Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

It won’t.

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

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

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

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part I

You’ll forgive me if I’m not exactly in the most chipper of moods.  That’s what happens when some useless cunt brings bedbugs into your apartment building and you spend a sleepless week itching, cleaning, and bagging up all your shit.  Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly looking on the bright side of things.

I actually had this idea before.  It was supposed to be a series of posts dedicated to the most loathed sports figures in Seattle history.  Over two years have passed and I’ve let it go by the wayside, but while it has been neglected, the idea has not been forgotten.

The primary reason for this site’s existence is that notion that there is a Culture of Losing in Seattle.  Losing has become commonplace.  Losing has been the norm.  And losing has been accepted, which is most damning of all.  It’s the main reason why I can’t stand most Seattle sports fans, because they’ve cultivated this Everybody Gets A Trophy attitude about the sports they follow.  Granted, it’s probably HEALTHIER; it’s a hard fact of life that we certainly take sports too seriously.  But, it still pisses me off.

Oh, good try sweetie!

It doesn’t matter who wins, all that matters is how you play the game!

Well, we didn’t win, but if you had a good time that’s all that matters!

You played hard out there fellas, now let’s all go out and get some ice cream!

There’s always next year!

This is what I have to put up with whenever a Seattle team ends its season.  Nobody in Seattle ever expects to do well, so when a Seattle team makes the playoffs THAT’S a thrill in and of itself!  Like just making the playoffs is “good enough”.  Sure, winning a championship would be an incredible bonus, but isn’t being one of the top 4-8 teams in the league reward enough, you guys?

But, I suppose it’s not all the fans’ fault.  I mean, THIS is all they’ve known.  These shitty Seattle teams who have always let us down every year since 1979.  Yes, the level of shittiness fluctuates, but they’re shitty all the same because it’s been over 30 years since we’ve tasted the sweet nectar of championship victory in this city.

I have a list of people here – athletes, GMs, and owners – who are more or less universally despised.  My list is by no means complete, and I encourage anyone who has names to add to come forth and state why you feel that way.  I may eventually return to my “Seattle Hates …” series and single out these losers in their own individual posts, but for now I thought I’d just list as many as I can think of and go from there.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are far-and-away leading the pack of the most hated Seattle sports figures.  It’s almost impossible to rank them, but I’m going to give it a shot.

This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s definitely true today:  the most loathed Mariners figures of all time are now Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong.  I’ve written about these two before, so I’ll keep this brief.  Rest assured, it’ll be a happy day in Seattle history when the team is sold and these two lame-asses are shit-canned.  Why they haven’t resigned in shame years ago is beyond me.

Time makes the heart grow fonder is the famous quote by some guy.  In this case, time makes the heart grow less enraged.  At one point, I would argue that no one could possibly be hated more than Bobby Ayala.  Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t fair.  Then again, I’m sitting here with my eyes closed and I can still picture it:

Ayala hurls a split-fingered fastball that hangs in the middle of the plate as he falls off of the left side of the mound.  Opposing Batter X takes a mighty hack and launches the ball into the Kingdome seats.  Ayala turns to watch the ball leave the yard as the cascading boos provide the perfect soundtrack to the four opposing runners trotting across home plate.  Ayala, takes his cap off and wipes his sweaty brow with his sleeve as Lou Pinella walks out of the dugout, pointing at his left arm.

Bobby Ayala was kind of a joke (seriously, what grown man goes by the name “Bobby”), but the target of our vitriol shouldn’t have stopped with him.  Bobby Ayala represents the total and utter futility of those Mariners bullpens from 1995 … really through 2001.  In the mid-to-late 90s, those bullpens were terrible.  Granted, we were playing in a bandbox known as the Kingdome, but still.  Even after we left that concrete prison and moved into the pitcher’s paradise that is Safeco, and even after we drastically upgraded our bullpen talent with guys like Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Kaz Sasaki, our bullpen STILL let us down.  Nevertheless, you rarely hear about Seattle fans bashing The Sheriff.  You almost NEVER hear people killing Rhodes or Sasaki.  You might get some grumbling about Heathcliff Slocumb, but who are you madder at:  the pitcher who wasn’t any good, or the bumbling idiots who traded two studs (Varitek and Lowe) for the pitcher who wasn’t any good?

Nope, the hatred always comes back to Bobby Ayala.  To this day, I don’t understand it.  But, at the time, back in the day, I could certainly condone it.

A more-recent villain in this saga of the Mariners sucking is Bill Bavasi.  I know, for me, he’s one of my most hated Seattle sports figures of all time (not involved with the Sonics leaving Seattle, that is).  This website is pretty much a love letter to how much I can’t stand that guy; I don’t know if I’ve ever gone more than a few weeks without referencing him and lamenting how terrible he is at life.  At this point, it goes without saying.  But, if you need any fuel, I suggest taking a look at his very large section of idiocy.

I don’t really have the heart to do the research on these next few guys to see who was ACTUALLY the worst as a Mariner, but I’ll give you my opinion on who I disliked the most.

I’ll start with Richie Sexson.  He was the first installment in my “Seattle Hates …” series, so I won’t go too in depth here.  What I will say is that it has always boggled my mind a little bit that Adrian Beltre never saw the same amount of invective.  He made more money than Sexson, he signed for more years, and he was coming off of this 2004 season with the Dodgers:

200 hits, 48 homers, 121 RBI, .334 batting average, 1.017 OPS

Here is what he averaged in five seasons with the Mariners:

150 hits, 21 homers, 79 RBI, .266 batting average, .759 OPS

I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m calling Steroids on this bullshit not going to make wild accusations about something I know nothing about, even though this guy doesn’t pass the smell test by any means.  For funsies, here is what Beltre averaged in the three seasons since he left Seattle:

176 hits, 32 homers, 103 RBI, .314 batting average, .912 OPS

Are you kidding me?  OK, maybe that steroids crack was out of line, but COME ON!  How are you, as supposed Mariners fans, not enraged by this?  You boo and throw money at A-Rod decades after he left for an insane deal with the Rangers … why aren’t you fucking raining down sandbags at this fucking gold-bricker???  Adrian Beltre is a fucking bullshit artist and I’m leading the bandwagon to turn the tide against him; who’s with me?  Good defense at third base?  Fuck you, go home and play with your kids.  You were brought in here to fucking hit.  You hit with the Dodgers, you hit with the Red Sox, you’ve hit with the Rangers.  Man up and quit blaming the stadium for your insecurities you fucking mental midget.

Up next, we have Chone Figgins.  Who was a much better player when everyone thought his first name was pronounced “Ch-own”.  He signed a 4-year deal and sucked more and more every year he was on this team.  What’s worse, he didn’t appear to be even remotely sorry for the fact that he was the most over-paid piece of shit in the Major Leagues.  You’d hear stories about how hard he was working behind the scenes, but then you’d watch him play and what would you see?  An emotionless pile of shit striking out.  An emotionless pile of shit letting a ground ball go right past him.  An emotionless pile of shit unable to catch a routine fly ball.  Then, after the game, whenever he’d consent to an interview, you’d hear about how he needed MORE playing time to “play his way out of it”.  Or, if by the grace of fucking God he managed to have one of his three good games as a Mariner, he’d chirp his fucking head off after the game, talking about how he’s “still got it” and how he should be playing every day.  What a motherfucker.  To the bitter end, he left here thinking that he was a legit Major Leaguer.  I suppose that’s why he was released by the Miami Marlins in Spring Training this year.

Chone Figgins is a guy who grabbed his big payday, then proceeded to dog it until he was run out of town.  He didn’t give a shit!  He got his money and that’s all he cared about.  Now, he gets to sit on his ass while making upwards of $9 million for doing absolutely nothing.

