2022 Seattle Mariners: In Memoriam

It’s fun to look back at my prediction post to see what I thought about the Mariners heading into the season. Long story short: I was right about some guys, VERY wrong about some guys, and I had this team pegged as an 84-win squad who would go on to miss the playoffs once again.

It’s funny how this season ebbed and flowed. We started out 11-6, which kind of gets lost in the shuffle in the narrative to this season, because the next stretch was so terrible. As late as June 19th, we were infamously 10 games under .500 at 29-39 (meaning in that span of almost two months, we went 18-33). Then, amazingly, we finished the year 61-33 (winning at a .649 clip), including a 14-game winning streak to close out the first half. This was a year removed from another 90-win Mariners team who had a pretty shabby record in May/June before turning it on the rest of the way. The main difference is that we had three wild card teams to go along with three divisional winners making the playoffs in each league. So, this time around, 90 wins was just enough.

There are so many fun storylines that came along this year, with the top being Julio Rodriguez. He’s a superstar! He’s the superstar we’ve been waiting for since Ken Griffey Jr. left. He hits for average (.284), he hits for power (28 homers, 25 doubles, 3 triples), he steals bases (25 against 7 caught stealing), he plays tremendous defense in center field, and he’s by all accounts a fantastic leader and teammate. He’s everything you could want in a 6-WAR player, and oh by the way, he also had an absolutely atrocious month of April before figuring out how to play at this level. Meaning he did all he did in 5 months, which is absolutely incredible. He’s your American League Rookie of the Year, and unlike the last Mariners ROY (Kyle Lewis), he figures to play at a high level for many years to come (hence the humongous mega-deal he signed during the season).

You know who else was a really cool story? Cal Raleigh! He struggled in 2021, and was off to another rough start in 2022, to the point where he was briefly sent back down to Tacoma to work on some things. He ultimately was forced to return due to catcher injuries, but this time he made the most of it. He doesn’t hit for much average, but he was among the best catchers in the game with his power (27 homers, 20 doubles, and one improbable triple) and he obviously has a great defensive game (both in handling pitchers as well as throwing runners out and pitch-framing). As far as Pleasant Surprises go, he’s way up there for me and a lot of Mariners fans.

Another guy I wasn’t expecting a ton from was Eugenio Suarez. I wondered – as did many people – if his best days weren’t behind him. Instead, he was probably the best version of what he can be: a 4-WAR player who hit 31 homers, 24 doubles, and 2 triples. He also played very good defense at third base, and is amazingly an upgrade over what we had with Kyle Seager over the last few years. His batting average isn’t stupendous, but his on-base percentage is very good.

One more pleasant surprise before we get to the guys we expected to be good, and that’s Sam Haggerty. It’s a rough go that he wasn’t able to make it to the playoffs – suffering a major injury in the final week of the regular season – but as a bench guy, he finished with 2.2 WAR. It got to the point that he forced his way into an almost-everyday role on this team (bouncing around from various outfield AND infield spots) through sheer grit and talent. I don’t know what his role is long-term, but he’s one of those guys every playoff team needs: someone who hits for average, plays amazing defense, and will steal you a money bag in a pinch.

We got Ty France and J.P. Crawford through almost a full season intact, and they produced about as well as you’d expect, with 3.0 and 2.8 WAR respectively. I think you’d still look to improve at one of the middle infield spots this offseason (potentially moving J.P. over to second), but you have to like what both of these guys give you, as far as leadership and production go. Ultimately, you wonder how both of them will handle the rigors of a full season (as nagging injuries seem to creep in and sap their effectiveness as the season wears on), but for now I have no complaints.

Finally, pour one out for Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana. Both were on the final years of their respective deals (Santana was a trade acquisition who didn’t hit a lot, but when he did, they seemed to be in the biggest of moments). Santana is probably washed as an everyday bat, while Haniger proved once again that he can’t stay healthy for a full (or multiple) season(s). I would say Haniger was great while he was in there, but even with his 1.4 WAR across 57 games, he still went in the tank for long stretches (and didn’t really give us much in the playoffs).

As far as pitching goes, there are plenty of kudos to go around. Logan Gilbert led the squad in WAR with 3.2. He built on his impressive rookie season with an even better one, throwing 185.2 innings in 32 starts. It looks like Gilbert is going to be a workhorse for many years to come.

On Gilbert’s heels came George Kirby, who had a similar rookie year this year to Gilbert’s last year: very restricted innings, yet still impressive output. What Kirby had this year – which Gilbert never got a chance to show last year – was a phenomenal playoff run. You would expect Kirby to have a similar increase in his innings next year, followed by the training wheels coming all the way off in 2024.

Luis Castillo was our big deadline acquisition, and he showed why the cost was worth it. To the point that he earned himself a long-term extension to stick around and be this team’s ace for the foreseeable future. He’s like a harder-throwing Felix with a similarly-impressive change up.

