Well, We’re Here: The 2014 Mariners May Begin

I suppose now is as good a time as any.  Get some predictions out in the ether, give an overview of the team as it stands now and the team as it may prove to stand at season’s end.  But, look, you know the score.  I don’t need to sit here and tell you what to think about the Seattle Mariners.  It’s pretty obvious.

Felix is great.  Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton are young and have promise.  Taijuan Walker is on the 15-day DL, is younger, and has even more promise.  Hisashi Iwakuma is on the 15-day DL, is going to miss maybe twice that number of days, and is better than everyone but Felix.  This rotation could be pretty rock solid, or it could turn into total crap.  There’s been more growing pains with the youngsters in this organization than actual episodes of Growing Pains!

The bullpen just looks terrible.  Outside of Danny Farquhar and maybe Yoervis Medina, I’m expecting a whole lot of crap out of this unit.  On the plus side, we appear to have guys waiting in the wings.

Prediction #1 – Tom Wilhelmsen won’t make it into the month of May.  I don’t know if he has options, but I assume he does.  Either way, I think he’s finished as a Major Leaguer.  Which makes him the third of three consecutive closers we’ve used (to go along with Brandon League and David Aardsma) who we should have absolutely traded at the peaks of their abilities.

There are a couple guys in Tacoma who are ready to play in the big leagues right now.  And Stephen Pryor isn’t far away from a return as well, as he also starts the season on the 15-day DL.  I expect A LOT of turnover out of this bullpen, because I just don’t trust most of the guys we have (the less said about Hector Noesi the better; the fuckin’ guy “earns” a 25-man roster spot even though he has no business even earning a paycheck in the game of baseball, just because he’s out of options, the fucking prick).  Fernando Rodney strikes me as the type of guy who is going to come in here and be a complete disaster.

Prediction #2 – Fernando Rodney will lose his job as this team’s closer at least once this season.  I think Farquhar is going to kick off this season like a man possessed and ultimately save us a lot of games (not literally, of course, but the term “save” is mis-used in the game of baseball anyway) by coming in during high-leverage 7th & 8th inning situations and generating lots of strikeouts with inherited runners on base.  I also think that Rodney is going to start off very up & down, then he’s going to go through a huge slump where he can’t find the strike zone, necessitating a “temporary demotion”.  The only way he gets his closer’s job back is if Farquhar has to go on the DL or something.  Let’s call Fernando Rodney:  Jose Mesa 2.0.

Unfortunately, as seems to always be the case, the hitting doesn’t inspire any more confidence than the pitching.  If you’re a Glass Half Full type of guy, then you like our chances with players like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Brad Miller.  You probably feel like it’s only a matter of time for Corey Hart to regain his feel for the plate and start mashing again.  You’re probably encouraged by Dustin Ackley’s newfound stroke at the plate and are confident enough in his left field defense.  You likely think we have something pretty great in Mike Zunino (and feel he will take a big step forward this year).  And, you might even buy Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders being competent role players (as opposed to being guys who are supposed to carry the load, which we thought they should have been early in their careers).

If you’re that Glass Half Full guy, you’re probably feeling pretty confident, and obnoxiously so.  At the first sign of success out of this team, you’ll be there with your “I Told You So’s,” and your “I Believed In Justin Smoak All Along; Where Were You’s?”.  If you’re the Glass Half Empty guy, then you probably like Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and no one else.

Brad Miller is supposed to break out this year, but when has that ever gone our way?  Mike Zunino is supposed to cement his position as the Catcher of the Future, but when has THAT ever gone our way?

Prediction #3 – Mike Zunino is going to struggle with injury again and we’re going to get MUCH more of John Buck than we would like.

Dustin Ackley had a good second half to last season and has carried that over into Spring Training, but we’ve seen that out of him and Justin Smoak every fucking year, and when has that ever panned out into a successful full season in the Majors?  Michael Saunders?  Please.  Corey Hart?  Yeah, that’s a bust waiting to happen.  Logan Morrison?  I don’t know him, but I’m sure he’s a jerk.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m much closer to the Glass Half Empty guy than the Glass Half Full guy.  If you twisted my arm, I’d probably tell you I’m a little excited to see what Brad Miller becomes.  But, I just find it difficult to see this lineup being all that effective.

I do think Abe Almonte will be better at the plate than his Spring Training numbers indicated.  I also really look forward to Stefen Romero and hope he earns some additional playing time in right field.

Overall, what do I expect out of this team?  Shit man, I dunno.  Last year we were hovering right around 10-under .500 for most of the year until September when we completely fell apart and ended the season 71-91.  This year, if everything that can go wrong DOES go wrong, I would expect that very same record.  On the plus side, if everything that can go right DOES go right, I would expect something along the lines of a 91-71 record.

Now, a lot of things would have to go right.  Felix would have to be his usual Cy Young self.  Iwakuma will have to make it back by month’s end and return to his last year’s form.  Paxton, Walker, and Ramirez will all have to be great right out of the gate.  Fernando Rodney won’t necessarily need to be what he was two years ago, but he’ll have to be somewhere between that level and the level he was last year (or, in other words, he’ll have to be BETTER than he was last year), while the rest of the bullpen (once Noesi is shit-canned and Wilhelmsen makes Tacoma his permanent home) starts to gel as the season wears on.  And, of course, all the young-ish guys – Miller, Zunino, Ackley, Smoak, Saunders, Almonte – as well as one of either Hart or Morrison at DH, will have to be better than we could reasonably imagine.

It sounds like a lot, because it IS a lot.  It’s too much to ask of a roster.  Can you ask all 25 guys on a baseball team to just, “Hey, BE BETTER!”?  I doubt it.  That’s why we’ve got:

Prediction #4 – The Mariners will finish 76-86.  Instead of taking a steep nosedive in the final month of the season, the Mariners will kind of hold their own.  Which, in turn, will knock them out of the protected Top 10 draft pick, and will be a minor annoyance to all.  This leads me to:

Prediction #5 – Jackie Z will be kept on as the General Manager of this team, because … he’s earned it?  Yeah, let’s go with that.  Rather, I like to think of it as punishment for a job poorly done.  In my twisted little mind, I like to imagine Jackie Z really hates his job.  He hates getting up in the morning, coming into the office, reading all the hate out there.  He hates being terrible at his job, but the team JUST WON’T FIRE HIM, so what’s he going to do?  He’s heard about all of these guys who left the organization and went on to bigger and better things, and he wants that, he really does!  But, it doesn’t happen unless the Mariners let him go.  He can’t quit, because that would make him a quitter and would ruin his chances elsewhere.  But, if he’s fired, then he can say, “What could I do?  They were too far gone when I got there!  AND, they didn’t give me enough time to turn it around.”  So, every day he trudges in to work, hoping for the pink slip that never comes.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, May 2013 Edition

I was a little more fired up at the end of April when the season was still somewhat fresh and the Mariners were five games under .500.  Now, it’s the end of May (go with me on this) and at the end of May the Mariners are seven games under .500 (in reality, today is June 3rd, and after a 2-game losing streak, the M’s have fallen to nine games under .500).

The story of the 2013 Mariners thus far – through two months & change – boils down to the veterans on this team.  The veteran hitters are (for the most part) getting the job done.  The veteran pitchers are (for the most part) sucking my will to live.

No one wanted to see the season turn out like this.  Of all the possible outcomes for the 2013 season, this is probably the second-worst of all scenarios.  They rank as follows:

  1. Team is in playoff contention, young players carry the load
  2. Team struggles, young players carry the load
  3. Team is in playoff contention, veterans carry the load
  4. Team struggles, veterans carry the load
  5. Team is the worst in baseball, everyone struggles, organization renews their dedication to Howard Lincoln & Chuck Armstrong for the next 15 years

The best hitter on this team is Kendrys Morales, who is on a one-year deal.  At the moment, he’s batting .300 with 8 homers, 16 doubles, and a team-leading 33 RBI.  He’s the only player worth a damn when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position, and unlike so many other veterans, he hasn’t taken a huge nosedive upon being sentenced to Safeco Field.  In fact, take a look at his home/road splits through 55 games played:

  • Home:  .323/.388/.473, 8 doubles, 2 homers, 18 RBI in 25 games
  • Road:  .282/.349/.504, 8 doubles, 6 homers, 15 RBI in 30 games

Regardless of where he plays, he’s an on-base machine.  OF COURSE the Mariners should make him Priority #1 in the offseason.  But, what if he gets an unbeatable offer elsewhere?  Or, what if he decides to accept an equal or inferior offer elsewhere because he just doesn’t want to play for the Mariners?  I mean, let’s face it, it’s not exactly like Seattle is some great destination for athletes.  MAYBE if the Mariners were in the Seahawks’ position, where they’re on the cusp of immortality, they could use that as some leverage to get quality people to sign here.  But, the Mariners are one of the worst organizations in baseball, and as such they are free agent repellent.

Kendrys Morales figures to be one of the hottest commodities this offseason.  Michael Morse, on the other hand, figures to be right in our wheelhouse.

Obviously, Morse isn’t in Morales’ league when it comes to hitting, but one positive note is Morse’s ability to hit in Safeco:

  • Home:  .273/.345/.500, 2 doubles, 5 homers, 10 RBI in 20 games
  • Road:  .237/.302/.443, 2 doubles, 6 homers, 11 RBi in 25 games

You like to see that.  Even though we’re talking about a small sample size, it’s nice to see a couple of guys who can hit anywhere.  What you don’t like, when it comes to Morse, is the fact that he has been twice injured this season to the point where he’s been forced to sit for a few days.  Not to the point where he needed/needs to go on the DL, but still.  Interruptions to his time on the field isn’t good.  Remember why we gave up on Morse in the first place:  he couldn’t stay healthy.  Remember that he’s only had one season where he was able to play consistently without getting injured.  I don’t doubt the guy’s toughness, or ability to play through pain, but baseball is tough enough to succeed in when you’re 100% pain-free.  How can we expect Morse to produce at a reasonably high level going forward if he can’t stay on the field?

Raul Ibanez was one of our best players in the month of May, batting .297/.328/.703, thanks to his insane hot streak, spurred on by playing in New Yankees Stadium.  7 homers, 18 RBI in 17 games, out of a guy who we figured would languish on the bench and be lucky if he played once or twice a week.  In both May and April, Ibanez has played in more games than he hasn’t.  For now, I think the team is using him appropriately, but I think over the next couple months they might want to work in a few more off days if they want him to still be good by the end of the year.  Then again, if we’re still playing Ibanez regularly in September, something has REALLY gone off the rails.  For right now, though, as long as Ibanez is producing at a high level, I don’t think you can justify sitting him.  After all, it’s not like he’s “blocking” anyone better from playing.  If any outfielder in Tacoma were worth a damn, they’d figure out a way to oust a 41 year old guy with no defensive abilities.

Jason Bay – the other aging veteran bench player who has been thrust into more of a regular role thanks to injuries & incompetence – didn’t have quite the amazing month of May from a batting average standpoint, but he still managed 4 homers and 7 RBI in 19 games.  It’s not anything to blow your load over, but it’s more than you’re getting from the bulk of the younger guys.

Like, Michael Saunders, for one.  His month of May was the beans!  .187/.282/.297, with 2 homers, 4 doubles, and a mind-boggling 35 strikeouts in 25 games.  Maybe it was just a rough patch, or maybe he has regressed back to his old suck-ass form.  If he bounces back with a quality June, I’d be willing to believe it was just a cold streak.  If he doesn’t bounce back at all (or doesn’t bounce back until September, which is essentially the same thing), then I’m officially over Michael Saunders once again.