Carlos Silva is another fan favorite, if by Fan Favorite I mean guy who we’d like to tar and feather.  He was supposed to be this adequate ground baller who would earn his money tenfold by pitching in the cavernous Safeco Field.  Instead, he got shelled, constantly.  And since he was signed for so long (4 years) and for so much money ($48 million), we had to give him every opportunity to try and turn things around.  Imagine it:  you and me and most everyone we know will live our entire lives scraping by like a dog on the streets; meanwhile Carlos Silva received nearly $50 million to suck dick.  Kinda makes you want to stop following sports, doesn’t it?

I’m going to wrap up this Mariners section with some rapid-fire.  Because it’s going on far too long and because I’ve got other things to do.

Jeff Cirillo was brought in after our 116-win season to lock down third base.  He was supposed to be one of the final pieces to push us over the top as a championship contender.  Instead, he was terrible.  My booze-addled mind has mostly blacked out the Jeff Cirillo stint as a Mariner, so bully for me.

Alex Rodriguez is a different animal entirely, but I can’t leave him off this list.  Where he differs from the rest is that – as a player wearing a Mariners uniform – he was universally beloved.  A-Rod was on the fast track to being as beloved as Ken Griffey Jr.  And, had he taken less money to remain a Mariner (or, had the Mariners ponied up a proper offer, depending on which story you choose to believe), A-Rod would PROBABLY be #1 on the all-time favorite Seattle sports figure list.  Instead, the moment he signed that 10-year, $250 million deal and put on a Texas Rangers uniform, A-Rod was Public Enemy #1.

Not by me, mind you.  Even at the time, I didn’t understand the sentiment.  Who WOULDN’T take that deal?  It was the biggest deal in MLB history!  How can you fault a guy for accepting that deal when it’s universally known that the Mariners weren’t able to come CLOSE to matching?  On top of that, the deal essentially crippled the Rangers and it took him until 2009 to finally win a World Series.  He’s been a laughingstock everywhere he’s been, he doesn’t appear to know how to relate to people, he has an addiction to strip clubs and banging chicks with muscular, dude-like bodies, and – oh yeah – he’s a steroids cheat.  Even if you don’t think he would’ve helped us win a World Series in 2001-2003, don’t you think we kinda dodged a bullet by NOT having him embarrass us seemingly every year?

In recent years, there have been any number of hated Mariners, as this franchise has found new depths of ineptitude.  Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Erik Bedard, Brandon League, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brad Wilkerson, Eric Byrnes, Kenji Johjima, Casey Kotchman, Rob Johnson, Ian Snell, Jack Cust, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan … just to name a bunch.  As long as there are losing Mariners teams, there will always be people to hate.

I’m going to stop here and continue with the other teams another time.  This has been a lot more involved than I originally anticipated.

The Major Moves Of Jack Zduriencik

On October 22, 2008, Jack Zduriencik was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their General Manager.  Here are the major player personnel moves the Mariners have made in that time.

For the 2009 Season:

12/3/2008 – Signed Russell Branyan to 1-year contract
12/10/2008 – Traded J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and others for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp and others.
1/20/2009 – Traded for David Aardsma
1/29/2009 – Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
2/18/2009 – Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
7/29/2009 – Traded for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell

For the 2010 Season:

11/11/2009 – Re-Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
12/8/2009 – Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year contract
12/16/2009 – Traded for Cliff Lee
12/18/2009 – Traded Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley
12/23/2009 – Traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League
1/7/2010 – Traded for Casey Kotchman
1/21/2010 – Re-Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year extension
1/29/2010 – Signed Eric Byrnes to 1-year contract
2/6/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
2/12/2010 – Re-Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
6/27/2010 – Traded for Russell Branyan
7/9/2010 – Traded Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan & others

For the 2011 Season:

12/2/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
12/10/2010 – Signed Jack Cust to 1-year contract
12/12/2010 – Traded for Brendan Ryan
1/3/2011 – Signed Miguel Olivo to 2-year contract
1/10/2011 – Signed Adam Kennedy to 1-year contract
7/30/2011 – Traded Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, & others
7/31/2011 – Traded Erik Bedard & others for Trayvon Robinson & others

For the 2012 Season:

11/27/2011 – Traded Josh Lueke for John Jaso
12/8/2011 – Claimed Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 Draft
12/21/2011 – Signed Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year contract
12/30/2011 – Signed George Sherrill to 1-year contract
1/5/2012 – Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year contract
1/18/2012 – Signed Oliver Perez to 1-year contract
1/23/2012 – Traded Michael Pineda & Jose Campos for Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi
1/24/2012 – Signed Kevin Millwood to 1-year contract
7/31/2012 – Traded Steve Delabar for Eric Thames.  Traded Brandon League for others

For the 2013 Season:

11/2/2012 – Re-Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 2-3-year contract
11/3/2012 – Re-Signed Oliver Perez to a 1-year contract

These by no means comprise ALL of the moves, but if I tried to list ALL the moves I’d be here all fucking month.  These are the guys who, more or less, made some kind of an impact on the major league ballclub.  I left out anything related to the draft, because it’s not draft season and that’s not really the point of this post.

What has Jackie Z done to improve the Major League ballclub?

You can see on the timeline where it all went awry.  Just about all of his major moves before the 2009 season were solid gold!  And, of course, what happened in 2009?  The Mariners ended up with 85 wins and somehow found themselves contending to the last month (or so).  It was only natural to think, given a few tweaks here and there, the 2010 season could be pure magic.

So, what did Jackie Z do?  He brought out the whuppin’ stick.  Within a 10-day period, we had our first MAJOR major signing of the Jack Zduriencik era:  Chone Figgins, 4 years.  No one at the time thought that was a stupid idea.  Piggybacking on that, in the aforementioned 10-day period, we brought in Cliff Lee to have one of the better 1-2 punches of all baseball starting rotations; and THEN we traded the dead weight of Carlos Silva for a possible reclamation project in Milton Bradley!  Hell, a bag of turds would’ve been better than Carlos Silva, so either way, there’s no losing THAT deal, right?  To top off his offseson, Jackie Z traded for League (to bolster the back-end of our bullpen), Kotchman (to give us some defense and decent pop at first base), and re-signed Felix to a 5-year extension.

I mean, my GOD, if Jackie Z wanted me to suck his dick after that string of moves, I gladly would’ve closed my eyes and opened my mouth.  THIS is exactly what we’ve been missing out of our baseball GM all these years!  He was doing it, he was really doing it!  There could be no downside to these moves!

Except, Figgins turned to crap.  Kotchman continued being crap.  Bradley continued being crap.  Griffey fell off the map.  Cliff Lee was hurt for the first month of the season.  League was nothing special (and Morrow still might be for someone else).  Byrnes was a fucking disgrace to the game of baseball.  We eventually had to bring back Branyan in a mid-season trade (and even THAT couldn’t prevent our offense from being the worst in the modern era).  And, since we weren’t contending, there was no point in holding onto Cliff Lee; we traded him for what looks like utter shit and disappointment.

Every move for that 2010 season (save re-signing Felix) COMPLETELY backfired.  And yet, at the time, every move was completely defensible!  The only thing you could possibly argue is:  the Mariners didn’t go far ENOUGH.  Of course, that’s the story of this franchise (see:  1996-2003).

After that, the organization put a total and complete halt on trying to contend whatsoever.  Going into 2011, the Mariners signed two veterans at the minimum (Cust & Kennedy), traded for a defense-only shortstop (Ryan), and their only major signing was Olivo on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd (that has since been denied, because Olivo).  That was it!  Four guys!  One of which was released before season’s end!

2012 was no picnic either.  Three more veterans at the minimum (Millwood, Sherrill, Perez), a backup shortstop (Kawasaki) who was somehow worse at the plate than Ryan, a Japanese pitcher coming off a major shoulder injury (Iwakuma), a Rule 5 reliever (Luetge), a backup catcher who somehow turned into the cream of the crop (Jaso), and another backup catcher in trade (Montero) who will hopefully be a future designated hitter for years to come.

