Tempering Expectations For This Mariners Rebuild

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

It won’t.

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

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

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

Looking Back At The 2014 Mariners: The Hitters, Part III

Consider this the third in a series of looks back at the 2014 Mariners.  For once, it’s going to be more than, “They fucking sucked, I’m sick of thinking about this shit, I’ll see you in February.”  I’m sure I’ll toss out the usual “What Went Right” and “What Went Wrong” posts as time and desire permit, but right now I’m taking a look at the players.  In short, I’m going to list all the players who accumulated a stat for the 2014 Mariners, and I’m going to talk about each of them individually.

I’m also breaking this up into three parts, because we’re pushing 7,000 words here.

Click HERE for Part I
Click HERE for Part II

Logan Morrison – Following the signing of Corey Hart, the Mariners hedged their bet by trading away Carter Capps to the Marlins for their version of Justin Smoak.  LoMo played a little more outfield than Smoak ever could have dreamed, and he was a lot more injured, but the sentiment is still the same:  a guy with a lot of power potential who just never put it together, for a maddeningly long amount of time.

He’s yet to play a full season (only over 100 games once in his 5-year Major League career), and he’s yet to be all that effective at the plate.  Encouragingly, 2014 was his best year ever, so there’s hope yet.

He hit .262/.315/.420, with 11 homers and 20 doubles in 99 games.  He had only 9 games in the outfield, with the rest at 1B or DH, which is promising.  Let’s keep him there.  He was a VAST improvement over Justin Smoak (who got the lion’s share of starts early in the season at first base) offensively, and wasn’t all that bad defensively either.  He’s club-controlled and if he can stay healthy, might just be a viable starting first baseman for us.  He’s no All Star or anything, but at this point I’ll just take anyone who’s above replacement.

Outlook for 2015:  Slot him in as your starting first baseman.  At best, the Mariners will only be able to bring in one right-handed slugger, and you have to figure that guy will play primarily at DH.  If, in some incomprehensible universe, the Mariners bring in two sluggers, then I suppose you could be looking at LoMo as a platoon option at first/DH.  But, I bet he sticks and makes us all forget about that time he smashed a bat against a wall in frustration and cut up his face, causing him to miss some time.

Humberto Quintero – Says here he was a third catcher down the stretch and had as many at-bats (2) as Felix Hernandez (as many hits too).

Outlook for 2015:  He’s a free agent.  Either he’ll be back in Tacoma, or he’ll be with some other team’s AAA squad, or he’ll be somewhere else.

Stefen Romero – As per usual, the Mariners were desperate for right-handed outfield bats.  Stefen Romero was pretty good in Spring Training and won a spot on the Major League club.  He stunk.  He was sent down and brought up multiple times.  In that aforementioned game in Atlanta where John Buck hit the game-winning home run, Romero hit a game-tying 3-run home run that ultimately led to Buck’s magic.  This day would be the highlight for both of these men in 2014.

Outlook for 2015:  I dunno.  Tacoma probably.  Outside shot at a bench spot with the Mariners, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Michael Saunders – I’m just going to come out and say it:  Michael Saunders was the third best position player on the Mariners in 2014 behind Cano and Seager.  That’s really saying something, considering he only appeared in 78 games.

Why did he only appear in 78 games?  Well, to start the season, he was on the bench, behind Almonte, LoMo, Romero, and others.  When he got a chance to play – however infrequently – he consistently produced.  But, he missed a huge chunk of June with an injury; then again missed some of July, all of August, and some more of September with another injury.

Is this what the team considers Michael Saunders to be?  This injury-prone fourth outfielder who needs regular days off to stay healthy, fresh, and productive?  Probably.  Not for nothing, but when you’re talking about these guys who play all-out all the time, I tend to agree.  Yeah, he’ll give up his body to make a play, but he’ll be paying for it later.  That’s why I never understood all the vitriol with Ichiro never diving.  Do you want him falling all over the field going after balls?  Or, do you want a guy you can count on to be in your lineup every single day?  Same thing with Shaun Alexander.  Until the end of his career, he was very durable.  Why?  He went down and out of bounds rather than take unnecessary hits.  I love Beastmode and Jay Buhner as much as the next guy, but I’m just sayin’, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself and living to fight another day.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s looking to get a raise in arbitration.  He should certainly be back.  Pencil him in as a fourth outfielder with a chance to win a starting job if things break right.  If you wanted my prediction right now, though, I’d say he’s not starting.  I’ve got Ackley in left, A-Jax in center, and Free Agent X or Trade Acquisition Y in right.  Still, it’ll be nice to have Saunders back, as I DO think he’s a bona fide Major Leaguer.  He’ll be even more valuable if we manage to find three viable starters to play ahead of him in the outfield.  No more crappy Endy Chavez for us if we can help it!

Kyle Seager – LOVE me some Kyle Seager, boy!  Hot damn that kid is damn hot!

He led the team in homers with 25 and RBI with 96.  He made his very first All Star game and got a couple flimsy hacks in.  He’s been a regular since July 2011 (the same time as Ackley) and he hasn’t let us down once!  In his three full seasons, he’s hit at least 20 homers and batted between .259 and .268.  All the while, improving dramatically with his defense at third base.  This is reflected in his WAR, which has gone up from 2.6 in 2012, to 3.9 in 2013, to a whopping 5.8 this year.  He was only bested in that number by Felix and Cano, which puts him in rarefied air.

And the best part?  He can still get better!  Particularly at the plate.  I agree with LMC, he can and SHOULD be hitting in the .280s.  And, if this team manages to produce some heavy hitters in this lineup, I think he’d be an ideal 2-hole hitter.  Regardless, I have no problem with him batting fifth, IF we find a legitimate cleanup guy.

Either way, I love the fact that there’s someone besides Cano and Felix who I don’t have to worry about.  He doesn’t slump for extended periods of time.  He’s not afraid to hit in Safeco.  He doesn’t get injured.  He doesn’t have extreme splits at the plate.  Thank God for Kyle Seager!

Outlook for 2015:  I’ll have what I’m having!

Justin Smoak – Ahh, the anti-Seager.  Before the season – indeed, even before Spring Training – Smoak was touted as the starting first baseman.  He was someone LMC declared would one day lead the league in doubles.  Instead, he’s successfully led the league in facepalm moments.

His April was no good after his first seven games.  His May was even worse.  In June, he was either sent down to Tacoma or injured.  Either way, he sucked dick the rest of the way.  .202/.275/.339.  THIRTEEN doubles.  PRETTY sure that’s not even close to league-leading.

Outlook for 2015:  He’s arbitration-eligible and due to make some serious coin if he stays.  He’s also out of minor league options, so we can’t just stash him in Tacoma when we’re sick and tired of looking at him.  I have to believe, with every fiber of my being, that he won’t be back.  He’s been given every chance in the world to succeed and he’s been dreadful at every turn.  It’s time for him to go elsewhere and fail miserably for someone else.  If he’s lucky, the Rockies will sign him and he’ll parlay a hot Spring Training into an okay career, making us all wonder, “What If”, except I’ll tell you What If:  he never would’ve made it in Seattle!  It’s Bandbox or Bust for Smoak.

