The Mariners Are Cursed With Julio Rodriguez: Mediocre Superstar

You know what I’m sick of? Hearing about how “Julio is going to be fine.” I’m sick of people wondering about what he’s feeling. I’m sick of excuses like “he’s finding other ways to help the team.”

And I’m REAL fucking sick and tired of Julio having 2 fucking homers and slugging .306 on May fucking 25th of a God damn fucking Major League Baseball season.

Nice guy? I don’t give a shit! Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids!

We’re not paying Julio over $200 million guaranteed to be a slap-hitting singles hitter batting 6th in the order who has the 9th-most strikeouts in baseball! Of course the Mariners would be cursed with this kind of “superstar”.

Do you know why the “he’ll be fine” argument doesn’t hold any water with me? Because it doesn’t make a fucking difference to me when he’s sucking dick for two straight months! One month of stud-level play per season isn’t part of the deal! And I don’t give a shit how much pressure this is for a young player. If you can’t handle the pressure, then don’t sign up to be this team’s franchise player! Go fucking pick blueberries on a farm in Montana if you don’t want the pressure. As far as Major League cities go, I would say Seattle is a pretty fucking forgiving one. Imagine what Yankees fans or Red Sox fans would be saying if they got this from Aaron Judge or whoever the fuck Boston has. They’d be FUCKING OUTRAGED! But, in Seattle, we’re worried about Julio’s fucking well-being.

Fuck that! Do better you piece of shit! Figure it the fuck out and let’s start winning some fucking baseball games! God fucking damn.

I’m So Ready For Julio Rodriguez To Dominate For The Mariners

Julio Rodriguez appears to be a consensus fifth in the American League MVP race according to Vegas (behind top guy Aaron Judge, then Juan Soto, Corey Seager, and Yordan Alvarez). It’s gotta be exciting for these guys, because Shohei Ohtani is in the National League now, so somebody else can finally win for a change!

Fangraphs has Julio seventh in all of baseball for projected WAR with 5.6. ZIPS has him third in all of baseball at 5.7 WAR. Pretty much wherever you go, there’s Julio, projected right there among the very best players in baseball.

This is interesting to me, because while Julio was clearly the best player on the Mariners last year, I wouldn’t say he had a GREAT season. He was definitely hotter than the sun in July and especially August, but other than that he had long stretches where he struggled, especially in the first half, but also down the stretch in September.

Now, clearly, a struggling Julio is A LOT different than a struggling Ty France, or a struggling Taylor Trammell (which is pretty much his entire career). Even when he’s having a tough time, he’s still awesome. He’s still a presence. He’s still a guy other teams have to fear. And, of course, he’s going to give you great defense regardless. He’s still going to play hard and make some moves when he does get on base. He’s going to find ways to contribute.

But, his slash line in 2023 was down across the board compared to his 2022 rookie season, which is why his WAR fell from 6.0 to 5.3. Again, still great! He finished 4th in MVP voting last year, but no one voted him higher than 3rd.

It takes quite a special season to win the MVP award. The Mariners have had exactly two MVPs in their history: Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997, and Ichiro in 2001. Griffey that year was the leader of the most fearsome offense baseball had seen since the ’27 Yankees. And Ichiro entered the Major Leagues like a house on fire, leading the team to a 116-win season. THIS is what I would like to see from Julio. And 2024 is no better time to make that happen.

There’s a lot of hype that the Mariners have improved their offense this year. I’m still in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode of thinking. Regardless, I would say no one is expecting these Mariners to blow the doors off of the 2023 variety. It’s all “cautious optimism” and probably a marginal step up.

If you want to see significant improvement from this team, it has to be twofold. First, the depth has to be stronger. The bottom of the order MUST be better. I’m not saying we have to be lights out 1 through 9 in the order, but we can’t have the bottom 4-5 batters completely stinking up the joint like they did for most of last year. If we can see some competence, if we can have more professional at-bats, if we can even just make better and more productive outs, I think it’ll make a world of difference.

But, even that hinges on the second part: we need our stars to be super.

We need J.P. to continue to dominate at the top of the order. We need Cal to continue being a power machine. We need our veterans – Garver, Haniger, Polanco – to step up when they’re healthy. Ideally, we need this Driveline experience to hit the jackpot with Ty France. And, more than anything, we need Julio to play at an MVP level. Not just good with some elite stretches, but consistently great throughout the year.

Even if it’s just the veterans playing AS good as they were last year, and some semblance of improvement from the bottom of the order, I think we could really make some hay with an MVP Julio.

