The Mariners Were Swept In The First Half Of The Home & Home Series With The Dodgers

Ways to lose: the M’s have found a few.

I just wrote, on Monday, about how with teams like these Mariners, sometimes the offense will be great & the pitching will be bad, and sometimes the offense will go in the tank when the pitching is good. Then, as if I conjured it out of thin air, it came to be over the last two games.

How does a Monday evening slugfest sound to you? Justin Dunn had another hard go of it, managing to make it only two innings while giving up six runs. In his defense, Corey Seager tried to break all of his ribs with a line drive in the second at-bat of the game, and after that apparently Dunn couldn’t throw his slider (I’m assuming his best pitch?) without pain.

Miraculously, the bats picked him up, and for a while there had the Mariners in line for a potential victory! Moore, Lewis, Seager, Nola, and White all had multiple hits; one of those hits (apiece) were home runs for Lewis and Seager, and both of those hits were home runs for White (who, again, is putting up more quality at-bats of late). The Mariners were down 6-2 after two innings, but held an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

Then, in walked Matt Magill – one of the few bullpen arms whose praises I’ve sung in this space – who had yet to give up a run all season. He got two outs in this one, but five runs came across to break his scoreless streak. We got one more run in the eighth, but it wasn’t to be, as the Dodgers held on 11-9.

Out of sight, out of mind, though! Yesterday was a new day! Our ace, Marco Gonzales, was on the hill, and he was truly pitching like an ace this time around. In 100-degree Los Angeles heat, he went 7 innings (throwing 102 pitches), giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 0 walks, while tying his career high with 9 strikeouts! Simply and truly remarkable, with just a teeny, tiny hiccup of a jam in the sixth that he was able to pitch his way out of. He also, not for nothing, got some defensive help in this one, with a superb sprinting catch in the outfield by Kyle Lewis – leaping up and catching the ball as it would’ve hit the top of the wall for at least a double – as well as an exciting double play started by J.P. Crawford – who gobbled up a ground ball in the shift, tagged the runner trying to go to second, then rocketed a throw to first to end the inning. Again – and thankfully – some of the high-end kids continue to impress, giving me hope for the future of this organization.

But, the Mariners didn’t score until the top of the seventh, and even then only managed a single run. It didn’t feel like – when I watched this one almost all the way through – there were too many chances for the M’s to score, but it turns out there were plenty, as we went 0/7 with runners in scoring position. In that seventh, Austin Nola was up with runners on second and third and nobody out, and the ump rung him up on just an AWFUL called third strike, which really felt like a back-breaker. I would love to visit the universe where this game happened and his at-bat was handled properly (preferably by Robot Umps, of course), because I feel like he at least had a single in him – if not a walk to load the bases and put even more pressure on the Dodgers’ bullpen – but what can you do? Tim Lopes grounded out into a fielder’s choice RBI, but that was all she wrote.

In a 1-1 tie heading into the eighth inning, Scott Servais – for some reason – handed the ball to Dan Altavilla. While I agree, it’s better to give him a clean inning instead of having him come in with inherited runners, I’m wondering what he has EVER done in his career to deserve this level of trust? This is his fifth year with the Mariners; five years of Major League appearances. In all that time, he’s never been able to stick for a full season, often being sent down to the minors to continue working on his mechanics, or dealing with injuries. I can’t fault him for getting hurt, but in spite of a fastball that can hit 99mph, he has in no way, shape, or form managed to improve. The only reason he’s up here now, I’m sure, is because we just don’t have anyone who’s better; the rest of the bullpen is just as much of a disaster (he’s also still on a cheap, rookie deal, and I can’t imagine he has too many more option years left). So, in that sense, maybe it was just his “turn” and it doesn’t matter who Servais throws out there in the eighth inning of a tie game. But, whatever the case may be, it was frustrating to see Altavilla out there, and it was frustrating watching him gag away the game while throwing 29 pitches to get three outs. If anything, I guess I’m surprised he only gave up the one run, and we only lost 2-1.

As I feared, this brings our losing streak to seven games, with both the Dodgers and Mariners now flying up to Seattle for another two-game set here. We shot our wad with a 9-run scoring outburst, and we made as good a use as we could’ve hoped for with our ace, so breaking this streak seems outside the realm of probability in the next two days. We’re 7-18 with a -50 run differential (only the Red Sox are worse at -52). We’re still in line for the third overall draft pick (with the Red Sox taking over the top spot and the Pirates falling to second; though based on winning percentage you’d want to flip those two teams).

In more lighthearted news, ESPN just rated the Mariners as the third-most cursed franchise in the Major Leagues. Even that, somehow, feels like an insult; how are we not number one?! The only team to have never been to a World Series feels about as cursed as you can get. With only four post-season appearances in our history – dating back to 1977 – I dunno. It’s more than just the 2001 team winning 116 games and losing in the ALCS, I can tell you that. A franchise that had Griffey, Edgar, Randy, and A-Rod (four surefire Hall of Famers, if A-Rod wasn’t a steroid user who spent the bulk of his playing career being totally and completely unlikable to fans, players, and media alike) managed to do nothing. That same franchise who would go on to have Ichiro, Felix, Beltre, Cano, and Cruz likewise … nada. There have been lots of great players who’ve come through this moribund franchise over the years. If that’s not the makings of an all-time curse … I dunno, give it another decade, I’m sure ESPN will come around.

The Top Ten Biggest Seattle Sports Disappointments

It’s a cloudy-ass day in July and we haven’t had any sports that I give a shit about in over three months, so why not kick off the month with a big ball of negativity?!

Once again, in the absence of any decent sports news, I take inspiration from the Brock & Salk podcast, where one of the listeners asked the question of who is on your Seattle sports Mount Rushmore for biggest disappointments? I’m clearly unable to limit my disgust to just four individuals, so you get a Top Ten from me (with an extra Honorable Mention – FREE OF CHARGE – because these disappointments are like my babies, I can’t leave any of them out!).

Being a Sports Disappointment is obviously a nebulous concept with lots of different definitions, so here’s mine (for the sake of today’s argument): these are people who we expected to be great when they came here, and ultimately totally sucked. How they got here is irrelevant, so I’m not factoring in (as heavily) if it was a lopsided trade, a high draft pick, or an inflated contract (with the basis that all of these players were terrible for their respective Seattle sports teams, one would assume a poor trade, draft slot, or contract is a given anyway). Similarly, this can’t be based on someone else that our team passed on in the draft, because there would be inherent disappointment already built into that selection.

Malik McDowell, for instance, doesn’t qualify for this list. He’s certainly one of the most damaging draft picks of the last decade for the Seahawks, but as a second rounder, I don’t think expectations were astronomical that he’d be anything truly amazing. Likewise, trading away Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice doesn’t qualify, because I would like to think most people noted that right away to be a terrible deal, and as such I can’t imagine there were great expectations for ol’ #0.