It’s been two straight years of sifting through a muddy river of shit hoping to find a few tiny flecks of gold.

Now, with enough money off the books, and with the fanbase completely up in arms over all the losing, the Mariners are ready to spend money and hopefully try to compete once again.

Which got me to thinking.  Well, this blog post by Geoff Baker got me to thinking.  The money quote:

Towards the end of the call, I asked Zduriencik about the Chone Figgins experience and whether it caused any hesitation for him going forward when it comes to this winter’s crop of free agents — especially when it comes to inking longer-term deals of more than three years. I wasn’t doing it to rub his face in the Figgins mess — which no one really could have seen imploding as badly as it did — but rather to gauge whether this current administration is prepared to go longer than three years on any deal this winter.

The two biggest free agent acquisitions of the Jack Zduriencik era (not counting Felix, since he was already under contract) before this offseason’s Iwakuma deal have been Chone Figgins (4 years, $36 million) and Miguel Olivo (2 years, $7 million).  That’s IT!  The rest of his moves have either been in trade or of the bottom-feeding veteran minimum variety.

Obviously, this has been by design.  The organization wanted to rid itself of burdensome contracts.  The organization wanted to let some of the young kids play, to see if a “youth movement” could jumpstart things.  But, also, the organization was patently unwilling to increase payroll for the types of free agents that were becoming available the last two offseasons.  Let’s call a spade a spade here; the Seattle Mariners were pushing the Reset Button on this whole thing and starting over from scratch.  I don’t mean that literally, of course; it’s not like they could just waive everyone they didn’t like and bring up all new guys.  But, essentially, the Reset Button is what they did.

Up until now, I would say that the Figgins contract had little to do with the Mariners’ overall plan (except, obviously, they needed to fill their third base position with a rookie).  I don’t think being gunshy about Figgins’ 4-year deal prevented the Mariners from signing other guys to long-term contracts.  I think it was all the reasons I stated above.  That having been said, though, if the Mariners don’t sign someone to a long-term contract THIS off-season … then I’d have to say the Figgins deal is weighing on them.

It would only be natural, after all.  I mean, who WOULDN’T be gunshy?!  From the day Jackie Z took this job, give me the names of the free agents who have worked out beyond even a decent first season?  Yeah, the answer you’re looking for is ZERO.  Hisashi Iwakuma would be the first, if he comes back in 2013 and does well (which is no guarantee, let me tell you).

So, yeah, they SHOULD be apprehensive!  They SHOULD do as much due diligence as humanly possible on this offseason’s free agent crop.  Because it’s fucking NASTY out there!  You’ve got lemons and land mines all OVER the place!

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings (Part 3)

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

Here we go with Part 3.  As far as Part 3’s go, this one is probably The Matrix Revolutions:  I bring up a couple of good points, but it’s mostly just filler and getting-it-over-with-already.

Since there were a bunch of moves left off of the first two installments, I still haven’t gotten around to the “Omissions” part yet.  Then again, there aren’t all that many supposed bad moves I’ve found defense-worthy yet.  Here we go.

October 16, 1984 – (Sonics) – 1986 1st Round Draft Pick to Boston Celtics for Gerald Henderson:  this pick ended up being the #2 overall, so that right there is pretty indefensible.  The fact that the #2 pick that year was Len Bias marginally softens the blow; of course, had he not overdosed, we might be talking about this as one of the worst Sonics moves of all time.  Still, it kept us from drafting at all in the first round that year, and Gerald Henderson really didn’t give us a whole lot (until we traded him to the Knicks for their 1st round pick in the 1987 draft; see below for repercussions of THAT move).

June 22, 1987 – (Sonics) – Scottie Pippen to Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice:  with the draft pick we received from the Knicks for Gerald Henderson, the Sonics drafted Scottie Pippen (5th overall).  On the same day, we traded Scottie Pippen to the Bulls for Olden Polynice; ouch.  On the one hand, this would open the door for Shawn Kemp to flourish when we picked him up in the draft two years later.  On the other hand, Scottie Pippen made the Bulls into a championship juggernaut (without Pippen, who’s to say Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been the LeBron James of his time?).  Besides that, what would our team have looked like with Payton, Kemp, and Pippen?  I’m thinking, it would’ve looked like an early 90s dynasty.

February 20, 1997 – (Mariners) – Dennis Martinez signs 1-year, $250,000 deal:  this isn’t a deal about the money.  It was simple common sense that eluded the Mariners.  El Presidente was 42 years old at the time of signing!  You’re telling me there was NOBODY else out there who could’ve signed for the minimum and given us better than a 1-5 record in 9 starts, with a 7.71 ERA?  No triple-A kid who could’ve done better?  I hated this deal at the time, because it was yet another representation of a stacked team not doing what it took to go the extra mile.  Martinez was cut on May 24th.

February 6, 1998 – (Mariners) – Bobby Ayala re-signs for 2-year, $3.3 million deal:  yes, Ayala managed a decent 1997 season; but the two years before that he was an absolute trainwreck!  And, in spite of his numbers, he was ALWAYS a blown save waiting to happen.  After an attrocious 1998 campaign, he was traded and never heard from again.

February 14, 1998 – (Mariners) – Bill Swift signs 1-year, $425,000 deal:  all you need to know is that we gave this assclown 26 starts in 1998.  26!  He boasted a 5.85 ERA and his services were not retained further.  One thing about Lou Piniella I’ll never understand:  his devotion to aging pitchers over giving a young guy a chance to prove himself.  I mean, you can only go to that 1995 well (with Belcher, Bosio, etc.) so many times!

November 13, 1998 – (Mariners) – Jose Mesa signs 2-year, $6.8 million deal:  he hadn’t been a closer since he fell apart in Cleveland a few years prior, but we said, “What the hell?” and brought him in for two years and handed him the 9th inning.  After a full season in the job, he was beaten out by Japanese rookie Kazuhiro Sasaki and that was the end of that experiment.  How he managed to play another seven years is truly a testament to the idiocy of Major League Baseball.

April 17, 1999 – (Seahawks) – Lamar King, 1st Round Draft Pick:  22nd overall.  This is the primary pick most people pointed to when they wanted to take the GM responsibilities away from Mike Holmgren.  It’s not just that Lamar King was terrible – 5 seasons, 12 sacks – it’s that there was so much TALENT after him!  We could’ve had Patrick Kerney BEFORE he was a washed up shell!  In keeping with the defensive end theme, Mike Rucker was picked early in the 2nd round; Aaron Smith was drafted in the 4th round!  But, instead, we had Lamar King.  This was NOT a case of giving a defensive end more time to mature; this was a case of a defensive end being a suck-ass.

April 15, 2000 – (Seahawks) – Chris McIntosh, 1st Round Draft Pick:  sometimes busts aren’t made out of stupidity (or Monday Morning Quarterbacking).  Sometimes guys who might’ve been great get injured early in their careers and never see the light of day (see:  Steve Emtman).  Nevertheless, McIntosh WAS a bust.  Had he made it, with Walter and Hutch, we might never have seen Sean Locklear in a Seahawks uniform.  Too bad.

September 20, 2000 – (Sonics) – Emanual Davis, Greg Foster, Horace Grant & Chuck Person to Los Angeles Lakers; Lazaro Borrell, Vernon Maxwell, Vladimir Stepania & Two 2001 2nd Round Draft Picks + One 2002 1st Round Draft Pick to New York Knicks for Patrick Ewing:  I originally wasn’t going to put this one in my list, but the haul of players we gave up is pretty extraordinary!  Ever wonder what Tayshaun Prince would’ve looked like in a Sonics uniform had we had our 2002 1st round pick?  I haven’t either, because I can’t get the sight of Patrick Ewing to leave my brain!  I don’t really remember the point of this trade (except, I guess, to clear a lot of crappy players off our roster and end the agony with Ewing’s final year on his deal), but I distinctly remember him starting most every game and giving us nothing in return.  And what did we do with all that money coming off the books?  Oh yeah, Calvin Booth.  Burning all this money would’ve been more satisfying to Sonics fans!

