Slow News Week: The Mariners Are Going To Retire Edgar Martinez’s Number

In case you felt the need to ask my opinion:  I’m for it!  Love me some Edgar, believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, believe he deserves to be in there before David Ortiz.  Better writers, smarter at baseball, have given you all the arguments why he belongs.  Bad writers, dumb at baseball, have yet to put him in there.  And somehow life goes on.

Last year, the Mariners retired Ken Griffey Jr.’s number 24, and I can’t remember a better 3-day weekend I’ve had at the ol’ ballpark.  This year, if you check out the promotions the Mariners released, you can see it’s a pretty similar deal.  First homestand in August – like last year, only this year it’s the ONLY homestand in August – with give-aways all three days.  An Edgar Bobblehead on Friday, August 11th; the actual ceremony and a “Replica Number” on Saturday, August 12th; and a Replica Jersey on Sunday, August 13th.  Each to the first 45,000 fans, which is pretty much everyone, which means they’re expecting easy sell-outs for these games.

I’m debating as to whether I want to go to any/all of these games like I did last year.  You’d think this would be right up my alley:  I love free shit memorabilia, I like going to baseball games, and I certainly like Edgar more than Griffey (if for no other reason than he didn’t force his way out of Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there).  But, I dunno.  I’m still in sort of a football hangover, and I’m still not ready to grapple with another long baseball season.

Single game tickets go on sale on Saturday, March 11th though, so maybe I’ll start getting jazzed up for things by then.

As is always the case, people are already speculating about the next number to be retired.  Truth be told, we’re probably running low.  I don’t know if I see Jamie Moyer making a run at the Hall of Fame (you have to at least get close in the voting for the Mariners to give you a shot).  Randy Johnson is already in there, but are his 10 years with the Mariners enough to warrant a number retirement?  Especially when you factor in how he was Good-Not-Great for about half those seasons, and did all his best pitching after he left Seattle?  Let’s look at this logically here:  he didn’t wear a Mariners hat in the Hall of Fame AND if he was so good and so revered, why would they give out his number to another player a few years after he left?

If anything, I think the next number the Mariners retire is number 51, but ONLY for Ichiro.  As far as I’m concerned, after Edgar, he’s your next Mariners Hall of Famer.  If Randy Johnson should get his number retired, let Arizona handle that.  Let’s face it, the Mariners were dumb enough to not extend him and make him a lifelong member of this organization, so they have no business painting history in some alternate light.  He’s already in the team’s hall of fame, that’s enough.  51 belongs to Ichiro, the First Ballot guy, and the guy who played the overwhelming majority of his Major League career in a Seattle uniform.

Anyway, that’s all I got.  Just trying to wipe away the dust and cobwebs off the site.  I’ll be back to hopefully some more regularly scheduled posting next week, unless we get some breaking news in the meantime.

Are The Mariners (Gulp) Only Built For The Regular Season?

As we cruise into the final days of May, in first place in the division and one of the best teams in all of baseball, it’s only natural to be excited.  PLAYOFF FEVER, COMIN’ ATCHA!

It’s been so, so, SO LONG since we’ve had a baseball team this good, this well built.  It’s not like 2007 or 2009 where the winning was flukey and unsustainable.  It’s not even like 2014, where pretty much everything went right and we STILL came up a game short of vying for the Wild Card.  This is a team, from 1-25, that’s good enough to sustain through the whole season.  Yes, there will be lows, but I’d argue fewer and further between.  With a lineup this good and this veteran; with a rotation that looks pretty steady, and a bullpen that might be better than we thought (though, one might argue, some of these guys were due to regress in the positive direction after having down years in 2015), this team should be able to nip a lot of losing streaks in the bud, before they turn into total calamities.

So, let’s just take that for granted.  And, let’s assume that the team stays reasonably healthy, and doesn’t totally fall apart with injuries.  This, right here, in 2016, will be the Mariners team to take us back to the post-season.

What happens then?

One of my all-time sports regrets – and there are more than a few – is that 2001 Mariners team.  It’s a different feeling than the gut punch that was losing the Sonics, or the two Super Bowl defeats.  It’s even different from the other good Mariners teams who fell short.  In 1995, we were more or less just happy to be there (and just ecstatic to reach the ALCS); in 1997, it didn’t feel like an end of an era so much as the beginning of a long and fruitful stretch of post-season runs with the best core of players in all of baseball (it was, in fact, the end of an era, as Randy, Griffey, and A-Rod would all leave in ensuing losing seasons).

2001 stands alone, because it’s all at once a source of tremendous pride and abject horror.  I look back on that year with fond memories, because we won 116 motherfucking games!  We tied the all-time record!  We even hosted the All Star Game and got to show the world how great Safeco Field was and is!  It might be another 90-something years before we see a 6-month stretch of dominance like that again.  Sure, there will be 100-game winners, but 116?  In the American League?  That feels like a pretty safe number.  I had SO MUCH FUN watching that team day-in and day-out; I never wanted that season to end!

And then it did.  And HOO BOY was I miserable.

When you’re a kid (unless you’re some spoiled brat of a rich kid), you learn pretty early on that life isn’t fair.  You’re not going to get your way, and it’s totally arbitrary, and you don’t understand why, and it sucks, and you’re pissed.  But, in sports, you want to believe that the best team WILL win it.  You root for a team like the Mariners, you pay your dues (for the most part; as much dues paying as you can do when you become a fan in September of 1995), you wait your turn, and then here it is!  2001!  116 wins!  FINALLY!  It’s OUR time!  We are, clearly, far and away, the best team in all of baseball, and this is the year we get our championship trophy to celebrate it!

