Which Mariners Player Would You Want From Prior Eras To Be On Today’s Team?

Jay Buhner was on the Brock & Salk show yesterday, and they asked him, “Who on this year’s team would you want for those Mariners teams you were on?” It’s a fun question to debate, but it’s just pure fan service. I mean, it’s not like it could ever happen, so in a sense it’s completely masturbatory.

Far be it for me to turn down such an opportunity!

Jay Buhner said he’d want to play with either J.P. Crawford or Cal Raleigh. That’s hard to argue with. I mean, I absolutely will, because how could you not take a pitcher? Those mid-90’s teams had the very best version of Alex Rodriguez at short stop, which means you’re bumping J.P. to second or third. Which is fine.

I will say that if I were to take one hitter from today’s Mariners and put them on the 90’s squads, no one would be cooler than Cal Raleigh. I like Dan The Man Wilson as much as anyone, but the dude was a black fucking hole in the playoffs. But, you put Cal on that lineup with A-Rod, Edgar, Buhner, Griffey, Blowers, Tino Martinez/Paul Sorrento? With Cal’s penchant for the dramatic late in games and late in seasons? That’s just beyond an insane lineup.

But, it’s silly. Either you take Andres Munoz and swap out Bobby Ayala’s worthless ass, or you take Luis Castillo and pair him with Randy Johnson, to further crush it with the rotation. Don’t sleep on adding another elite starter to the 1995 team. If we have Castillo in there, maybe we don’t have to go 5 games in the ALDS against the Yankees. Maybe we are better able to line up our rotation against the Indians in the ALCS. Can you imagine Castillo in there instead of Tim Belcher or Andy Benes?

That being said, the Mariners were shut out twice in the 1995 ALCS; indeed, in all four losses we scored 2 runs or fewer. So, maybe Cal would’ve been just the ticket.

As for those early 2000’s teams, I don’t think there’s any question: you put Luis Castillo in that rotation with Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, and Paul Abbott, and you throw Aaron Sele off a fucking cliff. Talk about a guy who was built for the regular season! That guy was a fucking trainwreck in the playoffs! Just fucking murdered us against the Yankees in back to back years; 16 innings across 3 starts, giving up 12 runs. And that’s JUST against the Yankees! For as worthless as Arthur Rhodes was in those series, I’ll take another ace, thank you very much.

But, let’s get back to the title of this post: who would I want from back then to be on today’s team?

Well, as much as I love a great pitching staff, and as tempting as it would be to add Randy Johnson to this group, that’s probably unnecessary, especially when you factor in how challenged this team is offensively.

It’s a clear 3-man race between A-Rod, Griffey, and Edgar. I would say Ichiro and Buhner are definitely honorable mentions, but the 2024 Mariners need more pop than Ichiro is capable or willing to provide, and more of a batting average than Buhner could possibly bring to the table.

The knock against Griffey and A-Rod is that they play two of the positions we’re strongest at. That being said, just move J.P. to second or Julio to right and call it a day. Of course, the knock against Edgar is that he plays no position, but I mean come on. Garver fucks off and it’s a complete 180 at DH.

Part of me feels like I’m over-thinking this. Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the best baseball players of all time. OF COURSE you take The Kid! I guess I’m a little wary because of his post-season numbers. They’re not great! Then again, none of the three are really all that spectacular. Edgar gets all the credit in the world for what he did against the Yankees in 1995, but his career numbers in three ALCS’s are pretty putrid (.156/.239/.234).

You know what? Fuck it. I want A-Rod here. Jorge Polanco is SO FUCKING BAD. Shit-can him, move J.P. to second. I feel like the upgrade of prime, Mariners-era A-Rod over Polanco is better than the upgrade we’d get with Griffey over take your pick in the outfield. Raley is obviously your third guy, probably platooning with Dylan Moore. So, Griffey over Haniger? Don’t get me wrong, that’s a pretty big leap too.

You know, it really says a lot about how shitty the 2024 Mariners lineup is that there are so many colossal black holes you’d love to swap out for Hall of Famers.

Just give me Ichiro, Griffey, Julio, Seager, A-Rod, J.P., Olerud, Raleigh, Edgar, with a bench full of Buhner, McLemore, Wilson, and Nelson Cruz, and throw them together with today’s pitching staff plus King Felix, Randy Johnson, Jeff Nelson, and Mike Jackson, and let’s go win a World Series!

Ty France Landed On The IL, Ty(ler) Locklear Got Called Up

On Friday, Ty France broke the Mariners all-time record for most Hit By Pitches, taking Edgar Martinez’s crown in relatively quick fashion. That’s a neat, albeit random record to own. On the downside, though, he was hit on the heel, which resulted in a hairline fracture, landing him on the IL for an indeterminate amount of time.

That being said, it doesn’t sound incredibly serious, so I wouldn’t expect him to be gone for much longer than a couple weeks.

Enter Tyler Locklear, who is only one of a few players from the 2022 draft to make it to the Major Leagues so far.

This is an interesting move for the Mariners, because they have very little – if any – Major League-ready hitters down in the minors who could potentially help out this season. We’ve tried Ryan Bliss, and through 23 at bats, he looks somewhat promising, but I’m not holding my breath. Jonatan Clase has already had a couple cups of coffee with the M’s through two-plus months, with very little to show for it. A couple other guys had brief call-ups without any sort of legitimate shot to produce. And we even picked up Victor Robles after he was let go by the Nationals; it’s probably pretty safe to say he’s shot.

The point is, I don’t know if there’s any help on the horizon that we can promote internally, or pick up via the MLB scrap heap. Our only real shot in 2024 is Tyler Locklear, and indeed, he’s no guarantee.

What prospect is, though? Even the best of the best have some growing pains. Tyler Locklear has produced every step of the way. Predictably, he raked in college. We took him in the second round in 2022; he proceeded to dominate at the lower A level that very same year. He was promoted to high-A Everett in 2023, crushed it there, and proceeded to get promoted again in 2023 to AA, where he finally met his match, but still showed out well.

That brings us to 2024, where he started at AA and took another step forward, which is impressive given that league isn’t nearly as forgiving to hitters as the PCL. You can argue AA has the best of the best prospects across the Major Leagues, but there’s still something to be said for getting your feet wet in AAA, where pitchers tend to throw more breaking pitches, and are in general a little more savvy on the ways of getting guys out. Tyler had 10 games in Tacoma, where he kept right on rolling.