Robbie Ray was the leader of the pitchers throughout the year, but he had a number of rough patches to endure. His start was rocky as hell, until he started incorporating his 2-seam fastball. That led to improved results, but ultimately it seemed like he struggled against better teams. I don’t know what tweaks are in his future, but he’s going to need to rein in his command if he’s going to be worth the huge wad of money the Mariners are giving him over the next few years.

The rotation was wildly healthy this year, which is pretty insane. Marco Gonzales did Marco Gonzales things, finishing pretty well in line with his career norms, throwing 183 innings across 32 starts, and being about league average as you can get. Chris Flexen also did Chris Flexen things, and earned himself a nice little bump in pay in 2023 (to be this team’s long reliever, I guess, if he’s not traded at some point).

The bullpen – for the second year in a row – was this team’s heart and soul, and they needed every bit of the talent on offer. What’s interesting is that – aside from Sewald – we got it from a gaggle of new guys. Andres Munoz was the obvious breakout star, throwing 100+, with a 90+ slider. But, Erik Swanson dramatically improved his game, Penn Murfee was a nice surprise, Matt Festa was a competent arm, Diego Castillo got better once he was dropped from the highest-leverage spots, and Matt Brash was a revelation once the team demoted him from starter to reliever. If Brash sticks with relief, I think the sky is the limit with this kid, which is great news when you figure he’ll slot alongside Munoz and Sewald for the next few years at least.

It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the 2022 Mariners, though.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesse Winker was this team’s biggest disappointment. He came over in that first big trade with the Reds (alongside Suarez), and everyone pegged Winker as the cornerstone of that deal. For good reason, because all Winker has done is produce at the plate in his Major League career. Especially in 2021, when he played at an All Star level.

Winker’s production fell dramatically this year. He suffered the Seattle curse. At home, his slash line was .203/.331/.294; on the road, it was dramatically higher: .232/.354/.382. 10 of his 14 homers came on the road. Ironically, the book on him was that he struggled against lefties but crushed righties; however that flipped for some bizarre reason in 2022. Across the board he was better against lefties, which is crazy to me!

The final nail in the coffin appears to be his work ethic, and his chemistry in the clubhouse as a result of that (lack of) work ethic. I’ll say this: I agree with Divish, I don’t think he looks very strong or athletic whatsoever. His defense isn’t just mediocre, it’s an outright liability. Sure, his eye at the plate is pretty strong, but you can’t build a career on crap defense and walks. That’s not going to work on a team that has a razor-thin margin for error when it comes to our offensive struggles at times. This is a team with a whole lotta alpha dogs who are in it to win it. I don’t know what Winker’s vibe is exactly – he struck me as an easygoing, comedy relief type of presence, but I don’t know if that’s totally accurate given the RBF we’ve come to witness so often – but clearly it doesn’t mesh with this team. Either he gets traded, or they try to make it work with an offseason meeting of the minds. My hunch is we cut and run, though I hope there’s at least a little value, since I think his bat would play in a friendlier offensive environment.

Adam Frazier was also a pretty significant offseason acquisition that was also a major disappointment. You bring in a guy like Frazier for his high batting average and on-base percentage. Competent defense at second and in the corner outfield is a bonus, but he’s supposed to be a regular baserunner for other guys to hit in. That’s what makes his 2022 season so befuddling, because his bat SHOULD play anywhere he goes. We’re not relying on him to be a dynamic power source like Winker, we just want him standing on first base for other guys to knock him around. He only turned 30 this year, so he should still be close enough to his prime to be effective. But, regardless, he started in a pretty deep hole and could never fully get out of it, in spite of occasional hot stretches. As I mentioned, there’s room for improvement up the middle, but that was always going to be the case. Frazier was on a 1-year deal, so we were going to have to look to fill this spot either way. Between left field and second base, we need to find at least ONE bigtime bat to help prop up this offense to get closer to league-average in scoring.

I’ll just rattle off really quickly: the other major disappointments were Luis Torrens, Abraham Toro, and Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic had a fantastic finish to his 2021 season, which gave us all hope that he’d be here to stay in 2022. Instead, he sucked hard in the early going, spent MOST of the year down in Tacoma, had a nice little blip in the last couple weeks of the regular season, but ultimately wasn’t able to continue that through the playoffs. There’s still a lot he needs to do to be a more consistent Major League presence, and I just don’t know if he’s ever going to stick in Seattle.

Toro was a deadline acquisition in 2021 who has had a number of big hits in clutch moments, but by and large he’s been atrocious. He had to play for the Mariners quite a bit this year due to injuries and ineffectiveness around the roster, but he’s a huge wad of nothing. Time to move on.

Torrens, we thought, figured out his bat in 2021, and was supposed to be a steady middle-of-the-order type of guy, either as a backup catcher, or as this team’s DH. But, once again, he fell off the map and found himself DFA’d. He passed through without anyone claiming him, so we were able to get him to Tacoma until late in the regular season, when he returned to Seattle (with Raleigh’s injury issues) and saw an uptick in his offensive production again. I couldn’t tell you what his future holds, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the Mariners need improvement at backup catcher.

