The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

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.

Holy Schnikes The Mariners Are In A 3-Way Tie For The Second Wild Card!

Caveat:  it’s only August 9th.  But still.

The Seattle Mariners are 2 games over .500 for the fourth time this season, but this one was pretty special.

For starters, Jesus Christ God Dammit Ariel Miranda sure did suck again!  6 runs in 5 innings, including 2 more home runs to give him 29 home runs given up on the season, which is the MOST in the entire Major Leagues.  29 homers in 23 games for Christ’s sake!  29 homers in 131.2 innings!  Or a homer every four and a half innings.  That’s un-fucking-sustainable!  You can’t give up this many homers in a season and expect to keep your job!  I don’t care how low your WHIP is, or how many of those homers are solo homers, eventually that shit’s gonna catch up to you and you’re going to blow up spectacularly!

Take last night, for instance.  Bottom of the first inning, he gave up a double and a walk before Khris Davis’ 3-run bomb to put the Mariners in a HUGE hole.  I’ll accept watching a Miranda start where he battles, or where he looks great those few and far between times, but I absolutely will not accept watching a start where he looks like every other non-Paxton starter in this fucking organization.  No thanks.  Suffice it to say, I was pretty much done with the game after that (and, with my crazy schedule, that’s not a huge sacrifice, considering I would go to bed at 8pm anyway).

What I missed, apparently, was one for the ages.  The M’s got one back in the top of the third when Zunino scored from third on a groundout, but the damage was limited, and the deficit would increase in the bottom half by a couple more runs.  Dyson punched an RBI single to left to make it 5-2 in the fourth, but the A’s would extend it back to 6-2 in the fifth on a solo homer.

With Ariel Miranda sufficiently knocked out of the game (at 86 pitches no less, because he’s efficient even when he’s fucking terrible), that’s when the real fun began.  Gamel knocked in two runs on a double in the sixth, Cruz knocked in another run in the seventh, and Valencia hit a sac fly in the eighth to tie it up.  Along the way, the Mariners got some remarkable relief pitching from the likes of Casey Lawrence, Nick Vincent, and Scrabble to push this game into extras.

Then, in the top of the tenth (after the Mariners walked three times in the ninth and somehow still didn’t score), with two outs, Leonys Martin continued his hot streak since being called back up, jacking a solo homer to right field to give the Mariners the lead.  Edwin Diaz got into a little mini-jam, but got himself out of it for his 24th save on the year.  That puts him 18th all time in Mariners history in most saves in an individual season.  His 42 career saves over his two-season career is 12th on the Mariners’ all time saves list, just a hop and a skip behind the likes of Brandon League, Bobby Ayala, Eddie Guardado, and Fernando Rodney.  So, you know, if you’re expecting Edwin Diaz’s career to go up in smoke, just give him another month or so.  History dictates once a Mariners closer gets between 50-70 saves, he automatically forgets how to get guys out.

What a crazy, VERY important win!  I mean, with the way the A’s are giving up on this season, there’s absolutely no excuse to lose either of these games in this 2-game series.  I know it’s baseball, and anything can happen, but if the Mariners are going to somehow shock the world, they’re going to need to beat up on teams like the A’s.  This is where you EAT!

If it’s all right with you, I think I’ll close by stopping and smelling the roses a little bit.  It’s, frankly, mindblowing how the Mariners are still hanging around in this Wild Card race.  I know there have been other seasons where the Mariners have been in contention in recent years, but this one definitely feels more special given all the Mariners have had to overcome and all that they’ll continue to have to overcome.

First and foremost, it looks like Felix has the same injury he had earlier this year.  They’re saying he’ll be out 3-4 weeks, which puts us into September, but if it’s as bad as the last one was – where he ended up missing almost 2 full months – we might not see him again in the regular season, if at all this year.  I hope the rest of the team can pick him up and carry us into the playoffs, for Felix’s sake, but I’m going to be heartbroken for him if we FINALLY get there for the first time in his career and he ultimately can’t go.  From a psychological standpoint, that might actually be worse than not going at all.

We also got word that David Phelps will miss 2-3 weeks, so it sounds like he’s not as bad off as Felix.  I’m going to hold my breath if it’s all the same to you and hope we get him back on the shorter end of that range rather than the longer.

In Recent Transaction News, Yonder Alonso made his Mariners debut last night, going 1 for 5 with a single, batting in the 2-hole.  Many Yonder jokes were had by all on Twitter.

In Active Roster News, I couldn’t even begin to tell you when this started, but the Mariners are rolling with a 12-man bullpen again.  With Alonso and Valencia effectively platooning at first base, Danny Espinosa as our only utility infielder, and Leonys Martin as our fourth outfielder, the Mariners really can’t afford to go with anything less than a 4-man bench.  With 20 games left in the month – before rosters expand in September – look for the M’s to start shuttling relievers back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma.  At some point, they’re going to have to figure out how much more Erasmo Ramirez they want to see in the rotation; I think my breaking point happened about 3 years ago, but I’ll give the organization another start or two before I start taking bids from local pipe bomb makers.

Terrorism jokes are still funny in this day and age, right?

What The Hell, Scott Servais?

I don’t rail against the manager very often, because honestly the manager doesn’t have that great of an impact on the game.  He sets a lineup, and he manages the bullpen.  Everything else is on the players themselves, the GM who brought us these players, and the umpires – who are really more of a constant than a variable – who generally do a good job, but tend to fuck up more than robots would.

So, when Scott Servais does something dumb with his ONE JOB, I’m going to say something about it.  Because Jesus Fucking Christ.

Top of the 8th inning, Mariners up 3-2.  Paxton did a pretty good job, but let his pitch count get the better of him thanks to some bad home plate umpiring and a lack of command of his fastball.  The combination of Nick Vincent and Scrabble got us to the 7th, and Tony Zych got us a couple outs into the 8th.  He hit the leadoff hitter, though, and after getting the two outs, left-handed bat Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate.  Lefty reliever James Pazos had been warming up since way back in the 7th inning (or maybe earlier, who can recall?), and was sufficiently ready to go.  Makes perfect sense, no?

