truly bottom out.  8-8 or 7-9 feels like the floor, like many of those middling New Orleans Saints teams back when their defense was a disaster, their running game was so-so, and it all fell on Drew Brees’ shoulders.

Wide Receiver – Your top two guys are back:  Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett.  Doug is Doug, he’s amazing.  Tyler is not coming off of an injury (which is good) and he’s playing for a new contract after the season’s over (which is even better).  If there was ever a chance to see Lockett at his best, this is the time.  Paul Richardson is gone, replaced by Jaron Brown.  You figure the speed is there, but this still feels like a downgrade to me.  Can Brown win those 1-on-1 battles that Wilson so often puts his receivers in?  Those jump balls that P-Rich or Golden Tate used to come up with, as if out of a science fiction movie?  Wilson has never been the type of quarterback to launch balls deep down field and take advantage of his receivers’ over-the-top speed, and I don’t see why that should change now.  Beyond the top 3 guys, it’s a real smorgasbord of question marks.  Amara Darboh?  David Moore?  Tanner McEvoy?  Marcus Johnson (who we got in the Philly deal for Michael Bennett)?  One of the litany of undrafted guys and holdovers we’ll have in camp?  I’m not super impressed, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tight End – In the WR group, I think you have to include Jimmy Graham, because for all intents and purposes, he WAS a wide receiver.  You take a BIG hit, particularly in the red zone, with the loss of Jimmy Graham.  Say what you will about the other areas of his game (and believe me, I have and I will continue to do so), but he was a beast in a 1-on-1 situation near the goalline when Russell could just chuck it over there and more often than not come up with a TD (yes, there were more than his fair share of drops, but 10 TDs in 2017 is 10 TDs; I don’t care how long it took for this offense to finally figure out how to use him).  Who’s going to make up that deficit?  As for our other tight ends, we have Nick Vannett (who has shown you nothing in 2 years), Ed Dickson (pretty much Just A Guy, brought in via free agency; he’s essentially a Luke Willson replacement, as far as offensive production is concerned), Tyrone Swoops (who might not even make the team; still feels like a project to me), and newly drafted Will Dissly (who I believe will eventually turn into a useful offensive weapon, but not as a rookie, and nowhere near the league of a Jimmy Graham, from a pass-catching threat).  I expect these guys to be vastly improved blockers over someone like Graham, though, which brings me to my next point.

Running Back – To make up for the loss of Jimmy Graham, it’s going to have to come from the running game.  For what it’s worth, I do think this will be improved over 2017, because how much lower can you go than rock bottom?  The question, as always, will be who stays healthy.  Penny looks like a potential stud.  Chris Carson is there to push him every step of the way, but he’s coming off of a pretty devastating injury, and who’s to say he won’t get injured again this year?  C.J. Prosise is even more injury prone, and in my opinion far from a lock to make this team.  Mike Davis and J.D. McKissic are just guys.  Reliable, dependable guys, but just guys.  Nothing special.  Nothing really explosive about them (McKissic is obviously a faster guy, better in open space – more of a receiving back than a real, physical running back).  We need Penny or Carson to pan out here, right away, otherwise we’re in a MUCH worse position offensively than we were in 2017.

Offensive Line – And, last but not least.  Or maybe it is least.  Tough to say.  The obvious outcry from most fans and pundits alike, is how this team has neglected the offensive line this year, the bane of 2015-2017’s existence.  I’m on record as not seeing this as huge of a deal as in years past.  Maybe it’s fatigue over obsessing about them every year.  But, I like Duane Brown.  I think starting from Day 1 with him in the fold is nothing but an improvement, over trying to learn the system on the fly in mid-season 2017.  I hear Ethan Pocic is bigger and stronger than last year.  As a rookie, he got valuable experience.  Now that it’s not all new and insane for him, he should be able to settle in and anchor this line at the left guard spot for the foreseeable future.  My hopes are high for this kid!  Justin Britt is a fine center.  I’m sure he’ll continue to be the rock and the leader this line needs.  D.J. Fluker looks like a formidable run blocker at right guard, as well as someone with a lot to prove, with a high pedigree.  Obviously, Luke Joeckel had a lot to prove, with a high pedigree as well, but I dunno.  He’s cheaper, for one.  For another, he’s not coming off of an ACL.  Hopefully, he won’t miss a huge chunk of games in the middle of the season for a bogus cleanup surgery.  I don’t know if this team will ever have an elite pass-protecting O-Line, but if Fluker can open up some running lanes, then fuck it.  Germain Ifedi is an obvious source of frustration for most fans, but I’ll say this:  a second year at the same position – that continuity – should do wonders for him.  And, if not, well this team has plenty of guys to push him for that starting job.  I like the depth along the O-Line an awful lot; there has to be SOMEONE on this team who will be an improvement over our right tackle performance of 2017.  Maybe that someone is 2018 Ifedi; I’ve heard of crazier things before.

Bottom line on offense is:  if the O-Line can’t get the running game going, we’re fucked any way you slice it.  If it can’t do that, it sure as shit won’t protect well for Russell Wilson, and if that’s the case, it’s pretty easy to write off this year as an 8-8 of a disaster.  However, if Pocic & Ifedi take leaps forward in their development, if the veterans can stay healthy, and if we can get this running game going again, there’s reason for optimism that the offense could be vastly superior to what it’s been in recent post-Marshawn Lynch seasons.  A lot of “ifs” there, but that’s what we have to work with.

