Mariners Tidbit 58: Jesus Montero Is Back … Hooray?

Driving down to Tacoma yesterday afternoon for my weekly summer bowling league, I found myself flipping through the three local sports radio shows as the story was breaking:  the Mariners called up Jesus Montero.  We would go on to find out that J.A. Happ apparently still has options, and since he won’t be starting between now and the All Star Break, we used his option to get him off of our 25-man roster for a couple weeks.  He’ll be eligible to return just as soon as we need him, which I would assume is somewhere around July 20th or 21st.

Surprisingly, with news of Montero’s return – and likely impending implementation over the weekend, as we face a run on lefty starters – the tenor of the discussion wasn’t, “Yawn, who cares?”  I was catching a whiff of unbridled enthusiasm!  For a player whose career Major League numbers with the Seattle Mariners look like this:

  • .251/.291/.378/.669, 19 homers, 73 RBI across 680 plate appearances

That’s right around 1 full season’s worth of plate appearances, spread out over three mediocre years.  Last year, he played in all of 6 games in the middle of endless controversy.  Since he was traded for Michael Pineda, Montero has proven to be the following:

  • A terrible defensive catcher
  • Terrible at taking a walk or working a count
  • Terrible at hitting right handed pitching
  • A slow, lazy tub of goo who only in this past offseason managed to get his fitness to where it needs to be
  • A steroids user
  • Not a fan of ice cream sandwiches
  • Terrible at hitting any type of breaking ball or offspeed pitch
  • Strikeout-prone
  • A symbol of all that has gone wrong in the Jack Zduriencik era

In short, Jesus Montero – the Seattle Mariner – has been a complete and utter disaster from the start.  Why would ANYONE think even for a moment that his being called up is going to matter one iota?

  • .332/.370/.529/.899, 15 homers, 68 RBI across 368 plate appearances

Those are his numbers this year while playing in Tacoma.  By all accounts, he’s maintained the weight loss, he’s quicker and more athletic; hell, he’s even managed to somehow hit FIVE triples!  He’s been mashing as a combo DH/1B this year, while at the same time nearly everyone on the Major League roster has struggled at hitting.  Nelson Cruz started off insanely hot, but has cooled off in the last month-plus.  Robinson Cano is going through his worst-ever season in the bigs.  Mark Trumbo appears to be yet another bust.  Weeks and Ruggiano are gone.  I guess what I’m trying to say is:  can you BLAME Mariners fans for thinking that Montero couldn’t POSSIBLY be worse than what we already have?

Yes.  Yes, I can.  Because, YOU FAT BLOATED IDIOT, how many times are we going to go through this?  The solution to all of our problems doesn’t lie in the roster of the Tacoma Fucking Rainiers!  Guys like Jesus Montero, and Carlos Peguero, and Alex Liddi, and Mike Wilson, and Wladimir Balentien, and James Jones, and Stefen Romero, and Abe Almonte, and Carlos Triunfel, and Matt Tuiasosopo, and Casper Wells, and Trayvon Robinson, and Eric Thames, and Adam Moore, and Matt Mangini will ALWAYS do well in Tacoma, because they’re as close as it comes to being bona fide Major League hitters without actually BEING Major League hitters.  They do well down there, they get called up with all this fanfare – invariably because they’re filling a roster spot vacated by a do-nothing turd – and they promptly do their best impression of a do-nothing turd!

And, unlike most of those other guys – when they made their first appearances with the big league ballclub – we KNOW what Jesus Montero can do in the Majors; we’ve seen it firsthand!  Doesn’t mean someone like Montero couldn’t make it as a bench player or a platoon guy on another team; shit, even Bryan LaHair was an All Star one year for the Cubs.  But, it’s beyond idiotic to believe Montero is going to be that valuable player HERE.  For the Seattle Mariners.  Playing half their games in Safeco Field.

I know it’s fun to dream.  I know it’s fun to look at Montero’s relatively skinny frame, point to how he was once a VERY highly rated prospect, and fantasize about how he may be one of the rare late bloomers who turns his career around without the all-important change of scenery.  But, let’s get fucking real, huh?  Could we just once not get suckered into a belief that Jesus Montero will be worth a damn?  Can we PLEASE just live in the now???

Who Was The Last Mariners Draft Pick To Pan Out?

This is going to take a lot longer to write than I originally intended, but that’s because it’s going to take a lot longer to research than I originally intended.  If only there was one single place I could go to that comprised a list of every Mariners draft pick from the last 10-20 years Nevermind, I found it!

Anyway, in this exercise, I won’t be looking at Mariners draft picks who have panned out for other teams (because we foolishly traded them away, or didn’t draft them in the first place because we’re idiots).  I’m going to be looking at the last guy (or guys, if I’m able to find more than one) who were drafted in the amateur baseball draft (so, not international free agents, or prospects who we received from other teams) who also went on to become a quality player for the Seattle Mariners (without any detours to other teams).  Enough parenthetical remarks for you?  OK, let’s begin.

Safe to say:  no one from the 2012 draft has panned out.  But, it’s too early for that, so I can hardly hold it against the organization.

In 2011, we have Danny Hultzen and Brad Miller in Triple-A – they’re CLOSE, but not there yet.  2011 has also given us Carter Capps, who is currently in the Major League bullpen, but this is really his first full year in the Majors, so we can hardly call that panning out.

2010 saw us pick up Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Stephen Pryor, and Stefen Romero.  All appear to be on their way (in some way, shape, or form), but none have made it just yet.

2009.  Here we go.  It’s pretty safe to say, if you haven’t made it in the Bigs, you’re likely not a superstar.  The whole reason for this post is to lament the fact that Dustin Ackley – to date – has not panned out.  He was in the Majors for half of 2011 and was all right.  He was in the Majors for all of 2012 and was terrible.  And, until this past week, he was in the Majors for all of 2013 and was even worse.  He’s since been demoted to Tacoma, which makes it hard for me to believe that he’s going to be a winner.  Smarter people than myself keep telling me he’ll figure it out.  He does too many things well to NOT pan out.  But, let’s just say I’ve got my doubts.