Apparently fucking not, as Scott Servais had the brilliant fucking idea of bringing in our closer to get the 4-out save.

Let’s start here.  I think we all understand why someone would bring in a lefty reliever to face a lefty batter, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  Scott Servais has this bug up his ass about getting Edwin Diaz more work.  He’s a young guy and therefore his arm is ready for a bigger workload.  People have taken this to mean that the Mariners are going to use Diaz like the Indians use Andrew Miller – not necessarily to get the final 3 outs of the ballgame, but to come in during the most important late-game situations, regardless of whether it’s a save situation or not.  But, that’s false.  Servais just has no confidence in this bullpen (because why should he?) and knows he’ll need to lean on the guys he can trust to work more than just the one inning per appearance.  Diaz is still this team’s closer, but now he’s going to have to get more than three outs to get his saves.  It’s still all catering to the save statistic, so this isn’t fresh or new thinking whatsoever!

Edwin Diaz has done nothing to deserve this type of confidence, by the way.  Maybe if we were talking about Mariano Rivera in his prime, we could discuss bringing him in to work multiple innings.  But, so far, Diaz hasn’t even worked a full season’s worth of games in the Majors yet!  He won the closer job because his first month or so was electric (and Cishek really screwed the pooch), but guys know how to hit him now!  He’s not throwing 100 mph anymore.  He’s still wild, but not effectively wild like he was when the league was still getting to know him.  And, quite frankly, he’s blown too many saves to be considered an elite closer.  He’s no different than Fernando Rodney, Brandon League, Steve Cishek, David Aardsma, Tom Wilhelmsen, or any of these other jokers who have yet to be good for more than one season for the Mariners.

So, of course Edwin Diaz gave up the go-ahead 2-run homer to Kole Calhoun!  And of course the Mariners tied it up in the bottom of the 9th to send it to extras!  And OF COURSE James Pazos came into the game in the 11th inning – about 4 innings after he’d started warming up in the first place – and WOULDN’T YOU KNOW IT, the first batter he faced was the very same Kole Calhoun!  Did he give up a homer to the man?  NO!  He struck him out!  Because he’s a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter, and that’s generally what tends to happen in those situations, SCOTT SERVAIS, YOU PUTZ!

Granted, Pazos would go on to give up two runs in the 11th inning to lose us the ballgame, but that’s not on him.  If he were used properly, in the top of the 8th, when he was warmed up and fresh, his command may have been a little more on par with the rest of his appearances this season.

Also, not for nothing, but if Pazos was brought in for just Calhoun in the 8th inning, THAT WOULD’VE BEEN THE ONLY BATTER HE WOULD’VE FACED, BECAUSE HE WOULD HAVE STRUCK THAT MOTHERFUCKER OUT!

I have no idea what Diaz would’ve done if he’d just come in fresh for the 9th inning with no runners on base, but that’s a hypothetical for another time.  In this universe, Scott Servais botched the fuck out of this one, and cost the Mariners a win they desperately needed.

Repeat after me:  Edwin Diaz is NOT the be-all, end-all of this bullpen.  He’s probably not all that much better than anyone else down there, if we’re being honest.  His consistency leaves a lot to be desired.  He’s trying to get away with just his natural gifts, and that’s not going to fly in the MLB, because those hitters have a lot of natural gifts too, and they tend to expose pitchers who throw it up there without knowing where it’s going.

God damn this season is frustrating as fuck.

I’m not going to title this “Edwin Diaz Is A God” because that would just jinx him and the Mariners don’t need that kind of hoodoo right now

“I’m A god.  I’m not THE God, I don’t think.”

We’ve all seen the numbers.  27 innings, 53 strikeouts, 26 hits allowed, 8 walks allowed, and his 6th earned run allowed last night in a 3-1 victory.  Most importantly, he’s yet to blow a single lead (both of his losses were in tie ballgames on the road).  But, I’m not here to obsess about numbers.  Read literally every other baseball-centric blog, because if they haven’t already opined about the genius that is Edwin Diaz, they will soon.

I just want to talk about how jacked up I am to have Edwin Diaz in my life.  I haven’t felt this way about a Mariners pitcher since Cliff Lee dawned the blue, grey, and white for two healthy pre-trade months.  I haven’t felt this way about a Mariners reliever since … ever?

So, you know what?  Fuck it.  When is the other shoe gonna drop?  Let’s get real here!  The Mariners can’t seem to have more than one season of quality closing before these guys turn into pumpkins (and in Cishek’s case, not EVEN a full season!).  Let’s look back at the long list of crap:

  • Steve Cishek (2016) – Great start, but lost his job after 4 months and 25 saves
  • Fernando Rodney (2014-2015) – Great 2014, but lost his job HARD in 2015 to a combo of Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen
  • Danny Farquhar (2013) – Finished the season as the closer, replaced by FRE, was never good again
  • Tom Wilhelmsen (2012-2013) – Finished 2012 & started 2013 as the closer, then fell apart
  • Brandon League (2011-2012) – Was solid in 2010 as an 8th inning guy, was an All Star in 2011, fell apart quickly in 2012
  • David Aardsma (2009-2010) – Was great in 2009, was okay in 2010, but ultimately much worse and eventually lost his job to League (and injuries)
  • J.J. Putz (2006-2008) – Was legitimately great in 2006, had one of the all-time greatest seasons for a reliever in 2007, then had an injury-plagued 2008 before being traded
  • Eddie Guardado (2004-2005) – Had an injury-shortened 2004, was rock solid in 2005, then fell apart in 2006 and was traded away
  • Kaz Sasaki (2000-2003) – Was a 32 year old Rookie of the Year, then had two All Star appearances in 2001 & 2002, before falling apart in 2003 and leaving the country after his 4-year career.  Put up solid all-around numbers, but I never really felt comfortable with him protecting a lead in a big game (particularly the playoffs)

Before that, it was all bums and The Sheriff.  The point is, unless you want to count Sasaki (which I really DON’T), the Mariners have never really had a long-term solution to the closer problem.  They have good, great, even epic seasons here and there, but ultimately nothing LASTING.  I want LASTING, God dammit!