Without further ado, let’s get to our Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero. The Mariners traded for the former #1 overall baseball prospect early in 2012 from the Yankees. Given Michael Pineda’s career since he left Seattle, this is one of those infamous Lose/Lose deals. Nevertheless, the next ten guys I talk about must’ve been REALLY bad, because Montero was as mediocre as it gets. The main reason why he’s on the outside looking in is because by the time he came to Seattle, there was already a building consensus that he wasn’t long for the catcher position. He just didn’t have the build, the skills, nor the presence with the pitching staff for his defense to measure up. The hope was that maybe he could land at first base with some practice, but ultimately I think most saw him as a future DH. Regardless of that, there was NO QUESTION that his bat would be what provided the bulk of his value, and when you’re talking about those Mariners squads from 2008-2013, a hulking power bat from the right side of the plate was our white whale. Montero was SUPPOSED to be our cleanup hitter for the next decade; instead he hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015, and is more known for his ice cream sandwich fight than his “prowess” on the baseball diamond.

#10 – Danny Hultzen (Mariners)

This is the only real draft bust on the list (not to say there aren’t some REALLY BAD draft picks going forward, but at least those guys played a little bit!). Hultzen was a #2 overall draft pick, considered to be the safest starting pitcher prospect of the 2011 draft, and appeared to be on the fast track to make it to the Major Leagues within 2-3 years. Even if there was a question of his stuff – and his high-ceiling/ace potential – if his arm injuries didn’t totally derail him, we WOULD HAVE seen him pitch for the Mariners relatively early in his career. We’ll never know how disappointing that might’ve been, but I remember being really high on this guy when we got him, and it’s one of the great What If’s in recent Mariners history.

#9 – Justin Smoak (Mariners)

He’s sort of in that Jesus Montero realm, in that he was formerly a very highly-rated prospect, with the bloom starting to come off the rose by the time the M’s were able to acquire him. Oddly enough, when we made the deal in 2010, it’s reported that the Mariners turned down a proposed offer from the Yankees which would’ve included Montero! What did we do to get so lucky as to end up with BOTH when all was said and done?! Again, we’re talking about the Dead Ball Mariners of 2008-2013 or so; Smoak was really the first bite at the apple of trying to turn around our moribund offense. Switch-hitter with power, elite first base defense, good eye at the plate, and a proven minor league track record to hit for average, get on base at a high clip, and impress with his power to all fields. That ended up translating to the Bigs as Warning Track Power, someone who couldn’t really hit from the right side at all, a very LOW batting average, and someone who would consistently roll over on pitches instead of hitting to all fields as advertised. While his defense played, and he had an okay eye for taking walks, he also struck out a ton and didn’t start figuring out how to play at this level until he left for Toronto, where he was an All Star in 2017 (with 22+ homers in the last three seasons, the high being 38 in that aforementioned All Star season).

#8 – Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

As a #4 overall draft pick in 2009, you can certainly point to any number of linebackers taken after him and lament Tim Ruskell’s poor decision-making. BUT! I said we’re not doing that here! So, instead let’s just look at the situation at the time: the Seahawks were coming off of a pretty abysmal 2008 season where the defense just had NOTHING going for it. The offense looked like it MIGHT be salvagable with our aging veterans, but the defense needed an injection of youth and explosiveness. Curry was famously the “safest” pick off the board, as someone who could come in, play right away, and play at a high level. Even then, though, his game started getting picked apart pretty quickly. We soon learned there wasn’t much of a pass-rushing threat to his game, which made him ostensibly a coverage linebacker. The Seahawks have long prided themselves on quality linebacker play, so that checks out. Except, as it turned out, Curry couldn’t even do THAT well! He did, in fact, nothing well, and two years later we traded him to the Raiders in the middle of the 2011 season for draft picks (one of which would turn out to be J.R. Sweezy, which wasn’t too shabby of a return, all things considered).

#7 – Dustin Ackley (Mariners)

Speaking of #2 overall draft picks, welcome to the first pick of the Jack Zduriencik Era in 2009! I wrote pretty extensively on the topic of Dustin Ackley over the years, to the point where the rest of my list today SERIOUSLY conflicts with that post I just linked to. But, I would argue the parameters of the argument today are a little different. I’m trying to eliminate all outside factors and just focus on the players themselves. Yes, Ackley was VERY disappointing! He was supposed to be a guy who hit for a very high average, with enough pop/speed/defense to make him a regular All Star for his Major League career. Instead, he was middling at best and hasn’t cracked a Major League roster since 2016. I would also put part of the blame on the Mariners’ front office, as they continuously dicked around with him. He was a primo first baseman in college, with some experience in the outfield. What did we do? We made him a second baseman, which almost certainly stunted his development. Then, when that failed, we tried to make him a centerfielder, even though he really didn’t have the range or ability to cover that much ground (especially in Safeco Field at the time). And yet, the bat never showed up in Seattle, so that’s ultimately why he’s such a disappointment.

#6 – Chone Figgins (Mariners)

You really, REALLY hate to see it! This was the first big free agent bust of the Jack Zduriencik Era: four years, $36 million in December of 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this signing! By this point, we’d long realized that Safeco Field – with its configuration, and with our Marine Layer in Seattle – would be death to home run hitters. Guys like Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, among others, tried and ultimately failed to replicate their prior glories in Seattle. But, Figgins was the opposite of that! He was an undersized Jack-Of-All-Trades type of Swiss Army Knife you could plug in at nearly EVERY position on the field, with zero power hype to speak of whatsoever! And, most importantly, he’d hit for the Angels in a big way (.291 average & .363 on-base percentage in Anaheim across 8 seasons before signing with the Mariners). Slot him in at third base (his preferred position) and at the top of your batting lineup, and watch him hit .300 and steal 40+ bases! He somehow reached that stolen base plateau in his first year here, but his average dropped about 40 points overnight. He couldn’t get along with the Mariners’ management (and, presumably, some of the players) and was deemed the very worst signing of Jack Zduriencik’s career. Smarter baseball people than myself probably saw all this coming, but I’ll admit it was a rude awakening for me.

#5 – Percy Harvin (Seahawks)

If this were a list of my own personal Most Loathed Seattle Sports Athletes, Harvin would probably rank higher. I have no problem invoking his name among the greatest all-time Seahawks blunders because he is SO unlikable (the peak being him punching out Golden Tate before our Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season). Why he doesn’t rank higher here is the fact that we DID win that Super Bowl (mostly in spite of him), on top of the fact that I think most of us realized – when the deal was made – that it was too high a price to pay for ANYONE, even with his ability (at the time). Still, he had proven in his career with the Vikings to be a lethal gadget player on offense, and one of the best return men in the Special Teams department. While we could see the cost in draft picks and contract compensation was stratospheric, it was hard not to dream big about what this offense could be with Harvin in the fold. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, AND Percy Harvin?! Come on! And, then he immediately got injured upon arrival, and didn’t really end up making any impact whatsoever until we reached the Super Bowl. The highlight of his Seahawks career was the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. Some thought he deserved consideration for the Super Bowl MVP, but we were already up 22-0 at the time, so I mean. The bottom line is, Harvin dogged it in 2014 – taking himself out of games, refusing to play through anything more than a hangnail – and was traded in the middle of the season for whatever we could get. So much wasted money and potential.