Jesus Sucre – This was the guy we brought up to replace John Buck.  He’s a better receiver of baseballs – he can frame a pitch well and has a pretty good arm – but he’s nothing with a bat in his hands.

Outlook for 2015:  I’m almost certain he’ll be back in Tacoma.  There’s an outside chance he’s back up here as a backup to Zunino.  But, I have to believe that “backup catcher” is once again one of our middling priorities in the upcoming offseason.

Chris Taylor – He was called up and played his first game on July 24th.  He would’ve been called up sooner, but he had to go on the DL for a brief period.  Either way, his promotion was made possible by Brad Miller being a suck-ass for the first few months of the season.

In total, he played in 47 games.  He had a great batting average (.287), but only hit 8 balls for extra bases (with no triples or homers).  His defense was a step above Miller’s, so there’s your trade off.  Miller is a guy who will hit for power, but he won’t walk, so if he’s not striking the ball flush, then he’s not doing much for you.  Taylor is a guy who will never hit for power, but he walks a little more and doesn’t strike out NEARLY as much.  He also gives you better defense.

Or, put it this way:  Taylor was worth 1.5 WAR in his 47 games; Miller was worth 1.6 WAR in 123 games.

So, what do you value?  Premium power at a premium position?  Or defense and stability?  If Miller plays up to his potential (meaning:  hitting for a high average and cutting down somewhat on strikeouts, while maintaining his power), then his ceiling is one of the best offensive short stops in baseball.  I think Taylor is pretty much at his ceiling right now, meaning he’s anywhere from a 3.5 to 4.5-WAR player (if he can keep it up through a full season).

Outlook for 2015:  I guess we’ll find out next year.  It’ll be interesting to see the short stop position battle shake out in Spring Training, and it’ll be even more interesting to see if the winner of that battle can hold onto his job.  Gun to my head:  I think Miller has the edge in this race.  I think they love his power and are willing to put up with some defensive lapses and slumps.  Not TOO MANY slumps, mind you, but I guess we’ll see.  Taylor is a nice Plan B to have.

Mike Zunino – Right out of the gate, just know that Mike Zunino isnt going anywhere.  He’s the entrenched starter as catcher and will be for years to come.

With that out of the way … KIND OF a woofer of a 2014.  Here are the positives:

  • He stayed healthy and played in 131 of a possible 162 games.  That’s quite a workload!
  • He threw out 28.3% of base stealers (28 of 99), which I want to say is good (at least, it’s a vast improvement over the duds we’ve had here since Dan Wilson retired).
  • He was in the upper echelon of pitch-framers, stealing more would-be balls as strikes than most other catchers in baseball.
  • His Catcher E.R.A. was 3.18 (I don’t even know what that means, or if it’s even a good stat or not)
  • He only had 8 passed balls all year (considering he catches Felix on a regular basis, VERY impressive).
  • He hit 22 home runs.
  • He’s only 23 years old and already has a year and a half of Major League experience under his belt.

You notice that most of his positives are defense-related, yet I’m seeing here that his Defensive-WAR was only 0.3 and his overall WAR was only 0.6.  According to other metrics, he actually had NEGATIVE defensive runs saved numbers.  What the shit?

I was all prepared to come on here and talk about what a stud he’s been defensively, and about what a black hole he’s been at the plate.  Turns out, not so fast.

With my untrained eye (and mediocre grasp of advanced stats), I think he’s still good defensively.  I know for a FACT that he’s the best catcher we’ve had in YEARS.  Again, probably since Wilson.  I also think that his bat stinks, but it’s sure to get better.  It would almost have to, as I don’t think it can get much worse.

He had 476 plate appearances in 2014.  Of those, 337 were against right-handed pitchers and 139 were against lefties.  Here are his splits:

  • Vs. Lefties:  .252/.295/.427, 8 doubles, 5 homers, 42 strikeouts, 30.2% Ks
  • Vs. Righties:  .176/.237/.394, 12 doubles, 2 triples, 17 homers, 116 strikeouts, 34.4% Ks

That’s gotta tighten up.  He’s a home run blast waiting to happen, but much more often he’s a strikeout waiting to happen.  And against righties, he’s remarkably worse.  That’s gotta change, because we can’t just save him for lefties.  We’ve got to hit on this guy because he’s THAT important to our future.

Outlook for 2015:  Starting catcher.  You probably want to keep him towards the bottom of the lineup again.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.  Let him get his feet wet and maybe one day he’ll be a 5-hole or 6-hole hitter.  I’m not too worried yet, but his offense has to pick up.  If he hits in 2015 the way he did in 2014, I’m going to be VERY concerned.

Mariners Sign Corey Hart, Trade For Logan Morrison

Doin’s are transpirin’ down at the Winter Meetings this week.  Trades, free agent signings, old white men staring at their Twitter machines, speculation, rumor-mongering, boozing, sex with prostitutes:  the Winter Meetings truly have it all!

In between marathon orgy sessions (I imagine a harem of voluptuous, full-bodied women of color), the Mariners brass came up for air long enough to sign Corey Hart to a 1-year deal worth $5 million (if he turns into Michael Morse) with incentives worth up to $13 million (if he turns into Edgar Martinez).

If you don’t know who Corey Hart is:  he played for Milwaukee for a bunch of years.  He hit a bunch of home runs, struck out a ton, played outfield and first base, and most importantly of all:  bats right handed.  Most of his career, Hart was a right fielder.  There were sporadic runs in left field (which is still a possibility) and center (which is absolutely out of the question).  It looks like Hart shifted more to first base in 2012, and that presumably is where the fans would want him to play (when he’s not DHing).

I have a feeling that’s not necessarily going to be the case.  I have to imagine there was a decent amount of interest in his services:  who wouldn’t take a buy-low flyer on a guy who has his kind of power?  Therefore, I have to imagine that part of his deal meant at least a promise of him getting to play outfield.  I’m not going to sit here and say he’s worth a damn as an outfielder – by all accounts, he’s no better than Morse with the glove – but if this team hits Spring Training with Smoak, this Logan Morrison guy, and whoever else we take a chance on … I mean, they can’t ALL play first base and DH!

If we’re lucky, we figure out a way to package Smoak and Franklin into something useful and we hand the first base job to Hart full time.  If we’re not, then you better get used to Hart’s name in that right field spot.

Either way, there’s not a whole lot to hate about this move.  The Mariners needed a bat from the right side, they needed some power to play either ahead or behind Cano, and quite honestly we need some REAL Smoak insurance, so we can ship his dumb ass off at a moment’s slumping!

The other big deal of the day was Carter Capps going to the Marlins for Logan Morrison.  Carter Capps is a right-handed relief pitcher who had a 100mph fastball that lost some of its MPH last year.  He also had wicked movement, but didn’t know how to harness it, and as a result gave up home runs.  He also didn’t have anything to combat left-haned batters, and as a result gave up MORE home runs.  Eventually – if his arm doesn’t crap out, which it very well might – he will figure his shit out and be a pretty solid closer for someone.  Was that going to be 2014?  Probably not.