That all having been said, I’d say the bulk of my concern rests on the defensive side of the ball.  Richard Sherman, gone.  Michael Bennett, gone.  Cliff Avril, gone.  Kam Chancellor, likely gone.  Sheldon Richardson, gone.  Malik McDowell, idiot.  Earl Thomas, disgruntled (but playing for a new contract, so you never know).  I’ll say this:  the defense wasn’t a total and complete disaster last year, but the more we lost our star players, the worse it was.  This year, we’re looking at a lot of new blood, and we have to find out if these guys are going to mesh, or if there’s going to be a lot of growing pains.

Defensive Line – Frank Clark and Dion Jordan are your starting ends, for all intents and purposes.  You can play them anywhere, but those are essentially your replacements for Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.  I like Clark, but I liked him a lot more as a #3 option behind those two proven studs.  Will he have another level to his game when he’s the #1 dude?  I sure hope so.  I also liked what little I saw from Dion Jordan last year, but will he be able to carry that over?  Not only what he did then, but a lot more considering the presumed increase in snaps?  Beyond those guys, Green is a rookie (and he’s green) who probably won’t play more than on a rotational basis, in obvious passing situations.  The other rookie is a late-round project.  Marcus Smith was a nice player last year, but is he really a #3 guy?  That feels like a STEEP drop-off from Frank Clark last year.

As for the tackles, it looks like the bulk of our talent resides there.  I love Jarran Reed and Naz Jones; I particularly think the sky is the limit for Jones.  We brought in those two vets from the Vikings who should be fine pros.  There’s an undrafted rookie whose name I forget – out of Texas – who looks like a run-stuffing prodigy.  Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson, who is playing for a job and might be axed out based on the level of talent here.  I think the D-Line will be great when it comes to stuffing the run (which is important, in case anyone forgets the 3rd & 11 against Jacksonville last year, as well as all the yards Todd Gurley got against us).  But, I have a lot of doubts about their ability to rush the passer.  Hopefully a tighter rotation – fewer snaps all around – will keep guys fresher and more prone for late-game success, but I dunno.

Linebacker – The obvious best position group of the bunch.  Bobby Wagner is an All Pro, K.J. Wright is a Pro Bowler.  They won’t leave the field – barring injuries – and they’ll be the glue that holds this defense together.  The big question is:  can they help out in pass rushing?  Both of those guys are quality blitzers, but they predominantly play out in the receiving routes.  Can Barkevious Mingo or Shaquem Griffin – on the strong side – contribute to moving the quarterback off his spot, hitting him, and otherwise leading to more turnovers?  That’ll be huge, but again, I have my doubts for 2018.

Safety – Earl Thomas and Bradley McDougald figure to be your starters.  Earl is amazing, Bradley is fine.  Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill are the rookies from last year, so hopefully we’ll see a big jump from them, as you figure we’re going to need them.  There are others on the roster, but I don’t know much about them, and therefore don’t expect much from them.  Shaquem Griffin is a wild card here too, as it would be interesting to see him in a run-stuffing/Kam Chancellor type role.

Cornerback – Shaquill Griffin and Byron Maxwell figure to be your starters on the outside, with Justin Coleman as your primary nickel corner.  We all liked what Shaquill did for us last year, but I’d still like to see some improvement in his Sophomore campaign.  I’d like to see more in the way of turnovers, and more in the way of just eliminating his side as an option for opposing quarterbacks.  They’re going to continue to test him this year, so he needs to prove to them that it’s a bad fucking idea.  Maxwell, on the other hand, is another year older, and while he knows the system, he’s nobody’s idea of a long-term solution.  He’s not a lockdown corner, he never really was.  In this system, opposite Richard Sherman in his prime, with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in their primes, Byron Maxwell was a decent option as a 4th member of the LOB.  But, in this mishmash we’ve got now, I don’t know if a disgruntled Earl Thomas and a Bradley McDougald have what it takes to compensate for Maxwell’s weaknesses.  If he’s not punching the ball out of receivers’ hands for fumbles, what good is he?  I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he loses his job at some point, or even gets cut at the end of the pre-season.  I’d like to see some of the younger guys win that job right now, than deal with a guy in Maxwell who isn’t going to get any better.

Bottom line on defense is:  there’s very little certainty.  Fortunately, Pete Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach, and one of the best going in the game today.  So, if anyone can whip these players into stars, it’s him.  But, make no mistake, this team can’t win without a really good defense.  I’ve been waiting for the offense to take the next step and start carrying this team, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  And, quite frankly, with Pete Carroll at the helm, he’d never stand for that in the first place.  He’s going to live and die by his defense, his running game, and his desire to dominate time of possession.  Period.  You can say all you want about Russell Wilson being elite and all the rest, but Pete Carroll is never going to allow this team to be a 1-man show.  Ergo, if this team – in 2018 – is going to make the playoffs or win the division, we’re going to need to see a lot of production from a lot of defensive players we’re not very familiar with just yet.  Yeah, Clark and Jordan and Wagner and Wright and Griffin and Earl are going to have to play to the utmost of their abilities, but all those other guys I talked about – and a lot of other guys I didn’t mention – are going to have to step up and make big impacts seemingly out of nowhere.  How much faith do I have in that happening?  I dunno.  Seems to me, if it does happen, it’ll happen gradually.  I think best (realistic) case scenario is that this team is MUCH better in the second half than it is in the first half.  I think there’ll be a lot of early-season kinks to work out, and I don’t know if this team is talented enough – from top to bottom – to overcome a big early-season deficit in wins & losses.

