The 2020 Mariners Are Giving People A Lot Of Hope For 2021

The best-case scenario for the 2020 Mariners would’ve been going 60-0 with the players we had on our original roster (without calling up any of our prized prospects), followed by a rampage through the playoffs and our first (of many) World Series titles; my second and third wishes – for the record, if there are any lamp-imprisoned genies out there reading this – would be a billion tax-free American dollars given to me through no criminal means, and my very own Perpetual Orgasm Machine that I’m able to plug into Matrix-style for my own nonstop indulgence.

Since we obviously didn’t reach that apex of baseball achievement, I’d have to say the 2020 Mariners season was a qualified success! I’ll rate it a 7 out of 10 batting doughnuts (you don’t rate baseball success on a scale of batting doughnuts?). Based on expectations as a long-suffering Mariners fan, though, I’d have to bump it up to an 8 out of 10.

There was every reason to expect the worst this year. Key guys getting injured. Potential stars failing to develop. Botched trades. Useless free agent signings. Listless or negative clubhouse chemistry compounded exponentially as losses mounted. The Mariners have been in some form of rebuild since plummeting back to Earth in 2004. You can say they’ve never really torn the franchise down to the studs until this time around – and I’m inclined to agree with you – but there’s also no one right way to rebuild a franchise. As it turns out, hindsight being what it is, we know that all the ways we’ve tried it over the last 16 years have been utter failures, largely due to the reasons listed at the top of this paragraph; we’ve seen it all and then some!

So, to have the relative success this team was able to achieve is pretty remarkable. For the first time in a VERY long time, there is reason for actual hope. This feels real! Not based on a mountain of lies and unsustainably-lucky performances. We finished 27-33, and even with the playoffs expanded to eight teams per league, we still failed to get there. Honestly, I think that’s great! We didn’t overachieve! Because let’s face it, the last time there was this much hype around a bad, yet-hopefully-rebuilding Mariners squad, we did overachieve (in 2007 and again in 2009) and were crushingly disappointed (in 2008 and again in 2010).

Our general managers in those eras made what now feels like panic moves, to bolster a house of cards and see if we could parlay unlikely success into a return to meaningful, post-season baseball. And, we ended up losing over 100 games in response both times, falling apart under the weight of too-high expectations.

That isn’t to say the Mariners should stand pat going into 2021; just stick to the plan. The plan all along was to strip away the rotting, dead wood, give our young prospects an opportunity to flourish, and then add on complementary, quality veterans to slingshot into the stratosphere. While a 60-game, COVID-shortened season isn’t the ideal form of development for our young guys, it’s better than nothing. And, you can argue they flourished all the same.

The M’s are in desperate need for young, cheap, homegrown stars (not necessarily draft picks or international free agent signings, but really anyone acquired to work their way through our minor league system). Kyle Seager was really the last one to stick in any sort of meaningful way, and he obviously has a ceiling to his level of production; before him you’re probably looking at King Felix. That’s NOT a lot of stars over the last 15 years, which makes the futility all the more understandable.

With the crop of youngsters we have on the team now, and the guys in the upper levels of the minors (who figure to be called up pretty early on in the 2021 season), there are a considerable number of candidates who could be stars for this team. That’s so exciting!

As a change of pace, I’m going to rank the top Mariners I’m most excited about, with a little blurb for each.