Given this trajectory, and his massive minor league success, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners gave him a chance. We already moved Mitch Garver to backup catcher (making Seby Zavala’s roster spot as worthless as can be), so unless Garver and France balled out the rest of the way, Locklear was always going to at least get a look.

Which brings us back to France’s IL stint.

There are certainly internal options for the Mariners at the Major League level to fill in at first base. Luke Raley could play first, Dylan Moore can seemingly do it all, one would think Garver could handle it in a pinch. But, the time feels right. It’s early June; we’ve got a month and a half before the trade deadline. Let’s see what Locklear can do, because if he continues tearing the cover off the ball, that makes France or Garver expendable.

Ty France is an interesting case for the Mariners. He’s got one more Arb year in 2025 before he’s an unrestricted free agent. He’s also turning 30 in July. Through last year, he was on a steady decline in his offensive production, which led to him going to Driveline in the offseason and vastly revamping his swing and approach at the plate.

In spite of some peaks and valleys, France has unquestionably been a better hitter in 2024 than he was last year. That being said, his batting average is about the same (.251 compared to .250 in 2023), his OBP is worse (.329 vs. .337), and while his slugging has drastically improved (.403 over .366), it’s still considerably lower than it was in 2022 (.437), 2021 (.445), and 2020 (.468). France is earning just under $7 million this year, with a likely marginal increase for 2025; is that someone we absolutely NEED to hang onto?

That’s a tough question, because we can’t dismiss the fact that France has the third-highest slugging percentage on the team right now (behind Luke Raley and Dylan Moore). He also has the fourth-highest batting average, and the third-highest OPS. He’s second on the team in homers (tied with Garver, oddly enough, at 7), and is tied for the lead in doubles with Dylan Moore at 11. He’s not the best, most-productive hitter on the team, but he’s up there in just about all of the major categories. If you’re going to make France a cap casualty at the trade deadline – to help bring in other hitters – you better be DAMN sure you can replace his production at the lineup.

I would be curious to know what the Mariners’ front office feels about Locklear. Do they see him as The Future? Is this a scenario where maybe we flip France and a prospect for a rental like Pete Alonso? Presumably, there would be other salary offsets besides France, to get that deal done. But, knowing there’s a virtual certainty that we will never re-sign Alonso, could Locklear slot into first base heading into Spring Training 2025?

Or, might this call-up be a showcase of sorts, to see if we can package Locklear with someone else to bring in a hitter at a more-valuable position, like third base or left field?

Either way, Locklear had his first Major League start on Sunday, and went 1 for 4 with a double, RBI, and run scored (all in the 7th inning). He came out swinging from his very first at bat, and he ended up helping out in a big way, as the M’s salvaged one game of the 3-game set (not for nothing, but we should’ve won 2 of 3 in Kansas City, if we didn’t blow Friday’s game 10-9, after scoring 7 runs in the first and holding an 8-0 lead in the top of the 4th).

I’ll be rooting for him like crazy. Am I confident he’ll succeed? Absolutely not. That has nothing to do with Locklear, and everything to do with every other minor league bat I’ve ever seen called up to the bigs. The failure rate is quite high!

But, some dudes just know how to hit. It’s a shame that Locklear will be denigrated for “only” playing first base. I’ll say this: you still need guys to hit there. And I want a guy who not only looks the part – so many players “look the part” – but also has the numbers to back it up. Locklear has the numbers. He looks the part. So, I wouldn’t be too quick to give up on him, or flip him for a rental.

He COULD be the real deal. I hope the Mariners know what they’re doing.

Going For It At The Trade Deadline Is Scary As A Mariners Fan

I grew up in the shadow of the Heathcliff Slocumb deal, let’s not forget. That was a pretty dark day in general for the Mariners’ organization. July 31, 1997. The team was great … for the most part. The offense – especially the power numbers – was off-the-charts elite. Griffey in his prime, Edgar in his prime, Buhner in his prime, A-Rod in his mother fuckin’ prime! That lineup, 1-9, there will never be one like it again in Seattle.

We also had a starting rotation big three led by Randy Johnson in his prime, Jamie Moyer in his prime, and Jeff Fassero in his relative prime. You know what’s ironic about the 1997 Mariners? If I told you we had all of those players at the peak of their abilities, and told you the reason we lost in the first round of the playoffs WASN’T necessarily the bullpen, you’d think I was a God damn liar. But, in Game 1, Randy got torched for 5 runs in 5 innings, and Mike Mussina limited that hall of fame offense to 2 runs over 7 innings. Game 2, more of the same, as Moyer couldn’t get out of the 5th, giving up 3 runs, and the offense was largely shut down. We won game 3 behind a dynamic Fassero start (8 innings, 1 run). But, then the offense was once again eaten alive by Mussina in game 4 (7 innings, 1 run).

Now, granted, that bullpen did us no favors in the first two losses. Bobby Ayala gave up 6 runs in Game 2; Mike Timlin gave up 4 runs in Game 1. But, the bullpen, all year, was the problem. So, on July 31st, we made a pair of moves to try to shore up our weakest element of the team.

Jose Cruz Jr. was our next hotshot prospect to be called up, only to be sent to Toronto for the aforementioned Timlin, and lefty Paul Spoljaric. Spoljaric was a total and complete bust, however Timlin proved fairly effective as an 8th inning high leverage guy. Cruz ended up not amounting to much in his Major League career, but I’ll always wonder if leaving the friendly confines of the Kingdome somehow stunted his growth.

The real nightmare deal of that deadline was the Slocumb trade, who we got from the Red Sox in exchange for starting pitcher Derek Lowe and starting catcher Jason Varitek. Both of them are in the Red Sox Hall Of Fame, if that tells you anything. Meanwhile, Slocumb is still haunting me, both in my sleep and in my waking life.

It’s exactly THAT kind of deal that gives me tremendous pause every trade deadline.

You could argue the 2024 Mariners are a lot like the inverse of the 1997 Mariners. An elite collection of starting pitching, the likes of which we may never see again. A bullpen that’s good, not great, led by some really terrific back-of-the-bullpen guys. And a lineup that is just the fucking worst. We’re currently poised to win the A.L. West just the way we are, but we could obviously use a little offensive help to get us over the finish line.

