Mariners Tidbit 58: Jesus Montero Is Back … Hooray?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Miller, Come On Down!

Hopefully, after the Mariners started losing a bunch of games, you stopped holding out hope for the 2013 version of the team in its early-April form.  If you haven’t jumped off of that sinking ship, I’m happy to say there’s a brand spankin’ new bandwagon over here.  We’re all holding on for dear life on this bucket ride to Hell!

I don’t need to tell you that Brendan Ryan sucks at hitting.  He’s as bad a hitter as he is good at fielding.  Since he’s the best at fielding, obviously means that he’s the worst at hitting.  Actually, that’s probably not that far from the truth.

Remember those grab-bags you’d get upon leaving the Puyallup Fair as a kid?  Full of cheap plastic toys, a bottle of bubbles, maybe a noise-maker or something.  Yeah, they were terrible.  Well, every year, right around this time, we find a Mariners team bereft of success at the Major League level, reaching into its grab-bag of prospects down in Tacoma to try to bolster – if nothing else – fan interest.  Smoak and Ackley and Seager and Liddi and Peguero and Robinson and Thames and Tuiasosopo and now guys like Franklin and Zunino and Triunfel and Miller.  More often than not, what we pluck from the grab-bag is a little piece of shit toy we’re either going to break or throw away in short order, because they’re dumb or we get bored with them.  Every year, we churn through prospects like we’re grating a block of cheese.  Why should 2013 be any different?

There are arguments for all sides.  You’re rushing guys, you need to stop doing that!  Well, what does it mean to “rush” someone?  Everyone develops at their own pace.  And so on and so forth.  At this point, I’m willing to treat MLB prospects like they’re just one giant Meat Market.  It’s a numbers game, bitch!  Ask a hundred prospects for their digits and you’re bound to get 9 or 10 to say yes!

So far, the Mariners have succeeded in finding one home-grown guy:  Seager.  He, seemingly, was rushed up to the Bigs.  Thus far, through 28 games, we think we have a second success story in Nick Franklin.  He, seemingly, was given ample time to develop in the minors.

That’s it.  Two guys, MAYBE.  I mean, seriously Mariners, what are you using as pick-up lines?  It’s a numbers game at the Meat Market and you are getting SLAUGHTERED!

Christ, do I think Brad Miller will be worth a damn?  Who the fuck knows?  He can’t be any worse than Brendan Ryan … except he can, and if his being in the Mariners’ organization is any indication, he probably will.

This team is in a total free-fall right now.  It’s painful to watch, but then again, it’s starting to get exciting again.  And, if Miller and Zunino can figure their shit out over the next year and a half, we could have one fantastic infield (plus Justin Smoak) by 2015!  Which says nothing of the outfield.  Or the rotation (outside of Felix).  Or the bullpen.

If you didn’t slit your wrists at the probability of one and a half more years of mediocre-to-bad baseball, then congratulations!  You’re as numb and dead inside as the rest of us.

Oh yes, Georgie, they float.  They all float down here.  And when you’re down here, you’ll float too …

Sweet dreams …

The Mariners Are About To Get Healthy

Justin Smoak is back.  We brought him back from the DL and lo and behold, in his first game since returning to the Majors, he hits a home run.

Dustin Ackley, since being sent down to Tacoma to work on his hitting (and, I guess, work on his becoming an outfielder), is seemingly days away from getting called back up.  And not a minute too soon.

Guti!  Guti, as well, is nearing the point where the organization is comfortable with bringing him back to the Bigs.  I know there’s some alternate universe out there where, these last four years, Guti has been an amazing success story and his being picked up by the team option for his 2014 season is nothing but a formality, and a cost-effective one at that.  But, in this universe, Guti’s return is merely a showcase for some other team to try to take a chance on a guy we have nursed back to health time after time after time.  On the one hand, I wish Guti nothing but the best in his future endeavors.  On the other hand, if he does achieve that best, it would kinda piss me off.