I want Edwin Diaz to be the real thing, and I want him here for the next decade plus, is that too much to fucking ask?

The Mariners Traded With The Rangers, Padres

  • Going to Texas:  Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, Player To Be Named Later
  • Coming Back:  Leonys Martin, Anthony Bass
  • Going to San Diego:  Two Guys I’ve Never Heard Of From Single-A
  • Coming Back:  Joaquin Benoit

Lost in the shuffle of my Tahoe debacle, the Mariners made a couple trades earlier this week.  Leonys Martin is a centerfielder, and supposedly a really good one, from a defensive perspective.  So, we’ll see what that means.  Austin Jackson was supposed to be “really good” too, but he ended up just sort of being okay.  A-Jax made most of the plays, but none of the spectacular ones; he wasn’t Guti in his heyday.  I want Guti in his heyday, God dammit!  If Leonys Martin ends up being Guti in his heyday, I’ll be thrilled with this trade, regardless of how he hits.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  He’s got to hit SOMETHING.  The kid outta Cuba had a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues in 2011 & 2012.  He won the starting job with the Rangers in 2013 and had two full years of pretty good production at the plate.  He doesn’t walk a lot, which seems to go counter to Jerry Dipoto’s credo of finding guys who get on base a lot.  But, if he did walk a lot, and played this supposedly great defense, I’m sure the Rangers wouldn’t want to give him up, or if they did, for more than Wilhelmsen, Jones and PTBNL.  Centerfielders who walk a lot and play great defense aren’t on the trading block, is what I’m trying to say.  To do what we’re doing, trading our crap away, we’re ultimately going to get other teams’ crap in return.  Just be glad he does SOMETHING well.

Where Leonys gets dicey is his 2015.  He had a God-awful year at the plate, broke his hamate bone, and missed most of the last two months of the season.  If you want to be a glass half-full guy, you’ll look at his 2013 & 2014.  If you want to be fucking real for a change, you’ll look at his .219/.264/.313 line from last year and realize we’re probably going to watch someone who is frustratingly bad at the plate.

BUT, there’s hope.  For starters, the team isn’t so delusional that they see FAST GUY and automatically think to themselves:  LEADOFF HITTER.  They understand this is a guy who should be hitting in the bottom third of the order (probably ninth, if we’re being honest with ourselves).  The pros are:  Great Defense, Great Base Stealer (he stole 36 & 31 respectively in 2013 & 2014); the cons are:  Doesn’t Hit For A High Average, Doesn’t Hit For Power, Doesn’t Walk.  If you keep Leonys Martin away from the general area of home plate, you’ve got yourself a helluva player.  He does bat lefty.  I don’t know if that does anything for you, but for me I like as many lefties in my lineup as possible when we’re talking about Safeco Field.  Besides, batting from the left side means you’re that much closer to first base on all those dribbling grounders to short stop.  Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that a huge percentage of his overall hits are of the infield variety, so I dunno.

Anthony Bass is a right-handed relief pitcher who appears to be Just Another Guy.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, he doesn’t walk a ton either, but he walks enough.  He just seems to be a guy who gives up a good amount of contact, and that contact ultimately leads to runs scored.  MAYBE he could be a long reliever or something, but it seems like we already have guys like him on the roster (Vidal Nuno comes to mind, and he can spot start in a pinch).

For these two guys, we say goodbye to Tom Wilhelmsen.  Like with Brad Miller, I think we’re talking about a guy who had maximized his value in a Mariners uniform.  Trading Wilhelmsen now is the only other option, because putting him back out there on the mound would only expose him to risk of reducing that value.  Wilhelmsen showed he was a quality pitcher back in 2012, as he took over the closer’s job from a struggling Brandon League, then he proceeded to struggle and lose his job in 2013.  He salvaged his career in 2014 by being a sort of Jack Of All Trades out of the bullpen – a long man when we needed it, a late-inning guy when we needed it, a spot-starter when we needed it – and in 2015, improved his stock even more by taking back the closer’s duties at the end of the season when literally everyone ahead of him fell apart.

Losing a guy like Wilhelmsen (and replacing him with an Anthony Bass) doesn’t necessarily help what was a struggling bullpen in 2015, but there are a couple things at play here.  First, bullpen variance.  Wilhelmsen has looked competent the last couple years, but that doesn’t mean he won’t throw in a stinker of a 2016 season.  Secondly, we only had club control over him for two more seasons.  He’s the reason we can get a guy in Leonys Martin – a starting centerfielder right this minute – who we control for three more seasons, at a much more premium position.  I appreciate you, Wilhelmsen, but I wouldn’t say I’ll be missing you.  We’ve got other fish to fry.

Aside from that, we’ve got this Joaquin Benoit guy!  Benoit has been around forever (he’s currently 38 years old), but he’s still kicking ass!  Dude has averaged 8-11 strikeouts per 9 innings since 2004 and hasn’t really dropped off whatsoever.  He’s making a hefty $7 million in 2016 (after that he’s a free agent), but he immediately slides into the back-end of our bullpen with Carson Smith and whoever comes out of the pile in Spring Training.  He really doesn’t have a lot of closing experience (only 50 career saves in 14 Major League seasons), so who knows if he’s mentally the right guy for the job?  But, I would venture to guess we won’t have NEARLY as many cardiac episodes as we had with Fernando Rodney.

A lot to like about these early deals by the Mariners.  But, let’s not fool ourselves, there’s still a long way to go to get back to contention.

In closing, I suppose I should say SOMETHING about James Jones.  I never really had a spot I liked to shoe-horn him into the post above this point.  He may strike some as very similar to Leonys Martin, until you realize he’s probably worse at defense, getting on base, and hitting.  I’ll say this about Martin:  at least there’s upside.  At least there’s a ceiling in there somewhere that we can stomach.  I don’t think Jones has anywhere near that.  Jones strikes me as a guy who tops out as a 4th or 5th outfielder, but probably more like a Quad-A player who will shuffle between Triple-A and the Bigs.  So it goes.