Special Teams – One area I think this team has drastically improved is on the special teams.  I think there’s nowhere to go but up in the field goal kicking game, and if Janikowski can prove himself, he’ll be a welcome edition.  Otherwise, I have no problem with the younger Jason Myers; I’m adopting an Anyone But Blair Walsh mentality, and stocks are SOARING!  In the punting game, we have the opportunity to not only get younger, cheaper, and better, but possibly REMARKABLY better.  If this guy is the best punting prospect to come out of college in years, we could be talking about a Top 5 punter in this league.  Which, yeah, not enough to get my panties into a total wad, but little by little a guy like that can make a dramatic difference over the course of a season.  And, in our coverage units, while I don’t think they were terrible last year, I see the influx of speedy, athletic guys as only a plus in this area.  Someone like Neiko Thorpe – who has been a necessity in recent years – might be a luxury here, who could either help put this team’s coverage unit over the top, or be a cap casualty because we have so many other guys just as good as him!  I hope he gets better as a cornerback on defense, because he might need it to keep a job.

To all those people who said we were just a couple shitty kicks away from being 11-5 last year, I’d like to point to all those defensive breakdowns and the complete and utter lack of a running game as to the REAL reasons why that team underachieved.  If we’re going to get back to being that 11-5 type of team, it’s going to require vast improvements in those areas to succeed.  That having been said, it couldn’t hurt to have a kicker who can actually make the kicks he’s supposed to make, could it?

The Mariners Won The One They Weren’t Supposed To Win

Oh so close to a series sweep.  Oh so close to first place in the A.L. West.

Just like they drew it up, right?  Blow the game where Paxton has the best game of his career, come back with a spot starter and beat the other team’s ace!  This is baseball, everyone.  It’s dumb as fuck.

We squeezed 4 shutout innings out of Wade LeBlanc last night, as we stretched him out to 70 pitches.  Assuming he stays in the rotation, I’d think the goal next time out is 85 or 90 pitches, and then full go by his third start.  But, that’s getting ahead of ourselves.  For now, it’s just nice to get this one win.  LeBlanc has truly been a godsend this season, coming in super late, locking down the long relief role in the bullpen, and now entering the rotation following an injury to Erasmo Ramirez.  I don’t know if we can expect this type of dominance going forward, but I’ll take whatever I can get when I can get it.

Chasen Bradford is another guy who just came out of nowhere.  I guess he was a reliever for the Mets in the second half of last year, but other than that, this is his first real opportunity to earn a bullpen role on a Major League ballclub.  I mean, I dunno, he had pretty decent numbers last year, all things considered, and they just cut him out of nowhere before Spring Training this year!  Is their bullpen really so great?  Is he out of options?  These are the questions I don’t have answers to, because I don’t give a shit, but their loss is our gain.  Bradford has done nothing but his fucking JOB this year, and he’s been wonderful!  Back-end of the bullpen guy, there to eat up innings.  That’s it, but he does it like a champ!  Last night, to wit:  2.1 innings, 1 run, to bridge the gap between LeBlanc and the late inning guys (and get his THIRD win of the season, no less!).

After Pazos closed out the 7th, it was hang-on time, and Scott Servais did the prudent thing:  he went right back to Nicasio & Diaz, hot off their blown save/loss combo the night prior.  Nicasio burned through the A’s for 3 strikeouts in the 8th, and Diaz had a ho-hum 1 strikeout in the 9th to get his 13th save of the year.

Dee Gordon continues his absolute mastery of the leadoff position, going 3 for 4 with 2 runs and 2 more stolen bases.  Robbie Cano had a 2-hit, 2-RBI night.  And Nellie Cruz had a 2-run bomb to put the game away.  The night wasn’t anything extra special; it was a very workmanlike 4-1 victory where the top of the lineup carried the bulk of the mail.

That’s another series win!  7-1-2, with a 3-game set against the Angels coming up, starting tonight.  The Mariners are now 18-12, 0.5 games out of first place (behind the 20-13 Astros and the 19-12 Angels).  So, yeah, you could say this series is pretty huge, as far as early-May series go.

I’m going to the game tonight (Han Seago Bobblehead WHAT?!) and I’m going to the game tomorrow (James Paxton Fanny Packs WHAT?!?!?!).  The last time I went to multiple games in the same series against the Angels, we were swept, so let’s not let that happen again, huh?

The Mariners Finally Blew One

We were bound to see it sooner or later.  What more perfect, Marinersiest time to do it than in a start where James Paxton is as dominant as can be?

He went 7 innings of shutout ball, leaving with what you’d assume to be a comfortable 2-0 lead.  It sounds like every Felix start from 2010-2013 (ESPECIALLY against the A’s).  But, unlike most Felix starts, Paxton did something so remarkable the King hasn’t even reached this height:  he struck out 16 batters.  And he did it while only throwing 105 pitches!  He sprinkled in 5 hits and a walk, but was otherwise as dominant as can be.  In that respect, it was very much in line with a Classic Felix start.

As was the way the bullpen decided to shit all over it.

Again, it was bound to happen.  After some struggles through the first two weeks, Juan Nicasio racked up 7 consecutive scoreless appearances, looking better and better each time out.  So, giving up a 1-out, 2-run, game-tying homer to the best hitter on the A’s, Jed Lowrie (who, not for nothing, ALWAYS kills the Mariners for some reason) is something I’m willing to forgive.  Of course, had I been watching the game last night, I might’ve thought differently, and flown into a rage on Twitter the likes of which … would’ve made no difference whatsoever.