#4 – Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Everyone points to the lopsided deal – that sent the Orioles a ton of quality baseball players – but the true crime is just how bad Bedard became as soon as he got here! He was a bona fide Ace-type pitcher for Baltimore – so much so that he was deemed to be the #1 over Felix Hernandez in his first year here – and the expectation was that our rotation would lead us back to the playoffs with Bedard in the fold. Instead, he was a consummate Five-And-Dive artist who both stunk AND couldn’t stay healthy. Why he’s not higher on this list is because all of those Mariners teams were VERY terrible and would have been regardless, with our without Bedard. Still a bitter pill to swallow.

#3 – Rick Mirer (Seahawks)

The bigger disappointment here is the fact that the Seahawks had the #2 pick at all, and not the #1 (which would’ve guaranteed us Drew Bledsoe). In that Dustin Ackley piece, I had Dan McGwire among the biggest draft pick disappointments in Seattle sports history, but that largely hinged on who we DIDN’T get in that draft – namely: Brett Favre – but I don’t think anyone REALLY expected greatness out of McGwire (except for the inept Seahawks ownership group at the time). Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was very highly regarded. Even if he wasn’t the ideal QB of that draft, he wasn’t supposed to be a bad fall-back option. But, he was worse than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. He nearly destroyed my standing as a Seahawks fan for the rest of the 1990’s! The saving grace for Mirer is the fact that we were able to flip him for a first round draft pick in 1997.

#2 – Jeff Cirillo (Mariners)

I just remember LOVING this deal so much! In December of 2001 – coming off of the Mariners’ 116-win campaign – we were looking at one of the most complete teams in the Major Leagues. One of our main weak spots was third base, where we employed the pedestrian David Bell. Cirillo, on the other hand, had a remarkable 10-year career to that point with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, where he hit over .300, had an on-base percentage over .450, hardly ever struck out, and played a quality third base! I mean, on a team with Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, Edgar, Cameron, Wilson, Guillen, McLemore, and the rest, Cirillo was only going to put us MORE over the top! That’s when we got our first big taste of what happens when guys come over from Colorado: the thin air they play in made hitting at home a breeze. Meanwhile, in Seattle, even for someone like Cirillo – who wasn’t a natural power hitter by any means – it seems like Safeco just got in everyone’s heads if nothing else. He hit for a miserable .234 across two partial seasons, and his on-base percentage plummeted to a ridiculous .295! To add insult to injury, those two seasons coincided with two of the most frustrating years to be a Mariners fan, where both teams won 93 games, yet failed to make the playoffs because baseball is dumb and only had one Wild Card team at the time. To add even more insult to even more injury, we traded him away in early 2004 and got essentially nothing back in return.

#1 – Vin Baker (Supersonics)

You don’t see a lot of Sonics on this list, because for the most part – until the bitter end – we were a pretty well-run organization. Sure, you can point to the litany of failed centers we drafted in the 2000’s, but I would argue most fans saw through those duds the minute their names were called. Similarly, everyone wondered why someone like Jim McIlvaine was given such a high-money contract, so to be “disappointed” would mean you’d have to have high expectations for someone who had hardly done anything in his career to that point! Vin Baker, on the other hand, was a multi-year All Star in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. I almost didn’t want to include Baker on this list, because for some reason I have memories of more good times than actually existed. The truth of the matter is – upon trading for him when Shawn Kemp forced his way out in a 3-team deal, justifiably, because McIlvaine – the Sonics only enjoyed ONE quality year out of Baker. The first year here, the 1997/1998 season, when he maintained his All Star streak and led the Sonics to a semifinals appearance in George Karl’s last go-around in Seattle.

He then immediately fell off the cliff. The strike-shortened season saw Baker’s alcoholism creep in, resulting in a ballooning of his weight that drastically reduced his effectiveness on the court. For some reason, in spite of his fall-off, the Sonics rewarded him with a 7-year, $86 million deal. Yet, he was never the same, with three increasingly-mediocre seasons to follow before we were able to trade him to the Celtics for a bunch of role players. There’s a lot of unfair resentment towards Baker for tanking his career the way he did, but I think mostly people just feel sorry for him. No one in Seattle wanted to see Shawn Kemp leave; indeed Wally Walker & Co. did a remarkable job of destroying a championship-calibre squad. But, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we were able to get Baker here initially! His game – if maybe not his personality – fit this team PERFECTLY! He had a better post-up game than Kemp, could shoot from long range better than Kemp, and overall you didn’t have to worry about the ups & downs. Baker was a steady 20/10 type of guy when he got here, night-in and night-out. Which makes his post-1998 years SO disappointing! His wasn’t the type of game that should’ve deteriorated so quickly. Kemp’s game was more raw athleticism; Baker’s game was fundamental basketball prowess. Yet, when it’s all said and done, two of the great basketball tragedies to come out of that lockout season were Baker and Kemp, both succumbing to being out of shape and never ultimately recovering.

Of Course The Mariners Can’t Even Tank Properly!

I returned from my big Clusterfest weekend dismayed to find the Mariners have gone on a little run of late, winning 5 of 6, including 3 of 4 against the very worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles.

The Mariners are 36-47, which is still hilarious when you factor in our infamous 13-2 start to the season. But, it’s also ridiculously close to .500, particularly when you consider how bad this team has looked for the majority of this season. The Orioles – on the other hand – are a whopping 22-57! They’re doing everything within their power to lose and lose often; the Mariners, on the other hand, still seem to be straddling the fence.

Always and forever on the fence.

I guess it should be noted that there’s no one way to (re)build a franchise, but I think I can take a stab at it, based on who’s currently leading the way in the standings in 2019. Up in the top half of the league, we’re talking about a bunch of teams who were bad for a spell, drafted well, developed their stars, and when it was time to compete, beefed up their team salary with free agents and/or trade acquisitions to put them over the top. That’s not a tried & true formula for every single team; I don’t remember the Yankees or Red Sox really bottoming out, and likewise I don’t recall the Rays or Athletics ever spending ANY money ever. But, the point is, you never see teams middling their way to the top, which is what the Mariners are trying to do and it’s what they’ve done since their inception back in the 70’s.

Once the Mariners got REALLY bad in 2004, they should’ve immediately reversed course, dumped everyone, and gone for a full rebuild. Instead, heading into the 2005 season, the Mariners dropped huge gobs of money into the pockets of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre (massive overpays for both, as Beltre never approached his 2004 season with the Dodgers, and Sexson was a gigantic drain for this franchise by the time his contract expired in 2008) and the rest is history.

The Mariners have been really unlucky in the last two decades to boot. In years where they were supposed to be bad, they competed out of nowhere; in years where they were supposed to be competitive, they’ve generally flatlined. It’s hard to want to stick to a plan when expectations are defied so often. I mean, what do you do when you resign yourself to sucking, only to find yourself in the thick of breaking a generational playoff-less streak?