These three guys coming back will be huge.  Because we’ve got guys like Morse, Bay, and Morales suffering from nagging injuries that are preventing them from playing the field.  And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we want to have Raul Ibanez starting in left field every single day without rest.  Oh, yeah, and it’ll be nice to give Michael Saunders a day off.  He’s been struggling like it’s 2011 all over again.

Most importantly, if we can get these guys back in our everyday lineup by July, that gives us a solid three months of evaluation time.  Tired of seeing the veterans constantly carrying the mail, while the kids scuffle and stub their toes?  Well, how does this lineup suit you?

Zunino – C
Smoak – 1B
Franklin – 2B
Ryan – SS (assuming Triunfel is one of the guys sent back down to Tacoma to make room for incoming veterans)
Seager – 3B
Ackley – LF
Saunders – CF
Guti – RF
Morales – DH

Obviously, the return of Ackley, Smoak and Guti won’t signal the end of Ibanez, Bay, and Morse.  Those guys will still get regular playing time, mostly because they’ve earned it.  But, that list of guys above will get their share of regular playing time too.  And THOSE guys (with the exception of Ryan, Guti, and probably Morales) are the future.

As things stand right now, I couldn’t be more pleased with how Nick Franklin is turning out.  It’s still VERY early in his career, and it could all stop on a dime come next season a la Dustin Ackley in his Sophomore year, but right now?  I’m all in.

If you think it’s too early to make a solid opinion on Franklin, then don’t even get me started on Zunino.  There have been bright spots – his power seems to be the real deal – but I’m still firmly in the camp of this being too early for him to be on the Big League team.

The point is:  this is it.  This is the LAST chance.  The final straw!  Over these last three months, we’re going to need to see some considerable gains out of the following:

Zunino
Smoak
Franklin
Ackley
Saunders

I think it’s safe to say Seager has established himself, but I don’t want to jinx it, so let’s just say that Seager needs to keep doing what he’s doing.

Those guys HAVE to pan out, right now, or there will be wholesale changes.  The organization hasn’t stated as such, but you know which way the wind is blowing.  For their sakes and ours, I hope it works out.  I hope these next three months jumpstart a Mariners resurgence.  Because I don’t want to have to start ALL OVER AGAIN.

Also, not for nothing, but any time the Mariners want to bring up Erasmo Ramirez and replace any of the three shitshows – Saunders, Harang, Bonderman – it would make me and a lot of my Internet siblings quite happy.

Mariners Make More Moves In An Attempt To Stem The Tide Of Widespread Indifference

Nick Franklin has been called up.  Dustin Ackley has been sent down.  That’s the big story of the day.  Also, Hector Noesi is back up while Lucas Luetge has been sent down, but that’s more of an indictment of the state of our starting rotation right now (hash tag:  shambles) and how much we’ve had to rely on long work out of the bullpen.

So … there you go.  In the last week, the Mariners have sent down two of the biggest disappointments of the season – Ackley & Montero – and they’ve brought up two more soon-to-be disappointments – Triunfel & Franklin.  As far as I can tell, one of two things will happen:

  1. They will get regular starts at second base and short stop, and they will struggle.
  2. They will get regular starts at second base and short stop, they will play reasonably well, giving us all hope that maybe we’ve FINALLY found a prospect or two who will make good on their promise, we will pencil them in as everyday starters, and then like clockwork they will struggle.

Unless you’re new, let me give you a head’s up:  these are the Seattle Mariners.  Nothing ever works out long-term.  Nick Franklin and/or Carlos Triunfel could play the entire rest of this season, they could bat anywhere from .260 to .280 with solid power numbers and not-terrible defensive metrics, we will all sit back and wonder, “Could it really be possible?  Could we have FINALLY found our Middle Infield of the Future?”  Then, they’ll come back next year pencilled in as the #1 & #2 batters in our lineup, and they will suck.  Hard.  They’ll be sent back down and we’ll go through this cycle all over again as Ackley – who will surely show promise in Triple-A – is given yet another chance as we all hope for some fate that is sure to never materialize.