I don’t have a ton of complaints about the pitching. Again, it would be nice if Robbie Ray was better against good teams, since we clearly need him if we’re going to make it back to the playoffs. It was also disconcerting to see Sewald get beaten around so much late in the year. But, other than some minor quibbles, most of the guys who sucked (Steckenrider sure didn’t last long, did he?) were jettisoned in a timely fashion.

The overarching analysis for the 2022 Mariners is a rousing success. We made the playoffs for the first time since 2001! Even if it was last year’s playoff format, we would have made it to the Wild Card play-in game, and we would have prevailed to advance to the ALDS. So, I’m not taking anything away from the Mariners. Quite frankly, it’s insane there haven’t been more playoff teams for a while now. After a 162-game season, there needs to be proper representation! There are so many good teams in baseball who deserve a shot every year, why deprive markets of fun opportunities?

This is a team that outperformed expectations. It’s also a team that can easily keep things going, barring injuries. A couple of key additions should leave us contending for the A.L. West next year. And, as long as we don’t totally strip the farm system, there should be enough studs coming up through the pipeline – especially on the pitching side – to keep us playing at a high level for years to come.

The last time the Mariners were good, we had a nice 9-year run of success. Unfortunately, in that span, we only made it to the postseason 4 times, and never advanced beyond the ALCS. That needs to change here. Hopefully, we have the talent and the scouting to make the leap. It’s time for the Mariners – the only team to never play for a world championship – to make the World Series. Will that happen in 2023? A lot would have to go right, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Of course, the odds are super long. But, it’s just nice to have a fun baseball team to root for again. It’s been FAR too long!

The Mariners Were Punchless Against The Red Sox

I seem to be getting pretty lucky in the timing of my vacations. Every time I leave town for a long weekend, that’s when the Mariners unleash their most inept and frustrating performances.

Last Friday, Marco Gonzales slogged through 4.1 innings, giving up 2 runs, but throwing a massive amount of pitches just to get through the first inning. We might’ve improbably won this game thanks to a mostly-strong performance out of the bullpen, except Andres Munoz continued his run of looking simultaneously dominant and hittable. A guy who throws 100 with veritable ease shouldn’t throw so many fucking MEATBALLS that get destroyed, but here we are. Hence the 5+ ERA. He has an 11.4 K/9 which is good, but he’s giving up an .806 OPS; it’s a bizarre case.

Of course, giving up 4 runs shouldn’t be an insurmountable chore against the Red Sox, but on this night it was. Winker had a 2-run homer in the fifth to tie it up, and Raleigh had an RBI single late to make it close, but that was that.

We salvaged the game on Saturday thanks to a rally in the bottom of the 9th, after Sewald gave up a go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. Yet another glitchy performance from a guy who was absolutely dominant last year (related: Drew Steckenrider was recently DFA’d and then brought back to Tacoma on a minor league deal, to give you an indication of how the 2021 relievers are doing in 2022).

Every so often, you see glimpses of this Mariners offense attempting to break out of their season-long slump. Games like this one, where almost everyone contributed in some positive way. Crawford, Julio, Suarez, and Toro all had multiple hits. But, these games inevitably are the exception and not the rule.

We couldn’t keep the series win train rolling on Sunday though, with a 2-0 dud to close out the series. Robbie Ray was phenomenal – thanks to increased usage of his 2-seam fastball – going 7 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The game was all tied up at 0-0 heading into the 8th, when again, Sewald took the brunt of the damage. Of course, by all accounts, the batter hit a crazy pitch off the plate for a 2-run bomb, but that’s the way it’s been going for Sewald this year.

You need to score runs to win ballgames though, and Luis Torrens was all that prevented this one from being a Red Sox no-hitter. One hit. That’s it. So many fucking shit-terrible hitters in this lineup, it’s harkening back to those 2010 Mariners in terms of guys we’re going to look back and exclaim, “THEY were on this team?! Jesus Christ.”

Also, Jarred Kelenic has been striking out and hitting bombs and that’s pretty much it in Tacoma. Kyle Lewis has the world’s stickiest concussion. Mitch Haniger is a walking rehab stint (except, with that ankle, I doubt he’s walking very well). Evan White is a fucking ghost. And there aren’t any other position players close to making the jump to the Major Leagues anytime soon.

Were you wondering how Justin Upton is doing down in AAA, hoping that he might be some sort of savior? How does a slash line of .175/.267/.375 make you feel? That’s across 10 games and 40 at bats, where he’s racked up 17 strikeouts against only 4 extra base hits.

It’s bleak, man. Jesse Winker rightly was benched last night, and hopefully lost his spot atop the lineup. Adam Frazier is just doing nothing. Abraham Toro has one great game out of every ten. Cal Raleigh’s power numbers have improved, while everything else is bad as fuck. Taylor Trammell – after a hot start – has already cooled off considerably (no surprise there). And we’re stuck giving Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty more playing time than they deserve, which is NOT what you want to see.

Have The Mariners Now Hit A New Low For This Season?

Losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Oakland A’s – a team everyone keeps telling me “isn’t even trying to win” – to drop to last place in the A.L. West at 18-27, tied for the fifth-worst record in all of baseball, sure does feel like Rock Bottom. I guess we could’ve been swept by those same A’s, but the season is still relatively early and we still have five more series to play against them.