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

Mariners Tidbit 67: Iwakuma’s No-Hitter

The first Mariners no-hitter happened on June 2, 1990, against the Detroit Tigers.  Randy Johnson walked 6 and struck out 8 in 138 pitches for the 2-0 victory.

The second Mariners no-hitter happened on April 22, 1993, against the Boston Red Sox.  Chris Bosio walked 2 and struck out 4 in 97 pitches for the 7-0 victory.

The third Mariners no-hitter happened on June 8, 2012, against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhelmsen combined to walk 3 and strike out 9 in 114 pitches for the 1-0 victory.

The fourth Mariners no-hitter was also the first Mariners perfect game; it happened on August 15, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Felix Hernandez struck out 12 in 113 pitches for the 1-0 victory.

The fifth Mariners no-hitter happened yesterday afternoon, against the Baltimore Orioles.  Hisashi Iwakuma walked 3 and struck out 7 in 116 pitches for the 3-0 victory.

Is it weird that all of the Mariners no-no’s have happened at home?  Is it weird that the last two happened on Wednesday matinee games?

As usual, I was at work yesterday while all of this was going on.  Furthermore, I was stuck in meetings for most of the afternoon, so I didn’t even realize that a no-hitter was officially happening until the 8th inning.  I was able to listen to Iwakuma close out the 8th before running out of work and over to Pacific Place for an impromptu happy hour.  Sitting at the bar of Gordon Biersch, I quickly ordered a Captain & Coke while the final commercials ran before the top of the 9th.

I don’t remember everything.  Obviously, this isn’t my first no-hit rodeo, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forget Kyle Seager’s basket catch in foul territory.  That was banana-nuts!  And then I want to say the next at bat, Iwakuma grooved a fastball right in the middle of the plate that the hitter thankfully fouled off.  After that, it was relatively smooth sailing getting the last two outs.

I don’t care who you are, but no-hitters are always special.  It’s SUCH a hard thing to accomplish; you see SO MANY of them lost in the final couple of at-bats.  So, my hat is off to Iwakuma and everyone else involved for getting the job done.

I’m finding it difficult to peg just where we’re at with Iwakuma.  Is this a last gasp of brilliance before he declines even further?  Is this proof that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated and premature?  And, if so, how much more does he have left in the tank?

What this no-hitter accomplishes is it gets me – and most of the fans – back in Iwakuma’s corner.  That’s a biggie.  From the last month of the 2014 season through most of this season, Iwakuma has been an unmitigated disappointment.  Since returning from two months on the DL, he’s had flashes of brilliance – 8 shutout innings against the Angels, 7 quality innings in Detroit, an almost-complete game shutout in Minnesota, 7 more quality innings against the Rangers – but he’s also had a good amount of duds:  4 homers given up to the Tigers in Safeco, just a so-so game in New Yankee Stadium, getting blown out at home against the Diamondbacks.

The back-and-forth nature of his outings the last month and a half are definitely cause for concern, but what this no-hitter does is make it okay for the team to bring him back for 2016, at least in my mind (pending what he does the rest of this season, of course).  The thing is, though, we have to temper our expectations.

I don’t know if it’s fair to count on Iwakuma to be healthy for a full season anymore.  He’s missed extensive time in all but one of his Major League seasons.  Also, I don’t know if we should expect him to be the #2 starting pitcher this team needs.  He strikes me as more of a 4 or 5 going forward; meaning this team STILL needs to bring in a high-end starter either via free agency or trade.  Also, if Iwakuma does warrant an extension, I wouldn’t go anywhere beyond 2 years; that’s a deal-breaker for me.

Anyway, this is all stuff we can hash out later, when the season’s over.  For now, let’s celebrate a truly amazing feat.  The Orioles are a good hitting team, and Iwakuma’s been serving up a steady diet of meatballs for a while now.  To hold them hitless is OUTSTANDING!

Is Dustin Ackley The Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History?

Right off the bat, don’t talk to me about the Sounders, the Storm, or any other lesser sport I don’t care as much about.  This is a Seahawks/Sonics/Mariners discussion, so LAY OFF!

Also, we’re talking straight draft picks.  Believe me, I’m well aware of all the bad trades and free agent signings, as well as the draft picks we’ve traded away, but this is a look at the most disappointing players we’ve seen drafted in this city for those three professional franchises.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Dustin Ackley was taken with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  In 2008, the Seattle Mariners finished 61-101 for the right to pick #2 overall.  You may recall that, going into the final three games of the 2008 season, the Mariners were 58-101 and in line for the #1 overall pick.  The Washington Nationals, with three games to go, were 59-99.  So, what happened?  The Mariners swept the A’s and the Nationals got swept by the Phillies.  As such, the Nationals were graced with the #1 overall pick and the right to draft the hottest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens:  Stephen Strasburg.

You can say what you want about the injury-plagued start to Strasburg’s career, but you can’t deny he has elite stuff and you can’t deny he’s had three very good seasons from 2012-2014.  We don’t know where his career will take him – and obviously, with Mike Trout being selected by the Angels with the 25th overall pick, it’s not like he’s the best player in that draft – but one thing we do know is that he’s a HELLUVA lot better than Dustin Ackley will ever be.

We got screwed.  Dustin Ackley was supposed to be the clear best hitter and most Major League-ready player in that draft.  We were going to get an athletic guy who could play the outfield or various infield spots, and a mainstay in our lineup.  Your prototypical 2-hole hitter.  He was supposed to have a good eye, get on base at a fantastic clip, and even hit for a bit of power (mostly doubles, but the occasional homer), with just enough speed on the basepaths to keep everyone honest.

What we GOT was a guy with a poor eye at the plate, poor pitch selection, a noodle-arm, who rolls over on balls to the second or first baseman 80% of the time.  At a time (coming off of our attrocious 2008 season, continuing through our 2010 season where we were one of the worst offenses of all time), Ackley was supposed to breeze through the minors and give our lineup a boost.  Instead, he’s been spoken in the same breath as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero WAY too often for comfort.