Logan Morrison is a guy who has yet to really play a full season as a starter in the Major Leagues.  His hitting numbers are pretty underwhelming (bringing up visions of the endless string of AAAA outfielders the Mariners have had the last few years), but he looks like a guy who could potentially have some pop in his bat.  He’s a lefty, so that should only help his cause while playing in Safeco.  He started his career as a left fielder, but more and more he’s been dividing his time with first base, so I don’t know what to tell you.  He’s another guy no one trusts in the outfield, which kind of gives us a big ol’ logjam when you factor in Smoak’s existence on this team.

Obviously, the moves are far from over.  Right now, they’re saying all the things they’re supposed to say (i.e. that Smoak is in line to be this team’s starting first baseman), but I wouldn’t buy it.  At the VERY least, we’ve got Hart as a RF/DH type and we’ve got Morrison in here to do battle with all the other iffy guys on this team (Ackley, Saunders, Almonte, probably Guti if he’s re-signed on the cheap, and of course Smoak).

When last I spoke of the Mariners, I was of the opinion that the Mariners had two really good everyday players – Cano & Seager – and nothing about these deals changes that.  In Hart, we certainly have a guy who will be an everyday player, but we don’t really know where he’ll fit in the field, and we don’t really know how long he’ll be healthy.  Will he bounce back and play most of a full season like Jason Bay?  Or, will he immediately get re-injured like Mike Morse (because:  Mariners Curse)?

If you want to look at how things are shaping up, I’ll bite.  Cano & Seager are the stars.  Miller, Zunino, and Hart are all guys you can be realistically optimistic about.  Then, we have Smoak, Ackley, Saunders, and Morrison who you probably shouldn’t set your sights too high about.  If those last four guys do anything but disappoint, then GREAT!  But, if they’re not traded away, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot.

Which is why you have to believe the team is still going to go after another big bat or two.  Hopefully via trade (and not via Nelson Cruz).

It’s still mighty early in the Hot Stove process, but thus far color me impressed.  The Mariners – while still embarrassing themselves – aren’t TOTALLY embarrassing themselves!

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part I: Pitching

When you end up with a season like the Mariners just finished, you blame it on one thing:  lack of a plan.

Tell me, where was the plan?  The team swapped Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales, the team swapped John Jaso for Mike Morse, and the team filled in the empty spaces with a lot of filler bullshit.  You could argue that the team at least tried something different with the hitting.  It opted to trade defense for home runs, but at least they did SOMETHING.  You can yell and scream until you’re blue in the face about how that’s a pretty crappy idea, but think about it this way:  if the team didn’t try to make it all about the dingers – if they went super defensive and super OBP on us – would it have made any difference whatsoever?

I argue it would not have made one bit of difference.  Because this team totally crapped the bed when it came to pitching.

Remember when Jon Garland was almost our 4th/5th starter?  That was a thing that almost happened.  In Spring Training, we were banking on him to make this big comeback from injury to carry the load at the back-end of our rotation.  We weren’t totally sold on him, and he had an opt-out clause, so when push came to shove Garland moved on and started 12 games for the Rockies before being released.  But HE was almost in our rotation.  Think about that!  We could have had Saunders, Garland, Harang, and Bonderman all starting games for us this year!

As it stands, just having Saunders, Harang, and Bonderman was bad enough, but what were you going to do?  As I said before, the Mariners decided to totally and completely neglect the pitching side of things.

Yes, you can count on Felix to be your Ace.  Yes, you could see good things coming from Iwakuma.  Maybe not as good as he actually turned out to be, but I was never worried that he was going to take a huge step back either.  After that?  We all figured Joe Saunders would be Vargas-lite, but he was so much WORSE.  I don’t care why he was worse, I just know that he only had 13 quality starts out of 32.  That’s terrible.  You want your #3 starter to be better than 50% with their quality starts (I’d say at least 20 of 32) and he was nowhere near that.  More often than not, Joe Saunders gave this team NO CHANCE to win in his starts.  That’s a guy who started for us all year.

After that, we had hopes that our younger guys would step up.  But, of course, Erasmo Ramirez came out of the gates injured and didn’t make it back until around the All Star Break (and even when he returned, he was pretty mediocre).  We were hopeful that Danny Hultzen could crack the bigs somewhere around mid-season, but he pitched in all of 6 games in Triple-A before being shut down with shoulder problems.  Brandon Maurer did make the team after an otherworldly Spring Training (making the jump straight from Double-A), but he proved to be totally ineffective in getting left-handed bats out and had to go down to Tacoma for further seasoning.  Taijuan Walker wasn’t ready to pitch in the Majors until September.  Ditto James Paxton.  And Beavan and Noesi further proved they are never going to be Major League starters.

As you can plainly see, the kids were not up to the task for one reason or another.  So, we had to bring up Bonderman when Maurer finally pitched his way to the minors.  We had to panic-trade for Harang when Beavan did the same.  Neither of these veterans lasted to September, because neither of these veterans had any fucking business being in the Major Leagues at this point in their careers.

In short, our starting rotation was a total joke.  Yeah, our top two guys were as good as any other team’s top two guys; but our bottom three were arguably the worst in all of baseball.  Regardless of who was plugged in there (9 other guys started games for the Mariners aside from Felix & Kuma), they were all the fucking worst!

And, when you combine a trainwreck of a starting rotation with the most volatile bullpen in the game, it’s pretty easy to see why the Mariners lost another 91 games.

The team had a 65% save percentage.  23 of 66 total save opportunities were blown.  Oddly enough, the team was NOT led in blown saves by erstwhile closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who was 24 of 29 in save opportunities.  He blew his fifth game by mid-June, was given a couple weeks off of closing duties, pitching in middle relief, then picked right back up again with a fairly solid July before absolutely going to shit in August.  The team sent him to Tacoma to work on some things, and after he returned he lost his job for good.

The team turned to Danny Farquhar, who had an excellent strike out percentage, but he wasn’t without his faults.  He ended up finishing the season as our closer, and saved 16 of 20 games.  Still, you have to wonder if you can count on him at all going forward.

The rest of the bullpen was full of hit-or-miss guys.  Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina, for the most parts, were solid.  Furbush was okay at times and the plague at other times.  Stephen Pryor pitched in seven games before he was lost for the year.  Carter Capps – my predicted pick as best bullpen guy going into the season – also couldn’t get lefties out, in spite of his rocket fastball.  The rest of the Triple-A garbage the team brought up and plugged in throughout the year isn’t even worth mentioning.

The bullpen led baseball in strikeouts, and that’s about it.  They were either lockdown, or they were walking the world and giving away games.  There was very little in-between, and as mentioned above, it was about 65/35 as to whether you’d see Angel Bullpen or Devil Bullpen.