Enjoy it now.  Enjoy the awe and majesty of something new.  Enjoy the feeling of hope and possibility.  Hell, enjoy the increase in offensive production (because these two SURELY can’t be any worse than what we’ve just sent down to Tacoma and DFA’d entirely (Robert Andino, we hardly knew ye)).  And, after the shine has worn off, settle in.  It’s going to be a LONG fucking year where the best players on the team are all on one-year deals.  Ibanez, Morales, Morse, and Bay.  These are the guys keeping this team anywhere NEAR respectability and these are the guys who most likely won’t be on the Mariners in 2014 or 2015.

It’s almost exciting enough for me to take this day off and go to Safeco Field.  But, it’s raining and it’s supposed to continue raining and quite frankly I can’t be bothered.  It’s the end of May and the Mariners are planted firmly in fourth place in the AL West.  Sound familiar?

Then put your little hand in mine / There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb / Babe / I got you babe …

My Sunday At A Tacoma Rainiers Game

I know I’m not the first hack to extol the down-home virtues of watching minor league baseball games, but you’re just going to have to go with me on this one because I went to a Rainiers game yesterday, and MAN did I have a great time!

It all started with bedbugs.  A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a couple of them walking across my couch’s giant ottoman.  Upon confirmation of the infestation, I was forced to spend the entirety of that week’s weekend cleaning and bagging everything in my apartment (leaving only for the occasional gym run and to buy groceries).  This is what happens when you live anywhere in the Capitol Hill/First Hill/South Lake Union areas; and just know that the problem is getting worse, not better (I’m looking at you, Amazon.  The bedbug scourge is spreading through Seattle’s hipper areas like upwardly mobile tech-yuppies; you might want to clear out while you still can).

Anyway, last weekend was the worst.  So, I made it a point to spend this weekend as far away from my apartment (now supposedly bedbug-free, but we’ll see) as possible.  Turns out, “as far as possible” is 30-something miles south, to Tacoma, to stay with my family.  Of course, there’s only so much you can do with your family, and so much binge drinking you can accomplish in a 3-day period.  So, I decided to clean & sober it up on Sunday afternoon with a 1:35pm baseball game at Cheney Stadium.

Or, I guess, The New Cheney Stadium?

I can’t remember the last time I attended a game at Cheney, but it was before all the renovations.  I vaguely remember there being Dollar Hot Dogs, Dollar Ice Cream, and Dollar Other Stuff (maybe beer?).  I’m almost positive the only reason we were there was for the hot dogs (and beer, I guess), and for the life of me I can’t remember any of the Rainiers in the game that day (probably for the best).

Yesterday, I had more of an agenda at hand.  James Paxton was on the hill and I’ve yet to see any of the games by members of The Big Three, so this was as good a time as any.  We also had soon-to-be-promoted Nick Franklin as well as catching phenom Mike Zunino.  Going into this day, there were enough interesting elements to capture my attention full throttle.

That was before I realized we had Guti at DH (and batting leadoff) as he works his way from DL to Majors.  So, that was a nice bonus.  Stefen Romero was also in the lineup, playing left field (and making a nice diving catch early in the game).  Carlos Triunfel was also in the lineup at short (pushing Franklin to second).  I don’t know if that means the Mariners see Triunfel as a more-likely replacement for the Brendan Ryan/Robert Andino experiment than Nick Franklin, or if they’re just keeping both players fresh in the event one of them is brought up to play short, but I thought it was somewhat interesting.

James Paxton started out the game as a strike-throwing machine.  He breezed through the first 7-8 hitters, then they started figuring him out and knocking him around.  It’s hard for me to make any definitive opinions on the guy after only one viewing, but suffice it to say James Paxton did not have a good game.  Was this just one bad day?  Was it a fluke that this particular team seemed to get the better of him?

