The Mariners Have The Biggest Divisional Lead In Baseball Right Now

Gotta get this post up before the inevitable crash!

After a 6-1 homestand – including a 3-game sweep of the Texas Rangers over the weekend – the Mariners now lead the A.L. West by 8.5 games. I think I read somewhere that this is the biggest divisional lead we’ve had since 2001, which was – of course – the last time we actually won the division. We are a whopping 17-5 against our division, including 4-2 against the Astros and 5-1 against the defending World Series champion Rangers.

For as bad as the actual start to this season was – 6-10 through April 14th – this is about as good of an outcome as you could hope for through June 16th. Not for nothing, but the Mariners are 37-21 since that nadir. Not too damn shabby.

At some point, we have to accept that this is who the Mariners are. They’re good. They’re not great. They obviously have some significant holes. An unluckier team might be down around .500, as opposed to 12 games over .500. But, this team isn’t going anywhere. Not without a significant amount of pitching injuries.

If this is what the Mariners are doing AS IS, that brings a couple questions to mind. #1 – what happens when certain players meet their inevitable positive regression? I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mitch Garver isn’t a .173 hitter all of a sudden. I’m also going to say that Jorge Polanco – when he comes back – will probably be better than .195. Now, I don’t know if those guys are going to be leaps & bounds better than what they’ve shown; I also don’t know if they’re going to continue to be around and given the playing time sufficient to pull themselves out of these respective season-long slumps. But, I would expect at least a little improvement.

I would also expect J.P. Crawford to go on a heater anytime now. Mitch Haniger, we know, has it in him. Now that Raley and Rojas have cooled off, can they readjust and get back to killing the baseball? And, we all know Julio and Cal have another gear that we haven’t quite seen yet.

So, what happens when those guys get it going a little more? Is that going to take place around the same time the pitching inevitably slumps? Well, that would be unlucky, wouldn’t it? Or, maybe perfectly lucky, depending on how clutch the offense can get.

My second question is that – if the Mariners are this good AS IS – how good can they be after adding a couple of competent bats at the trade deadline next month?

Well, obviously, that’s been a point of concern for me lately. Based on historical precedent, I don’t have a ton of confidence in their ability to deal well at the deadline.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know I’m prone to worry about a lot of things when it comes to the teams I follow. This is the first time I’ve written about how these 2024 Mariners are the Real Deal. It would take quite a collapse for them to blow this 8.5-game lead in the division. We also compare favorably to the wild card teams in the American League, just in case this is the second-coming of the 2002 and 2003 Mariners, where we gag away our chances in the second half.

So, this leads me into my newest concern. It’s unfamiliar territory, yet one I think at least long-time Mariners fans can relate to: what if this team is built more for the regular season than it is the post-season?

You can’t deny that this pitching staff is as good as it gets in baseball. The rotation, 1-6, is lights out. In the bullpen, we’ve got an elite closer, a couple of nice leverage arms, and competence throughout. We’ve also got a couple of nice wildcards in Logan Evans and Gregory Santos to boost us in the second half.

But, what does this group look like in the playoffs?

Castillo has been good, but it’s not like he’s Felix in his prime. There’s occasional brilliance, but more often than not, it’s 6 innings and 2 runs. Which, don’t get me wrong, is GREAT for the regular season. If you’re throwing Quality Starts out there more often than not, you’re all right in my book. But, in the playoffs, it’s anywhere from a 3-7 game series. You don’t have a lot of chances. And, if your ace blows a game, that’s a big hole to climb out of. It’s not like we can rely on pulling Castillo prematurely, because usually those two runs are being scored early. And, with the way this offense struggles to score runs through the first two-thirds of games, you’re more likely to try to squeeze a little extra out of Castillo, who tends to get better as the game goes on.

Then, there’s Kirby, who has been really up and down this season. He’s put up a lot of 0- and 1-run games, but he also has five starts of 4 runs or more given up. In the playoffs, that’s a death sentence. Or, rather, in the playoffs – with this offense – that’s a death sentence. Because, I don’t care how much we’re able to do at the deadline, we’re still going to enter the post-season with a lot of question marks on offense.

