The Mariners’ Big, Weird Weekend

It started Friday night, which I alluded to in my last post:  Paxton leading the way to victory.  Considering we blew the game on Thursday, this one was a Must Win.  But, then again, pretty much every single Paxton start from here on out is a Must Win.  It was true before Felix went back on the DL with bicep tightness, and it’s even MORE true now.

So, yeah, that sucks about Felix.  It also sucks because we never bothered to go out and trade for a proper rotation arm, but here we go, let’s have a look at the two losers we brought in.

Saturday’s game was rained out, which I understand was quite the ordeal.  I spent Saturday afternoon at the Beer & Tater Tots festival in Beacon Hill, followed by Saturday evening drinking more beer and playing some Texas Hold ‘Em with my dad, so I’d say I really wasn’t missing the Mariners too much.

On the fun side, that meant a Sunday Double Header.  Marco Gonzales got the start in Felix’s spot, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed.  Of course, I fully expected to NOT be impressed, so it all ended up as I’d figured.  The Mariners, thankfully, jumped out to a huge 7-0 lead in the first two innings, thanks to a Valencia 2-run homer, a Seager solo homer, a wild pitch scoring a runner from second base, and a Cruz 3-run homer.  Gonzales got through 4 innings, giving up just the 2 runs, but then he let the first three runners on in the fifth inning before being pulled, and all three of those guys ended up scoring.  4 innings, 5 earned runs, a fastball around 91 mph, a change up that looked okay, but ultimately a guy who is going to get bashed around pretty good each and every time he makes a mistake.  Fucking brilliant.

From there, the bullpen had to work overtime.  Pazos got out of the fifth just giving up the Gonzales runners.  Zych worked a clean sixth.  David Phelps got one out in the seventh before leaving with an arm injury.  He’s headed back to Seattle to see what’s wrong exactly, but word is he hasn’t felt quite right the last few outings.  Then, I proceeded to mock the Mariners for trading Steve Cishek for Erasmo Fucking Ramirez (what’s that?  you traded from a position of quote-unquote STRENGTH?  uh huh).  Pagan and Scrabble were able to work their way out of the seventh inning, which took us to Nick Vincent’s wild adventure in the eighth.  Luckily Cruz hit his second homer of the day in the top of the seventh to give the Mariners 8 runs, because Vincent gave up a 2-run homer to make the game 8-7.  He proceeded to get out of the jam with the lead intact, and thankfully Edwin Diaz is still en fuego, so he was able to lock down his 23rd save of the season.

The victory secured at least a series tie, and from the looks of the second game of the doubleheader, the Mariners were happy to just get out of there with the split.

Erasmo Ramirez followed up his previous garbage start with one that was even worse.  5 innings, 5 runs, including 3 homers.  The M’s could only muster 1 run on 4 hits, so the rest of the game was handed over to our loser relievers Casey Lawrence and Cody Martin.  Martin gave up the other 4 runs in this 9-1 debacle.  The only good thing you could say about this one is that it was over after 2 hours and 39 minutes.

The Mariners have an off-day today, thank Christ, followed by a mini 2-game set in Oakland before a week’s worth of games at home (the only home games all month).

At the start of the day on Sunday, the Mariners also made a couple post-July trades.  The first one was for Yonder Alonso, a first baseman and an All Star this year.  He has 17 doubles and 22 homers in what has been a breakout season for the veteran, from a power perspective.  As he bats left-handed, he figures to go into a time-share with Danny Valencia.  I don’t know if I saw first base as a HUGE area of need for this team (it’s not like it’s Starting Pitcher or anything), but if Alonso can give us an offensive boost, I’m all for it.  I appreciate the fact that Valencia has given us the back of his baseball card as far as his production this year – in other words, he didn’t fall off a cliff as soon as he became a Mariner; he’s essentially been what he’s been the last two years, which is fine – but I think it’s pretty clear this team could use a little more out of its offense, what with the struggles our pitching staff has given us.  In a way, it’s easier to just pump up the bats even more than to go out and find a competent starting pitcher, so that’s what the M’s have done.

In exchange, the A’s get Boog Powell, so no big loss.  It’s unfortunate that Yonder Alonso is only on a 1-year deal, but if he likes it here and we like him, I don’t see why we couldn’t re-sign him to a modest 3-year deal at the end of the year.

The other move was for some AAA guys.  Ryan Garton is a relief pitcher who was sort of okay in 2016 (his first year in the Bigs), but has been pretty dreadful in 2017 in 7 games.  He’s been putting up some fantastic AAA numbers the last couple years, so obviously there’s something there.  I wonder how long he’ll be in Tacoma, what with this David Phelps injury hanging over us.  The other guy the Mariners brought in from this trade with the Rays is Mike Marjama.  He’s yet to crack the Majors, but in his first year in AAA this year, he’s doing pretty well.  He looks like an upgrade over Tuffy Gosewisch – who was waived to make room on the 40-man – so that’s not so bad.  The Mariners gave up 2 low-minor league guys and a player to be named later, so we won’t know if we’ve screwed ourselves over for at least a few years.

All in all, a real mixed bag of a weekend, in what’s been a real mixed bag of a season.  The pull of the impending football season grows ever stronger.

Mariners Made A Couple More Trades, Ended Up With Drew Smyly

Last week, there were two trades in a matter of hours?  Minutes?  Usually, I just lump these deals together because I’m constantly a week behind – a byproduct of this being the playoffs and my football posts taking precedence – but these deals actually go together:

  1. Mariners trade Luiz Gohara & Thomas Burrows to Atlanta for Shae Simmons & Mallex Smith
  2. Mariners trade Mallex Smith, Carlos Vargas, & Ryan Yarbrough to Tampa for Drew Smyly

Gohara and Burrows are a couple of low-level minor league pitchers with not a lot of experience, but some real potential.  Mallex Smith is another speedy, Quad-A outfielder type (of which this team already has a hundred billion).  Yarbrough was our AA pitcher of the year, but projects to be maybe a 5th starter in a Major League rotation if everything breaks right.  Vargas is a 17 year old infielder.  At worst, this is a deal that will come to bite us in the ass in 3-5 years, if some of these prospects actually pan out.  Obviously, the Mariners don’t have time to wait around for a bunch of low-level prospects to MAYBE turn into actual players, so the rationale behind these moves – if nothing else – is sound.

Shae Simmons is a right handed reliever to throw onto the pile.  Just like toilet paper and Bud Lights, you can never have too much!  Eventually, we’re going to work our way through all these relievers until the job gets done!  Simmons doesn’t have a ton of Major League experience, but he does have some, so you could say he’s ready to compete right now.  And, he also has options, so we can stash him in Tacoma until the time is right.  His boggle sounds like he can’t stay healthy, so that kind of stinks, as it seems like we have a lot of those types of guys in our bullpen pile right now.

Obviously, the big “get” out of these moves is starter Drew Smyly.  He looked like he’d be an absolute stud coming out of Detroit, but then they traded him to Tampa, he’s suffered some shoulder issues, and last year wasn’t totally amazing even though he lasted the full season.  Nevertheless, a good outfield defense should help him, as well as playing half his games at Safeco (although, oddly enough, Safeco was a home run paradise last year, so who knows?).