Kyle Seager is still chugging along, so that gives us one quality young bat.  To date, he’s got a line of .277/.342/.465 with 17 doubles and 7 homers, with fewer strikeouts than both Saunders and Morse despite playing considerably more games.  When you factor in all the young bats (Ackley, Montero, Smoak, Saunders, Seager) who were supposed to comprise The Future of this organization, one out of five has turned out to be someone we can count on.  In baseball, that’s a .200 batting average, which incidentally is SO Mariners.

On the brighter side of things, Brendan Ryan had this for the month of May:  .274/.303/.411, which has brought his overall season line to:  .211/.264/.279.  So help me, I want to believe in Brendan Ryan SO BAD!

The month of May was most notable for abandoning some of the under-performing children on this team.  Jesus Montero was sent down to Tacoma, replaced by Jesus Sucre.  Sucre has already endeared himself to Mariners fans by being 50-times the catcher Montero was.  Montero has already torn his meniscus and will miss 4-8 weeks.  Four weeks puts us into July.  Eight weeks puts us into August.  I would say, depending on his ability to recover, we might have seen the last of Jesus Montero in 2013.  Hope he likes rehabbing.

A few days later, Dustin Ackley was sent down to Tacoma, replaced by Nick Franklin.  Franklin has already homered twice in his first six games, with four walks tacked onto his four total hits.  Ackley, to his credit, has started out ablaze in triple A, batting .407/.500/.593 in his first six games, with a homer, two doubles, and 5 walks on top of his 11 total hits.  Granted, they just finished a series in Colorado Springs, so let’s see what things look like in a few weeks (when they’re not playing in the thin air of a bandbox).  But, it’s encouraging.  Hopefully, he continues to thrash and brings that confidence back up to Seattle with him.

Finally, Brandon Maurer was sent down to Tacoma, replaced with Jeremy Bonderman.  Bonderman, just yesterday, gave up 7 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start in the Majors in forever.  With that performance alone, Bonderman just soared into a first place tie with Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang for Current Mariners I Hate The Most.

To be perfectly fair, this 3/5 of the starting rotation is beyond pathetic.  I never would’ve thought that I’d long for the days of Jeff Weaver & Horacio Ramirez.  Instead of the Saunders/Harang/Bonderman Triad of Shit, couldn’t we open this thing up in a more creative way?  I say, create a reality show.  We’ll call it Celebrity Hurler and we’ll get guys like Bret Michaels, Meatloaf, Greg Brady, Monica Lewinsky, and the bones of Al Jolson and they’ll all compete to be America’s Next Top Celebrity Pitcher or some damn thing.  I’m in!  Attach the Mariners to this fiasco of a trainwreck and let the top three contestants start in place of Saunders/Harang/Bonderman.  Because in all honesty, none of those celebrities could be any worse.

The lone positives (there are two of them, they’re not exactly LONE) remain King Felix and Iwakuma.  I couldn’t be happier for the both of them; I only wish that one of them were starting instead of Bonderman yesterday, considering yesterday’s was the first game I’d seen televised in quite some time.

The bullpen has been less-than-stellar, especially with Wilhelmsen’s hiccups these past couple of weeks.  He’s had three blown saves in that time (in between some solid outings, so it’s not a total Brandon League-esque meltdown) and overall this season his strikeout numbers have taken a huge dip.  At this point, you have to wonder what the market is for a guy like Wilhelmsen and you have to wonder what kinds of players a team might be willing to give up to get him for the stretch run.

This season just keeps going and going, doesn’t it?  I’m no happier about it than you are.  Here’s to a bunch of home games in the month of June; let’s see if this team can win more games than they lose for a change.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part I

You’ll forgive me if I’m not exactly in the most chipper of moods.  That’s what happens when some useless cunt brings bedbugs into your apartment building and you spend a sleepless week itching, cleaning, and bagging up all your shit.  Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly looking on the bright side of things.

I actually had this idea before.  It was supposed to be a series of posts dedicated to the most loathed sports figures in Seattle history.  Over two years have passed and I’ve let it go by the wayside, but while it has been neglected, the idea has not been forgotten.

The primary reason for this site’s existence is that notion that there is a Culture of Losing in Seattle.  Losing has become commonplace.  Losing has been the norm.  And losing has been accepted, which is most damning of all.  It’s the main reason why I can’t stand most Seattle sports fans, because they’ve cultivated this Everybody Gets A Trophy attitude about the sports they follow.  Granted, it’s probably HEALTHIER; it’s a hard fact of life that we certainly take sports too seriously.  But, it still pisses me off.

Oh, good try sweetie!

It doesn’t matter who wins, all that matters is how you play the game!

Well, we didn’t win, but if you had a good time that’s all that matters!

You played hard out there fellas, now let’s all go out and get some ice cream!

There’s always next year!

This is what I have to put up with whenever a Seattle team ends its season.  Nobody in Seattle ever expects to do well, so when a Seattle team makes the playoffs THAT’S a thrill in and of itself!  Like just making the playoffs is “good enough”.  Sure, winning a championship would be an incredible bonus, but isn’t being one of the top 4-8 teams in the league reward enough, you guys?

But, I suppose it’s not all the fans’ fault.  I mean, THIS is all they’ve known.  These shitty Seattle teams who have always let us down every year since 1979.  Yes, the level of shittiness fluctuates, but they’re shitty all the same because it’s been over 30 years since we’ve tasted the sweet nectar of championship victory in this city.

I have a list of people here – athletes, GMs, and owners – who are more or less universally despised.  My list is by no means complete, and I encourage anyone who has names to add to come forth and state why you feel that way.  I may eventually return to my “Seattle Hates …” series and single out these losers in their own individual posts, but for now I thought I’d just list as many as I can think of and go from there.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are far-and-away leading the pack of the most hated Seattle sports figures.  It’s almost impossible to rank them, but I’m going to give it a shot.

This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s definitely true today:  the most loathed Mariners figures of all time are now Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.  I’ve written about these two before, so I’ll keep this brief.  Rest assured, it’ll be a happy day in Seattle history when the team is sold and these two lame-asses are shit-canned.  Why they haven’t resigned in shame years ago is beyond me.

Time makes the heart grow fonder is the famous quote by some guy.  In this case, time makes the heart grow less enraged.  At one point, I would argue that no one could possibly be hated more than Bobby Ayala.  Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t fair.  Then again, I’m sitting here with my eyes closed and I can still picture it:

Ayala hurls a split-fingered fastball that hangs in the middle of the plate as he falls off of the left side of the mound.  Opposing Batter X takes a mighty hack and launches the ball into the Kingdome seats.  Ayala turns to watch the ball leave the yard as the cascading boos provide the perfect soundtrack to the four opposing runners trotting across home plate.  Ayala, takes his cap off and wipes his sweaty brow with his sleeve as Lou Pinella walks out of the dugout, pointing at his left arm.

Bobby Ayala was kind of a joke (seriously, what grown man goes by the name “Bobby”), but the target of our vitriol shouldn’t have stopped with him.  Bobby Ayala represents the total and utter futility of those Mariners bullpens from 1995 … really through 2001.  In the mid-to-late 90s, those bullpens were terrible.  Granted, we were playing in a bandbox known as the Kingdome, but still.  Even after we left that concrete prison and moved into the pitcher’s paradise that is Safeco, and even after we drastically upgraded our bullpen talent with guys like Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Kaz Sasaki, our bullpen STILL let us down.  Nevertheless, you rarely hear about Seattle fans bashing The Sheriff.  You almost NEVER hear people killing Rhodes or Sasaki.  You might get some grumbling about Heathcliff Slocumb, but who are you madder at:  the pitcher who wasn’t any good, or the bumbling idiots who traded two studs (Varitek and Lowe) for the pitcher who wasn’t any good?

Nope, the hatred always comes back to Bobby Ayala.  To this day, I don’t understand it.  But, at the time, back in the day, I could certainly condone it.

A more-recent villain in this saga of the Mariners sucking is Bill Bavasi.  I know, for me, he’s one of my most hated Seattle sports figures of all time (not involved with the Sonics leaving Seattle, that is).  This website is pretty much a love letter to how much I can’t stand that guy; I don’t know if I’ve ever gone more than a few weeks without referencing him and lamenting how terrible he is at life.  At this point, it goes without saying.  But, if you need any fuel, I suggest taking a look at his very large section of idiocy.

I don’t really have the heart to do the research on these next few guys to see who was ACTUALLY the worst as a Mariner, but I’ll give you my opinion on who I disliked the most.

I’ll start with Richie Sexson.  He was the first installment in my “Seattle Hates …” series, so I won’t go too in depth here.  What I will say is that it has always boggled my mind a little bit that Adrian Beltre never saw the same amount of invective.  He made more money than Sexson, he signed for more years, and he was coming off of this 2004 season with the Dodgers:

200 hits, 48 homers, 121 RBI, .334 batting average, 1.017 OPS

Here is what he averaged in five seasons with the Mariners:

150 hits, 21 homers, 79 RBI, .266 batting average, .759 OPS

I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m calling Steroids on this bullshit not going to make wild accusations about something I know nothing about, even though this guy doesn’t pass the smell test by any means.  For funsies, here is what Beltre averaged in the three seasons since he left Seattle:

176 hits, 32 homers, 103 RBI, .314 batting average, .912 OPS

Are you kidding me?  OK, maybe that steroids crack was out of line, but COME ON!  How are you, as supposed Mariners fans, not enraged by this?  You boo and throw money at A-Rod decades after he left for an insane deal with the Rangers … why aren’t you fucking raining down sandbags at this fucking gold-bricker???  Adrian Beltre is a fucking bullshit artist and I’m leading the bandwagon to turn the tide against him; who’s with me?  Good defense at third base?  Fuck you, go home and play with your kids.  You were brought in here to fucking hit.  You hit with the Dodgers, you hit with the Red Sox, you’ve hit with the Rangers.  Man up and quit blaming the stadium for your insecurities you fucking mental midget.

Up next, we have Chone Figgins.  Who was a much better player when everyone thought his first name was pronounced “Ch-own”.  He signed a 4-year deal and sucked more and more every year he was on this team.  What’s worse, he didn’t appear to be even remotely sorry for the fact that he was the most over-paid piece of shit in the Major Leagues.  You’d hear stories about how hard he was working behind the scenes, but then you’d watch him play and what would you see?  An emotionless pile of shit striking out.  An emotionless pile of shit letting a ground ball go right past him.  An emotionless pile of shit unable to catch a routine fly ball.  Then, after the game, whenever he’d consent to an interview, you’d hear about how he needed MORE playing time to “play his way out of it”.  Or, if by the grace of fucking God he managed to have one of his three good games as a Mariner, he’d chirp his fucking head off after the game, talking about how he’s “still got it” and how he should be playing every day.  What a motherfucker.  To the bitter end, he left here thinking that he was a legit Major Leaguer.  I suppose that’s why he was released by the Miami Marlins in Spring Training this year.

Chone Figgins is a guy who grabbed his big payday, then proceeded to dog it until he was run out of town.  He didn’t give a shit!  He got his money and that’s all he cared about.  Now, he gets to sit on his ass while making upwards of $9 million for doing absolutely nothing.

Carlos Silva is another fan favorite, if by Fan Favorite I mean guy who we’d like to tar and feather.  He was supposed to be this adequate ground baller who would earn his money tenfold by pitching in the cavernous Safeco Field.  Instead, he got shelled, constantly.  And since he was signed for so long (4 years) and for so much money ($48 million), we had to give him every opportunity to try and turn things around.  Imagine it:  you and me and most everyone we know will live our entire lives scraping by like a dog on the streets; meanwhile Carlos Silva received nearly $50 million to suck dick.  Kinda makes you want to stop following sports, doesn’t it?

I’m going to wrap up this Mariners section with some rapid-fire.  Because it’s going on far too long and because I’ve got other things to do.