The real kick in the pants about that 1997 season is the fact that the new bullpen pieces didn’t really do much of anything to solidify those later innings. I don’t believe for one second that the players we acquired made any difference in us winning our division that year; we got there on the back of our offense and starting rotation.

The same is likely to be true in 2024; if we get to the playoffs, it absolutely won’t be because of any player we get at the deadline. It’ll be on the back of our pitching staff. Oh sure, maybe a trade acquisition might have a big hit or two, but in the grand scheme of things, he won’t be the difference-maker. And he certainly won’t put us over the top and into the World Series!

There have been a variety of deadline deals throughout the years. Randy Johnson to the Astros (was only mitigated by the fact that it precipitated an all time run of greatness for the Mariners from 2000-2003), Freddy Garcia to the White Sox (bringing back a collection of crap), and one of the great Chef’s Kisses of the Bill Bavasi Era: 2006, separate deals with the Cleveland Indians, sending out Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo within a month of each other for some hot garbage. Choo and Cabrera went on to have long, fruitful, All Star careers; the guys we brought back did nothing and 2006 ended in misery (as so many years did between 2002 and 2021).

Seeing those players go on to have tremendous careers for other teams is EXACTLY the reason why I’m so paranoid about the Mariners making any sort of Win Now move.

The Mariners have totally re-stocked their farm system with a collection of exciting, young prospects. 5 players in the top 50 of all of baseball, according to some people! Thinking about one or more of those guys going somewhere and being in another team’s Hall Of Fame gives me panic sweats.

Logically, I understand how stupid it is to want to cling to all of these guys. They’re not ALL going to turn out to be amazing big leaguers. I also understand that at some point, you have to push your chips in; you can’t keep waiting around forever for these prospects to develop into bona fide stars at this level. Because, as you keep waiting, the guys who are here now will eventually move on, because we WON’T be able to afford to keep everyone. And, let’s face it, this is an organization that’s starved for some success.

The bottom line is, if a deal ends up resulting in this team winning it all – even if the player(s) we get in return don’t affect the outcome all that much – no one will care about who we lost. We’ll just remember the good times of finally getting this monkey off our back.

It’s Been A While Since The Mariners Haven’t Had A Third Baseman

By and large, Mariners fans have been spoiled through the years, in this one very specific area. Third baseman is a weird spot on a team. It’s one of the few true power positions, but it also requires a level of athleticism and defensive ability to where you can’t just throw any old hulk over there. He’d get eaten alive by too many hot shot grounders. That’s what seemingly makes it one of the toughest spots on the team to fill. You need that athleticism, you need a strong arm, and you ideally would also have some semblance of extra base-hitting ability.

With second base, you can hide athletic infielders who don’t have the arm or the pop. With first base, obviously they’re almost exclusively lacking in athleticism, but they generally come with more power. A competent third baseman who has all three facets of the game is kind of a unicorn! And yet, with few exceptions, the Mariners have been pretty well stocked at the position dating back to the mid 90s (and maybe beyond).

Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Seager before him, then there was Adrian Beltre, David Bell, Russ Davis, Mike Blowers, and way back in the day, a young and fit Edgar Martinez.

The last time we didn’t really have much of anything at third base, you have to go back to 2010 and the first half of 2011. That’s when we had a year of Jose Lopez, and half a year of Chone Figgins (before Seager got the call-up and promptly took over). I don’t know if you remember those days, but they were terrible! And, unless something huge happens soon, I think 2024 is going to look a lot like those days.

I don’t care what anyone says, Luis Urias stinks! Even at his very best, in 2021, he had a 112 OPS+, which is better than average, but by no means great. Josh Rojas appears to be his platoon partner over there – at least, on paper – but he’s only valuable if he’s hitting for a high average. Neither one has extreme power numbers; Urias is probably better than Rojas in that regard, but I can’t imagine – as a righty – he’s going to have much success hitting in Seattle.

Who else are we looking at? Maybe Dylan Moore, maybe Sam Haggerty; the usual suspects of suck.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the moment the Mariners traded Suarez, they were punting on the third base spot. Not that I have tremendous confidence Suarez will bounce back in 2024, but I have WAY more confidence in that than I do the Mariners having a competent third baseman currently on their roster.

If we don’t see the third base spot hitting in the bottom third of the order, it’ll be both a surprise and probably a total breach of judgment. Just be prepared for a humongous black hole in that spot.

It’s frustrating to know this now, and it’s not even Spring Training yet. If the Mariners somehow hang around contention, they MIGHT make a deadline deal for an actual third baseman. But, they could save us a lot of headaches by just doing a deal with someone NOW! Let’s get ahead of it, before we’re all booing every single third baseman we see.

The Mariners Did Not Extend A Qualifying Offer To Teoscar Hernandez

I’m not going to lie to you, in an offseason that started – for all intents and purposes – at the very end of the regular season, at least as far as the Mariners are concerned, this organization has bungled things in a way I never could’ve possibly expected. First, the end-of-season press conference fiasco, and now this.

The whole impetus in trading for Teoscar Hernandez in the first place – giving up a potentially-useful reliever (something this team desperately needed by season’s end) and a lottery ticket prospect – is that the Mariners would get a year of his services in the middle of our lineup, and then either opt to extend him for 2024 and beyond (if things went well), or let him walk with a Qualifying Offer attached to his name, thereby receiving draft pick compensation whenever he signed elsewhere. Sure, it’s just another lottery pick, but with how the Mariners like to do business, that seemed like an ideal outcome, all things considered!

Somewhat expectedly, things did not go well for Teoscar. He’s a righty slugger who strikes out a lot and spent half his games hitting in T-Mobile Park; if you didn’t anticipate some struggles, then you clearly haven’t been following the Mariners for very long. He had two good months in 2023 to salvage what ended up being his seasonlong slash line of .258/.305/.435:

  • June – .303/.376/.573
  • August – .365/.396/.654

The other months were pretty abysmal. True to form, his home/road splits were pretty garish:

  • Home – 79 games, .217/.263/.380
  • Road – 81 games, .295/.344/.486

So, yeah, he let the ballpark and the marine layer get into his head. I don’t know how that explains why he had 64 singles on the road vs. only 40 at home, but maybe that marine layer is a little thicker than we ever thought. Either way, he was not the Value Add we all needed him to be. When he was going good, the team won games. But, about 2/3 of the time he sucked, and the team fell short as a result, unable to compensate for his underperformance on top of everyone else’s underperformance (save J.P.).