Hell, even when the Mariners have had an elite offense – back in the 90’s and early 2000’s – they still struggled mightily in the playoffs. Why? Because you’re only going up against elite teams, and all elite teams have elite pitching staffs.

I’ve probably waffled over Logan Gilbert a thousand times in his career, but that game he pitched on Sunday against the mighty Rangers’ offense – 8 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 hits, 9 strikeouts – might’ve put him over the top for me, at least when compared to Kirby, if not to the entire starting rotation. That was an absolutely brilliant performance! He had everything working, against a really tough opponent who was trying like crazy to not get swept by their direct rivals.

What’s most encouraging to me about Gilbert is his ability to go deep into games. He leads the Major Leagues in innings pitched! He’s got a really good ERA – 2.93 – but it’s not Cy Young calibre just yet. He’s got a low WAR – 1.9 – compared to the other greats across baseball. And, obviously, his 4-4 record isn’t anything to write home about (mostly because it feels like he gets among the worst run support in the game today). But, there’s been a number of times this year where his starts have gone from potentially elite, to merely just good, thanks to a late bomb or run scored, when he’s trying to eke out another inning. If he can clean that up, he’s got Cy Young written all over him.

As it stands now, though, Gilbert seems to have the best and most varied arsenal of the bunch. Bryce Miller is close, but he lacks the command to know where everything is going to go. Gilbert looks pretty close to having mastered the command of his splitter and a variety of other off-speed stuff, to go with that outstanding fastball. Especially that splitter, though; he had that thing dropping like a yo-yo against the Rangers!

Kirby, on the other hand, is still pretty fastball-heavy. He’s trying with his off-speed stuff, but he’s not good enough yet to get those balls to consistently fall out of the strike zone. As such, he’s struggling with his swing-and-miss at times, and that’s hurting his overall numbers.

I would like to see this team really maximize Gilbert. If he’s not this team’s ace, he should at least be our number two in the playoffs. But, even then, will it be enough?

As I said before, when you get to the playoffs, they ALL have elite pitching. And, as we’ve seen all year, you don’t necessarily need elite pitching to shut down this Mariners offense. The funny thing about this offense is that it kinda doesn’t matter who they face. They’re going to score 3-4 runs per game against the best AND the worst. We’ve seen them eat into pitch counts against aces, we’ve seen them overcome deficits against top-notch closers … AND we’ve seen them suck against soft-tossing junkball pitchers. No rhyme or reason to any of it!

I will say that I’ve been fairly discouraged with our lineups against lefty starters. We tried a lineup last Thursday against the White Sox – during the Buhner Buzz Cut night that I attended with some friends – that was among the worst I’ve ever seen. A struggling Dylan Moore in the 2-hole; a miserable Mitch Garver batting cleanup and DH’ing; a bottom four of Tyler Locklear (who actually managed to hit a solo homer against a pretty elite starter), Victor Robles (who should be off of this team very soon), Ryan Bliss (who probably just doesn’t have it, and needs to go back to Tacoma), and Seby Zavala (who I thought would’ve been cut by now, since Garver has become Kirby’s own personal catcher). The offense was as bad as advertised in that one, yet an Emerson Hancock spot start (7 innings, just 2 solo homers in the third), and a clutch Julio bomb in the ninth to tie it, took that game into extras, where unfortunately they scored their ghost runner and we didn’t.

That was the difference between a perfect homestand and a still very, very good one.

Which is funny, because the Mariners were fortunate to take 3 of 4 against the lowly White Sox. We really played down to our competition in that series! It required beating up on their maligned bullpen to do as well as we did. Yet, we came back against Texas and really poured it on! That was nice to see, after some iffy baseball against the Sox.

Thus ends our stretch of 30 games in 31 days. A positively BRUTAL stretch that should be outlawed in the MLB at this point. If you can’t give teams one fucking day off a week, then what are we even doing as a society? Yet, we managed to go 19-11 in that stretch. That was a real Separate The Men From The Boys part of the season, and we passed with flying colors.