We didn’t bring him in to compete, though.  This sets our rotation, in some way shape or form:

  1. Felix
  2. Kuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Gallardo
  5. Smyly

That’s … not the worst.  I only put Smyly in the 5-hole because I think the team will look to separate Paxton and Smyly so as to not have two lefties pitch on back to back days.  Really, after Felix, you can shuffle that rotation anyway you want – as long as you split the lefties – and you should be fine.

I like it!  I could be wrong, but I like it.  Obviously, the first thing that stands out is that it’s VERY veteran.  That’s a good thing, in the sense that we won’t have to worry about young pitchers and their emotions (I’m looking at you, Taijuan Walker).  But, between injury concerns for every one of those guys, not to mention recent bouts of ineffectiveness for every one of those guys, and you’ve got a volatile mix that could lead the Mariners to upwards of 90-100 wins, or that could fall apart and drag this team down to the 70-80 win range.

How does that work for you?  If I told you right now that the Mariners will win somewhere between 70-100 games, what would you say?

I’m sorry, but the correct response you were looking for was, “No doi.”

Still, it feels better with these five guys than it would have with Walker and Karns.  I just don’t trust Walker to save my life, and I think Smyly is definitely a steadier, more sensible option.  And, I think Gallardo – warts and all – is a better option than Karns.  Then, we’ve got Ariel Miranda in reserve for the inevitable rotation injury.  We just have to hope there aren’t too many injuries at once.  There isn’t much depth left behind Miranda, and Yarbrough theoretically would’ve been one of those guys, as he was slated to start the season in Tacoma after doing so well in AA.  Cody Martin was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man as a result of these deals, so he’s likely out unless no one picks him up.  The only other AAA guy I’m even remotely aware of is that Rob Whalen guy we got in the Alex Jackson deal with the Braves.  Not for nothing, but considering the sorry state of the Braves these last few years, it’s not encouraging to be getting all these guys from them in trades.

But, let’s worry about depth when it comes time to actually see it pitching in a Mariners uniform.  For now, the roster is mostly set, although the last time I wrote that, the Mariners almost immediately went out and made two more trades, so what do I know?

Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride

Jerry Dipoto was hired to be Seattle’s general manager on September 28, 2015.  His first major move was claiming Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland on October 19th.  Four days later, he hired Scott Servais to be his manager.  From there, we were off and running in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

He made a lot of moves in the ol’ transactions wire, both large and small.  I tried to pull most of the ones relevant to the 2016 Mariners’ Major League ballclub.  For the purposes of this post, I’m going to go ahead and rank his moves from most impactful to least, with commentary on each.  At the very bottom of the post, I’ll throw in a section with just the transactions in chronological order, so you can see them all lined up in a neat little pile.

Also, if you want to know my overall thoughts on Dipoto’s first year as the GM of the Mariners, you’ll find my closing arguments at the bottom (just before the chronological list of important transactions).  This post has TL;DR written all over it!

12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.

This one feels like cheating, but I’m still putting this at #1 because it’s so laughably lopsided against the Mariners, it harkens back to the Bill Bavasi glory days.  Trumbo was an All Star outfielder on a wild card team who hit 47 homers, 108 RBI, and all around had his best season ever.  Granted, the same problems were still there – a low batting average, a not-great on-base percentage, a shit-ton of strikeouts – but if you’re just talking about the right-handed half of a corner outfield platoon, making just a hair over $9 million, would you rather have his massive bat or Franklin Gutierrez making $2.5 million?  I know we love Guti and all of that, but his defense isn’t all that much better than Trumbo’s, and there’s no comparing the hitting numbers.  Even in a very minor role, Guti still had a down year by his standards.  And, of course, who can forget what we got back in return?  Aside from salary saved (that, as far as I can tell, ended up going to Joaquin Benoit, so *fart noise*), we got a left-handed backup catcher in Steve Clevenger who hardly ever played, then broke a bone in his hand, then said a bunch of racist shit on Twitter, then was suspended for the rest of the year, before ultimately (I’m assuming) being released.  On top of ALL of that, this trade had a direct impact on the standings.  The Orioles probably would’ve made a different move to acquire a power bat, but it almost certainly wouldn’t have been as good.  And, we ended up finishing 3 games behind Baltimore in the wild card.  So, we sent what would become their very best power bat and run producer to our direct rival, who snatched up the final A.L. playoff spot by just a handful of games.  Inauspicious start to say the least.

11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).

Let’s follow that turd sandwich with the opposite of that (vagina pizza?).  The Rangers ended up signing Ian Desmond on a 1-year, $8 million deal later on in the offseason (leaving me to wonder why we just didn’t fucking do that, but whatever), so I don’t totally understand why they were so keen to let Leonys Martin go, but obviously they didn’t see him in their future plans.  Martin ended up starting for us from day 1, playing a superb centerfield, and even blowing away his season high for homers with 15.  All in all, he was slightly better than we thought he’d be, with two more years of Arbitration to go.  While he’ll never be a superstar, he’s a solid offensive piece and an elite defensive talent.  The fact that we ended up getting back 2/3 of this trade for nothing later in the season is the hilarious part, along with the fact that Wilhelmsen was a dumpster fire while wearing a Rangers uniform (and sort of his usual okay self when the alleged double-agent returned to Seattle), and the fact that James Jones is who we thought he was.  We essentially gave the Rangers nothing and got a starting centerfielder for a minimum of 3 years in return.  Not too shabby.

12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.

We all know the story of how the Mariners got Iwakuma back in the fold, but if you don’t know, go here and read this.  What I will say is, to anyone making any sort of argument that the Mariners’ cost-cutting measures helped pave the way for Kuma’s return, you can go fuck yourself, because you’re full of shit.  Those moves were made well before we got Kuma back, and were under the assumption that he was going to go elsewhere for a higher guaranteed contract than we were willing to pay.  The owners, to their credit, opted to make room in the budget to bring him back when the opportunity presented itself, and it paid off pretty well, all things considered.  Without Kuma, things could’ve been A LOT worse (I don’t know if I made that point well enough in that linked post up there, but it’s true; the AAA starting prospects were pretty shabby).

12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.

Two years, $10 million, plus incentives.  He secured 25 saves and blew 7 of them.  That’s a lot of blown saves in what amounted to a little over half a season’s worth of closing ballgames, particularly for a team that finished 3 games out of the wild card.  Overall, his numbers actually look pretty good on the season, and at times he approached the level of dominance he once had back in 2013.  But, a career-high 8 homers allowed really did him in.  He was pretty dominant against righties, but lefties hit 5 of those 8 homers, in significantly fewer plate appearances.  With him losing his job to Edwin Diaz the way he did, he projects to be an 8th inning set up man in 2017, with an outside chance of regaining his closer’s job should Diaz falter in his Sophomore season.

12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.

Meet Adam Lind, your left-handed first baseman platoon partner.  He had a few memorable late-game hits (walk-offs and whatnot), but for the most part Lind was a huge disappointment.  His numbers took a significant dive compared to his career norms, and they never really recovered the way we all hoped.  He was essentially a replacement-level player making $8 million.  On the plus side, we likely didn’t give up anyone special to get him, but suffice it to say, first base is the hole that can never be filled.

7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.

12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.