What I don’t understand is, why not roll the dice? Sure, he’s 31 years old, but it’s not like a player of his age, with his prior performance, hasn’t commanded an insane amount of money in free agency. All you need to do is point to those home/road splits and SOMEONE would’ve given him a 3-year deal! The free agent market is barren! And every team needs help with a power bat!

Were we SO afraid that he’d accept the QO (valued at just over $20 million) that we couldn’t even risk it? That seems silly. He would’ve gotten a better deal somewhere; I’m convinced of it. Are we so set at the position that we couldn’t use him for another year, if indeed he did decide to return? Clearly not! There’s a nonzero chance that with his experience in 2023, he could’ve adjusted and hit closer to his career norm. Regardless, it’s exceedingly unlikely that he would’ve accepted the QO anyway, so what are we even doing here?!

Even if you think he’s fallen off a cliff and is done as a valuable Major Leaguer, that doesn’t mean some other team isn’t foolish enough – or desperate enough – to give him a wad of cash. Where’s the risk? Show me where the risk is. Because I don’t think there’s any chance in hell that he would’ve come back.

All we did was make it easier for him to sign elsewhere. Is that the tactic? Are we trying to play nice with potential free agents out there? Trying to show them that we’re good to our players – even our exiting players – to let them know that Seattle is a good place to work? Even if I buy that for a hot second, you know what those players actually care about? How much money you’re going to give them.

This is just bungled mis-management, plain and simple. Unless I’m totally off-base, and the market for him is so thin – to the point that both the Mariners and Teoscar’s agent know it – that he actually would’ve returned on a $20 million deal. In this case, I can tell you right now, it’s more about the money than it is about him as a player.

Would I want him back? In a vacuum? Probably not. I would lean towards 2023 being the start of him falling off a cliff. That being said, in a vacuum, I don’t know if I’d necessarily be against trying him out as a mostly-everyday DH, even at a $20 million cost. For one more year? Given how the free agency market looks, our non-Ohtani options available to us (because I don’t see us actually having any chance in hell at signing Ohtani), why not? He shouldn’t be your everyday right fielder, but as a DH, you could do a lot worse. The Mariners certainly have as much experience in trotting out lackluster designated hitters as anyone, since Edgar retired anyway.

But, the Mariners have a finite amount of money they’re willing to spend. Even after what happened this past season, with how we underperformed, with how the Rangers just won their first-ever World Series, with this team being under a microscope with both fans and its own players alike, they’re still going to short-change us in the spending department. They’re going to make excuses about why players don’t want to come here. They’re going to justify their decisions by pointing to their farm system and Julio and Cal and J.P. and their bevy of young starters. They’re going to nickel and dime us and then continue to raise ticket prices and the cost of having Root Sports on our cable packages. It’s the Mariners’ Way.

Even if Teoscar has a thin market under the QO, we’ll never actually know, because he doesn’t have the QO. He’s free to sign with no penalty! Watch it be for a bundle too. If it is, I think it’s pretty safe to say that bundle still would’ve been there with the QO. If you’re going to pay him $50+ million guaranteed, you’re going to be willing to part with a middling draft pick.

I’ll admit, when I first heard the news, I thought maybe this was the Mariners’ way of trying to bring him back to the organization at some valuation under $20 million. Maybe 2 years $30 million or something like that. Get some front-end savings, while retaining the stability of a streaky-yet-sometimes-potent power hitter. But as I sat with it for an extra day, it just feels like the Mariners gave up on even being competitive this offseason. We’re so unwilling to do anything big, we won’t even extend the minimal risk of a qualifying offer to earn a free draft pick.

Instead, what was our first big move of the offseason? Well, we traded a AAA reliever I’ve never heard of for cash, and we traded a promising-looking low-level catcher for a not-so-promising-looking upper-minors catcher with the Rays. Tatem Lewis is the guy we got rid of, so watch for him to be a smashing success with Tampa. Instead, we get a guy named Blake Hunt, who’s poised to compete at the backup catcher spot with Tom Murphy. Really, what it means is that Hunt will start out at AAA – eliminating the need to roster Brian O’Keefe, thank Christ – until Murphy inevitably gets hurt. Then, we’ll get to enjoy seeing Hunt do his best O’Keefe impression. Fun!

My confidence in this organization isn’t at an all-time low. There have certainly been lower moments as a Mariners fan over the years. But, I will say my confidence is flatlining pretty hard at the moment. It’s not dead and buried and decomposing, but doctors are administering CPR and warming up the paddles.

The Mariners Treated Us To The Ultimate King Felix Weekend, Losing 2 Of 3 Through No Fault Of The Starting Pitching

Felix Hernandez was honored by the Seattle Mariners with an induction into the team’s Hall of Fame over the weekend. Of course, you know I had to be there.

The King and his loyal subjects …

It’s weirdly comforting to see the 2023 Mariners aren’t all that different from those M’s teams of 2005-2019.

Let’s get the baseball part out of the way, because as the title states, the Mariners lost 2 of 3, and they did it in the most Mariners way possible. Just to ramp up expectations that much more, the M’s came out on fire on Friday to win their 8th in a row, by a score of 9-2. You scoff, but I still say they should’ve figured out a way to save some of those runs for the next two days!

Saturday and Sunday were both extra innings nailbiters. Saturday was the big Hall of Fame induction ceremony day, which meant it was the MOST Mariners evening when it came to honoring Felix, right down to George Kirby pitching 9 shutout innings, only for our closer to blow it in the 10th. Sunday’s pitching performance wasn’t quite as impressive, but the game was still tied 2-2 in the 9th, with Munoz once again giving up a late run to potentially suck on the loss, only for Dominic Canzone to bail him out with a game-tying homer. But, then we opted to let Trent Thornton pitch to an impressive lefty – who had just robbed us of a homer in the previous inning – instead of walking him and setting up the double play. He gave up a 2-run bomb, and that was that. 5-3.

Let’s get back to Felix.