October 18, 2000 – (Mariners) – Damaso Marte granted Free Agency:  some bad moves aren’t moves that you make.  Sometimes, they’re the moves you don’t.  Not giving Marte a chance at our bullpen – again, in favor of aging veterans – was a brutal mistake.  He had PLENTY of good-to-great years ahead of him.  Too bad he was once a former Mariner.

December 21, 2000 – (Mariners) – Raul Ibanez granted Free Agency:  another one of these non-moves that bit us pretty hard.  Ibanez was just starting to come into his own!  He left for Kansas City for three quality seasons; meanwhile we had the likes of Al Martin in left field.  Pity.

June 27, 2001 – (Sonics) – Vladimir Radmanovic, 1st Round Draft Pick:  12th overall.  Could have had Richard Jefferson.  Could have went guard and picked up Tony Parker or Gilbert Arenas.  Instead, we had Radman, who did nothing with the Sonics.  He went on to win a bunch with the Lakers, but no one is calling Radman instrumental to their success.

January 30, 2002 – (Mariners) – James Baldwin signs 1-year, $1.25 million deal:  we brought in a guy who was never all that great and decided to make him an everyday starter with no contingency plan.  He started 23 games and had a 5.28 ERA.

June 26, 2003 – (Sonics) – Luke Ridnour, 1st Round Draft Pick:  if, in our 2001 draft, we went with Tony Parker, we would’ve already HAD our Point Guard of the Future.  Instead, we had no such guy and went after the Oregon grad and he STUNK.

January 20, 2004 – (Mariners) – Joel Pineiro re-signs for 3-year, $14.5 million deal:  these were some frustrating seasons for the Mariners.  Maybe not as frustrating as the mid-to-late 90s when we had all that offensive talent but little in the way of pitching; but pretty damned frustrating nonetheless.  We thought we had our rotation of the future shaping up with the likes of Pineiro and Gil Meche (and, to a lesser extent, Mr. 5-pitch Wonder himself Ryan Franklin).  All were draft picks, all were guys we furiously refused to trade away to other teams for more-productive players.  In fact, we went so far as to give Pineiro a 3-year deal instead of going to arbitration, after a studly 2003 season.  Pineiro promptly went on to get worse and worse every year after, until he was finally tossed from our rotation and ultimately not re-signed thereafter.  I shudder to think of what we could’ve hauled in if we would’ve sold high on the likes of Pineiro and Meche.  Instead, we ended up with a whole lotta nothin’.

April 24, 2004 – (Seahawks) – Marcus Tubbs, 1st Round Draft Pick:  23rd overall.  Unfortunately in this draft, we missed out on some better defensive tackles (including Vince Wilfork a mere two picks prior), but it was hard to argue with Tubbs’ selection with the 2005 season he gave us.  Knee injuries kept him off the field; potential recovery kept hope alive, but Tubbs never gave us much of anything after our Super Bowl run.

January 19, 2005 – (Mariners) – Aaron Sele signs 1-year, $700,000 deal:  until last night, I’d forgotten that we brought Sele back four seasons after he was remarkably productive for us in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  After his 3-years of futility in Anaheim, we took a flyer on him in 2005; but he was as done as done could be.  After 21 starts and a 6-12 record, he was waived on July 31st.  Fun fact:  Felix Hernandez was called up and took over his rotation slot on August 4th and never looked back.

June 28, 2005 – (Sonics) – Johan Petro, 1st Round Draft Pick:  28th overall.  The Frenchman was another in a long line of busted center prospects for the Sonics.  Not the first, not the last, but ultimately just as irrelevant.

March 5, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Shaun Alexander re-signs for 8-year, $62 million deal:  after an MVP season, we re-signed the 28 year old to a max deal.  Some might blame the loss of Steve Hutchinson; others will surely blame his foot injuries.  Either way, Alexander was never the same.  He played two more years in a Seahawks uniform, giving us production he’d normally churn out in a single season, and that was the end of that.  We ended up paying him more to NOT play for us.  The moral of the story:  don’t sign running backs to big deals when they’re approaching 30 years of age.

June 28, 2006 – (Sonics) – Mouhamed Sene, 1st Round Draft Pick:  10th overall.  This whole draft was pretty much a bust, aside from just a few players; but that doesn’t make the Sene pick any less difficult to swallow.  By this point, Sonics fans were fed up with the team picking up foreign prospects with little in the way of actual basketball skills.  Sene was the end of the road for Sonics going after non-sensical big men; a run that went back as far as I can remember.

July 13, 2007 – (Mariners) – Ichiro re-signs for 5-year, $90 million deal:  I can’t imagine another Major League Baseball team giving a leadoff hitter who does nothing but slap singles and steal bases this kind of money, but honestly, what were the Mariners supposed to do?  At this point, Ichiro was the only bona fide superstar the team had seen since A-Rod left; he was the face of the franchise and our only true All Star.  The PR hit the team would’ve taken would’ve been a nightmare.  Nevertheless, his contract has crippled this organization in subsequent years.  Nearly $18 million in cap space per season for a singles hitter … yowza.

October 30, 2007 – (Mariners) – Jose Guillen granted Free Agency:  this isn’t the kind of move you have to kill in hindsight; most fans and pundits agreed that losing Jose Guillen almost single-handedly ushered in our 2008 disaster.  Maybe a 2-year deal for Guillen would’ve been a year too much, but you can’t argue that even his lackluster numbers in ’08 were better than Jose Vidro’s.

March 4, 2008 – (Seahawks) – T.J. Duckett signs 5-year, $14 million deal:  once it was apparent that Shaun Alexander’s best days were behind him, Tim Ruskell went on the offensive the only way he knew how:  bring in past-their-prime veterans to pick up the slack.  I’m certain Duckett never saw the majority of that money, but still.  What was he thinking with a 5-year deal?  He had 8 goal line touchdowns in 2008, then was released.

March 7, 2008 – (Seahawks) – Julius Jones signs 4-year, $11.8 million deal:  Julius Jones is 4 years younger than Shaun Alexander, but his skills had already deteriorated to the same point.  Jones was a castoff from Dallas – who quickly learned that he would never be a productive every-down back – and we lapped him up as a quick fix.  Jones gave us 2 years and 2 games and never had more than 700 yards in a single season.  Probably would’ve been smarter to just draft ANY running back and pay him a rookie’s salary, but “smarter” was never really Tim Ruskell’s forte.

April 25, 2008 – (Mariners) – Kenji Johjima re-signs for 3-year, $24 million deal:  the Mariners went back to the Japanese well one more time and struck a modest amount of gold.  Johjima was as productive as you could hope in his first two seasons, but it was odd that they’d re-sign him to a contract extension so early on in the 2008 season.  Most believe it was a call from the owners, but whoever’s to blame, it doesn’t change the fact that Johjima took a huge nosedive in 2008.  He was eventually supplanted as the starting catcher by Rob Johnson (mostly because pitchers hated pitching to Johjima, but also because his bat disappeared), and that’s all you need to know about where he was at the end.  The only good thing to come out of this contract was that Johjima asked for his release after the 2009 season, saving the team a solid $16 million.