But, it’s that very mode of thinking that’s torpedoed this franchise. Not having the wherewithal and the guts to stick with a plan. It’s why this team has churned through managers like a rabid dog with a T-bone steak. It’s why general managers have made panic move after panic move, forever in a reactive position based seemingly on emotions and the whims of an erratic ownership group.

If you look at the top half of baseball, there are the usual suspects, but then there are teams like the Twins, Astros, Indians, Braves, Cubs, Rangers, Brewers, Phillies, and Rockies. Teams clearly trending in the right direction, and teams who underwent massive rebuilds in recent years. Those teams used to be DREADFUL, and now they’re among the best. You don’t HAVE to be the Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers to compete at a high level; you just need to be smart and have a plan and GOD DAMMIT STICK TO THAT PLAN.

Okay. So, let’s say the Mariners finally have a plan. Let’s say 2019 is the first true rebuild in God knows how long. It’s still not the kind of rebuild I believe this team needs, nor is it even a rebuild that makes any sense. “Stepping back” in 2019 to be in contention by (hopefully) 2021 just isn’t realistic. Not when you’re talking about needing to fill 10/12 spots on a Major League pitching staff, including 100% of the bullpen. Not when you’re talking about a dearth of quality pitching in the high minors. Not when you JUST spent an inordinate amount of draft picks this year on replenishing your pitching (when those guys won’t be ready for the Bigs until 2022 at the VERY earliest).

The Mariners believe they currently roster – at the Major League level – players who will be part of the “Next Great Mariners Team”. Guys like Haniger, Gonzales, and Kikuchi. Maybe guys like Vogelbach, Santana, Narvaez, Mallex Smith, and J.P. Crawford. I’ll tell you right now, every single one of those guys have considerable flaws to their games, so you tell me: will the Mariners be competitive by 2021 or 2022? If so, how many of those players will still be on this roster?

The M’s are still the 6th worst team in baseball at the time of this writing, but there are at least 5 teams just ahead of them that will be vying for a Top 10 draft pick by season’s end. At this point, the Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Marlins all look like locks to make the Bottom 5 (our only hope is that the Orioles/Jays & Royals/Tigers are in the same divisions, so they play one another 19 times this year). Meanwhile, with how well the hitting has been at times, I could easily see the Mariners slide outside of the Top 10, at which point winning is doing more harm than good.

Then again, it’s not necessarily where you draft, but rather how you develop. That’s the biggest key to success in baseball, over everything else. Based on that, I’m just wasting my words on this team, because the Mariners have to rank among the worst in the game at development. You can hang bad luck on a few players, but the overwhelming majority of Mariners prospects have been just plain bad.

Tempering Expectations For This Mariners Rebuild

What interests me most about the game of baseball is the long game. In football, you’ve got rosters twice the size of a baseball team, yet we see it every year: teams going from worst to first. You can turn around a football team in one offseason! But, in baseball, it takes seemingly forever (and, for an organization like the Mariners, LITERALLY forever).

I did a big, long post about the first successful Mariners rebuild. I originally wrote that in 2013, when we all were hopeful that we were in the middle of the next successful Mariners rebuild. There were so many moves made between the nadir of this franchise (2008) and the next time you could legitimately say the Mariners were in contention for the post-season (2014, when we finished 87-75, just 1 game back of a Wild Card spot) that it truly boggles the mind.

That rebuild was ultimately a failure. It produced three winning seasons between 2014 and 2018, and zero playoff appearances. Following last year’s collapse, Jerry Dipoto made a bunch of moves to jettison veterans and infuse the farm system with prospects. Our veteran holdovers include names like Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Roenis Elias, Dan Altavilla, and Dan Vogelbach; most (if not all) of those players will not be on this team the next time it reaches the post-season.

So, we’re stuck rooting for prospects. Rooting for potential. Rooting for the young guys to step up and prove themselves not just worthy of Major League roster spots, but ultimately good enough to get this team back to the playoffs one day (ideally one day very soon). Jerry Dipoto is staking his reputation and his job on these players. If it all falls apart like it did last time, he, Scott Servais, and a bunch of other very smart baseball men will be looking for employment elsewhere.

As I noted, we’ve been through this before. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

See, it can be fun and exciting knowing your team is out of it before the season even begins. First, there’s no expectations, so any on-field success you see is all gravy. Then, of course, there’s the factor of the unknown. New, young players you’ve never seen before are ALWAYS more interesting than old veterans who’ve been around for years. We pretty much know what guys like Seager, Healy, Felix, and Leake are; there’s nothing to learn about those guys. So, we pin all our hopes and dreams on the prospects. We want to see them in a Major League uniform right this minute, to pump them full of experience with the hopes that they’ll pan out immediately. This can lead to guys getting called up too early (a la Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Matt Tuiasosopo, etc.) or guys just being huge disappointments.

Let’s start with the 2008 season, the aforementioned nadir. That team lost 101 games and we were all miserable. Successful players like Felix, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez, and even Yuniesky Betancourt were no match for the suck-asses that were Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Jeremy Reed, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, and so on. General Manager Bill Bavasi was fired, and The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild was on!

2009 proved to be a welcome surprise. Franklin Gutierrez was brought over in a trade, as was Jason Vargas (Doug Fister was one of the rare Bavasi draft picks that stuck in the org and actually panned out). Ichiro was still Ichiro! Russell Branyan and David Aardsma were quality pick-ups. Even the return of Ken Griffey Jr. for a victory lap proved valuable. That 85-win season led everyone (but the stat geeks, who knew those wins were on a shaky foundation) to believe we were way ahead of the curve on this rebuild. So much so that Jackie Z decided to make a big push to go for it in 2010.

We traded for Cliff Lee! We got rid of Carlos Silva and brought back a useful piece in Milton Bradley! Our young core of starters (Felix, Vargas, and Fister) were bolstered with key bullpen additions like Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and Sean White. So, what happened? The team fell apart (ultimately losing another 101 games; in hindsight, a second go-around with Old Griffey proved disasterous) and shipped off anyone of value for prospects. Lee was flipped for Justin Smoak (among others). Our high draft pick was used on a pitcher who got hurt so many times he never made the Bigs. And The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild 2.0 was on.

2011 was a key year for the rebuild, as the team REALLY went for it this time. Taking a stroll through that roster is long and arduous. Ichiro, Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, and Adam Kennedy were the veteran everyday players; Felix, Vargas, Bedard, and Fister were still holding down the rotation (though Fister would be swapped for a bunch of nobodies at the deadline; yet another example of a trade that totally backfired for the Mariners); and League, Wright, and David Pauley (among others) were the steady influences in the bullpen. But, the young guys were the stars of the show. 2008 first rounder Dustin Ackley was called up midseason, as was Kyle Seager. Justin Smoak was handed the first base job. Guti started his slow descent into an injured adulthood. Then, there were guys like Michael Saunders, Greg Halman, Alex Liddi, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Gimenez, Carlos Peguero, Adam Moore, Mike Wilson and more. On the pitching side of things, Michael Pineda was an All Star, but then there were guys like Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush (remember when he was a starting pitcher?), a younger Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Chance Ruffin, and Shawn Kelley.