Ahh, the Miley deals.  I ranked the deal sending him away higher than the deal bringing him in for a couple reasons.  For starters, while he spent more time in Seattle doing everything he could to ruin our playoff chances, we were able to deal him to our main rival in Baltimore, where he proceeded to do everything he could to ruin their playoff chances.  We were able to dump salary (and increase theirs), while at the same time getting in return a potential future starter, at a minimum salary, with many years of club control.  On the flipside, those Red Sox really swindled us good!  Though, it had no effect on the 2016 season, as neither Smith nor Elias hardly played at all due to injuries/ineffectiveness.  The decider could be Jonathan Aro – who made all of one appearance with the big league ballclub – but I’d put my money on Carson Smith returning at some point and being a dominant late-game reliever.

11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.

I downgraded this move mostly for the incomplete/unknown nature of the various players involved.  I will say that Brad Miller ended up hitting 30 homers for Tampa, and playing a decent number of games at first base, leading me to wonder what could have been had we held onto him and Trumbo and either platooned them both at first, or at various positions around the field.  Miller’s overall batting numbers are nothing to write home about, but those homers would’ve looked awfully nice in a Seattle uniform.  In return, we got about half a season out of Karns, who was mostly mediocre.  He’s still a starter with lots of club control, but now he’s injured, and I’d say no news is bad news when it comes to his injury, as it doesn’t appear he’s anywhere close to returning to action.  And, if he does, will he ever make good on his promise?  I’m starting to have my doubts.  The one saving grace might be Boog Powell, but he spent most of 2016 suspended for ‘roids or some damn thing.  Besides, at best he appears to be a 4th outfielder, so all in all, I’d say this is another major trade we got killed in.  It particularly hurts because Brad Miller is cheap, versatile, with lots of club control, and we essentially got back nothing in return.

12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.

Aoki signed a 2-year deal, but only 2016 was guaranteed.  His 2017 option would’ve vested at 480 plate appearances, but he only managed 467.  He ended up earning just shy of $6 million this year, but lost out on $6 million next year by 13 PA’s.  He likely would’ve had a lot less, but he ended the last two months absolutely on FIRE at the plate, and we couldn’t sit him.  Even with his finish, I’d say he was a net-negative for this team, considering his defense was pretty galling, and his base running was even worse.  The team already has Seth Smith under club control next year, so I can’t imagine we bring Aoki back unless we deal Smith first.  File this under:  Eh, It Was Worth A Shot.

3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

Faced with a bevy of bullpen injuries in Spring Training, this was an underrated move just before the regular season that ended up paying off.  Until it stopped paying off, like a hot black jack table with a new dealer.  All in all, Nick Vincent was a fine reliever in 2016, but he was savagely over-used, and I can’t really blame Servais for it either, because he didn’t really have a whole lotta options in the first half of the season.  It wasn’t until Dipoto made all of his summer deals when the Mariners could finally cobble together a workable bullpen.  By that point, injuries (directly attributed to said overuse) piled up on Vincent, sending him on a DL stint.  He did return, and was okay, but by that point he was behind a number of superior relievers, which was appropriate.  Vincent should be nobody’s 8th inning guy.  Save him for the blowouts and the extra innings affairs and you’ll be in better shape.

11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.

He started off hot in April, cooled off in May, and I contend he ended up losing his starter’s job because the team overused him (though, this time I DO blame Servais).  We brought Clevenger in here in that ill-fated Trumbo deal, so why didn’t we use him more?  Was he REALLY that terrible?  If so, why bring him in in the first place?  Seems to me they made a snap judgment in Spring Training, refused to give Clevenger a consistent chance, even though when he did start, he looked pretty okay.  Iannetta, on the other hand, proved to be a pretty big disaster defensively, and his power was drained to zero by the second half of the season.  Now, it’s neither here nor there that Clevenger ended up breaking his hand, opening the door for Mike Zunino’s triumphant return.  All I know is Iannetta is under contract at over $4 million next year, and he figures to be this team’s backup catcher.  Not ideal use of funds.

2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Oh how I love Dae-ho Lee, let me count the ways!  He started the season by knocking Jesus Montero off the roster, which is always nice.  He secured the right-handed platoon of first base, and ended up by and large outplaying Adam Lind.  On top of that, some early heroics endeared him to the fanbase for all eternity.  But, he did cool off considerably as the season went along, and with that his playing opportunities dwindled.  He spent some time in Tacoma, to regain his swing, but never really made much of an impact in the stretch run.  His defense was a pleasant surprise, and his ability to go the other way kept opposing defenses honest.  Then again, his base running was predictably bad.  But, he was cheap, earning just $1 million, while being worth every penny.  Word is the team wants him back for 2017, and I don’t blame ’em!  I’d like to see him back as well!  I don’t know if he’ll ever be an everyday starter, but I’m curious to see how his game will grow now that he’s got a season’s worth of experience in the Majors.

11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.

As noted above in the Trumbo section, this turned out to be less than ideal.  Complain all you want about there not being any right handed power bats on the market, but we fucking gave one away in Trumbo!  The plus side on Guti is that he’s cheaper, he’s well-liked in the clubhouse, and he doesn’t need to or even want to play everyday.  He’ll always be as prepared as can be in a pinch, so that’s not something to worry about.  But, in the end, he’s another year older, and his body has been ravaged by injuries and illnesses over the years.  His defense has taken a huge step back, and I don’t think any part of his game is ever going to get better; it can, indeed, only get worse.  Sounds like the team wants him back too, but I think that’s a mistake.

7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.

Oh what could’ve been with Mike Montgomery.  As I’ve written about repeatedly, this was a deal made to sell high on an iffy bullpen piece, for hopefully a future starter at first base.  Montgomery proved with his ongoing stint with the Cubs that he’s here to stay, and this one might end up backfiring even more depending on how long and impressive his Major League career ends up being.  Shades of Matt Thornton, if you ask me.  In return, Dan Vogelbach, who got a cup of coffee with the Mariners, but still looks pretty raw.  He figures to get a shot in Spring Training (at least in a platoon role), but I have serious doubts.  If anything, he probably figures to be a placeholder until one of our other impressive first base prospects is ready to make the jump.  Don’t be shocked if, come June 2017, D.J. Peterson has supplanted Vogelbach (that is, assuming we don’t go out on the open market to bring in a veteran).

7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.

11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.

The Joaquin Benoit deals!  He cost upwards of $8 million this year, and he ended up being a total dud, first hitting the DL for a protracted injury, then being a lump of crap upon his return.  Makes you wonder how he was ever good in the first place, but then he went to Toronto and pitched lights out the rest of the year.  Hence why that deal is ranked higher.  I don’t think we gave up much of anything to get him (seemed like a cost-cutting move by the Padres, if anything), but we did end up getting back an interesting piece in Drew Storen.  One of those Change of Scenery deals that ACTUALLY works, as Storen was MUCH better as a member of the Mariners than he was in a Blue Jays uni.  Of course, this move helped/hurt both teams, as Toronto was the other wild card team that had us by 3 games by season’s end.  They got the better of us ever-so-slightly, as Benoit proved to be the healthier option than Storen, and the more important piece to their bullpen than Storen was to ours.  Both are UFA’s this year, and neither figures to make a substantial salary; I could easily see Storen returning to Seattle if the price is right.