I can kind of understand why we bring in these hitters – this year, it’s Jesse Winker, for instance – and they struggle right off the bat and also forevermore. Seattle’s a tough place to play. Odds are you’re far away from your home, or at least where you’d ideally rather be living (though, make no mistake, the few homegrown locals we manage to bring back here also struggle just the same). The ballpark – even with the fences brought in a few years back – is a tough place to hit, what with the marine layer knocking down potential homers and an outfield that’s decidedly unfriendly to doubles hitters. Then, there’s just the stigma of multiple decades of hitters coming here and sucking (save Nelson Cruz, who is a magical creature, and we damn well didn’t appreciate him enough when he was here), infecting the fragile psyches of guys ill-equipped for the mental rigors of wearing that Mariners uniform and being absorbed into our organization of utter mediocrity. It can be a lot. I don’t envy any hitter who is brought here against his will and forced to play for such dysfunction.

Same goes for hitting prospects we bring in here, who would be sure-fire All Stars for any other organization. They have all of the above, plus the indignity of having to “learn” from a collection of hitting coaches throughout all levels that are and always have been completely and totally inept at their jobs. Only the Mariners could fuck up a sure thing like Jared Kelenic. It is our destiny.

But, what I don’t understand is why certain pitchers come here and revert back into pumpkins. Robbie Ray was a legitimate free agent prize this past offseason, coming off of a Cy Young Award. How is he so hittable?! How is his stuff so pedestrian?! For someone with as much strikeout potential as he has, he seems to also dump a lot of meatballs right down the middle; it’s infuriating.

And yet, I’m supposed to sit here and feel glad because Julio Rodriguez looks like the real deal right out of the gate? Wow, I guess 1 out of 30 fucking hitting prospects isn’t bad, huh? Is this what it’s come to?

I’m NOT glad, because it’s not that hard to find one fucking stud prospect to be the face of your franchise. The Mariners ALWAYS have one stud. Before Julio, we had Felix. Before Felix, we had Ichiro. Before Ichiro, we had A-Rod and Edgar and Griffey (you know, all those teams you hear about ad nauseam, because that’s literally the only fucking time the Mariners were ever fucking good). Felix and Ichiro account for most of the last two decades, but what did we ever do to build winners around them? Jack Shit. We did a lot of half measures and panic deals when we thought we were close, only to fall short time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time again.

So, great, we have one stud again. Julio. Is he going to single-handedly win us a title? How’s Mike Trout doing down in Anaheim? Lots of playoff glory under his belt?

What’s most infuriating – as I’ve said before – is the fact that 2022 isn’t even all that important in the grand scheme of things. This year was supposed to be about further building up the young guys. Getting them experience, and getting them used to the rigors of facing other Major Leaguers. But, guys like Kelenic and Raleigh and Brash and Toro and on and on down the line are fucking SUCK-ING!

It’s also, not for nothing, kind of obnoxious that the bullpen is who we thought it was. Regression away from the unsustainable heights of 2021. Just so fucking predictable. If it’s something some dimwit like yours truly can easily warn you about ahead of time, it’s as fucking hack as it gets. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. But, the likes of Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo have turned me into some sort of prophet with their horseshit performances.

God damn this fucking team. God damn them for getting our hopes up and shitting the bed like so many Johnny Depp cocaine parties. It’s the end of May and I’m pissed off beyond all rationality, so in other words, right on time.

I fucking hate the Mariners. Why do we put ourselves through this?

The Mariners Are Trying To Get Their Season Back On Track With A Series Win Over The Mets

This probably represents the best the Mariners have played over a three-game series this entire season, given the level of competition and our own fan expectations heading into the weekend. We were a couple of breaks away from sweeping this one! Of course, as it is against any quality opponent, we were also probably a couple of breaks away from getting swept. That’s baseball for you; it’s maddening.

It would figure that the only game I saw a significant portion of was on Saturday, when we lost. I was at a concert on Friday, so could only follow along via Twitter. Those who watched must’ve been treated to a delightful pitching duel! Max Scherzer was his usual strong self, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. But, Marco Gonzales damn near matched him, giving up 1 run in 6.2 innings. The fact that he gave up his run in the first makes the subsequent shutdown all the more impressive.

Our offense managed to manufacture a run in the fourth and again in the eighth to seal the deal in a 2-1 affair. Winker and France had RBI singles; Crawford and Suarez had our only other hits. Meanwhile, Paul Sewald got four outs without giving up a run, and Drew Steckenrider got his second save of the season.

On Saturday, George Kirby wasn’t quite as dominant as his first start, but the defense behind him also let the team down, so who’s to say who deserves more of the blame? Kirby went 4 innings, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) off of 3 hits and a walk, with only 1 strikeout. The M’s were down 4-0 heading into the sixth inning before our offense was finally able to get going.