  1. Jarred Kelenic – We did it! We kept him in the minors for the entirety of the 2020 season! That buys us an extra year of club control, and if we keep him down there for the first month or so in 2021, that’ll earn us one MORE year. This is important, see, because he’s far and away the best prospect we’ve had in the organization since King Felix, the best position player prospect we’ve had since Adam Jones, and probably the best position player prospect who we’re not going to foolishly trade away since Alex Rodriguez! If it all breaks as it should, his floor should be as a perennial All Star, with his ceiling being an MVP-calibre superstar.
  2. Kyle Lewis – Our should-be Rookie of the Year, he’s really exceeded expectations both in his 2019 cup of coffee and his 2020 surge forward. Of course, in both instances, we saw some struggles; his final month of this season was a pretty collosal nightmare from a batting average perspective. But, he remained a tough out – with a resepctable on-base percentage throughout – and took a huge leap in his defense, in locking down the everyday centerfield job. You never root for someone to do poorly, of course, but I don’t think his end to the season was a bad thing. He’s not a finished product, that’s clear. That’s also really exciting, because we know what the floor is (and that’s a really good player); we have no idea what the ceiling is, though, which allows us to dream as big as we want!
  3. Evan White – On paper, his rookie season wasn’t all that good, but there are still promising signs of things to come. For starters, he’s already among the best defensive first basemen in baseball. That’s going to paper over a lot of things for someone who slashed only .179/.253/.352. Anecdotally, though, I think we all saw some good improvement with his approach at the plate. In 54 games, he hit 7 doubles and 8 homers; extrapolate that out for nearly a full season and you’re looking at a 20/20 player. As a rookie? I’ll take that. This was good, pain-free experience for a still-developing prospect; I know I’ve said this a lot over the years, but I really believe he’s only going to get better from here. When he makes contact, the ball really explodes off his bat! This isn’t a Justin Smoak/Warning Track Power sort of swing; he’s got some pop that will play at this level! He just needs to improve his eye at the plate and his contact rate; everything else will work itself out in the years ahead.
  4. Marco Gonzales – What a stud. Just an absolute horse for this team. Someone to lead a new generation of exciting pitchers both with his outstanding on-field performance and his in-clubhouse guidance. I’ll be honest, I forgot we already extended him through 2025, but now that I confirmed it (and at a pretty reasonable salary to boot), I’m even more thrilled! When the M’s originally acquired him from the Cardinals in 2017, I thought we were getting just another ho-hum, soft-tossing lefty who at best would translate to a #5 starter, but more likely fizzle out of baseball entirely. Boy am I happy to be so wrong! He has gotten better every year he’s been here, to the point where you can legitimately have him in the Cy Young conversation! I thought his 2018/2019 level of production was his peak – a 4 ERA type of guy who might give you 175-200 innings and keep you in most games – but what he was in 2020 was a legitimate … ALMOST ace. He’s so close! If he can do what he did this season over 30+ starts next year, then I’ll absolutely give him that mantle for as long as he’s still in Seattle.
  5. Mitch Haniger – Don’t think I forgot about you! You know what’s exciting? Having an All Star locked and loaded and ready to go (hopefully) in 2021. He’s still young, he’s still at the Arbitration level for two more seasons, he’s STARVING to be back on the diamond and among the greats in this league again (so you know motivation won’t be an issue), and he’s still talented in all the ways you want in a right fielder. Sure, he might be a little rusty at first, but he hasn’t irrevocably declined; he’s just had nagging, freak injuries. Injuries, mind you, that should fully heal and shouldn’t hamper his ability going forward. I’m under the assumption that – before too long – he’ll return to his 2018 level, where he was a 6-WAR type of player. This further helps matters because, while the Mariners do have a considerable glut in outfield talent, they don’t necessarily have to call them all up right away. We’ve got Haniger here to soften the blow! Also, with the DH spot up for grabs, if we do end up extending Haniger beyond 2022, he can always transition there and prolong his career that way.
  6. J.P. Crawford – Before the final series of the season – where he raised his batting average nearly 30 points in four games – I think there was a lot of consternation about Crawford’s 2020 season. To that I would say: this is the same guy who was hitting nearly .400 through July 31st; he’s streaky! In great and maddening ways! If you offered me .259/.335/.343 out of him every year, with the quality defense he plays at short stop, I think I’d take that and be happy. I don’t think anyone loves the idea of him being this team’s leadoff hitter – though, he was pretty great at working counts and looking at a lot of pitches this year – but as a bottom-of-the-order type of guy with plus-defense? Yes please! But, more importantly, he’s young enough that there’s still plenty of potential for him to get better as he gets used to playing at this level. I think he’s fine, and I’m happy to continue rooting for him.
  7. Justus Sheffield – There was a lot of concern for him as I’ve noted before, the bloom had come off the rose a little bit (even though he only just turned 24 this year). He was always going to start this season in the Majors and be given every opportunity to work his way through any growing pains. I think he came out of it wildly successful given my pre-season expectations! Six of his ten starts were of the quality variety, and I’d argue it would’ve been seven of ten had the manager left him in there longer in his final appearance of the season (there was no reason to push him, since we weren’t playing for anything, but he had plenty left in the tank). The fastball isn’t great, but his slider is phenomenal, and I thought his command improved tremendously from where it was in 2019. When we traded James Paxton to get him, we’d hoped we were getting a future ace; I don’t think that’s in the cards here. But, he can be a quality #2 or an elite #3 in a great rotation if he continues to progress.
  8. Ty France – He’s not the biggest name we got in the Austin Nola deal, but he’s the most Major League-ready bat, which is just what this team needs. The question remains: where does he belong? Is he a DH until Kyle Seager moves on? Does he take over at third base after that? Do we try to transition him over to second base? Do we shoehorn him into left field until Kelenic gets called up? Or, is he simply trade bait for someone else who has a more established defensive fit for this team? What I’m excited about is the fact that his production at the plate didn’t falter one bit in going from San Diego to Seattle. You never know what you’re going to get when you trade for someone; sometimes the transition causes them to press and try to do too much (leading to mistakes). His bat plays anywhere in the 2-6 range in the lineup – depending on who you’ve got around him – and it should continue to be productive as long as he’s here (under team control through the 2025 season).
  9. Dylan Moore – He’s your frontrunner for the starting second baseman job next year, but he too can play all over the field if you need him. This is VERY impressive for someone who appeared to be nothing more than a utility guy (at best) or a Quad-A level talent (at worst). We’ve seen TONS of Dylan Moore types who never took the next step into being an everyday starter, which is why his story is so special. He came into this season and really set all of our expectations on fire! His defense has DRASTICALLY improved since the beginning of 2019, and now his bat – particularly his power numbers – has taken that leap as well. He’s yet another diamond in the rough this team was able to pluck from obscurity who should be a valuable player on the roster, as well as a valuable trade chip if we need him to be.
  10. Tom Murphy / Luis Torrens – Let’s just lump both of our prospective catchers in here. This has long been a troubled position for the Mariners (as an organization with LOTS of trouble spots they’ve failed to properly fill over the years, that’s really saying something). It’s so reassuring that we not only have this spot 100% locked down in 2021, but for many years to come (with prospect Cal Raleigh knocking on the door of the Majors, who figures to be our regular starting catcher as soon as 2022 or 2023). Murphy, of course, spent 2020 injured, but he should return at full health (and to his quality 2019 form). This, fortunately, afforded us ample opportunity to get a good, long look at Torrens, who also came over from San Diego, and was really reliable in all facets of the catching game for the M’s.
  11. Justin Dunn – Our other big rookie starter getting a “full” season’s worth of experience didn’t have quite as promising of a year as Sheffield. He too has a rather disappointing fastball, but makes up for it with tons of movement. Which means that he didn’t give up very many hits (or even a ton of hard-hit balls), but he walked a bunch of dudes (31 in just over 45 innings). You wonder, if he is able to harness things and stay within the strike zone more, if that’ll translate to giving up more hits and extra-base hits. BUT, if he’s able to put it ALL together, he could be a really special guy. As it is, this was just a year to get his feet wet, and he did that, while staying healthy throughout. He’s worked his arm up, accounting for four quality starts out of ten, and now it’s time to take what he’s learned this year and advance things in 2021 and beyond. Once again – with Sheffield – he’ll be given every opportunity to walk out of Spring Training with a starting rotation job, which means he has a significant head start over the younger guys we’ve drafted in recent years, who are champing at the bit to make their marks in the Major Leagues.
  12. Yohan Ramirez – The bullpen was an unmitigated disaster in 2020, but Ramirez – the Rule 5 guy we got from the Cheating Astros’ organization – managed to not only stay up all year, but be probably our best overall reliever, as well as the guy most poised to be our Closer of the Future. He made 16 appearances, got 3 saves, and had the best ERA on the team (of guys who finished the season on the 25-man roster). He had 26 strikeouts in 20.2 innings, so he’s got electric stuff; but he also had 20 walks in that span, which means he’s yet to fully harness it. Bullpen is such a crapshoot, and we’ve probably got 20 guys right behind him who all have potential to be at least competent, so I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense to go crazy here. I’m just happy we came out of this season with ONE guy I like!

I could go on and on; there are a few pitchers in the minors I’m pretty excited about, but I know almost nothing about them, and I don’t know what exactly they were able to accomplish in Tacoma this year, without any real games happening (and facing the same Mariners prospects over and over). Many of them won’t be ready until 2022 at the earliest, and even the guys who are on the cusp will still likely have to start 2021 in the minors just to prove they’re ready to be called up.

But, if you just look at the guys I talked about here, 2021 looks like it could be quite fun. By midseason, Kelenic, Lewis, and Haniger could be our outfielders. Seager, Crawford, Moore, White, and Murphy/Torrens could be our infield, with Ty France as our DH (and any number of good-looking bench/utility guys behind them, like Jose Marmolejos, Sam Haggerty, Tim Lopes, and Shed Long). What do you think about this lineup?