2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.

12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.

I’m going to start lumping a bunch of moves in, as I failed to anticipate how long this post would end up being.  Peralta was a longtime vet brought in on an invite to Spring Training.  He ended up winning a job in our bullpen thanks to lots of injuries ahead of him.  He was also pretty okay in March, but it would not last long.  We ended up designating him for assignment in June, after it was clear his Major League career was done.  Similarly, Tom Wilhelmsen – in on that Leonys Martin deal – had a hard luck stint with the Rangers.  They’d finally had enough of him by June, and we were more than happy to bring him back.  A veteran, making the minimum, familiar with the organization, willing to go to Tacoma to work on some things, while at the same time able to fill in on Seattle’s bullpen that was sort of in shambles at this point of the season.  Wilhelmsen ended up being who we thought he was, which is far from elite, but at the same time far from the waste of space he was for Texas.  Scribner spent the bulk of 2016 on the DL.  He returned in September and was FAR AND AWAY our best reliever in those 12 appearances, giving up 0 runs and only 5 hits in 14 innings.  Where was THAT when we needed it April through August?  He’s under club control for three more years, and if he pitches anywhere close to what he was in September, this trade with Oakland looks MUCH better than it already is.

6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.

One of these days, I’d like to write a book about Wade LeBlanc’s 2016 season, because something sure as shit doesn’t add up.  We traded for him at probably our lowest point in the season (most likely for cash), and he was inserted into our rotation when most everyone else was injured.  AND HE WAS ALL RIGHT!  He didn’t turn the world on with his smile or anything, but he was somewhat competent!  He had 5 quality starts out of 8, and he looked no worse than Ariel Miranda.  Of course, there’s no point in having both Miranda and LeBlanc in your rotation at the same time, unless you’re just riddled with injuries, but who’s to say LeBlanc couldn’t have taken to a bullpen role?  He sure as shit took to it with Pittsburgh, when we dealt him to the Pirates in September!  He gave up 1 earned run in 12 innings with them!  I hope that PTBNL we get back from the Pirates is something more than just the cash we gave away to the Blue Jays in June.

8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).

10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.

Caminero came to Seattle and tore the A.L. a new asshole with his 100mph fastball.  Unfortunately, when teams started sitting dead red, and when he lost his command, they tore him a new asshole right back.  You can’t help but be intrigued by a guy like that, and hopefully our coaches are able to work with him mechanically to help him reign in some of that explosiveness.  Regardless, we’ve got 4 more years of club control on a guy with a ton of upside, so I like the move.  As for Cody Martin, I don’t know what to tell you.  He made a couple of spot starts for us, and a few more relief appearances, but other than mop up duty in extra innings games, he didn’t provide much of an impact.  He started primarily with Tacoma, and he figures to do more of the same in 2017.

3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.

8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.

I honestly have no idea where Heredia came from, what he was doing for the entirety of the 2015 calendar year, or anything other than we signed him as a free agent out of Cuba.  But, he tore through the minors and was called up to be primarily a defensive replacement in the outfield.  He figures to compete with Ben Gamel, among other guys, to be one of this team’s reserve outfielders.  Heredia bats righty and Gamel lefty, so it’s not like they’re in direct competition, but they sort of are, with Heredia on the inside track considering this organization’s lack of right handed bats.  They’re both for the most part on the same level, talent-wise, with Heredia having the higher ceiling, and Gamel more likely to be Major League-ready.  The 2017 outfield figures to be pretty jam-packed, with centerfield already on lockdown, so guys like Heredia and Gamel have a long way to go.

8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.

6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.

11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.

The Mariners never really figured out their reserve infielder spot.  Ultimately, Shawn O’Malley took the bull by the horns, but he’s not really much better than any of these guys listed here.  Luis Sardinas had the first crack at the job, but quickly proved to be ineffective (ultimately traded away to San Diego in August).  Chris Taylor had about the shortest opportunity I’ve ever seen, but in what I want to say was his only start with us this year, he had 2 errors and was sent away almost immediately afterward.  He ended up predictably doing nothing for the Dodgers (after his leadoff triple with them right after the trade), so no big loss.  Mike Freeman had some memorable plate appearances (particularly in that Anaheim series during Griffey weekend), and should be around to compete for the backup infielder spot next year.

3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.

8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).

11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.

1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.

These last deals aren’t really even worth mentioning, but I stuck them down here at the bottom anyway.  Steve Johnson appeared in 16 games, almost exclusively as the very last man in the bullpen.  When it became readily apparent he was a waste of space, we cut him loose in mid-June.  Pat Venditte is the switch-pitcher we brought in, who got his cup of coffee with us in September, almost exclusively in blowout situations.  I don’t know if he’ll ever be much more than a novelty.  Robertson appeared in 9 games, and for the life of me, I can’t remember a thing about any of ’em.  Apparently, they took place in July.  He obviously didn’t make much of an impression, as he didn’t return in September with the rest of the call-ups.  Finally, Joe Wieland appeared in one game, making a spot start on August 12th against the A’s.  He gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, as we lost 6-3.  We ended up trading him to the Braves in September, rendering him as little more than a trivia question answer, and not even an interesting one.

***

So, all in all, how would I rate Jerry Dipoto’s first year on the job?  I’d say of all the moves I listed above, about half of them were good and half of them were bad.  I would say the trades were particularly bad (including the Trumbo, Lind, 1st Miley, and Karns deals) with only the Leonys Martin deal having a real positive impact.  He was able to find a lot of value towards the back-end of the roster, particularly the bullpen, as the season went along, and he was smart to fill the roster with veterans, considering the closing competitive windows of our aging stars.  Ultimately, the Mariners improved by 10 games in his first year, so that’s certainly a feather in his cap.  But, I think a lot of that was achieved by players already here.  Cano having a bounce-back year, Seager improving, Zunino improving, Paxton making more of an impact, and so on and so forth.

What Dipoto needs to do now is find a way to fill some of these holes that are still dogging us.  First base, short stop, corner outfield.  He needs to find cost-effective ways to bolster our pitching staff.  And, let’s face it, he needs a little luck to go his way.  This team is close.  So very close to making the post-season and breaking this streak.  But, at the same time, it’s also pretty damn close from bottoming out yet again.  Is Dipoto the man for the job?  Time will tell, but I’m going to reserve any enthusiasm I have for the man until I see some actual results on the field.

It’s playoffs or bust, Jerry!  You’ll get a “good job” out of me when I see some rings on the fingers of these players.