Everyone falls all over themselves praising the Mariners for how they handle these events. I dunno, I think they’re on cruise control at this point, though there were some nice touches. My main gripe was the fact that not only were John Stanton and Chuck Armstrong in attendance, but Stanton took it upon himself to handle the bulk of the talking, after Rick Rizzs did his usual stellar job introducing everyone. Why is Stanton even there at all? Why does he have to be on the field? Why is anyone from the front office on the field? No one wants to hear from these guys. No one cares what these guys have to say. No one is THERE for these guys! We’re there for Felix, and the other stars who stopped by to honor him. We’re not there to listen to John Stanton in his extreme monotone drone on and on.

It’s especially poorly-timed coming just two weeks after a trade deadline where this team did pretty much nothing. They CERTAINLY weren’t going to add to the payroll. Now we have to sit there and listen to the representative of this tight-fisted ownership group talk at us? I don’t blame the fans for wanting to boo! But, the Mariners’ organization shouldn’t have put us in that uncomfortable position.

This is what these billionaires don’t get: we don’t like you. Unless you lead this organization to a championship, stay your ass in the shadows. It’s not safe for you out among the rabble. If you get in front of a podium, we’re going to boo the shit out of you. Stanton, to his credit, never stopped talking to let the boos take hold. Keeping the focus strictly on Felix was the smart move, because we can’t rightly boo our hero, now can we? But, nothing that Stanton said couldn’t have been said by Rizzs. We LIKE Rizzs! More importantly, he gets paid to speak for a living! He has tone and inflection in his voice! Stanton should’ve felt lucky to be sitting on the same field as someone as great as Felix, but he had no business whatsoever getting behind a plugged-in microphone and verbally holding us hostage for 10 minutes.

It was cool to see who showed up. Edgar and Dan, of course. Ichiro, naturally. Then Jaime Moyer of all people! What a treat! And the big get: Ken Griffey Jr. What a great guy! The best all-time Mariner coming to help induct the second-best all-time Mariner. The surprise of the event was having Adrian Beltre give his congratulations via video, and then stop the show by walking out onto the field to give Felix a big ol’ bear hug. Just outstanding!

So, as I alluded to, I didn’t go to the game on Friday. They weren’t giving anything away, as far as I can tell, and the big event was a fireworks show afterwards. No thanks. But, I made it a point to go to both Saturday and Sunday’s games.

I ended up stopping by Sluggers around 3pm for a couple beers before meeting up with some friends. We got into the stadium in plenty of time to get more beverages and sit in our seats for the ceremony. We had seats in the 300 level near the Lookout Landing bar in the far corner, but unfortunately it was reserved for a private party, so we couldn’t partake of their services. Instead, we opted to be the oldest guys in The Pen for the last few innings, which was … an experience.

I went with my fiance for the Sunday game. Even though we got to the stadium prior to the gates opening, my hopes of getting the bobblehead were initially dashed thanks to the crazy lines to get inside. People were wrapped around like it was still Saturday night! So, we went to an outdoor bar next to the Seahawks’ stadium and sat outside until the lines died down. To my surprise, when we got in they still had some bobbleheads left over! Which was nice, because I was dreading having to go on eBay and buy one at an inflated mark-up.

It was super fun to see Felix again, and to celebrate his brilliant Mariners career. It’s one of the shames of our collective sports experiences that he never got a chance to start in the post-season, but I’ll always cherish the fact that he was always a Mariner, and that I got to enjoy his excellence every five days for so many years.

Felix & Me …

Is Mike Ford A Thing?

Clearly, the Mariners are in need of a stable bat. Someone in the realm of a Carlos Santana from last year, at a minimum. Ideally, someone better, who’s signed through at least 2024. But, that could take up to a month or more to get done by the trade deadline. What about in the interim?

Well, the M’s need to find an internal option, don’t they? I’m specifically talking about DH here, because for better or for worse, they’re pretty much set everywhere else. No outfield openings, Caballero has sort of taken hold of the second base spot (with Dylan Moore’s return sprinkled in). But, it’s that DH spot that we’ve entirely ignored that needs the most pruning.

A.J. Pollock is a waste of space. Tommy La Stella is gone (good riddance). Cooper Hummel and Sam Haggerty were sent down to Tacoma to make adjustments. Dylan Moore is hitless in three games so far, and I’m not really banking on ANYTHING out of him in what has been a lost injury season so far. Kolten Wong is only here until Moore shows he can hit; after that, as soon as this team needs to make a roster change, Wong should be the first to go. And less really does seem to be more when it comes to DH’ing Tom Murphy.

But, Mike Ford, he’s kind of interesting to me.

Could he be a Carlos Santana type? He’s 30 years old, soon to be 31. He’s had numerous cups of coffee in the Majors since 2019, but no more than 50 games, and he’s never been as good as he was that first year with the Yankees (when he hit 12 bombs while batting .259). This is actually his third stint with the Mariners’ organization and in that time he’s always kinda been this Quad-A hitter. Someone who mashes in AAA, but has yet to figure it out in the bigs.

He started out in Tacoma this year and hit .302/.427/.605, with 13 homers and 11 doubles. Maybe more importantly, he had only 30 strikeouts against 34 walks. Now, either he’s the most Quad-A hitter who’s ever lived (playing in the PCL, that’s entirely possible), or maybe – JUST MAYBE – he’s figured things out. Maybe he’s got his swing right. Maybe he’s figured out his approach at the plate.

When Ford has been at his best professionally, he’s walked more than he’s struck out. He makes good swing decisions and doesn’t chase out of the zone. And, of course, he’s got a free and easy power swing from the left side of the plate, that’s perfect for platooning.

I want to point out that I was mulling this topic of blog-versation over before last night’s 2-homer explosion. Granted, before last night, he had yet to really do much of anything, and indeed he has 6 strikeouts against 1 walk, so if last night didn’t happen, I’d say the tone of this post would be much less optimistic. But, now we know what he’s capable of. He has a multi-homer game in him. Those also weren’t his only two homers; he now has 4 of them in his 8 appearances so far.

This turnaround – if we want to call it that – isn’t totally out of left field. He had it built into his contract that if the Mariners didn’t call him up by June, he could opt out of the deal and become a free agent. Clearly, the Mariners had a need for a hitter, and part of me wants to ask, “What the fuck took so long?!” These things happen all the time. This doesn’t mean that Mike Ford is the next Edgar Martinez or anything. But, sometimes these Quad-A guys pop for a year or two in the Majors. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s development, maybe it’s just total randomness. But, it happens, and maybe this is Mike Ford’s year to excel.