  1. Dylan Moore (2B)
  2. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  3. Kyle Lewis (CF)
  4. Kyle Seager (3B)
  5. Ty France (DH)
  6. Evan White (1B)
  7. Jarred Kelenic (LF)
  8. Tom Murphy/Luis Torrens (C)
  9. J.P. Crawford (SS)

Obviously, of course, Kelenic will eventually ascend toward the 2-4 range in the lineup, but as a rookie? Let’s give him a soft landing, at least until he’s worked through his inevitable struggles.

That’s a fun lineup, though, right?! Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais are already talking about the 2021 team contending for the playoffs – which is a good year (at least) earlier than most projections had us heading into this season – and that has to be a considerable reason why. Those guys can hit, defend, steal bases, get on base; everything you want! That’s a viable Major League everyday roster that can win a lot of ballgames.

On the pitching side of things, it’s a little more iffy. It sounds like we’re going to continue with a 6-man rotation, with four of the slots going to Marco, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justin Dunn. Figure that Nick Margevicius and Ljay Newsome will compete for a fifth spot (with the other likely heading to the bullpen as a long reliever), and a sixth spot going to a free agent (maybe bring back Taijuan Walker, who was KILLING it in Toronto after we traded him; it’s a bummer that it doesn’t look like he got a chance to pitch in the playoffs, before they lost to the Rays). With all the money the Mariners have to spend, I have to imagine that whoever we sign in free agency will be of high quality. So, if you figure he’s at least on Marco’s level, that’s two high-quality starters at the top of the rotation, with two promising young guys in Sheffield & Dunn, and Kikuchi who will hopefully figure it out at some point (considering his pedigree in the Japanese league). Also, not for nothing, but Margevicius and Newsome both threw lots of strikes and consistently kept the M’s in ballgames, so I have no problem with either one of them.

It’s not a dominant rotation, but as long as guys don’t regress too bad, you can win a lot with them.

The bullpen is another matter, of course. You figure the M’s will also look to free agency here to shore it up, but I won’t be holding my breath. The variance from season to season when it comes to relievers makes them too unpredictable to project. It’s going to take a lot of luck – in finding the right guys, as well as helping our homegrown guys improve in their development – but if the Mariners somehow hit the lottery with their bullpen configuration, then 2021 could very well be the year we end the streak.

It could be the first year since 2001 that we make the post-season!

(it would also help if MLB kept the playoff format as is, with eight teams per league advancing, but that’s neither here nor there).

As I mentioned, every time I’ve left a season allowing myself to dream big about the future, the Mariners have fallen on their faces. This time DOES feel different, though. The foundation doesn’t seem like it’s being held together by 15 year old duct tape, with a leaking roof and spiders crawling all over the basement. The veterans are still in their primes, the young guys look poised to develop early, and if we can just catch a fucking BREAK for once, maybe there will be cause for real, legitimate celebration in 2021!

Or, you know, maybe everything falls apart again, the front office all gets fired after making all these promises of contention, panic moves – made in hopes to save their jobs – all bite us horrifically in the ass, and we’re left to do this all over again in another 5-10 years.

When I put it that way, when do the Seattle Kraken start playing?

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 2019 Mariners Have Even Bigger Ewing Theory Potential Than The 2001 Mariners

All credit to Bill Simmons, let’s go back JUST a bit, to 2001.

To put it in context, we all remember that crazy-wonderful 1995 team that saved baseball in Seattle. In 1996, behind a number of questionable dealings, and one glaring Randy Johnson-sized hole in our rotation, we fell back to Earth a little bit. But, the original core put it all together for a quasi-memorable playoff run that ended in the ALDS. That team was absolutely LOADED, with one of the all-time best power offenses in MLB history (264 homers, 925 runs scored, tops in the league in slugging & OPS), to go along with a healthy Big Unit, a rock-solid complement of starters featuring Jamie Moyer & Jeff Fassero, and a zoo of a bullpen that eventually coalesced into something halfway passable (though it cost us an arm & a leg in deadline deals to make it happen).

If you want to talk about one of the most underrated Seattle sports What Could’ve Been’s, the 1997 Mariners are right at the top. I mean, how does a team with Griffey, Edgar, A-Rod, and Buhner (all at the absolute PEAK of their powers) lose to the Baltimore Orioles in 4 games in the ALDS with Randy Johnson losing TWICE? It’s absolutely unfathomable. You’re telling me that team couldn’t have taken out the Indians and the Marlins for a World Series title? Get real!

Anyway, halfway through the 1998 season, the M’s traded Randy (as opposed to extending him; he would go on to win 4 Cy Young Awards and a World Series title in Arizona) while we slogged through a losing season. Then, after another slog through 1999, Griffey demanded a trade. We somehow managed to parlay that into a 2000 Wild Card finish and an ALCS appearance. Following that, A-Rod walked to the Rangers with a then-record $252 million contract, and in 2001 we somehow managed to parlay it into a tie for the most wins in a season in MLB history.

I now refer you back to that Bill Simmons article, which was actually written in the early stages of that 2001 season. Sometimes, freaky shit like this happens! The Mariners dropped three of their most talented players of all time – in the primes of their respective careers – and somehow improved. What the shit is that?!?

Fast forward to 2019. The Mariners just rid themselves of – or are otherwise playing without – the following guys:

  • Robinson Cano
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Kyle Seager
  • Jean Segura
  • James Paxton
  • Alex Colome

Those are just the BEST guys, or ostensibly the guys who are supposed to be the best. That doesn’t even factor other bullpen arms, Mike Zunino, various other Quad-A outfielders, and so on and so forth. But those 7 guys up there are pretty huge. And yet, the 2019 Mariners are now 10-2 and absolutely DESTROYING everyone in their path!

Now, as it relates to this team’s 2001 Ewing Theory status, at least that team was coming off of a playoff appearance. THIS team is coming off of zero playoff appearances in 18 years!

Of course, the question is: How long can this continue? As I’ve written about ad nauseam so far, it’s only a matter of time. But, then again, who knows?

What we do know is that this offense is raking through 11 games, having hit 5 more homers last night en route to another lopsided victory. +37 in run differential is now the best in all of baseball, and from what we heard all last year, that’s the most important indicator of a team’s success, right?

So, maybe instead I should be asking: How long can this offense keep it up?

I don’t have a good answer for you there, but I hope it’s forever. If they are indeed the Best Offense In Baseball, then I think we’ll have to shift expectations for where this team can end up. Either way, at this point I’m glad I didn’t bet on the over/under for season wins, because I’m pretty sure I would’ve taken UNDER 74.5, and I’d be looking like an idiot right now.