Then, I mean come on, what more does Edwin Diaz have to do?  He gave up 1 inconsequential run in his first 15 appearances, going 12/12 in save opportunities (and winning the April Relief Pitcher of the Month).  In a tie game, in the top of the 9th inning, at home (where – at that point – it’s impossible to save your closer for a save opportunity in that game), with some very capable boppers coming up in the bottom of the 9th, OF COURSE you use your best reliever in that situation!  The sooner we get people out of the mindset that you can only use your closer in save situations, the sooner I’ll be saved from having to read all the idiots complaining to the beat writers about why they put Edwin Diaz in there in a tie game.  THINK ABOUT IT!  ASSHOLES!

So, anyway, yeah, I’m willing to forgive Diaz too.  It sucks that we lost, it sucks that a peach of a start was ruined, but it’s what the Mariners do.  Not for nothing, but it’s what a lot of other teams do too.

Also not for nothing, there is NO WAY I’m bringing Paxton out there for the 8th.  He threw 105 pitches!  Nicaso and Diaz have been amazing this year!  AND, oh by the way, Paxton is constantly getting injured.  Why would you risk that?  When you’re up 2-0, at home, with your best relievers set to lock it down … no.  Just no.  Scott Servais does plenty of things I disagree with, but this is far from one of them.

I’m more concerned about why the offense couldn’t do more than they did against a guy making his first start in the Major Leagues in 2018.  I know Brett Anderson is a veteran, but our offense has been on fire!  Eventually, we’re going to need to get some actual production out of our catcher and left field positions.  Cruz and Segura can’t do fucking everything!

If this turns into a trend, then we have a serious problem.  But, for now, let’s see how it plays out.  The A’s stole one that the Mariners should’ve won; maybe the M’s can do the opposite tonight.  Wade LeBlanc gets the nod against the best starter on the Athletics, Sean Manaea.  We’ve already seen this Manaea guy once this year; he went 7 innings and gave up 1 run in an A’s victory.  4 out of his 6 appearances against Seattle in his brief 3-year career have been quality starts, so obviously he’s not intimidated by our Mariners-ness.  Let’s change that tonight, huh?

The Mariners Won The Series Opener Against The Athletics

And also sent a couple pitchers onto the DL.  So, you know, you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

Got another Felixy good start in this one!  6 innings, 3 runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.  Numbers probably would’ve been better, but as has been the case just about every single game, he was brought out to start an inning he shouldn’t have started, gave up a couple baserunners immediately without getting an out, then the bullpen was left to fend for itself.  Maybe in another 10 or 20 years, the Mariners will find a manager who has a clue and runs a pitching staff the way it’s supposed to be run in the 21st century.

Dan Altavilla was one of the arms to go on the DL.  He has a minor strain of something or other that shouldn’t keep him out too long, but I dunno.  Are we sure this isn’t something that’s going to nag at him all season?  We’ve got five months to go!  Knowing absolutely nothing about the injury, I’m setting the over/under at 2.5 months of Major League action out of Altavilla, and right now I’m staring hard at the under.  Because when do pitchers ever just bounce back like nothing happened, without further repercussions down the line?  Everyone’s always super optimistic right when the injury happens, then there’s setbacks, shutting him down, ramping him back up, rehab assignments, a return a few weeks later, then after a bunch of subpar performances, BAM, shut down for the season.  Maybe that over/under was too high.  Maybe 1.5 months is more accurate.

Anyway, in his place, Struggling Nick Vincent handled the 7th inning, gave up both of Felix’s runs, then managed to get out of trouble.  Juan Nicasio did his thing in the 8th (he’s REALLY looking like the guy we signed to the big bucks this past offseason), and Edwin Diaz worked around a couple walks in the 9th to strike out two guys in getting his 12th save of the season.  Absolutely mind-blowing!

On offense, Dee Gordon went 5/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Nelson Cruz had a 3-run bomb in the 5th to take the lead for good in the game.  And Jean Segura tacked on a couple of RBI – including a crucial late insurance run – to salt the game away.

The Mariners are now 17-11, and notably, +1 in run differential.  That’s somewhat concerning, as you gotta wonder when the other shoe is going to drop with the back-end of that bullpen.  I’m not saying it’ll fully collapse, but Diaz and Nicasio won’t be this dominant every single game.  On the flipside, with the offense fully healthy, we gotta hope that we’ll see more GOOD Mariners blowouts as opposed to the bad ones that have hindered our run differential thus far.  I’ll be more curious what that figure is in another month, as we get more time with our full roster.

Or, as close to it as we can get.  The bigger of the two DL drops yesterday goes to Erasmo Ramirez, who we can’t confirm was brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury … but he was totally brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury.  It’s disappointing, I guess, but I dunno.  I wasn’t expecting Ramirez to replicate his August and September of 2017, because for him, that was an unsustainable run.  Now, by the same token, I didn’t expect him to be as bad as he was in his first two starts this year, but again THE TEAM RUSHED HIM BACK TOO SOON!  My overall feeling on this injury – which looks like it could keep him out for a month at a minimum, but probably a lot longer – is No Big Loss.  It’s Erasmo Ramirez, it’s not James Paxton.  It’s not Felix Hernandez.  It’s not even Mike Leake!  Replacing Erasmo Ramirez with Wade LeBlanc (which is the plan this week) or Ariel Miranda at some point down the line, or a couple of the other no-names in Tacoma, isn’t a huge drop-off from Ramirez.  It might not be ANY drop-off!  And, dare I say it, if the baseball gods are on our side, could we be talking about addition by subtraction?

What I do know is, with Hisashi Iwakuma’s latest setback, don’t count on him filling this role.  He’s done.  It’s not official, but he’s done.  It’s time to stop CPR and call the time of death.  He had a nice career with the Mariners, made more money than he should need for the rest of his life, so I tip my cap and let’s move on.