This feels like a situation where Ford just takes over the DH role, platooning with Dylan Moore or A.J. Pollock whenever there’s a lefty on the mound. Not that Pollock has done a God damn thing against lefties (supposedly his strength; I fucking told you that shit wasn’t gonna fly in Seattle), but maybe once Pollock settles into that reserve role permanently, he’ll relax and hits will start falling (I get the feeling he’s pressing, still trying to be a starting presence on this team).

The sample is still too small to really believe in Ford; but what else are you gonna do for the next month and change? I don’t think – even if he plays well – that it’ll prevent us from looking for a bat by the trade deadline. But, it sure would be nice to have Ford as an option just in case things don’t work out, or for the inevitable Ty France IL stint because he’s been hit by one too many pitches.

I’m rooting for him. I always root for these Quad-A guys. They’re so close to their ultimate dream – success in the Major Leagues – and so often they fall flat on their faces. Fingers crossed – for all of our sakes – that Mike Ford is the exception.

The Mariners Blew It Against The Cubs

It’s hard for me to tell if this is a Same Old Mariners situation, or if this is the final death rattle of those Same Old Mariners, where natural instincts kick in – and the M’s play like those Same Old Mariners for a very short while – before mercifully passing and morphing into a new and exciting team for a generation to come.

Either way, this all tracks for what we’ve come to expect from this organization. What was the one fear we all had? As soon as the expectations to win became REAL, the clock would strike midnight, the team would turn back into a pumpkin, and we’d be left holding the tattered rags of a once-beautiful dress, sitting in mud next to a dog and a couple of mice.

If you want to put a positive spin on it, then you’re probably expecting this team to perform up to snuff in late-May or early-June. And, if that’s the case, it’s easy to make the argument that this series would’ve been a Mariners sweep if we’d only played it then. But, it was played now, and instead of winning all three, we went 1-2.

To be fair, we probably didn’t have any business winning the first game. Luis Castillo was fine, but had one bad inning and left with the team losing 2-1 after six innings. Then again, we also had no business letting Drew Smyly dominate us through five innings (which easily would’ve been seven or eight, if his arm was stretched out enough).

I’ll tell you this much, the bottom of this lineup is REALLY starting to piss me off. The only reason A.J. Pollock was brought here in the first place is to be a right-handed platoon partner for Jarred Kelenic, who is supposed to mash left-handed pitching! He has exactly one good game under his belt so far, but otherwise Scott Servais can’t wait to get him out of any game he starts. In this one, as soon as Smyly left, all the usual left-handed bats were inserted into the lineup to try to kickstart some offense. Wong in for Haggerty (Wong hasn’t been any great shakes at all, but had a couple of singles in this one), Cal in for Tom Murphy (who has a whopping one hit on the season), and most importantly, Kelenic in for Pollock.

We have all these platoon opportunities, but they’re all shit. We have this deep bench of rotating DH candidates, but it’s almost exclusively WASTED on them, rather than giving other guys rest days from the field. What the hell are we doing here?! Why is Cooper Hummel a DH? What kind of a sick joke is that, perpetuated by the team who employed the greatest designated hitter of all time?!

If this was the only year we were trotting out baseball’s worst DH, I might let it go. But, we’ve been ABYSMAL at filling that spot ever since Edgar retired, and it’s a God damned embarrassment.

What’s decidedly NOT embarrassing is the way Kelenic is playing. He yanked a solo homer in the top of the 9th to tie it at 2-2, leading me to wonder if things were going to turn around here. Instead, Matt Brash came in to pitch the 10th (after we failed to score our own ghost runner), botched a pick-off move, and allowed the game-winning RBI single to blow another one.

Still waiting for that dominating relief pitcher we were all promised.

The game on Tuesday got off to a fabulous start, with the Mariners jumping out to a 7-0 lead and chasing their starter in the second inning. Unfortunately, this was Chris Flexen’s turn in the rotation, and it wasn’t exactly his best performance. He got chased in the bottom of the third (giving up 8 runs in 2.1 innings) and the rout was on from there. How a game that featured the M’s being up by 7 runs at one point, turned into a rout for the OTHER team, is something that only the Mariners could achieve. 14-9 defeat, I shit you not.

Diego Castillo looks officially broken, which is great. Perfect timing with Brash’s struggles and Munoz being on the IL. We got some mop-up relief from Jose Rodriguez (3 innings, 3 runs), who was just called up before this game and promptly sent back down afterward. Tough luck, but at least he gets a mention in my blog.

At least the offense came to play. On a normal day, 9 runs is plenty, so that’s not nothing. France, Suarez, Cal, and J.P. all had good games. But, Kelenic gets a special shout-out for hitting a homer in back-to-back games (more on him in a bit).

We salvaged one in the Wednesday finale, 5-2. Logan Gilbert was dominant (6.2 innings, 1 run, 4 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, on 94 pitches), the bullpen did its job (Justin Topa looks like he’s maybe a breakout reclamation project we didn’t see coming), and the offense both jumped out to an early lead and played add-on late in the game.

Julio, France, and Suarez all did well, Teoscar hit his third homer of the year, and not to be out-done, Kelenic hit his third homer in three games. This one a whopping 482-foot shot to the upper deck in center field, which is the longest Mariners home run in the Statcast era, and the longest regular season home run at Wrigley Field in the Statcast era. Just a fucking BLAST!

That leaves Kelenic hitting .351/.415/.703. This is everything we ever imagined he’d be and then some! Of course, it’s a 2-week sample. But, I would argue he’s never had a 2-week sample at the Major League level like this. Hell, he might not have had a 2-week sample like this EVER. Also, this is at the beginning of the season, not at the very end when nothing matters. Up to this point, it’s been about his minor league success and his hot stretches in September (hoping they’d carry over into the next season). But, now he looks confident, his swing is on point, the power is shining through, and he looks like the best player on this team.

On a team that, mind you, has Julio Rodriguez.

Whether that holds for the rest of the season is anybody’s guess. But, this adjustment he’s made (or series of adjustments) looks legit. This looks like it’s set to stick. And if that’s the case, the rest of the league better watch out!