I’ll get into the future prospects of the pitching staff in Friday’s post, so I’ll save my opinions on what they should do (who they should keep, who they should get rid of, etc.).  My overall impression of this team is that it failed, horribly.  That’s nothing new.  But, as opposed to years past – where the pitching was often a strength – this year, the Mariners failed in a 50/50 split.  50% of why the Mariners were bad was because of the pitching, and 50% of why they were bad was because of everything else.  You’re not going to make the playoffs with two good starters and a bullpen that saves games 65% of the time.  Not unless you hit a ton like the 1997 Mariners.  But, as I’ll get to tomorrow, this team was FAR from the ’97 Mariners, in spite of the fact that they tried to hit homers like ’em.

The Mariners Are Impossibly Thin, With No Depth

You want a reason for the Mariners to stand pat and not trade anybody in the next couple weeks?  This would be Reason #1.

The argument against trading people are many.  The veterans we have aren’t worth a whole helluva lot, which means we wouldn’t get anything back except for middling prospects (see:  Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, etc.).  Right now, the Mariners are going good, and do you REALLY feel like messing with that just to bring back some tryout flunky who will probably be traded or waived within two years?

I’m as realistic as I can be right now; I know the Mariners aren’t playing for anything THIS season.  At best, I’m hoping they end up at or near .500; anything over that mark would be a huge bonus.  As such, I know that anybody we bring in via trade will be someone that likely WON’T help us and won’t make us any better, either this year or in the future.  They will be organizational filler.  I’m tired of organizational filler.  We’ve got an organization FILLED (!) with organizational filler!

Yes, the Mariners are going good right now, but things won’t always be this good.  There’s another lull right around the corner (probably).  How soon that lull arrives, or how debilitating that lull is to our chances of ultimately achieving that .500 goal, all depends on what happens at the Trade Deadline, and what happens with injuries going forward.  A good way to speed up that lull will be to trade away guys like Morales, Ibanez, Joe Saunders, or even Oliver Perez.  Tired of watching this new, exciting brand of Mariners baseball?  Yearning for the duds we’ve seen the past three seasons?  Then, start clamoring for the Mariners to make ill-advised moves.  I’ll be over here, ironically pounding the podium for the status quo (ironic because I’m usually with the rest of you, demanding trades at all costs for players who won’t be around next season anyway).

Concerned about the Mariners?  Then, be concerned about the status of our everyday lineup and our pitching rotation.  This team is thin.  The bench consists of guys like Henry Blanco, Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, and Brendan Ryan.  You don’t mind playing Blanco once or twice a week (at the most) because catchers need off days.  The rest you don’t mind seeing in the occasional spot-start, or as defensive replacements in later innings; but they’re not guys you want to see playing everyday.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, it didn’t turn out well.

Also, are you looking to shake up the starting rotation?  Well, for starters (!!), no one is going to trade you a fucking thing for Aaron Harang, so just stop it.  STOP IT!  Felix is untouchable (of course) and Iwakuma isn’t going anywhere (we’ve still got him on a cost-effective basis for next year and most likely 2015 as well, on a team option at a reasonable price).  Erasmo Ramirez is someone you hope will be part of the future, so he’s out.  That just leaves Joe Saunders.

Tired of Joe Saunders?  Want to see the team trade him while his stock is high?  OK, I’ll bite.  You know that’s going to create a huge, Grand Canyon-sized hole in the middle of this rotation, right?  Anybody we get back will likely be some triple-A hitter of little value, or a pitching prospect who is not yet ready for the Majors.  That’s what teams in contention give you for guys like Joe Saunders.  They’re not going to give you some young stud you can throw immediately into the rotation; if they had that, they’d keep him and use him instead!  Without Joe Saunders in our rotation, that leaves some pretty sad options:  Blake Beavan (the leader in the clubhouse), Hector Noesi (who, as you can plainly see, is still terrible), James Paxton (who, despite some recent success, still probably isn’t ready for anything more than a September call-up and one or two starts), and that’s about it.  Danny Hultzen is injured and keeps suffering setbacks by the week; I’m putting my Smart Money on him being finished for the season.  Taijuan Walker JUST started pitching in Tacoma a couple weeks ago and is on a strict pitch count.  Even if we bring him up, he’s going to be shut down in about 45 innings or so (he has pitched 84 innings in AA and 21 innings in AAA; reports have him at around 150 innings for 2013 before being shut down).  What is that?  5-8 starts?  Whatever it is, his number of starts is going down by the week.  I’d eat my hat if he becomes Joe Saunders’ replacement.

Yeah, so Blake Beavan for Joe Saunders; that’s what you’re looking at.  Still gung-ho about ridding ourselves of this middle-of-the-road pitcher?  For my money, Saunders is a helluva lot better and more reliable than Beavan.  I’ve seen enough of Beavan to know I never want to see him again.

As for our bullpen, word on the street is Oliver Perez’s days are numbered.  He has the highest value, he’s not our closer anymore, and he’s likely gone after this season; why not, right?

Well, it’s true, Tom Wilhelmsen has seemed to regain his former position as the team’s closer, but does he really inspire a ton of confidence right now?  We’re all still waiting for his strikeout numbers to return; I have a feeling we’ll be waiting until the end of time.  Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise in 35 games thus far.  Charlie Furbush has been used appropriately and has turned out some positive results.  But, after that, it gets pretty dicey.  The aforementioned Noesi is up here because it looks like the Mariners want to stretch Beavan back out to starting.  He’s a terrible pitcher, but he can eat up innings in a blowout, so there you go.  Lucas Luetge is back, but he still can’t get out right handed batters, so he’s usually only good for a third of an inning.  Capps has been sent down to Tacoma for getting torched too often.  Farquhar – after a promising start to his Major League career – has shown why he was so available in that Ichiro trade.  Bobby LaFromboise isn’t anyone I ever want to see again.  Stephen Pryor is working his way back from the 60-day DL and who knows if he will make it back before season’s end?  The other guys are in Tacoma for a reason.

This bullpen, in short, has Perez, Medina, an iffy Wilhelmsen, an iffy Furbush, and that’s it.  If you ask me, I’d like to see Perez stay here and help us win as many games as we can.  He, like everyone else trade-able on this roster, won’t garner much in return.

Getting back to our hitters – and our toothless bench – there isn’t much help on the horizon.  Mike Morse will probably be back pretty soon.  At which point, I guess he goes into a time-share with Ibanez?  Honestly, I don’t know what we do with Morse when he returns.  Ackley seems pretty entrenched in center, Michael Saunders is probably the team’s best defensive outfielder, and Ibanez has been hitting lefties just as good as he’s been hitting righties.  Does Morse’s return spell the end for Jason Bay?  His playing time has diminished to almost nothing since our current outfield incarnation has presented itself as viable.  Does Bay bring anything to the table, aside from being slightly better defensively?

Also, what does this team do if Guti returns?  Part of me hopes he NEVER returns, because what’s the point?  We would have to waive Endy Chavez.  Granted, Chavez isn’t good, but I like what he brings in a very part-time role.  He doesn’t walk, but he gets hits (singles, mostly) and plays solid defense.  As a defensive replacement for Ibanez, you have to like him on the team.  You know, if we waive him for Guti, some contender is going to snap him up and put him on their bench.  Then, a week later, Guti will get hurt again, and where are we?  Welcoming back Carlos Peguero, apparently.