Jeff Cirillo was brought in after our 116-win season to lock down third base.  He was supposed to be one of the final pieces to push us over the top as a championship contender.  Instead, he was terrible.  My booze-addled mind has mostly blacked out the Jeff Cirillo stint as a Mariner, so bully for me.

Alex Rodriguez is a different animal entirely, but I can’t leave him off this list.  Where he differs from the rest is that – as a player wearing a Mariners uniform – he was universally beloved.  A-Rod was on the fast track to being as beloved as Ken Griffey Jr.  And, had he taken less money to remain a Mariner (or, had the Mariners ponied up a proper offer, depending on which story you choose to believe), A-Rod would PROBABLY be #1 on the all-time favorite Seattle sports figure list.  Instead, the moment he signed that 10-year, $250 million deal and put on a Texas Rangers uniform, A-Rod was Public Enemy #1.

Not by me, mind you.  Even at the time, I didn’t understand the sentiment.  Who WOULDN’T take that deal?  It was the biggest deal in MLB history!  How can you fault a guy for accepting that deal when it’s universally known that the Mariners weren’t able to come CLOSE to matching?  On top of that, the deal essentially crippled the Rangers and it took him until 2009 to finally win a World Series.  He’s been a laughingstock everywhere he’s been, he doesn’t appear to know how to relate to people, he has an addiction to strip clubs and banging chicks with muscular, dude-like bodies, and – oh yeah – he’s a steroids cheat.  Even if you don’t think he would’ve helped us win a World Series in 2001-2003, don’t you think we kinda dodged a bullet by NOT having him embarrass us seemingly every year?

In recent years, there have been any number of hated Mariners, as this franchise has found new depths of ineptitude.  Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Erik Bedard, Brandon League, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brad Wilkerson, Eric Byrnes, Kenji Johjima, Casey Kotchman, Rob Johnson, Ian Snell, Jack Cust, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan … just to name a bunch.  As long as there are losing Mariners teams, there will always be people to hate.

I’m going to stop here and continue with the other teams another time.  This has been a lot more involved than I originally anticipated.

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

2008 was the lowest point in Seattle sports.  It was our Absolute Zero.  Rock Bottom.  The total nadir of sports humanity!

It was the primary inspiration for the title of this website.  Take an already-crappy sports city, with practically no history of real success whatsoever, then rain down a million boulders while giving fans only a tiny umbrella to protect themselves.

We did NOT deserve this …

Well, we just finished the 2012 sports year with the 2012/2013 Husky basketball season coming to its conclusion.  As such, I have taken it upon myself to take a look back.  Five years ago, it was 2008; we were just getting started with the worst year ever.  How have things changed with our primary Seattle sports teams?

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners came off of a surprising 2007 campaign that saw them appearing to turn a corner.  Beltre, Ibanez, and Ichiro led the offense.  We hoped that a possible resurrection of Richie Sexson would bring about a further boost.  Two young guns up the middle – Lopez & Betancourt – were proof positive that what we were doing in our farm system wasn’t a complete joke.  Felix was coming into his own.  Losing Weaver & Horacio Ramirez was addition by subtraction.  You figured, with another quality starter, and another bat or two, and we’d be in business!

Well, we know what happened with 2008.  The Erik Bedard trade was a total and complete disaster (though, it went a long way towards the Orioles making their surprising playoff run in 2012).  The Mariners opted to let Jose Guillen walk and replaced him with the corpse of Brad Wilkerson.  Richie Sexson became a local pariah.  And, oh yeah, the other big pitching piece – Carlos Silva – was signed to the single-worst contract in recorded history.  You tack on little things – like J.J. Putz going from the greatest reliever in baseball in 2007, to an injured pile of crap in 2008 – and it all boils down to this team losing 101 games.  The first team with a payroll over $100 million to lose over 100 games.  Everyone was fired; it was brutal.

Enter Jackie Z, who could seemingly do no wrong at first.  He replaced Sexson with Russell Branyan – big upgrade.  He traded Putz for Franklin Gutierrez, who had an amazing season both in the field and at the plate.  We also ended up with Jason Vargas in that Putz deal, who came in and earned his way into the starting rotation.  He brought in Ken Griffey Jr., who wasn’t a total disaster as a DH.  In short, there was an immediate turnaround thanks to God knows what.  Good vibrations?  Luck?  I dunno.  But, this team improved 24 games over 2008 and contended well into the summer.  Everyone thought we’d struck gold!

Then, like some kind of sick fucking plague, every move Jackie Z made to help bolster the 2010 team turned to shit.  Chone Figgins was signed to a 4-year deal and immediately was the worst player in baseball.  Branyan was allowed to walk in favor of Casey Kotchman; Kotchman was terrible and Branyan was brought back in a panic-deal mid-season, because we had the most punch-less lineup in all of baseball history.  Silva was traded for Milton Bradley – which was a move of pure GENIUS until it turned out trading one cancer for another still leaves you on your deathbed.  Griffey was brought back, because HEY!, he hit 19 home runs the year before and it’s not like players suddenly lose all of their ability to swing a bat all at once or anything.

Mind you, just about everything Jackie Z did in anticipation of the 2010 season was believed to be the right thing.  Except for Griffey, but really, if we didn’t make the playoffs that season, it wasn’t going to be exclusively the fault of our elderly DH.  And, to a lesser extent, the Brandon League for Brandon Morrow trade was a bit questionable.  I mean, who trades a bona fide Major League starting prospect for an 8th inning reliever type? Nevertheless, this was a bold move looking to shore up our bullpen.

The cherry on top was the Cliff Lee trade.  We gave a bunch of Bavasi draft rejects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee in his final season.  At best, he’d be the starting pitcher to put us over the top.  At worst, we’d be a losing team and trade him at the deadline to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects.

Like everything else that happened in 2010, even THIS ended up backfiring.  Cliff Lee came with a built-in contingency plan!  And he was traded for Justin Smoak – a disappointment to date – Blake Beavan – a less-than-adequate starting pitcher – and what has turned into a season’s worth of Michael Morse, a season’s worth of John Jaso, and a season’s worth of Josh Lueke.  There’s still time to turn around our fortunes, but unless Smoak figures out a miracle cure to his sucking ways, this has bust written all over it.

So, what happens when every single offseason (and in-season) move you make backfires?  You lose another 101 games, your franchise icon retires mid-season, your manager gets fired, and your GM is lucky to still have a job.

2010 was a wake-up call, both for fans and for the organization.  The last two times the Mariners had winning records – 2007 and 2009 – they immediately went out the very next offseason and tried to Win Now.  All the moves they made in hopes to Win Now were total disasters, so they had to come up with a new plan.  Either you keep riding this rollercoaster, firing your manager and/or GM every two seasons, or you start over from scratch.

Even though Jackie Z managed to bungle every Major League move known to man, he had still built up the minor leagues a fair amount.  With another high draft pick in his pocket, he put his head down and went to work.

The 2011 season was essentially given over to the kids.  Our major offseason moves included bringing in Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan, and handing over the starting rotation to guys like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Blake Beavan.  In addition, Ackley, Seager, and Carp all got their feet wet; Peguero was given an inordinate amount of playing time for what he was actually bringing to the table.  Others, like Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Saunders, and Halman all got varying amounts of playing time.  2011 was Try-Out central in Seattle.  Throw a bunch of spaghetti noodles into a pot of boiling water, take them out and see which ones would stick to the wall.

2012 took it a step further.  The big free agent pick-ups consisted of Millwood, Iwakuma, and a backup shortstop in Kawasaki.  We traded away Pineda – our best pitching prospect – to bring in Jesus Montero, because we absolutely could not live with the same old offense we’d had the past two seasons.

What did 2011 and 2012 accomplish?  Moderate gains in the win/loss column (+6 wins in 2011, +8 wins in 2012), moderate gains in our offensive production, and a whole lot of salary coming off the books.  The Silva/Bradley money, the Ichiro money, the Olivo money, another season’s worth of the Figgins money.

Now, it’s 2013.  The Mariners brought in some big bats via trade – Morse & Morales for Jaso & Vargas respectively – and some veteran bats via free agency – Ibanez and Bay.  They re-signed Iwakuma (when they realized he’s actually a quality starter), brought in Joe Saunders (who will probably be terrible), and have given the back-end of the rotation over to youth (Maurer and Beavan).  The crown jewel of the 2012/2013 offseason was re-signing Felix through 2019.  That’s huge.  The Mariners may never make the post-season while he’s with us, but God damn it, if they do WATCH OUT.

There is reason for optimism five years after bottoming out in 2008, but we’re still in a Show Me stage.  I’ll believe it when I see it, and all that.  2013 is critical, because if they don’t show some significant improvement, I think a lot of people will be out on their asses again and we’ll be looking at ANOTHER rebuild.

Husky Football

The Huskies ended their 2007 season with a 4-9 record.  Their 2007 schedule was deemed by many to be the toughest schedule in the nation.  Tyrone Willingham was coming off of his third consecutive losing season (going 2-9 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006), and many believed he should have been fired then and there.  I was one of those simple-minded folks who said we should give him ONE more chance.  Jake Locker had a full season under his belt, why not give Willingham an opportunity to turn things around with the guy he brought in as his quarterback?

Well, we kicked off 2008 by being trounced in Oregon (who would go on to finish 10-3).  Then, we lost by a single point at home to BYU (thanks to the infamous penalty flag thrown on Locker as he ran in for the would-be game-tying touchdown and tossed the ball over his shoulder … thank you Pac-10 referees for being so damn competent) on a missed extra point at the end of the game.  Then, we lost at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to lose to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game).

THEN, we lost our quarterback, our best player, and really our only GOOD player, in the Stanford game.  After that, with the likes of Ronnie Fouch at the helm, we proceeded to lose all the rest of our games (including a pathetic heartbreaker of an Apple Cup, 16-13 in overtime).

0-12.  Doesn’t get any worse than that.  Can only go up from there, right?

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

The 2009 Huskies improved by 5 games.  There was a signature win at home over the then-#3 USC Trojans, 16-13 on a last-minute field goal.  There was a signature near-win the first game of the season at home against LSU.  Jake Locker took huge strides in his development as a passer.  Everything looked great for the future.

The 2010 Huskies weren’t all that much more improved than the 2009 team, but they managed to win six regular season games (winning out after starting 3-6, thanks to a soft schedule to finish things) and earned a bowl game against Nebraska.  Of course, they got killed by Nebraska, IN Husky Stadium, earlier that season.  But, in the rematch, this Husky team was totally reborn and they took it to the Cornhuskers, stifling them 19-7.

That led to somewhat higher expectations for 2011, but how high could we possibly make them?  Let’s face it, we’d lost our best player and were breaking in a new quarterback.  Our defense was still on the fritz, and we were still in a very tough conference with Oregon, Stanford, and USC.  Not to mention we had to go to Nebraska, where we most certainly got our shit kicked in.

2011 was a disappointment because there was no Signature Win.  In 2009 and 2010, we had victories over USC and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  In 2011, we barely squeaked by Eastern Washington in the first game.  We were absolutely terrorized by the aforementioned heavy hitters (losing the games to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Nebraska by a combined 190-93).  In spite of losing ALL the games were were technically “supposed” to lose, we were still in line for a 1-game improvement over 2010.  That officially died when A. we went into Oregon State and lost (they ended the season with 3 wins) and B. we faced RGIII and the Baylor Bears and gave up 67 points on 777 yards of offense in losing by 11.

Back-to-back 7-6 seasons left a bitter taste in our mouths.  After storming the field against the Cornhuskers, we bent over and grabbed our ankles against the Bears.  2012 would SURELY be different, though.  We had a full season with Keith Price, he had surpassed our wildest expectations by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  How could 2012 NOT be a huge improvement?  On top of all that, we didn’t wait that extra season to see if Nick Holt could turn things around on defense.  We went out, brought in some heavy hitters at recruiting and defensive coaching, and nabbed some top prospects in the process.