I didn’t get to root for a lot of successful teams growing up.  The Seahawks were the local turd in the punchbowl for the entire 1990s, I was never into college sports as a child, so I had the Sonics.  The Sonics may or may not have been the best team in 1994 – when they lost in the first round to the Nuggets as a 1-seed – but I find it truly hard to believe that they were the best team, when they couldn’t even beat an 8-seed who was just happy to be there.  That team, even if it managed to find a way to get to the next round, probably would’ve ended up losing to the Rockets or Jazz or Spurs.  It was flawed, and feasted upon all the bad teams, while cleaning up at home.  Then, by 1996, the Sonics were clearly NOT the best team, because they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 72-win Bulls.

Really, in my lifetime, the first team I rooted for that was LEGITIMATELY the best team in that particular sport that particular year was indeed the 2001 Mariners.  And, as such, that’s really the first time I got a taste of not only life not being fair, but sports not being fair.

With a little perspective, you start to throw caveats into the mix.  Sadly, the 2001 Mariners weren’t the best baseball team that year, they were just the best REGULAR SEASON team that year.

For, you see, a team like the Yankees, they won 21 fewer games in the regular season, but they were built for the post-season.  Our lineup was good, theirs was a little bit better.  Our pitching feasted upon all the run support they were given, their pitching was battle tested.  Their starting rotation was dynamic – with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, and Orlando Hernandez.  Our starting rotation was entirely unremarkable – with Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, and Paul Abbott.  Their bullpen featured the greatest closer of all time in Mariano Rivera; our bullpen relied on a closer in Kaz Sasaki with a nothing fastball, who needed pinpoint command of both his pitches – especially his splitter – to get the job done.

In the end, what happened?  Well, the Mariners lost in 5 games, and didn’t score more than 3 runs in any of their defeats.  Likewise, an over-worked bullpen in the regular season ended up faltering in key moments late in the 50/50 games of that series, giving the Yankees a decided advantage.  We were a team built for the regular season.  Guys like Sele and Garcia absolutely thrived until the spotlight shone too brightly and they were forced to truly bear down.  And the hitting, solid up and down the lineup, simply couldn’t find a way to push runners home when they had the opportunities.

So, with all of this as preamble, I say again, if the 2016 Mariners make the post-season, as we’re all starting to expect they will, what happens when we get there?

In an ideal world, I’d just be sitting here enjoying the ride.  Let Future Steven worry about what happens in October; this is May!  October is MONTHS away!

But, I can’t help it.  I see a team like the Red Sox, and they look really poised to do well in the playoffs.  They’ve got an ace, just like we’ve got an ace, but they’ve got a couple starters behind their ace that look pretty great.  The Cubs and White Sox, shit, they’re ALL pitching!  The Royals have been there before, and you figure they’ve got another run in them to get back into contention.

The Mariners, you can tell right now, are going to need a lot of help if they end up making the post-season.

I like Felix, but I’m not sure about ANYONE after him.  That includes Taijuan Walker, who can be dominating, but is still young, and is still finding himself.  Kuma is not the rock-solid #2 starter we all remember from 2013.  Wade Miley is the epitome of a guy built for the regular season.  And Karns?  Who knows if he’ll still be pitching, or if he’ll run into an innings limit?  Sure, we’ve got Paxton down in Tacoma, just waiting for his opportunity to prove he’s got what it takes, but I think we can all agree, if this team is going to make a bunch of noise in the playoffs, it is GOING to need another dominant starter after Felix.

With Felix and Ace #2, I think I could be okay with Taijuan Walker holding the fort as our third starter.  Now, whether or not the team will go with him, or the more veteran Iwakuma, is up for debate.  We’ll have to see where those guys are by season’s end.  If Walker proves he has what it takes to really lock things up in the important games in September, I could see him supplanting Kuma.  But, if not, then you’re looking at Walker as your 4th starter, which means you probably don’t need him until the ALCS (although, I’d be PRETTY interested to see Walker out of the ‘pen in the ALDS, just to get some work in, throwing in the upper-90s, with his awesome change-up as an equalizer).

If we’re unable to make that deal for another ace, then you gotta really hang onto your butts and hope the hitting lineup has enough juice.  With no other incoming starting pitcher, we’re probably forced to go with Miley in a more prominent role, and that frightens me to no end.

I also don’t think it would hurt to bring in a superstar reliever.  For the regular season, I like our bullpen as is (when you factor in the eventual return of Zych and Furbush).  In the post-season, though, my confidence is wavering.  Cishek strikes me as the type of guy who’s MUCH too volatile in a post-season setting.  Benoit’s got a good, but not great arm.  Nick Vincent has been good against right handed hitters, but I don’t want to see him in a situation where he has to face someone like Big Papi or something.  Right now, I think I’m only REALLY sold on Mike Montgomery, who has looked OUTSTANDING in his bullpen role.  He’s got an additional 3-4 miles per hour on his fastball, he’s good to throw multiple innings, so he can really bridge the gap if a starter needs to be pulled after five innings.  He’s also super strong against lefties, in the event we need to mix & match late in a game.

I’m not saying you completely throw out the bullpen and try to start over with a bunch of deadline trades.  But, I’d like to see us take advantage of some sellers out there.  Maybe bring in another guy with closing experience, in the event Cishek falters down the stretch and we need to go with more of a bullpen by committee approach.  Like, for instance, maybe we’re able to work out a deal for one of the better Yankees relievers?  Maybe we offer them a package that features James Paxton or Nathan Karns as the centerpiece?

Maybe we go all-in on 2016, because let’s face it, there’s no such thing as dynasties in baseball, and you’ve GOT to strike while the iron’s hot, damn the consequences?