Nick Franklin was the next pick in the 2009 draft and he’s just made his first Major League appearance this week, taking over for the aforementioned bust, Dustin Ackley.  Too soon to tell on this kid, but just yesterday he hit his first and second homers of his career.  If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.  Then again, I’ve been fooled before.

If I were being fair, I’d say Kyle Seager – third round pick in 2009 – has panned out.  He had a decent almost-half season in 2011 (.258/.312/.379), then he sort-of broke out in 2012 (.259/.316/.423) in his first full season in the Bigs, and this year he has looked even better (.274/.339/.458), but if I’m being honest I can’t put him there yet.  You know how our excuse for every struggling youngster is, “It’s Early.”  If it’s in the month of April or early-May and they’re struggling, everyone always says, “It’s Early.”  If they’re struggling as a rookie, or even as a second-year player, everyone always says, “It’s Early.”  Well, why can’t we say that on the flipside?  It’s EARLY.  He still has plenty of time to regress!  He still has plenty of time to suffer a run of debilitating injuries!  Now, in my heart of hearts, I don’t THINK Seager will be a bust.  I think he will be a fine Major Leaguer, and thus I think he will pan out.  But, right now?  I’m not counting my chickens by any means.

So, thus ends the Jackie Z era.  So far, we’ve got one guy who has kinda sorta panned out (fingers crossed, knock on wood).  Others may eventually pan out, but I wouldn’t say this is the greatest sign for a team that’s trying to get better via the draft.

The less said about 2008, the better.  I recognize one name who I saw at the Rainiers game a couple weeks ago, but he doesn’t strike me as anything special.  Brandon Maurer came from this draft, so he COULD pan out.  Then again, he was brought up too early this year (bypassing Triple-A) and struggled mightily because he’s not ready.  I’m certainly not counting him!

2007, again, just a terrible draft.  Phillippe Aumont was involved in that Cliff Lee trade.  Shawn Kelley was a so-so reliever who could never stay healthy and has since been traded to the Yankees.  Sigh.

Let’s see, 2006.  We have Brandon Morrow (traded to the Blue Jays, has been a decent starter), Chris Tillman (traded to the Orioles, has been a decent starter), Doug Fister (traded to the Tigers, has been a good starter).  Think a rotation with Felix, Iwakuma, Fister, Morrow, and Tillman would look good?  I NEED AN ADULT!  I NEED AN ADULT!

The rest of 2006 were stiffs, and Adam Moore.  Doug Fister panned out from this draft, but he panned out with the Detroit Fucking Tigers.

2005:  Good GOD, Lemon!  Jeff Clement!  That’s the only name I even recognize!  And he’s THE WORST!

2004 went Matt Tuiasosopo (bust), Rob Johnson (bust) and Mark Lowe (good, but no longer with the team).  Then, in the 11th round, a beacon of hope:  Michael Saunders.  He struggled from 2009-2011, but then he switched his batting stance and swing and made a jump in 2012.  Granted, he didn’t go from nothing to Superstar, but he went from nothing to All Right.  Thus far in 2013, he has regressed to his old form, which is a bad sign.  We were KINDA counting on Saunders to keep moving up in the world so we could feel confident that he’s a bona fide replacement for Franklin Gutierrez.  Now, who knows?  Bottom line, though, is that he has NOT panned out.

2003 is the Adam Jones draft.  I’ll move on.

2002 is the Bryan LaHair draft.  Who is Bryan LaHair, you ask?  You’re obviously not a Chicago Cubs fan, as he was an All Star in 2012.  Then again, he had a terrible second half and thus far has not played in the Majors in 2013.  I don’t know what to tell you.

In 2001, the Mariners drafted Michael Garciaparra in the first round.  Remember that guy?  I don’t either.

Nothing doing in 2000.  Ditto 1999 (unless you count Willie Bloomquist or J.J. Putz).  I like Putz as much as the next guy, but he had exactly two great seasons as the Mariners’ closer, was injury-riddled, and eventually shipped away.  I wouldn’t call a guy who was mostly a middling middle reliever someone who has panned out.

Nothing doing in 1998 (except for Matt Thornton, who panned out with the White Sox).  1997 was a little more interesting.  Our big first round pick, Ryan Anderson (The Little Unit) was a huge bust.  Joel Pineiro, from the 12th round, carved out a nice little career for himself.  But, the only problem with that is he was never really any damn good for the Mariners.  He was okay; he flashed a helluva lot of potential, but that potential was ultimately never realized, and for that I feel safe in saying he never panned out.  Standards:  I’ve got ’em.

1996 was the Gil Meche draft.  See:  Joel Pineiro.

1995 was the Jose Cruz Jr. draft.

1994 was the Jason Varitek draft.

And HERE we go!  1993, FINALLY.  Taken with the #1 overall pick by YOUR Seattle Mariners … Alex Rodriguez!  It’s been 20 drafts since the Mariners have selected someone who panned out FOR the Seattle Mariners!  In case you can’t tell, that’s an absolutely unconscionable amount of ineptitude.  Want to know why the Mariners have been mostly terrible for so long?  Look no fucking further.

Who’s to blame?  I’m sure the talent evaluators have to shoulder some of it.  But, the more I think about it, the more I think this organization needs a total and complete overhaul.  From top to bottom.  And I mean bottom.  These kids are playing for our minor league teams, participating in our minor league camps, and they are NOT turning into quality players for the Big League team!  That’s a problem!  That’s a problem with the coaching at the lowest levels of the organization, and maybe it’s time we started putting the responsibility on THEM!  I don’t know what the success rate is for other organizations – turning their draft picks into Major Leaguers – but the Mariners have to be at or near the bottom.  This is part of the culture of losing I’ve been railing against for so long, and it’s got to stop.

There’s no such thing as Good Enough.  If our kids are failing, it’s on the minor league coaches, plain and simple.  If I were Jackie Z and company, I’d be looking to fill some big holes down on the farm.