November 11, 2009 – (Mariners) – Ken Griffey Jr. re-signs for 1-year, $2.35 million deal:  after the miraculous 2009 season – where we came out of nowhere to post a winning record amid tidings of joy and hugs of glee – it was a no-brainer to bring Griffey back for the 2010 season.  Yes, the .214 batting average was a concern.  But they drained fluid from his knees (maybe another red flag, perhaps?) and Griffey hit the treadmill a little bit in his offseason.  SURELY he could get the batting average up to … what?  .225?  .230?  And those 19 home runs he hit in 2009; SURELY he could keep up that production inside the confines of the House That Griffey Built!  Except, no.  He played in 33 games, had 2 extra base hits (0 homers), allegedly fell asleep during a game, and abruptly retired in early June.  Everything could’ve been so much more magical had he just retired after 2009 … he could’ve ridden off into the sunset like a conquering hero.

December 8, 2009 – (Mariners) – Chone Figgins signs 4-year, $36 million deal:  it’s getting harder and harder to ignore this deal.  Until Figgins proves otherwise (at which hypothetical point, I’ll retract this statement and take him off the list), here he stays.  This is the first real Bavasi-esque misstep from Jackie Z.  Only, instead of being seduced by the long ball of an aging veteran, Z was seduced by a high batting average, higher on-base percentage, and a tremendous base-running threat.  Except, one problem:  Figgins was a little over a month away from turning 32 years old BEFORE he signed the contract.  His 2010 season was half-unmitigated disaster, half-just okay.  His 2011 season, two months in, has been dramatically worse.  Not only does he have to finish this season – while making $9 million – but he has to go two more (making a combined $18 million).  We can’t trade him, we can’t cut him, we can’t NOT play him – just in case he DOES turn it around and we can trade him later – we’re just stuck.  Like we were with Sexson and Silva and so many others.

January 29, 2010 – (Mariners) – Eric Byrnes signs 1-year, $400,000 deal:  he was waived by the Diamondbacks (who had to pay the rest of his $11 million contract) and he figured out a way to make it onto our team in 2010.  The money isn’t an issue.  What’s unforgivable is the April 30th contest (and Cliff Lee’s first start).  He was SUPPOSED to suicide squeeze the ball with our runner going from third base; instead he pulled the bat back in what has to be the most moronic baseball play I’ve ever seen.  That led to us losing in extra innings and me forever hating Eric Byrnes.  He was released 3 days later.

Managers Serve A Purpose … Sometimes

Most of the time, managers of baseball teams don’t really have a whole lot to do.  You write out the day’s lineup – which is usually the same every day – you let the pitcher pitch, and you take the pitcher out when you feel that he’s done.  Aside from that and the occasional team meeting whenever you’ve fallen on hard times, I don’t really see the baseball manager doing a whole lot.

Until, that is, you get into games like we had here last night.  That’s when you get down to the REAL baseball decisions.  Like Pinch Runners, Pinch Hitters, matching up your bullpen to the other team’s batters, hits & runs.  We had it all yesterday!  And I’m going to highlight just a few that made all the difference for the Mariners in their comeback win last night.

The first one’s probably the simplest move of them all, but it’s the move most managers hate to do:  pinch hit for the catcher (because, you know, you’re screwed if your second catcher gets injured and it goes to extra innings).  In the 8th inning, Chris Gimenez was due up with two runners on.  Thanks to our 6-man bullpen, we now have an amazing number of bench players ready to be thrown in at a moment’s notice.  So, enter Adam Kennedy, who is quickly endearing himself to this Mariners fanbase as the anti-Eric Byrnes.  You know, a guy who tries just as hard, but actually manages to SUCCEED once in a while.  Anyway, Adam Kennedy singled to bring the game back to 7-5; we would go on to make it 7-6 before the eighth inning was over.

The second move by Wedge was a little more radical.  In the top of the 9th, still down a run, Justin Smoak led off the inning with a single.  Now, this isn’t the first time he’s pinch ran for Smoak, but it’s always playing with fire because if you succeed and tie the game, and it goes into extras (as it did yesterday), then you’ve just taken out your best hitter.  And, for this team, that means your only legitimate threat to end the game with one swing of the bat.  It’s risky.  Fortunately, Michael Saunders was able to swipe the biggest base of his life, and with two outs, Carlos Peguero – THE ROOKIE SENSATION – knocked him in to tie the game.

Those were two moves that paid off bigtime.  Those were two moves, also, that are pretty much no-lose moves.  Nobody’s going to second guess pinch hitting for Gimenez or pinch running for Smoak.  You’re playing the odds, and in this instance the odds paid off.

The final move was NOT made by Eric Wedge, but by Ron Gardenhire of the Twins.  This one had me shaking my head, but I wasn’t going to protest.  He made a dumb move, plain and simple.  And it cost him the game.

In the top of the 10th inning, Jack Wilson led off with a single.  After flailing miserably at two bunt attempts, Miguel Olivo roped a single into centerfield to put runners on first & second.  Ichiro, bunt master that he is, sacrificed them over to second & third.  With Chone Figgins entering the batter’s box, Ron Gardenhire had a decision to make.  By intentionally walking Figgins, Gardenhire made the WRONG decision.

It’s like he’s never heard of the Mariners offense before!  Has he NOT seen Figgins at the plate the last season and a third?  Figgins is pretty worthless.  The odds of Figgins hitting it out of the infield was practically zero.  Yes, by putting him on you’re setting up the double play, but you’re not taking into account the fact that Luis Rodriguez has done nothing the past two years but lift fly balls to the outfield.

Which is what he did last night, sacrificing in the game winning run.  Just stupid.  I was convinced Figgins would roll one over to the second baseman.

Now THAT is the type of move everyone can second guess!  I hope the Minnesota media gave Gardenhire the business for that one.

Helluva game, though.  The Mariners had a 4-1 lead – including Jack Cust’s first ever Mariners home run in the first inning – then the Twins roared back to make it 7-4 (thanks to Jim Thome’s two rockets), and finally the Mariners got to their bullpen for the win.  Meanwhile, Jason Vargas did indeed break the streak of starters going 7+ innings and giving up 2 or less runs.  Walks & homers, what did I tell you yesterday?  He walked 4 guys, gave up 2 bombs, and left before the end of the 5th inning having given up 5 earned runs.

The streak of wins continues, though.  Let’s see some more of that good stuff.

Jack Wilson, Former Second Baseman

Add this to the list of shit you can ONLY find in a franchise with its head up its ass.

I can’t remember all the crazy shit I’ve NEVER heard of happening before on a baseball team that happened last year.

Milton Bradley losing his shit, walking out of the clubhouse after getting taken out of a game, then promptly asking for psychiatric help that put him on a “restricted list” for a few weeks to get his head right.

Eric Byrnes simply destroying what should have been a relatively routine sacrifice bunt to lose us Cliff Lee’s first start in a 10-inning game, then before he could be questioned by the media, he rides his bicycle out of the clubhouse.

Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune publishes a story where a couple of unnamed teammates accused Ken Griffey Jr. of sleeping in the clubhouse during a game (and being so groggy that he was unable to pinch hit for Rob Johnson), which leads to Griffey and manager Don Wakamatsu not speaking for a month, Griffey being benched for Mike Sweeney, and (my favorite), Mike Sweeney challenging the unnamed teammates to step forward so he can fist-fight them in order to defend Griffey’s honor.

A few games (or maybe just a single game) after Jose Lopez makes a baffling base-running mistake, Chone Figgins does something else almost as brainless and instead of punishing both equally, Wak opts to take Figgins out of the game.  This leads to a physical altercation between Figgins and Wak (in the dugout, during the game) that ultimately leads to the MANAGER being fired.

I might be missing a few other oddities, but go ahead and throw this week’s freakshow onto the pile.

In Felix’s last start, there were two errors in the bottom of the second inning.  They were back-to-back, and they were both made by Jack Wilson at second base.  Either one could’ve prevented what ended up being the losing runs from scoring (had he been able to turn a simple double play, that is to say), but in combination, they added up to yet another loss for Felix.

By the time the bottom of the third inning came around, we found that Jack Wilson was no longer in at second.  At the time, I thought it MIGHT have been possible he was out for an injury – he was taken out a little hard at the bag as he tried to turn and throw to first base on the second of the two errors – but more likely he was pulled and the EXCUSE would have been that he was a little banged up on that play.