If we make the playoffs and look more or less the same in October as we do in May, I’m afraid there are going to be issues.  2016 looks to be the funnest season we’ve had ’round these parts in well over a decade, but just having fun can’t be the only goal.  In years past (and I’ve said this many times), I would have gladly taken a baseball team that’s just entertaining enough, just interesting enough to contend until football season starts, and then go ahead and fall apart if you have to.  But, this year?  When we’ve got Cano, Cruz, and Seager all in their primes, when we’re FINALLY able to make good with King Felix and give him a winner for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, we can’t just crack the ALDS and act like we’re just happy to be there.  We can’t go into this thing ready to say, “Well, there’s always next year.”  If the opportunity arises, and it costs us everything in our God damn farm system, I don’t care, you have to make the moves that transform this team from a Regular Season Dandy into a Post-Season Juggernaut.

Let 2001 be a lesson to you, Mariners.  That team was pretty happy just to be there.  That team was CONVINCED there would be plenty more chances to get back to the show and win it all.

That team was the last one in franchise history to make the post-season, in what has become the second-longest playoff drought in all of the major American professional sports, behind the Buffalo Bills.  And you don’t want to be compared to the Buffalo Bills, trust me.

Do The Mariners Have Any All Stars This Year?

Yeah, the All Star Game isn’t until mid-July (and, frankly, doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things), but you and I know these things are determined in the first couple months of the season.  One good early-season hot streak can seep into the minds of the voting public (not to mention the fantasy baseball-playing public), and shape everyone’s opinions even if that player isn’t doing quite so hot by the time July 12th rolls around.

So, should we expect to have any Mariners on the team this year?

For starters, I think you gotta make Robinson Cano a lock.  Granted, he’s coming off of a down year, but he’s been not just one of the best second basemen in the league, he’s been one of the best all-around players in the league!  The early-season tear that he was on has cooled off a little bit, but he’s still 2nd in the A.L. in home runs, and tops in RBI.  This is pretty much a no-brainer, even with Jose Altuve’s high batting average.

Beyond Cano, I think you can make a sound argument for Nelson Cruz as the DH.  Even though the game is being played in San Diego’s Petco Park, the American League is still considered the “home team” and as such, the game will feature the DH (unless that rule has changed, and they stick with the DH regardless of who is considered the home team; in my mind, it’s home team-dependant for some reason).  I think Cruz is a solid second option behind who will surely get voted in as the starter, and that’s David Ortiz.  Ortiz is supposedly retiring after this year – so his sympathy vote will be off the charts – plus he’s just having the all-around best year as a designated hitter.  He leads Cruz in all hitting categories (except walks), and Cruz really hasn’t had any sort of hot streak to put his name on the map.  I still think Cruz makes it as a backup (because he still is one of the top power hitters in the game), but it would help his cause to have a really blistering June.

Seager has been coming on of late, but he still finds himself around 4th or 5th in most pertinent hitting categories among third basemen.  The thing is, his month of May has been re-DonkeyLips, and if he were to keep that going through most of June, he might hit his way back into the conversation.  Otherwise, there are a couple guys in Baltimore and Detroit with something to say.

That’s pretty much it, as far as hitters go.  Ketel Marte would’ve been an interesting argument before he went on the DL, as he was starting to play himself into more national recognition.  But, there are so many really good short stops in the league, Marte is probably a year or two away from really getting the sort of attention he needs.  Leonys Martin is another, what with his power numbers, but he’s never going to supplant a healthy Mike Trout, and I just think there are too many other big names out there for him to become a reserve.  He’d have to somehow maintain this hot stretch – maybe start batting in the .270s overall – and continue out-playing his career power number norms for him to make a dent.  It also wouldn’t hurt for the Mariners to keep winning.  Teams that lead the league in wins tend to have among the most All Star representatives (see:  2001 Mariners, with 8).

On the pitching side, I know a lot of fans are down on him, but Felix Hernandez is currently third among qualified starters in ERA.  It hasn’t been totally pretty, but he’s been getting the job done, and figures to be as close to a lock as there is among starting pitchers on this team.

Walker might have an outside chance, but he’s going to need to start putting up more zeroes, and start pitching more innings.  Iwakuma and Miley are both non-starters.  Indeed, if you want a REAL dark horse, Nathan Karns is currently 17th among American League starters in ERA.  He’s in a similar boat as Walker – and probably a year behind him from a national recognition standpoint – but that might be someone to keep an eye on over the next month.

As far as relievers go, it’s a little too soon to properly rate and compare among the league leaders.  I will say that Steve Cishek is tied for the A.L. lead in saves, and we all know closers are WAY more likely to make an All Star team than non-closers.  Cishek is also tied for 2nd in the league in blown saves, so that could be trouble.  If he can keep his blown saves under 5 or 6, keep his ERA below or right around 3.00, and be among the top two or three in saves, he should get in there.  Again, the more the Mariners win, the more it’ll help someone like Cishek.

And, the more it might help any relievers behind Cishek.  Like I just said, it’s really hard for a non-closer to make it.  You kinda need numbers that will blow everyone else away.  Like, an ERA under 1.00, or a fuckload of strikeouts or something.  I know Nuno has the better ERA, but if I’m making an argument for any other reliever besides Cishek, it would be Nick Vincent.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s almost nothing Vincent can do to be an All Star this year, aside from strike out literally every batter he faces between now and the end of June (or whenever voting ends for the ASG).  But, he’s got an ERA under 1.50, he’s pitched a lot of innings, he’s being used in higher-leverage situations, and he’s striking out WELL over a batter per inning.  For a guy like Vincent to make the team, we’d have to be looking at a crop of very mediocre relievers around the rest of the A.L. and I just don’t see that being the case.

In tl;dr, look for Cano to be a starter, look for Felix to be one of the top starters (but likely won’t actually start the game as long as Chris Sale has anything to say about it), look for Cruz to probably be a reserve DH after Ortiz, look for Cishek to be one of the top closers selected, and probably figure everyone else has too long of a shot to make it.