Well, there was improvement.  The 2012 Huskies DID manage some signature wins against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State (both in the top 10 at the time we beat them), but they also fell completely flat against the likes of #3 LSU, #2 Oregon, and #11 USC.  In spite of yet another 3-game losing streak in the middle of the season, these Huskies were looking at possibly winning 8 or 9 games when all was said and done!

They were 7-4 (riding a 4-game winning streak) going into the Apple Cup in Pullman.  They had an 18-point lead going into the final quarter … so of COURSE they ended up blowing the game in overtime.  This ultimately led to the Huskies facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and ending up – once again – 7-6.

In short, the Huskies went from 0-12 in 2008, to 5-7 in 2009, to 7-6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  No 7-6 record is created equal, obviously, but at the end of the day people don’t remember how you got there.  They just see where you were and shake their heads.

Keith Price showed all the promise in the world in 2011.  But, he lost all his major weapons (Kearse and Aguilar at receiver, Chris Polk at running back) and couldn’t recover in 2012.  In the Baylor bowl game, Price accounted for 7 touchdowns on offense and looked like the best quarterback on the field – even better than the Heisman Trophy winner and ultimate #2 overall draft pick.  However, in the Apple Cup and again in the Boise State bowl game, Price ended both with interceptions.  He was going into the 2013 season fighting for his job, but from all accounts he’s got it locked up after Spring Ball.  Nevertheless, I have to imagine he’s on a short leash.  We can’t suffer the kind of downgrade in production again.

At this point in Sark’s tenure, he’s got all his own guys now.  2013 is the year we’re expected to win and win consistently.  The non-conference schedule is relatively easy, and the conference schedule isn’t too bad either.  We’ve got veterans in all the right places, we’ve got some serious talent on defense for the first time since he got here, and Price has had a chance to gel with his offensive weapons.  2013 isn’t a Rose Bowl or Bust, but it’s close.  The Huskies have to at least be in the conversation.

I’m not gonna lie to you, beating the Ducks for the first time in eons would go a long way towards cementing Sark’s status as a legend ’round these parts.

Husky Basketball

The 2007/2008 Huskies were a definite low-point in the Romar era.  They finished the regular season 16-16, losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and received the #1 seed in the College Basketball Invitational.  You know, that post-season tournament for the teams not even good enough for the N.I.T.

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

In 2008/2009, we brought in Isaiah Thomas and he was a firecracker right from the start.  We enjoyed Brockman’s senior season, and we rode that wave to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 loss to 5-seed Purdue by two points.  More or less, it was a successful season, but once again it ended prematurely.

In 2009/2010, we had another senior leader taking to the forefront.  This time, it was Q-Pon, who averaged 19 and 7 per game in leading us to a Pac-10 Tournament victory, an 11-seed in the tournament, and upset wins over #6 Marquette (where he hit the clutch game winner) and #3 New Mexico.

Once again, though, the Romar-era Huskies couldn’t get past the Sweet 16.  This time, we lost to West Virginia, thanks to them totally having the length advantage on us.

In 2010/2011, we had our version of a Big 3 with Thomas, MBA, and Holiday.  The last two were seniors and Thomas was playing in what would be his final season.  We rode this squad to another Pac-10 Tournament victory (you all remember COLD BLOODED don’t you?).  This resulted in a 7-seed – our third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – and a victory over 10-seed Georgia before losing in the Round of 32 to 2-seeded North Carolina (by only 3 points, but still).

The 2011/2012 season saw the emergence of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Both were young, extremely talented, and irritatingly inconsistent.  Ross would disappear for minutes at a time.  Wroten had no jump shot whatsoever, so he had to fight for every single basket in the paint.  This team ended up winning the Pac-12 outright, but since the Pac-12 sucked dick that season, and since the Huskies lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, AND since they had no quality wins over ranked non-conference opponents, the Huskies were denied a fourth consecutive NCAA invite.  Instead, they locked down the #1-overall N.I.T. seeding and ran with it to the Final Four in New York City.  It ended with a loss to Minnesota, who would end up losing to eventual-champion Stanford the very next game.

The less said about the 2012/2013 season, the better.  Wroten and Ross both bolted for the NBA, and absolutely no one came in to replace them.  That’s what happens when you’re a good-not-great recruiter in a good-not-great university for basketball:  sometimes you DON’T bring in a player of quality and you suffer as a result.

Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, and N’Diaye were left to pick up the pieces.  This team was pretty solid on defense, but ultimately inept on offense, and now at least three of those guys are gone (with Wilcox having a difficult decision to make regarding his final year of eligibility).  The 2012/2013 Huskies didn’t beat a single ranked team, only beat three teams who ended up going to the NCAAs (Saint Louis, California, and Colorado), and wound up being a 6-seed in the N.I.T., where the subsequently got their shit kicked in at BYU.

What’s in store for 2013/2014?  Well, a solid incoming class with one McDonalds All American at point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss.  If Wilcox comes back, that gives us a veteran scoring presence (for the record, he’s a fool if he leaves; his past season was absolutely dreadful and injury-plagued).  If we can get anything from our young forwards, you could look at a team that surprises a lot of people.  Or, you could be looking at a third-straight N.I.T. bid.  If it’s the latter, I’m not so sure I’d be confident about my job security if I was Romar.

Seattle Supersonics

I won’t go into excruciating detail on this end.  We all know what the last five years have been like for the Sonics.  They went 20-62 in their final season in Seattle (after drafting Kevin Durant and bringing in one of the finest GMs in the game from the San Antonio organization).  They were given away by the city of Seattle, they struggled again the following season, and then they went to the playoffs four straight seasons (losing most recently in the Finals to the beloved Miami Heat).

Now, we’ve got an ownership group and an arena deal in place, and we’re fighting like crazy to steal the Kings from Sacramento.  If all goes according to plan, we will have pro basketball back in Seattle for the 2013/2014 season.  If it doesn’t, then this part of next year’s “Five Years” post is going to be REAL fucking depressing.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m saving the best for last because I can.  Because, honestly, it’s all a little too much and I can hardly believe it myself.  There is cautious optimism for the Mariners and their young core to turn things around.  There’s more confident optimism that the Husky football team will turn some heads this fall.  There’s hope that the Husky basketball team can somehow gel with their new incoming players and make an improbable Tourney run.  There’s delusions that the NBA will be back in Seattle this time next year.

But, that’s nothing.  There is outright SWAGGER for the Seattle Seahawks.  How did we get HERE?

In 2008, we went 4-12.  We had dicked around with Mike Holmgren, we signed on his replacement – Jim Mora Jr. – to be his defensive backs coach, and all the major veterans took a huge dump.  This was coming off of a 2007 season where the Seahawks once again won the division.  But, Shaun Alexander was released at the end, losing out to another injury.  So, Tim Ruskell opted to reload via free agency.  Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were brought in to liven up the running game, but no dice.  Hasselbeck missed a bunch of games, Walter Jones tried surgery but wasn’t the same and was forced to retire at season’s end … it was just a mess.

In 2009, there was something of a fresh start expected with Mora.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in on a huge free agent deal, Aaron Curry was signed as our can’t-lose first round draft pick … in short, we were one of the oldest and least-talented teams in the NFL.  When all was said and done, these Seahawks improved by only 1 game and both Mora and Ruskell were fired.

2010 was the REAL fresh start.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider tag-teamed this roster from head to toe.  They traded for Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst (hey, they can’t all be winners).  They got rid of Housh (taking a healthy bath in the cap hit) and later Deion Branch.  They brought in a rejuvinated Mike Williams who led the team in receiving.  They drafted Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor.  They made hundreds upon hundreds of free agent moves, giving tryouts to anyone and everyone who they thought might be an upgrade.  They got significantly younger, and thanks to a piss-poor division, ended up making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Understand, this wasn’t a legitimate playoff team.  Yes, after two years in the wilderness, they found their way back to civilization, but it was totally phony!  The fact that we beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field is a travesty of common decency (though, it did provide us with the greatest NFL play ever, Beastmode’s Touchdown Scamper).  Our “Cinderella” run ended the following week in Chicago, and you had to wonder how long it would be before the Seahawks made the playoffs again.

The 2011 Seahawks were hamstrung by the NFL Lockout.  They fired their offensive coordinator and hired Darrell Bevell from Minnesota.  Which meant, if they stood any chance of competing in ANY games that season, they’d have to bring some people in who knew Bevell’s system.  This meant Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  They let Hasselbeck go with a cordial goodbye and handed the keys to the team over to Tarvar (without so much as a second look at Whitehurst, who was as bad as we all remember him being and then some).

Tarvar proved tough, but ultimately inept when the game was on the line.  Those 2011 Seahawks also finished the regular season 7-9 and weren’t given the benefit of a lousy NFC West to “earn” a home playoff game.

With a full offseason going into 2012, the Seahawks needed to make a change.  They’d drafted well, bringing in guys like Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright.  But, they needed a signal-caller with some zazz!  So, they signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, and they went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

People say if Wilson was just 2-3 inches taller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick.  But, he’s not, so now he’s ours.

Wilson earned his opportunity to have an Open Competition in Training Camp.  This led to him wowing us in the Pre-Season, which ultimately led to him winning the job and running with it.  The 2012 Seahawks took it easy with him for the first few weeks, but once they knew he could handle himself, they opened things up.  This resulted in the Seahawks being the best team in football over the second half of the season.  Still, their early-season slip-ups meant that the 49ers won the division, relegating us to the fifth seed in the NFC.

We went into Washington and somehow came away with a victory.  Then, we went into Atlanta, gave them a 20-point lead, and somehow led in the game with 30 seconds to go.  That was choked away, but the message was sent.  It wasn’t, “Wait Until Next Year,” the way most fanbases say it, more resigned to their current fate as losers, sorely, bitterly hoping that things will turn around for them in short order.

No, this is, “Just you WAIT until next year, chickenfuckers!”  Because the 2013 Seahawks are a runaway train that has Super Bowl or Bust written all over them!

In five years, the Seahawks have gone from one of the oldest and worst teams in the NFL to one of the youngest and best teams.  In five years, the Seahawks have gone from bottom-feeders to would-be kings.  We fans are cashing in our 401Ks in anticipation of buying Super Bowl tickets in 2014.  It’s never been so clear and so positive in the city of Seattle.  They can single-handedly reverse the fortunes of this desolate sports city.  All they need to do is win.

What’s more, they’re spreading around the positivity.  People are stoked on the Mariners WAY more than they should be thanks to the good will generated by the Seahawks.  Sports fans have something to look forward to and spirits are bright.  This is carrying over to the other sports in hopes that the good vibes will roll on.

We’ll see.  If the Seahawks win it all, the Mariners contend for a playoff spot, the Huskies make a run at the Rose Bowl, the basketball Huskies make a run at the NCAA Tournament, and the Sonics return to Seattle, we could be talking about the greatest 5-year turnaround any sports city has ever seen.  Fingers crossed.

The Major Moves Of Jack Zduriencik

On October 22, 2008, Jack Zduriencik was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their General Manager.  Here are the major player personnel moves the Mariners have made in that time.