Things calm down a bit as we head into the All Star Break, but not before another extended east coast road trip, starting in Cleveland tomorrow before a Florida two-step to play the Marlins and Rays. If we’re looking ahead, there’s only a 3-game set in Boston in the second half, otherwise our road trips only go as far east as Pittsburgh. There’s five series total played in the central or eastern timezones outside of our division in the second half. There’s also only one more trip to Texas (we play the Rangers and Astros back-to-back in late September). So, once we get past this immediate road swing, it’s SMOOTH SAILING as far as travel goes the rest of the way.

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!

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 …

The Mariners Swept The Angels For Their Fifth Straight Series Win

Things are starting to get interesting for the Mariners. I don’t know how seriously I want to take this development just yet, so let’s live in the hypothetical for now. That way I don’t have to commit to believing anything might be “real” in this situation.

Hypothetically speaking, the Mariners are one of the hottest teams in baseball. You can take this one of two ways: either, “It’s About Fucking Time” and claim this is what the team has been capable of all along; they’re just finally playing up to their potential. Or, “It’s Just A Fluke” and the other shoe is about to drop anytime now, because this team has always been a .500 team, and it’s only a matter of time before they take another nosedive.

But, hypothetically though? Hypothetically it’s now or never. If this team were to ever turn their season around, it couldn’t realistically happen any later. There’s a little under two months to go. And there are still a good number of teams in our way between where we are today and a hypothetical playoff appearance.

So, hypothetically, what’s changed? Well, as we’ve said all along, it starts with Julio. He’s been much better of late, steadily getting on base, producing runs, driving them in, the whole package. I wouldn’t even say he’s gone supernova yet, which is cause for optimism. He’s been fine, but he’s also choked in some big situations. I feel like he’s got a sustained period of perfection in him that’s yet to come out.

Very close behind, I would say the resurgence of Eugenio Suarez has been paramount. He was just giving us nothing most of the year, but then set the Mariners record for consecutive games with an RBI (at 10), and a lot of these have come in huge situations. Then, there’s the power surge of Cal Raleigh. Again, these are ALL guys we’ve been clamoring for all season! This team goes where its core goes, and these three players are the most important hitters on this team.

It’s important not to discount what J.P. Crawford has done this season. I tend to overlook him because he’s been the one positive (on the hitting side) throughout the year. No real lulls! He’s dragged this offense kicking and screaming to where it is today, and we’re finally starting to see some dividends paid. He has the best average and on-base percentage among regulars, which also gives him the best OPS. He’s leading the team in WAR. And, he has 10 homers as of today, which is already a season high for him, with 50 games to go.

Beyond that, we’re getting just enough from Ty France and Teoscar Hernandez (though you hope there are hot streaks left in both of those guys before the season’s through). With real production coming from the likes of Tom Murphy, Dylan Moore, and even Cade Marlowe in limited duty!

Also, by and large, the pitching has hypothetically continued being this team’s rock. It’s not nails every single game, but for the most part, it’s giving us a chance to win. And finally, this team is hypothetically taking advantage.

The Mariners needed this sweep. Hypothetically, if we’re going to make a run at the post-season, winning a series is nice, winning a string of them is even nicer, but we’ll need to sprinkle in some sweeps if we really want to make up some games on the teams ahead of us. The Angels were one of those teams in our way; now they’re not. Hypothetically.

The extreme LEAST likely victory of this sweep happened on Thursday. It was so unlikely that I called it before the game. Ohtani vs. Woo? Bet the entire Taylor Family Farm on the Angels and don’t look back! Easy money on the horizon! -1.5 runs? Of course!

And then the game got funky. Woo matched Ohtani zero for zero. Then, Ohtani left the game after four innings (though he continued to hit as the team’s DH). The M’s took a brief 1-0 lead in the sixth off of a Geno homer, but left that inning down 2-1. For a little while, it was looking like we’d lose that bet on the half-run kicker, but then Ohtani came through with a solo homer in the bottom of the 8th to give us our farm back. With the Angels’ closer having never blown a save this year? Not quite “easy” money, but money nevertheless.