Still, that’s probably four Mariners in the All Star Game this year.  When was the last time we could say THAT?

(2014.  It was 2014.  Felix, Seager, Cano, and Fernando Rodney.  God Bless America)

The Future Of Ichiro

Pretty good article from U.S.S. Mariner today got me to thinking about Ichiro going forward.  Particularly, this notion about Ichiro closing out his career as a DH:

This is a bit of a non-traditional option, but it might be an interesting way to handle Ichiro, as long as he’s not in the process of completely falling off a cliff. Ichiro has always been viewed as a kind of savant when it comes to hitting, with the notion that he could just keep doing much of the same stuff all the way to the end like a late-career Tony Gwynn. The biggest worry is about a loss of speed, and that may have factored in this year, but then again he’s still stealing bases as well as before. In trying to move from “he’s in a slump” to actual analysis, everybody has a theory, nobody has proof. His defense has definitely declined, though, and I wonder if playing the field isn’t dragging down his performance at the plate. Considering that he hits well when he does DH, perhaps that should be given more serious consideration to see if this is a good way to extend his career.

Ichiro is a career .327 hitter in the Major Leagues.  In every season, he’s batted over .300 and he’s gotten over 200 hits; he looks to do neither in 2011, unless he gets hotter than he’s ever been before.  As such, until I’m proven wrong, I’d say that means he’s nearing the end of things.  Now, what the definition of “near” is is up to debate.  If he were a career Yankee (like, say, Derek Jeter), they could afford his albatross of a contract while they extended him out to the last possible at-bat until he reaches 3,000 hits.  He would certainly have enough pop around him in the lineup to overcome whatever type of hitter Ichiro is destined to become in his decline (like, say, a .269 hitter like he is this year).

But, I don’t think the Mariners can necessarily afford an Ichiro luxury.  Therefore, after his contract expires next season, he’s going to have to take a significant pay cut to stay on this team.  Assuming he’s unwilling to do that, then I can just stop writing right here, because either that means he’s going to walk and forever be an ex-Mariner, or it means we’re going to cave and overpay for a .250 singles-hitting right fielder whose defense is in great decline.  The former would be a shame, the latter would be an outright travesty and I’d be forced to band together with my fellow bloggers with pitchforks and torches and burn that motherfuckin’ stadium down!

So, for the sake of this argument here, let’s say he re-signs at a reasonable couple/few million.  Nothing bank-breaking, but enough to keep him happy so he retires a Mariner.  The question I pose is:  what is his value as a designated hitter?

Mike Snow (from above) is right, we can no longer overlook the fact that Ichiro’s defense has taken a tumble.  That’s the kind of thing where, as you age, it sure as shit isn’t going to get any better.

But, while Ichiro is a .327 career hitter, he’s a career .379 hitter as the DH.  Now, who knows if that’s purely coincidence (brought on by the small sample size of only 140 at bats), but his numbers across the board are better when he’s a DH.  His OBP is .409 (overall career .372), and his slugging is .493 (overall career .422).

While I tire of the jokes people always trot out (“oh, if he wanted, Ichiro could hit 30 homers a year, yeah right!”), there might be something to the fact that if Ichiro only focused on hitting and nothing else, he’d likely be able to hit for substantially more power.  I’m not saying he’s going to become Prince Fielder or anything – he’s still going to go for his share of infield singles to boost his hits total – but I think there’s something to this “resting his legs” whenever they give him a “day off” as DH.

Even this year, if you break down his stats, he’s hitting .423 as a DH over the course of 26 at bats.  Again, not a lot of opportunity to work with (and, unfortunately for my power argument, he’s yet to hit an extra-base hit as a DH – but then again, even 1 extra base hit would probably send his slugging percentage through the roof), but I bet you Ichiro could hang on as a fairly productive hitter for a few more seasons if he just gave up playing defense after his contract expires.

Of course, that’s all well and good, but even if he improves his power numbers a tick, he’s still not going to be the kind of David Ortiz type everyone wants as their DH.  He likely wouldn’t even be anywhere near an Edgar Martinez doubles type.  Tony Gwynn is an excellent example of what he’d likely become, and is that something we’d want as our DH?  I have a feeling we’d be screaming “Shades of Jose Vidro!” at the tops of our lungs.

Likely, it wouldn’t be worth it to have Ichiro as our DH of the future.  But, you never know (especially with Ichiro).  The guy takes a lot of pride in everything he does.  And, in spite of what everyone believes, he’s been pretty adaptable in his career.  Everyone wondered how his bat would react when he shifted over to Centerfield and look at how well that turned out.  I wouldn’t put it past him to refocus all of his energy into hitting should he be reduced to a utility outfielder/designated hitter.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t be exactly what we need?

I guess that would all depend on who goes out there to replace him.  If we’re stuck with more outfield singles hitters, then putting Ichiro at DH would probably be the dumbest move this side of signing Chone Figgins.  But, if we found some sluggers to fill out both outfield corner positions … who the hell knows?

Don’t Give Up On Guti Just Yet

With all of these Quad-A outfielders being thrown around (Greg Halman, Mike Carp, Carlos Peguero, Mike Wilson, Michael Saunders, the newly acquired Casper Wells, Wily Mo Pena, and Trayvon Robinson), there’s been talk that Franklin Gutierrez needs to step it up or risk losing significant playing time (even talk of him being traded and becoming the next great defensive 4th outfielder).

I will grant you, Guti has been a huge disappointment.  From whenever this stomach ailment first kicked in around midseason of last year, through the present, Guti has been very un-Guti at the plate (“Guti” being synonymous with all things awesome).  But, if you’re thinking that this is the perfect time to unload a troublesome bat, I would pray you reconsider.