For the 2009 Season:

12/3/2008 – Signed Russell Branyan to 1-year contract
12/10/2008 – Traded J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and others for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp and others.
1/20/2009 – Traded for David Aardsma
1/29/2009 – Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
2/18/2009 – Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
7/29/2009 – Traded for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell

For the 2010 Season:

11/11/2009 – Re-Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
12/8/2009 – Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year contract
12/16/2009 – Traded for Cliff Lee
12/18/2009 – Traded Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley
12/23/2009 – Traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League
1/7/2010 – Traded for Casey Kotchman
1/21/2010 – Re-Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year extension
1/29/2010 – Signed Eric Byrnes to 1-year contract
2/6/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
2/12/2010 – Re-Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
6/27/2010 – Traded for Russell Branyan
7/9/2010 – Traded Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan & others

For the 2011 Season:

12/2/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
12/10/2010 – Signed Jack Cust to 1-year contract
12/12/2010 – Traded for Brendan Ryan
1/3/2011 – Signed Miguel Olivo to 2-year contract
1/10/2011 – Signed Adam Kennedy to 1-year contract
7/30/2011 – Traded Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, & others
7/31/2011 – Traded Erik Bedard & others for Trayvon Robinson & others

For the 2012 Season:

11/27/2011 – Traded Josh Lueke for John Jaso
12/8/2011 – Claimed Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 Draft
12/21/2011 – Signed Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year contract
12/30/2011 – Signed George Sherrill to 1-year contract
1/5/2012 – Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year contract
1/18/2012 – Signed Oliver Perez to 1-year contract
1/23/2012 – Traded Michael Pineda & Jose Campos for Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi
1/24/2012 – Signed Kevin Millwood to 1-year contract
7/31/2012 – Traded Steve Delabar for Eric Thames.  Traded Brandon League for others

For the 2013 Season:

11/2/2012 – Re-Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 2-3-year contract
11/3/2012 – Re-Signed Oliver Perez to a 1-year contract

These by no means comprise ALL of the moves, but if I tried to list ALL the moves I’d be here all fucking month.  These are the guys who, more or less, made some kind of an impact on the major league ballclub.  I left out anything related to the draft, because it’s not draft season and that’s not really the point of this post.

What has Jackie Z done to improve the Major League ballclub?

You can see on the timeline where it all went awry.  Just about all of his major moves before the 2009 season were solid gold!  And, of course, what happened in 2009?  The Mariners ended up with 85 wins and somehow found themselves contending to the last month (or so).  It was only natural to think, given a few tweaks here and there, the 2010 season could be pure magic.

So, what did Jackie Z do?  He brought out the whuppin’ stick.  Within a 10-day period, we had our first MAJOR major signing of the Jack Zduriencik era:  Chone Figgins, 4 years.  No one at the time thought that was a stupid idea.  Piggybacking on that, in the aforementioned 10-day period, we brought in Cliff Lee to have one of the better 1-2 punches of all baseball starting rotations; and THEN we traded the dead weight of Carlos Silva for a possible reclamation project in Milton Bradley!  Hell, a bag of turds would’ve been better than Carlos Silva, so either way, there’s no losing THAT deal, right?  To top off his offseson, Jackie Z traded for League (to bolster the back-end of our bullpen), Kotchman (to give us some defense and decent pop at first base), and re-signed Felix to a 5-year extension.

I mean, my GOD, if Jackie Z wanted me to suck his dick after that string of moves, I gladly would’ve closed my eyes and opened my mouth.  THIS is exactly what we’ve been missing out of our baseball GM all these years!  He was doing it, he was really doing it!  There could be no downside to these moves!

Except, Figgins turned to crap.  Kotchman continued being crap.  Bradley continued being crap.  Griffey fell off the map.  Cliff Lee was hurt for the first month of the season.  League was nothing special (and Morrow still might be for someone else).  Byrnes was a fucking disgrace to the game of baseball.  We eventually had to bring back Branyan in a mid-season trade (and even THAT couldn’t prevent our offense from being the worst in the modern era).  And, since we weren’t contending, there was no point in holding onto Cliff Lee; we traded him for what looks like utter shit and disappointment.

Every move for that 2010 season (save re-signing Felix) COMPLETELY backfired.  And yet, at the time, every move was completely defensible!  The only thing you could possibly argue is:  the Mariners didn’t go far ENOUGH.  Of course, that’s the story of this franchise (see:  1996-2003).

After that, the organization put a total and complete halt on trying to contend whatsoever.  Going into 2011, the Mariners signed two veterans at the minimum (Cust & Kennedy), traded for a defense-only shortstop (Ryan), and their only major signing was Olivo on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd (that has since been denied, because Olivo).  That was it!  Four guys!  One of which was released before season’s end!

2012 was no picnic either.  Three more veterans at the minimum (Millwood, Sherrill, Perez), a backup shortstop (Kawasaki) who was somehow worse at the plate than Ryan, a Japanese pitcher coming off a major shoulder injury (Iwakuma), a Rule 5 reliever (Luetge), a backup catcher who somehow turned into the cream of the crop (Jaso), and another backup catcher in trade (Montero) who will hopefully be a future designated hitter for years to come.

It’s been two straight years of sifting through a muddy river of shit hoping to find a few tiny flecks of gold.

Now, with enough money off the books, and with the fanbase completely up in arms over all the losing, the Mariners are ready to spend money and hopefully try to compete once again.

Which got me to thinking.  Well, this blog post by Geoff Baker got me to thinking.  The money quote:

Towards the end of the call, I asked Zduriencik about the Chone Figgins experience and whether it caused any hesitation for him going forward when it comes to this winter’s crop of free agents — especially when it comes to inking longer-term deals of more than three years. I wasn’t doing it to rub his face in the Figgins mess — which no one really could have seen imploding as badly as it did — but rather to gauge whether this current administration is prepared to go longer than three years on any deal this winter.

The two biggest free agent acquisitions of the Jack Zduriencik era (not counting Felix, since he was already under contract) before this offseason’s Iwakuma deal have been Chone Figgins (4 years, $36 million) and Miguel Olivo (2 years, $7 million).  That’s IT!  The rest of his moves have either been in trade or of the bottom-feeding veteran minimum variety.

Obviously, this has been by design.  The organization wanted to rid itself of burdensome contracts.  The organization wanted to let some of the young kids play, to see if a “youth movement” could jumpstart things.  But, also, the organization was patently unwilling to increase payroll for the types of free agents that were becoming available the last two offseasons.  Let’s call a spade a spade here; the Seattle Mariners were pushing the Reset Button on this whole thing and starting over from scratch.  I don’t mean that literally, of course; it’s not like they could just waive everyone they didn’t like and bring up all new guys.  But, essentially, the Reset Button is what they did.

Up until now, I would say that the Figgins contract had little to do with the Mariners’ overall plan (except, obviously, they needed to fill their third base position with a rookie).  I don’t think being gunshy about Figgins’ 4-year deal prevented the Mariners from signing other guys to long-term contracts.  I think it was all the reasons I stated above.  That having been said, though, if the Mariners don’t sign someone to a long-term contract THIS off-season … then I’d have to say the Figgins deal is weighing on them.

It would only be natural, after all.  I mean, who WOULDN’T be gunshy?!  From the day Jackie Z took this job, give me the names of the free agents who have worked out beyond even a decent first season?  Yeah, the answer you’re looking for is ZERO.  Hisashi Iwakuma would be the first, if he comes back in 2013 and does well (which is no guarantee, let me tell you).

So, yeah, they SHOULD be apprehensive!  They SHOULD do as much due diligence as humanly possible on this offseason’s free agent crop.  Because it’s fucking NASTY out there!  You’ve got lemons and land mines all OVER the place!

Seattle Mariners 2012 Postmortem, Part 2 (Pitchers)

See Part 1 HERE.

Some interesting similarities between 2011’s starters and 2012’s.  Obviously, the two constants were Felix and Vargas.  For no discernible reason whatsoever, both were remarkably better in 2012.  Felix’s ERA dropped from 3.47 to 3.06; Vargas’ ERA dropped from 4.25 to 3.85.  This is reflected in their records, as they combined for 3 more wins and 7 fewer losses.

As chance would have it, both will likely return for 2013.  Can we expect continued improvement?  Will there be regression?

Obviously, Felix is smack dab in the middle of his prime, so I would expect any worsening of his ERA to be completely random (or due to injury, knock on wood).  As for Vargas, I think he’s going to be a crapshoot for the rest of his career.  A dependable crapshoot, but a crapshoot nonetheless.  I do wonder, though, what he’ll look like without the security blanket of Safeco.

Vargas Home/Road splits in 2012:

  • Home:  98.2 IP, 2.74 ERA, .592 OPS against, 9 home runs allowed in 14 games
  • Road:  118.2 IP, 4.78 ERA, .809 OPS against, 26 home runs allowed in 19 games

Look, not for nothing, but if you were planning out your pitching rotation, and you had a guy like Vargas – with such EXTREME home/road splits – wouldn’t you try to do the math and figure out a way to maximize his home starts?  Just something to consider.

I’m told by people smarter than myself that giving up a shit-ton of home runs is kind of random, so that’s likely to improve next season.  Nevertheless, you’re talking about a flyball pitcher who is considerably worse on the road.  He gets knocked around!  He’s likely going to leave Seattle after next season and he’s likely going to struggle for the rest of his career (except for the few times he comes to Safeco to pitch against the Mariners, that is).

It’s pointless to complain about Vargas (besides, I’m not complaining anyway); just know that we’re stuck with him.  Of course, there’s talk of trying to extend him on a 2-3 year deal for a reasonable amount of money.  I wouldn’t be against it.  Granted, he’s not the sexiest thing in baseball cleats, but about half the time he gets the job done, and he eats up a lot of innings.  You know EXACTLY what you’re going to get from Vargas, so in that sense, it’s nice to have something you can rely on.

Plus, you know, it’s not like we’re asking Vargas to be anything more than he is.  After all, we DO have a number 1 pitcher.  And he just so happens to be the best, most fearsome pitcher in all of baseball.

It’s funny, because I can clearly remember when Randy Johnson was a player on the Seattle Mariners.  I can close my eyes and picture him with the hat and the jersey and the mullet, staring down the batter from behind his glove, going into his wind up, burying a slider in the dirt on a right-handed batter for another strikeout.  It’s all there in my memory bank.

What’s not there is the feeling I had watching him as an M’s fan.  That confidence, that swagger, knowing that we’d be in for an amazing show every time he took the mound.  Knowing that other teams feared facing him above all others.  Knowing the best left-handed batters in the game would actively boycott his starts.  It’s hard.  Even though I knew Randy was one of the best in the game, it’s hard to be over-confident when your team has never really won anything ever.

I do know the fear, though.  Of opposing pitchers.  Coming in here and absolutely DESTROYING the Mariners.  If I had to pick a pitcher in his prime who I feared above all others, it’s hands down Pedro Martinez when he was with Boston.  Good LORD!  Remember, we had some out-of-this-world offenses back in the day.  And he would come here and we’d be lucky to get AH run, let alone many runs required to beat a Pedro-backed Red Sox team.  In fact, every time he started against us, I’d wonder, “Is this the time he no-hits us?”

The numbers bear this out, by the way.  In 14 career games (seriously, it felt like 144), the M’s only hit .177 against him.  That’s the second-best batting average against of any team he ever faced.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about Pedro, but I just want you to keep him in mind.  Because every time Felix faces, oh I dunno, the Rays or the Twins (who have batted .188 and .191 respectively against Felix in his career), they look at Felix the way I looked at Pedro.  With fear and awe and frustration and sometimes murderous rage.

Felix is great.  He’s AMAZING!  I don’t care what anyone else says, he’s hands down the best pitcher in baseball.  If I’m lucky enough to see Felix stick with the Mariners through his entire career, I will die a happy man.  And in 2012, Felix got his first Perfect Game.  Remember that?  Remember all the warm fuzzies on that Wednesday afternoon back in August?  That event single-handedly made my 2012.  Considering we’re talking about a team that was going nowhere, at least I got SOMETHING to enjoy.  Something to look back on with extreme fondness.

Anyway, that’s Felix and Vargas.  That’s 40% of your 2012 starting rotation and 40% of your 2013 starting rotation.

You thought you were finished with Blake Beavan after 2011?  You thought, “Oh, he’s a long relief bullpen guy at best!  No way he cracks the rotation AGAIN!”