Seattle Mariners Roster Explosion 2012!!!

When I try to wrap my head around something, I like to make lists.  I like to listen to instrumental rock and I like to make lists.

So, without further ado …

For starters, let’s look at the 40-man.  You can see it all laid out here in an official capacity, but I would like to break it down thusly:

Guys Already Sent To The Minors:

  1. Danny Hultzen (SP – Left Handed)
  2. Yoervis Medina (SP – Right Handed)
  3. Mauricio Robles (RP – Left Handed)
  4. Francisco Martinez (3B – Right Handed)
  5. Carlos Truinfel (Inf – Right Handed)
  6. Johermyn Chavez (OF – Right Handed)
  7. Chih-Hsien Chiang (OF – Left Handed)
  8. Trayvon Robinson (OF – Switch Hitter)

Guys Destined For The Minors:

  1. Chance Ruffin (RP – Right Handed)
  2. Charlie Furbush (SP – Left Handed)
  3. Adam Moore (C – Right Handed)
  4. Alex Liddi (Inf – Right Handed)
  5. Carlos Peguero (OF – Left Handed)

Guys On The Disabled List Who Will Eventually Be In The Majors:

  1. Franklin Gutierrez (CF – Right Handed)

Now we’re getting somewhere!  Forget those 14 guys even exist, because they won’t matter until the season is well out of hand.

Now, how about we get to your Starting Nine, in what appears to be the order Eric Wedge will have them batting (at least initially):

  1. Chone Figgins (3B – Switch Hitter)
  2. Dustin Ackley (2B – Left Handed)
  3. Ichiro (RF – Left Handed)
  4. Justin Smoak (1B – Switch Hitter)
  5. Jesus Montero (DH – Right Handed)
  6. Mike Carp (LF – Left Handed)
  7. Miguel Olivo (C – Right Handed)
  8. Michael Saunders (CF – Left Handed)
  9. Brendan Ryan (SS – Right Handed)

Now, if I were convinced that these guys would be good, I’d say that’s one helluva lineup to post against a right handed pitcher.  But, I digress.  Those are your starting 9 to start the season, barring some fluke.

Guys Who Figure To Start The Season On The Bench:

  1. John Jaso (C – Left Handed)
  2. Munenori Kawasaki (Inf – Left Handed) (also:  not yet on the 40-man, but will be)
  3. Casper Wells (OF – Right Handed)
  4. Kyle Seager (Inf – Left Handed)

Assuming, of course, the team goes with a 4-man bench.  I’m also assuming that Casper Wells makes the team over Carlos Peguero (which, let’s be realistic, is the way it SHOULD be).  If Wells continues to struggle as he has in Spring Training, then when Guti comes back, it’ll be a matter of either Wells or Saunders going back down to Tacoma.  But, that’s an argument for another time.  This brings our 40-man total to 27.  Let’s look at the pitchers.

Starting Five:

  1. Felix Hernandez (Right Handed)
  2. Jason Vargas (Left Handed)
  3. Kevin Millwood (Right Handed) (also:  not yet on the 40-man, but will be)
  4. Blake Beavan (Right Handed)
  5. Hector Noesi (Right Handed)

So, it doesn’t really diversify all that much (4 righties & a lefty), but it’s what we’ve got, so we better get used to it.  I fully expect Millwood to be the 3rd starter, because I doubt very much that Wedge is going to keep on a veteran like Millwood and not put him right in the middle of the order.  Then again, who really cares?  The last four pitchers on this list inspire fear in exactly no one, so take my order with a grain of salt.

This brings us to our 7-man bullpen:

  1. Brandon League (Closer)
  2. George Sherrill (Left Handed)
  3. Tom Wilhelmsen (Right Handed)
  4. Lucas Luetge (Left Handed)
  5. Shawn Kelley (Right Handed)
  6. Steve Delabar (Right Handed)
  7. Hisashi Iwakuma (Right Handed)

Yeah, I guess we’ll see.  I think the bullpen might be the biggest wildcard on the team.  Who knows WHAT you’re going to get?

And at this point, you might be thinking, “Hey!  That’s only 39 guys!”  And you’d be right.  I don’t know if they need to right now or not, but if they had to they could always put Erasmo Ramirez on the 40-man to make things a little more complete.  Although, if he’s not on the 40-man now, and we’re past the point of the Rule 5 Draft, I don’t see why the Mariners have to go to all the trouble right now.  Seems like they could easily wait until the end of the season (or whenever he earns his way up to the Big Club) to add him to the 40-man.

Anyway, that’s it.  I feel better informed already!

Adam Moore Is The Saddest Guy I Know

If you’re a young player, too good for AAA, but not quite good enough to be a Major League starter, there’s no better situation than what the Mariners have had to offer the last couple seasons.  Neither here nor there:  if you’re a washed-up veteran clinging to your final seasons, there’s ALSO no better situation than the Mariners right now.

The proof is right there on the field.  Justin Smoak has been handed the keys to the First Base job as well as batting smack dab in the middle of the order.  Michael Saunders has had an extended tryout with the big club last year on into this one.  Fister and Vargas took advantage of a wide-open starting rotation (after Felix) last year, to become established starters this year.  Michael Pineda won himself a spot in this season’s rotation and is so far making the most of his opportunity.  Lueke and Wilhelmsen won spots in a wide open bullpen this year; and even though they’ve struggled thus far, they’re still getting valuable Major League experience.  And everyone believes Dustin Ackley will be up with the big ballclub by June, taking over at least a platoon at second base in hopes of winning it outright going into next season.

These are the guys!  These are the guys right here, gaining experience, learning the ins and outs of the American League, learning how to be Major Leaguers.  Our core.  Our future.  A solid rotation, a first and second baseman, an outfielder and a couple of relievers, all at varying stages of progress.  Maybe some of them are as good as they’re ever going to be, but hopefully some of them are still scratching the surface and will eventually turn out to be All stars.