History is riddled with guys whose teams gave up on them too soon.  Hell, right off the top of my head I can think of any number of Mariners – David Ortiz, Shin Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Raul Ibanez (the first time we let him go in free agency), Carlos Guillen, Mike Morse – ALL of those guys have gone on to bigger and better things for other teams.  I fear, if we end up trading Guti this offseason, he’s going to bulk up, get stronger, and be a better-than-average-at-the-plate centerfielder (to go along with his top-of-the-line defense).  I DON’T want to see that happen.

I’m no doctor, but I gotta think that these stomach things (IBS or Crohn’s Disease or whatever) don’t just fix themselves overnight.  Not only do you have to overhaul your entire dietary way of life, but you have to give these changes time to stick.  You don’t go from feeling like utter shit, to feeling like a .300-hitting Major Leaguer just like THAT.  And, I imagine, making all these changes during the middle of a baseball season isn’t exactly conducive towards a speedy recovery.

Like, imagine if you’re a baseball pitcher, and you find out just before the season starts that you’ve got diabetes … are you REALLY going to snap back to being a Cy Young candidate just because you have your illness diagnosed?  Of course not.  Shit like that takes time to come to grips with!  Then, after you’ve mentally girded yourself, you’ve still got the long process of normalizing how you feel.  So you can go out there every day and play the game of baseball!

Guti is a huge talent.  He’s shown that he’s able to handle American League pitching.  He’s CERTAINLY shown he’s a better hitter than what he’s been so far THIS year!  He’s not old, he’s not fat, so you can’t say he’s simply losing his ability like every Major Leaguer eventually will.  He’s just been weakened by this debilitating disease and it’s going to take him some time to get back to full strength.

If he’s not already turning it around in the month of September, then I would fully expect him to bounce back better than ever by next spring.  He knows what he has to do to get better and get stronger, he will have survived this punishing 2011 campaign, and I bet he’ll be more motivated than ever to turn it all around and give this team the centerfielder it deserves!

Besides, there are defensive 4th outfielders, and then there’s Guti.  His defense is special.  His defense is something you don’t give up on just because of some woes at the plate.  He’ll turn it around.  You’ll see.

I just hope he’ll turn it around while he’s still a member of this team.

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings

Editor’s NoteThis is the original blog post.  If you want to see the comprehensive list, click HERE.  I update the master list semi-regularly, whenever I can find the time.

You don’t become a city that’s gone 32 years (and counting) between professional sports championships without a little help along the way.  I don’t know everything there is to know about all the other cities with pro teams; hell, I don’t even know everything there is to know about Seattle’s sports history … but I have to figure we’re at least in the top two as far as player personnel incompetence is concerned.

The following is a timeline of all the botched trades, busted draft picks, and lousy free agent signings that have befallen this city, at least since I started becoming a sports fan.  I’m gonna throw this thing in the ol’ menu bar at the top and the plan is to update it continuously.  Obviously, it’ll never be complete, so I thoroughly encourage any suggestions.

April 28, 1987 – (Seahawks) – Brian Bosworth, 1st Round Supplemental Draft Pick:  the Seahawks went big on the defensive side of the ball in this draft, highlighted by the pick of Brian Bosworth out of Oklahoma at the end of the 1st round (I don’t know what happened to the Supplemental Round draft picks, so don’t look to me for an explanation here).  I don’t know what it says about Bosworth, but the Seahawks also went after the linebacker position right before and after The Boz, with Tony Woods and David Wyman.  It says all that needs to be said, however, that both of those guys would have better professional careers.  But, did either of those guys star in “Stone Cold“?  I think I rest my case.

April 23, 1988 – (Seahawks) – Undisclosed Draft Picks to Phoenix Cardinals for Kelly Stouffer:  it’s difficult to peg down exactly which picks we gave up to get this stiff, but rest assured that Kelly Stouffer was the beginning of the end for the Seahawks.  We got a taste of glory in the 80s under Chuck Knox, with Dave Krieg at the helm and Steve Largent breaking all the receiving records later to be broken by Jerry Rice.  But, as we looked to a new decade, it was apparent that Quarterback would be a position of need that we needed to fill.  Starting with Stouffer, culminating with Rick Mirer, and still unsettled until Matt Hasselbeck took charge late in the 2002 season, the Seahawks were a blind franchise in an unforgiving wilderness for the entirety of the 1990s.  All you need to know about Kelly Stouffer is that he held out his rookie season with the Cardinals due to a contract dispute.  Then, the Seahawks tried to trade local legend Kenny Easley to get him, except Easley couldn’t pass the physical due to failing kidneys.  We finally got our man, only to find out our man was good for a mere 2,333 yards in 22 games over 4 seasons, with 7 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

April 21, 1991 – (Seahawks) – Dan McGwire, 1st Round Draft Pick:  17 picks later, the Atlanta Falcons would select future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.  Little known fact:  Seahawks head coach Chuck Knox WANTED to draft Brett Favre.  Unfortunately, the Seahawks brass couldn’t be bothered with such matters, instead finding McGwire’s 6 foot 8 inch frame to be simply irresistible.  Our “Quarterback of the Future” ended his Seahawks career after the 1994 season having thrown for 745 yards in 12 games with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

April 25, 1993 – (Seahawks) – Rick Mirer, 1st Round Draft Pick:  we’ll always remember this as our golden opportunity to grab Drew Bledsoe first overall.  Unfortunately, in week 3 of the 1992 season (on our way to a 2-14 finish), the Seahawks just HAD to go into New England and beat the Patriots 10-6 (who would also go on to finish 2-14).  The Pats had the Number 1 pick as a result, and we settled for Rick Mirer.  It should be noted that this was a particularly brutal year for incoming quarterbacks; though if we’d been a little patient, there was a 5th rounder by the name of Mark Brunell who was grabbed by the Packers and went on to bigger and better things with the Jaguars.  Rick Mirer, on the other hand, ended his 4-year Seahawks career with 41 touchdowns and 56 interceptions, getting worse each and every year.  On a positive note, one of the best trades in franchise history involved us unloading Mirer to the Bears for a first round pick we would use to trade up and get Shawn Springs.  So, it’s hard to hate on the guy TOO much.