The only guy currently on the 25-man roster I won’t actually miss is Jason Bay.  This team could conceivably also get rid of Brendan Ryan, because Nick Franklin is a serviceable back-up at short stop, and Ackley can always slot back over and play second base if needed.  Other than that, there’s nothing I want to see this team do in trades, nor is there anything I want to have happen as far as health is concerned.  Let us just ride this wave to its conclusion and make whatever moves we feel like making this offseason.

Who Was The Last Mariners Draft Pick To Pan Out?

This is going to take a lot longer to write than I originally intended, but that’s because it’s going to take a lot longer to research than I originally intended.  If only there was one single place I could go to that comprised a list of every Mariners draft pick from the last 10-20 years Nevermind, I found it!

Anyway, in this exercise, I won’t be looking at Mariners draft picks who have panned out for other teams (because we foolishly traded them away, or didn’t draft them in the first place because we’re idiots).  I’m going to be looking at the last guy (or guys, if I’m able to find more than one) who were drafted in the amateur baseball draft (so, not international free agents, or prospects who we received from other teams) who also went on to become a quality player for the Seattle Mariners (without any detours to other teams).  Enough parenthetical remarks for you?  OK, let’s begin.

Safe to say:  no one from the 2012 draft has panned out.  But, it’s too early for that, so I can hardly hold it against the organization.

In 2011, we have Danny Hultzen and Brad Miller in Triple-A – they’re CLOSE, but not there yet.  2011 has also given us Carter Capps, who is currently in the Major League bullpen, but this is really his first full year in the Majors, so we can hardly call that panning out.

2010 saw us pick up Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Stephen Pryor, and Stefen Romero.  All appear to be on their way (in some way, shape, or form), but none have made it just yet.

2009.  Here we go.  It’s pretty safe to say, if you haven’t made it in the Bigs, you’re likely not a superstar.  The whole reason for this post is to lament the fact that Dustin Ackley – to date – has not panned out.  He was in the Majors for half of 2011 and was all right.  He was in the Majors for all of 2012 and was terrible.  And, until this past week, he was in the Majors for all of 2013 and was even worse.  He’s since been demoted to Tacoma, which makes it hard for me to believe that he’s going to be a winner.  Smarter people than myself keep telling me he’ll figure it out.  He does too many things well to NOT pan out.  But, let’s just say I’ve got my doubts.

Nick Franklin was the next pick in the 2009 draft and he’s just made his first Major League appearance this week, taking over for the aforementioned bust, Dustin Ackley.  Too soon to tell on this kid, but just yesterday he hit his first and second homers of his career.  If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is.  Then again, I’ve been fooled before.

If I were being fair, I’d say Kyle Seager – third round pick in 2009 – has panned out.  He had a decent almost-half season in 2011 (.258/.312/.379), then he sort-of broke out in 2012 (.259/.316/.423) in his first full season in the Bigs, and this year he has looked even better (.274/.339/.458), but if I’m being honest I can’t put him there yet.  You know how our excuse for every struggling youngster is, “It’s Early.”  If it’s in the month of April or early-May and they’re struggling, everyone always says, “It’s Early.”  If they’re struggling as a rookie, or even as a second-year player, everyone always says, “It’s Early.”  Well, why can’t we say that on the flipside?  It’s EARLY.  He still has plenty of time to regress!  He still has plenty of time to suffer a run of debilitating injuries!  Now, in my heart of hearts, I don’t THINK Seager will be a bust.  I think he will be a fine Major Leaguer, and thus I think he will pan out.  But, right now?  I’m not counting my chickens by any means.

So, thus ends the Jackie Z era.  So far, we’ve got one guy who has kinda sorta panned out (fingers crossed, knock on wood).  Others may eventually pan out, but I wouldn’t say this is the greatest sign for a team that’s trying to get better via the draft.

The less said about 2008, the better.  I recognize one name who I saw at the Rainiers game a couple weeks ago, but he doesn’t strike me as anything special.  Brandon Maurer came from this draft, so he COULD pan out.  Then again, he was brought up too early this year (bypassing Triple-A) and struggled mightily because he’s not ready.  I’m certainly not counting him!

2007, again, just a terrible draft.  Phillippe Aumont was involved in that Cliff Lee trade.  Shawn Kelley was a so-so reliever who could never stay healthy and has since been traded to the Yankees.  Sigh.

Let’s see, 2006.  We have Brandon Morrow (traded to the Blue Jays, has been a decent starter), Chris Tillman (traded to the Orioles, has been a decent starter), Doug Fister (traded to the Tigers, has been a good starter).  Think a rotation with Felix, Iwakuma, Fister, Morrow, and Tillman would look good?  I NEED AN ADULT!  I NEED AN ADULT!

The rest of 2006 were stiffs, and Adam Moore.  Doug Fister panned out from this draft, but he panned out with the Detroit Fucking Tigers.

2005:  Good GOD, Lemon!  Jeff Clement!  That’s the only name I even recognize!  And he’s THE WORST!

2004 went Matt Tuiasosopo (bust), Rob Johnson (bust) and Mark Lowe (good, but no longer with the team).  Then, in the 11th round, a beacon of hope:  Michael Saunders.  He struggled from 2009-2011, but then he switched his batting stance and swing and made a jump in 2012.  Granted, he didn’t go from nothing to Superstar, but he went from nothing to All Right.  Thus far in 2013, he has regressed to his old form, which is a bad sign.  We were KINDA counting on Saunders to keep moving up in the world so we could feel confident that he’s a bona fide replacement for Franklin Gutierrez.  Now, who knows?  Bottom line, though, is that he has NOT panned out.

2003 is the Adam Jones draft.  I’ll move on.

2002 is the Bryan LaHair draft.  Who is Bryan LaHair, you ask?  You’re obviously not a Chicago Cubs fan, as he was an All Star in 2012.  Then again, he had a terrible second half and thus far has not played in the Majors in 2013.  I don’t know what to tell you.

In 2001, the Mariners drafted Michael Garciaparra in the first round.  Remember that guy?  I don’t either.

Nothing doing in 2000.  Ditto 1999 (unless you count Willie Bloomquist or J.J. Putz).  I like Putz as much as the next guy, but he had exactly two great seasons as the Mariners’ closer, was injury-riddled, and eventually shipped away.  I wouldn’t call a guy who was mostly a middling middle reliever someone who has panned out.

Nothing doing in 1998 (except for Matt Thornton, who panned out with the White Sox).  1997 was a little more interesting.  Our big first round pick, Ryan Anderson (The Little Unit) was a huge bust.  Joel Pineiro, from the 12th round, carved out a nice little career for himself.  But, the only problem with that is he was never really any damn good for the Mariners.  He was okay; he flashed a helluva lot of potential, but that potential was ultimately never realized, and for that I feel safe in saying he never panned out.  Standards:  I’ve got ’em.

1996 was the Gil Meche draft.  See:  Joel Pineiro.

1995 was the Jose Cruz Jr. draft.

1994 was the Jason Varitek draft.