He sucks us in because he’s a #2-overall pick, and because he sometimes has these wonderful second halves to seasons that trick us into thinking he’s finally gotten everything figured out.  Then, he turns right back around the following spring and hits:

  • .200/.222/.341/.563, with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 RBI, and about 50,000 runners left on base in 30 games

This is his fifth year in the Major Leagues.  Here are his career numbers:  .243/.305/.365.  You have to wonder, if he doesn’t turn it around and I mean SOON, if this is his last chance with the Mariners.  I can’t imagine we go into 2016 with him as a starter, but I have to wonder if we go into 2016 with him even on the roster at all!

Does this make him the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?  Well, let’s take a little look back.  Too soon to talk about Alex Jackson (2014) or D.J. Peterson (2013).  Mike Zunino was the 3rd overall pick in 2012; he’s been less than ideal at the plate.  But, he’s still probably too young (and at least hits for SOME power) to make a judgment.  Danny Hultzen was the 2nd overall pick in 2011 and has been severely injured for much of his career of late, so he has to be in the running, right?  Except, the thing is, he’s a pitcher, and the Mariners have been fairly flush with pitching in recent years since he was selected.  Hard to call him as much of a disappointment when we haven’t really needed to rely on him for anything.

Maybe we should take a look at what it means to be disappointing in a sports setting.  For starters, I feel like you have to be a first round pick.  These are the guys who – in theory – should be the closest to helping your team right away.  In baseball, you expect these guys to be on the fast track, to hit the Major Leagues in 2-4 years, depending on their development.  In football and basketball, depending on how deep your roster is, you expect these guys to contribute immediately, and in some instances even start for you immediately.  So, when they fail to live up to those reasonable expectations, they’re disappointments.  Obviously, the higher you draft them, the bigger the disappointments.

Going back, here are the rest of the Mariners’ top-10 draft picks through the years:

  • 2006 – Brandon Morrow (5)
  • 2005 – Jeff Clement (3)
  • 1995 – Jose Cruz Jr (3)
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez (1)
  • 1990 – Marc Newfield (6)
  • 1989 – Roger Salkeld (3)
  • 1987 – Ken Griffey Jr (1)
  • 1986 – Patrick Lennon (8)
  • 1985 – Mike Campbell (7)
  • 1984 – Bill Swift (2)
  • 1983 – Darrel Akerfelds (7)
  • 1981 – Mike Moore (1)
  • 1980 – Darnell Coles (6)
  • 1979 – Al Chambers (1)
  • 1978 – Tito Nanni (6)

Sure, Brandon Morrow was disappointing, but for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, we should’ve taken UW’s Tim Lincecum instead.  Second, we kept dicking around with Morrow by starting off his career in the bullpen.  Third, we probably gave up on him and traded him away too soon (for Brandon League, who was an all-around disaster).  Ackley still has Morrow beat in the disappointment department.

Clement was disappointing, but I think we were all more disappointed in our front office moreso than the player.  That 2005 draft was FUCKING STACKED; 6 of the first 7 players selected have been All Stars (with Clement being the only dud), and 8 of the first 12 have played in an All Star Game.  Bill Bavasi at his finest!

Jose Cruz Jr was solid when he was a Mariner, then we traded him away for two shitty relievers, then he got really bad, and then he was gone.  Again, more disappointed in our front office for giving up on a quality prospect too soon.

A-Rod was disappointing because he was a greedy scumbag & soon-to-be cheater.  But, his level of play on the field was unmatched, so there’s no way I’m calling him a bigger disappointment than Ackley (also, yes, I would have taken the money and played for the Rangers, so eat me, he’s still a greedy fuck).

Anyone before A-Rod is out of my wheelhouse (aside from Griffey, of course, who was the single greatest draft pick in franchise history).  You can post your reasons in the comments as to why you think some of those old timers might be more disappointing than Dustin Ackley, but for now, I’m saying this with full confidence:  Dustin Ackley is the most disappointing draft pick in Mariners history.

***

Let’s jump right into the Seattle Seahawks.  Who is their most disappointing first round draft pick?  Again, I’ll run through all the top 10 picks (even though I think we all have a pretty good idea who this is going to end up being):

  • 2010 – Russell Okung (6)
  • 2009 – Aaron Curry (4)
  • 2001 – Koren Robinson (9)
  • 1997 – Shawn Springs (3)
  • 1997 – Walter Jones (6)
  • 1995 – Joey Galloway (8)
  • 1994 – Sam Adams (8)
  • 1993 – Rick Mirer (2)
  • 1992 – Ray Roberts (10)
  • 1990 – Cortez Kennedy (3)
  • 1983 – Curt Warner (3)
  • 1982 – Jeff Bryant (6)
  • 1981 – Kenny Easley (4)
  • 1980 – Jacob Green (10)
  • 1978 – Keith Simpson (9)
  • 1976 – Steve Niehaus (2)

Not gonna lie to you, I’m not up on my Steve Niehaus or Keith Simpson knowledge, but let’s just assume they’re not the most disappointing draft picks in Seahawks history.  Green, Easley, and Bryant were mainstays of a dominant defense in the 1980s, so count them out.  Curt Warner was only disappointing because we didn’t use that pick to try to trade up for John Elway (or trade back to take one of the other amazing quarterbacks in that class).  Curt Warner the player was dynamic when he was healthy.

Cortez and Walter Jones are probably tied for the very best draft picks in Seahawks history, as both are Hall of Famers.  Ray Roberts was a solid offensive lineman in his career (if not specifically his Seahawks career).  Sam Adams was a fringe Hall of Famer for the Ravens, but had a nice and long career elsewhere (including Seattle for a few productive seasons).  Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs were studs who had their best years away from the northwest (but, again, were no slouches in a Seahawks uniform).  Okung has been a steady starter at left tackle (and a fine Walter Jones replacement when healthy) since he was a rookie.

For me, the disappointments come down to Aaron Curry, Koren Robinson, and Rick Mirer.  But, before I talk about this trio of Top 10 turds, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions from a little lower in the first round.

Lawrence Jackson was taken 28th overall.  He was supposed to come in and breathe life into our tepid pass rush.  Instead, he joined our team in 2008 as the franchise bottomed out, let Mike Holmgren walk, and eventually ushered in the Era of Good Feelings that has been Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  Oh yeah, and Jackson stunk the whole while and it wasn’t long before Carroll traded him away for scraps.