December 10, 1993 – (Mariners) – Mike Hampton & Mike Felder to Houston Astros for Eric Anthony:  think Mike Hampton would’ve been a nice pitcher to have on all those pitching-starved teams of the late 90s?  No, I don’t remember Eric Anthony either.

December 20, 1993 – (Mariners) – Omar Vizquel to Cleveland Indians for Felix Fermin & Reggie Jefferson:  honestly, I don’t know WHAT we were thinking on this one.  But, just 10 days after we made Mike Hampton a throw-in to a deal, we gave up Little-O for the equivalent of TWO throw-ins.  Neither of whom would ever make a dent.  That’s a bad fortnight for the Seattle Mariners.

February 25, 1994 – (Seahawks) – Nate Odomes signs 4-year, $8.4 million deal:  I know the money doesn’t sound like a lot NOW, but back then that was a hefty price, especially for a cornerback.  But, Odomes was one of the best while he played for the Bills.  He was a Pro Bowler in ’92 and ’93, he had 19 interceptions from ’91-’93, and he was a guy other teams had to throw away from!  Then, a few months later, he blew out his knee in a charity basketball game, missed all of 1994.  THEN, he re-injured the same knee in training camp and missed all of 1995!  We had him for 2 seasons, he never played a down for us, and ended up walking away with $4+ million.  The long, lost, forgotten Seahawk Nate Odomes might go down as the worst free agent signing in team history.

December 7, 1995 – (Mariners) – Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir & Jeff Nelson to New York Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock & Russ Davis:  *sigh*.  So, we traded a first baseman in the beginning of his prime, and one of the best set-up men of the next DECADE for a couple of AAAA guys with huge flaws to their game.  Hitchcock would forever be a disappointment, and Russ Davis would go on to be one of the worst defensive third basemen I’ve ever seen.  I don’t care what anyone says, ultimately for what we gave away, this trade only rivals the Lowe/Varitek debacle for most completely idiotic in team history.

September 13, 1996 – (Mariners) – David Arias to Minnesota Twins for Dave Hollins:  we all know him as David Ortiz, and in 1996 we had him in our farm system.  I guess we all know what the Twins saw in him; too bad we didn’t see the same, otherwise maybe we wouldn’t have had this revolving door at first base and DH ever since Edgar and Olerud retired.

July 31, 1997 – (Mariners) – Derek Lowe & Jason Varitek to Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb:  here we are, the mother of all bad trades.  Now, these two may not have been hall of famers, but they’re legends in Boston since they both helped to bring a world championship to town in 2004.  Meanwhile, Heathcliff Slocumb was the BEST we could do at the time?  We knew he was crap when we got him, yet HE was all we could get???  My fondest memory of Heathcliff Slocumb was when I was in the Kingdome as we clinched the AL West later that season.  My least fond memory of Heathcliff Slocumb was every time I saw a Red Sox game with Derek Lowe & Jason Varitek.

July 31, 1997 – (Mariners) – Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto Blue Jays for Paul Spoljaric & Mike Timlin:  do you know what kind of disaster area the Seattle Mariners bullpen was in 1997?  It single-handedly caused Woody Woodward to lose his fucking mind at the trading deadline.  On the same day he would make the single worst Mariners trade ever, he also shipped off highly-touted prospect (probably the highest touting since A-Rod) for two pieces of dog meat.  On the one hand, could you blame him?  I mean, Norm Charlton and Bobby Ayala led the team in appearances that year with 71(!) apiece.  Of course, on the other hand, Woody Woodward was a huge dope on this day, a day that will live on in infamy.

2000 – (Seahawks) – Ahman Green & 5th Round Pick to Green Bay Packers for Fred Vinson & 6th Round Pick:  can’t seem to lock down an official date for this one, but figure it was sometime before April 16th in the year 2000.  The late-round picks were a wash; neither worked out for either team.  However, Fred Vinson was a total bust while Ahman Green would go on to lead the Packers in rushing.  Granted, we still had Shaun Alexander, but we still should’ve gotten more for such a stud.

July 31, 2000 – (Mariners) – John Mabry & Tom Davey to San Diego Padres for Al Martin:  this trade isn’t necessarily bad for the guys we gave away; neither meant all that much to me personally, nor did they go on to have outstanding careers after they left.  But, this trade was the epitome of the Pat Gillick era in Seattle.  Pat Gillick was a brilliant baseball man who did wonderful things in Toronto in the early 90s (2 World Series championships) and he would go on to do wonderful things in Philly (2008 title).  But, in Seattle, it wasn’t in the cards, and it was because of trades like this.  Or, more accurately, the LACK of trades period.  I don’t hate Al Martin because he sucked.  I hate Al Martin because he wasn’t someone better.  Pat Gillick needed to go out and get us a quality bat, consequences be damned.  Instead, he got Al Martin and in the year 2000, the Seattle Mariners went nowhere.