Paxton goes tonight.  Hopefully, with the new calendar month, he figures it out and gets it going.  Should probably win this one if we hope to win the series, as LeBlanc is a huge question mark going tomorrow.

The Mariners Are Kinda Good

The last time I wrote about the Mariners, they just barely grinded out a series win against the pretty hapless Chicago White Sox.  It wasn’t pretty, it was far from impressive, but it felt so very Mariners and what they are in the early going of 2018.  They were headed to Cleveland to wrap up a 10-game road trip with a 4-spot against a team that’s been to the playoffs the last two years, including a World Series trip.

And somehow not only won 3 out of 4, but DOMINATED in the final two to put an exclamation point on the month of April.

Paxton took the hill on Thursday and left with a 4-2 lead after 6 innings, but the bullpen – behind the struggling Nick Vincent and the outright shitty Scrabble, alongside the hard-luck Blown Save Guy Dan Altavilla – coughed it up in the 7th.  Thankfully, Kyle Seager doubled in the go-ahead run, and Nicasio & Diaz were able to slam the door shut.  That’s 11 saves for Diaz in the first month of the season, who is on quite a pace right now.

Corey Kluber got the start on Friday, against Erasmo Ramirez who apparently was rushed back to the Majors off of his injury and doesn’t quite have his usual stuff.  Why this happened, I have no idea, but obviously the M’s didn’t stand a chance in this one.  Erasmo gave up 6 runs in 5 innings; Kluber almost got the complete game.  AND YET, the combo of Scrabble and Wade LeBlanc kept the damage to those 6 runs, while the Mariners were able to chip away.  Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run homer in the 7th, and Mike Zunino hit a 3-run homer in the 9th to make it VERY interesting.  Unfortunately, one batter later, Ben Gamel lined out to end the threat.  Pretty impressive showing, nevertheless.  You have to wonder if someone like Ariel Miranda might’ve limited the Indians to fewer runs … maybe we’re talking about the second hard-luck loss for Kluber against the Mariners this season!

On Saturday, it didn’t matter who got the start, as the Mariners blew the Indians away, 12-4.  Leake did his job, going 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and the lesser bullpen guys wrapped this one up in a nice little bow.  But, this one was all about the offense.  Gordon had 2 hits, including a double, as well as a stolen base and 3 runs scored.  Segura had 3 hits, including a homer, as well as 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.  Cano had a hit, a run, and 2 RBI.  Cruz went 4/5 with a homer and 2 RBI.  Seager had a 2-run homer.  Even Healy joined in on the action with a 2-run homer of his own!  Nothing but mashing, up and down the lineup in this one.  It’s too bad I was busy all day, this one would’ve been fun to watch.

On Sunday, again, who started?  I have no idea.  Marco Gonzales, I guess.  6 innings, 2 runs allowed off of 6 hits and a walk, with 4 strikeouts and only 89 pitches.  That’s not a bad little line right there!  Back-to-back quality starts for the kid; let’s build on this!  Keep your chins up!  But, again, the offense just laid them to waste.  Dee Gordon 4/5 with a run and an RBI.  Segura with a hit, run and RBI.  Cano with a 2-run homer.  Haniger with a triple, homer, RBI, and 3 runs scored.  And good ol’ Ryon Healy – BACK FROM THE DEAD – with 2 more homers, 3 runs and 4 RBI in the 9-hole in the lineup.  I wouldn’t expect that to last (I don’t get why we keep putting the slowest players in the 9-hole for Gordon to bat behind), but it is kinda cool to think that the lineup, 1-9, is as stacked as it is, especially if Healy can keep it up.

We had an off-day yesterday, allowing a road-weary team a chance to rest before a quick 6-game homestand.  3 against the A’s, followed by 3 against the Angels this weekend.  It looks like I’m going to both the Friday and Saturday games, which means I’ve got a VERY good chance of seeing Shohei Ohtani.  I know he’s probably going to destroy us, but I’m going to be screaming my lungs dry just in case we’re able to knock him out.  Fingers crossed!

Anyway, I dunno, it’s kinda fun to be a Mariners fan right now.  After all the expectations I had for the 2017 team, and how miserably they started in the month of April, it’s nice to see us at 16-11, in second place in the A.L. West (half game ahead of the Angels; 2.5 games behind the Astros), and locked into that 2nd Wild Card spot (half game ahead of the Angels & Blue Jays; 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the 1st Wild Card spot).  Unrelated in all of this:  it looks like the winner of the A.L. Central gets a free ride into the ALDS, as all the Wild Card contenders right now appear to be in the East & West.  Must be nice to play in such a shitty division; if the Mariners were in the Central, we’d be competing for the top record in the American League right now!

As things stand, the Astros are who we thought they were, the Angels are pretty much who I thought they were (going to hang around that Wild Card area all year), the Rangers are much worse than I thought they’d be, and the A’s are a little better than I thought they’d be.  If the A’s turn out to be a serious player for the Wild Card, it’s going to make our lives miserable having 3 fucking good teams in same division to play 19 times apiece.  So, let’s nip this thing in the bud right now, starting tonight.  Sweep these fuckers out of Seattle and send them down a shame spiral for the rest of the year!

Seahawks Traded Up, Drafted A Punter (and 6 other guys, including Shaquem Griffin)

Saturday was a tremendously fun day for yours truly.  Woke up with the house to myself, had a Red Lobster lunch with my mom, went bowling in the afternoon, drank some beers, played some poker, drank some more beers, played some late-night spades, ate some Cloverleaf pizza.  All in all, couldn’t ask for a better time.