In a surprising revelation later that afternoon, it was pointed out by manager Eric Wedge that Jack was feeling a little “hazy” and was pulled for, I dunno, safety precautions?  DID he get hit in the head?  Didn’t look like it to me, but what do I know.

Later, Jack pointed out that he wasn’t feeling hazy at all, that he was just pulled from the game by the manager for the errors (to which he added that he didn’t blame Wedge, as he was doing nothing to help the team with his play).

Well, it turns out as of yesterday that Jack Wilson wasn’t pulled at all.  He ASKED to be taken out of the game, and Wedge was just trying to cover for his player.  Because teammates (or, really, anyone who’s played the game) will lose respect for a player who ASKS to be taken out, especially if he’s not totally crippled by injury.

This leads us to yesterday’s game, when Adam Kennedy was starting in place of Wilson.  Now, had none of these events of the past few days transpired, I would’ve chocked that up to Kennedy being left handed and Cleveland’s pitcher being right handed.  But now, it’s pretty clear:  Jack Wilson has played his last game as a Mariner.

Honestly, I think that’s a damn shame.  I’ve always kinda enjoyed the guy since we traded for him.  Great defender, if a little lot injury-prone, makes good contact with the bat, AND he’s literally in the best shape he’s been in since he was first breaking out in baseball thanks to losing a bunch of weight and strengthening his legs.  He’s been stealing bases, being productive at the plate, and in his penultimate game he turned what has to be the most impressive 4-3 double play I’ve ever seen.

But, there’s no excuse for taking yourself out of a game.  You’re a professional baseball player.  Yes, you had a terrible half-inning where you blew two plays that could’ve saved some runs.  You know what, it happens!  We didn’t see Kevin Kouzmanoff ask to be sat down when we played Oakland in the first series!  Jack Wilson isn’t the first guy to have a couple errors in an inning.

Of course, the difference there is that Kouzmanoff was playing his natural position and (supposedly) has a track record of successful third base defense.  Jack Wilson has been playing second base for all of a few weeks.  If you don’t have that comfort level in your position, I suppose I could see one’s confidence spiraling out of control.

I dunno.  All I know is that Wilson’s in the wrong here and I think it’s ultimately going to cost this team big.  They can’t put him back out there!  And who’s going to trade for the guy?  If they did, we certainly would be the ones unloading a problem and wouldn’t get a damn thing in return!  It looks like we’re either going to get a steady diet of Adam Kennedy, or a strict righty/lefty platoon.  Either way, I think I like Wilson’s bat and hustle more.

Jesus.  How much more crazy shit can happen to this team?  At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Mariners involved in some sort of human trafficking sex scandal!

Seattle Mariners 2011 Preview, Part 2: The Hitters

It’s a preview, so I could easily bang this post out in my sleep (the only real requirement involves Being Totally & Completely Wrong).  But, I read this little number from Larry Stone yesterday, and I couldn’t resist playing Copycat.  For the record, Stone is MUCH more forgiving than I am (one would think it’d be the opposite, with the fan (me) figuring out ways as to how this squad will be a MILLION times better than last year’s, but I digress).

Let’s start with the Catcher position:

Olivo/Moore vs. Moore/Bard/Rob Johnson.  This looks to be no contest in favor of 2011’s tandem.  Rob Johnson was a waste of fucking life, Bard is no better than any other aging career backup (a.k.a. Rob Johnson in five years), and Moore briefly started to get things going, then he got hurt and never recovered.  Olivo looks to be better than all of them combined, but then again what is that really saying about our 2010 catchers?  At best, he’s top 2 in team OPS (again, what is THAT really saying about our team as a whole?); at worst he’s a Jose Lopez-like drain smack dab in the middle of the order.  The horror.

Nevertheless, give the nod to 2011.  I may have complained about the signing when it happened, but he’s going to be a crucial part of our success (or failure) this season, so I better get used to Miguel Olivo.

First base:

Smoak vs. Kotchman/Smoak.  Stone gave the edge here to 2011, but I’m holding the damn phone.  While I will TOTALLY grant you that this position couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse (unless it were the DH position of a year ago), I’m still not so sold on Smoak.  He’s going to have to prove it to me.  Because if he comes out struggling (for whatever excuse you want to give:  pressing too much, trying too hard, wanting to do too much, not staying within himself), he’s likely going to be benched and probably even sent down to Tacoma to “work on his swing”, whatever that means.  Struggling begets struggling in this game, and if struggling leads to Smoak turning into Adam Kennedy, we’re going to WISH we still had Casey Kotchman to kick around.

Ergo, I’m saying this is Even and giving the edge to no one until Justin Smoak shows me otherwise.

Second Base:

Jack Wilson/Dustin Ackley vs. Figgins.  Stone gave the edge to 2010, mostly based upon a marginally torrid second half out of Figgy.  When “.286 after the All Star Break” is the barometer you’ve set for success, you know you’re gonna have a bad time.  Personally, I like Jack Wilson.  Yes he gets a bad rap for always getting injured (probably because he’s always getting injured), but when he’s healthy I think he’s quite effective!  I mean, he’s no Luis Sojo, but the guy has been known to get hot at the plate every once in a while.  Of course, he’s also been known to get equally as cold, but that’s neither here nor there.  I like Jack’s bat a helluva lot more than I like Josh Wilson’s, and I might even like it even more than Brendan Ryan’s.  As for Ackley, I think it’s a foregone conclusion he takes over second base for good, once the Mariners are officially 20 games out of first place (a.k.a. sometime in Early June).  But, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sold on Ackley The Rookie coming in and dominating.  You know how I feel about rookies.  Yes, I think they should get the most playing time on bad teams to show what they can do, but no, I don’t think they should be counted on to produce like All Stars.

I’m calling this one Even as well.  I think Jack Wilson’s first half will be close to equal to Figgins’ second half last year; and I think Ackley’s second half will be close to equal to Figgins’ first half last year.

Short Stop:

Brendan Ryan vs. Wilson/Wilson.  I was going to make this a trifecta of Infield Evens, but I think Stone convinced me to give the edge to 2011.  Look, Josh Wilson’s a likeable guy, and he filled in admirably last year (especially on the defensive side of things; we never missed a beat with the glovework between the two Wilsons), but he’s more Mascot or Team Pet than he is a Major League ballplayer.  Brendan Ryan is a Major League ballplayer.  No, I don’t expect him to set Safeco Field’s fences on fire with all his doubles power, but he’s got to be worth more than an injury-plagued Wilson and a singles-slapping Wilson.

Advantage 2011, but just BARELY.

Third Base:

Figgins vs. Lopez.  The theme of 2011, what everyone is banking on is:  It Can’t Get Any Worse.  So many players last year were at their absolute worst, including Bradley, Lopez, Kotchman, Griffey, and yes, Figgins.  Most of those players are no longer with the team; ALL of those players were priced to move for any trusting club to take off of our hands.  BUT, Figgins remains.  And I’ll go ahead and bite:  Figgins COULDN’T POSSIBLY be any worse than he was in 2010.  Unless you think his career is over, and I don’t.  NOT because of his “hot” second half last year, but because he’s had these anomaly-type seasons before and has always bounced back.  I’ll even go so far as to believe the switch back to third base will be beneficial.  But, there’s no way he’s done.  I’m going to leave it in the hands of Faith on this one.

Lopez, meanwhile, is done.  Just ask the Colorado Rockies.  Advantage 2011.

Left Field:

Bradley/Saunders vs. Bradley/Saunders.  I’m tweaking this from Stone’s version, as I believe Saunders will eventually stick in Left Field.  Something tells me he’s going to turn it on this year at the plate.  I do agree with Stone that (like third base), we couldn’t possibly do any worse, but there’s no way Bradley survives a full season of playing in the field.  SOMEONE else will force a platoon, and why not Saunders?  In 2010, he finally showed a little of that power he’s always had; now, if he can just manage to get a hit in better than 1/5 of his at bats, we just might have something here.