In 2006, the Seahawks selected Kelly Jennings with the 31st overall pick.  Coming off of our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, we were in desperate need of shoring up our secondary.  Kelly Jennings was no help in this regard.  While it’s hard to expect super-greatness out of your 31st overall draft pick, he was still a member of this team – and a starter at that – for far too long, leading us to suffer a barrage of long bombs over his outstretched midget arms.

In 2002, the Seahawks selected Jerramy Stevens 28th overall.  That’s all I need to say about this wretch.

In the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft, the Seahawks took Brian Bosworth with what amounts to a first round draft pick.  He was subsequently given the largest contract in franchise history, and rewarded us with lackluster and often embarrassing play.  He was a better action movie star than a football player, and that’s REALLY not saying much.

But, let’s get back to our Top 3 disappointments from before.  I’m scratching off Koren Robinson, for starters.  Yes, he had the talent to be elite – and pissed it all away with addiction – but one has to wonder if he was even the right fit for this type of offense to begin with.  And, while he wasn’t spectacular, he was far from dreadful.  I’m giving him a pass.

This boils down to Aaron Curry and Rick Mirer.  You may recall with Aaron Curry, we were coming off of our dreadful 2008 season.  With the 4th overall pick, people were screaming for the Seahawks to take a quarterback.  With Matthew Stafford already off the board, and Mark Sanchez sitting there, the Seahawks opted to do the prudent thing:  take the “safest pick in the draft”.  Aaron Curry was an outside linebacker and – depending on who you talked to – was some mix of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.  We were going to pair him with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to have the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Instead, he was slow to pick up the game mentally, slow to pick up the intricacies of his position, and just all-around slow on the field.  He did practically nothing for us, wound up being traded for a low-round draft pick, and was replaced on the field by a mid-round draft pick.  But, considering the Seahawks were bottoming out all over the roster, it’s hard to peg all of our troubles on Curry.  Even if he’d panned out as we’d hoped, he still would have been just a good player on a crappy team.

Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was supposed to save us.  In 1992, the Seahawks shared the worst record in the NFL with the New England Patriots at 2-14.  Thanks to our victory over those very same Patriots, they held the tie-breaker for the #1 overall pick.  As a result, they got to select the best quarterback of that class – Wazzu’s Drew Bledsoe – while we had to settle for Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame.

Mirer came out of the gate on fire, breaking many rookie quarterback records that would eventually be broken by Peyton Manning (the only time Rick Mirer should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton Manning, by the way).  He quickly either regressed or simply failed to develop, but either way, he SUUUUUUCKED thereafter.  Adding fuel to the fire of his disappointment, I recently was referred to this article (hat tip to Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard) that revealed there was an outside shot of the Seahawks getting Steve Young from the 49ers for the rights to allow the 49ers to draft Mirer to be Joe Montana’s heir apparent.  Isn’t THAT just the ultimate kick to the groin?  Doesn’t that make Rick Mirer the ultimate slam dunk most disappointing draft pick in Seahawks history?

I want to say yes, but RACING PAST THE PACK ON THE OUTSIDE, OUR DARK-HORSE CONTENDER:  1991’s 16th overall draft pick, Dan McGwire!

What’s the meaning of THIS?  Well, I’ll tell you:  the Seahawks brass was very high on the 6’8 towering suckferno, while Chuck Knox – easily our greatest head coach in franchise history to that point – wanted to select a little guy out of Southern Mississippi, the 6’2 Brett Favre.

Dan McGwire started all of five games with the Seahawks in four seasons.  Chuck Knox left the franchise after 1991, right before everything bottomed out in 1992.  As stated above, the Seahawks would use the #2 overall pick on yet another quarterback two years later, and the franchise overall would founder in mediocrity for a decade until Mike Holmgren turned things around.  All of this MAY have been avoided, if Chuck Knox had his way and we’d drafted a certain hall of famer who owns or owned just about every passing record in NFL history.

Most disappointing draft pick?  For all those reasons, I’m going with Dan McGwire by a nose over Rick Mirer (bottom line:  at least Mirer had ONE good season).

***

In an effort to prevent this post from going beyond the 5,000 word mark, I’m going to give the abbreviated version of the Sonics’ most disappointing draft pick:  it doesn’t compare to what the Seahawks and Mariners have stacked against them.  Purely for disappointment’s sake, it’s disappointing to see Scottie Pippen’s name as our #5 overall draft pick in 1987 (he would be traded to the Bulls and replaced by Olden Polynice, but again, this isn’t a post about trades), but at least Pippen’s departure eventually led to Shawn Kemp’s rise.

The fact of the matter is, the Sonics – for the most part, until the last decade or so – were a well-run and successful organization (crazy, I know).  Our first round draft picks were generally low in the round, if we had them at all.  The high ones tended to pan out (Payton, #2 overall; McKey, #9 overall; McDaniel, #4 overall).  And, since once again I’m not all that familiar with all the old-timers, I’m not even going to go there and you can hash it out in the comments.

In an effort to save time, let’s just say the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle Sonics history is Robert Swift (#12 overall in 2004, when we were in DESPERATE need of a big man; he would be the first of three consecutive first round draft pick duds – Petro & Sene to follow – that would ultimately cost this franchise dearly).  Now, let’s call it a day and everyone agree that Robert Swift is nowhere NEAR as disappointing as Dan McGwire or Dustin Ackley.

***

So, where do we land on all of this?  Is Dustin Ackley the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history?

Welp, I’ve already discussed the cases for both he and Dan McGwire.  With Ackley, we’re still talking about an Incomplete.  We don’t know how his career is going to pan out, even if we have a pretty solid idea that he’s going to continue to be terrible.  With McGwire, we know how it panned out, and we know what we could’ve had with Favre.  McGwire FEELS like the more disappointing of the two, but before we give him the crown, we have to speculate on the ol’ butterfly effect.