Those were all the players we hung our hats on. How many of them actually panned out? You can count them on one hand. How many of them panned out for the Seattle Mariners? That number is even smaller.

2012 saw the influx of guys like Jesus Montero (swapped for Michael Pineda), Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and John Jaso. They were paired with the holdovers like Smoak, Seager, Ackley, Felix, Vargas, Ichiro (starting his decline) and Figgins (at the end of his miserable Mariners career).

Then, there’s 2013, with prospects like Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino (a year after being drafted), Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. Veterans like Kendrys Morales, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Jeremy Bonderman, and Hisashi Iwakuma saw extensive playing time, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The old guys didn’t do enough (and most were gone in short order), and the young guys (predictably) never panned out for this team.

So, please, keep all these duds in mind as we go forward. You’re going to hear A LOT of new names you’re not familiar with in 2019 and 2020. The team is going to tout these players as The Future; don’t believe ’em. The vast majority of these players will be more in a long line of losers that help to keep the Seattle Mariners out of the post-season.

Some guys will be promising, only to fall flat on their asses the following year when expectations are raised and other teams learn how to handle them. Some guys will be promising only to suffer devastating injuries that hinders their development. Some of those injured guys will be brought back too soon, only to struggle and lose their confidence. Some guys will just flat-out stink from the get-go. One, maybe two guys, will be okay. But, they won’t be enough. They’ll just embolden this organization to spend a bunch of money when the time “feels right”. At that point, some flashy veterans will be brought in to supplement our future “rising stars” and we’ll go through the process of “contending (for a wild card spot)” all over again.

The Mariners are never going to be the Astros or Cubs or Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers. They’re closer to the Athletics and Rays than anything else, just a Major League farm club for better-run organizations. The tremendous amount of luck required to turn us into one of those truly good teams isn’t ingrained in the city of Seattle and its sports teams. The best we can hope for is competent mediocrity.

The best we’re going to get is just outside, looking in.

Very Important Mariners Of 2017: Jean Segura

Click HERE for the list of other Very Important Mariners Of 2017.

On first glance, it feels like this name should be higher on the list, but when you consider he’s the first position player after the Big Three, it feels a little more appropriate.

For what it’s worth, I feel like we’re in good hands with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  It would be pretty crippling if one or more of those guys got significantly injured or otherwise underperformed in 2017, but if I had to put money on it, I’d say we’ll be okay with those guys.  It’s with Segura – and some of our other new guys brought in to bring even more stability to this offense – that I start to really worry.

Last year, I’d say the Mariners’ offense was slightly above average.  It was good enough to get the job done, had the pitching also been up to the task.  With great pitching, last year’s team could have been a World Series contender, but that’s neither here nor there.  This year’s offense I’m projecting to be even better!  We just need the pitching to not fall apart and we should remain in contention for the full season; halfway decent pitching should be enough to get us over the hump.

I feel that way because with the addition of Segura – who we received in trade for Taijuan Walker – it looks like our Big Three has morphed into a Big Four.  Obviously, there are other additions to this team that I’m factoring into my overall opinion, but Segura is the biggest piece; hence why I’m so worried.

Segura has had four full seasons in the Major Leagues, but he only has the one great one.  Granted, for a change, his great season was last year – which makes him one of the few incoming players we’re NOT trying to bank on a bounceback performance – but still, the fact that we traded one of our biggest assets to get him is a real gamble on our part!

He hit 20 homers last year; his previous high was 12 (he also had seasons with 5 and 6 homers).  He hit 41 doubles last year; his previous high was 20 (with seasons of 14 and 16).  His slash line last year was .319/.368/.499/.867; his previous best season was in 2013 when he slashed .294/.329/.423/.752 (with his 2014 and 2015 seasons being pretty unremarkable in this department as well).  Now, if you sat me down and GUARANTEED me we’d get his exact 2013 production (with the aforementioned 20 doubles and 12 homers), or we could roll the dice to see if he could replicate his breakout season of 2016 (or, God forbid, actually improve upon it), I think I would shake your hand and take those 2013 numbers all day every day.  Because those numbers are LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than what we got out of Ketel Marte (who also went over to Arizona in this trade), and most other short stops we’ve had around here, since the A-Rod days.  However, my concern is – due to the perceived Seattle Mariners curse – he reverts even further and gives us those crappy numbers from 2014 or 2015.  It would be just so Mariners to give up two young, cheap, cost-controlled potential superstars for a guy who had one great season and then went right back to being a pumpkin.

I know they’re different circumstances, and different players, but I’m catching a big Adrian Beltre vibe off of this move.  Recall Beltre had the best season of his career the year before the Mariners signed him to a huge deal; then he reverted right back to his old numbers or worse.  Sure, his Hall of Fame defense made up for a lot of that – and if Segura gives us that type of defense (which, signs point to Probably Not), then fine – but it was still a case of a team paying for recent past performance and getting bit in the ass.

All that having been said, there are some encouraging parts to this thing.  Like I got into a little bit above, I think regardless of what we get, it’s a step up from Ketel Marte.  Marte is a fringe guy right now and might never develop into anything.  If he does, he’s probably a couple-two-three years away from being a bona fide regular MLB player.  For a team like the 2017 Mariners, in obvious Win-Now Mode, you can’t waste your time spinning your wheels trying to develop someone like Marte, who – for all the good he has in him – makes too many mental and physical mistakes to be a net positive.  With Segura, you’ve got a productive, veteran guy you can slot somewhere in the top of your order.  He’s also a guy I’m pretty confident can get on base at a good clip, which slides right into my next plus:  he’s speedy.  122 stolen bases the last four years.  With some of the speedy outfield guys we’ve got that can slot next to him in the lineup, it’s pretty alluring with the likes of Cano, Cruz, and Seager lined up behind them.  Segura, if nothing else, should score around or over 100 runs if nothing else, so long as he stays healthy.

And, hey, not to dump on Marte too much, but Segura’s defense should be good enough that he doesn’t give you a lot of the boneheaded throws and whatnot.

I’m not sold on Segura until I see him in some regular season action, but I’m better-than-50% confident he’ll be a quality player for this team, and I think that really bodes well for the offense and this team’s overall chances.

Very Important Mariners Of 2017: Kyle Seager

Click HERE for the list of other Very Important Mariners Of 2017.

Kyle Seager has been a rock since he arrived.  But, a rock that continues to push itself and improve over the years.  2016 was the best year of his career, and the scary thing is that he still has lots of room to improve.