Newcomer Steven Souza – who was pretty free-swinging in this one, from what I saw – had an RBI single in the sixth for his first hit in a Mariners uniform. He’s here to keep right field warm while Jared Kelenic goes down to Tacoma to get his head (and bat) right, so best not to expect too much. He does have more experience than I thought he would (having never heard of him before), kicking around the Majors since 2014. Of course, the Rays got the most out of him, with a 4.2 WAR season in 2017. Hard to see him getting back to those lofty heights while playing in Seattle.

The big story was a Jesse Winker 3-run bomb in the top of the seventh, to temporarily tie the game at 4-4. The Mets pitching was pretty strong to this point, but we finally broke through against their bullpen. Like the Mariners, Winker is also trying to get his season on track; it’s weird to see how much Mets fans hate him. Presumably because he always kills them? Too bad for him we’re done playing them for the year.

As I mentioned, the tie was short-lived, as Andres Munoz gave up a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom half of the inning. We would go on to lose the game by that very score, 5-4. France, Crawford, and Suarez all had nice days at the plate in this one as well. Not to mention Torrens, who got on base with 2 hits and 2 walks, to drastically improve his slash line.

I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for Sunday’s finale, so I opted to re-watch most of season two of Stranger Things instead. I ended up missing one of the craziest wins of the year! Robbie Ray, once again, was spotty in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, but striking out 9 and generating lots of swings and misses.

The Mets went up 1-0 with a solo homer in the first, then the M’s tied it in the third. We went up 4-1 in the fourth off of an impressive rally, but then promptly found ourselves down 5-4 in the bottom half of the inning. That took us to the absurd sixth inning, where Julio Rodriguez hit a massive solo homer to tie it, only to be out-done by Cal Raleigh’s 2-run go-ahead bomb. Julio added an RBI single in the seventh to put the M’s up 8-5, and we would need every bit of that 3-run lead.

Romo and Sewald got us to the ninth with a 3-run lead, but Drew Steckenrider – having a VERY up and down year – struggled to get the lone out he got, while giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. That left Scott Servais in the very unenviable position of throwing Diego Castillo out there, who has been unquestionably terrible of late. Yet, with runners on second and third, he managed to get two strikeouts – sandwiched around an intentional walk – to lock down the win 8-7.

Today, we go to Toronto. We’ve been told ahead of time that there will be certain Mariners unable to play this week, as they’re not allowed into Canada due to COVID restrictions. So that’s fun. We’re already pretty injury depleted, and the Blue Jays have a tremendous offense, so I’m expecting a total shitshow. Thankfully, it’s only three games, and hopefully this rest will do the unvaccinated players some good.

The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

The Mariners Dropped A Tough Series In Tampa

Well, we’re not off to a great start with this homestand. But, surely the Rays won’t be a team we need to contend with for a playoff spot, so there’s no way these games will have mattered, right?

The bigger bummer in all of this is the fact that the Mariners won 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday. That means we had two chances to win this series, and our bats just couldn’t come up with the offense to push us over the top. Of course, by all rights, if the Rays didn’t implode defensively in the fourth inning of that one – giving up 7 unearned runs in the process – we probably would’ve been swept!

The big star of this one was Logan Gilbert, who threw another 5.2 shutout innings. He hasn’t given up a run since very early in his very first start of the year, now with an ERA of 0.40, which couldn’t POSSIBLY get any lower, right?! By the time he left the game, we were up 8-0 and this was a terrific opportunity for the M’s to plow through the D-Squad bullpen. But, they proceeded to give up 4 runs in the 7th, which necessitated using Andres Munoz in the 9th to lock it up.

France, of course, had a big day with 2 RBI. Frazier had 3 RBI. Suarez and Crawford each had two hits. Scoring those 7 unearned runs was probably the most fun part of the season, especially when we’re talking about Mariners road games.

Wednesday’s game was rough in a lot of respects. Marco Gonzales only managed to get one out before a line drive smashed into his pitching wrist, resulting in him leaving the game. That turned it into a de facto Bullpen Day. Yohan Ramirez came in and pitched pretty well for a bit, but Scott Servais mistakenly left him in there an inning too long, and we paid the price. He ended up giving up 2 runs in 3 innings of work. Matt Festa pitched 1.2 scoreless, Steckenrider got back on the horse with a clean inning, and Justus Sheffield pitched 2 scoreless to keep the game close.

Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter was on a roll. We managed a couple runs after he left the game, but ultimately lost 3-2. Crawford and Toro each hit solo homers.

Then, earlier today, Tampa had a scheduled Bullpen Day of their own – pushing back Corey Kluber to tomorrow, which we all understood was a huge break for the M’s – but we could only muster 1 run in a 2-1 defeat.

Chris Flexen picked up plenty of slack, going 6.2 and giving up both runs, and the combo of Castillo and Misiewicz took us the rest of the way without any further damage. That go-ahead run by the Rays happened in the 7th inning, and that was that. Suarez’ first inning RBI triple was the only damage of the game, as we were held to 6 hits on 2/8 with runners in scoring position (one of those hits being a France single that was hit too firmly to score the man from second).