***

Important Mariners Transactions for the 2016 Season

  • 10/19/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed Cody Martin off waivers from Oakland Athletics.
  • 11/5/15 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RHP Danny Farquhar to Tampa Bay Rays for RHP Nathan Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser and CF Boog Powell.
  • 11/6/15 – Seattle Mariners claimed LF Daniel Robertson off waivers from Los Angeles Angels.
  • 11/11/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RF Franklin Gutierrez.
  • 11/12/15 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Joaquin Benoit to Seattle Mariners for RHP Enyel De Los Santos and SS Nelson Ward.
  • 11/16/15 – Texas Rangers traded CF Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass to Seattle Mariners for RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, CF James Jones and PTBNL (3B Patrick Kivlehan).
  • 11/20/15 – Seattle Mariners traded CF Ramon Flores to Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Luis Sardinas.
  • 11/23/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent C Chris Iannetta.
  • 12/2/15 – Baltimore Orioles traded C Steve Clevenger to Seattle Mariners for RF Mark Trumbo and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser.
  • 12/2/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Justin De Fratus.
  • 12/3/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent LF Norichika Aoki.
  • 12/7/15 – Boston Red Sox traded RHP Jonathan Aro and LHP Wade Miley to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carson Smith and LHP Roenis Elias.
  • 12/8/15 – Oakland Athletics traded RHP Evan Scribner to Seattle Mariners for RHP Trey Cochran-Gill.
  • 12/9/15 – Milwaukee Brewers traded 1B Adam Lind to Seattle Mariners for RHP Carlos Herrera, RHP Daniel Missaki and RHP Freddy Peralta.
  • 12/14/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Cishek.
  • 12/18/15 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • 1/7/16 – Seattle Mariners released RHP Anthony Bass.
  • 1/12/16 – Los Angeles Dodgers traded RHP Joe Wieland to Seattle Mariners for SS Erick Mejia.
  • 2/3/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent 1B Dae-Ho Lee to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 2/9/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Joel Peralta to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
  • 3/1/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent CF Guillermo Heredia.
  • 3/17/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent RHP Steve Johnson to a minor league contract.
  • 3/28/16 – Toronto Blue Jays claimed 1B Jesus Montero off waivers from Seattle Mariners.
  • 3/30/16 – San Diego Padres traded RHP Nick Vincent to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 5/29/16 – Texas Rangers traded 3B Patrick Kivlehan to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (RHP Justin De Fratus).
  • 6/2/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Joel Peralta for assignment.
  • 6/17/16 – Seattle Mariners designated RHP Steve Johnson for assignment.
  • 6/19/16 – Seattle Mariners traded SS Chris Taylor to Los Angeles Dodgers for RHP Zach Lee.
  • 6/22/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL.
  • 6/22/16 – Seattle Mariners signed free agent Tom Wilhelmsen.
  • 7/20/16 – Seattle Mariners traded RHP Jordan Pries and LHP Mike Montgomery to Chicago Cubs for 1B Dan Vogelbach and RHP Paul Blackburn.
  • 7/26/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded RHP Drew Storen and cash to Seattle Mariners for RHP Joaquin Benoit.
  • 7/31/16 – Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade Miley to Baltimore Orioles for LHP Ariel Miranda.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners designated 3B Patrick Kivlehan for assignment.
  • 8/1/16 – Seattle Mariners claimed 1B Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • 8/6/16 – Toronto Blue Jays traded LHP Pat Venditte to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL (2B Tim Lopes).
  • 8/6/16 – Pittsburgh Pirates traded RHP Arquimedes Caminero to Seattle Mariners for PTBNL and Future Considerations (LHP Jake Brentz and RHP Pedro Vasquez).
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners sent Daniel Robertson outright to Tacoma Rainiers.
  • 8/15/16 – Seattle Mariners traded 2B Luis Sardinas to San Diego Padres for Player To Be Named Later.
  • 8/31/16 – New York Yankees traded RF Ben Gamel to Seattle Mariners for RHP Jio Orozco and RHP Juan De Paula.
  • 9/13/16 Seattle Mariners traded LHP Wade LeBlanc to Pittsburgh Pirates for PTBNL.
  • 9/14/16 Seattle Mariners traded RHP Joe Wieland to Atlanta Braves for PTBNL.

The Mariners Logged One Of Their Most Impressive Wins Of The Season

The Mariners have had a lot of impressive wins this year, actually.  Overcoming a 10-run deficit down in San Diego, the seven walk-off victories, the countless come-from-behind victories, including a special game earlier this month against the Red Sox where we erased a 4-run deficit in the bottom of the 8th to set up Edwin Diaz’s first career save.

I’d put last night’s game up there in the Unlikely Victory category.  Cody Martin, junkball artist, got the start and threw a bunch of 80-something miles per hour bullshit around the plate that was absolutely crushed.  If you’re not able to locate your pitches, you’re not going to last in this league, and sure enough, he kept letting his meatballs drift over the middle of the plate, where young Yankees phenoms were able to mash them for home runs.  4 in total, accounting for all 5 of the Yankees’ runs.

It looked dire!  It looked like one of those games.  Not that Michael Pineda – New York’s starter last night – is any great shakes, but he’s a professional, with professional stuff.  When Cody Martin gave up a solo homer in the first, and another in the second, I knew I had no intention of sticking with this game.  I figured, on the bright side, maybe this was a day to go to bed early and catch up on some sleep.

Then, Martin settled down for a minute, and Kyle Seager rewarded us with a 3-run homer to take the lead, and this game had a new lease on life!  That lease was promptly torn to shreds in the top of the sixth, as the same guys who homered earlier that day did so a second time, to re-take the lead 5-3.  With two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth, with Mike Zunino at the plate, I was one out away from officially giving up on the game and hitting the sack.

Which is when Shades of ’95 crept back into our lives.  BOOM!  Zunino, with a 3-run opposite field home run on a full count to give the Mariners a 6-5 lead!  WHAT?!?!

This shit is starting to feel for real.  Nelson Cruz even muscled a solo homer out to left in the bottom of the 8th – on a pitch that broke his bat – to give us a very necessary insurance run.

With all of that adversity, there was still the matter of closing out the game.  A day after The Bartender & Friends blew a 3-run lead, Edwin Diaz was back in the fold.  He’d been given the last couple days off to keep his arm fresh and see if he could work out his fastball command that has eluded him of late.  No such luck on that account, as his first few fastballs were wildly off the plate.  He gave up a walk and a single around a strikeout, then balked the two runners over to make it even more interesting.  From there, he forced a weak fly ball to left to hold the runners, before getting their last guy to ground out to Cano to end it.

The Mariners could have lost that game a number of different ways, but in the end, they managed to pull it out, which is the mark of something special.  Underrated key to the game was putting in the defensive replacements as soon as we re-took the lead.  Aoki and Smith’s defense have held us back long enough, so it was nice to see Heredia and O’Malley out there holding the fort (O’Malley with one of the best defensive plays of the year, catching that ball as he fell into the stands down the first base line).  Between that, and the bullpen in manic mode (after a depressive Sunday afternoon), it all adds up to excellence.

More of the same, please!

The Mariners Are Playing Well & They’re Blowing It

In the last week, the Mariners have lost two games they should have won, and if I’m being overly critical, I’d say they lost three games they should have won, because God damn are the Angels and Brewers terrible.

In the last week, the Mariners have gone 4-3, but they’ve also won 12 of their last 16 and have gone 14-6 in the month of August, either winning or tying every series, as they clawed their way back to within a single game of the 2nd Wild Card spot.

The Mariners are playing well, AND they’re fucking leaving wins on the table.

In the 4 wins this past week, the bullpen pitched 11.2 innings and gave up only 4 runs, all of which were inconsequential (though, some of them were scary, as Edwin Diaz has barely gotten his last two saves, which would make it appear that his first blown save is creeping right around the corner).

In the 3 losses this past week, the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings and gave up a whopping 11 runs, including meltdowns by Vincent, Caminero, Vincent, and Wilhelmsen.