At the very least, we hope they become pieces that lead us to a World Series championship; but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

You know who’s a young player, too good for AAA, but not quite good enough to be a Major League starter?  Adam Moore.  He should BE here!  This is TOTALLY the perfect situation for him!  He can come along slowly, play once or twice a week, and ultimately relax.  Without the pressure of being the Number 1 catcher, Adam Moore can just focus on those couple of starts every week, and hopefully improve.

Well, he COULD do that, if he could stay healthy.  Unfortunately, he can’t, as it’s been learned this week that he has an extensive meniscus tear and will miss the rest of the season.

This is bad news.  Bad for him, obviously, because he’s missing a golden opportunity, and bad for the team because that’s another season’s worth of being set back in his progress.  We all know it takes catchers longer to realize their full potential; well, it’s going to take a million times longer if he keeps giving away seasons like these due to freak injuries.

Ultimately, I can only expect the worst.  Adam Moore is done.  Oh, he’s not LITERALLY done.  I’m sure he’ll get over this surgery, rehab the knee, and fight like a rabid dog to get back to playing baseball again next year.  But, this is two knee surgeries in two years (on two different knees) for one man.  A catcher at that!  He’s going to be 28 next May, with the aforementioned two knee surgeries and having missed the last season and a half.  That spells D-O-N-E in my book.  Call me a hater, call me a Doubting Thomas, but in the end you’ll call me Correct.

Of course, if he proves me wrong and goes on to be a major star with the Mariners, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

At some point, though, this team is going to have to move on.  We’re lacking in catching prospects in the upper minors, so that MIGHT mean we have to look at the Number 2 pick in this year’s amateur draft towards the catching position.  If we find a guy we know we can fast-track in a couple years, don’t say I didn’t warn you, Adam Moore.

It really is too bad, though.  With Olivo playing like cancer this past series, I would’ve been gladly atop my soapbox, pounding the table in the name of More Playing Time For Moore!  That would’ve been a great title for a post too!  Ehh, maybe next year.  Or maybe NEVER.

Early Trends In The 2011 Mariners Season

As far as pitching is concerned, I think we’ve held pretty close to what I expected.  Felix is the man, Vargas is a very-effective left-handed innings-eater, and Fister is Fister.

Today, Fister went 5.2 innings and gave up 3 runs, 2 earned.  He gave up 8 hits, 0 walks, and only struck out 2.  That’s about what you can expect out of him.  Against stronger lineups, Fister will struggle; against weaker ones, he’ll do okay.  Oakland is a pretty weak lineup.

The bullpen, as anticipated, is scary.  League looked good, and we’ll need him to continue to look good if we want to be even remotely respectable.  Ray looked bad, Lueke looked abysmal, and Wright faced one batter (so the book is still out on him).  We’re going to have to ride these guys – especially on days when Felix isn’t starting – so somebody better step up and take hold of the 7th and 8th innings.  I’m willing to chock today up to being Lueke’s first Major League appearance, but he’s going to have to settle down in a hurry if he’s going to stay with the big club.

As far as hitting is concerned, we’re marginally better so far.  At least there’s reason for SOME optimism.

We scored 12 runs in this series.  Not too shabby considering Oakland has a pretty competitive pitching staff.  25 hits in this series is an improvement as well, though only 6 of ’em were for extra bases.  As expected, getting the big hits will be a struggle for this team.

We were 5 for 26 hitting with runners in scoring position.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is, we actually HAD runners in scoring position.  Every starter but Adam Moore yesterday got on base at least once this series.  Ichiro and Smoak have looked particularly good so far; Smoak already has 2 doubles in his hot start.  Olivo and Wilson have been pretty effective, and Cust looks like he’s an on-base machine with his eye for pitches.

We’ve been extremely patient so far in 2011; there’s a lot to like about that.  A lot of full counts in individual at bats.  Making other pitchers work out there to get us out; it’s a complete turnaround from last year when we’d just hack away and give up easy 1-2-3 innings.  We’ve got 14 walks in 3 games!  That’s HUGE.  Yes, we’re still swinging at some bad pitches (26 strike outs, ye gods!), but we’re not swinging at AS MANY bad pitches.

With all this patience, we will need to do better against opposing teams’ starters.  Yes, we knocked out Cahill in the fifth inning, but he still only gave up a single run.  In fact, every A’s starter only gave up a run apiece in these three games; meaning we’ve done the bulk of our damage against their bullpen.  That’s an ominous trend from 2010 that seems to have followed us into this season.  Since we’re not going to be getting the big extra base hits this year, we MUST at least get the run scoring singles when the opportunities arise.  All of this getting on base via any means necessary MUST be used to our advantage.

Today’s game was crappy, there’s no getting around that.  This 7-1 defeat was reminiscent of so many similar defeats last year, it’s really quite discouraging.  I’d like to say there’s no WAY we’re going to continue to be this bad hitting with runners in scoring position all year, but I’m afraid I can’t make that declaration until I see it in action.  After all, we were only batting .226 with runners in scoring position in 2010.  Granted, that’s about 34 points better than we were in this series.  But, even if we return to last year’s norm, what is that really saying about us?  I mean, we’re not going to face defenses as bad as the one we played this weekend all season long.

We’re 2-1, so you have to deem this initial series a success.  Now is certainly NOT the time I want us going into Texas.  A 3-3 road trip would be better than I could have possibly dreamed, but that entails going 1-3 to close it out.  If you said before the season started that we’d be .500 before our first home game, I would’ve been ecstatic; if you tell me now we’ll be .500, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

Truth be told, we will actually be VERY fortunate to leave Texas with a win.  They’re good, OH how they’re good!

On the plus side, we have our three most exciting pitchers going.  If Bedard could give us what Vargas gave us, I’d be thrilled.  Pineda will be making his Major League debut.  In Texas.  So, that’s frightening.  And we close with Felix – odds-on our best chance to get that third victory.  Let’s see how we do.