December 16, 2001 – (Mariners) – Brian Fuentes, Jose Paniagua & Denny Stark to Colorado Rockies for Jeff Cirillo:  a couple months after we finished the regular season with the most wins in the modern era, we felt it necessary to keep on tinkering.  Forget the fact we probably could’ve used a starting pitcher more; we had to go out and get Jeff Cirillo – a guy who had shown he could hit in Coors Field and nowhere else.  A guy who, in spite of playing in such a bandbox, had a career high of only 17 homers the year before he came here.  What happened next?  Well, we stuck him in Safeco Field and he hit .234 over two seasons.  Just one of many National Leaguers we’ve brought to the American League over the years who absolutely fell off the map.

April 20, 2002 – (Seahawks) – Jerramy Stevens, 1st Round Draft Pick:  a loaded draft for the tight end position … and the Seahawks got Public Enemy #1.  Jerramy Stevens was a bust because you could argue he was the biggest reason we lost Super Bowl XL (I know that’s what I would argue, anyway).  But, forget all that.  He’s a bust plain and simple because he probably had more God-given ability than any other tight end in that draft (with Jeremy Shockey and Daniel Graham going before him; Chris Baker and Randy McMichael going after him), yet he squandered it all away because he couldn’t stay out of trouble and had the work-ethic of a wino on skid row.  He’s the only Husky I’ll forever hate, and on this day the Seahawks made a tremendous mistake.

March 4, 2004 – (Seahawks) – Grant Wistrom signs 6-year, $33 million deal:  and out of that we got 3 seasons before biting the bullet and cutting him.  He “earned” $21 million in that time; for our trouble we got back a whopping 11.5 sacks.  Or, just a little under $2 million per sack.  This was a signing you could easily loathe from the beginning.  After it was all said and done, we traded in for a younger version of the white defensive end:  Patrick Kerney.  But, Wistrom was by FAR the worse of the two.

June 27, 2004 – (Mariners) – Freddy Garcia & Ben Davis to Chicago White Sox for Jeremy Reed, Mike Morse & Miguel Olivo:  it was the right time to trade the Chief, his stock would never be higher again and we were in the midst of a total organizational meltdown.  2004 was the beginning of a long slide into futility for the Mariners; what we needed at the time were some prospects who could come in and lift us back to prominence.  Olivo was supposed to be our catcher of the future, Reed was supposed to lock down left field for the next decade, and Mike Morse should’ve been a solid utility guy.  Instead, Olivo was (and still is) a dud, Reed never panned out, and Morse has always turned into a pumpkin whenever the calendar flips to April.

February 23, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Steve Hutchinson assigned Transition Tag:  this was the beginning of the end for Tim Ruskell.  The Seahawks saved a little less than $600,000 in cap room, but in the process initiated one of the most notorious swindles in recent memory.  One month later, Hutchinson would be a Minnesota Viking thanks to their Poison Pill-laced contract, and the Seahawks would descend into the abyss thanks to a below-average offensive line.  For a team that had just made its first Super Bowl thanks to that very amazing offensive line, losing Hutch would be heartbreaking.  And it would also lead to one of the more hilarious retaliatory signings ever.

March 20, 2006 – (Mariners) – Matt Thornton to Chicago White Sox for Joe Borchard:  an eye for talent:  Bill Bavasi lacked it.  Joe Borchard sounds like a name that would suck at baseball.  Matt Thornton, meanwhile, has been a pretty lockdown reliever for the Sox ever since.  Too bad he never made good on any of his promise while a Mariner.

March 24, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Nate Burleson signs 7-year, $49 million deal:  granted, it would turn out that Burleson never got anything approaching $49 million (that was the Poison Pill number we put on to rub it in Minnesota’s face), but essentially Burleson was a huge trade-down compared to what we lost in Steve Hutchinson.  It’s not an unforgivable signing; Nate was a highly productive return man and a moderately productive receiver.  But, we’ll never be able to separate Nate’s signing from Hutch’s loss.

June 30, 2006 – (Mariners) – Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland Indians for Eduardo Perez:  BAVASI!!!!  Hold on, it gets better …

July 26, 2006 – (Mariners) – Shin-Soo Choo to Cleveland Indians for Ben Broussard:  my best guess is that Bavasi was secretly on the Indians’ payroll in 2006.

September 11, 2006 – (Seahawks) – 1st Round Pick in 2007 to New England Patriots for Deion Branch:  the draft pick turned into Brandon Meriweather, who made two Pro Bowls.  Deion Branch signed a lucrative 6-year, $39 million contract with the Seahawks and proceeded to be a collosal disappointment until he was finally traded back to the Patriots in 2010 and everyone in Seattle rejoiced.  End result:  a 1st round pick for a 4th round pick, ye gods!

December 7, 2006 – (Mariners) – Rafael Soriano to Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez:  just a stellar cap to a 2006 calendar year for Bill Bavasi.  Why he was allowed to run the club for the next season and a half is beyond me.

February 8, 2008 – (Mariners) – Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio & Tony Butler to Baltimore Orioles for Erik Bedard:  at the time, I could defend this one; then we realized what we got in Erik Bedard.  So many injuries.  So many millions for nary a game played.  Somehow, Bedard is still here, but he’ll never be the guy who was worth five prospects.  Meanwhile, Adam Jones looks like he’s got a long, successful career in him.  Still, this isn’t the worst trade ever – as it’s said to be in many circles.  But, it’s pretty bad.

March 2, 2009 – (Seahawks) – T.J. Houshmandzadeh signs 5-year, $40 million deal:  and by September of 2010, T.J. Houshmandzadeh was cut.  What we’ll always remember about Housh are his 3 touchdowns over his lone season with the team, and of course, his tantrums and tirades over not getting the ball thrown his way enough.  Of course, there’s the $6+ million we paid him just to go away.  We signed him in hopes of getting a Number 1 receiver, failing to recognize his declining skills and utter inability to go down and catch the deep ball.  Live and learn, I guess.