Edgar’s In The Hall Of Fame

It’s been 10 years in the making, but Edgar Martinez finally got enough votes to crack Major League Baseball’s Hall Of Fame.

This is obviously a great day for long-suffering Mariners fans, as we get to live vicariously through one of the nicest, most talented, and dependable guys this franchise has ever had. It was always obvious to us why he deserved to be in the HOF, but it took the rest of the baseball-writing world outside of Seattle a long time to finally catch up to what made Edgar so special.

.312/.418/.515. 514 doubles, 309 homers, 1,261 RBI, 2,247 hits, 1,219 runs scored, 1,283 walks against 1,202 strikeouts. 18 years with the same team. The greatest Designated Hitter of all time.

The Mariners once had four HOF-worthy players on the roster at the same time (if you include Randy and cheatin’-ass A-Rod) and never made the World Series. Let that sink in. Obviously, you can see by how long it took Edgar to finally get here, how hard it is to accrue a stat line like that. It’s SO HARD to make the Hall Of Fame in baseball. Yet, the Mariners once had four all-timers on the same team; guys you could make arguments for that were:

  • The best centerfielder of all time (Griffey)
  • The best short stop of all time (A-Rod)
  • The best DH of all time (Edgar)
  • The best left-handed pitcher of all time (Randy)

I MEAN THAT’S SIMPLY INSANE! And as a reward, the Mariners get no World Series, and two decades of utter futility (and counting).

And, if I can shoehorn something else to be upset about, Mariano Rivera was the first player to ever be unanimously inducted into the HOF. 3 idiots refused to vote for Griffey, but a CLOSER has 100%. Okay. Fuck the Yankees. And fuck the morons who fall for the bullshit Yankees mystique.

Fuck You Angels! The Mariners Got The Sweep

When I was a kid, I gave much more of a shit about baseball rivalries than I do now.  I hated the Yankees, obviously.  I disliked the Rangers quite a bit (especially when they signed A-Rod).  In the early 2000’s, I REALLY hated the Athletics, because even though the Mariners won 90+ games from 2000-2003, the A’s were the reason why we only made the playoffs twice (in spite of a couple 93-win campaigns).  In recent years, I guess I hate the Astros, but I don’t even know if they qualify as a rivalry, from my fan’s perspective.  It’s more of a looming dread whenever I see HOU coming up on the little pocket calendar I have hanging up at my desk.  When the switch flipped and Houston became HOUSTON, it’s been utter annihilation (and even before they were good, they still won an annoying amount of times).  Besides, this is really the first year where the Mariners and Astros have been on the same level, record-wise.  They may indeed grow to become my most hated baseball enemy when the season’s over.

But, for now, I think I hate the Angels the most.  Granted, they’re clearly the better franchise.  They’ve actually WON a World Series, for instance.  They’ve been to the playoffs 10 times to our 4; they’ve consistently been more of a winning team in general (and haven’t had those bottom-out years like the Mariners have).  Nevertheless, with the Astros way up there, I’ve always seen the Angels as more of our peers.  Whenever you find the Mariners contending for a wild card spot, the Angels always seem to be right there with us.  Also, from 2010 onward, the Angels only have the 1 playoff appearance, so it’s not like they’ve been super awesome of late.  And, they’ve had a number of players I couldn’t help but despise, from Mike Trout to Jered Weaver to (retroactively) Chone Figgins to John Lackey to Troy Glaus to Tim Salmon to Chuck Finley.  The only Angels player I ever really liked was Vlad, because he was fucking amazing and I secretly never forgave the Mariners for not making a bigger push to sign him when he was a free agent after 2003.  Can you even imagine?  That would’ve been so much fun!

Anyway, the Mariners just swept the Angels yesterday in the 3-game series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t hold out a ton of hope in yesterday’s game, even when the Angels’ starter was pulled after 2 innings with an injury.  Marco Gonzales really wasn’t as sharp as he’d been of late, only lasting 5 innings, giving up 3 runs.  We knew ahead of time that Edwin Diaz wasn’t going to be available, after pitching 3 games in a row, and in 4 games in 5 days.  That slotted the bullpen all kinds of wonky, and accordingly the bullpen wasn’t as sharp as it had been of late either.  Newcomer Mike Morin – in just his 2nd appearance since being called up from Tacoma – gave up a run on a triple and a sac fly.  Chasen Bradford – who has been all kinds of good this year – gave up 2 solo homers in the 7th to put us behind by 2 runs.  And, there we were, late in the game, facing the prospects of losing for just the third time in the month of June.

That’s when the offense went back to work.  Gamel and Zunino had RBIs in the 2nd to stake the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.  Then, after an RBI by Trout (who somehow didn’t homer in this one, though he did have two hits and two intentional walks), Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb (which is his 5th in the last 5 games) to put the M’s up 4-1.  In the 7th, after Bradford gagged up the homers, Segura hit a guy in on a double; followed by Healy solo homering in the 8th to re-tie the game; ultimately setting the stage for a bottom of the 9th showdown (thanks to a couple scoreless innings out of eventual winner Roenis Elias).

With one out, Segura on at first, Mitch Haniger took a mistake by the Angels pitcher and deposited it into the left field stands for his second walk-off home run of the season.  Not for nothing, but that’s his 16th homer of the season (tying his mark of 2017) and his 52nd RBI (surpassing what he did in 2017, in 29 fewer games).  Can you imagine what it’ll be like if he can stay healthy all year?  He truly is deserving of a slot on the All Star team.

The Mariners are still 0.5 games ahead of the Astros, but are now 7.5 games ahead of the Angels, which is just the best.

Now, we’ve got a 4-game series against the Red Sox.  I hope you like a lot of annoying Boston fans, because they’re coming out in force!  The good news is Chris Sale pitched yesterday, so we lucked into avoiding one of the best lefties in the game.  The bad news is the rest of their rotation is also really fucking good.  And, James Paxton is saddled with Friday’s “Fireworks Night” game, which I believe the Mariners have lost every fucking time they’ve done it.  Here’s to hoping for a little of that old Felix magic tonight as he squares off against David Price.  This series could get REAL dicey in a hurry.

The Mariners Lost The Series To The Angels

This was kind of a big deal:  the first series of the year against REALLY your primary rival for the Wild Card.  You figure there are three teams in the A.L. East who are vying for two spots – a division winner and that other Wild Card spot – you figure there’s only one team coming out of the A.L. Central (unless one of the sub-Indians teams goes on a real hot streak), you figure the Astros are eventually going to separate themselves as the clearcut winner of the A.L. West, and it’s going to be a 2-team race for 1 spot between the Mariners and Angels.  If that all proves true, and we figure the Mariners are going to struggle mightily against the Astros, and beat up on most of the lesser teams around baseball, then the measure of the 2018 season is going to come down to how we play against the Angels.  This was, as I said, the first look at how we’d fare against them, and honestly it wasn’t pretty.