That’s kind of what I’m banking on here, if I have any hope whatsoever of the Mariners making it back to the playoffs. I’m expecting the starters to be great. I’m expecting them to figure it out in the bullpen. But, I’m also expecting the offense to be a dud yet again, costing us winnable games and seeing us ultimately falling short of a wild card berth.

However, if we get MVP Julio? Then, I’ll be willing to suspend my disbelief. I’ll be willing to go all in on this team with its cheapskate ownership group. I’ll be willing to hope that we can somehow put it all together for a magical playoff run.

Now is the time! He had his Rookie of the Year campaign. He had his Sophomore Slump. Now, it’s time for the MVP trophy. Now, it’s time to take that next step into the stratosphere. Be the envy of everyone, and the face of baseball, as you were destined to be!

I’m Over The Huge Mega-Deal In Free Agency For The Mariners

Being a fan of the Mariners from 2005-2018 is the baseball fan equivalent of being a Vietnam War veteran. I’m still having flashbacks. There are any number of terrible free agent signings both within that period and outside of that period (for the purposes of this post, when I talk about free agents, I’m talking exclusively about the outside free agents we’ve signed to come to Seattle, not the guys who were Mariners that we then re-signed once they hit free agency), but from 2005-2018, I think the four biggest marquee free agent signings we all know and love are Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz.

Cruz, admittedly, is an absolute success story, the likes of which is rare and beautiful. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hearing the name Richie Sexson again makes me want to shut my eyes and never look at the Seattle Mariners ever again. When in reality, it was more of a mixed bag, with his power numbers holding up for two seasons, before he fell off a cliff.

Beltre, I feel like, gets more kudos than … whatever the opposite of kudos are, because his defense was elite, because he was best friends with King Felix, and because he settled into a role that was fairly reliable. However, he came here off of a 2004 season with the Dodgers where he finished 2nd in MVP voting. We came into it expecting 48 homers per year, and got far FAR less. As for Cano, I think we all had fair expectations for what that was. 10 years, $24 million per year. We expected about half of those years to be good, and half of those years to be in severe overpaid decline. And that’s pretty much what we got (with the silver lining that maybe we got a good trade out of the whole thing, depending on what Kelenic ends up turning into). But, regardless, it sucks that you’re investing in someone for a decade, knowing full well that half of those years will be miserable failures (only able to get out from under it by taking advantage of a know-nothing GM).

The point of my bringing those players up in this context is the fact that paying huge sums in free agency doesn’t come with a great success rate. You can say that about trades, you can say that about drafts, you can say that about lower-priced free agents. But, obviously, the cost is far less for everything else. But, when you make a huge splash in free agency, the expectation is that those players will not only come in and make an immediate impact, but they’ll be the cornerstones of your franchise. They’ll put you over the top. If you were a losing organization, they’ll turn you into playoff contenders; if you were already playoff contenders, then they’ll turn you into championship contenders.

Every year in the baseball offseason, the biggest storylines revolve around the Hot Stove. Those elite players who’ve hit free agency are the most talked-about. And, teams like the Mariners – who have relatively low payrolls, who are also coming off of a playoff run – are often expected to be big players in those sweepstakes. And the fans ALWAYS get mad when the Mariners opt to sit out the top tiers of free agency.

It doesn’t make sense, for a variety of reasons. For starters, if you just look at the history of the Seattle Mariners, they don’t make huge splashes in free agency in these situations. If you think about the four players I discussed above, those were all situations where we were trying to bail out a sinking ship. We were never in a position to bolster a team from good to great in that period. The last time the Mariners were great, they largely built up the roster in response to losing other major stars (Randy, Griffey, A-Rod), going with less-heralded all stars over those supernovas.

The other big reason why free agency doesn’t make sense is that it really ties you down to one or two major decisions. The reason why building from within is preferred over the alternative is because you have more information. You’re extending guys who have already had success here. For a team playing half its games in Seattle, that means everything. We see over and over again players come here and struggle, with the ballpark, the climate, the distance away from their offseason homes, whathaveyou. It doesn’t matter if they’re power hitters, line drive hitters, or speedy bloop hitters. So, literally anyone you bring here is a coin flip at best; why would you want to tie yourself down for 5-10 years on someone if you don’t even know if they can succeed here? If you trade for someone and they stink, you can get out of it in a year or two without major financial repercussions. Free agents have their money fully guaranteed.

I would also argue – even with the very best players – there’s a reason why they reached free agency. Aaron Judge was your 2022 American League MVP. He broke the A.L. record for home runs. He’s one of the top three most popular players in all of baseball. The Yankees have all the money and revenue in the world. If they REALLY wanted to avoid all this, if they REALLY wanted him to stick around long term, they would’ve already worked out an extension. As we saw with Julio Rodriguez, as the Angels did with Mike Trout, as countless other teams have done with their super-duper-stars, when you want someone to stick around, you figure out how to get it done before they hit free agency.