Dan McGwire kept us from drafting Brett Favre (or, rather, the organization choosing to go with him over Knox’s preferred choice).  That’s the case, right in a nutshell.  So, we have to wonder:  how good could the Seahawks have been with Brett Favre at the helm?

Would Chuck Knox have stayed on past 1991?  Would the team have drafted appropriately around him?  It’s pretty safe to say that Brett Favre would’ve been great wherever he went, but how much of his career was molded by Mike Holmgren?  I wouldn’t call the Packers a bastion of a franchise when they traded for him, so it’s not like the team was great and then Favre appeared as the last piece of the puzzle.  He grew with that franchise to be one of the best in football.  Could that have rubbed off on the Seahawks?  Or, would our franchise bumbling have prevented Favre from being his very best?

I would argue that the Seahawks would’ve been rock solid throughout the 90s.  Much better than the string of .500 (or near-.500) records we were saddled with.  There was always talent on those 90s Seahawks teams, but we were ALWAYS missing out on the quarterback position.  Warren Moon had a couple good years, but that was at the tail end of his career, and he kept getting injured when we needed him most.  Every other quarterback we had in the 90s was terrible.

With Favre in Seattle, does Mike Holmgren become MIKE HOLMGREN in Green Bay?  Does he find another quarterback to mold and turn that franchise around?  I think it’s safe to say, Favre in Seattle means we never hire Holmgren later.  And, you have to wonder if we have the group in place that we have now.

Does Favre turn this franchise around before Ken Behring sells the team to Paul Allen?  Does he have a change of heart and decide to keep the Seahawks and keep them in Seattle?  Do we have what is now CenturyLink Field?  If Paul Allen isn’t the owner, we certainly don’t have our stadium in its current form; I’m sure it would look much different now.  And, I have to wonder if we have the Sounders either, for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, does Brett Favre lead the Seahawks to be world champions?  THAT, I’m not totally sure about.  It’s nice to think so, but you have to wonder how it happens.  How long does Chuck Knox stick around if we give him the quarterback he wants?  He was already getting up there in age by 1991; how many years does he stick around after that?  And, who becomes his replacement?  I would argue Tom Flores was the worst head coach we’ve ever had in Seahawks history; I don’t think he wins even with the mid-90s Cowboys.  Does he still replace Knox?  Do we grab someone else?

The point is:  there are SO MANY “what if’s” that go into the Brett Favre as a Seahawk scenario.  And, what I would argue is most important in all of this is:  if Brett Favre never leads us to a world championship (whether or not it’s his fault, or the fault of ownership, or just the players we saddled him with), then he is 100% not worth the trouble.  The way things actually happened – with the Seahawks winning it all in the 2013 season – made a lot of the previous suffering worth it.  That’s all that matters.

Now, if Brett Favre coming here means the Seahawks would’ve been a dynasty much earlier, then I think he is worth it and I think Dan McGwire wins the title of most disappointing draft pick.  Even if it means the team we have now (in this hypothetical universe) looks nothing like the team we have in our real, actual universe.

Ultimately, my gut tells me that even if the Seahawks had taken Brett Favre, and he’d turned into the franchise quarterback we waited SO LONG to get, I kinda doubt we ever would’ve won it all with him.  Too many variables.  We likely wouldn’t have had the type of hall of fame coaching staff that Holmgren assembled in Green Bay, and we likely wouldn’t have gotten the type of championship talent to put around Favre like they were able to do under Ron Wolf.  Let’s face it, for a lot of reasons, the Seahawks were just plain broken as a franchise in the 1990s.  It took all the tumult, the disaster of an owner, the mis-management of the general manager, the bumbling of the coaching staff, and the underperforming of the players to lead to Paul Allen, Mike Holmgren 2.0, Matt Hasselbeck and our success in the 2000s, the bottoming out in 2008 & 2009, and the foresight to bring in Pete Carroll and pairing him with John Schneider to finally turn this organization into a world-class sports franchise.

You COULD say that Dan McGwire was a big part in giving us all of this!  And, I must say, as a fan in my 30s, I’m certainly appreciating all of our good fortune MUCH more than I would have been as a fan in my teens in the 1990s.

Yes, Dustin Ackley is a disappointment.  Yes, there were truly great players taken after him (including the aforementioned Mike Trout).  And yes, he’s been a big part of all the sucking the Mariners have been a part of in his time in the Major Leagues.  He’s been given MANY more chances to start and play a huge part on this team, and he’s done JUST enough to keep earning those chances even though he’s never broken through to make good on all of his promise.  Dan McGwire, for as enraging as his selection was, was never much more than a longshot prospect.  His college career wasn’t some amazing slam dunk; we were picking him based on his size, his strong arm, and the fact that he “looked” like a starting quarterback.  These types of quarterbacks are selected in the first round every single year, and these types of quarterbacks end up falling well short of their potential every single year.

#2 overall Major League Baseball draft picks are supposed to be different.  At #2, you know you have the opportunity to draft that year’s very best pitcher or hitter.  In our case, we took the “best hitter”.  That guy isn’t supposed to continuously be as mediocre as Ackley has been.  Either he’s great, or he gets injured and we all sit around wondering “what if”.  Ackley has been nothing if not healthy, and he’s been sometimes intriguing, but most of all he’s been a complete failure.

The Mariners missed and missed big when they selected Dustin Ackley.  He not only prevented us from taking a better hitter, but he’s actively hurting us now with his sucking.  If he panned out – as the so-called best hitter in his class should have – we’d be looking at a monster lineup with him paired with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Instead, he’s one of our ever-growing cadre of black holes.  We can’t sit him, because we don’t have anyone better (depending on your opinion of Justin Ruggiano), we can’t trade him because we’ll get nothing in return, and we can’t cut him because – as I said before – we don’t have anyone better.  The bottom line in all of this is, while the Mariners are improving as a franchise, there are too many holes on this team for it to be a championship contender.  Dustin Ackley is a huge reason why there are as many holes as there are.  And, for that reason, I’m calling him our most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.

Predicting The Seasons Of Various Mariners In 2015, Part II

Yesterday, (royal) we kicked our 2015 Mariners coverage into high gear with some words about what types of years we can expect out of our starting pitchers.  Today, let’s take a look at the bullpen in all its gory glory.