Shohei Ohtani was always going to dominate the Mariners.  If you’ve followed the Mariners for any period of time, that was completely obvious to you, because why wouldn’t he?  It’s a guy we all wanted, a guy we thought might want to come here throughout the courtship, and a guy who ultimately not only spurned us, but spurned us for a division rival.  This was – while not a 1 to 1 complete match – A-Rod going to the Rangers all over again.  This was every major prospect we traded away.  This was every guy who stunk for the Mariners and ended up being amazing somewhere else the very next year.  All of that, all rolled into one guy who’s both an amazing hitter and a guy who can throw upwards of 100 miles per hour, while having just the most devastating off-speed pitches in baseball.  There was never a chance he WOULDN’T kick our asses, in spite of some early-season struggles with command or whatever.  That was never going to come into play; he was always going to throw 6+ innings and quite frankly we were LUCKY to get the 2 runs off of him that we got.  I wrote off that Sunday game as a loss the second I saw confirmation he was going to be the starter.  The fact that we lost 8-2 is very disappointing, but I won’t say I was surprised by the number of runs we gave up either.  Felix just isn’t going to be very good against the better offenses of this league, so when the guys aren’t hitting for him, those games are going to be pretty ugly more often than not.

I was much more disappointed in the 5-0 drubbing on Friday.  Mike Leake didn’t look like anything special and the offense was just overwhelmed.  Midway through the game on Saturday – when the Mariners were losing 1-0 and looking similarly overwhelmed offensively – I thought there was a legitimate chance (with Ohtani going the next day) that the Mariners would not only be swept at home, but completely SHUT OUT in a 3-game series, which would have to be up there all-time on the futility list.

I was at the game on Friday and ended up leaving early, which was the appropriate thing to do.  I got my Han Seago bobblehead, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a bobblehead, so I’m happy.  I was also at the game on Saturday, and thank Christ the Mariners started piling on some runs, because I would’ve been pretty distraught if I would’ve paid to watch two demoralizing defeats in a row.

It was 90’s Night on Saturday, and while we got there too late (or went in through the wrong entrance) to get the James Paxton Fanny Pack that I wanted, it’s probably for the best.  Do I really need one more Mariners thing I’m never going to use?  That’s awkward to display?  No thanks.  Losing out on the bobblehead would’ve been far worse.

Anyway, they played like it was the 1990s, as the Mariners hit a bunch (winning 9-8 in 11 innings) and got some really shoddy pitching (particularly from the bullpen, as our top two guys did everything in their power to give this one away).  I had a feeling before the start of the game that it would be high scoring, and even predicted there’d be more than 12 combined runs scored, but I never could’ve imagined the way it happened.  For starters, as I said before, it was 1-0 into the sixth inning.  The Angels hit a 3-run jack to ensure Marco Gonzales wouldn’t survive a 6-inning start totally unscathed.  Down 4-0, that’s when the Mariners embarked upon the big comeback.  There were 2 runs in the bottom of the sixth, then another 4 more in the eighth to take a 2-run lead into the ninth.  That’s when all hell broke loose.

With two outs, Mike Trout hit a double off of Edwin Diaz, and with two strikes, Justin Upton hit a game-tying 2-run home run for Diaz’s first blown save of the year.  Juan Nicasio came in for the 10th and gave up a go-ahead run, followed by the Mariners tying it up in the bottom half of the inning on a single and a throwing error.  Newcomer Erik Goeddel gave up another go-ahead run in the 11th, but this time the Mariners were able to walk it off thanks to an RBI double by Seager and a game-winning single by Healy.

It was one of the more improbable victories you’re ever going to see, and if there’s ANY reason for optimism based on this series, that’s what you’d point to:  this team’s fight.  This team’s elite hitting.  But, overall, the starting pitching was pretty miserable all three games, and the bullpen has proven over this past week that you’re not going to be able to rely upon them 100% of the time.  They’ve shown cracks.  There’s still only 2 guys you can REALLY count upon, and even those guys aren’t perfect.  The more they struggle, the more this team is going to struggle, and the less likely this team will break the playoff drought.

The Mariners went 1-2 against the Angels in this series, and they were MUCH closer to being 0-3 than they were 2-1.  If that continues throughout the season, and we end up somewhere around 6-13 or so against them, that’s ultimately going to be the deciding factor in whether we reach the Wild Card or not.  Anything worse than 9-10 against the Angels is a guaranteed No Playoffs For The Mariners; anything around .500 and we have a shot if we get lucky; anything 11-8 or better and I’ll go on record as saying that’s good enough to get the Mariners in.

So, the question is:  can they do that?  Based on what I saw this weekend, I don’t think so.  Based on what these teams are right now, on paper, if nothing significantly changes, I don’t think the Mariners will be better than the Angels, and I ultimately believe they’ll be maybe 2-3 games out of the Wild Card when the season ends.  Take that or what it’s worth.  It’s still early, there’s a lot that can happen.  I’ll say this:  I don’t think the Angels are DRAMATICALLY better than the Mariners.  I think they’ll have their ups & downs just like we will; they’ll have series where they look like crap too.  But, in the head-to-head matchups, I don’t think we match up well with them, and I think that’s ultimately what’s going to torpedo this season.

The Definitive Mount Rushmore For Seattle Sports

That’s a bold proclamation, but I’m a bold individual.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers
Thursday:  Mariners, Supersonics, & Seahawks (past & present)

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of 80’s Heavy Metal Bands?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue, and come at me bro if you think I’m wrong because I’ll fight this whole fucking town!

Today, it’s all on my shoulders to select the Mount Rushmore for Seattle sports.  It’s a daunting task, to say the least.  Am I man enough for it?  I dunno, probably not, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

So, I suppose to do this right, there have to be some parameters.  Obviously, they have to be great at their sport; Hall of Fame level.  There’s an element beyond that, though; one that transcends their own personal greatness.  Popularity is certainly a part of it, not just in Seattle, but across America and around the world, but I’d be remiss if I put too much emphasis on their notoriety.  I think it matters not just that they were great on their respective teams, but great when compared to others in the history of the game and position they played.

For instance, Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time, and at the time of his retirement he was the best the game had ever seen.  But, now?  Largent is 18th in the NFL in total yards, surpassed by the likes of Henry Ellard (played 2 more seasons, is not in the HOF), Andre Johnson (who is good, but does he strike you as transcendant?), and Reggie Wayne (who had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning throwing to him; of COURSE he has more yards!).  I’m just saying that the greatness of the wide receiver position has been deminished in the wake of the NFL turning into a passing league.  I mean, Terrell Owens has the second-most receiving yards of all time (behind the great Jerry Rice) and he’s still struggling to make it into the HOF!  I don’t care about his reputation or his attitude or whatever; 20 years ago, if he’d retired with the most yards in NFL history, he would’ve been a first ballot enshrinee.