To 2011!  To Michael Saunders realizing his full potential (finally)!

Center Field:

Guti vs. Guti.  Stone has the edge to 2010 based solely on the fact that we don’t know what’s wrong with Guti’s stomach and we don’t know how long it’s going to keep him out.  I agree wholeheartedly that this is of utmost concern – in fact, it might be the biggest story of the season that no one is really talking about.  What if they NEVER find out what’s wrong with Guti?  What if he tries to eventually play through the pain only to struggle like he did last year?  Guti is a core guy!  He’s a building block to what’s supposed to be a winning ball club (in a few years)!  We NEED this guy!

I’m calling this a Draw based on the simple fact that I’m going to be optimistic in this one instance.  Guti started strong, then faded badly in 2010; I’m banking on the reverse this year.

Right Field:

Ichiro vs. Ichiro.  How could this NOT be even.  Stone and I are of the same mind here.  Give the man 200 hits and a Gold Glove and GET THE HELL OUT OF HIS WAY!

Designated Hitter:

Cust vs. Branyan/Griffey/Sweeney.  Stone likes Cust.  I like EVEN!  Essentially, Cust IS Branyan, except without the pure power.  I believe if you took 2010 Branyan, played him all year at DH with the 2010 Mariners, they would have almost identical lines except Branyan would have a few more homers than 2011 Cust.  Yes, Griffey was complete and total dead weight, but don’t forget Sweeney was a man possessed when he finally got the nod (and before he went down with back spasms).  Sweeney, in his month of terror, was better than every hitter except for Ichiro last year.  Man, I miss Sweeney.  I miss the hugs!

I like Cust, but I don’t like him THAT much.  And I think his strikeouts will start to outweigh his power and his walks over the course of a full season.  Even Steven.

Overall, my impressions aren’t great, but they’re equal to or better than 2010 across the board.  Mostly going on faith in this one.  I’m going to trust Olivo has enough pop to make up for what Lopez was SUPPOSED to give us last year.  I’m going to assume Figgins will return to glory and Bradley will … not fall below the Mendoza Line once and for all.  I’m going to go out on a limb and hope for progress out of Smoak and Saunders, and I’m going to pray to the Pepto gods that Guti gets over whatever it is he’s got.  I’m going to perish the thought of Ichiro finally starting to show his age, and finally I’m going to not expect too much out of our middle infielders (and accordingly be pleasantly surprised).

Do I think we will be better?  Compared to what?  The sheer abomination that was 2010?  We were LITERALLY the worst hitting ballclub in the modern era!  How could we NOT be better?

Well, let’s see.  Maybe Ichiro’s bat speed takes a dive and he hits .240.  Suddenly, he’s not legging out those infield singles anymore and what little power he had completely vanishes.  Smoak and Saunders continue to struggle, putting them mere steps away from being out of baseball.  Miguel Olivo is our home run leader with 16.  Jack Cust turns into Richie Sexson-heavy.  Jack Wilson gets injured in May and Adam Kennedy is Eric Byrnes Redux.  Brendan Ryan remains Brendan Ryan; Milton Bradley remains Milton Bradley.  Chone Figgins discovers he’s got the full blown Mariners Curse.  Franklin Gutierrez never fully recovers from his stomach ailment.  And with a rash of constant injuries beleaguering our lineup from top to bottom, we’re forced to play a bunch of AAA guys who seriously are NOT ready for Prime Time.

I guess that’s how we could be worse.  Dear God I hope we’re not worse.

And I don’t REALLY think we will be.  But, that doesn’t mean I believe we’ll be all that much better.  I wish I knew what amount of wins it would take to guarantee that Jackie Z keeps his job, because I want to see what he can do next winter when he’s actually got some money to throw around.  Does it even matter?  Is 70 the magic number?  Is it 75?  Or is it simply NOT losing another 100 games while showing marginal improvement from the guys who are believed to be the Future of the Franchise?

I hope it’s that.  Because I think that’s something we can actually accomplish.  There’s a lot to like with what Z is doing for our farm system.  We’ve improved tremendously since he got here AND we have the Number 2 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.  That’s another rising star not long for the minors.

I’m getting off topic here.  Do I think we’re better?  Yes, but not by much.  The outfield is exactly the same as last year.  Exactly.  The infield is basically the same as it was for the second half of last year, just shuffled around a bit.  Brendan Ryan is pretty much the same type of power threat as Jose Lopez was in his underperforming last season.  Cust is Branyan, meaning our only real improvement is Olivo over Rob Johnson/Josh Bard.  We’re 1 man better (with a lot of hoping and praying that everyone else who did poorly last year improves).  That should amount to more overall wins, but not many.

Record Prediction:  65-97.  AL West Finish:  4th Place.  Draft Pick in 2012:  4.

Predicting The Mariners 2011 Roster

I am well aware that we’re in the infancy of Spring Training, but what else are we going to do for the next few weeks but speculate, speculate, speculate?

Therefore, without further adieu, I give you what I think will be YOUR Seattle Mariners in 2011 (at least, before injuries, cuts, trades, surprise retirements, and jail time set in).

We’ll start with the Starters:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Erik Bedard
  3. Jason Vargas
  4. Doug Fister
  5. Nate Robertson

First thing’s first:  that fifth starter is easily the weakest position on the team; you better come out of the block on fire if you hope to keep your job after the first couple months.  Because we have hot shot Michael Pineda – who SHOULD be the unquestioned fifth starter, but won’t be because if we start him out in AAA, his years don’t start counting against the organization (in other words, if he started out the season with the big ballclub, he would be a free agent a year sooner, after team control finally ends).

Also, nobody is saying Nate Robertson has anything won; he’s on a minor league contract after all.  There will be a 3-way battle (sans Pineda) between him, Luke French, and David Pauley.  First place gets to rent the fifth starter job, second place gets to be our bullpen long man (and pitch every 11 days or so), and third place gets to go to Tacoma.  And, since Pauley and French are already on the active roster, Robertson will have to heavily impress in Spring Training to be retained for the season.

On to the bullpen (with one minor note that David Aardsma WILL be our closer, but since he just had hip surgery, he might miss the first full month of the season; for the sake of argument, I’m including him in the following projection):

  • Closer:  David Aardsma
  • 8th Inning:  Brandon League
  • 7th Inning:  Chris Ray
  • Set Up:  Josh Lueke
  • Set Up:  Dan Cortes
  • Set Up:  Josh Flores
  • Long Reliever:  Luke French

My guess is, with French’s stability towards the end of last season, his hard work carries over to this Spring where he wins the backup job.  He’s also a left hander, so that will be cool.  Josh Flores is a Rule 5 guy Jackie Z decided to give a shot.  He played last year in A-ball, but he has high upside, so I think we’ll do everything in our power to keep him.  Lueke and Flores are both young up-and-comers who SHOULD win spots (one or both could run into the same Michael Pineda scenario where we try to delay their debuts with the big ballclub; if one has to start in Tacoma, I’d bet on Lueke, since Flores got to see some time with Seattle in September of last year).  Chris Ray is one of a thousand relievers we signed to minor league deals, and his is one of the biggest names (he was an effective closer in recent years, coming off injuries).  The other is Manny Delcarmen, and I have to believe one of those guys is done (my bet is Delcarmen, though he may have the better fastball).  League will probably be our closer until DA returns (with probably Jamey Wright taking up DA’s spot in said meantime).