Also, the Seahawks had their best and most productive day of the NFL Draft.  After picking up a running back, and a defensive lineman, they made the bulk of their selections on Day 3, and looked to fill a number of holes on this roster.

  • 4th Round – Will Dissly, TE
  • 5th Round – Shaquem Griffin, LB
  • 5th Round – Tre Flowers, CB
  • 5th Round – Michael Dickson, P
  • 5th Round – Jamarco Jones, OT
  • 6th Round – Jake Martin, LB/DE
  • 7th Round – Alex McGough, QB

I’m obviously a big fan of Will Dissly.  Many pegged him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, so he’s a natural fit for what the Seahawks are trying to accomplish.  I also think he’ll develop into a better pass catcher than people give him credit for.  But, as it is, no one is going to take him seriously as a downfield threat, so that could open him up for some better matchups.  Regardless, I don’t think the tight end spot needs to be this great offensive weapon; simply blocking the guys he’s supposed to block will make Will Dissly a million times better than Jimmy Graham ever was.

The obvious Story of the Draft was Shaquem Griffin and where he’d end up.  The fact that he ended up on the Seahawks – re-joining his twin brother – is icing on the cake.  He’s fast, he can rush the passer, he’s a playmaker.  Those are the first three things I think about when I think about Shaquem Griffin.  Obviously, having just the one hand probably kept him off of a lot of draft boards, though the token reason for his falling into the fifth round had to do with him being undersized to play linebacker.  Nevertheless, when you’re as talented as Griffin, teams will find a way to utilize you on the field.  If nothing else, he should be a dynamic special teams player.  You can play him to rush the passer, you can convert him to a box safety, you can keep him at linebacker to cover just about any running back in the league.  I like his versatility and determination; I think he’ll be a great Seahawk.

The Tre Flowers pick certainly got buried in all the hullabaloo over Griffin.  Flowers is tall, with super long arms.  He played safety in college, but it sounds like the Seahawks are looking to convert him to cornerback.  Maybe as a sideline defender a la Richard Sherman?  I don’t know if very many people are talking about this guy as an option, but I’ll be curious to hear what he brings in Training Camp.  Hopefully a huge chip on his shoulder.

The Seahawks then proceeded to trade one of their seventh round picks to move up in the fifth round to take Michael Dickson, consensus Best Punter In The Draft.  Looks like Jon Ryan’s days are numbered, which is probably for the best.  If you can save money at the punter position, while locking it down for many years to come, I think you have to do it.  If Dickson falters, though, people might be laughing at this decision for years to come.  You can’t keep two punters and you can’t waste a fifth rounder on one you need to cut right away, so this guy HAS to be good from the start!

Jamarco Jones is an interesting left tackle out of Ohio State who was apparently good on the field, but really sucked at the Combine.  He may or may not have been injured, but either way, I don’t give a fuck about Combine numbers.  I give a fuck about how he looks when he’s on the field.  If this is a guy we can groom to be the heir apparent to Duane Brown, then no one will ever remember what he did at the Combine.

I don’t know a whole lot about Jake Martin.  He could be a speed rush option, in the vein of Cliff Avril.  Or, he could be a strongside linebacker, in the vein of Bruce Irvin.  He’ll have to make his way on special teams, so if that doesn’t work out for him, I can’t imagine he’ll hack it.

Alex McGough is a seventh round quarterback.  Someone on TV or radio pronounced his name as Magoo, which is fun.  I won’t hold my breath on this guy, though.

All in all, a lot of interesting pieces.  Here’s hoping the team can develop them into starters in this league.

Seahawks Traded Down, Drafted Rasheem Green

It was a quiet Day 2 for the Seattle Seahawks, who in spite of that still managed to make a lot of noise about how their season is going to go.

First and foremost, the Seahawks didn’t trade Earl Thomas like we all thought would happen.  So, barring some really unforeseen circumstance, it looks like Thomas will play out his deal and probably walk after the season’s over.  I guess there was never the right package of picks to make it work, and I’m okay with that.  I mean, what if all we could get was a 4th rounder; would you still trade him?  I wouldn’t.  A 3rd rounder?  Maybe if it was at the very top of the 3rd round, but I would’ve still probably felt awfully shitty about it.  I think it was a 2nd rounder or bust, and once Dallas picked at 50, it really felt like a bullet was dodged, for better or for worse.

Another more positive move featured the Seahawks bringing back Byron Maxwell on a 1-year deal, for around $3 million (with incentives).  I don’t know if the incentives part of it brings it UP to $3 million, or if it’s $3 million PLUS incentives.  Either way, not too big a price for a guy we know fits well within our system.  He’s no Richard Sherman, but he’s an okay stopgap (assuming the Seahawks find a diamond in the rough on Day 3).

Finally, the Seahawks and all of us fans had to wait FOREVER for the Seahawks to pick.  We finally got to the 12th pick in the 3rd round, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, the Seahawks traded back again!  Only three spots, to the 15th in the round, and acquired an extra 7th rounder in the process.  So, now our draft board looks like this:

  • 1st Round – Rashaad Penny, RB
  • 3rd Round – Rasheem Green, DL
  • 4th Round – 20th pick
  • 5th Round – 4th pick
  • 5th Round – 9th pick
  • 5th Round – 19th pick
  • 5th Round – 31st pick
  • 6th Round – 12th pick
  • 7th Round – 2nd pick
  • 7th Round – 8th pick

Rasheem Green.  Out of USC.  He’s apparently a 2nd round talent who fell into the 3rd round because of a medical concern.  That concern relates to an old high school injury, which the Seahawks’ medical team took a look at twice and deemed worth the risk.  A knee maybe?  I dunno.  Anyway, he’s supposed to be really good.  I guess he thought he was going to be a first rounder – hence why he left the Trojans as a Junior – but he wasn’t, and now he’s set to have a HUGE chip on his shoulder.  I think we all can appreciate that.