If you think about it, the bullpen is probably the most underrated aspect of any baseball team.  You’re not going to be in contention – and you’re CERTAINLY not going to be winning any divisions – if your bullpen is blowing games left and right.  Unless you’ve got the offense to end all offenses, you’re going to need your bullpen to be on point much more often than not (and even then, never forget about the mid-90s Mariners with their astronomical offense and astronomically bad bullpen).

When you look at this team as it’s presently constructed, we’re talking about a lineup that’s much better than it was, say, five years ago.  We’ve got three bona fide middle-of-the-order hitters with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  And, we’ve got enough talent around those guys (while they might not be All Stars, we can at least expect them to get the job done from time to time) with Jackson, Ackley, LoMo, Zunino, and hopefully our right field platoon, that runs shouldn’t be the struggle to come by that they were in the most recent dark ages.  Brendan Ryan is NOT walking through that door.  Nor are the myriad pieces of crap we’ve employed of late.  It’s no 1927 Yankees, but this is an offense that should get the job done.  Then, factor in the starters, and we’re talking about another group good enough to be getting the job done more often than not.

Getting to the 6th and 7th innings with a lead should NOT be too much of a hassle for this team.  The question is:  can we expect the bullpen to lock these games down?

Fernando Rodney – Let’s start at the bottom.  Last year, our closer was better than he’d ever been, except for that crazy 2012 when he only gave up 5 earned runs all season.  In 2014, he blew three saves, which is outstanding.  He also ended up more or less costing us three other games, when he came in during a tie game and gave up the winning run.  So, he wasn’t PERFECT, but he was about as good as you could reasonably expect.  If we could squeeze another year out of him like we had last year, I’d be head over heels.

Relievers are tricky, though.  You never know what you’re going to get, and that has absolutely nothing to do with injuries.  You’ve got relatively small sample sizes with each season, and they get even smaller when you consider most relievers go just one inning per appearance.  You give up a couple runs and all of a sudden, your numbers look crazy bad.

With a closer, all you want is to not have to endure a string of consecutive meltdowns.  Somehow, we were spared this fate in 2014, but I doubt we’ll be so lucky in 2015.  It’s how you’re able to bounce back that will define your season.  With younger guys like Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen, multiple consecutive meltdowns triggered the demise of those guys as closers.  Doesn’t mean they’re not valuable relievers; just means they probably can’t handle the pressure of the end of the game.  Rodney strikes me as a guy who will suffer a run of bad luck, or bad performances, and be able to overcome.  I expect his numbers to look a little worse, but not so bad that we have to totally replace him for the duration.

Danny Farquhar – Probably the guy I worry about the least in this bullpen, so of course he’s going to be the guy who fucking tanks it.  Farquhar has been an absolute treat since he came over here in that Ichiro trade and has more or less been locking fools down on the reg.  My prediction is that he will continue to be dynamite and we’ll all continue to bemoan the fact that we’re NOT using Farquhar whenever Medina or Wilhelmsen enters the game.

Yoervis Medina – Speaking of the devil, I feel like Medina gets kind of a raw deal in this whole thing.  We’re talking about a guy who has blown exactly 5 saves in the last two years, and that’s been almost exclusively in a 7th & 8th inning role, which arguably can be the tougher innings to pitch, depending on the situation.  Nevertheless, you know as well as I that a sense of dread comes over all of us whenever Medina’s name gets called.  At times, Medina can be lights out and the best pitcher in the stadium.  At times, you wonder if he’ll ever find the strike zone again.  For the vast majority of his outings, he’s just good enough.  He’ll put a scare into everyone, but he wouldn’t be employed if he weren’t getting through these innings.  Frankly, you need guys like this to fill out your bullpen.  Medina is a horse, he can pitch multiple days in a row, he seemingly never gets injured, and in the long run he’s going to save your more important bullpen arms down the stretch.  I expect more of the same.

Tom Wilhelmsen – Dude turned into something of a Jack of All Trades last year.  He’s never fully regained the form that he had in 2012, when he stole the closer’s job from League, but he’s also not as bad as he was in 2013 when he lost the closer’s job.  He’s an innings eater, which is crucial when you’re talking about a bullpen that doesn’t really employ a “long reliever/spot starter” type.  I’m a little concerned about him regressing back to his crappy self, but if the team continues to use him properly (read: sparingly), we should be able to get some good mileage out of him.

Charlie Furbush – For some reason, I feel like Furbush took a huge step back in 2014, compared to 2013, but the numbers don’t really bare that out.  He somehow managed to blow exactly zero saves last year, but he did find himself on the losing end of five games (four in the first half alone, when he struggled out of the gate for long stretches).  Honestly, Furbush was the LAST guy I wanted to see come out of the bullpen last year, as 15 of his appearances saw him give up at least one run (saying nothing of the guys he let score who were put on base by the previous pitcher).  I don’t have high hopes for Furbush, but as he’s a reliever, he could magically figure out how to dominate the strike zone and be amazing.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed and move on.

Carson Smith & Dominic Leone – Leone was a rookie who managed to stay with the big club all year.  Smith was a guy who got a cup of coffee in September and made the most of it by making batters look silly while giving up 2 hits and zero runs in 9 appearances.  I hope both of these guys make the team, but suffice it to say, whether or not we go with the 8-man bullpen, they’ll both get some play in the bigs at some point this season.  I like Smith’s upside more, as I feel like he’s got his offspeed pitches figured out.  But, Leone is another horse who will get you multiple innings and be able to pitch multiple days in a row.  The hope is, with a full year under his belt, he’ll start adding to his arsenal and be even more dynamic than he was last year.  If that’s the case, watch out!

Overall, I do like our bullpen’s chances.  Even if some of the older guys start to flail about, I think we have enough hotshot young arms to make up for it.  The hope is, if someone is indeed done, the organization realizes it in time and makes the switch early enough to save our season.  Because, if Rodney, for instance, falls off the wagon, we’re going to need to act swiftly.  Playing him just because he’s the veteran – even though he’s melting down every game – will surely drive me insane and nobody wants that.