Like last year, there’s a lot to like about our pitching staff.  Of course, it’s impossible to predict who’s going to tank out of nowhere like RRS did last year, but if things hold serve, having Felix, Bedard, and Vargas as our top three will be pretty impressive.  If anyone regresses, it’ll definitely be Fister, who was unable to keep up his pre-DL production post-DL last year.  He just doesn’t have the fastball, and if he’s not hitting spots with pinpoint precision, then he’s getting crushed and will likely be demoted once Pineda’s ready.  Speaking of Pineda:  when he enters the rotation and we can pump out Felix, Bedard, Vargas, and Pineda … WATCH OUT.  A lot to like about those four guys.

The bullpen is even fascinating in its own right.  Will DA return with a vengeance?  Will League improve upon his up-and-down 2010, where at times he was unhittable and at others he was my worst nightmare?  Will Ray or Delcarmen return to being awesome?  Will Lueke and Cortes make impact names for themselves?

I don’t have nearly the glowing praise of the following hitters, but let’s take a look at the starting nine:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Chone Figgins – 3B
  3. Justin Smoak – 1B
  4. Jack Cust – DH
  5. Franklin Gutierrez – CF
  6. Miguel Olivo – C
  7. Michael Saunders
  8. Jack Wilson – SS
  9. Brendan Ryan – 2B

Limited power!  A lot of strikeouts!  Low batting averages!  Who could want anything more?

A key, as always, will be the 3-4-5 hitters.  Will Smoak take the next step in becoming a bonafide major leaguer?  Will Jack Cust be the designated hitter we’ve been lacking since 2004?  Will Franklin Gutierrez adjust to how pitchers have adjusted to him?  All three of these things need to happen for us to be an adequate ballclub; my guess is we see a lot of shuffling of the 3-4-5 spots like last year.

I see Miguel Olivo batting 6th primarily because he’s probably our 3rd best home run threat after Cust and Gutierrez.  He might even be our 2nd best home run threat.  Go ahead and let that sink in.  I’ll wait.

If you haven’t already taken an overdose of sleeping pills, imagine the black hole our last three spots will be (don’t get up, I’ll go get the bottle).  Ye gods; I have nothing positive to say about any of those guys so I won’t say anything at all.

Our bench is looking like this:

  • Milton Bradley – LF/DH
  • Adam Moore – C
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Ryan Langerhans

My guess is Bradley – because of his contract – and Moore – because we have to develop SOMEBODY at catcher after spending so many high draft picks on them – are locks to make the team.  Adam Kennedy is in a dogfight with Josh Wilson and a bevy of other crappy infielders for that bench spot.  My guess is his old batting form returns enough in Spring Training to earn him a job, only to suck balls once the calendar flips to April (a la Eric Byrnes last year).  Ryan Langerhans is in a similar dogfight with such exciting names as Gabe Gross and Jody Gerut for the backup outfielder spot.  I think he’ll pull it out because … I dunno, I just like him I guess.  And because his last name reminds me of Jagerbombs.

Of note is Dustin Ackley, who will also be a Michael Pineda-esque casualty (only to be brought up mid-season like the other young’uns).  On the one hand, I understand the financial aspect of getting these potential rising stars for an extra year; on the other, this team is HELLA-boring when the kids are in AAA.  Assuming, of course, that we lose upwards of 60% of our games again.  Which likely WILL happen.

So, that’s that; we’ll see how right I am.  By the way, I’m still not ready for baseball to start.  Maybe a little Spring Training buzz will light my fire.

How Did I Get Into This Bloody Great Big Nutshell: 2010 Mariners

You knew it was coming.  The season has to be analyzed, if even for a little bit!

To boil it all down, here’s all you need to know about the 2010 Seattle Mariners:  3.167.  That would be the number of runs scored per game, on average, over the course of the entire season.  If you want to expound on that, we scored 513 runs.  And if you must know, that’s one of the worst seasons for an offense in the history of baseball.

But, keep that 3.167 number in mind.  We’ll round to 3 just to make it easier.  3 runs.  It’s important in figuring out this season.

The Mariners were shut out 15 times in 2010.  I know it feels like a lot more, but that’s it.  15.

The Mariners scored 2 runs or less 72 times.  Out of 162 games.  Which means nearly half the time, the Mariners couldn’t even muster the requisite 3 that their offense averaged out to over the full season!

And to put it all together, the Mariners scored 3 runs or less 103 times out of a possible 162 games.  64% of games.

On the flipside, look, here’s the Earned Run Average for the Seattle Mariners:  3.93.  So, on average, over the course of the season, the Mariners gave up 4 runs per game.  And in 64% of games, the Mariners scored 3 runs or less.  And oh by the way:  the Mariners lost 62% of their games in compiling a 61-101 record.  Coincidence?  Sure, but not by much.

You’re not going to sit there and give the pitchers any of the blame though.  They had 90 quality starts out of 162.  In over half of the Seattle Mariners games in 2010, you were guaranteed to see a starter go at least 6 innings and give up 3 runs or less.  So, that’s pretty crazy.

You can look at it another way.  When the Mariners scored 4 runs or more (which happened only 59 times, I might add), the Mariners were 39-20, for a 66% winning percentage.  The fact that the Mariners were able to win as many as 22 of their remaining games when the offense was generating only 3 runs or less is a HUGE testament to the pitching staff.

I’ll be getting into more individual performances another time (for instance, Ichi and Guti both won Gold Gloves; Ichi also won a Fielding Bible; and the Cy Young should be determined anytime now), but I thought I’d break the team down by month to close.

In April, the Mariners were 11-12.  This was one of their better months.  In April, the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less only 12 of 23 times.

In May, the Mariners were 8-19.  This was one of their worse months.  Yet, in May the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less only 14 of 27 times.

In June, the Mariners were 14-13.  This was their best month.  And yet, in June the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less 17 of 27 times.  That’s some crazy pitching.

In July, the Mariners were 6-22.  This was by far their worst month.  And, in July the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less 19 of 28 times.

In August, the Mariners were 13-14.  Again, one of their better months.  In August, the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less 18 of 27 times.

Finally, in September/October, the Mariners were 9-21.  One of their not-so-good months.  And in September/October, the Mariners were held to 3 runs or less 23 of 30 times.

What does this say?  To me, it says the offense got worse in the second half, if that could even be possible.  25 games out of 85 they managed 4 or more runs.  This in spite of bringing back Russell The Muscle, in spite of losing Griffey and Byrnes and demoting Rob Johnson.  This in spite of giving players a chance to get back to their mean after a putrid first half.  And yet, they still failed.

What does this say?  This says that we gave a lot of young kids more of an everyday chance in the second half, and they did not come through.

This says to me, watch out!  Because in 2011 we’re going Full Rebuild.  The second half of 2010 could be the least of our agita.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 37

Well I don’t know WHAT to say. Except I DO know what to say and it’s: I fucking told you so! Mike Sweeney, give the man some A-motherfuckin’-B’s and see what the motherfuck he can do! So, what did he do? How about 4-5 with TWO home runs and SIX runs batted in en route to a 15-8 win over the Padres (exsqueeze me? baking powder?). Yes, the Mariners truly lubed up their batting hands and had me coming all night long with that onslaught we will most likely never see again this season. In a game where Cliff Lee looked pretty average in just throwing anything that would get him into the 7th inning, where all the position players except for Lopez got at least 1 hit, where Bradley continued his Post-Rehab recovery with 3 hits, and where Josh Bard became our new starting catcher because he actually flashed some semblance of a pulse with a home run and a double. If last night happened 3 weeks ago in Cliff Lee’s first start (the one we blew in Extra Innings because Eric Byrnes is a choad), I’m convinced we wouldn’t have fallen in that bleak and irreversable tailspin we’ve been in SINCE that night 3 weeks ago. Call it a breath of fresh air, call it the lineup taking out their frustrations on the Padres, call it a load off of everyone’s minds, just cross your fingers and hope that we take this with us through the rest of the season. I don’t want to give up the ghost in May, I really don’t.