Michael Bennett comps like the day is long.  Similar body sizes, similar games on the field.  He plays outside, he plays inside.  He’s not super good against the run right now, and the Seahawks are aware of that, so I wouldn’t expect him to be an every-down player right out of the box.  Likely in super obvious passing situations, you’ll see him in the Nascar Package (likely in that Malik McDowell role he would’ve played if he wasn’t a moron) on the interior, but for the most part I’d bet you’ll see him on the outside.  Also, he’s only 20 years old right now, so best not to throw him totally into the fire playing ALL those Michael Bennett snaps.

I like it!  No character concerns obviously play a big role in that.  But, there’s also no concerns about him dogging it in games.  He was the best player on USC’s line, and as a result had a lot of attention on him from opposing offenses.  The fact that he was still as productive as he was speaks volumes.  My hope is that he comes in, finds a spark, and continues to grow over his first four years.  He could legitimately be one of the greats in this league.

Or, he could be Lawrence Jackson.  Yeah, don’t think his name didn’t bust through my mind when I saw where he came from (I see what I did there).

Seahawks Traded Down, Drafted Rashaad Penny

The Seahawks were set to draft at #18, but the worst kept secret in the history of secrets told us that they were looking to trade down, by any means necessary.  See, we frittered away our 2nd & 3rd rounders last year in hopes of “winning now” and failed miserably, so now we either pay the piper, or don’t pick at all between 18 and 120.  So, KIND of a no-brainer, although there were some really enticing players still hanging around that 18 spot.

The Green Bay Packers originally had the 14th pick, then swapped with the Saints down to the 27th pick.  Apparently, the Pack really wanted this cornerback at 18, so they made a move back up.  The Seahawks received #27, the 12th pick in the 3rd round (#76) and the 12th pick in the 6th round (#186) (and no, I’m not doing a “12” thing here, but it is a little weird that the Seahawks got the #12 picks in both of those rounds).  The Packers received #18 and the 30th pick in the 7th round (#248) (or, 9 picks from the bottom of the draft, so the worse of our two 7th rounders).

Now, for those keeping track at home, here are the updated Seahawks’ picks:

  • 1st Round – Rashaad Penny, RB
  • 3rd Round – 12th pick
  • 4th Round – 20th pick
  • 5th Round – 4th pick
  • 5th Round – 9th pick
  • 5th Round – 19th pick
  • 5th Round – 31st pick
  • 6th Round – 12th pick
  • 7th Round – 8th pick

Figure the Seahawks will probably still trade Earl Thomas, probably for a 2nd rounder.  Or, failing that, maybe they package some of these remaining picks (with an outside chance of trading future picks) to get into the 2nd round.  One way or another, don’t expect those to be THE final picks when it’s all said and done.

Anyway, Rashaad Penny.  He played running back at San Diego State.  He was seen by and large as a lower pick (maybe the 2nd or 3rd rounds); he CERTAINLY wasn’t seen by most experts as the second-best running back in the entire draft.  But, here we are.

In case you were wondering, I know nothing about the guy.  I know nothing about most anyone in the draft.  After Saquon Barkley, all the other running backs might as well be named Not Saquon Barkley, because I’m out.  That having been said, Penny definitely looks good.  Whether that’s First Round Good or not is another question.  A lot of people think he could’ve been had much later in the draft.  Well, welcome to the fucking Seattle Seahawks draft, where in the early rounds they ALWAYS pick someone who most people believe could be had later in the draft!  Don’t act like you’re surprised.  Also, for what it’s worth, Pete Carroll and John Schneider said someone called them immediately after selecting Penny, asking if they’d be interested in a trade.  So, either Penny is better than most people think, or a bunch of NFL teams were ready to make a huge mistake by taking him really high.  I tend to believe the former.

The dude led the nation in rushing last year.  He led the nation in broken tackles.  He was #2 in explosives among running backs.  He had the most yards per carry after contact (which will be EXTREMELY important, considering this offensive line).  He’s fast, he runs hard, he doesn’t shy away from contact; but he’s also elusive and can make you miss.  He catches the ball well.  He returns kicks and is able to return punts.  HE DOES IT ALL!  Well, except for pass protection, which he’s apparently pretty poor at.  But, if I’m being honest, if that’s the ONE thing he isn’t so great at, I’m okay with it.  Blocking is something that can be learned.  Speed and elusiveness is something you’re born with.  He’s also durable; hasn’t missed a game.  And, he only had 1 year where he was the bellcow in college, so there’s not a lot of wear & tear on his legs.

I mean, what more can you ask for?

Twitter is dumb, stay-at-home draftniks are dumb, everything in the world is dumb.  You don’t know how good Rashaad Penny is going to be.  You may think you know, but you won’t know until he gets out there on that field.  It says a lot that in a very stacked running back class (a class so stacked, it forced Myles Gaskin to come back to Washington for his senior season) many teams thought Penny was the second best back to be had.

I’m excited!  This is EXACTLY what I wanted:  a stud running back in the first round.  It was time to stop picking running backs off the scrap heap and hoping they’ll bust out.  Yes, I understand that you can get good running backs up and down the draft, and taking one in the first round – when you have so many other needs on this roster – could be seen as a misuse of resources.  But, sometimes you have to make a statement.  Sometimes you have to put your foot down and take a guy you know you’ll be able to depend on.  I have no doubt that his health and his good character were maybe two of the most important factors in selecting Penny so high.  After the Malik McDowell FUCKING FIASCO, the Seahawks could ill afford to totally flush their top pick of the draft again.