I like Seager.  He might not be my favorite Mariner of all time, but he’s quickly rising through the ranks.  His defense is solid, but I wouldn’t consider him a natural like Adrian Beltre.  His at bats aren’t really Appointment Television (unless it’s the bottom of the 9th or later and we’re looking at a situation where he can tie it or win us the ballgame).  He’s not some hyper-specimen sent to us from the Baseball Gods to reinvent the National Pasttime.

But, he’s really, really good.  And, in that sense, he might be one of the rarest of players.  Most guys go through prolonged slumps; Kyle Seager mostly avoids these (particularly after the month of April).  Most guys have down years, thanks to one significant injury, many multiple nagging injuries, or simple blind bad luck; Kyle Seager is the same as he ever was, when he’s not actively improving.  It’s uncanny!  He’s the one guy I never have to worry about!  So, let’s throw a few more gasoline bombs onto this jinx fire and see if we can’t get him injured in Spring Training.

You know what’s crazy?  Kyle Seager is 29 years old; he could still be at least as productive as he is now for another 10 years, easily!  He could go down as the greatest all-around career-Mariner in the history of the franchise!  When you package the defense, the power, the improving batting average and on-base percentage, the fact that he plays third base – which is one of the tougher spots to fill and fill well – and wrap it all up in a guy who plays every day and doesn’t really fall off regardless of who’s pitching against him, and we’re talking about a guy who is going to go down as one of the most valuable players we’ve ever seen.

In 2017, he’s the third in our crucial Big Three.  We need Kyle Seager to keep being Kyle Seager.  And, if he wants to find a way to be even better than he was in 2016, we might be talking about a guy in the American League MVP conversation.  Granted, he’s a long shot, but it’s not impossible.

Welp, The Mariners Really Mariners’d Their Way Through That Rangers Series

Did the Mariners climax on the evening of June 2nd, when they made that huge comeback against the Padres to go to 31-22 on the season?  I remember, right around that time, feeling a level of excitement I haven’t felt since 2001 or so.  We were riding high, and we had a stretch of 6 games in 10 days against the Rangers, to see if we could prove that we’re the real thing or not.

In those 6 games, we went 1-5, and for the most part looked pretty bad against the clearly-superior Rangers.  After getting swept on the road half of the 6-game series, there was hope of the Mariners flipping the script on them – and their season as a whole – by doing the opposite at home (particuarly with Adrian Beltre on the shelf).  We got off to a good-enough start by winning on Friday (in spite of our best efforts to blow that game; luckily, the Mariners managed to play add-on in the bottom of the 8th inning to make the Rangers’ would-be game-tying homer in the 9th obsolete).  And, for a while there on Saturday, it looked like that sweep might be within reach!

I was there on Saturday, having come into a suite ticket with all the fixin’s, and it looked like a night for the ages.  James Paxton followed up last Monday’s performance with another gem, going 6.1 innings of shutout ball, allowing 6 hits & 2 walks against 7 strikeouts.  The Mariners scored their lone run in the 5th off the bat of Adam Lind (who failed in his attempt to set the Major League record by being the 5th Mariners player in a row to hit multiple homers in a game), and the bullpen did its job to keep the Rangers scoreless headed into the top of the 9th.

With Beltre out, it was Prince Fielder who picked up ABs this weekend.  Fielder had rightly been benched for being an overpaid tub of goo, but of course, with this being the Mariners, he busted out to completely dominate.  In this case, Steve Cishek decided to go right after him (as you should, because walking a .200 hitter would be a disaster), and Fielder turned it around and knocked it out of the park to tie the game.

The last couple of innings were a blur, but suffice it to say the Mariners’ bats stayed quiet.  The Rangers took the lead in the 11th and that was that.

As for yesterday’s game, what can you say?  Another Wade Miley dud.  And Steve Johnson showed you what he’s capable of doing when you give him lots of opportunities (hint:  he sucks).  The offense didn’t get its shit in gear until the last couple innings, but by that point it was far too late.  I guess the game ended with Cano trying to stretch a single into a double, but if you’re really going to get upset about that – in a series where the Mariners were pretty awful in a lot of different areas – then you do you.

I guess one silver lining is that we don’t have to play the Rangers again for a while.  We went from holding a marginal lead over them, to now being 5 games back.  Maybe by the end of August, we’ll have figured out how to beat them.

We’re now a modest 5 games over .500, and firmly in the Wild Card race, but it’s plain to see the Mariners need some help on the pitching side of things.

How much longer of a leash can we extend Wade Miley?  He’s got 4 quality starts out of 13; that type of production isn’t going to keep us in contention.

Is there any way we can trick some other team into taking Karns off our hands as one of the primary prospects in a Rent-A-Starter deal?  Karns is who he is, and that’s pretty much a Five & Diver who might ultimately be better suited as a reliever.

Considering Felix is looking like he could be out as much as 8 weeks (or until the end of July), the Mariners are probably going to have to make a deal for a starter sooner rather than later.

Also, I can’t be the only one who has no belief in Cishek’s ability to close out an important game.  Not in the way Fernando Rodney would get abused – either via the walk, or the dink n’ dunk variety of hits, before a full-on explosion – but in the way that Cishek is either on fire, or he’s giving up a bomb, and pretty much nothing in between.

Is it just me, or does this season feel like it’s going down the shitter?

Awards Season: Kyle Seager Is A Gold Glove Third Baseman

The Seattle Mariners’ first-ever Gold Glove player was Mark Langston in 1987.  From 1987 through 2010, the Mariners had at least one Gold Glover on their team (mostly thanks to Griffey and Ichiro, who were defensive stalwarts in their stints with the Mariners).  24 consecutive seasons, a remarkable stretch.  Our last Gold Glove players were Ichiro & Guti in 2010; since then, it’s been a barren wasteland (with one key snub being Brendan Ryan who should’ve won all the Gold Gloves).

This week, Kyle Seager hopes to start a new streak, as he just won his first Gold Glove award.  If you want to take a look at all the Mariners who have won the award, click HERE and scroll down.  It’s not a perfect award – it’s still voted on by people who may not necessarily follow the approved defensive metrics we’ve got in place today – but it’s still the most popular and noteworthy.  The Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t listing the number of Fielding Bibles players have won in the past, if that’s what you’re getting at.  The Gold Glove is still SOMETHING, even when it’s a crying shame that certain guys are squeezed out.

By all accounts, Kyle Seager took a “big step forward” in his defense this year.  I never thought he was all that bad before, but I think the biggest difference is:  he’s making the routine plays look easy and the difficult plays look routine.  Third base is an important defensive position.  You’ve got right handed power hitters jacking balls a million miles per hour in your direction, and you’ve got noodle-armed speedsters dropping bunts and the so-called “swinging bunts”.  His defense on those plays where he has to run up, one-hand a slow-roller, and uncork a powerful, off-balance throw to first base a half-second before the runner’s foot lands on the bag are certainly reminiscent of those good ol’ Adrian Beltre days of yore.

We’ve certainly come a long way since the days of Russ Davis.

Was Kyle Seager the most-deserving defensive third baseman in 2014?  Tough to say.  To be fair, he DIDN’T win the Fielding Bible (that went to Josh Donaldson of the A’s), but it sounds like the two players were close enough that this isn’t the biggest outrage of the century.