Part of this, I guess, you could argue is on the offense not taking advantage of earlier scoring opportunities.  But, in the three losses, the Mariners are averaging over 5 runs per game.  That SHOULD be enough!

Likewise, some of this also has to do with our rotation being in shambles again.  I love what Ariel Miranda has brought to the table since the Wade Miley trade, but he has yet to throw over 86 pitches in any of his starts, and seems to turn into a pumpkin in the 6th inning.  When you combine him with Wade LeBlanc (meh) and now Cody Martin (SUPER meh), you end up putting too many games in the hand of a bullpen that has proven to be shaky at best.

Yeah, Felix and Iwakuma have been great this year!  But, it would be nice to have Paxton and Walker healthy and pitching effectively.  Maybe, oh, I dunno, have a prolonged stretch where all four of those fuckers are healthy and we are able to slot LeBlanc into the #5 role where he belongs, as opposed to the #3 role he’s been thrust into!  Could that fucking happen for one fucking month of the season, please?

There are still a lot of games with a lot of beatable turds on the schedule, so we gotta stop gagging these things away!  It would be foolish to expect a bullpen to be perfect, but it is abso-fucking-lutely acceptable to expect to save every 3-run lead in the 9th!  I’ll tell you that for one!  Tom Wilhelmsen, you save that shit for when you’re employed by the Texas Rangers!  You keep that bullshit out of our locker room!  And Leonys Martin?  Nori Aoki?  Let’s work on our defense and catch the fucking balls we’re supposed to catch, huh?  You blew that just as much as The Bartender, so don’t think you’re getting off easy.

Focus!  6 weeks to go!  I want playoff baseball and I want it right fucking now!

The Mariners Are Really Putting Me Through The Wringer

Tasked with the second inexperienced starter in two days, the Seattle Mariners had to put on their big boy pants to beat the Angels last night.  So, it was really a perfect time for the power in the bats to completely disappear.

After digging a hole early, Cody Martin somewhat settled down to go 4.1 innings while giving up only 2 runs.  Given our placement in the standings and how important all of these games are, combined with the fact that the Mariners just took the lead in the top of the 4th to go up 4-2, Scott Servais wasn’t taking any chances.  It was the prudent play.

The bullpen rebounded in a big way over the previous night.  Storen went 1.1 scoreless, Nuno got the final out of the 6th, Caminero made it through a scoreless 7th, and Wilhelmsen did the same in the 8th.  Perfect.  Bring on the Sugar!

Texas Tea ... Sweetener!

Texas Tea … Sweetener!

Who almost fucking blew it.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME???

A single and a wild pitch put the leadoff batter in scoring position.  For the most part, like the night prior, the Angels hitters were cheating, going up there looking fastball all the way and swinging accordingly.  That’s what happened with the first batter.  So, Diaz turned to his slider, and almost exclusively his slider, the rest of the way.  I didn’t understand at first, as the next batter whiffed twice at it before laying off the next two balls outside, before putting the final slider into centerfield to make the game 4-3.  After the game, I discovered he’d lost confidence in his fastball command, but either way, it was SCARY for a while there!

Diaz got a strikeout from an overly-aggressive Kole Calhoun, but then Trout singled and advanced to second on the throw as Leonys Martin tried to cut down the runner going to third.  With two runners in scoring position, and only one out in the inning, Diaz intentionally walked Albert Pujols to load ’em up.  From there, he got another strikeout before running into the final batter of the night, who hit a hard ground ball towards the bag that Seager dove on.  He was able to throw out the final runner by a half step to save the game, in what has to be the best defensive play made by a Mariners fielder all year.  Hell, it might be the play of the decade, given the circumstances (but, my memory ain’t what it used to be).

Just an unbelievable sense of relief after that.  We wrap up the 4-game series tonight, with Iwakuma on the mound.  Let’s do this thing!

The Mariners Screwed The Pooch Last Night

Blowers and Goldsmith were having a discussion during the broadcast last night about how great it is to have a lockdown closer like Edwin Diaz.  He helps the rest of the bullpen slot into place, he gives everyone the confidence that by shortening the game – just getting through the 8th inning with the lead – everything will be all right.

But, what happens if you can’t even do that?  Well, you get what we had here last night.

You could only expect them to win one of these two games started by Miranda yesterday and Cody Martin tonight; the Mariners blew a HUGE opportunity to take this series by the balls.  I will say it again:  the Mariners have NO business losing to this team, in any capacity.  The Angels have one and a half hitters who can beat you, and sure as shit, they got the better of us again.  It’s like this pitching staff and this coaching staff simply wipes their asses with the scouting reports they get!

Have you heard of the phrase, “I’m not going to let so-and-so beat us,”?  Well, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols – he of the 92 RBI and the unimpressive batting average – should NOT be beating us like they are!  You’ve got to be more careful with them!  You absolutely can NOT be floating meatballs for them to crush!  And you can’t be fucking walking guys ahead of them!

The bullpen shit the bed, you know?  What can I say?  They had an awesome run, but they really fucked up bad last night.  Nick Vincent was God damn worthless, and Arquimedes Caminero suffered his first blown save in a Mariners uniform.  This isn’t on the hitters (6 runs should be MORE than enough to win every game), this isn’t on the starter (who pitched very well until, again, he faltered in the 6th inning and couldn’t get an out).  This is on those two bullpen guys who fucked it up for everyone.

Now, we have to win the next two games in the series to be where we want to be.  You can’t be losing a series to a team that’s 20 games under .500!  Not if the post-season is on your mind!  So, get your shit together and get this fucking thing done!

My Griffey Hall Of Fame Weekend Experience, Day 2

I stayed up through the whole game, everyone!  Keep your chins up!

Allow me to re-introduce myself ...

Allow me to re-introduce myself …

Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, Day 1 kinda got away from me a little bit.  It took me a while to get going on Day 2, but I eventually ventured out of my apartment, grabbed a couple coffees and some scratch tickets, and even worked in a shower before I sweated myself through the second game of the weekend.

I threw $190 into scratch tickets and walked away with $30 when all was said and done, but it’s not all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for Steven A. Taylor.  There’s also copious amounts of line waiting!  We left South Lake Union around a quarter to 3, Ubering our way to 1st & Edgar Martinez Way to the sight of yet another fuckload of people waiting in lines to grab Day 2’s prize:  a mini Griffey HOF plaque.  We, no joke, got in the same line for the Left Field Entrance, at about the same distance as I was for Day 1.  And lo and behold, we got our plaques.

Bee-you-tiful ...

Bee-you-tiful …

We opted to stay in the stadium, as opposed to making our usual trek to Sluggers, because the 24 Retirement Ceremony was starting at 5:30, and we sure as shit didn’t want to miss it.  Since we were starving, food was our #1 priority.  I made the mistake of ordering a Mariner Dog (ate two bites and threw the rest away) and some Club Level “garlic” fries.  You tell me, is this abomination an appropriate order of garlic fries?

Horse. Shit.

Horse. Shit.

That’s either garlic powder, or parmesan cheese, but there’s NO FUCKING GARLIC on that shit!  Safeco, I expect better.