Penny, AT WORST, is still a starting-calibre running back for the next 4 years.  With his power, his breakaway speed, his big play ability, the sky is the limit.  I’m choosing to be positive on this one, because I want to have a Seahawks running back on my fantasy football team again, and I think FINALLY we’ve found one who’s worthy!

The Mariners Grinded Out A Series Win In Chicago

I didn’t think it was remotely possible!  But, here we are!

King Felix took the mound, and was rocky in the first inning, giving up 2 of his eventual 3 runs across 6 innings of work.  Thankfully, he settled in and allowed the offense to do its job.  All in all, it wasn’t a bad day of work, as he spread out 7 hits and 2 walks, while getting 6 strikeouts.  Not a Classic Felix game, but a Good Enough game.

Led by Jean Segura and Nelson Cruz, the Mariners chipped away at the deficit, eventually pulling even at 3-3.  Then, Mike Zunino launched a solo homer the other way in the sixth, and the bullpen was able to carry it home from there.  James Pazos has followed some early-season struggles with real dynamite pitching, keeping teams scoreless over his last 5 outings (accounting for 7 innings pitched).  Juan Nicasio, I’m told, looked the best he’s looked all year yesterday in holding down the 8th.  And Edwin Diaz apparently had no trouble getting his 10th save of the season, leading all of Major League Baseball in that category.

With 4 games in Cleveland left in the month of April, the Mariners are 5-1-2 in their series so far (with a make-up game in Minnesota in a few weeks that should clear up one of those ties).  The Mariners are 13-10 right now; at the end of April last year, the Mariners were 11-15.  Of course, taking a shit against the Indians might eliminate all of this good will, but you get the idea.  The Mariners feel different right now.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say they feel like a playoff team, but they sort of feel like a team that’s not going to blow as many winnable games.  It would’ve been VERY easy for the Mariners to not only lose this series against the White Sox, but to get swept!  Remember, the White Sox were 4-14 heading into this 3-game set!  And we damn near got swept.

But we didn’t.  That’s the key here.  I feel like last year’s Mariners would’ve DEFINITELY gotten swept.  I know this isn’t any reason to throw a fucking parade or anything, but it’s encouraging.  While I still don’t hold out any reasonable hope that the M’s are going to make the playoffs this year (and even if they did get a Wild Card spot, there’s no fucking way in hell they get past the ALDS, even if they were fortunate enough to win the play-in game), it’s always more fun when the Mariners win more games than they lose.  So, if this is what we’re in for the rest of the way, gladly sign me up!

Semi-Competent Baseball!  Comin’ Atcha!

Also, not for nothing, but I’ve maybe seen 30% of these games in person or on TV, so maybe I’ve got a healthy detachment going as the primary reason why I like this team as much as I do.  Not living and dying with every game, every pitch, every call by these hu-man umpires.  The Mariners are best appreciated at a distance; I understand this now.  Being a super-fan of the Mariners is only grounds for an early grave.

Lots more early start times this series; I’ll get to see more of the Mariners and Indians than I ever cared to!

The Mariners Won A 1-0 Game

I’m not gonna lie to you, with my schedule, I could go for as many mid-week 2pm start times as you’ll give me!

I really got into this one.  It was around 3:30pm by the time I got home from work, so I got to see more than half of this one, and it was a nailbiter to the end.  Marco Gonzales got the start and looked shockingly competent!  He had a strong opening week start, then followed that up with three really lousy outings before coming back here with a 6+ inning, 5-hit affair with 1 walk and a whopping 8 strikeouts.  That’s back to back games now with 8 strikeouts apiece, so here’s hoping that he’s putting something together.

Scott Servais, for some reason, opted to bring him out to face one batter in the seventh, which I didn’t fully understand.  Sure, the pitch count was low, but we’re talking about the heart of the order, the third time through the lineup.  And, if you’re just going to yank him the instant he gets into trouble, then why bother in the first place?  I’d rather give the bullpen a fresh inning instead of what happened:  where Dan Altavilla has to go in there with no outs and a runner on second base in a 1-0 game.  All so you can roll the dice in the unlikely situation that Gonzales throws a 1-2-3 seventh inning?  I don’t think the reward matches the risk in this one.

Thankfully, Altavilla was on his game, pounding the strike zone.  And, luckily, Scrabble got the final out of the inning because the guy hit it hard right at Segura.  He still looks AWFULLY shitty through this first month of the season, and better turn it around in a hurry or he could be looking for a job elsewhere.

Juan Nicasio came in and looked as good as he’s looked all year, which is great to see.  And, Edwin Diaz followed his 4-out save the other day – where he had to throw a billion pitches and barely got out of the game unscathed – by just destroying the three batters he faced, netting his league-leading 9th save of the season.

All the scoring happened before I got home, so all I know is that Mitch Haniger singled in Kyle Seager following his double.  Haniger has been among the league’s most valuable players through the first four weeks of the season, currently with 8 homers, 5 doubles, and 24 RBI.  All of last year, Haniger had 16 homers, 25 doubles, and 47 RBI, just to show you how far he’s come.

This was a much-needed bounce back for the Mariners, as they blew the finale down in Texas and got killed in the opener against the White Sox.  As the Mariners seemingly always struggle in Chicago, I fully expected them to blow this 1-0 game, but maybe it’s a new day.  I guess we’ll find out later this afternoon as they wrap up the series before a 4-game set in Cleveland to close out the month.