I’m a little more concerned with what this means going forward.  Before this year, Kyle Seager was a nice little player for us.  He came up with Dustin Ackley and was the steadier player of the two.  In his first couple (full) seasons, he hit 20+ homers and was one of the few pleasant stories on the team.  While his offensive numbers have slowly climbed each year, his defense has improved dramatically, culminating with his first All Star Game appearance and now his first Gold Glove award.  He’s really developing a nice little reputation in the league!  We’ll never have a chance to say Kyle Seager is underrated, because his 2014 season has proven that the rest of the baseball world is indeed properly rating this kid.

Which is good and bad.  It’s good because he’s getting better.  He’s not just some guy filling a hole at a key position of need.  He’s no longer just a guy who you “don’t have to worry about”.  Going forward, Kyle Seager is a guy you build around!  He’s a guy you stick somewhere around the top half of the lineup and watch him produce.  He’s a guy who helps those around him in the infield defend better, because the short stop doesn’t necessarily have to worry about covering extra territory.  He’s a star, and a guy other teams need to game plan for.

Which ultimately means he’s a guy who’s going to cost us a lot of money to retain.  He’s arbitration-eligible and in a couple years will be a full-blown free agent.  If the Mariners are going to take a shot at keeping him long-term, and getting something of a discount by buying-out his remaining arbitration years, they better do it now.  THIS offseason.  Yes, the Mariners need to fill holes at DH and in the outfield, but they also need to make Kyle Seager a top priority.

It seems like year-in and year-out, third base is one of the toughest positions to fill.  There really aren’t a lot of great third basemen out there.  Guys who can both hit well and defend well.  So, when you find one – and you’re able to cultivate him from the very beginning of his career – you NEED to keep him for as long as possible!

I have no doubt that the Mariners will get it done.  Just like they got an extension done with Felix.  This, really, has been what we’ve been waiting for since 2009, when the Mariners made a drastic reduction in payroll.  You can’t just go out and spend money willy-nilly on free agents, because they’re rarely worth the hundreds of millions of dollars they command.  The best way to spend your money is to extend your home-grown guys.  But, they have to be WORTH it.  And Kyle Seager is most certainly worth it.  He’ll be a great player in this league for at least another ten years.

Honestly, at this point, if we could get something in the area of 10 years, $180 million, I’d do that in a heartbeat.  With the way payroll is only going up and up across both leagues, $18 million per year will be right in line with his overall value.  And, if we can go with something cheaper – like 10 years, $150 million – Kyle Seager would be a steal.

The only problem with that is, I don’t know if he’d want a deal with that many years.  If he went in for a 4 or 5-year deal, he’d still be right there in the prime of his career, ready to TRULY max out a contract.  Just this week, Kyle Seager turned 27 years old; these are exciting times.

So, congratulations Kyle Seager!  Yes, the Gold Glove is nice and everything, but you’re also about to be a very rich man!  Now, let’s just hope that you’re a career Mariner, and we can all go home happy.

Week 26 Random Mariners Thoughts

If you asked me when I woke up on Friday morning last week, what would be more likely:  the Athletics winning just enough games against the Rangers, or the Mariners losing just enough games against the Angels, I would’ve bet the farm that the Mariners would’ve lost at least ONCE.  But, to their credit, when the chips were the most down they could’ve possibly been, the Mariners fought their way through to a 3-game sweep of the best team in baseball.

Granted, the Angels weren’t exactly trying their hardest once they got home field advantage, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Mariners needed to win out and they needed some help.  And, somehow, the Mariners managed to accomplish the first part of that equation.  It’s just too bad the Rangers were a little too bad.  Still, it WAS interesting.  With Oakland losing on Saturday night, while the Mariners would go on to win in extras, the season was pushed to the brink:  Game 162.  The Mariners needed to win that game – with Felix on the mound – and they needed the A’s to lose.

We learned just before the 6th inning that the game was essentially meaningless.  The A’s shut out the Rangers and our season was over.  But, for 161 games & 5 innings, the Mariners’ season had meaning!  This was truly the best year of baseball we’ve had around here since 2001 (I know the Mariners had winning records in 2002 and 2003, but those teams had their dreams crushed thanks to the A’s being insanely good and there not being a second Wild Card team).

In other news, Felix pitched 5.1 innings of shutout ball to claim the E.R.A. title at 2.14.  He ended his season 15-6 with a lot of really impressive counting and average stats.  Thanks to a scoring change in his last start against Toronto – where he got shelled – a hit was changed to an error (on Felix, I might add) that reduced his E.R.A. by something like 16 points.  Either way, it should give him enough to work with to get the Cy Young award.  So, that’s neat.

In Steven’s Gambling news, before the season started I put $550 on a futures bet.  The odds were -110, so it’s essentially $550 to win $500.  Anyway, the bet was Robinson Cano vs. Adrian Beltre:  who will get more combined hits, home runs, and RBI.  I put my money on Cano, and SAINTS BE PRAISED, it looks like my ship has come in!

  • Cano:  187 hits, 14 HR, 82 RBI; Total = 283
  • Beltre:  178 hits, 19 HR, 77 RBI; Total = 274

So, you know what that means:  I’m going back to Tahoe for the third straight year during the first weekend of March Madness!  BAM!  Thank you Robinson Cano; part of my proceeds will most likely go to getting some sort of Cano jersey.

By the by, did anyone catch that game on Saturday?  It was at the same time the perfect representation of a Seattle Mariners game, and also a crazy departure.  1 for 11 with runners in scoring position?  Check.  Multiple instances with the runner stranded on third base with less than two outs?  Check.  Lineup struggling against a left-handed starter, with the only damage being done by left-handed bats (because platooning is for suckers and our right-handed bats suck dick)?  Check.

And yet, there it was, only the second time the Mariners have had a walk-off win this entire season.  The first one, if memory serves, was that day game against Houston back in April where both the Mariners and Kyle Seager broke out of their funks to salvage an ultimately successful season.

There will be a lot to discuss about the 2014 Mariners in the coming weeks, as there will be about the 2015 Mariners and beyond.  We’re wearing our rose-colored glasses now because the season is just over and we came SO close.  And Felix was able to redeem himself yesterday and probably won himself the Cy Young (while getting an emotional standing ovation as he was pulled from the game one out into the sixth inning).  I’ll save the snark and the attitude for another day.

On this day (and probably on a few other days), I’ll celebrate the 2014 Mariners for what they were:  87-75, sixteen games better than they were in 2013.  They were interesting until the bitter end; though “interesting” can be both good and bad.  Still, they were better than I could have possibly hoped for.