And HERE we go!  1993, FINALLY.  Taken with the #1 overall pick by YOUR Seattle Mariners … Alex Rodriguez!  It’s been 20 drafts since the Mariners have selected someone who panned out FOR the Seattle Mariners!  In case you can’t tell, that’s an absolutely unconscionable amount of ineptitude.  Want to know why the Mariners have been mostly terrible for so long?  Look no fucking further.

Who’s to blame?  I’m sure the talent evaluators have to shoulder some of it.  But, the more I think about it, the more I think this organization needs a total and complete overhaul.  From top to bottom.  And I mean bottom.  These kids are playing for our minor league teams, participating in our minor league camps, and they are NOT turning into quality players for the Big League team!  That’s a problem!  That’s a problem with the coaching at the lowest levels of the organization, and maybe it’s time we started putting the responsibility on THEM!  I don’t know what the success rate is for other organizations – turning their draft picks into Major Leaguers – but the Mariners have to be at or near the bottom.  This is part of the culture of losing I’ve been railing against for so long, and it’s got to stop.

There’s no such thing as Good Enough.  If our kids are failing, it’s on the minor league coaches, plain and simple.  If I were Jackie Z and company, I’d be looking to fill some big holes down on the farm.

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

I swear I’m going to mention the Seahawks’ draft on this site very soon, but for now there’s this.

The Mariners just finished their first month of the season with a 12-17 record.  GOD THEY’RE THE WORST!

It’s no longer early.  Get ready to hear that phrase about a million times in the ensuing days & weeks.  It’s no longer early, so what the fuck?  What the fuck, Mariners?  You got something for me?  Where the fuck’s my money!  You got my fuckin’ money, Mariners?  Maybe my associate with his 9mm will help you remember …

I don’t know what that was.  The point is, no more excuses.  You’ve had 29 fucking games in 30 fucking days, if you haven’t shown us something we can use, then fuck you, go home and play with your fucking kids.

Kyle Seager has shown me something.  .292 batting average, 10 doubles (14 total extra-base hits), good for an .850 OPS.  That’s something!  That’s something you can hang your hat on!  Be proud of yourself, Seager.  You’re a hitter on the Mariners I genuinely enjoy watching.  Bringing the grand total to 1.

I’m coming around on Jason Bay, mostly because he’s not the total trainwreck everyone thought he’d be.  Now, in an ideal world, the trainwrecks on this team would, in fact, BE guys like Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and the like.  In an ideal world, the trainwrecks certainly wouldn’t be Smoak, Ackley, and Montero.  But, we live in Seattle, where it’s never an ideal world.

To be fair, Ackley appears to be coming around a little bit.  After starting the year batting a lowly .091 after April 12th, he has raised his average to a whopping .253.  Now, his OPS still sucks, because he never walks and he only has the 3 doubles, but I’ll takes what I can gets.  Is this “hot” streak just a streak?  Is he about to go into another slump which sees him flatlining around the Mendoza line for the bulk of the season?  Let’s hope not.  At this point, I’m willing to live with Dustin Ackley:  Singles Hitter.  It’s better than Dustin Ackley:  Ground Out To Second Base.

Morales and Morse, after somewhat torrid starts, have come down to Earth.  Of course, Morse has that pinky issue he’s trying to pretend isn’t an issue, while Morales is a big fat guy who doesn’t want to be here, so how much can we expect from these two before the trade deadline?  It’s not like they have to try all that hard to get interest from contending teams.  You’d like to think they’d try hard to showcase themselves and get us the best possible players in return that we can get, but go back a couple of paragraphs to that whole “ideal world” thing.

On the pitching side of things, Felix and Iwakuma are in a dead heat for the early Cy Young race.  Both have sub-2 ERAs, both are striking out around 9 batters per 9 innings, both have 5 of 6 starts as Quality Starts, and both have winning records in spite of this grotesque offense.  Words cannot express how much I love these two guys.

Everyone else:  not so much.  Joe Saunders has given up exactly 2 earned runs over 22.1 innings in three home games this season.  Joe Saunders has given up exactly 19 earned runs over 13.2 innings in three road games this season.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I would SERIOUSLY consider running with a 6-man starting rotation and handcuffing Joe Saunders to his Safeco Field locker.

Brandon Maurer is pretty much exactly what you would expect of a middling prospect who has made the jump from AA to the Bigs.  Stephen Strasburg he isn’t.  Growing Pains is the euphemistic way of saying he’s not very good.  He’s had three crap games, two okay games against the Rangers, and one really good game against the Angels last week.  Right now, he’s a two-pitch pitcher with a slider and a fastball and no way to get left-handed hitters out.  Not for nothing, but this is why you keep a guy like Jon Garland out of Spring Training.  Even if you’re not 100% convinced he will keep over a full season, it’s still probably better than rushing Maurer too soon.  He needs to be in Tacoma developing and working on his change up.  Either that, or he needs to be throwing his change up more NOW while he’s with the Mariners.  Chock this season up as a lost cause and start developing his gifts for future seasons where hopefully we won’t suck so bad.

The less said about Aaron Harang, the better.  That guy is a fucking nightmare where I can’t wake up and a horrible monster is eating me alive.

The bullpen has more or less been as expected.  Wilhelmsen and Capps are rocking the party, Perez has been fine, Furbush has been okay, and Loe has been DFA’d.  Because he sucks.  Almost as hard as Aaron Harang.

In all honesty, I can’t wait until Aaron Harang is let go so I can immediately forget he was ever a Seattle Mariner until someone, somewhere, points out in a few years that he was on the team for a few of the most miserable weeks/months of my life, and I’ll go, “Oh yeah …” and then I’ll immediately forget he was ever a Seattle Mariner again.

There’s already talk of the team making moves, and not just the predictable moves of firing the GM and the manager.  At some point, you get tired of watching young prospects get rushed up too soon, struggle, and then have everyone else shrug their shoulders and say, “Welp, we tried!  And now there’s no one below them ready to replace them, so I guess we’re stuck!”  I hate the fact that the Mariners suck, I hate the fact that there isn’t anyone who is ready to come up to replace the suckier of the sucky Mariners, and I hate being reminded on a daily basis that this team sucks.

So, here’s a suggestion:  stop sucking!  Figure it the fuck out, win some fucking games, and give this city something to fucking cheer for!  We’re all a little sick and fucking tired of your bullshit.

Seattle Mariners Mid-April Review

Two weeks in, 14 games in the books.  A 6-8 record.  Zero series wins, two series losses, two series ties.

Things have been really hit-or-miss with this team so far.  On the positive side of things, Mike Morse has 6 home runs and is leading the Mariners in hitting.  Also, Franklin Gutierrez has 4 home runs and is doing a stellar job at leadoff hitter.

On the negative side of things, both Morse and Guti are currently battling injuries and who knows when they’ll be able to return?