I’d be curious to know the success rate of players who sign the top 5-10 free agent contracts every year. How often are those players just as good or better than they were prior to signing? And how long before they decline? How often do those players decline right away, or within a season or two? I remember lots of horror stories from the first half of 2022, when the bulk of the uber-free agents were all struggling with their new teams. There’s a chance Aaron Judge signs a contract somewhere else and is just as good as he was with the Yankees. But, there’s a much BETTER chance he signs somewhere and is worse. But that team is stuck paying him an insane amount of money, and guaranteeing him a spot in their everyday lineup, which is the ultimate double whammy.

I don’t need that. Honestly, I don’t need that ever again. I’d rather the Mariners pay their home-grown guys. I’d rather we trade for players nearing the end of their initial contract, who are incentivized to play hard to try to earn more money. I like the way this team has been built. I don’t want them to suddenly change course and start chasing the huge names, only to have those players struggle and waste all of our time.

Frankly, I’m glad that’s the plan. It’s hard enough to get everything right with your own guys. Evan White’s contract looks like a mini-disaster at the moment. J.P. Crawford seems to have more value as a team leader and chemistry guy than he does with his bat. So, I don’t understand how we EVER get things right with outside free agency. That just seems like the crapshoot to end all crapshoots.

What I’d Like To See The Mariners Do This Offseason

It’s impossible to predict the fluctuation of outcomes from individual players year over year. A guy might’ve had a great 2022, then all of a sudden goes in the tank due to injuries, private personal matters, or just total randomness. Baseball can be INFURIATING in that respect.

That being said, there doesn’t appear to be quite as many holes to fill this offseason as usual. Coming off of back-to-back 90-win seasons – the latest being a playoff run into the ALDS – that’s a good problem to have. It’s also one we’re not used to experiencing, as Mariners fans. I almost don’t know what to do with myself!

The starting rotation, for instance, looks to be set, barring trades. My hunch on the order goes like this:

  • Luis Castillo (R)
  • Logan Gilbert (R)
  • Robbie Ray (L)
  • George Kirby (R)
  • Marco Gonzales (L)

Is it perfect? No. But, I think the top end is good-to-elite, and I think the two lefties are solid innings eaters. The depth beyond those five guys is a little suspect, as I don’t know if any of our upcoming minor league starters are ready to ascend (or will even be with the club, since they present as our biggest trade chips), but we at least should have Chris Flexen around as a long relief arm/injury replacement starter.

I would say the bullpen is largely set too, though of course there’s room to tinker. We’ve got the following arms under contract (among a host of others):

  • Andres Munoz
  • Paul Sewald
  • Erik Swanson
  • Matt Brash
  • Diego Castillo
  • Penn Murfee
  • Matt Festa

We probably need another left-handed reliever or two, but that’s what Spring Training is there for. We go out and find underappreciated rejects and turn them into monster relievers. I’m sure there are guys out on the scrap heap looking to turn their careers around in Seattle.

The major holes are where you’d expect: the everyday lineup.

Right off the bat, Mitch Haniger, Carlos Santana, and Adam Frazier are all free agents. That’s your starting right fielder, DH, and second baseman. Then, there’s the whole Jesse Winker fiasco, so you’re probably looking at a need to replace your left fielder.

Coming at it from the other direction, we look solid-to-great at center field (Julio), third base (Suarez), first base (France), catcher (Raleigh), and short stop or second base (Crawford).

Internal depth pieces include Kelenic, Toro, Lewis, Haggerty, Moore, Trammell, and Torrens. I don’t think we should be confident in any of those guys. I like Haggerty a lot, but I wonder if he’ll get exposed the more he plays. I like Kyle Lewis a lot, but he can’t stay healthy with his chronic knee issues that probably prevent him from playing everyday outside of DH (and, considering how bad he was at the plate this year, you have to wonder if he even has value with his bat anymore). Trammell, Toro, and Torrens all look to be Quad-A players not to be trusted with starting jobs. And Kelenic is the real wild card in all of this. Highly touted, highly regarded throughout his minor league career, but definitely stalled out at the Major League level. Is it possible for him to figure it out? Of course. But, will he do so in a Mariners uniform? That’s a huge question.

It’s frustrating to see so much of the outfield in flux, because that looked like our area of greatest strength. It was supposed to be Julio, Lewis, and Kelenic for the next 5-10 years. Now, it looks like we’ve hit on 1 out of 3.