Once I got rid of that shit, I ended up walking a million miles to get a mediocre slice of pepperoni pizza and a cup of chocolate soft serve ice cream, before turning my attention to the $6 Tecates they sell at the Hit It Here Cafe.  Beer:  you can’t fuck up beer.

Let your freak flag fly …

The ceremony was fantastic.  The Mariners know how to do one thing well, and that’s throw a party for their greats.  The usual suspects showed up, from Alvin Davis, to Dan Wilson, to Jay Buhner, to Jamie Moyer, to Edgar Martinez wearing a backwards cap, to Dave Niehaus’ widow; while a bunch of shockers popped in, like Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, Gary Payton, Spencer Haywood, Rickey Henderson, and others.  Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Kobe Bryant, and even Jeff Gordon had jumbotron salutes.  It was truly a star-studded affair.

The Great One ...

The Great One …

We even got a Griffey speech with almost no blubbering!  It was everything you could ever want from a ceremony!

Retire them numbers ...

Retire them numbers …

Then, the game happened, and I don’t even know anymore.  Like the previous night, Mike Trout hit a 3-run homer in the first to put the Mariners at a huge disadvantage.  Unlike the previous night, the Mariners were unable to respond with more than a single run in the bottom half of the inning.  But, in spite of Taijuan Walker’s mediocre return from the DL (4 innings, 6 runs), the Mariners continued to chip away!  1 run in the first, another in the third (Guillermo Heredia’s first ever homer), 2 runs in the fifth (Guti homer, to pull him within a triple of the cycle), and 4 runs in the seventh (a Leonys Martin sac fly, and a MONSTER 3-run homer from the hero of the night, Shawn O’Malley).

It was truly a magical night.  Shawn O’Malley even followed up his game-winning homer with a diving stab the next inning to take a hit away from them, resulting in chanting from the sellout crowd.  Was I JUST complaining of O’Malley’s defense earlier this week?  I don’t recall that!  Surely t’was some other blogger!  Was I among those leading the chants for the rest of the evening?  No hypocrite guy, but MAYBE!

Big ups to the bullpen tonight, for picking up where Taijuan failed to leave off.  Cody Martin went 2.2, Drew Storen got the last out in the 7th (and the win).  Wilhelmsen came in to dominate the 8th, and Edwin Diaz got the game sealing double play to close out the 9th.  Bing, bang, boom, Mariners defeat Angels 8-6, and we all went home delirious.

Day 3 happens later today, and I, for one, can’t wait.

Let your body move to the music ...

Let your body move to the music …

I Don’t Know Why I Stayed Up To Watch All Of That Mariners Game Last Night

You want the short answer?  I knew Ariel Miranda was getting his first Major League start and I wanted like hell for him to do well.  We’d just shipped off Wade Miley – who, in his first start with the Orioles, went 5 innings, giving up 4 runs in a loss – and I’d made that big to do about Good Riddance and all that jazz.  This year has been such a shitshow with the pitching, I’m DESPERATE for any possibility that a new guy might help turn things around.

Also, not for nothing, but I realize we’re just starting to get into Looking Forward To Next Year mode – even if I’m being dragged there kicking and screaming – and I’d like to have some reasons for optimism.  I NEED a good pitching staff, or else I get all wonky!

Well, Ariel Miranda acquitted himself just fine last night.  6 innings, 2 runs, spreading out 8 hits and a walk, with 5 strikeouts.  He got himself into a little trouble here and there, but was able to pitch around it.  I thought he hit his spots pretty well, for the most part.  He seemed pretty fearless out there, and pretty natural at the same time.  He might get sent right back down to Tacoma in a minute, what with Taijuan Walker’s return, but let’s be real here:  no one expects this rotation to stay intact for the next two weeks, let alone the rest of the season.  We will most definitely see Ariel Miranda again.  And I hope we get a lot more of what we saw last night, because that’s a guy I can go to war with.

Unfortunately, as has been the case more and more of late, the hitting let us down last night.  The Mariners should win every game they hold an opponent to 2 runs in regulation.  But, it wasn’t to be.  Robbie – after being our hero on Tuesday – totally shit the bed last night.  Cruz wasn’t good for anything more than a couple of walks.  Seager was 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.  Zunino was only good for a couple of walks (a lot of walks by Mariners hitters last night, which makes the end result particularly galling, as we’re NEVER this patient at the plate).  The only middle-of-the-order hitter to do ANYTHING last night was Dae-ho Lee, with the RBI single in the 5th to tie the game.  He’s so good at getting that runner in by knocking a single the other way; he’s NOT just a power guy!  That’s what we love about Dae-ho so much!

The rest of the lineup wasn’t much better, to be fair.  Leonys Martin is in a BIGTIME slump right now.  Guillermo Heredia is NOT a leadoff hitter, and I wish Servais would stop doing that.  Shawn O’Malley had a solo homer – and 3 hits on the day – but he’s also not a starting-calibre short stop, which was on full display in the top of the 11th, when his diving stab at a single through the infield cost the Mariners a run and ultimately the game.  A competent defensive short stop at the very least is able to keep that ball in the infield, with a good chance of actually making the play and getting the out at first.  This team seriously needs Ketel Marte back in the lineup.  Because he’s leaps and bounds better than O’Malley defensively, and because we need to see if the kid has what it takes to be our everyday short stop next year and beyond.

I mean, seriously, who gets mono in this day and age?!

Short story long, I’ve gotta give it up for the bullpen last night.  They really worked their asses off to keep that game tied as long as it was.  I thought Miranda was pulled at exactly the right time:  he made it through 6, and even though he’d only thrown 80 pitches, he was starting to get hit hard, and it’s better to preserve the kid’s confidence going forward than try to squeeze another inning out of him and giving up the lead in the process.  I like Storen in that spot right now, I thought Nuno was in there the exact right amount, and I even agree with having Wilhelmsen in there for the 4 outs.  No one was egregiously over-used, but with Diaz unavailable (having pitched in 4 days out of the last 5), you had to get a little extra somewhere.  I started the 10th inning wondering just what in the hell the Mariners were thinking by not bringing Blake Parker up sooner – as it looked like he’d been kicking all ass in Tacoma – but by the end of the 10th, I was having visions of Joel Peralta, and understood it probably wasn’t the organization being prejudiced against guys named Blake.  By the time we got to the 11th, and Cody Martin was the last man standing, you kinda knew time was growing short.  I just hoped he wouldn’t IMMEDIATELY give up the go-ahead run, but maybe buy us an inning or two before falling apart.

Oh well, I guess.  Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.  We’ll get ’em next time and whatnot.  The sun’ll come out tomorrow and whathaveyou.

Big Griffey Hall of Fame Weekend starts tonight.  I’m going to all three games, so I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say come Monday.

Is Help Really On The Horizon For The Mariners?

I feel like the narrative for the 2016 Mariners is about to be established, and it’s totally fucking fraudulent.

At the end of May, the Mariners were in first place and headed into a key stretch of season.  Then, Ketel Marte and Leonys Martin went down in the same week, and the Mariners totally bungled that key stretch of season.  They both returned as soon as their 15-day DL stints were up, but that was just the beginning.  In what has become a nightmare scenario, the Mariners have seen King Felix, Wade Miley, Taijuan Walker, Nick Vincent, Joaquin Benoit, Steve Clevenger, Tony Zych, and Adrian Sampson all hit the DL this year (on top of such “mainstays” as Charlie Furbush, Jesus Sucre, Ryan Cook, and Evan Scribner all starting the year on the DL).  While losing these guys certainly hasn’t helped the cause of remaining in post-season contention, I feel like the argument is about to shift to where it’s the injuries themselves that are to blame for all of this, and by simply getting guys back, the Mariners will return to their April & May glories.