I’ll just close with this.  A lot of media types on Twitter like to make fun of the crazed baseball fan who lives and dies with every pitch.  Granted, there are a good number of wackos out there.  But, NOW do you see why the Mariners drive us all crazy on a regular basis?  NOW do you see why everyone flips out on Twitter when the Mariners blow yet another amazing gem of a Felix start?  That shit adds up!  You say we’re nuts for melting down on Twitter when the Mariners blow a game in April; well, ARE WE?  If we’re so nuts, then riddle me this:  how many games behind the A’s for the second Wild Card are we?  That would be one game.  1.

That’s a 2-0 loss to the Angels at home in April.  That’s another 2-0 loss to the A’s in the second game of a doubleheader in May.  That’s a 1-0 loss to the Rangers in June where Felix went 8.1 innings of 4-hit ball and didn’t give up the run until the ninth inning.  Or how about a 1-0 loss to Hector Noesi and the White Sox in July?  I could go on and on.  These are the games that drive us the craziest, and if any one of these games had gone a little differently, the Mariners would still be playing baseball right now.

So, maybe cut us fans a little slack, huh?  Let us vent our feelings the only way we know how:  through crazed diatribes on Twitter to anyone who will listen.

Before the season started, I thought everything would have to break right for the Mariners to make the playoffs.  Indeed, when it comes to the pitching – especially the bullpen – everything DID break right.  Felix was Cy Young quality, Iwakuma bounced back to normal after losing a month, Chris Young might be Comeback Player of the Year, Roenis Elias successfully made the jump from AA and stuck with the big league club the whole way.  In spite of last week’s games in Houston and Toronto, the pitching carried this club.

But, when it comes to the hitting, a lot of shit went wrong, and we still managed to get pretty damn close.  Corey Hart was a huge bust.  Smoak was his usual self.  Brad Miller was a disaster for half the year.  Michael Saunders couldn’t stay healthy.  None of our center fielders or designated hitters could … hit.  Zunino was boom or bust at the plate, with his sub-.200 batting average.  All of our mid-season trade targets ended up hurting us more than helping.  The only things that went right were Cano having an as-expected season, Seager taking the next step to being an All Star, and Ackley busting out to show us why he was the top-rated hitting prospect in his draft class for half a year.  With an honorable mention for LoMo being a streaky first baseman who actually manages to have some hot streaks once in a while.

If certain young hitters mature, and if we’re able to bring in a couple bats to round out the lineup at DH and in the outfield, the 2015 Mariners could legitimately contend for a division title!  How exciting is that?

How Many All Star Appearances Does Robinson Cano Need To Make His Mariners Contract A Success?

That title is a little unwieldy, but go with me on this.

The objective behind that question isn’t to overly glorify the All Star Game.  As adults, I think most of us give that honor some degree of importance below what we gave as kids.  Yeah, making the All Star Game is nice for the player, but it’s sort of a meaningless honor where players who don’t necessarily deserve it get rubber-stamped into the game beyond their primes (see:  Derek Jeter).

Robbie Cano is an All Star for the sixth time in his career; obviously the first time as a Mariner.  He earned the honor in his second season in the bigs, then missed out for three years, and has been going back ever since.  You could say Cano is in the Rubber Stamp phase of his career, except clearly he is still deserving of the honor.

The thing about All Star Games is, you often don’t get recognized until you’ve put up a second season of greatness.  That’s obviously not true across the board, as you see rookies make it all the time, but it’s more of a general rule of thumb.  You also tend to get recognized at least a year after you should stop going.  Take Ichiro, for instance.  He was an All Star from his rookie year through 2010.  Are you telling me he was one of the three best outfielders in all of the American League in 2010?  I highly doubt it.

Getting back to Cano, you have to figure he’s got a number of All Star-worthy years left in him, followed by probably another Rubber Stamp year that we won’t really count because it’s not important.  What’s important is:  how many elite years will the Mariners get with Cano?

I ask that, because I don’t see a dramatic falling off a cliff in him.  I figure there will be ‘X’ number of All Star-worthy years, then there will be a more gradual decline.  Maybe a couple of just-okay seasons, followed by ‘X’ number of pretty bad years where you’re not getting NEARLY the return on investment as you’d like.  That’s just the way it’s going to be, unless Cano is superhuman (which, for the record, I won’t rule out).

So, I ask again:  how many All Star appearances does Cano need to make his contract a success?

2014 is the first year of 10.  He’s 31 right now.  He will be 40 in 2023.  He’s making $24 million in each year of his deal.  There is no opt-out that I’m aware of.

I like the Ichiro example when it comes to Cano, because I feel like we can see some parallels there.  Ichiro was 27 when he hit the Major Leagues.  That was his rookie season and arguably it was the best season of his career.  I don’t know what he was like in Japan, but let’s just say his year-27 season was the first season of his “Prime”.  I would argue that Ichiro’s prime extended through the 2010 season, when he was 36 years old.  2010 wasn’t on par with 2001 or anything – this was definitely the tail end of his prime – but it was still a very good year with 200 hits and all that.  In 2011 and 2012, while still playing a full slate of games in each year, Ichiro’s hit totals declined to 184 and 178 respectively.  Again, not a dramatic drop-off, but you can see that he’s a shell of his former “Prime” self.

I know Cano’s game and Ichiro’s game are dramatically different – Ichiro’s game was based on speed and infield hits, batting leadoff, and playing a very good defensive right field; Cano’s game involves more power, more RBI production, more walks, and the more-important defensive position of second base – but just go with me on this too.  Cano’s year-36 season will be in 2019.  If he can hang onto his “Primeness” through 2019, that will be 6 of the 10 years.  And, if he declines gradually, as Ichiro did, then years 7 and 8 shouldn’t be too bad either.  It’ll be in the two final years where we probably won’t want to play Cano every day (but might be obligated to, considering the heft of his contract).

So, how does that sound?  Does 6 years of All Star-calibre play, followed by 2 years of just-okay play sound like something you could live with under Cano’s $240 million deal?  Because, I could TOTALLY live with it.  And, obviously, anything beyond that (if, indeed, he is super human).

But, what happens if it’s only 4 or 5 All Star years before he starts his decline?  At what point is the contract a failure?

I know this post probably could’ve been written when we first signed Cano (and, indeed, I’m sure some variation or another is out there in Mariner Blog Land), but I didn’t feel like writing it then.  When someone signs a huge contract with a new team (especially one that plays half its games in Safeco Field), it’s not out of the question to wonder if you’ll get ANY All Star-calibre seasons out of a player.  How have the Angels done with Pujols?  How about the Tigers/Rangers with Fielder?  At least with Cano, we KNOW we’ve got at least one All Star year!  And, you’d think, as long as he stays healthy, we’ll have at least a few more.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I think I need these first six years to be great.  I’d settle for five years of great (as long as the subsequent three years were in the just-okay range, as opposed to two), but I wouldn’t be thrilled.  Four or less?  That’s got disaster written all over it.  Six years or more of Cano struggling might seriously wipe me out.

Of course, the good thing about all of this is that we don’t have to worry about it now.  Because Cano IS good.  He’s great, even!  And, if he helps me win my futures bet against Adrian Beltre at season’s end, he can go on to have nine years of ineptitude for all I care!