There’s a lot of talk on Twitter among fans saying they’ll take this Kelenic hot start over the Mariners having a hot start; I think that’s a pointless conversation.

What I’m more interested in is how long the Mariners stick to their plan to both platoon Kelenic, while keeping him in the bottom third of the lineup.

I don’t have a major issue keeping him where he is in the lineup; there’s still obvious run-producing opportunities down at the bottom, and his hotness will help turn the lineup over to Julio at the top again. But, my patience with Pollock and La Stella and Hummel and all these other scrubs is wearing thin. I’m about two weeks away from abandoning the platoon, and taking my chances with Kelenic against left-handed pitchers. Maybe he gets a day off every two weeks or something, if there’s a particularly nasty southpaw. But, otherwise, I’d rather have the young stud over the fucking washout nobodies.

Who knew we’d miss Carlos Santana so much?

The 2023 Mariners Look Awesome As Fuck!

There’s a way this all goes FUBAR. Any number of injuries to key players – Julio, Cal, Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Munoz, Sewald, Teoscar, Ty – and let’s face it, the Mariners are in a world of hurt. Of course, you can say that about any contending team and be right; the season from hell can strike at anytime, when you least suspect it. I’m not sitting here saying the Mariners are so good they can withstand a tsunami of IL stints; no team’s that good.

But, assuming the Mariners have just the average amount of injuries, just the average amount of underperforming players, just the average amount of good and/or bad luck, we’re talking about a team that’s good enough to go all the way. I’m not saying they will. But, they’re one of a handful of teams who can. And that’s not something we’ve been able to say for over two decades.

So, what makes a legitimate championship contender?

I think you need a true #1 ace starting pitcher. Which isn’t something the Mariners had in the Pat Gillick years (which is why I think those teams ultimately failed). Luis Castillo – regardless of how well he kicks off this season – is a true #1 ace starting pitcher.

Behind him, you’ve got a former Cy Young Award winner, and two other starters who are entirely capable of joining him. There’s an argument to be made that Castillo isn’t even the best starter on the team. The aforementioned Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray has some awesome stuff, and is a bulldog strikeout guy, but I’m not even talking about him. Logan Gilbert is absolutely gnarly out there on the mound, often dominating his opponents; and I’m not talking about him either! George Kirby could be the very best of all of them one day, and he’s just getting going in his Major League career. That’s four legitimate ace-type pitchers in this rotation, with a guy in Marco Gonzales who will eat innings and keep you in ballgames more often than not. What more can you want from a rotation?

What else do you need? Well, an elite bullpen, of course. That’s something those Randy Johnson teams in the mid-90s always lacked (which is definitely why all those teams ultimately failed). Ace starting pitchers are very important, but they don’t do you much good if you don’t have the ‘pen there preventing comebacks. And even though there’s every chance this bullpen could fall apart by sheer randomness, I don’t believe for one second that it’ll actually happen. If there’s any part of this team where the Mariners are truly deep, it’s in the bullpen. Not to mention, their scouting department and coaching staff have seemingly found the secret sauce to keep this train chugging along forever.

What else? It sure helps when you have a superstar in your lineup. A true, bona fide MVP candidate. That’s Julio. He not only leads with his bat, and his glove, and his baserunning, but he leads with his demeanor and personality and the confidence he instills in those around him. When you know you’ve got Julio in your lineup, the makeup of the entire team changes. More importantly, when the opposing pitcher knows there’s a Julio coming up, it can make all the difference in how they take on those other guys. A healthy, dominant Julio lifts all boats.

You also need additional pop in your lineup. Winning baseball teams have to score runs, and extra-base hits are still the best way to do so, regardless of the rules changes. Teoscar and Eugenio and Ty and Cal all give you that in spades.

The Mariners don’t have the most fearsome lineup in baseball, but they have just enough. Combined with the pitching – which should be Top 5 in all of baseball – that’s a combo that can take us into the playoffs no problem. It’s also a combo that can do some real damage once we get there.

What’s the final piece to the puzzle? Management. Coaching. Scott Servais and company. He absolutely doesn’t get the credit he deserves, at least from a national perspective. For some reason, even a segment of the Mariners fanbase likes to shit all over him, but I don’t get it. He’s amazing! He’s the best manager we’ve had since Sweet Lou, and his winning percentage backs that up. What’s more, if he does what Lou never could – gets us to a World Series – then I don’t think there’s any doubt about it: Scott Servais – if all goes according to plan – will go down as the best manager in Seattle Mariners history.

Sure, Servais is still 300-some-odd wins behind, but Lou had the advantage of walking into a situation that already had three Hall of Famers on the roster! Griffey, Edgar, and Randy were already locked and loaded; who couldn’t win 800+ games with three future Hall of Famers?!

Regardless, the key to a great manager is the culture he builds. Both have/had winning cultures, though Servais is much more a man of this particular time. He – much more often than not – pulls the right levers when it comes to bullpen and lineup decisions. In a lot of ways, that has to do with trusting those around him. He has the right group of assistant coaches, and he listens to the analytics team who provides him the information necessary to make him look smart day-in and day-out. He isn’t some old timer coaching with his gut. And that shows up just about every year he’s been in charge. The Mariners, in his tenure, have often outperformed projections and the talent they had on the roster. That’s quality management to a T. He’s a major asset to this team’s ability to win baseball games, and one day he’s going to lead us to a championship.

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a new Mariners season. Usually, I’m just hoping they can entertain us until football season, while dreading the inevitable (that we’ll be out of it by June). Not this year. Fuck the other sports; it’s time to go all in on the Mariners.

What’s funny is that I don’t think the 2023 Mariners will be the best team we see over the next decade. I think we’ll manage to get even better, very soon. But, I also have this weird feeling that instead of everything breaking bad, it’s all going to break in our favor. Houston will be the team that struggles with injuries. Houston will be the team that loses an inordinate amount of games to the eventual division winner (Seattle). The Mariners, meanwhile, will enjoy a second consecutive season of unprecedented health in the starting rotation. The Mariners will continue to be among the league leaders in 1-run games, and we’ll continue to win at an insanely improbable rate.

I’ve got the Mariners at 98-64, four games ahead of Houston for the division.

I’ve got the Mariners cruising to the ALCS.

I’ve got the Mariners winning in 7 games.