When, the reality is, I was writing about this team needing help before most these injuries even started!  Now, I’ll certainly take the blame for putting the whammy on this team when I wrote about how healthy they’d been to date, but it’s pretty quaint to look back on that post now.  THESE Mariners look like they need help just about everywhere, wheras THOSE Mariners weren’t too far off.

I’ll give you this:  getting Felix Hernandez back will – hopefully – be a big boost to this rotation.  It’s tough to say how much this calf injury is going to affect him the rest of the year – we know he’s a gamer, and will play through a lot of pain to be the leader this team needs, but will that make him a less effective pitcher overall?  Regardless, King Felix at 75% is still better than Wade Miley, Wade LeBlanc, Mike Montgomery, and Taijuan Walker at 50%; indeed, King Felix at 75% is probably better than everyone on this roster (save Iwakuma when he’s on a hot streak).

I still think this team needs another bigtime starting pitcher, but given how the last six weeks have gone, I’m less high on acquiring a 2-month rental than I was in mid-May.  I just don’t think it’s reasonable to expect this team to blow the farm on 2016 alone, when so much of this team (especially in the pitching department) is falling apart and needs an upgrade.

With Felix back, your five best starting pitchers are:

  1. Felix
  2. Iwakuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Montgomery
  5. LeBlanc

Walker will jump up to the 3-4 range once his foot injury heals, thankfully pushing LeBlanc out of here, but the fact remains that Karns and Miley are both ineffective and need to be removed (if not from the team entirely, then at least from the rotation – which has already happened to Karns).  The timetable on Walker looks like at least another couple weeks, which puts us into August, but I still maintain that this team needs to get him all the way back to 100% before bringing him back, because his injury-shortened starts are killing this team.

As for the bullpen, I don’t know where the help is going to come from, to be honest.  As a good start, it’d be nice to take away the closing role from Cishek.  I thought this was a really well-reasoned argument to go to the Bullpen By Committee approach.  That’s a tough thing, though, when I really only have confidence in one guy – Edwin Diaz, who has been un-fucking-believable – and even then, I have to see what happens when the league figures him out and he has to adjust.  If anything, I think the Mariners need to be more like the Angels in their bullpen usage – just annoy the piss out of everyone by using multiple relievers per inning if you have to, playing the matchup game to the Nth degree.

But, let’s face it, who can trust this bullpen?  Cishek and Benoit were supposed to bring veteran stability to this unit, but they’ve both been disasters at times.  Nick Vincent was strong to start the year, but he’s injured (and before that, was starting to get hit pretty hard).  Montgomery has been good, but he struggled in late-game, pressure situations (and he might also be MUCH better used in the starting rotation).  Nuno has been good, but he’s more of a wild card than we’ve seen.  The jury is still out on Karns (though, the team appears to be saving him for mop-up long relief).  And, if Miley does get demoted to the bullpen, how exactly will that be a good thing (when the vast majority of his starts involve him getting shelled early, only to settle down for the last few innings)?

Beyond that, Zych appears to be a lost cause for 2016.  Furbush is on the mend, but will he return to his 2015 form?  Or, his pre-2015 form when he was spotty at best?  Wilhelmsen is back, and looking like he’s being groomed for more high-leverage situations (even though he was a Hindenburg crossed with a Challenger-level disaster in Texas); can’t say I have much trust there.  And, with all these veterans leaving a lot to be desired, why would I feel good having faith in the likes of Cook or Scribner, should they ever fully make it back from injury?

That just leaves the Tacoma guys:  Roach, Aro, Martin, Guaipe, and Rollins, none of whom have been able to consistently throw strikes or generally do their fucking jobs at the Big League level.

So, you can go ahead and make Diaz the closer if you want, but that’s still only taking care of the 9th inning.  What about the 8th, 7th, 6th, and 5th innings?  You know, the ones our starters are too inept to get through.

Quite frankly, I LIKE how they’ve used Diaz so far.  Diaz is by far the best reliever on this team right now, and he’s being used as such:  in situations with runners on base, in close ballgames, when you absolutely, no questions asked, need a strikeout to get out of a huge mess.  As has been noted by countless smarter baseball fans than myself, sometimes the most important inning of relief ISN’T the 9th inning.  In fact, I’d say more often than not, that moment reveals itself to be earlier; but, baseball is so entrenched in this system of set up men & closers that it’s considered automatic when it really shouldn’t be.  As such, THAT’S the most important reason why I think the Mariners should go with a bullpen by committee; not because I necessarily need to see Cishek pitch earlier, but because I don’t think he should be entrusted with getting the final three outs when he might only be qualified to get 1-2 of those outs.

Fuck.  The.  Save.  Stat.

You want some help on the horizon?  Get rid of established bullpen roles, bring in another starter for more than just the stretch run, demote the shit out of Miley & Karns, and let everything ride.

You know what you DON’T do?  You don’t make “corner outfield” your top priority.

Here’s what I don’t understand:  everyone under the sun praises Seth Smith for his quality, professional at bats.  Yet, these same people keep telling anyone who’ll listen that this team needs to trade for a left fielder.  WHY?  I get it, you’d like to see improved outfield defense.  So would I.  But, you still need to start Smith against any right-handed starter, which puts him in your lineup 2/3 of the time.  And, while his numbers aren’t necessarily eye-popping, I think you’re getting enough out of Guti in his platoon role to justify the roster spot.

Which, I guess, leaves right field, where we’ve seen more of Nelson Cruz than anyone could possibly like.  But, it comes back to getting your best hitting lineup out there.  And, more often than not, when a right handed pitcher is on the mound against us, that means getting both Lind and Dae-ho Lee in there.  Lee has shown he deserves more regular at bats, even against righties, which means if you’re getting both Lee and Lind in there, one of them is going to have to DH.  That pushes Cruz into the outfield, for obvious reasons, on the days you don’t sit one of Lind or Lee.

This team doesn’t need a starting corner outfielder (besides, getting one that’s good defensively AND one that has good on-base skills, is a fucking unicorn that most other teams aren’t willing to part with); it needs a better reserve outfielder.  Nori Aoki has already been demoted to Tacoma, which was appropriate and the right start.  At this point, if anything, you’d just want a reserve that’s better than him, or O’Malley, or the recently recalled Dan Robertson (who really hasn’t had a chance to play enough to show you he’s ready to stick or not).

For me, I’m not really sweating the outfield right now.  The rest of this team’s hitting and defense is good enough to withstand the occasional Robertson start in the outfield, or the occasional outfield with both Smith and Cruz roaming the corners.

In TL;DR, while there IS help on the horizon, with injured guys getting healthy, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be enough to turn around the fortunes for this star-crossed team.  For this team to do what it truly NEEDS to do, it’s going to have to trade away the farm and it’s going to have to take on some significant payroll, neither of which I think this organization is prepared to do.