Seattle Mariners 2011 Preview, Part 2: The Hitters

It’s a preview, so I could easily bang this post out in my sleep (the only real requirement involves Being Totally & Completely Wrong).  But, I read this little number from Larry Stone yesterday, and I couldn’t resist playing Copycat.  For the record, Stone is MUCH more forgiving than I am (one would think it’d be the opposite, with the fan (me) figuring out ways as to how this squad will be a MILLION times better than last year’s, but I digress).

Let’s start with the Catcher position:

Olivo/Moore vs. Moore/Bard/Rob Johnson.  This looks to be no contest in favor of 2011’s tandem.  Rob Johnson was a waste of fucking life, Bard is no better than any other aging career backup (a.k.a. Rob Johnson in five years), and Moore briefly started to get things going, then he got hurt and never recovered.  Olivo looks to be better than all of them combined, but then again what is that really saying about our 2010 catchers?  At best, he’s top 2 in team OPS (again, what is THAT really saying about our team as a whole?); at worst he’s a Jose Lopez-like drain smack dab in the middle of the order.  The horror.

Nevertheless, give the nod to 2011.  I may have complained about the signing when it happened, but he’s going to be a crucial part of our success (or failure) this season, so I better get used to Miguel Olivo.

First base:

Smoak vs. Kotchman/Smoak.  Stone gave the edge here to 2011, but I’m holding the damn phone.  While I will TOTALLY grant you that this position couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse (unless it were the DH position of a year ago), I’m still not so sold on Smoak.  He’s going to have to prove it to me.  Because if he comes out struggling (for whatever excuse you want to give:  pressing too much, trying too hard, wanting to do too much, not staying within himself), he’s likely going to be benched and probably even sent down to Tacoma to “work on his swing”, whatever that means.  Struggling begets struggling in this game, and if struggling leads to Smoak turning into Adam Kennedy, we’re going to WISH we still had Casey Kotchman to kick around.

Ergo, I’m saying this is Even and giving the edge to no one until Justin Smoak shows me otherwise.

Second Base:

Jack Wilson/Dustin Ackley vs. Figgins.  Stone gave the edge to 2010, mostly based upon a marginally torrid second half out of Figgy.  When “.286 after the All Star Break” is the barometer you’ve set for success, you know you’re gonna have a bad time.  Personally, I like Jack Wilson.  Yes he gets a bad rap for always getting injured (probably because he’s always getting injured), but when he’s healthy I think he’s quite effective!  I mean, he’s no Luis Sojo, but the guy has been known to get hot at the plate every once in a while.  Of course, he’s also been known to get equally as cold, but that’s neither here nor there.  I like Jack’s bat a helluva lot more than I like Josh Wilson’s, and I might even like it even more than Brendan Ryan’s.  As for Ackley, I think it’s a foregone conclusion he takes over second base for good, once the Mariners are officially 20 games out of first place (a.k.a. sometime in Early June).  But, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sold on Ackley The Rookie coming in and dominating.  You know how I feel about rookies.  Yes, I think they should get the most playing time on bad teams to show what they can do, but no, I don’t think they should be counted on to produce like All Stars.

I’m calling this one Even as well.  I think Jack Wilson’s first half will be close to equal to Figgins’ second half last year; and I think Ackley’s second half will be close to equal to Figgins’ first half last year.

Short Stop:

Brendan Ryan vs. Wilson/Wilson.  I was going to make this a trifecta of Infield Evens, but I think Stone convinced me to give the edge to 2011.  Look, Josh Wilson’s a likeable guy, and he filled in admirably last year (especially on the defensive side of things; we never missed a beat with the glovework between the two Wilsons), but he’s more Mascot or Team Pet than he is a Major League ballplayer.  Brendan Ryan is a Major League ballplayer.  No, I don’t expect him to set Safeco Field’s fences on fire with all his doubles power, but he’s got to be worth more than an injury-plagued Wilson and a singles-slapping Wilson.

Advantage 2011, but just BARELY.

Third Base:

Figgins vs. Lopez.  The theme of 2011, what everyone is banking on is:  It Can’t Get Any Worse.  So many players last year were at their absolute worst, including Bradley, Lopez, Kotchman, Griffey, and yes, Figgins.  Most of those players are no longer with the team; ALL of those players were priced to move for any trusting club to take off of our hands.  BUT, Figgins remains.  And I’ll go ahead and bite:  Figgins COULDN’T POSSIBLY be any worse than he was in 2010.  Unless you think his career is over, and I don’t.  NOT because of his “hot” second half last year, but because he’s had these anomaly-type seasons before and has always bounced back.  I’ll even go so far as to believe the switch back to third base will be beneficial.  But, there’s no way he’s done.  I’m going to leave it in the hands of Faith on this one.

Lopez, meanwhile, is done.  Just ask the Colorado Rockies.  Advantage 2011.

Left Field:

Bradley/Saunders vs. Bradley/Saunders.  I’m tweaking this from Stone’s version, as I believe Saunders will eventually stick in Left Field.  Something tells me he’s going to turn it on this year at the plate.  I do agree with Stone that (like third base), we couldn’t possibly do any worse, but there’s no way Bradley survives a full season of playing in the field.  SOMEONE else will force a platoon, and why not Saunders?  In 2010, he finally showed a little of that power he’s always had; now, if he can just manage to get a hit in better than 1/5 of his at bats, we just might have something here.

To 2011!  To Michael Saunders realizing his full potential (finally)!

Center Field:

Guti vs. Guti.  Stone has the edge to 2010 based solely on the fact that we don’t know what’s wrong with Guti’s stomach and we don’t know how long it’s going to keep him out.  I agree wholeheartedly that this is of utmost concern – in fact, it might be the biggest story of the season that no one is really talking about.  What if they NEVER find out what’s wrong with Guti?  What if he tries to eventually play through the pain only to struggle like he did last year?  Guti is a core guy!  He’s a building block to what’s supposed to be a winning ball club (in a few years)!  We NEED this guy!