Also, look at someone like Felix Hernandez; my favorite player of all time.  Yeah, he’s great, and he’s in my Mariners Mount Rushmore, but compared to some of the greatest pitchers of all time, Felix is just another guy.  Maybe in another era, with the stuff he has, he would’ve put up numbers commensurate to some of the all timers, but he’s in the era he’s in, and it knocks him back accordingly.  You have to go above and beyond in these situations if you want to make my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

In an effort to make this easier on myself, let’s knock out a couple of really obvious ones.

At the top, in the pole position of my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Ken Griffey Jr.

Absolute no-brainer.  22 years in Major League Baseball, 13 years in Seattle, at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #1 overall draft pick by the Mariners in 1987, in his first 11 years with the organization he made the All Star team 10 times.  10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and was the American League MVP in 1997.  He hit 417 of his 630 home runs with the Mariners.  He took the team to its first two playoff appearances in the history of the franchise.  He led the A.L. in homers 4 times and in RBI once.  He’s in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, is the only actual Mariner to have his number retired, was a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and was the highest vote-getter in MLB Hall of Fame history in his first year of eligibility.  HE WAS THE MOST POPULAR ATHLETE ON THE PLANET!  He’s 6th on the all time home run list, and if you discount the cheaters that are Bonds and A-Rod, he’s truly in rare company (Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, are you KIDDING me?).

That’s what I mean.  Ken Griffey Jr. is the definition of a Mount Rushmore-type player.  He’s the greatest athlete the city of Seattle has ever seen and might be the greatest we will EVER see.  Anyone alive who got to see him play in his prime should thank their lucky stars.

At my #2 spot in my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Gary Payton.

Again, I think this one is a no-brainer.  18 seasons in the NBA, 13 seasons in Seattle, again at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #2 overall draft pick by the Supersonics in 1990, in his Seattle years he made the All Star team 9 times.  2 All-NBA first teams, 5 second teams, and 2 third teams.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the steals leader the same year.  He is 4th all time in NBA history in steals with 2,445 (behind Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, and a million miles behind John Stockton).  He’s also 8th all time in NBA history in assists with 8,966 (among the likes of Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic, Oscar, and Isiah).  When you’re talking true point guards, you’re talking the best of the best, and GP is right there.  He was always a defensive force, but his offense didn’t really start to take off until his fifth season in the league; yet he still managed to score 21,813 points, which is good for 31st all time, just ahead of Larry Bird, and just behind Clyde Drexler.

Again, we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever put on a jersey and play the game of basketball!  I don’t know if people necessarily think of GP the way they think of Griffey, because Griffey might be the best or second-best centerfielder of all time; whereas there are a bunch of great point guards who are as good or even better.  But, I’m here to tell you that there really aren’t that many.

Guys like Stockton and Kidd played great defense and dished it out like no one else, but their offensive games were largely lacking.  They couldn’t take over a game and back down an opposing guard like GP could.  Nash and Iverson were awesome scorers, but they weren’t as suffocating on defense as GP would be.  Honestly, I think the only people in Gary’s league are Magic, Isiah, and maybe Oscar (but, I’ll be honest here, all three of those guys were either a little or a lot before my time, and I didn’t get to see them play in their primes).  Anyway, I’m talking about COMPLETE point guards, guys who played on both sides of the ball and did it damn well on both ends.  Not to mention from 1995 through 2003, Gary averaged over 38 minutes per game.

The only shame of it all is that he played in the opposite conference from Michael Jordan, and only got to face off against MJ the one time in the NBA Finals.  I think if those guys were in the same division and had to go against one another 4 times a year plus every year in the playoffs, it would’ve been one of the truly great rivalries in NBA history.  As it stands, Gary really didn’t have anyone who was his direct rival.  He was already established when Kobe was a young pup.  Kidd and Stockton were never much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball, so they never really challenged him at that end.  All the best scoring guards during Gary’s prime were in the East, or they were past their primes when Gary was in his.  That Finals series in 1996 was one for the ages, though.  It’s just too bad it was the first for that group in Seattle; I think the severity of the situation got to them mentally.  For the Bulls, it was old hat; just another business trip.  I think if the Sonics had gotten theirs in 1994 (like they SHOULD have), by 1996 it would’ve been like two equally fierce titans going against one another.  What could have been.

***

With the easy half of our Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore out of the way, now we get to the more difficult decisions.

For starters, where are the Seahawks?  I’m pretty sure you can’t have one of these without throwing a Seahawk on there, so let’s get cracking.

As I wrote about yesterday, there are currently 4 Seahawks in the NFL Hall of Fame (with this year’s induction of Kenny Easley).  So, yeah, a lot to choose from here.  At the top, I talked about Steve Largent a little bit, and I still stand behind that.  I think his candidacy for this list is pretty lacking, when you consider his current place in NFL history, which I very much believe applies here.

When you look at the rest of the Hall of Famers, I think one name clearly stands out, and that name is Walter Jones, my third choice for the Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

There aren’t really a ton of stats I can sit here and pull up to show Big Walt’s greatness; it’s not like the NFL keeps track of “pancakes” as an official stat (BTW tho, they absolutely SHOULD).  Jones made 9 Pro Bowls, was First Team All Pro 4 times, and Second Team twice.  He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and has had his #71 retired by the Seahawks.

If you want to get a little deeper, in trying to compare him to the other greats in NFL history, that’s a little trickier.  Pro Football Reference has their “Approximate Value” stat that tries to equalize things across all positions, and gives your career a numerical value accordingly.  Across all positions, in the entirety of NFL history, Jones is currently tied for 150th, which – when you think about how many players there have been – is pretty astounding.  I did the research, and there are only 26 offensive linemen ahead of him on that list, but the vast majority of them are either guards or centers.  Among just the left tackles, there are only 6 ahead of Walter Jones:  Anthony Munoz, Lomas Brown, Willie Roaf, Mike Kenn, Gary Zimmerman, and Orlando Pace.  Four of those guys are Hall of Famers, and the other two (Brown and Kenn) just played forever.  So, yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Anecdotally, Walter Jones IS one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.  The combination of speed, size, technique, power, durability, raw talent; it’s something we probably will never see around here ever again.  It’s ultimately the durability issue that cost him the end of his career, as injuries and surgeries became too much and cut it short, but he’s also a guy who was able to play through a lot of pain and injuries and keep up his high level of play.  He may not be the force of nature, popularity-wise, that Griffey or even Payton were, but his talent and standing among the greats at his position relative to the history of the game more than makes up for it.  As such, Big Walt is my #3.