If you want my inexperienced take, I can see why he’s the lowest-rated of the Big Three.  If he’s hitting his spots, painting the corners, he’ll be in good shape.  He either needs to develop a better secondary out pitch or he needs to start throwing it more often, because it didn’t seem like he trusted it as much as he should’ve.  James Paxton might be too predictable.  Or, he might just have the kind of stuff that hitters are better able to figure out as the game goes on.  I understand why some people believe he’s destined to be a bullpen arm; because the second and third times around the lineup saw him getting hit pretty damn hard.  The thing is:  his stuff isn’t all that great.  How much can you expect out of a semi-finesse lefty with no real strong out-pitch in the bullpen?

Either way, Paxton didn’t make it out of the fifth inning.  Jonathan Arias relieved and made his AAA-debut.  He was recalled from AA and looks like a strong right handed power arm.  Arias went 2.1 innings of no-hit, 2-strikeout ball before giving way to Brian Sweeney who went the final 2 innings while giving up only 1 hit.

On the offensive side of things, Tacoma scored first thanks to a second-inning solo home run by Mike Zunino, which was apparently his first home run at home in his brief Tacoma career.  Zunino would go hitless the rest of the way, but he knocked in another run thanks to a sac-fly in the bottom of the sixth.

Paxton gave up two runs in the third and two runs in the fourth to put Memphis ahead 4-1.  The way Maikel Cleto was going, I thought this was going to be a long day (made even longer thanks to the Mariners losing for a third consecutive day in Cleveland, with Felix getting pounded), but third baseman Nate Tenbrink homered in the bottom of the fourth to pull the game to 4-3.  A solo homer off of Paxton in the fifth effectively knocked him out of the game and put Memphis up 5-3, which stuck until the bottom of the sixth with the aforementioned sac fly by Zunino, followed by an RBI single (with the infield pulled in, a runner on third, and only one out) by first baseman Rich Poythress to tie the game.

The teams exchanged zeroes until the bottom of the ninth, with one out, when Carlos Triunfel mashed a game-winning, walk-off home run.  And the majority of the 5,341 in attendance went home happy.

All in all, it was a great time.  One thing I noticed from the renovation is that they’ve done away with those long, hard metal benches.  All the seats are actual SEATS.  View Reserved seats are only $13 and you feel like you’re RIGHT THERE.  These same seats at Safeco Field would probably be over $100.  There’s a grassy hill area next to right field (down the first base side) where people can sit and those tickets are only $7.  From the looks of things, nestled comfortably in my $13 seats behind home plate, it looked like a fucking madhouse of kids running around in that grassy area.  So, unless you’re on a huge budget, or you’ve got a million kids and are already dead inside, I suggest NOT sitting on the grassy knoll.  For the record, the real good seats, down practically on the field, are still only $25.  And, there are suites, which I didn’t bother to price, as well as a party deck area with tables and umbrellas and, I guess, beer and stuff, but I didn’t price that either.  As I was with just one other buddy, I didn’t see the point in doing a full price-breakdown of all possible experiences at The New Cheney Stadium.

As I have no other minor league stadia to compare it to, I won’t.  It’s a fairly similar experience to going to Safeco – there are between-innings announcements, games on the video screen, stupid trivia, a reindeer mascot that’s a clear knockoff of the Mariner Moose.  Unlike Safeco, there were t-shirts shot into the stands, teenage girls dancing on the dugout while music is playing, kids running the bases in the middle of the game, about a million pre-game ceremonial pitches, a Kiss Cam, and a bunch of other things that distract from the actual experience of watching a fucking baseball game.  I would say my old age is starting to creep in, but even when I was a child I thought these things were idiotic and pointless.

Do you think they ever have throw-back days where the stadium announcer doesn’t do anything but say the names of the batters, where we’re not bombarded with music to fill any dreaded silence we might be forced to endure, where there’s nothing on the video board, where there’s no mascot running around, no T-shirts given away, and where we’re not forced to make it all about the kids, thereby dragging out the game an extra 15-20 minutes?  Followed by an after-game celebration with NO fireworks?  Where everyone can just sit there and quietly watch a fucking baseball game?  Where they can cheer when they want to cheer instead of being told when to cheer?  Do you think that’s possible?  Because I would GO to that game.  I would go the SHIT to that game!  I’d even wear an old-timey hat from the 1930s and a suit if need be!