Then, Cal and France walked to lead off the ninth inning. Then, newcomer Canzone singled sharply to right to load the bases. THEN, our last great hope Teoscar struck out, leaving us with Cade Marlowe. Has a guy named Cade ever been good for anything?!

Well, this one was! He hit a high fastball pushing 100mph for a go-ahead Grand Slam! What are you even talking about? What are you saying?! Where’s the Jennifer Lawrence eating hot wings meme?!

Andres Munoz quickly got ready and locked down his fourth save of the season to preserve the 5-3 victory. Unreal.

Nothing’s ever going to top that first game, but Friday’s thrilling 9-7 victory comes close. The M’s rallied for 4 runs in the first, thanks in large part to Ty France’s 3-run bomb (literally his first home run since June 22nd, breaking a streak of 34 homerless games). With Luis Castillo on the bump, this looked like smooth sailing.

Except, Castillo shit all over his legs, giving up 7 runs in 6 innings. Luckily, the M’s played add-on, so the game was tied at that point. Dylan Moore homered in the second to make it 5-1, and Julio homered in the fourth to make it 7-5. We were tied heading into the eighth, when Geno hit an RBI single to take the lead. Cal followed that up with a solo homer in the ninth to give the game its final score. Thankfully, the bullpen was on it, with Brash taking home only his second save of the season after working himself into a little bit of a tight situation.

We closed out the series with a pair of 3-2 victories over the weekend. Kirby got the start on Saturday and was an animal. 7 innings, 1 run on 3 hits, with 5 strikeouts. Julio had a 2-run double in the third, France had the game-winning RBI single in the eighth, and Munoz gave up a relatively harmless run in the ninth. Munoz got himself into a tremendous amount of trouble with two outs, allowing two runners to reach before giving up what was luckily only a ground rule double (the game-tying run definitely would’ve scored had that ball stayed in the yard). But then, after intentionally walking the next guy to load the bases, he hammered home four upper-90s fastballs to strike out the final batter.

On Sunday, J.P. led off the game with a first-pitch homer, but we gave them a run right back in the bottom half of the inning. This was Bryce Miller’s start, who had been on a two game skid that brought into question his ability to be a starter on this team (at least from me). He ended up settling down after that, going 5 innings, limiting them to just the 1 run on 5 hits with a whopping 10 strikeouts. He induced a ton of swings and misses, which was nice to see. And, he still had life on his fastball when all was said and done.

Teoscar eventually gave us a 2-1 lead with a solo homer in the seventh, but the Angels fought right back wth a solo homer of their own in the bottom half. The game went extra, with Geno getting an RBI single to take the lead in the tenth, and Tayler Saucedo earned the win by pitching the final two scoreless innings.

We get a couple of well-earned days off this week, sandwiching a 2-game home series against the Padres. Then, it’s Felix Hall of Fame Weekend against the high-flying Orioles. I’ll be at the games Saturday and Sunday, which is going to be an absolute thrill! Should be a perfect opportunity for the pitching to be on point and for the offense to go back in the tank. It literally defined Felix’s hall of fame career!

Can The Mariners Contend For Shohei Ohtani?

The All Star Break happened this past week. Seattle hosted, there were lots of events all around town, and I wasn’t there. I don’t feel bad about that, because – for instance – tickets to the All Star Game and the Home Run Derby were insanely expensive. The thing last weekend sounded kinda cool, where there was the Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball Game all for one ticket. But, then you’ve got all the driving it takes to get there, finding parking, all the walking, being around all the people, and God forbid if you’re sitting in a section drenched with sun, but it’s not super fun to be roasting during a hot summer day, even in Seattle.

Quite frankly, I had other plans last weekend that were far more enjoyable. And I’ve got other things to spend my money on that take priority. So, even though this might be the last chance for me to attend any sort of All Star festival in my hometown (it took 22 years to get back here; I’ll be an old man probably the next time they come again), I don’t feel bad about missing out. Maybe if I was 10-15 years younger, with more disposable income, I would’ve been all over it. But, whatevs.