Luckily, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, so no one will remember this series. The Rays are really fucking good, so it’s not like this is a surprising development. I’m curious to see – as the season goes along – if the Mariners are ever going to put up much of a fight against the best teams, or if we’re just the Good Bad Team who can only pound on the weaklings in the game. We’ll see! Not looking great so far!

The Mariners Are Red Hot, Swept The Royals

I don’t think anyone is confusing the Kansas City Royals with a potential playoff team – so our head-to-head record against them will probably not mean much – but you still love to see your team win the games they’re supposed to win, and these were three games the Mariners were SUPPOSED to win.

This, in large part, makes up for that infuriating loss to the Rangers. We really should’ve had the sweep there, so failing that, it’s nice to get one here. Heading into this 9-game homestand, if you offered me 7-2, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. So, I’m not going to be butthurt that it wasn’t 8-1. In all honesty, if you told me we’d go 7-2, I would’ve expected to lose both of those games to the Astros, so this is actually BETTER.

As it happened, I missed all three against the Royals. On Friday, I was at the Dave Attell show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, so you can forgive me if I have priorities. It sounds like I missed a hell of an enjoyable game! Chris Flexen pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball, Anthony Misiewicz got the hold, and Andres Munoz got the first save of his Mariners career.

Even more impressive – given the game finished 4-1 – is that all the runs were scored off of extra-base hits by the future of the franchise: J-Rod with a 2-run double, and Kelenic with a 2-run triple. In a game without much firepower from the offense, that’s HUGE. Suarez led the way with 3 hits; J.P. Crawford and J-Rod both had 2 hits to go with Kelenic’s one.

Saturday’s game sounded like a lot of fun (unless you’re a fan of pitching). Matt Brash ran into some trouble in the fifth; he finished with 4.1 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, with only 2 strikeouts. The bullpen and defense (two more errors, including yet another by J.P.) didn’t help a whole lot, but thankfully the offense was up to the task. It wasn’t all terrible by the bullpen, of course, but Yohan Ramirez took the brunt of it, giving up 3 runs while only recording a single out. Otherwise, they gave up 1 unearned run in 4.1 innings.

Where do you even begin with the offense, though? The M’s scored in each of the first three innings, to build a 5-1 lead. Then, we tacked on a run in the 6th and 7th before exploding for six more runs in the 8th. So, even though the Royals had a brief 7-6 lead in the top of the 7th, we really mauled the shit out of them to win 13-7.

Ty France was 5 for 6 with 3 runs and 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer to put it away in the 8th). J.P. was 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer early, Suarez was 2 for 3 (both doubles) with 2 walks, Murphy and J-Rod both had two hits and two runs scored, and Toro, Kelenic, and Winker all had big hits and RBIs. Basically, everyone but Adam Frazier contributed, and it was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

The Mariners capped off the homestand with a 12-inning thriller on Sunday, where we won 5-4. In this one, Jesse Winker was the long-overdue hero, hitting a sac fly in the 10th to re-tie the game, before hitting an RBI single in the 12th to win it.

Robbie Ray had another Quality Start, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, and the bullpen did their job heading into the 9th, with Festa and Swanson both doing good work. However, Drew Steckenrider had his second consecutive pisspoor outing, giving up a solo homer to tie the game at 3-3. From there, though, the bullpen snapped right back into dominant mode. Castillo gave up the ghost runner on second in the 10th, but both Matt Koch and Ramirez held the Royals scoreless the next two innings to give us a chance to win it.

Ty France had another 3 hits and 2 RBI, J.P. had two more hits in the middle of our lineup, and Frazier had a hit and 3 runs scored at the top.

I’ll tell you what, France is as hot as I’ve ever seen anyone, slashing .375/.459/.656. J.P. Crawford is up there, though, with .352/.471/.574. I’m also loving what Suarez is bringing to the table; he’s certainly exceeded expectations, even though his .527 slugging percentage is no shocker. Toro and Frazier are starting to contribute more and more, and J-Rod doesn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. With Kelenic and now Winker starting to heat up, this is a VERY formidable lineup (that will only get stronger whenever Haniger gets off the COVID IL). To go with how strong our bullpen has looked, you’ll also forgive me if I start to get a little hyped up here.

The Mariners are 10-6, which is tied with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. We have a 1-game lead over the Angels, and a whopping 2.5-game lead over the Astros. We’ve also scored the second-most runs in the A.L. (77, just behind Anaheim’s 79), AND – not for nothing – we have the best run differential in the league with our +18.

Granted, we’re not even really at the 10% mark through the season, but you do the math. That puts us on pace for 100 wins! I’m just saying. This is EXACTLY the kind of start you want to see out of a team that’s a fringe prospect for making the post-season. I’m not going to quibble about how bad the Rangers and Royals are, because the Twins, White Sox, and Astros are all really good.

We have a well-earned off-day before a beefy road trip. Three in Tampa, three in Miami, then three more in Houston. Let’s hope some of these COVID guys start feeling better soon, and let’s keep the win train chugging on down the tracks!