***

Which leads us to our Abraham Lincoln spot on the mountain.  Who is my #4?

The fact that this is far and away the most difficult choice for me ultimately leads me to believe that whoever I choose is not long for this spot.  I’m a firm believer in the Smell Test, or the Eyeball Test, or whatever you want to call it.  Is a guy a Hall of Famer?  That should be obvious; it shouldn’t take much more than 10 seconds to decide.  Either he is or he isn’t.  Obviously, there are people on the bubble who need arguments in their favor (*cough* EDGAR *cough*), but for me it’s a lot more simple.  Yes, Edgar is a Hall of Famer; NEXT!

But, I don’t really have a solid #4, which means my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is sitting atop a pretty shaky foundation.  There are certainly guys in the running.  Edgar Martinez, for instance, would be a fine choice; but can I include a guy who’s not even in the MLB Hall of Fame (yet)?  Same goes for someone like Jack Sikma (who absolutely should be a basketball hall of famer).  There are plenty of former Sonics and Seahawks who ARE in their respective halls of fame, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.  On top of that, can you rank any of these other guys as among the greatest at their positions all time?

My actual belief is that the #4 player on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks.  But, since his career hasn’t ended yet, is it really appropriate to put him on there now?  Frankly, I think we’re another 7 years of quality play out of Earl Thomas from him being the guy.  If he can keep it up, and manage to stay healthy, he will go down as one of the most talented and important free safeties in the history of the NFL, with this Seahawks defense going down as one of the elite defenses in the history of the NFL.  As I wrote about yesterday, he’s the straw that stirs the drink; others may come and go, play or be injured, but the constant is Earl Thomas.  And, most importantly, we got a clear and obvious look at what this defense is without him, in the final 5 regular season games and 2 playoff games last year:  it’s not pretty.

So, I WANT to put Earl in here, but I just can’t.  What if injuries plague him from here on out and cut his career short?  Well, that opens the door for Richard Sherman, who is already the greatest cornerback in franchise history and already has made a name for himself among the greatest to ever play the game.  He needs some longevity to go with that to be Mount Rushmore-worthy, and the biggest question here is:  will he play out the duration of his career in Seattle?  There are obvious, serious doubts there too.

Which takes me to Russell Wilson.  What if he plays another 15 years for Seattle, and leads us to another 2-3 Super Bowls?  Doesn’t he HAVE to be the #4 on my Mount Rushmore, simply for the fact that he’s the most popular, recognizable figure on this team, at its most important position?

So, you see the bind I’m in.  All three of those guys are worthy, but all three of them need to put on some more years before they can be taken seriously among the top three on this list.

Where do I go from here?  While I acknowledge all of the above is true, I refuse to put “Placeholder” as my #4, so I’ve gotta make a choice.  To me, I think it has to come down to a couple of names:  Cortez Kennedy and Ichiro.

The Tez falls a few points below Big Walt on the ol’ Approximate Value scale, but I’m not going to go through and count the number of defensive tackles ahead of him.  Here’s what I’ve got:  11 year career, all with Seattle.  First round draft pick, #3 overall.  8 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pros, 2 Second Teams.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.  NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  His number 96 is retired, and he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, he got saddled on a lot of bad and mediocre teams, so the 2-time College Football National Champion only made one NFL playoff appearance (losing in the Wild Card round).  In my estimation, Tez ranks among the best all time at what he did, which was an all-around defensive tackle who could both rush the passer and defend against the run.  His sack numbers are impressive – particularly when you consider the number of double-teams he had to face – but his total tackle numbers are even MORE impressive.  I mean, he had 3 seasons where he averaged over 70 tackles per year!  As a DT!  Those are linebacker and safety numbers!

Then, there’s Ichiro.  He’s not in the MLB Hall of Fame, but that’s only because he’s STILL playing, at the age of 43.  Here’s a guy who spent 9 years in Japan before coming over to Seattle.  From age 18-26 (where, for a lot of people, he’d be working his way through the minors and getting into his prime at the Major League level), his numbers are essentially rendered irrelevant by a lot of baseball fans.  He nevertheless, as a pro starting at the age of 27, has managed to get over 3,000 hits, 2,533 of which were in a Mariners uniform.

Let’s get into it:  he was with the Mariners for 12 seasons.  An All Star his first 10 years (including All Star Game MVP in 2007).  A Gold Glover his first 10 years.  A Silver Slugger 3 times.  A Fielding Bible Award winner 3 times.  American League batting champion twice.  In 2001, he was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the A.L.  He also led the league in stolen bases that year.  He also had over 200 hits in his first 10 years, and set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004.  Like Tez, Ichiro was saddled with some pretty bad Mariners teams after the 2003 season.  Yet, he stuck around and remained true to the organization long after he could’ve gone to any number of teams to play for a contender.

If you want to talk about popularity – particularly on a global scale – Ichiro sits up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.  Even across America, he was the face of the Seattle Mariners for a decade!  He was a dominant force at the top of the lineup, and he was equally as great at his defense in right field.  He stole bases, he kept the opposing team’s running game in check, and if he were in a better-run organization, he could’ve done even MORE with his offensive numbers.

Is he among the greatest outfielders of all time?  That’s a little tougher to nail down.  He wasn’t like a Griffey or a Mays; Ichiro’s game is speed and singles (among other things).  I think he ranks up there among the greats at his defense, and among the greatest all time leadoff hitters.  I think he’s the greatest Japanese-born baseball player of all time, which is not an insignificant feat.  And, I think when you tack on the fact that some of his prime years were spent in the inferior Japanese leagues, you have to wonder what could’ve been had he gotten to America sooner.

All of that considered, that’s why I’m making Ichiro my #4 on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

So, what do you think?  Griffey, Payton, Jones, Ichiro.  With a very strong likelihood that my future #4 will be someone on this current Seahawks team.  Maybe in another decade I’ll come back and write a new one of these for shits and giggles.

The Mount Rushmores For Each Seattle Pro Team

* That I choose to cover, because I don’t give a fudge about the ones I don’t.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of TV shows still airing new episodes right now?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Rick & Morty, Better Call Saul, Bob’s Burgers, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different shows.

Today is going to be the first of a two-parter, of sorts.  I’m going to split up my Mount Rushmores between the Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks, with the goal of locking down an official Mount Rushmore for All Seattle Sports tomorrow.