Well, you thought wrong, my friends.  Because not only was he back in the 2012 rotation, he made 11 more starts than in 2011!  And he gave us EXACTLY the same type of production.

Blake Beavan is who he is and that’s all he’s going to be, it appears.  A guy with an ERA in the 4.50-range.  A guy who strikes out approximately 4 batters per 9 innings pitched.  A guy who is always in or near the strike zone.  A guy who pitches to contact.  And a guy who doesn’t get enough groundball outs to be an effective pitcher in the American League.

You want the typical Beavan start?  Here it is:  6 IP, 3 ER, 7 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 HR, 101 pitches.  You want to see that 26 times in a season?  Be my guest.

Most M’s fans hope we’ve seen the last of Beavan in the rotation.  As it stands, three of the five spots are currently locked up in Felix, Vargas, and Iwakuma.  Many believe Erasmo is one solid & steady Spring Training away from locking down that 4th starter job.  Which just leaves ol’ number 5.  Without question, the Mariners are going to bring in a free agent or two to compete for that 5th spot.  Likewise, guys like Hultzen will get a crack (and even if he doesn’t win it outright, he’ll be heavily considered for a May or June call-up, if he dominates AAA as he should).

Have we seen the last of Beavan?  I’m going to say yes, because I’m tired of straddling this fence all the time.

Speaking of Iwakuma (was I?  speaking of him?), he’s back!  On a 2 or 3 year deal, depending on how well he does in those first two seasons.  This is most-excellent.  Iwakuma was a definite gem when he was allowed to start last season.  As a starter, over 16 games, he had an 8-4 record with a 2.65 ERA.  In 14 relief appearances to start the season, he had a 1-1 record with a 4.75 ERA.

First, it should be mentioned that Iwakuma had all of five appearances in the months of April and May.  For reasons that haven’t been fully explained, Iwakuma was buried in the bullpen and only allowed to pitch in the most controlled (or emergency) circumstances.  Either he wasn’t ready to pitch in the Majors, or the team didn’t believe in his stuff.  Either way, when thrust into a starter’s role, Iwakuma rewarded the team with a bevy of dominant performances.

Second, it should be mentioned that the primary reason Iwakuma got to start at all was because Hector Noesi is a thing.

There have been some extremely shitty starting pitchers for the Mariners over the years.  Scott Sanders comes immediately to mind; don’t ask me why.  Sterling Hitchcock was a real sore thumb.  I recall Paul Spoljaric getting some starts early on.  Ken Cloude, of course.  Good ol’ Mac Suzuki …

Anyway, without hyperbole, Hector Noesi completely out-shits them all!

The only reason he didn’t have the highest ERA on the team is because George Sherrill had a 27 ERA after two appearances before being lost for the season to injury.  Noesi was a complete and total waste, in every sense of the word.  And the frustrating thing?  Unlike those other stiffs I listed above, Noesi actually has STUFF!  He’s got a live fastball with lots of movement, he’s got some sick breaking stuff … I mean, if he could harness his own power, he could be a Top 20 pitcher in this league.

But, it’s absolutely a fact that he doesn’t have the mental capacity to succeed.  I mean, just look at his numbers in various counts.

I’m going to split this up.  I’ll give you Noesi’s numbers, and I’ll give you Felix’s numbers.  The guy Noesi was in 2012 vs. the guy Noesi should aspire to be.

  • BA against in an 0-0 count:  Noesi – .300, Felix – .403
  • BA against in an 0-1 count:  Noesi – .244, Felix – .310
  • BA against in an 0-2 count:  Noesi – .319, Felix – .101

I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea.  If you don’t hit Felix early in the count, odds are you’re not hitting him at all.  When Felix gets ahead of you in the count, you’re fucking doomed!  When Noesi gets ahead of you in the count, just sit on something in the middle of the plate, because THAT’S where he’s going to throw it!

And it’s not like the media didn’t make a huge deal about it during the first couple months of the season.  It was a nasty little trend that never went away.  It’s also not like the coaches didn’t harp on it in public and private, ad nauseam!  Noesi just, for whatever reason, couldn’t adjust his game.  Which leads me to believe he’s not ready mentally.  Which makes me question whether he ever will be.

I don’t think we have to worry about Noesi in 2013; he’s firmly in the Tacoma Rainiers camp.  That doesn’t mean we won’t have some other huge embarrassing failure clogging up our 2013 rotation; it just means it won’t be the SAME huge embarrassing failure.

Finally, to finish off this little spiel on 2012 starters, we had Kevin Millwood.  Somehow, we got a full season out of the guy, which is a shock considering he was always coming up with some minor malady or another.

I’m not going to kick the guy as he’s being shown the door – obvs, he won’t be back for 2013 – but he wasn’t great.  He wasn’t as bad as I thought going into the season either, though, so that’s something I guess.  I’m not overly upset that we were forced to watch him nearly every fifth day.  And, he gave me probably my second-favorite memory of the 2012 season:  the 6-pitcher no-hitter.

Hell, if it weren’t for his decomposing body, he probably would’ve stayed IN that game and eventually given up a hit!

So, good on you, Millwood.  You made it through another season.  Happy trails and I wish you good fortune in your future endeavors.

***

The bullpen was a definite bright spot, especially once we cleared out all the trash.

For as shitty as the Mariners have been over the past decade, they’ve still been blessed with some solid closing performances.  Tom Wilhelmsen kept the streak alive in 2012.

I don’t have a lot to say about the guy, except that he’s great.  Atomic fastball, crazy-sick curve ball, and he’s working on a change up.  He’s either going to be a bigtime trade chip this offseason, or he’s going to be a lockdown closer for us in 2013.  Either way, I’ll take it.

Other than the Bartender’s bossness, the major bullpen storyline was Brandon League totally falling apart, losing his closer’s job, then getting traded to the Dodgers for a couple guys who will probably never see the light of day in a Mariners uniform.

Just to beat this dead horse one more time:  we drafted Brandon Morrow over Tim Lincecum (obvious step down in talent, 2012 season notwithstanding).  THEN, we traded Morrow for League and another guy.  The other guy continues to struggle for us in the minors.  THEN, we traded League for two more guys who will struggle in the minors.  In short, we passed over Tim Lincecum and drafted NOBODY in the first round that season.  Thanks Bavasi.  Thanks Jackie Z.

League went on to play in 28 games for the Dodgers.  He had an ERA of 2.30, with 6 saves and a serious uptick in K’s per 9 innings (8.9, vs. the mid-6 area for the Mariners).  League was rewarded with a fairly massive 3-year extension (with a vesting option for a 4th, if he meets a quota of appearances) that could be worth, all told, upwards of $28.5 million over said 4 years.

For the record, I don’t think there’s any way that fourth year sees the light of day.  Enjoy your inconsistent ball of aggravation, Dodgers!

The Mariners also traded Steve Delabar in 2012, which brought us Eric Thames, so I’d say that’s a win.  Thames wasn’t superb, but he had his moments.  Delabar was just another fireballer who wasn’t in the long-term plans either way.

Lucas Luetge, however, IS very much in our long-term plans!  He was a Rule 5 guy we picked up and made our lefty specialist.  And what a lefty specialist he was!  It’s not often that Rule 5 guys stick with a team for a full season; but if they do, it’s likely because they’re bullpen guys.  Luetge wasn’t just buried, though.  He was put in some tough situations and made it through pretty much unscathed.  63 appearances (though, only 40.2 IP), 3.98 ERA, with 38 strikeouts and 24 walks.  Not bad for a guy who was in the minors the year before.

Luetge is a guy we throw in there late in games to mostly get just one guy out.  Furbush, however, is a lefty we throw in there to be dominant late in games.

Furbush was a starter we got in the Doug Fister trade.  He stunk as a starter in 2011, so he was converted into a reliever (or back into a reliever, as I believe he’s had experience in that role before).  Furbush as a reliever in 2012 was lights fucking out, so it’s nice to have him back as well in 2013.

Oliver Perez, as I wrote about a little while ago, was re-signed.  He’s our third left-hander in the bullpen.  He’s got a live fastball and produced at a high level in 2012 (2.12 ERA in 33 games).

To even things out, we’ve got fireballers in the form of Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps.  They combined for 44 games, struck out a ton of guys, and both had ERAs near 4.  2012 was their first season in the Big Leagues (not sure if they played in enough games to qualify as “rookies” or not), so we’ve got that going for us.

Rounding things out, we’ve got Shawn Kelley.  Another big fastball, another productive season.

The bullpen for 2013 looks amazing, I’m not gonna lie.  If we trade no one, here’s what it looks like in list form:

  • Tom Wilhelmsen – Closer
  • Shawn Kelley – Righty
  • Charlie Furbush – Lefty
  • Stephen Pryor – Righty
  • Oliver Perez – Lefty
  • Carter Capps – Righty
  • Lucas Luetge – Lefty Specialist

As I sit here looking at it, I’m wondering who our Long Man is going to be.  I’ve never known a team to have a bullpen of all 1-inning-or-less guys.  Seems to me someone will HAVE to be traded, or left behind in Tacoma.  We’ll see.

Obviously, Wilhelmsen is the proven talent, so he’ll probably be pretty easy to move.  Made even easier since it looks like we have two more closer types (Pryor & Capps) with longer team control.  Those two guys are probably more valuable (due to said team control), so it wouldn’t shock me to see one, or even both, of them go to help bring in a bat.  However, let’s not go crazy and trade all three, huh?  I’d like to try to get Felix over the 15-win mark at SOME point in the near future!

In short, there was a lot to like (or at least not a lot to hate) about the pitching in 2012.  With the young ‘uns in Double-A itching to get their opportunity, we’re an organization rich in pitching.  Obviously, some will be traded to bring in a bat (or bats).  Hold onto your nuts this offseason, it’s going to get mighty interesting.

Mariners Keep Vargas, Millwood, Everyone Else

If you thought the Mariners were going to be able to unload Chone Figgins or Miguel Olivo – even for less than what we received in return for Ichiro – then you’re dumber than I am!

Who wants a catcher who can’t catch?  Or a hitter who can’t hit?  Or a leadoff hitter who can’t get on base, and isn’t good enough to play more than once every two or three weeks?  MORONS, that’s who!  Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of morons in Major League Baseball (in fact, the Seattle Mariners might have that market cornered, so let’s just move on).

I think just about all of us were convinced we’d seen the last of Millwood and Vargas, so if you’re in that camp then you’re at least as smart as I am (not that that’s saying a whole helluva lot).  Moreso Millwood, because you can kinda sorta justify bringing back Vargas for one more season before he becomes a free agent.  Yeah, he’s going to cost anywhere from $8-10 million next year, but for what you get out of him (200 innings, an ERA between 3 and 4, approximately a .500 record) I think it’s worth it.  At least, in today’s MLB it’s worth it.  Felix can’t pitch ALL the innings …

Millwood, I dunno.  The only reason you don’t unload Millwood is because every team low-balled you.  Let’s face it, Millwood isn’t the greatest pitcher in the universe.  Odds are, you’re not going to get many good prospects tossed your way for an 80 year old right hander with a 4 ERA who gets to play half his games in Safeco.  Might as well hang onto him and hope to salvage SOMETHING out of this already-lost season.

If keeping Vargas and Millwood on this roster (thereby preventing guys like Noesi or Erasmo Ramirez to start before they’re ready) buys you an extra five or six wins, is it worth it?  It is if those wins are the difference between being a 90-something loss team and an 80-something loss team.  An overall record better than 2011’s is something you can sell to the fanbase at large.  You can sell it as “Improvement”.  As, “The Plan Is Working”.  As, “Just Give Me One More Chance”.

The Seattle Mariners aren’t in the market to be everyone else’s farm club.  If you want our expendable trade chips, you’re not going to get them for free.  In that sense, good.  Fuck the rest of the MLB.