I’m calling this a Draw based on the simple fact that I’m going to be optimistic in this one instance.  Guti started strong, then faded badly in 2010; I’m banking on the reverse this year.

Right Field:

Ichiro vs. Ichiro.  How could this NOT be even.  Stone and I are of the same mind here.  Give the man 200 hits and a Gold Glove and GET THE HELL OUT OF HIS WAY!

Designated Hitter:

Cust vs. Branyan/Griffey/Sweeney.  Stone likes Cust.  I like EVEN!  Essentially, Cust IS Branyan, except without the pure power.  I believe if you took 2010 Branyan, played him all year at DH with the 2010 Mariners, they would have almost identical lines except Branyan would have a few more homers than 2011 Cust.  Yes, Griffey was complete and total dead weight, but don’t forget Sweeney was a man possessed when he finally got the nod (and before he went down with back spasms).  Sweeney, in his month of terror, was better than every hitter except for Ichiro last year.  Man, I miss Sweeney.  I miss the hugs!

I like Cust, but I don’t like him THAT much.  And I think his strikeouts will start to outweigh his power and his walks over the course of a full season.  Even Steven.

Overall, my impressions aren’t great, but they’re equal to or better than 2010 across the board.  Mostly going on faith in this one.  I’m going to trust Olivo has enough pop to make up for what Lopez was SUPPOSED to give us last year.  I’m going to assume Figgins will return to glory and Bradley will … not fall below the Mendoza Line once and for all.  I’m going to go out on a limb and hope for progress out of Smoak and Saunders, and I’m going to pray to the Pepto gods that Guti gets over whatever it is he’s got.  I’m going to perish the thought of Ichiro finally starting to show his age, and finally I’m going to not expect too much out of our middle infielders (and accordingly be pleasantly surprised).

Do I think we will be better?  Compared to what?  The sheer abomination that was 2010?  We were LITERALLY the worst hitting ballclub in the modern era!  How could we NOT be better?

Well, let’s see.  Maybe Ichiro’s bat speed takes a dive and he hits .240.  Suddenly, he’s not legging out those infield singles anymore and what little power he had completely vanishes.  Smoak and Saunders continue to struggle, putting them mere steps away from being out of baseball.  Miguel Olivo is our home run leader with 16.  Jack Cust turns into Richie Sexson-heavy.  Jack Wilson gets injured in May and Adam Kennedy is Eric Byrnes Redux.  Brendan Ryan remains Brendan Ryan; Milton Bradley remains Milton Bradley.  Chone Figgins discovers he’s got the full blown Mariners Curse.  Franklin Gutierrez never fully recovers from his stomach ailment.  And with a rash of constant injuries beleaguering our lineup from top to bottom, we’re forced to play a bunch of AAA guys who seriously are NOT ready for Prime Time.

I guess that’s how we could be worse.  Dear God I hope we’re not worse.

And I don’t REALLY think we will be.  But, that doesn’t mean I believe we’ll be all that much better.  I wish I knew what amount of wins it would take to guarantee that Jackie Z keeps his job, because I want to see what he can do next winter when he’s actually got some money to throw around.  Does it even matter?  Is 70 the magic number?  Is it 75?  Or is it simply NOT losing another 100 games while showing marginal improvement from the guys who are believed to be the Future of the Franchise?

I hope it’s that.  Because I think that’s something we can actually accomplish.  There’s a lot to like with what Z is doing for our farm system.  We’ve improved tremendously since he got here AND we have the Number 2 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.  That’s another rising star not long for the minors.

I’m getting off topic here.  Do I think we’re better?  Yes, but not by much.  The outfield is exactly the same as last year.  Exactly.  The infield is basically the same as it was for the second half of last year, just shuffled around a bit.  Brendan Ryan is pretty much the same type of power threat as Jose Lopez was in his underperforming last season.  Cust is Branyan, meaning our only real improvement is Olivo over Rob Johnson/Josh Bard.  We’re 1 man better (with a lot of hoping and praying that everyone else who did poorly last year improves).  That should amount to more overall wins, but not many.

Record Prediction:  65-97.  AL West Finish:  4th Place.  Draft Pick in 2012:  4.

Looks Like We’ve Got A Roster

Sorry for the website sucking dick; at least I can finally start posting again. 

Josh Wilson is gone.  I guess I didn’t really see that one coming.  Then again, it’s not shocking.  I’m not falling out of my chair in disbelief.  He’s a poor man’s Willie Bloomquist; you can find them on any street corner for two bits a gander.

Luke French has been sent away.  Again, nothing we haven’t come to expect over the last couple weeks when Michael Pineda started asserting his dominance like a rottweiler over a poodle.

Some crappy relievers were pushed aside to give young bucks who like to fuck a chance to show their smoke.

It’s Wednesday, a little after 7am, and thus far no word on any trades coming down the pike.  It LOOKS like … we’ve got an Opening Day Roster!

The Batters/Fielders:

C – Miguel Olivo
1B – Justin Smoak
2B – Jack Wilson
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Chone Figgins
LF – Milton Bradley
CF – Michael Saunders
RF – Ichiro
DH – Jack Cust

The Bench:

C – Adam Moore
Inf – Adam Kennedy
OF – Ryan Langerhans
Inf – Luis Rodriguez

The Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix
2. Vargas
3. Fister
4. Bedard
5. Pineda

The Relievers:

Closer:  Brandon League
Set Up:  Chris Ray
Set Up:  Jamey Wright
Set Up:  Josh Lueke
Lefty:  Aaron Laffey
Long:  Tom Wilhelmsen
Long:  David Pauley

Disabled List:

CF:  Franklin Gutierrez
Closer:  David Aardsma

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see who gets chopped once Guti is ready to come back.  Before this whole stomach cancer thing (or whatever it is got Guti so gone), Michael Saunders was all but a lock to start the season in Tacoma.  Meanwhile, Ryan Langerhans did everything to play his way into the 4th Outfield slot in Spring Training.  However, Saunders has showed greater discipline and greater ability to hit the low-and-away fastball over the last couple of weeks since he adopted his new stance.  If he continues this torrid streak into the first week or two of the regular season … who knows!