I’d love for Mitch Haniger to stick around, but clearly he too can’t stay healthy. The smarter play feels like we should let him move on to another team. Which is a tough pill to swallow, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you want. Works hard, plays quality outfield defense, hits for good average and power when he’s healthy, great teammate. But, if he’s spending more time in the training room than out on the field, that’s not a guy you can count on.

I’m already at the point where I think Winker needs to go, but his value has taken such a sharp hit this year, I don’t know what you’d get in return. The smart play might be to get rid of him anyway, because his attitude and alleged lack of work ethic might be a bigger detriment than whatever good we might squeeze out of positive regression, but I can see why the organization might want to avoid having to replace BOTH corner outfield spots. There’s also the chance that, you know, his severe surgical injuries might have hampered him just a bit. So, maybe he’s on the short list for a bit of positive regression.

Even though the Mariners are in the best spot they’ve been in since 2001, it’s not like this is an EASY fix. Two outfielders, one middle-infielder, and one big bat to DH and maybe help out in the field on occasion.

I think the middle infielder is the key. I think we have to sign one of the big bats that hit the market in free agency to either play short stop (and move Crawford over to second) or second base. From there, I think you take a shot in free agency at a quality outfielder, but more likely will have to make a trade for that guy. Then, as for the other outfielder, I think you maybe find someone to platoon, with the other platoon partner being an internal candidate (either Kelenic, Haggerty, or Moore, whoever produces best in Spring Training). As for the DH, find some vet akin to Carlos Santana (only maybe slightly younger and more spry) who can fill in at first base in a pinch, to give France regular days off to DH in his place.

The Mariners should have a decent amount of money to play around with, so I’m hoping there’s at least one big splash. The trade candidates can be guys with 1-2 years left. Maybe we can flip Winker for someone else’s problem, in a greener pastures sort of situation.

The big story this offseason is where will Aaron Judge go. He’s going to get half a billion dollars, easy. Is that someone I’d want in a Mariners uniform? I dunno, how well did it go the last time we signed away a former Yankees superstar?

Here’s the deal: I would be thrilled if the Mariners signed Judge to play right field. As we all would. In the short term, pairing him with Julio and the other guys on our roster is only going to make them the most formidable pairing in baseball. But, there’s a reason why his numbers have been so insane with the Yankees, and that’s because he plays half his game in Yankee Stadium. Hitting homers there is as easy as breathing. If he moves to Seattle, expect a DRAMATIC downturn in his number of homers. He hit 60+ this year? You might bank on him hitting 40+ with the Mariners. I’d say the 30-40 range is more likely. And that’s assuming he stays healthy.

Of course, long term, I think that contract will be a disaster. What worries me is if it’s a disaster from the start. Think Albert Pujols when he joined the Angels. He went downhill almost immediately, and they had to endure a decade of his creaky knees.

I’d rather put that money into a short stop who’s a better long-term fit, and then trade for a value bat in the outfield. That’s easier said than done, obviously. But, I will say that now that we’ve had this success, and we’ve got a lot of our core locked up, Seattle is a more attractive place to come and play. Obviously, it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of travel involved. The home park isn’t easy, especially in the colder months. But, locating the right guys who fit our dynamic and what we’re trying to do offensively will be critical to getting over the hump.

As Napster guy said to Facebook guy in The Social Network, “The wild card isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Winning the division and getting a top two seed.”

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Mariners Won A Series In New York Against The Yankees

I know, I’m as shocked as you are!

It’s the Yankees and the Asstros as the top two teams in the American League, followed by a HUGE gap, followed by everyone else. And, you know, depending on the day, the Yankees are the very best. They’re impressive from top to bottom, and as they absolutely should do, they only got better at the trade deadline. You can’t say there were many holes – if any – on their active roster, but they filled them and then some, with the big gets being the outfielder from Kansas City, and the pitching package they brought in from the A’s.

Of course, the one that got away – Luis Castillo – plays for our hometown Mariners, and that might ultimately change the entire landscape of the MLB playoffs this year. Had he landed with the Yankees, there might’ve been no stopping them. But, as it is, I don’t envy any team that has to face them in the A.L.D.S.

Even though the Mariners are firmly wild card contenders, this series always felt like a lost cause to me. Much in the way the M’s fared against Houston since the All Star Break (winning 1 out of 7 games), the Yankees are flat out a better team, and it would’ve made all the sense in the world to go into New York and get swept.

And, through one game, that looked very much in play.