There’s been quite a bit of turnover in these first two weeks.  Michael Saunders went on the DL, bringing up Endy Chavez from Tacoma.  Kameron Loe was a FUCKING trainwreck (6 home runs in 6.2 innings pitched over 4 games), so he’s gone.  Brandon Maurer was also a trainwreck in his first two starts, necessitating a long-man in our bullpen going forward.  Thankfully (depending on your perspective), Blake Beavan was yet ANOTHER fucking trainwreck in his first two starts, so down he goes into the bullpen.  In Beavan’s place, we have newly-acquired Aaron Harang, who is old and probably no good, but probably still better than Beavan.  Of course, as chance would have it, Stephen Pryor just tore his lat muscle and could be lost for a few weeks or could be lost for a year (which is just a lot more weeks than a few), so the M’s will have to make another bullpen adjustment.

That’s kind of a lot to handle in such a short time.  How the Mariners are 6-8 right now and not 3-11 is anybody’s guess.

I anticipate Morse will be back as early as today (his is just a pinky injury from being hit with a baseball).  Guti SHOULD be back within the next week, so that’ll be good news.  I’m not even going to begin to speculate on when Saunders will be able to return, but I suspect we might not have him back before May.

So, it’s going to be touch-and-go for a while.  2013 will be yet another year where Guti isn’t an everyday player, so that’s a problem.  If Saunders isn’t able to come back in a hurry, that’ll be a problem.  And, if Saunders comes back but he isn’t the same because he didn’t let his injury heal properly … you get the idea.  Our outfield defense this year hinges on having at least a centerfielder who can cover enough ground to make up for the lack of defense in the corners.  Endy Chavez mitigates that, I suppose, but he also replaces a productive hitter (either Guti or Saunders) for a complete black hole (himself).  That’s a net-even to a net-negative on most nights, so here’s to hoping Saunders makes a full recovery.

Of course, this wouldn’t be such an issue if we were getting production out of our other spots in the order.  So far, our best hitters have been Morse, Guti, Saunders (our opening day outfield), and Kendrys Morales, our designated hitter.  Which leaves the rest of our infield screwing the damn pooch.

  • Jesus Montero:  .211 BA, 1 double
  • Kyle Seager:  .204 BA, 6 doubles
  • Brendan Ryan:  .200 BA
  • Justin Smoak:  .191 BA, 1 double
  • Dustin Ackley:  .122 BA

At the moment, Kyle Seager is the only one I have any confidence in turning his game around.  At the moment, it can’t come soon enough.

Everyone keeps saying to not give up on Ackley, but quite honestly, he’s the most frustrating of the bunch!  You hate to think you suffer through a 101-loss season and then draft the dud of all duds with the #2 overall pick, but that’s the Mariners for you.  They can’t even get LOSING right.  Whiffing on a high draft pick like Ackley is how you remain a bottom-feeder – not just in baseball, but in every sport!

They say, though, with his eye at the plate and his contact rate, Ackley is just getting unlucky in his BABIP numbers.  I contend there are ways for other teams to ensure your BABIP numbers are low.  Like, shifting the infield defense and allowing Ackley to continually roll over to the second baseman.  For a guy whose contact rate is so good, you’d think he’d be able to poke a ball the other way once in a while!  He’s like a weak-ass version of Jesus Montero.

Speaking of which, Jesus Montero IS a weak-ass version of Jesus Montero this year.  Wasn’t he also supposed to be a guy who could drive the ball the other way for doubles and the occasional homer?  Because all I see is a guy who grounds into double plays and is slower than my great grandmother’s festering corpse.

Brendan Ryan is Brendan Ryan and he’s doing an admirable job getting a few hits and getting a few walks.  He’s our #9 hitter, so it’s not like we’re expecting the moon from the guy.  Anything at or above .200 (with nearly a .300 OBP) at this point is a win, so let’s just move on.

Justin Smoak is still an interesting figure on this team and I’m in no way as pissed off at this guy as most other Mariners fans are.  He’s been MUCH improved with his new swing, even if the numbers don’t agree.  He’s lining out, hitting the ball hard right at people with gloves, but I assure you, if he sticks with his plan, that’ll change and he’ll be rewarded handsomely.  He can still be an effectively streaky hitter, just as soon as he gets on an effective streak.

With our infield struggling, and our outfield injured and littered with geriatric hip-breakers like Ibanez, Bay, and Chavez, it’s going to be up to the pitching to carry the mail once again, as they’ve had to do in so many recent seasons.

Hisashi Iwakuma has been easily our best starting pitcher this year.  Through three starts, he’s thrown the same number of innings as Felix, he’s given up 2 fewer runs and 10 fewer hits, all the while battling a blister on his finger that’s pulling him out of games prematurely.  I don’t think anyone expects Iwakuma to be the team’s best pitcher for the full season, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be a very good #2 starter for this team.  Someone you can count on every five days to not just keep you in the ballgame, but to go out and dominate a ballgame.  So, let’s hope this blister issue gets itself fixed, because I don’t want to see him missing any starts anytime soon.

Felix hasn’t exactly been his usual dominant self, but then again he’s almost never his usual dominant self in the early-going.  I would expect as Felix racks up a few starts under his belt, we’ll see him destroying other teams in no time.

Joe Saunders came out of the gate with a real dud in Oakland.  When that was followed by two more clunkers at the back-end of the rotation, we all worried that there were not two but THREE starting pitchers we’d have to replace sooner or later.  But, Saunders came back and helped shut out the Astros, then gave up only the 1 unearned run against the Rangers five days later.  Both of his quality starts have been at home, so there’s that concern (especially when his very next start later this week is in Texas).  Will Saunders be an effective third starter for us?  Or, will he just be an effective third starter at home?

Has Maurer turned a corner?  Good God, let’s hope so.  There are two trains of thought on a guy like Maurer:  either you sit back and be patient, letting the kid go out there, occasionally take his lumps, but also occasionally look electric; or, you take advantage of the fact that he’s never pitched in AAA and let him work through his issues in the minors.  Of course, there are other factors at play that don’t exactly give us the luxury of choosing our own path.  First and foremost, the Mariners don’t have any quality starters who are ready to step into a Major League rotation.  The guys in Tacoma either need more seasoning or need to build their arms up.  And you JUST demoted Beavan to the bullpen, so that’s not necessarily a road you want to go down (especially when you’re talking about a guy with his own issues to work out).  On the flipside, the longer you keep Maurer in the Majors, the bigger the chance you shake his confidence if you eventually demote him to the minors.  So, let’s not let it come to that, huh?  Let’s just say Maurer has turned a corner and everything is all good.  ‘Kay?  ‘Kay.

I’ve never seen Harang pitch, so I dunno.  If he’s good, then good.  If he’s bad, then hopefully someone from Tacoma will finally be ready to kick it with the big kids.

The bullpen has been solid, but not that electric crackling mass of dominance I was expecting.  They still can be, but losing Pryor for (probably) the year is a huge shot.  Which leads into our discussion of the overall problem in the early going for this team:  starters not going deep into games.  Saunders is averaging less than 6 innings per game, Beavan is averaging just a hair over five and Maurer is averaging a hair over four.  That has put a lot of pressure on this ‘pen and that has resulted in a lot of appearances so far from guys like Pryor, Capps, Perez, and Furbush.  And, from that, we have one casualty – Pryor.  Who will be the next overused arm to go down?  Well, a lot of that will depend on how the starting rotation responds to this sub-par first two weeks.  We need INNINGS from you people!  Get on it!