And, yeah, I’ve got the Mariners against the Padres in the World Series, where we’ll do to them what we weren’t able to do in the regular season: we’ll sweep them in four games.

Even if I’m wrong and this isn’t our year, don’t worry, because that time is coming. The Mariners will win a championship before the calendar flips to 2030. What’s crazy to think about is the very legitimate possibility that we might, in fact, win multiple titles by then.

And if we don’t? Well, print this out and tape it to your fridge, because apparently my words have the power to jinx teams to an unfathomable degree.

The Bottom Third Of The Mariners’ Lineup Looks Absolutely Atrocious

At some point, I’m going to hop on here and talk about all the ways this thing can fall apart for the Mariners. There’s a number of hitters who could easily take steps back for one reason or another, our starting pitching was unsustainably healthy last year, and our bullpen has been remarkably fortunate and could fall apart for no good reason whatsoever outside of sheer randomness.

Today’s not going to be that day. See, a lot of that is just me being overly worried. We finally broke back into the playoffs, and now it feels like we’re due for a setback. Expectations are through the roof, which is always when the Mariners let us down the most. You can set your watch to it. On paper, most experts agree this is a team that should once again contend for a wild card spot. So, you really have to dig deep to magnify the flaws on this roster to the point where we fall on our faces.

That being said, I don’t think it takes very much digging whatsoever to point out that the bottom three hitters projected to play regularly heading into April are going to drag this team down with them.

If we choose to look on the bright side, there should be six quality hitters in this lineup (eventually, I’ll write a separate post talking about all the flaws among everyone). You have to figure Julio and Raleigh are excellent young players; Ty France is solid when healthy; Suarez has his power and should benefit from less shifting; Teoscar Hernandez is an already-good player who figures to be hyper-motivated as he’s heading into his first stint with free agency; and Wong is a veteran bat who should be fine as long as he’s healthy.

Just because those are the six hitters I think will be the ones we don’t have to worry about, doesn’t mean I’m right. Any one of those guys could easily suck. Conversely, among the batters I’m about to trash, I think the odds are just as good that one of them surprises us in a positive way. But, for the sake of this post, I think the top six in our lineup is going to be fine, and it’s going to look something like this:

  1. Julio – CF (R)
  2. Wong – 2B (L)
  3. Hernandez – RF (R)
  4. France – 1B (R)
  5. Suarez – 3B (R)
  6. Raleigh – C (S)

Our three weakest spots in the lineup are going to be Short Stop, Left Field, and DH.

We kinda know what we’re going to get with J.P. Crawford at this point. He’s going to get on base a little over 1/3 of the time. That’s fine. He was one of the least shifted-against Mariners the last couple years, so I don’t think he’s going to get much of a boost from the rules changes. He’s streaky. With very little power. So, when his BABIP is good, his slash line will look good. When the balls he hits find gloves, he’s going to look like one of the worst hitters in the league. The only hope for him is that all his offseason work with Driveline has improved his approach at the plate. His elongated swing tends to get exposed by superior pitching, and if that hasn’t been corrected in any sort of meaningful way, it’s only going to lead to more strikeouts and weak contact. At least we don’t need him at the top of the order anymore. Getting to hide him down towards the bottom will take some pressure off, while at the same time give us some speed – if and when he does get on base – for our superior hitters at the top of the lineup.

The left field spot is well-worn territory at this point, but it bears repeating, since we’re banking a big chunk of our season’s hopes on the combination of A.J. Pollock and Jarred Kelenic. What needs to be said about Kelenic that hasn’t already been said? He’s young, and so far he’s been a terrible hitter. He could, obviously, blossom this year with reduced expectations, a spot at the bottom of the order, and the elimination of the shift that has so gobbled up many of his would-be hits. But, the Pollock piece of this remains under-complained about. He was abysmal last year! People have brushed that aside by saying he’s going to play primarily against lefties, but as I’ve said before, lefties only comprise about a quarter of the pitchers in baseball. He’s still going to get his share of at bats against righties, especially if Kelenic struggles (which, odds are he will). Not only that, but given how our bench is shaping up, we could see Pollock and Kelenic in the same lineup (with Pollock being a DH).

Let’s not beat around the bush here, though, because the DH has been a disaster for this team … pretty much since Edgar retired. I’ve already talked about how Dylan Moore is going to factor heavily into this team (cemented by the fact that he just signed a guaranteed contract to buy out his Arb years). Moore probably won’t DH a ton, but he’ll play in the field for guys getting rest days as the DH, so that makes him our de facto DH. I would also wager that Tom Murphy and/or Cal Raleigh will get their share of DH stints (when the other is starting at catcher), to infuse some additional power on occasion. We’ll see what Murphy has left in the tank after a few injury-plagued seasons. Then, there’s Haggerty, who was a fun story last year, but is coming off of an injury that happened towards the very end of our season. He’s also no guarantee to be effective the more the rest of the league gets a book on him. And, as I just wrote about, I don’t know who our 13th position player will be, but Tommy La Stella looks like the odds-on favorite, and he’s fucking garbage.

I don’t want to say that the season hinges on Jarred Kelenic starting to reach his full potential, but that could make all of our lives A LOT easier. There’s a massive black hole in the bottom third of our lineup that figures to be filled with – at best – Replacement Level hitters. But, if Kelenic were to pan out (which, officially I no longer believe will be the case), that could really take our team to new heights. All of a sudden, you’ve got seven quality bats in the lineup, with adequate production out of Crawford, and whatever you get from the DH slot from Moore, Murphy, et al. A competent Kelenic hitting somewhere around .250, hitting 20+ homers, could be all the difference between this team winning 86 games and 96 games. I know the math doesn’t work out from a WAR perspective, but not totally blowing it every time we get to the bottom of the order has a cumulative effect that – if everything else pans out the way we think it should – would make us quite formidable. You get no innings off with a lineup like that. Combined with our elite pitching, it could very well put us in line to compete for the division.

However, if Kelenic continues to let us down, and the rest of these guys can’t get out of their own way, it’s going to take everything we have just to remain in contention through the trade deadline. Where I’m assuming we’re going to need an impact bat, if we want to get back to the playoffs.

It’s just too bad we didn’t get that bat heading into the season, when all of this was blatantly obvious to anyone with eyes.