The Mariners did just about everything I could have hoped for:  they got rid of Brandon League, they brought in another corner outfielder with some pop from the left side of the plate, and they gracefully said goodbye to Ichiro.  What more could you expect without giving up potential future all stars like Hultzen, Walker, Paxton, etc.?

Besides, I don’t hate Vargas.  If you could sign him cheap enough, I wouldn’t even mind the Mariners signing him to a 3-year extension.  Like they were talking about on the radio, somewhere in the range of $21-22 million over three years; I wouldn’t hate that!  If he’s willing to stick around for that.

As for Millwood, hell, what can I say?  He’s going to go down as a part of one of my happier Mariners moments in recent history with his work in the 6-man no hitter.  I figure, for that, we can let him finish out his season and maybe catch on somewhere else next year for a little raise.

Mariners Trade League, Delabar For Player & More Players

Well, I guess we won’t have Brandon League to kick around anymore.

I’m on record as having been a fan of League.  I’m also on record as being sick and tired of League.  Right now.  Right now I’m on the record as having said that.  I also think we hosed ourselves on the League for Morrow trade, so there you go.  Brandon Morrow was drafted over Tim Lincecum, then he was traded for Brandon League and minor leaguer Johermyn Chavez, then League was traded to the Dodgers for minor leaguers Logan Bawcom and Leon Landry.  Will these three guys amount to anything?  Chavez is currently hitting .232 in AA with 8 doubles and 4 homers.  Logan Bawcom is a AA closer who projects to being some sort of middle reliever (kind of like what League was, minus his upside that never really materialized).  And Leon Landry is still playing in single-A ball (i.e. he’s a LONG way away).

So, that’s that.  Moving on.

The more exciting of the two trades is the one we just made for Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for corner outfielder Eric Thames.  #1 – we picked up Steve Delabar for nothing (he was out of baseball, then made a miraculous comeback).  #2 – Thames is ready to play in the Majors right now, having played a spell for the Blue Jays before being sent down to AAA, where he proceeded to kick a whole mess of ass.  And #3 – Thames means we don’t have to watch Carlos Peguero strike out any more (for now).

I look forward to watching Thames compete for an everyday outfield spot alongside Saunders and Wells (and Guti, whenever he gets healthy again).  I look forward to at least ONE of the other prospects (hopefully not the reliever) hitting it big, helping me to believe in Jackie Z wholeheartedly again.  And, I won’t exactly miss what we gave up in League and Delabar.  League has been as frustrating as a pitcher can be with his ability.  And Delabar was on a permanent shuttle between Seattle and Tacoma, back and forth, with excellent whiff rates but terrible home runs allowed … rates.

The rest of today should be interesting …

The Mariners’ Pitching Is Sucking My Will To Live

The Seattle Mariners are currently 31-43, good for a .419 winning percentage.

The Seattle Mariners of 2011, as of this date one year ago, were 38-39, good for a .494 winning percentage.

Now, the 2011 Mariners went on to finish 67-95, which means from this point onward they went 29-56, good for a .341 winning percentage the rest of the way.

I don’t have the kind of readership that would make a poll worth a damn, but I just wonder what percentage of M’s fans would believe that the 2012 Mariners are worse than the 2011 Mariners, if you threw out the records of each team and just looked at the rosters subjectively.  I know I don’t think these 2012 Mariners are worse than the 2011 version! 

For one thing, the hitting is better.  It’s certainly not “night & day”, but I guess more like “night & later that same night, just a few hours before dawn”.  I think, if anything, it’s unfair to compare these Mariners to those of the 2011 variety, mostly because of how that 2011 team fell apart.

And, with that, you can point squarely to the pitching.

The June 25, 2011 Seattle Mariners had some sweet pitching!  Felix, of course.  Erik Bedard’s resurgence.  The coming-on of Doug Fister.  Jason Vargas, rather than being a sub-par #2 starter, was a sub-4 ERA #4 starter.  And, of course, who could forget Michael Pineda mowing people down on his way to a rookie All Star Game appearance?

Then, the 2011 Mariners fell apart, in large part because they traded Fister, Bedard got injured for a month and then was traded, Vargas struggled mightily until his last few starts in September, and Pineda hit some kind of rookie wall that prevented him from continuing the sub-2.5 ERA dominance he enjoyed over the first three months of the season.  The hitting was always bad; what changed was the quality of the pitching.  Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Anthony Vasquez all shared starts the rest of the way with Felix, Vargas, and Pineda.  All, aside from Felix, were terrible in the second half of the season.

So, if you’re going to compare the 2012 Mariners to the 2011 Mariners, it would only be fair to compare the First Half 2012 Mariners with the Second Half 2011 Mariners.  Because the pitching has been THAT bad.  For both halves.

But, the 2012 hitting has been marginally better!  As such, that’s why I believe these 2012 Mariners are better than their 2011 counterparts.

Nevertheless, this pitching!  Ye gods!

Hector Noesi has been terrible against most teams, with a bright spot here and there against terrible teams.  Never has he been dominant, however.  Jason Vargas has been just plain mediocre throughout this season; pretty damn great at home (3.19 ERA, only 4 home runs allowed over 6 starts) and as bad as it gets on the road (5.70 ERA, and a whopping 16 home runs allowed over only 10 starts).  Blake Beavan seemingly retained only his worst qualities from his rookie campaign last season, with no improvement across the board anywhere else (thus earning his demotion to Tacoma).  Beavan’s replacement, Erasmo Ramirez, has been hit around like a pinata in his two starts.  Kevin Millwood has been a nice little surprise for this team, but he is still going to have nights like last Friday where he just doesn’t have it (5 IP, 8 runs, 5 ER) and that will ultimately reduce his trade value to almost nothing.  Even Felix has been susceptible to being rocked around on occasion (though we’re all hoping after his short week-plus stint of not starting, he has turned a corner on whatever issues he was experiencing).  When you factor in this is also a pitching staff where they had to demote their closer, it’s no wonder we’re looking at the record we’ve got right now.

With the way the Mariners have been able to hit, especially on the road (compared to last year), a halfway decent pitching staff would have led this team to at least a .500 record!

And, truth be told, it’s unfair to lump in the bullpen with the rest of this group.  Yeah, Brandon League lost his closing job and deservedly so.  But, for the most part, the rest of the bullpen has been lights out!

I don’t know if Tom Wilhelmsen has given up more than a small handful of runs since he earned the closer’s job.  Hell, he hasn’t given up a run in the last 13.2 innings, dating back to May 23rd!  In the month of June (jinx alert), he’s given up all of 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 over nine appearances.  He is, quite frankly, the most remarkable pitcher on the entire staff, and it’s going to be exciting to watch him go the rest of the way.

It’s not just him, though.  Lucas Luetge recently gave up his first runs of the season, and he’s a Rule 5 guy who has been on the roster as a lefty specialist since Spring Training.  Charlie Furbush, as a middle reliever, has been absolutely lights out, with 39 strikeouts in 31.1 innings.  Even Brandon League, aside from a few terrible outings (and his absurdly low K/9IP rate) still has a sub-4 ERA and should fetch us SOMETHING at the trade deadline.  And Shawn Kelley is solid, if unspectacular, as a right-handed set-up guy.

This team could – and SHOULD – be better than its 31-43 record.  Unfortunately, the scapegoat this time around isn’t the usual suspect.  Granted, the hitting isn’t 1997 Seattle Mariners caliber, but it’s at least good enough to be having us CONTEND for SOMETHING.  Something besides last place … last in all of baseball that is.

I guess why I’m not more upset about this is due to knowing what we have in the minor leagues.  Millwood and Vargas will be gone after this season (most likely).  Beavan will get a chance to turn his career around, but he’s going to have to take a page out of Doug Fister’s book to do so.  Erasmo Ramirez might not be anything more than a bullpen guy if he can’t figure out a way to avoid getting knocked around every five days.  Ditto Hector Noesi.

We’ve got three highly-touted young prospects in the middle and upper Minors who are ready to break out.  If the hitting can just maintain this upward trajectory, 2013 might be moderately exciting. 

Of course, there are more If’s in that paragraph than I’m letting on.  Those minor league pitching prosects need to be ready to make the jump.  And if they’re not, we could be looking at more of the same in 2013.  Possibilities:  we’ve got them in spades!

Running Diary of My First Mariners No-Hitter (Replay)

Because I wasn’t around a TV when it was broadcast live.  Also, with apologies to Bill Simmons (or whoever invented this format of Internet writing).

11pm – Just pulled into Tacoma.  I left Seattle pretty much RIGHT after the game ended.  I’ve been up since 6am, I’m on a hella diet right now, so I’m bound to be a little punchy.  Efforts were futile to get my dad or brother up in time to DVR the replay, so here I am.  Efforts were also futile to watch the TV in our apartment’s gym because the cable was broken.

11:03 – Great.  Dan Patrick Show is on.  This is awful.

11:07 – Insta-Slim T-Shirt commercial is on.  Yeah, I like to get my Insta-Slim T’s in XXXL so I can wear ’em loose.

11:12 – Flipping around now.  Joe Mande is doing stand up on Comedy Central.  I know this is supposed to be funny, but for the life of me I wish Aziz Ansari’s special was on right now.

11:15 – So, I was watching some old episodes of Parks & Rec on my computer at home after leaving the gym earlier this evening.  After each episode, I’d go online to check the M’s score because, seriously, I’m not going to follow the M’s and the Dodgers all that closely when Millwood is pitching.  Anyway, in the middle of the 4th inning, I see there are no runs scored and no hits for the Dodgers.  I nod my head approvingly and watch another episode (or two, I can’t remember at this point).  I check back in the middle of the sixth and see we’re 9 outs away.  I say aloud to absolutely no one, “Really?  Are we REALLY doing this tonight?”  Then, I turn on my radio and slog through the final three innings of what turned out to be an exciting yet constant stream of pitching changes.

11:20 – Seriously, Joe Mande … hilarious?

11:27 – What is John Waters doing on Bill Maher?  He figuratively has nothing to say!

11:30 – Crap, it looks like Dan Patrick is going into overtime … M’s replay is supposed to start now!  And, for Christ’s sake, he’s interviewing E from Entourage … you are God damned killing me.

11:33 – And now they’re making me wait even longer because some fucking horse has a bum wheel … this sucks shit.  Cut Dan Patrick off and let’s do this bitch!

11:36 – Ahh, Garfunkel & Oates, bring me back to laughter while I wait!

11:39 – Can someone explain to me why they replay the Dan Patrick Show at 11pm at night?  Can someone also explain why they televise the Dan Patrick Show to begin with?  I don’t know who is actually at fault, but I blame those insipid morons Mike & Mike on ESPN.

11:42 – See, once I realized everyone at home was asleep, my second idea was to have them DVR the M’s replay tomorrow.  Because SURELY the M’s game would be replayed … such an historic event … checking TVGuide.com … oh, sorry.  Root Sports is too busy showing Paid Programming and fishing shows.  Fucking A …

11:48 – FINALLY!

11:49 – Good start for Kevin Millwood.  Strikeout to lead off the game.  Dee Gordon, I have a feeling you can eat my ass cheese …

11:51 – Millwood’s face looks fucking WEIRD with that goatee.

11:52 – That’s a catch for Mike Carp.  Even the laziest of fly balls look like a challenge for Carp.  Who puts this defense behind a pitcher and expects a no-no?

11:53 – Kawasaki gobbles up the grounder at short for the final out in the first.  Let’s get ready for a lot of futile bats tonight!  Only … three more hours to go!

11:54 – Twitter still going strong.  Local media absolutely giddy.

11:55 – Nathan Eovaldi.  That will be the first and last time I ever write that name on this website.  For you trivia buffs, he’s the starter who went against the third M’s no-no.