First up:  the Seattle Mariners.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Edgar Martinez
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Ichiro

I thought this one was pretty easy, but I could see why people might want to make the argument for someone like Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez or even Alvin Davis, but ehh.  Griffey is Griffey; he’s the greatest player in Mariners history.  Edgar is Edgar; he’s the greatest hitter in Mariners history.  Felix is the King; his prime in a Mariners uniform was better than Randy’s prime in a Mariners uniform.  Had the Mariners never traded Randy, and he won a bunch more Cy Young Awards and whatnot, then yeah, Randy all day.  But, I’m going with the King because he’s my favorite player of all time and because he deserves to be on this list.  And, I’m going with Ichiro as my #4 due to his longevity and his sustained brilliance as this team’s leadoff hitter.  Again, it comes down to tenure over someone like A-Rod who had a short stint of supreme excellence before taking the money and running to the Rangers.  In the end, I don’t think A-Rod would end up on any team’s Mount Rushmore, and that’s exactly what he deserves.

Next up:  the Seattle Supersonics.

  1. Gary Payton
  2. Jack Sikma
  3. Fred Brown
  4. Shawn Kemp

You could go any number of ways with the Sonics.  Ray Allen, Lenny Wilkens, Gus Williams, Xavier McDaniel, Nate McMillan, Spencer Haywood, Slick Watts, Detlef Schrempf, Big Smooth, Dale Ellis, and on and on and on.  There were so many great players, so many great teams, and so many great eras of Sonics basketball.  I’ve got the Glove at the top because I think he was the best all-around player in team history.  He’s obviously known for his lockdown defense, but he really developed into a dominant offensive player over his career, becoming the team’s unquestioned leader.  Sikma was the best big man in team history, averaging a double-double in 7 of his 9 years in Seattle (as well as making 7 All Star Games).  Brown was a 13-year career Sonic bridging the early 70s, through the championship year, on into the mid-80s and the next generation of great Sonics teams.  And, finally, I’ve got 5-time All Star (with the Sonics) Shawn Kemp, the most explosive and athletic player in team history, who really developed into a force in the league, at a time when there were tons of great power forwards in the game.

And, without further ado:  the Seattle Seahawks (past).

  1. Steve Largent
  2. Walter Jones
  3. Cortez Kennedy
  4. Kenny Easley

Okay, so here’s the deal:  those are four Hall of Famers.  If you’re going to have a Mount Rushmore of Seattle Seahawks, you’ve gotta go with the actual NFL Hall of Famers, right?  Steve Largent, at the time of his retirement, had just about every single wide receiver record in NFL history; he was THE greatest, until Jerry Rice became THE greatest.  Now, many receivers have blown past Largent’s stats through the years, but the game is a lot different now than it was in the 70s and 80s.  Walter Jones, I think, is the greatest left tackle in NFL history; he absolutely belongs on this list!  The Tez is, without question, one of the greatest all-around DTs in the history of the league.  His ability to clog up the middle, command double-teams, and still create an abundance of pressure up the middle is simply mind-boggling.  And, as for Easley, he was a Pro Bowler 5 of his 7 seasons, and a first team All Pro in 3 of his 7 seasons.  Had he not had the health issues that forced him into retirement, he would’ve been an NFL Hall of Famer MANY years ago.  Essentially, he was Kam Chancellor before there was Kam Chancellor, at a time when the safety position was oft-overlooked.  His type of game-changing talent is generational and precious and should not be taken for granted.

There have obviously been other great Seahawks throughout the years – Matt Hasselbeck, Curt Warner, Shaun Alexander, Jacob Green, Dave Brown, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, and so on and so forth – but no one is on the level of the four above-referenced Hall of Famers.

Now, that having all been said, I think this current batch of Seahawks – since Pete Carroll and John Schneider joined the team – have some NFL Hall of Famers on it as well.  So, really, I had no choice but to split this part up.

We had the Seahawks (past) and now the Seahawks (present).

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Marshawn Lynch
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson

Obvious asterisk here in that Beastmode is not a current Seahawk, but he’s from this Pete Carroll Era, and that’s really what I’m talking about here.  I think Earl Thomas (assuming he comes back from his injury) is the best and most obvious future Hall of Famer.  Like Easley, in Earl’s first seven seasons, he’s made 5 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros.  He’s the heart & soul of this defense and really what makes this defense tick.  As you could see when the Seahawks lost him last year, this defense falls apart without Earl!  With him, it’s among the best in the league, and the primary reason why we’ve led the league in fewest points allowed so many times under Pete Carroll.  Next up, I think you have to go Beastmode.  I think, as it stands right now, he’s a borderline NFL Hall of Famer.  But, with a good season or two in Oakland, I think he blows past borderline into Obvious NFL Hall of Famer.  Lynch took this team from soft and old and carried it to back-to-back Super Bowls.  He allowed this team to bring its rookie franchise quarterback along slowly, and when it mattered most – in those playoff games – Beastmode brought his game to another level.  Ultimately, I think it’s his performances in the playoffs that will carry him into the Hall of Fame (in spite of his famous discontent with the NFL media), and it’s why I have him ranked so high on my list.  Third, I’ve got Sherm.  He’s the greatest cornerback in team history.  Period.  4 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros in his 6 seasons, and he has yet to miss a game as soon as he entered the starting lineup.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll be a member of this team, but as long as he is, he’s on my present-day Mount Rushmore.  And, fourth, I’ve got Russell Wilson.  I could’ve gone any number of directions here – Wagner, Kam, Bennett, Avril, K.J., Doug – and indeed, any number of those guys might end up making the Hall of Fame alongside my top 4, but I’m rolling with the QB.  In spite of the fact that for quarterbacks nowadays, it’s probably harder than ever to make the Hall of Fame, what with all the passing records that are falling, and how difficult it is to last in this league for 10, 15 years or more.  And make no mistake, Russell has A LONG WAY to go.  5 seasons, 3 Pro Bowls, no All Pros.  It’s especially questionable when you consider the step back he took last year with lots of injuries and behind an ineffective O-Line.  For this choice, I’m going mostly on faith, and I do have faith that Russell will reach all of his goals and go down as one of the greats of this era.  Disregarding all of that, right now, for what he is, Russell is the guy that stirs the drink.  This team doesn’t do what it’s done without Russell Wilson behind center.  No Super Bowls (plural), no division titles (plural), not nearly as many 10-win seasons (he’s 5 for 5 in his short career, no pun intended) with a replacement-level player.  Quarterback is the most important player on every NFL team, and the Seahawks are no exception.  As such, he’s making my Mount Rushmore over the rest.

Tomorrow, I’m going to pick from among the above-listed 16 players and come up with a definitive Mount Rushmore for Seattle Pro Athletes.  Weeeee!

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

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.