We went into this series a little undermanned with our bullpen, having relied on them so thoroughly just to keep it close against the Asstros in Houston. As such, we really needed Marco Gonzales to give us a quality start on Monday. He proceeded to give up a 3-run home run to Anthony Rizzo in the first, a 2-run home run to Aaron Judge in the second, and a solo homer to Jose Trevino in the fourth. I guess you could say he settled down a little bit after that, but he ultimately only made it 5.1 innings, and those 6 runs were more than enough to bury us. We went on to lose 7-2, with very few offensive bright spots to speak of.

I really want to like Marco Gonzales. He’s the kind of crafty, gritty fighter with underwhelming stuff that seems to be getting phased out of the game of baseball nowadays. And, he indeed goes through stretches where everything clicks into place and he’s able to baffle opponents with his change up and cutter combo. But, while I don’t have concrete evidence in front of me, it seems like whenever you need him to step up in a big moment, that’s the moment where he gets shelled instead.

You can’t count on him. You look at Marco’s numbers at the end of the year and they’re always kinda the same: 140-200 innings (depending on injuries), an ERA right around 4.00, and usually a winning percentage just over .500 (though this has been a hard-luck year with his 6-11 record to date). You can set your watch to Marco, and yet his route to get there is completely unpredictable. It’s not just that he gets destroyed by good teams and mops up against the bottom-feeders … sometimes he gets roughed up by those bad teams as well. I can almost guarantee he’ll come back this weekend and give us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up, with no rhyme or reason to it.

I was a little annoyed when I saw on Twitter that the Phillies were scouting him in that game against New York, as a potential trade candidate. But, I don’t believe we would’ve traded him anyway. They would’ve lowballed us, and at this point his leadership and chemistry fit with the rest of the team isn’t worth whatever low-level prospect we would’ve gotten in return.

What would’ve been worth it is not having him under contract the next two years, when his guaranteed dollars start to balloon, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t know a lot about the Yankees’ starter in Tuesday’s game, but at that point it didn’t really matter who they threw out there, because their offense is so good it seemed like they’d just rake their way to victory. Nevertheless, the Mariners’ offense also decided to join the party, and not a moment too soon.

We kicked things off with a Suarez 2-run bomb in the first, followed by a Raleigh solo homer in the second. To cap it, Carlos Santana hit a sac fly in the third to put the M’s up 4-0. That only carried us to the bottom of the fourth, where Logan Gilbert gave up a 3-spot to close the gap. However, a Santana 2-run double in the next half-inning put us up 6-3, as we chased their starter.

Once again, our lead was short-lived, as Gilbert got abused in the sixth, giving up a pair of homers to tie the game 6-6. From there, it was a battle of the bullpens, and with all due respect to Seattle’s unit, this one seemed like it was slipping away.

Thankfully, the offense wasn’t done. In the next half-inning (again), Sam Haggerty (this time) hit a solo homer to put us up 7-6. Then, the resurgent Adam Frazier knocked in an insurance run in the ninth to make it 8-6.

We still needed the bullpen to hold things down though, which they did a superb job of. Penn Murfee got us out of the sixth. Paul Sewald took down the top of the order in the seventh. A combo of Swanson and Brash made it through the eighth. And, Andres Munoz got two quick strikeouts before the wheels started to fall off in the ninth. A single and two walks loaded the bases, before he got one more strikeout to finish it. Huge moment for Munoz, since there wasn’t anyone else. He was going to either get the save or wear it, and he managed to regain his command.

That takes us to our would-be pitchers duel between our respective aces on Wednesday: Luis Castillo vs. Gerrit Cole. It ended up being a pretty soft landing for our newcomer, as not only did Aaron Judge get the day off, but the M’s pounded Cole for six runs in the top of the first to blow it wide open.

There was a Suarez 3-run homer, followed by a Santana solo job, followed later by a Kelenic 2-run bomb. Cole was catching too much of the plate in that first inning, and the M’s were making him pay. To his credit, he settled down to go 6 innings, giving up just those 6 runs, but the damage was done. We added a Winker solo homer in the seventh for good measure.

Castillo was very good in his Mariners opener, going 6.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (two of them on a home run that ended his day) on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 8 strikeouts. He was hitting the upper 90’s with some nasty off-speed stuff in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Everything was as advertised; it was awesome to behold. The bullpen shut it down from there for the 7-3 victory.

The Mariners get a deserved day off today (after flying home across the country yesterday) before hosting the Angels tomorrow for a 4-game weekend series (including another scheduled doubleheader on Saturday). My how our fortunes have changed since the last time we faced off against the Angels! I’ll be curious to see if we’re met with cooler tempers this time around. I’m sure the fans will be all riled up, if that matters at all. Here’s hoping the Mariners give fans something to be riled up about.

The Yankees Are Not A Good Matchup For The Mariners

It’s funny, you could easily make that same argument about every Yankees team ever, except for 1995.