The Mariners Only Won Two Of Three Against The Rangers

It’s hard to not have a sour taste in your mouth when you were so close to a series sweep. How do you go into that final game, score 5 runs in the first inning, and manage to give it all away? We should’ve won that game by double digits! They should’ve been using position players to pitch away meaningless innings! It’s all so aggravating.

The flipside to this line of thinking is that the Mariners won yet another series. We’re 4-2 on this homestand, and 7-6 on the season; still in very good shape. But, God damn are the Rangers terrible, and they had no business winning that final game.

Of course, neither did we. Not the way we played. I’m just going to get into it at the top, because I’m already worked up.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Mariners aren’t especially good at defense. You’ll hear that the key to the M’s winning games is “Pitching & Defense” but I’m here to tell you that’s a gross generalization. Sure, the pitching is vitally important. But, I’m not so sure you’re going to get a huge lift out of this team’s defensive ability.

This isn’t just a gut-reaction to 3 errors last night. Errors aren’t the be-all, end-all of a team’s defensive competence. You can be an outfielder who gets to balls, but then has a noodle arm (*cough* WINKER *cough*). You can be a second baseman who also gets to balls, but maybe bumbles it just enough to eliminate a doule play opportunity, but still gets the out at first (*cough* FRAZIER *cough*). You can be a battery that fails to control the base-stealing game of your opponent (pretty much every pitcher/catcher combo on this team).

What sucks, and what makes last night’s game particularly stupid, is that J.P. Crawford accounted for 2 of those 3 errors, and I think he’s – without question – the best defensive player on this team. That’s just One Of Those Nights, but it also doesn’t paper over the fact that this team is largely middle-of-the-road defensively. Crawford is great, Haniger and France are good, the catchers are okay, but after that it’s nothing but flaws.

Kelenic, Moore, and J-Rod have pretty mediocre throwing arms from the outfield. Suarez looks like one of those guys you stick at third base because first base (probably his best defensive position, outside of DH) is blocked. Frazier and Winker are clearly here for their offense (making Winker’s start to this season … I mean, there are no words). And don’t get me started on Luis Torrens.

So, don’t go banking on the defense saving this team a ton of runs this year. I think, more often than not, they’ll make the routine plays they’re supposed to make. But, these guys are going to need to HIT if they’re going to win games.

Something that looked like we were going to get in spades last night, after a 2-run home run from Ty France, followed by a 3-run home run from Crawford to lead off the game. There were five runs on the board and zero outs! We had ’em on the ropes! Those turned out to be the only runs we would score until scratching across a sixth run in the eighth to tie the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, were gifted numerous scoring opportunities thanks to our pisspoor defense, and methodically chipped away at that early 5-0 deficit. Ultimately, they took out Drew Steckenrider in the ninth to prevail 8-6.

The name of the game in this one was hitting with runners in scoring position. The M’s were a meager 2/11, with a lot of those chances coming in the first three innings, when we had the Rangers’ starter teetering on the brink. We could never quite hit him with that knockout blow, and that was our downfall.

Marco Gonzales, meanwhile, has to lead the league in unearned runs allowed, as this was his second start out of three outings where he gave up 6 runs/2 earned runs. Obviously, you can’t say he was on fire in this one, but giving up 4 unearned runs in the fifth will make anyone’s performance look mediocre.

Yet, the bullpen – until Steckenrider in the ninth – kept the game right there at 6-5! God bless ’em, the D-Squad pulled through. Swanson pitched 1.1 scoreless, Festa and Sheffield both pitched clean innings. It was all right there for us.

I’m not going to get into the umpiring in this one, though I hear this is the same crew we had in Minnesota. And this guy behind the plate is particularly inept at his job. He deserves to be fired. Or, at least, demoted to the minor leagues where he can’t do anymore damage with his nebulous strike zone.

It’s a shame, because this series had some delightful baseball on the Mariners front. After an off-day on Monday, Robbie Ray got the start on Tuesday and pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball. Suarez hit a 3-run bomb on an impressive outside breaking ball. Kelenic hit a rocket of a solo homer off the foul pole. And Toro had a crucial late-game 2-run bomb to put this one away, 6-2.

Wednesday’s game was even more delightful, with Logan Gilbert pitching into the seventh inning, holding them scoreless. Misiewicz and Munoz kept the shutout alive until the ninth, when Diego Castillo gave up a couple of meaningless runs. But, by then, we had a 4-run lead, ultimately winning 4-2.

We were also 2/12 with runners in scoring position in this one, which should’ve been something of a tip-off. Thankfully, we were able to put those to good use in the fifth, as we manufactured just enough.

Hitting with runners in scoring position always seems to be a bugaboo early in seasons. The Mariners have been heavily reliant upon timely hitting, usually because overall our hitting is so poor. So, we NEED to string hits together at opportune times if we’re going to win ballgames. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a season-long nightmare, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to watch this kind of flailing for six months.