I also just didn’t have a ton of interest. I missed even watching the Home Run Derby on TV because I wanted to see the movie Past Lives in a theater. I watched a good chunk of the All Star Game, but that was because I was visiting my dad, and even then I couldn’t be bothered to stay the full nine innings. I blame a lot of my lack of interest on the Mariners being super mediocre (and therefore super disappointing, considering pre-season expectations). Whenever the Mariners are super mediocre, I use the All Star Break to unwind, and detach from all things baseball. That was more or less my status this week.

But, being on Twitter and whatnot, you can’t help but hear about interesting things. Like the Shohei Ohtani experience. The fans chanting, “Come To Seattle!” Him talking at the press conference about how he spends some offseason time in the Seattle area (apparently going to Driveline for some hitting instruction/analysis in Kent), and how much he likes the area. We already know that the Mariners were one of the final teams in on him when he originally came to MLB from Japan. And we already know that he’s going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

So, what are the odds that the Mariners are able to sign him?

I gotta say, first and foremost, I can’t remember the last time I was this invested in a free agent. There are, I’m sure, free agents in every sport, every year, that I would really want for my teams. But, maybe the financials don’t line up, maybe they’d be blocked by a player I like who’s already on the team, or maybe they just have no interest in signing in Seattle, so the rumors never point to us being a possibility. But, here, you have to think the Mariners are in on it. The organization desperately wants and needs him, both for his pitching as well as his hitting. We fit a lot of the parameters of what he’s looking for in a new home. I’m sure we’d be willing to structure the contract around his wants and needs; maybe he gets a full no trade clause. Maybe he wants an opt out (or multiple opt outs) after a certain number of seasons.

I’m not saying the M’s are a lock, or that we’re even frontrunners. There are other organizations in other markets with more money to spend and a better winning pedigree that I’m sure could put us to shame. But, at the very least, the Mariners have a seat at the table, and that’s important.

That being said, I’m reluctant to get my hopes up. Granted, I’m ALWAYS reluctant to get my hopes up because I’m a firm believer in jinxes, and believing that something good might happen is a great way to ensure that something actually-terrible is going to happen.

There’s only one positive outcome, and that’s Ohtani signing with the Mariners. There are two neutral outcomes: he makes a surprise retirement, or he opts to play outside of Major League Baseball (both options are quite remote). The rest of the outcomes are all bad, with the worst being: he signs with the Rangers, Astros, or Angels (spoiler alert: the A’s have no shot, so it’s not even worth mentioning the entirety of the other teams in the A.L. West).

If I’m being honest, I think the least likely of the three would be Ohtani signing with the Astros. I don’t know that they have the money to take him on. Of course, that would be the most enraging, so I’m not ruling it out for that reason alone. I kinda think – depending on how the rest of this season shakes out – that the Rangers are a sneaky option: lots of money, a youngish team on the rise, lots of All Stars to surround yourself with, and they were reportedly one of the preferred Ohtani teams the last time he was a free agent (which were: teams on the west coast, the Rangers, and the Cubs).

I want to say the Mariners are (and should be) all in on Ohtani. There are a lot of arguments you can make that one of the big reasons why we didn’t opt to make a bigger splash in free agency last offseason was because we knew we were putting our eggs in the Ohtani basket for 2024 and beyond. Of course, they can’t come out and say that, so instead they say the reason is Julio’s contract and Castillo’s contract (both of which were signed during the previous regular season). This is sort of akin to how the Mariners went out of their way to free up international dollars the last time Ohtani was a free agent, when we were caught with our pants around our ankles thanks to the Angels signing him. At that point, we had nothing to spend that money on, and ended up trading a lot of it away, rather than make any attempt at signing any international guys.

Will that be our downfall in 2023? Will we have gone to all these lengths to save money, only to fall short once again? And how is that going to affect our roster-building strategy for 2024 if Ohtani goes elsewhere? Will we be left with scraps and have to find other ways to try and improve?