The Mariners lost 3 of 4 to the Yankees over the long weekend in The Bronx, going exactly as well as I’d expected:

If we win one of these games, it’ll be a miracle.

– Some super genius

Although, credit to both teams: they did find some creative ways to get to the end result in these four games.

The last time we played the Yankees, it was about a month ago back in Seattle. We were riding high, having gone 5-0-1 in our previous six series, only to be swatted away pretty handily by the Yankees in 2 of 3 games, with Logan Gilbert’s career day preventing the sweep.

This time around, it’s post-Trade Deadline, it’s at the end of a 10-game road trip, and the Mariners are really starting to feel the pressure now of this wild card chase. At one point in recent weeks, the Mariners were ahead of the Yankees and Blue Jays for the second wild card spot. Now we’re 2.5-3 games behind them, needing to turn this ship around in a hurry.

This series could’ve gone so differently. It’s hard to see us go 1-3 – when all games are decided by 2 runs or less – and not immediately think about what might’ve been had Kendall Graveman still been here. He’s made four appearances for the Astros so far, and still hasn’t given up a run.

Anyway, Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager spotted the Mariners to a 2-1 lead that was immediately ripped away in the bottom half of the fourth last Thursday. The score remained tied until the top of the seventh, when Jared Kelenic hit a solo home run just over the wall in right. That’s when we brought in the big guns: Paul Sewald, to face the heart of the Yankees’ order. He got the first two hitters out before Judge and Stanton singles started making trouble. That culminated in a wall-scraper of a home run by Joey Gallo. We tried to mount a comeback against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, but it wasn’t to be (even though he found himself on the IL after the game, clearly suffering from some sort of injury or arm fatigue). Team RISP: 2/9.

Chock up Friday to another game blown by the bullpen. Again, the offense didn’t give us much leeway, but we DID hold a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth. Marco Gonzales was a wizard out there, throwing 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. Joe Smith got the final out of the seventh, leading us to bring in Diego Castillo. He promptly walked two guys and hit a third to load the bases, for Judge to hit a sac fly to tie it. It could’ve been so much worse, but Stanton hit into a double play to end the threat. The game eventually went into extras. Both teams scored one in the tenth; only the Yankees scored in the eleventh. That’s how you get to a 3-2 ballgame. Team RISP: 2/8.

The Mariners had a 4-1 lead after two innings on Saturday; I think you can see what’s coming next. Chris Flexen pitched five outstanding innings in this one, just giving up an Aaron Judge homer in the first. However, he was allowed to start the sixth inning and promptly gave up a 2-run bomb to Rougned Odor without getting another out. Anthony Misiewicz and shoddy defense finished the job that very inning, giving up the go-ahead runs to the Yankees. The 5-4 score remained as is through the rest of the game. Team RISP: 1/7.

We were able to salvage a 2-0 victory on Sunday thanks to five scoreless innings by Kikuchi (the team seemingly learning its lessen from the Flexen debacle the night prior, not having him pitch into the sixth). Sewald was a man possessed, striking out 4 of 5 batters faced. And Drew Steckenrider got the 2-inning save! We didn’t score until the eighth, when a Seager double and Raleigh single brought home the game’s only runs. Team RISP: 2/8.

It’s hard to see the Yankees as anything but our kryptonite, given the way they’ve handled us this season. Especially this series, they shut us down in the two ways we were most effective: our bullpen, and our clutch hitting. In case you weren’t following along, the Mariners’ hitters were a whopping 7 for 32 with runners in scoring position, WELL below our season averages. On top of that, as you saw, the bullpen was responsible for all three losses.

Now, I don’t know if Graveman would’ve been able to stop the bleeding in EVERY game, or if he even would’ve been effective against this lineup, but it sure felt like we were destined to lose this series from the jump. Regardless, it’s not anyone’s fault in that bullpen for the way the offense went in the tank.

As was discussed up top, the Mariners have dug themselves quite a wild card hole. All hope isn’t lost, but the team better get hot in a hurry. Starting tomorrow, as the lowly Rangers come to town. Probably need to sweep that 3-game set. Then, we have our top three pitchers going against the Blue Jays (who won’t have the throngs of Canadians coming into our country – due to borders being closed – but I’m sure it’ll still be a solidly road team-favored crowd). That’s as good of an opportunity as we’ll get to face off against another of our wild card rivals. Picking up a game would be in order here, though sweeping this series would also be ideal. I’d love to see the Mariners get to 5-1 in this homestand in some way, shape, or form (ideally sweeping away the Blue Jays, if I had to pick one).