11:56 – Boy have people been killing Ichiro lately.  And by “people” I mean talk radio people.  It’s funny how they like to tear down our biggest superstars because they don’t go on the radio every other week giving them interviews.  Same deal with Shaun Alexander and Ken Griffey Jr.  You’ll notice they LOVED Hasselbeck until his last day, even though he wore down just like every other athlete eventually does.  Apparently, if you don’t constantly kiss ass, and you start to struggle at the end of a Hall of Fame career, you get the bum’s rush out the door.

12:04 – Can’t help but think about how much I would prefer to be listening to this game with Dave Niehaus on the call …

12:07 – Dan Wilson in the booth!  I thought the M’s reserved all their most exciting games for when Bone sat in.

12:08 – Fly out to Ichiro.  Can’t tell if Millwood looks good or if the Dodgers look bad.  At the very least, Millwood doesn’t look bad.

12:08 – Really Abreu?  Bunting?  Did you forget what size your jersey is?  Gotta be pushing 3 bills at this point …

12:09 – And a weak grounder to 3rd for Abreu.  I can’t believe he’s still playing.  And is still effective?  Damn.  .817 OPS.  Doesn’t that lead the M’s right now?  I’m too tired to go check.

12:10 – Memo to Mariners executives:  I have yet to meet a single M’s fan who likes the teal jerseys.  Just something to think about.

12:11 – Fly out to deep center.  6 up and 6 down.

12:12 – Root Sports broadcasts have the worst commercials.  Banner Bank and Emerald Queen Casino concerts back-to-back is my Holocaust.

12:17 – M’s went down easily in the 2nd.  This Dodgers pitcher looks NASTY

12:19 – Edgar throwing the first pitch … why wasn’t I at this game?

12:20 – First out in the third hit right at Carp.  That’s the way I like it; the less Carp has to move the better.

12:21 – Jesus, it’s like these Dodgers hitters have somewhere else to be!  Strikeout on a ridiculously out-of-the-zone pitch.

12:22 – Tony Gwynn Jr. looks nothing like his father.  Doesn’t hit much like him either.  Nice catch by Montero in foul territory.

12:25 – Holy Hell does Mike Carp have a lot of weird tattoos on his right arm.

12:33 – Totally called the A-Rod answer on the Trivia Question for who hit the most doubles in a single season by the Mariners.  Edgar was the obvious choice.  Olerud was a moron’s choice.  Ibanez was the only one throwing me for a moment.  But, yeah, A-Rod’s 1996 season was ridiculous.

12:35 – I’m now that kind of tired where you can’t bring yourself to blink lest you risk passing out … six more innings to go.

12:39 – Holy shit, Dee Gordon bunts down to Seager and he bare-hand throws to first.  Amazing.  Every no-no has at least one or two defensive plays that make you say, “Wow.”

12:41 – Strikeout swinging!  How does Millwood do it?

12:44 – Pop-out to Seager.  12 up & 12 down.

12:45 – 5-Hour Energy is full of SHIT!  Try drinking that when you’re pulling an all-nighter driving back to San Francisco from Coachella in the middle of the night and see if you don’t die in a fiery car crash!

12:48 – If I could, I would fast forward through all of these useless Mariners at-bats.  They’re about as entertaining as watching old people fuck.

12:51 – Saunders broken-bat single up the middle!  God damn is this guy on a tear!  Couldn’t happen to a more-deserving guy, in my book.  Saunders has taken a LOT of lumps in his Major League career to date.

12:55 – Jaso might be 0 for 2, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look like one of the more competent hitters on this team.  Love watching him at the plate.

12:59 – Very audible “FUCK!” out of Millwood after walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth.  Now comes Abreu.

12:59 – First pitch:  3-6-3 double play hit right at Smoak.

1:01 – Ooo, Hairston was on that fastball down the middle.  Fouled it straight back.  That one could have been trouble.  As it stands, he took a meatball down the pipe for strike three.  15 up and 15 down (thanks to the DP).

1:03 – All those D-Bags in the beer garden not paying attention to what would be a no-hitter.  How does it feel?  If I were there, I would’ve appreciated the SHIT out of this game!

1:06 – Why would you EVER start out going back before coming in on an Ichiro line drive hit right at you in Center Field?  Isn’t that something you just assume is in front of you, no questions asked?  Tsk tsk, Tony Gwynn Jr.

1:07 – Nice little squeaker of a base hit through the hole between third & short for Ackley.  Runners on first & second.

1:08 – Seager hot shot up the middle, but they played him perfectly.  Scoring threat over.  It’s still hard for me not to put quotes around “threat”, but the M’s offense not being totally worthless anymore is still somewhat of a new phenomenon.

1:10 – Class Action lawyers are the scum of all scum.  Join us in this lawsuit where millions of dollars will change hands!  And, here are a few pennies for your trouble …

1:12 – Shallow fly to center.  Millwood still going strong.

1:13 – Swing and a miss!  Not for nothing, but I’m still trying to figure out where Millwood injured himself.  He’s down to his final batter here …

1:14 – He adjusted his cup just now … or does he feel a pull?  OK, that sounded dirtier than I intended.

1:15 – Wow, that curve was SICK!  Strike three for Gwynn.  I see a hint of a limp as he’s walking off the field.  Maybe that curve did it.

1:16 – This weird cowboy guy hawking 5-Hour Energy is creepy to say the least.  He deserves to die and I hope he burns in hell, to say the most.

1:21 – 8 innings of 2-hit ball for Danny Hultzen tonight.  I love those Building To The Future updates … always makes me happy.

1:22 – Doesn’t seem like we’ve done much of anything in these 5+ innings on offense, but their pitcher is already nearing 100 pitches.  Go figure.

1:25 – End of 6th.  FINALLY, things are going to get interesting.  The next three innings should take approximately 57 hours to finish.

1:26 – If no company can pay to be on Angie’s List, then how does she make money for these crappy commercials?  It can’t all be online ad revenue, it just fucking can’t Angie, you whore!

1:27 – Kevin Millwood walks off the field after standing out on the mound for a second.  Spoiler Alert:  minor groin injury.  On the radio, they were convinced it was a blister on his throwing hand.

1:29 – In comes Furbush.  Pitcher #2 … and more commercials.  Great.

1:33 – No more bunting for Dee Gordon.  First pitch by Furbush is a flyout to Center.

1:34 – What’s with this team and crappy beards?  Say it ain’t so, Furbush!

1:35 – Chopper to Furbush, terrible throw to first base.  Should’ve had him out.  E-1 sends the runner to second base with one out.

1:37 – Strikeout!  Furbush!  In spite of his error, he looks like he could go the rest of this game without giving up a hit.  But, Wedge wants to play Mr. Manager, so in comes Stephen Pryor.  Two outs.

1:38 – Well … manager.  We just say manager.

1:43 – Strikeout!  Heater!  Wild Thing!  You Make My Heart Sing!

1:44 – My first time watching Stephen Pryor pitch and I spend half the at-bat looking up Arrested Development clips … priorities!

1:45 – New pitcher for the Dodgers.  I will not name him because I don’t want to add another useless tag to this post.

1:46 – Strained Right Groin.  Word just came down.

1:47 – Strikeout for Carp.  One out in the seventh.  Will anyone EVER score?

1:48 – Kawasaki kinda looks like Ichiro’s kid brother who is only on the team because Ichiro’s mom made him drag him along.  Also, strike three Kawasaki.

1:50 – With two strikes on him, Ichiro shatters his bat, dribbles the ball to second, and beats the throw.  Two outs, so what?!

1:51 – I could get lost in Ackley’s eyes.  OK, now I’m getting punchy …

1:52 – I could get lost in Ackley’s crappy beard, but that’s neither here nor there.

1:53 – It’s hard to steal off of a left-handed pitcher, but there went Ichiro!  Great success!

1:54 – Big walk by Ackley.  Didn’t look like he was going to be able to do much of anything with this guy.

1:57 – Seager!  Just over the glove of the short stop!  1-0!  See, this is why Ichiro bats first and not third.  Infield single, stolen base, scores on Seager’s RBI.  All you fuckheads who wanted Ichiro batting 9th in the lineup can eat a bag of dicks.  Although, to be fair, had he been batting 9th in this game, maybe we still score anyway.  Who’s to say?

1:58 – Another pitching change.  Ye gods.

2:01 – End of 7th.  Two more innings.  I can hardly keep my eyes open.  Can I power nap during these commercial breaks?

2:02 – Why do people on diabetes commercials look like some of the most fit people in the world?  Where are your 400 pound Walmart patrons and their bags upon empty bags of Cheez Doodles?

2:05 – Something tells me Mr. Manager shouldn’t have had Pryor go back out there for the 8th inning.  He’s still a little green, Mr. M.  That’s asking a little much at this point in his career.

2:06 – Back to back walks for Pryor.  Mr. Manager sees the folly of his ways.  Lucas Luetge enters, no outs.

2:11 – Sac bunt to first base.  Runners on 2nd & 3rd, one out.  And, Mr. Manager is back out of the dugout.  Here comes thwarted closer turned set-up man Brandon League, in the biggest appearance of his life.

2:16 – Shallow line drive to Figgins in left (having taken over for Carp this inning).  He catches it, heaves towards home (and falls down in the process), and the runner at third holds!  Wow!

2:19 – Strike three swinging on a nasty split!  Three outs to go!  What a gutty, gutty performance by League right there!  Is it possible to rebuild a guy’s trade value as a set-up man?  Looks like we’re going to find out.

2:23 – At this point in the live radio broadcast, I was debating whether I wanted to drive all the way down to Tacoma, or hope that a member of my family would save me with the DVR.  I told myself that I would HAVE to come down here if the Mariners actually did it.  You can’t risk not seeing history.  Highlights or .gifs on the Internet just won’t cut it!

2:27 – Twitter was all over the story of the near no-no down in Tacoma by Erasmo Ramirez.  They have yet to mention it on the TV broadcast.  Could have been quite a night had Ramirez held onto it.  Of note:  he might be the guy called back up if Millwood goes on the DL with this groin strain.

2:29 – Jaso, was that hit REALLY necessary?  I’m trying to get some sleep here!

2:30 – Atta boy, Figgins!  The one time I applaud your first-pitch swinging ground out pulled to the first baseman!

2:32 – Tom Wilhelmsen, our new closer.  Brendan Ryan, defensive replacement at short stop.

2:33 – Grounder to short!  Dee Gordon blazing up the line!  Bang-bang play!  Out at first!  Umps aren’t taking away any more no-hitters on questionable calls.  You gotta earn your hits.

2:34 – Even the Super-Mo camera can’t definitively show whether he was out or safe!

2:35 – Line out to short stop!  Brendan Ryan getting a workout!

2:36 – Ackley to Smoak!  No hitter!  Very odd celebration on the field!  I can’t stop using exclamation points!

2:37 – 10th combined no hitter in MLB history.  6 pitchers.  1 catcher, Jesus Montero, one of the youngest catchers all time to catch a no-no.

2:38 – Kevin Millwood – 6 IP, Charlie Furbush – .2 IP, Stephen Pryor – .1 IP, Lucas Luetge – .1 IP, Brandon League – .2 IP, Tom Wilhelmsen – 1 IP.

2:39 – No hits, 3 walks, 114 pitches.  Against the best team in baseball right now.  Incredible.  Seattle Mariners over the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0.

2:41 – 6 pitchers, 11 position players.  17 of our 25 guys.  17 of our 21 available players (not counting the other starting pitchers).  The only guys who didn’t get in this game were Miguel Olivo, Alex Liddi, Shawn Kelley, and Hisashi Iwakuma (obv.).

2:45 – OK, that’s it.  Time to proofread this bitch and go to sleep.