Or, am I wrong entirely, and the price tag for Ohtani will actually be too high for the Mariners?

We can’t rule that out, even though it makes all the sense in the world to sign him at whatever the cost. The money can be made back through other avenues. I know it’s looking like a $500 or $600 million deal in totality (10 years, $50-$60 million per year), which will be the most expensive contract in MLB history by a million miles, but billionaires are good at one thing: making money. They should have no problem making money off of Ohtani.

Nevertheless, the Mariners are a notoriously cheap organization. Not like Oakland or Tampa are cheap; but those franchises have stadium issues that never got squared away. The Mariners HAVE their stadium. They own a majority stake in their cable channel (Root Sports). And yet they still manage to underspend compared to the big dogs. They blame the middling media market, meanwhile they take home a tidy profit damn near every year there isn’t a worldwide pandemic.

So, I can’t say with 100% certainty that the Mariners aren’t scared off by that pricetag.

I also can’t say I would necessarily blame them, in one very specific respect: what if he gets hurt?

As a pitcher, you’re always subject to arm issues. What if he needs Tommy John or any other litany of injuries that would keep him out for a significant portion of the year? That not only eliminates one of your best pitchers, but also your best hitter, in one fell swoop. Now you’re paying $50-$60 million a year for someone on the IL, that you hope will return to form. He’ll also be 30 in July of next year. There’s a good chance he’ll never be as good as he’s been these last three seasons with the Angels. Can you afford that sort of contract when he’s pushing 40? When will he need to be transitioned away from pitching and become a full time DH? Will this be a Robinson Cano situation, where we’re shedding great players just to get out from under his contract, if we even can?

Don’t get me wrong, I still want Ohtani! Even if he’s only giving us five good years, that’s our window anyway! I want a World Series title in the next five years; we’ll worry about years 6-10 when they come.

But, I have every reason to believe he won’t sign with Seattle. There will be some other team with more money, more amenities to offer, and a better plan to win it all. What have the Mariners EVER done to show you they’re committed to going all the way? To doing whatever it takes? Sure, they make big splashes to go from bad to mediocre. But, when they get to be even a little good, the M’s pull back on the throttle. They stand pat when it comes to trades. They pinch every last penny in free agency. They never push their chips all in.

And that, more than anything, is the reason why we’ll never see Ohtani in a Mariners uniform. Either we won’t pay him what he’s worth, or he’ll see right through us and have enough sense to know that the Mariners won’t do a damn thing once he’s here. Felix Hernandez is the King; he’s also the #1 cautionary tale of an organization that let a remarkable talent be squandered by not doing enough to build around him. Felix deserved better than the Mariners. So does Ohtani.

How Concerned Should The Mariners Be About A Slow Luis Castillo Start?

Let me get ahead of this right now: I’m not talking about Spring Training here. I fully understand Luis Castillo’s M.O. when it comes to preparing for a baseball season: he uses Spring Training as a ramp-up to the regular season. So, he’s just getting his work in. Building up his arm. Getting his body in shape. It’s fine. I’m not going to bother myself with that. His fastball speed is down, his results are poor, I don’t care. These games are 100% meaningless.

But, I would like to take a look back at his prior regular seasons, and see what we can glean. Castillo is notorious for slow starts. One would hope the Mariners know the secret sauce to getting ready on time – we did, after all, employ King Felix for many years, who seemed to employ a similar strategy in his own preparation – so we’ll see if it works out this year, or if it takes until 2024 to lock in.

As sort of a refresher course, Castillo was called up to the bigs in late June of 2017; he had what I would call a solid rookie campaign. Ups and downs, but a few really outstanding performances sprinkled in. He was in the Reds’ rotation from the jump in 2018 and stayed there the whole year. This was by far his least-successful season (really skewing the early-season numbers, as he had an ERA of damn near 8 through April), where he was either really good or really bad in alternating months.

I would say 2019 is where we start to see the Luis Castillo we know and love. It’s just too bad he was on such a terrible team.