Then, we turn right back around to hit the road in Texas, with three against the Rangers and three against the Astros, before a quick 2-game jaunt down in Oakland. All of those will be vitally important.

Indeed, all the games the rest of the way are vitally important. We have 49 games left to go. We’re 59-54. Just to get to 90 wins, we’d have to go 31-18; that seems like the bare minimum to get one of the wild card spots, though I’d feel a lot safer if we got to 95 wins. That’s an absurd finish of 36-13. Possible, but not very probable.

Here’s why it COULD be possible, though. We have 6 games against the Rangers. We have 6 games against the Diamondbacks. We have 7 games against the Royals. We have 6 games against the Angels, who are injured beyond belief. That’s 25 games right there against teams we absolutely should beat. Then, there’s the three against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, and 9 more against the A’s; all wild card contenders. That brings our total games against teams we either should beat, or could beat, to 40. The remaining 9 games are against the Astros, who are always tough to beat, but it’s not like it’s impossible. We’re 4-6 in the season series so far. If we can go 5-4 against the Astros, that means we have to go 26-14 against everyone else to get to 90 wins (do-able), or 31-9 to get to 95 wins (extremely difficult, but again, not totally unheard of).

There’s always a team that gets hot around this time every year. Why couldn’t it be the Mariners this time around?

There’s No Shame In Being Tier 2, Mariners Fans

This isn’t to say the Mariners aren’t good.  They are!  They’re fine.  They’re still almost certainly going to make the playoffs this year, and if I had to do a power rankings of the American League, I’d still put them ahead of Cleveland, Anaheim, and most of the rest.  But, the Mariners just aren’t the Best of the Best.  They’re not in Tier 1.  And that’s okay.

Tier 1 includes Boston, Houston, and the Yankees (and that’s it).  Those are the three best teams in the A.L. and if you let me, I’d bet everything I own that it’ll be one of those three teams that makes it into the World Series.

The Mariners, on the other hand, are not quite on their level.  We’re probably at the top of Tier 2, but there’s still a drastic difference in quality between the two tiers, as we’ve seen over the course of the last two days.

On Tuesday, Marco Gonzales got rocked, and the Mariners’ offense was held in check as we lost 7-2.  We hung in there for a bit – we were competitive, as is our trademark this year – but a 4-run Yankees fifth inning put it away.

On Wednesday, King Felix looked like the King Felix of Old again, at least through the first four innings.  He had a little bit of a hiccup in the fifth, but still escaped with a 5-2 lead before handing it off to the bullpen.  The M’s were able to ding up a guy making just his second career Major League start (who nevertheless has remarkable stuff, if he ever figures out how to cool it on his pitch count), and things looked pretty good.  But, that Yankees lineup – with power hitters for days – was just too much for our meager bullpen to match up with.  Pazos gave up a run, Colome gave up the blown save with a game-tying 2-run homer, and Cook walked it off with yet another 2-run homer.  What at one point was a 5-0 Mariners lead turned into a 7-5 defeat, as of course we couldn’t do anything with their superhuman bullpen after the fifth inning.

This is 2 years in a row where the Yankees have just bashed the fucking shit out of us.  We went 2-5 against them last year, and all I can picture is Aaron Judge mashing towering moonshot after towering moonshot against our poor excuse for a pitching staff.  This year, we’ve got Giancarlo Stanton playing that role, having homered in both games so far (including the game-winner).

It helps to take a step back and try to remember why we were so excited heading into this road trip.  Well, we split a 4-game series with the Red Sox; that’s something, huh?  Yeah, except it took a crazy come-from-behind rally and an even crazier dominant LeBlanc start to do it.  Does that feel like something that could be replicated in a playoff series?  There was the 3-game sweep of the Angels, but of course they’re super injured and are essentially just Mike Trout and a lot of nobodies.  There was that 2-game split with Houston a couple weeks ago …

Other than that, the Mariners have beaten up on a lot of shitty teams this season.  Which, believe me, I’m not complaining.  You need to beat up on the shitty teams to climb to the top of Tier 2 and make the wild card!  That’s what’s separating us from the Angels, A’s, and the rest of the wild card contenders.  But, if we’re all in agreement that the Mariners are going to make the playoffs (barring a historic collapse), then your expectations have to shift a little bit.  Now, we have to start thinking about what the Mariners are going to do when they get there.

First and foremost, they’re going to have to play a Tier 1 team in that wild card game, which means on that one day, we’re going to have to be almost perfect.  It’s something we’re capable of, but it’s also something that you can’t count on.  If we do luck our way into the ALDS, then that pits us against yet another Tier 1 team (with the way they’re going, figure Houston will have the best overall record by that point).  Who’s excited about the Mariners facing the Astros in a 5-game series?  If that isn’t a 3-game sweep, I’ll eat my hat.  Meanwhile, the Indians get to bumble their way into a guaranteed ALDS spot simply by winning the worst division in baseball.  What a bunch of fucks!