Overall, I’m not as mired in depression about this team as I thought I’d be.  But, it really does feel like Same ‘ol Same ‘ol and I – like most of you – am fucking sick of it.  If this vote this week goes the way I hope it does, you can consider my summer completely booked by focusing on the upcoming NFL and NBA seasons.  I can only stand so much of the same shitty prospects sucking dick after dick because they had the misfortune of being acquired by the most hard-luck franchise in all of baseball.

Just Another Home Opener NOT On Opening Day

Last year, the Mariners didn’t get to play their home opener until April 13th, after eight games on the road including two in Japan.  I don’t remember this, but apparently the Mariners got to start Felix Hernandez at their home opener last season.  He went seven innings, giving up two runs, and we ended up losing to Bartolo Colon and the Oakland Athletics 4-0.

In 2011, the Mariners didn’t play their home opener until April 8th, after six games on the road.  I remember this game vividly, because Jason Vargas got the start against the Cleveland Indians, giving up 7 runs in 3.1 innings en route to a miserable 12-3 loss.  The 2011 Mariners were trying to help everyone forget about the doldrums their 2010 counterparts faced; what better way to do that than to get lit up at home in front of a near-sellout crowd?

In 2010, the Mariners didn’t play their home opener until April 12th, after seven games on the road.  I have a vague recollection of this game, which leads me to believe that maybe last night’s home opener was my FOURTH in a row and not just my third.  Ryan Rowland-Smith was a personal favorite of mine and he didn’t do so hot in his 7 innings of 4-run ball.  The Mariners lost this game to the A’s 4-0, while generating only two hits.

In 2009, the Mariners didn’t play their home opener until April 14th, after seven games on the road.  I am almost positive I didn’t go to this game, though I bet I thought about it.  Carlos Silva got the start, went 7 innings, gave up 2 runs, but this ended up being a battle of the bullpens as the Mariners won 3-2 in 10 innings.

2008 was the last time the Mariners got to play their home opener on ACTUAL Opening Day.  On March 31st, against Kevin Millwood and the Texas Rangers.  Newly-acquired Erik Bedard got the start and went 5 strong innings of 1-run ball; Sean Green, Eric O’Flaherty, Mark Lowe, and J.J. Putz locked down the final four innings, giving up only 1 run in our 5-2 victory.  For the record, the Mariners played their first three games at home, then promptly went out on the road for a 7-game trip against the likes of Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

Major League Baseball REALLY likes sticking the M’s on the road to start the season!

I was at the game last night, but right now my mind is a jumbled mush, so this post probably won’t come out the way I want it to.

When I go to a mid-week Mariners game, I tend to do it up right.  Straight from work (getting off at 3:30), I walk down to the tunnel and get off at the International District stop.  From there, it’s a hop and a skip over to Slugger’s, the little hole in the wall just across from the north entrance to CenturyLink Field.  Yesterday, I made a bee-line to the upstairs area and grabbed the first 4-person table I could find.  A basket of tots and a Coors Light tallboy later, I was joined by a couple of friends and we proceeded to drink Coors Banquet Beer tallboys until 6:15 or so.

Then, we grabbed some bagel dogs from Blazin’ Bagels and went inside.  We opted for the 200-level club seats, along the third base line, and were hardly disappointed.  Of course, I managed to find the only two Astros fans willing to spend upwards of $75-$100 on club tickets, seated right next to me.  There’s nothing sadder than a lone Astros fan clapping in your ear when he knows as well as you do that there’s no chance in Hell the Astros are going to win this game.  Nevertheless, it’s still kind of annoying when you hear people next to you cheering at all the wrong times.

I was inside buying a soda when Jamie Moyer threw out the first pitch.  From television replays, he looked like a guy who should not be quitting his day job (especially when that day job is “Sit around, do nothing, play some golf, and go for a swim in your Money Bin”).  I don’t understand these athletes who can’t give up the game.  IT’S JUST A GAME!  Take your millions of dollars and enjoy your fucking life!  Find a new hobby for fuck’s sake, it’s not that hard!

I did not get a chance to leave our club seats during the game.  I did not spend any time in The Pen, nor did I get a chance to walk through Edgar’s; it was far too crowded to do either.  Maybe on some chance Tuesday-night game when there are only 12,000 people there.

I did get to marvel at the new video screen.  Sure is a great way to pump us up with more advertisements!  Here we go, Budweiser, here we go!  Clap clap.

The hydro races were most certainly NOT in mid-season form.  Green won wire to wire!  When does that EVER happen?  Yellow was poised for a breakthru, but it wasn’t to be.

Oh, and a fan ran onto the field!  Those are always fun and exciting.  It was between innings, so I’m sure the Root broadcast was on a commercial break.  I’m also sure that when they came back, Dave Sims probably made some disparaging remark about that fan’s overall jackassery.  I don’t understand the media policy surrounding fans running onto the field.  They have an “America Doesn’t Negotiate With Terrorists” type of stubborn resolve over not showing these people (streakers, athlete kissers, general disruptors) on camera, lest everyone else gets the bright idea that, “If I run out onto the field, I’ll be famous!”  This, in spite of the fact that NOT showing them still doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent.  Also, let’s face it, when someone runs onto the field, people want to see what happens!  They’ll take a break from open-heart surgery to see how this idiot gets tackled and whisked away to Stadium Jail.  Why not show it?  It’s something new and different and obviously the people want to know what’s happening.  Pretending everything is hunky dory and showing random shots of athletes standing around looking confused isn’t exactly the best way to spend five minutes of broadcast time.  Making snarky comments about people you refuse to show on camera, bemoaning how they’re wasting everyone’s time, is also a terrible way to spend your broadcast time.  Just acknowledge it, laugh it off, and let us see the guy get tackled to the turf by four guys in security outfits!

As for the game itself, what am I going to tell you about a 3-0 game over the Astros that you don’t already know?  I was going to rage against the machine if Joe Saunders got anything less than five strikeouts, so bully for him.  He only managed to go 6.1 innings even though his pitch count was at 91 for the day.

I’m telling you, I’ve never seen a manager so giddy about his bullpen.  I hope you like mid-inning pitching replacements, because Eric Wedge is a kid in a candy store, mixing and matching left-handers and right-handers left and right!  Capps came in and continued his blitzkrieg on the rest of baseball.  Furbush got to pitch to one guy.  And Wilhelmsen recorded one of the easiest saves you’re ever going to see.  A 3-0 lead against the Astros shouldn’t even COUNT as a save!  That’s like a 12-0 lead against anyone else!

Regarding the offense, they got five hits.  Saunders and Morales got two apiece in accounting for just about all of our offensive production.  Dustin Ackley got a hit and still managed to finish the day with a sub-.100 batting average.

In fact, here’s a look at our 5-6-7-8 hitters:

  • Kyle Seager
  • Justin Smoak
  • Jesus Montero
  • Dustin Ackley

And here are their batting averages:

  • .167
  • .167
  • .160
  • .087

The future of the Mariners!  The young core that’s going to lead this organization back to the playoffs!  True to the Blue!