The Mariners Did A Number On The Astros

My friends and I kept up on our almost-every-year tradition of going to Opening Day and, as expected, there were some strikes and gutters (as there is with pretty much anything). The game was a full-blown sellout, which meant that by the time I looked into buying tickets, I couldn’t even bother with Ticketmaster. That comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll save for another time. Long story short, four tickets in the 300-level ended up coming to $52 apiece, including fees and whatnot.

They weren’t the best seats in the world, nor the worst. The four of us had our own row, which is nice. No getting up and down for restless patrons needing to pee or buy food every other inning. But, we were right on the stairwell going into the upper 300-section, in clear view of the 300-level walkway, which meant occasionally people were standing in our way. Thankfully, we had a VERY good usher in our section – literally the only time I’ve ever said that at a Mariners game – who was not only on top of getting people out of our sightlines, but was very chill about our (mostly) clean jeers of certain Astros players.

With it being a sellout, that comes with the usual sellout issues. Namely: people. A lot of them. The Mariners have done a lot to try to speed up the concessions process. They have refillable sodas now where the people can just do it themselves. They have cashless concessions, so we’re not dealing with old people fumbling for quarters. But, I don’t know what to tell you. The walkways were constantly jammed pretty much from the first inning onward. We got there right before first pitch and were able to get food and drink okay. But, once the game got going, it was a nightmare to ever leave your seats. I don’t know if they were having technical issues, or if that’s just the way it is whenever you have anything approaching a sellout crowd, but if the Mariners end up being really good, this could be the norm more often than not, and they probably need to figure something out on those occasions.

One solution should be: have more vendors walking around. Where are all the guys with tubs hanging around their necks, hollering about beer and peanuts and whatnot? The lower sections might’ve had a couple, but the 300’s got the shaft, and that feels like a mistake. We needed beer, we needed hot dogs, and we needed popcorn but would’ve gladly settled for peanuts if it meant not having to miss 1-2 innings of action just to go out and get it. By the way, I don’t even know if they have hot dog vendors walking around anymore, but dammit, they need to come back, because there’s nothing like a plain ballpark hotdog!

I will say that getting INTO the stadium was pretty painless, so that was nice. I had expected a lot more trouble with that part of it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The game itself was fantastic! Five stars, no notes!

As you can imagine, I hate the cheating Astros. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. I even hated them before they were cheaters! They’ve never had any business being in the A.L. West and it’s ridiculous we’ve had to endure them for as long as we have. So, anytime you can beat their fucking asses by double-digit runs, you have to relish the experience.

It didn’t hurt that we had the over 8.5 combined runs, as well as the Mariners to win the game outright. If only Kelenic’s fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth had another 10 feet or so on it, we would’ve REALLY made a killing (but that’s neither here nor there).

Marco Gonzales was remarkably efficient in this one, going 7 innings, giving up just the 1 run on 4 hits (no walks), with 6 strikeouts, all on 93 pitches. That was a far cry from his first start of the season, but I’m willing to call that one an outlier for the way our error derailed things. It was great to see Marco bounce back, and I hope this portends to better things to come this year over last.

Offensively, the M’s did everything to make me eat my words about how bad they looked up until that point. Adam Frazier had 4 hits (including a double and a triple), 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Suarez had a 2-run bomb and 3 RBI. Winker and Haniger both had 2 hits. Ty France had 2 RBI, Tom Murphy had 3 runs scored, J.P. Crawford scored 2 runs, and Kelenic and J-Rod both had positive contributions. Up and down the lineup, everyone chipped in!

It just felt like a celebration from the very first inning, and it was great to see the likes of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the everloving shit booed out of them. My friends and I were on it all the way through, and like to believe we had an effect. Fuck those guys, and everyone else on those cheating Astros teams. The fact that Altuve couldn’t even finish the game (I like to believe he asked to be taken out because he couldn’t handle it) was the cherry on top.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect. Justin Verlander started on Saturday and went 8 shutout innings, en route to a 4-0 Astros victory. I missed this one, but I wouldn’t say I was “missing” it, Bob. Flexen had a so-so Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs), but we were never going to win this one regardless. We had 3 hits on the day, two by France. So, you know.

But, we bounced right back with a 7-2 victory on Sunday! Matt Brash got his first win, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in the sixth inning on a 2-run homer). He was … effectively wild in this one, walking 6, but he only gave up the two hits (both in that sixth inning). It was never going to be a true No Hitter for Brash, given the limitations on his pitch count this season, but it was great to see him handle some adversity when he didn’t totally have command of his stuff. It gave the M’s enough time to stake him to a big lead.

We scored 1 in the first on a Suarez double, then rallied for 5 more in the fourth, highlighted by a France 3-run homer. Frazier and Kelenic both had two hits apiece, and Torrens, Toro, and J-Rod all chipped in. Take that, Fun Differential! We’re +4 in run differential on the year!

Paul Sewald closed out the sixth inning without any more damage, and the rest of the bullpen was lights out from there. This time, it went Steckenrider, Munoz, and Castillo over the final three frames. Interesting to see Munoz already in that mix, but his stuff is so nasty, you can see why.

We get our first off-day today, followed by a home set against the Rangers. Now, we’re in it! Baseball season! Catch the excitement!

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”