Thankfully, after this week, we’ll be done with the Red Sox and have only 3 more against the Yankees (at home) and that’s it.  Just get us through this East Coast road trip without any fucking rainouts and I’ll take whatever record I can get.

The Mariners Got One Back Against The Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka really must be broken if the Mariners were able to score 4 runs off of him over 6 innings.

Ariel Miranda had a pretty good outing, giving up 2 runs in 5.1 innings, and was probably pulled a little too early, but I guess I understand the rationale behind it:  Aaron Judge was coming up, and Steve Cishek seemed like as good a righty as any to try to take him down.  Of course, he failed, because Aaron Judge was forged from the gods and inhabits the power of a thousand bat-wielding maniacs, but that’s neither here nor there.

The bullpen let the Yankees tie this one, then the Mariners regained the lead, then they tied it again, then the Mariners won it in extras on a walk-off single.  Much rejoicing was had by all.

Look, I’m pretty damn hungover, and no one is reading this anyway, so let’s call it a weekend and get after it tomorrow.

Mariners Burn My Ass By Trading Tyler O’Neill, Also Fucking Stink Against The Yankees

It’s getting to be pretty hard to “trust the process” when it looks like the Mariners are no closer to the post-season than they’ve ever been.  When it looks like every trade for a pitcher brings in Chase De Jong.  When it looks like this year’s Mariners team might be worse than last year’s variety, in spite of all the offensive upgrades we’ve made in just a year’s time.

Look, I get the whole argument that fans over-value their own prospects.  But, I also see what Tyler O’Neill has done throughout his minor league career:  he’s gotten consistently better each and every year.  And, I see all these other deals go down around the league, some of which a team gets obviously fleeced, and its trade partner gets good value for its fucking high-ranked prospects (even in a farm system that isn’t exactly overflowing with high-ranked prospects).

I just think it’s stupid to trade someone so good – who can potentially be an All Star – for a pitcher so mediocre, in Marco Gonzales.  A pitcher who missed all of 2016 with Tommy John surgery to his elbow.  A pitcher who has done NOTHING at the Major League level but suck total ass in 12 games over 3 seasons.  A pitcher who was drafted in the first round, but whose only claim to greatness has been half a season in AAA this year; 11 games.  A pitcher who I’m hearing might be out of options after this year?  Which, if that’s the case, is the biggest slap in the face of them all, because these guys (out of options, out of their team’s future plans) are supposed to come at a DISCOUNT; they’re NOT supposed to cost you your best minor league prospect!

Oh, and not only is he not here to help out the Mariners THIS YEAR – you know, when we’re in this playoff race and actually need the starting pitching help – but who’s to say he’ll be ready next year?  If he doesn’t have some injury setback (which, yes, is a real concern now and forever), will he be able to win a spot in this rotation?  Odds are, the Mariners are STILL going to have to bring in other starters to compete!  What happens if we have to settle for Gonzales being a reliever?  THEN what have we done???

And the company line continues to be:  trading from a position of strength to fill a position of weakness.  BULLSHIT!  Even if I believe in Ben Gamel (which, we’re talking about half a season or so), Mitch Haniger has NOT been the same since he returned from his injury (as I predicted), and Guillermo Heredia has been slumping pretty hard since he was effectively put in this centerfield platoon.  How is that a strength?  How would the Mariners not be better served with more competition?  Especially considering how Boog Powell isn’t worth a shit, and Taylor Motter has been figured the fuck out.  If OF is such a position of strength, then where’s the DEPTH???  Tell me that, you company man!  You fucking Mariners sycophant!

In other Mariners Trade News:  they gave Mark Lowe and Jean Machi away to the White Sox for cash.  This allows them to potentially continue their Major League careers, and makes the Mariners look enticing to the next batch of over-the-hill veterans who might sign on for minor league deals.  We hardly knew ye or some shit.

In actual Mariners Baseball News:  they got destroyed by Aaron Judge and the fucking Yankees last night.  Andrew Moore gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, Emilio Pagan went the rest of the way shutting them out, and the offense could only muster 1 run, as they went 3 for 12 with RISP.  C.C. Sabathia got the win, because of course he did.  He kills us when he’s great, he kills us when he’s shit, he kills us when he’s young, he kills us when he’s old.  On a related note, Masahiro Tanaka goes tonight, so get ready to be swept in this stupid fucking series.

New day, more Mariners bullshit.  I hate this fucking team.