I’ll get to position breakdowns in the next couple of days (website or no website) with my official 2-part Seattle Mariners Preview.  In the meantime, I’ll just say this:  from a pure aesthetic standpoint, I like looking at this team more with Pineda over French and Wilhelmsen over Cesar Jimenez.  Now if we could only do something about Jamey Wright.

Predicting The Mariners 2011 Roster

I am well aware that we’re in the infancy of Spring Training, but what else are we going to do for the next few weeks but speculate, speculate, speculate?

Therefore, without further adieu, I give you what I think will be YOUR Seattle Mariners in 2011 (at least, before injuries, cuts, trades, surprise retirements, and jail time set in).

We’ll start with the Starters:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Erik Bedard
  3. Jason Vargas
  4. Doug Fister
  5. Nate Robertson

First thing’s first:  that fifth starter is easily the weakest position on the team; you better come out of the block on fire if you hope to keep your job after the first couple months.  Because we have hot shot Michael Pineda – who SHOULD be the unquestioned fifth starter, but won’t be because if we start him out in AAA, his years don’t start counting against the organization (in other words, if he started out the season with the big ballclub, he would be a free agent a year sooner, after team control finally ends).

Also, nobody is saying Nate Robertson has anything won; he’s on a minor league contract after all.  There will be a 3-way battle (sans Pineda) between him, Luke French, and David Pauley.  First place gets to rent the fifth starter job, second place gets to be our bullpen long man (and pitch every 11 days or so), and third place gets to go to Tacoma.  And, since Pauley and French are already on the active roster, Robertson will have to heavily impress in Spring Training to be retained for the season.

On to the bullpen (with one minor note that David Aardsma WILL be our closer, but since he just had hip surgery, he might miss the first full month of the season; for the sake of argument, I’m including him in the following projection):

  • Closer:  David Aardsma
  • 8th Inning:  Brandon League
  • 7th Inning:  Chris Ray
  • Set Up:  Josh Lueke
  • Set Up:  Dan Cortes
  • Set Up:  Josh Flores
  • Long Reliever:  Luke French

My guess is, with French’s stability towards the end of last season, his hard work carries over to this Spring where he wins the backup job.  He’s also a left hander, so that will be cool.  Josh Flores is a Rule 5 guy Jackie Z decided to give a shot.  He played last year in A-ball, but he has high upside, so I think we’ll do everything in our power to keep him.  Lueke and Flores are both young up-and-comers who SHOULD win spots (one or both could run into the same Michael Pineda scenario where we try to delay their debuts with the big ballclub; if one has to start in Tacoma, I’d bet on Lueke, since Flores got to see some time with Seattle in September of last year).  Chris Ray is one of a thousand relievers we signed to minor league deals, and his is one of the biggest names (he was an effective closer in recent years, coming off injuries).  The other is Manny Delcarmen, and I have to believe one of those guys is done (my bet is Delcarmen, though he may have the better fastball).  League will probably be our closer until DA returns (with probably Jamey Wright taking up DA’s spot in said meantime).

Like last year, there’s a lot to like about our pitching staff.  Of course, it’s impossible to predict who’s going to tank out of nowhere like RRS did last year, but if things hold serve, having Felix, Bedard, and Vargas as our top three will be pretty impressive.  If anyone regresses, it’ll definitely be Fister, who was unable to keep up his pre-DL production post-DL last year.  He just doesn’t have the fastball, and if he’s not hitting spots with pinpoint precision, then he’s getting crushed and will likely be demoted once Pineda’s ready.  Speaking of Pineda:  when he enters the rotation and we can pump out Felix, Bedard, Vargas, and Pineda … WATCH OUT.  A lot to like about those four guys.

The bullpen is even fascinating in its own right.  Will DA return with a vengeance?  Will League improve upon his up-and-down 2010, where at times he was unhittable and at others he was my worst nightmare?  Will Ray or Delcarmen return to being awesome?  Will Lueke and Cortes make impact names for themselves?

I don’t have nearly the glowing praise of the following hitters, but let’s take a look at the starting nine:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Chone Figgins – 3B
  3. Justin Smoak – 1B
  4. Jack Cust – DH
  5. Franklin Gutierrez – CF
  6. Miguel Olivo – C
  7. Michael Saunders
  8. Jack Wilson – SS
  9. Brendan Ryan – 2B

Limited power!  A lot of strikeouts!  Low batting averages!  Who could want anything more?

A key, as always, will be the 3-4-5 hitters.  Will Smoak take the next step in becoming a bonafide major leaguer?  Will Jack Cust be the designated hitter we’ve been lacking since 2004?  Will Franklin Gutierrez adjust to how pitchers have adjusted to him?  All three of these things need to happen for us to be an adequate ballclub; my guess is we see a lot of shuffling of the 3-4-5 spots like last year.

I see Miguel Olivo batting 6th primarily because he’s probably our 3rd best home run threat after Cust and Gutierrez.  He might even be our 2nd best home run threat.  Go ahead and let that sink in.  I’ll wait.

If you haven’t already taken an overdose of sleeping pills, imagine the black hole our last three spots will be (don’t get up, I’ll go get the bottle).  Ye gods; I have nothing positive to say about any of those guys so I won’t say anything at all.

Our bench is looking like this:

  • Milton Bradley – LF/DH
  • Adam Moore – C
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Ryan Langerhans

My guess is Bradley – because of his contract – and Moore – because we have to develop SOMEBODY at catcher after spending so many high draft picks on them – are locks to make the team.  Adam Kennedy is in a dogfight with Josh Wilson and a bevy of other crappy infielders for that bench spot.  My guess is his old batting form returns enough in Spring Training to earn him a job, only to suck balls once the calendar flips to April (a la Eric Byrnes last year).  Ryan Langerhans is in a similar dogfight with such exciting names as Gabe Gross and Jody Gerut for the backup outfielder spot.  I think he’ll pull it out because … I dunno, I just like him I guess.  And because his last name reminds me of Jagerbombs.