Anyway, looking back through his entire Major League career, he has an ERA of 4.58 in March/April (18 starts) and 4.63 in May (22 starts). It drops down considerably in June and July, before a blip in August sees his ERA return to 4.17 (30 starts) before a hot September closes things out.

What’s interesting is if you look at it year-by-year. In 2019, his March/April numbers were phenomenal! He suffered through the dog days of August, though, and his September wasn’t a whole lot better. That has the makings of someone who was really on the ball to start, but withered down the stretch.

It’s hard to take anything seriously with the shortened 2020 season, but his July/August could double as his March/April in normal years. In this case, he had an ERA of about 4.12 before picking things up in September.

In 2021, it was a return to normal, and not in the way you’d like to see. His April and May were absolutely atrocious. Exactly 1 quality start out of 11. In a way, that’s sort of the nightmare scenario for us.

In another way, 2022 is sort of a nightmare as well, since he missed all of April with a shoulder injury. I guess that’s one way to avoid an April swoon. He did hit the ground running in May, and avoided the August doldrums after being traded to Seattle. But, there were a couple of spotty performances in September before he got it together and dominated in the playoffs.

So, what does this tell us? I don’t know if it really tells us anything, other than to be on guard.

Seeing his career trajectory, and getting to watch his filthy stuff, not to mention the way he performed in the biggest moments of a playoff season with the Mariners, it all leads me to believe this guy has Cy Young stuff. He really does look like the second coming of Felix Hernandez. I’d like to believe he has that kind of season in him, but to do that, you really can’t afford to take any months off.

The whole justification for the Mariners’ relative inactivity this past offseason was in large part due to the rationale that we would have a full season out of Luis Castillo (rather than two months and change). But, that’s predicated on Castillo in April 2023 looking like Castillo in October of 2022. If he comes out of the box looking like Ken Cloude, then what are we even doing here?

I have a vested interest outside of just being a Mariners fan. I’m planning to attend the Opening Day game, and I’d like him to look good with the Mariners prevailing. I also, not for nothing, am planning on going to Reno in just over a week, and I wouldn’t mind throwing some money down on Castillo winning the Cy Young Award. The odds were a lot more lucrative a month or two ago, but it’s still not a bad little flier to take, all things considered.

It’s not the end of the world if he looks mortal out of the gate. But, I don’t want to see us dig ourselves too big of a hole either. The Mariners are notorious slow starters, especially with the bats. We need quality pitching early on to get us through before things heat up and we get on a roll. Early season winning could make all the difference between being a middling wild card team and contending for the division title.

My Least-Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top (or Bottom) 10

We got Part 1 in yesterday; now it’s time for the thrilling conclusion.

I don’t know how you’re supposed to do a ranking of your least-favorite things. I guess it makes the most sense to say that #1 is my VERY LEAST favorite athlete and go from there. So, here it is:

  1. Richie Sexson
  2. Chone Figgins
  3. Kendall Gill
  4. Jim McIlvaine
  5. Jesus Montero
  6. Jerramy Stevens
  7. Carlos Silva
  8. Kelly Jennings
  9. Justin Smoak
  10. Spencer Hawes

In the 2006/2007 season, I didn’t have a lot of experience following college basketball. My first brush with Husky basketball came in 1998, when Bob Bender’s squad had a heartbreaking loss to UConn in the Sweet Sixteen. If I remember correctly, one of our teachers brought a TV into the classroom and we got to see the end of the game live. Anyway, I didn’t really keep in touch with the Dawgs until the Lorenzo Romar era. So, my expectations were a little warped. Romar led the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row by the time the 2006/2007 season came around. I thought that’s just how it goes! The Huskies are great at basketball now and will be for the rest of my life! Sure, we lost Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones, and Jamaal Williams, but we were coming off of back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances, and we’d just brought in a 5-star center in Spencer Hawes. Of course the good times would continue to roll! Him and Brockman and Q-Pon, let’s go! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Hawes was a considerable disappointment, averaging only 15 points per game, and not even leading the team in rebounds. We finished a mediocre 19-13, with no post-season basketball to be played, and then he left for the NBA. In 2007/2008, we went on to finish with a losing record before picking back up again in 2008/2009. Anyway, I’ve never cared much for One & Done players since that point. They’ve never worked out for the Huskies, anyway. Hawes was my first experience with that, and in many ways the least impressive of the bunch.