Jake Locker vs. Kevin Kolb vs. Other

Since quarterback seems to be on everyone’s mind, I figured I’d touch on a couple of the guys rumored to be possibilities for the Seattle Seahawks.

In Mel Kiper’s latest mock, he sees Jake Locker being our pick at Number 25.  This isn’t so much Captain Hairdo having insider Seahawk knowledge into the thinking of Pete Carroll and John Schneider; rather, he simply sees Locker’s stock rising back into the bottom of the first round thanks to a good run at the Combine.  And since the Seahawks have an obvious need to get younger and more talented at the quarterback position, why not throw Locker in this spot? 

Remember, this is still the same guy who went from being the Stone Cold Lock Number 1 Draft Pick + Heisman Trophy Hopeful to the disappointing senior on a 7-6 ballclub who won most of their games on the legs of their running backs.  Would he still be tied to the Seahawks if he were the leader of a 7-6 Purdue Boilermakers football team?  I find it doubtful, as I find it doubtful the Seahawks have any interest whatsoever in Locker’s potential as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

That isn’t to say that I’m not rooting for the guy.  I hope he goes somewhere and tears shit up for the next decade.  I’d like to see him land on a team where they have a quality offensive line.  What would happen if you gave the guy time to throw?  That, combined with his ability to run could conceivably make him a less rapey Ben Roethlisberger.

But Jake Locker should not be on – and really has no BUSINESS being on – a West Coast Offense.  You don’t take a guy with accuracy issues (and a cannon of an arm) and put him in an offense that features 5-8 yard throws.  Why would you do that?  Would you tell David Ortiz to lay down a bunt every time?  Yeah, with the shift on, he might get some singles; but that guy is up there to hack!  Just like Locker is in there to make throws down field, to keep plays alive with his legs, and to occasionally be pinpoint accurate under 10 yards.

That’s what I never really understood about these teams who have a set offensive philosophy.  Especially if you’re a head coach who’s joining a new team to try to turn it around.  Why would you impose your philosophy upon players who aren’t made for it?  Teams should adapt their offenses around their best players!  If you take Jake Locker in this year’s draft, then God dammit, put him in a Pittsburgh Steelers type offense and let him go to work!

***

In them Internets, there’s also a rumor going around that the Seahawks are still interested in Kevin Kolb.  To be fair, they were still interested in him LAST year, but instead of paying the hefty pricetag he required (I want to say it was two Number 1’s), the ‘Hawks paid a slightly less hefty pricetag (two Number 3’s) for Charlie Whitehurst.

I think it’s universally believed (as in:  EVERYONE in the fucking UNIVERSE) that Kevin Kolb will be a better starting quarterback than Charlie Ballgame.  So, let’s just put that aside.

Was Kevin Kolb worth the two Number 1’s (I’m thinking) that were required to get him?  Is he now worth a First and a Third, as is being reported?  I’ll just pull the exact quote from the article:

The Eagles have put out the word that in return for Kevin Kolb, they would like a first round pick and something else, maybe a third round pick. The Eagles are known to be tough trade negotiators, so no one expects them to come too far off their asking price. That price is a lot to ask for a player with a limited body of work, and a potential lockout has the brakes on all trades. So it’s starting to look as if it’s a possibility that Kolb might be back in Philly next year.

First, let me be clear:  we don’t have a third round pick this year (see:  Charlie Whitehurst debacle).  And since our first round pick is way down at number 25, if Philly had any interest whatsoever in trading with us for such a low pick, they’d also demand our second round pick.  Essentially, Kevin Kolb and half of Charlie Whitehurst would be our entire first three rounds of the draft.  With as many holes as we have on this team, that’s pretty scary.

What’s also scary is the fact that Kolb is legitimately demanding this pricetag!  What has the guy done?  Wouldn’t you think, if Andy Reid TRULY believed in the kid’s abilities, he would’ve bitten the bullet on last season to ensure he played as much as possible?  Is Reid’s stock in that city so low that ONE losing season will get him fired?  I mean, how long does Mike Vick really have there?  Yeah, he was playing MVP-calibre quarterback at times last season, but can we really expect that to continue?  What happens when he starts to regress as he inevitably will (likely this upcoming season)?  Those fans will turn on Vick more viciously than they EVER did McNabb; and Reid will be out of a job regardless, apparently.

I’m not putting the guy down, I just don’t KNOW if Kolb is the answer.  As I’ve said time and time again, this whole quarterbacking thing is a crapshoot.  At best, you’ve got around 15 elite quarterbacks in the NFL (maybe closer to 10, depending on your definition of “elite”).  Can you REALLY give up a First and a Second – two picks who will likely start making an impact immediately – for a guy you don’t even know will hold up for a full NFL Season?

Let us not forget, the only reason we saw Vick last year was because Kolb got injured and Vick played too well to be re-benched.

If the price came down, I’d say Kolb would be far and away a better option than Locker, mostly for the reasons I stated above about how Locker wouldn’t be a good fit for our offense.  That having been said, I’m through giving up multiple draft picks for a guy.  NO GUY is worth more than a single draft pick!  Because if they don’t turn out, not only are you still a bad team (assuming you’re a bad team before and that’s why you’re making such a rash decision to give up two or more picks), but you’ve hamstrung yourself for the foreseeable future.  I’m going to sit through this entire Third Round just stewing over the fact that Charlie Whitehurst is the reason we’re not finding our next sleeper at some position of need.

No, forget Kolb at that price.  The Eagles can have one of the most talented backups in the league; that’s what they get for being greedy.  When Vick has thrown 9 interceptions to his 7 touchdowns, I hope they enjoy their quarterback controversy.

As for me, I’ll stick with the Other.  Either the non-Locker late first round quarterback, or a guy in another round.  After all, they did draft Brett Favre in the second round …