Of note is Dustin Ackley, who will also be a Michael Pineda-esque casualty (only to be brought up mid-season like the other young’uns).  On the one hand, I understand the financial aspect of getting these potential rising stars for an extra year; on the other, this team is HELLA-boring when the kids are in AAA.  Assuming, of course, that we lose upwards of 60% of our games again.  Which likely WILL happen.

So, that’s that; we’ll see how right I am.  By the way, I’m still not ready for baseball to start.  Maybe a little Spring Training buzz will light my fire.

How Desirable Is The Mariners Manager Job?

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not exactly plugged in on how many open managerial positions will be open at season’s end.  I know there’s the Mariners, the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Pirates, and the Mets.  Throw in a whole bunch of possibilities (the Diamondbacks, the Astros, the Marlins, the Cardinals, the Brewers, the Indians, NOT the Orioles) and you have yourself quite the smorgasbord of potential landing spots.

Off the top of my head, any bigtime, highly-coveted manager would EASILY prefer the Cubs, Mets, Dodgers, and Cardinals jobs over anything else.  Those places have history – both recent and distant – that puts them near the top of MLB lore.  And the rest of those teams, let’s face it, have had more success at one point or another than the Mariners ever have.

Now, for whatever reason, the Mariners haven’t had much luck with managers.  Lou Piniella aside, it’s been a WHOLE lotta crap.  In fact, in the last 10 years, there have been 7 guys who could call themselves the Mariners Skipper (and have probably lived to regret that).  We’ve had interim guys who’ve made it and interim guys who’ve been let go at season’s end.  We’ve brought in younger coaches with promising potential for managing and we’ve brought in seasoned veterans who’ve been around the barn dance before.  Not a one has stuck.

Which makes this whole search a rediculous concept.  It’s the talent, stupid!  Have quality players on your team, and the manager will look like a genius!  Have shitty, overpriced crybabies on your team:  guess what?  You go through 7 managers in 10 years.

Would I ideally prefer to have stability in this aspect of the organization?  Sure, why not.  A stable manager will make for more contented players.  Which means other players would be more likely to want to sign with us.  Which in turn would make our team better.

But is it vital?  And at any rate, would we be able to land one of the “good” managers.  Which I suppose boils down to guys who don’t actively put Jose Lopez in the 4-hole or Adam Moore in the 5-hole, or Casey Kotchman in ANY hole!

The last guy, a noted “good baseball man”, was dropped because he couldn’t get along with resident aging diva Ken Griffey Jr.  The guy before him, interim coach-turned-manager Jim Riggleman, is apparently working enough wonders in Washington D.C. to be given the keys to a down franchise (and doing a damn fine job of keeping that team out of the cellar).  The guy before that was pretty much a nostalgia choice, but also a noted “good baseball man” as he was oft-employed under Piniella as his bench coach.  And the guy before that was good ol’ Grover, who was driven to retirement in the midst of a contending season.

What does it say about your organization when a guy chooses his La-Z-Boy and a TV remote over being your team’s manager when the team is more or less winning?

I can’t imagine we’ll be getting the cream of the crop when it all shakes out.  Of course, that means very little, since we won’t know if we’re getting cream or crap until the team actually goes out and plays.

In football, you can look to the hiring of guys like Bill Parcells, Mike Holmgren, Marty Schottenheimer, and know that your team’s fortunes are about to change.  Because those guys are not only proven winners, but proven winners who’ve won with more than one team.  It’s easy to be labelled a “winner” when you’ve won a championship with a single team.  But to win with one team, then go to a struggling franchise and turn it into a contender as well?  Who’s done that in baseball besides Lou Piniella and MAYBE a couple others?  It just isn’t done, unless it’s a complete fluke.

Hopefully, the Mariners will be able to catch a fluke in a bottle.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 151

Even though we seemingly have the entire off-season to talk about next year’s affairs, this doesn’t feel like a bad time to get into some of the stuff we have to look forward to next year.  For the most part, it feels like we’re set with the Youth Movement (which I love, but most casual fans loathe).  Getting their first taste of Full Time, Full Season Duty will be Adam Moore (C), Michael Saunders (LF), Justin Smoak (1B) and potentially Dustin Ackley (2B).  Throw in established (with varying degrees of productive-ness) starters Chone Figgins (3B), Jack Wilson (SS), Franklin Gutierrez (CF), and Ichiro (RF), that leaves us squarely with the dilemma of the Designated Hitter.  A black hole ever since future Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez retired back in 2004.  We’ve used such dreck as Jose Vidro, Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney, and others, with no success whatsoever.  Currently, we’ve got The Muscle, who may have an awesome nickname (Russell Branyan), and will hit you the occasional dinger (bank on 30 unless his regular aches and pains keep him out for significant time), but will also strike out a shit-ton and pretty much has a batting average on par with the aforementioned dreck.  However, his is only an option that we don’t necessarily have to pick up next year.  Whom we have no choice in the matter is one Milton Bradley (much to my chagrin, as I’d forgotten he existed since being on the DL for so long).  Pen him in for 1 more guaranteed year at a little over $13 million (potentially over $18 million if you count the money we’re still paying on Carlos Silva’s contract) and I pretty much just want to skip next year and go straight to the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse.  He will be the 2nd highest salaried player on our team next year, which makes me want to vomit (and, again, if you want to count the money the Cubs get to employ a now-decent Silva, he’s the 1st highest on the team).  AND, Milton Bradley is a man without a position, if we indeed opt to give Michael Saunders a full-time slot.  So, there you go.  Designated Hitter:  Milton Bradley (with the option for occasional left field duty if we’re feeling particularly sadistic).  I know there will technically be money to spend next year, but holy fucking cow what are we going to do with it?  Let $18 mil ride the pine?  I hate you so much Bill Bavasi.  YOU DID THIS!