Justin Smoak was just a boil on my ass, man. We had something great. For one brief, shining half-season, we had the incomparable Cliff Lee in a Mariners uniform. Of all the guys who played for a Seattle organization for just over two months (he, unfortunately, missed most of his April in 2010 to an injury), Cliff Lee is my favorite. I still look back fondly at those 13 starts. Those 13 glorious starts where it was Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, in their primes, in the same rotation. It was a perfect situation: we traded for Lee heading into 2010. It was the final year of his deal. Either he’d help push us into playoff contention, or – what actually happened – he’d play well and we’d get to flip him to a pitching-needy team at the deadline for franchise-altering prospects. It was made all the more perfect because the guys we gave up to get him were total duds, so this was an opportunity for a true, can’t-miss fleecing of some poor, hapless MLB team. That team ended up being the Texas Rangers, and the biggest prize coming back in return was Justin Smoak. We no longer call it “Warning Track Power” anymore ’round these parts; instead, we call it Justin Smoak Power. The only thing he brought to the table was a decent eye at the plate. But, we got none of the power we were expecting, none of the batting average we were expecting, and maybe some okay first base defense, but you can literally throw anyone in at first base and get by, so whatever. Of course, to add insult to injury, Smoak went to Toronto and briefly played like an All Star, hitting 38 homers one year.

Kelly Jennings was a first round draft pick in 2006, the year after our first Super Bowl run. I don’t know what the front office saw in him, but I consider that the beginning of the end of that particular era of Seahawks football (if not that, then the Hutch Poison Pill debacle, but I believe both happened in the same offseason). Jennings fucking sucked, man. I also don’t know what the coaching staff saw in him, but he kept starting for us year after year, and year after year he continuously got burned. What’s worse is that he was remarkably healthy, when everyone around him would go down from time to time. Unlucky! Two career interceptions in 91 games. Five miserable seasons in a Seahawks uniform, followed by one in Cincinnati, and then he was rightfully out of the league. I don’t know how Pete Carroll let him play for us that first year here, but in retrospect we were able to get Clinton McDonald for him in trade, so at least there was a silver lining.

The whole Carlos Silva thing I put more on the front office. Why would you EVER give that guy a 4-year $48 million deal? Even by today’s standards, that’s a bad contract. But, it was downright unforgivable in 2008. Nevertheless, we were coming off of a surprisingly-competent 2007 season, and say what you want about Silva, but he was an innings eater and a groundball specialist in his career to that point. Pair him with Safeco Field and it should’ve been at least passable. But, it was a fucking nightmare from the jump. He ate more shit in that 2008 season than I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, his 2009 season was mostly lost to injury, and then we managed to trade him for someone else’s problem (in this case, Milton Bradley from the Cubs, who was just as much of a cancer in the Mariners’ uniform as he was for them). Silva never figured out how to pitch, struggling through 2010 before his career ended. What’s worse, we still had to pay him a combined $9 million over those final two seasons, even though he wasn’t playing for us. Just a disaster.

I don’t remember much about Jerramy Stevens’ tenure with the Huskies, other than it was frought with criminal activity. Maybe some drunken driving? Didn’t he plow his car into a building or something? I dunno, maybe those are all allegations. Anyway, my lasting memory of him in a Seahawks uniform is essentially guaranteeing a victory in Super Bowl XL, followed by having one of the shittiest games I’ve ever seen. I literally jumped for joy at one point when I thought he’d made a big catch downfield – to the point where I accidentially punched a hole in the ceiling of our rental – only to slump in my chair in defeat when I saw that he dropped it. That’s what you got with Stevens. You thought you were getting greatness, but he’d figure out a way to let you down. It didn’t help that we also blew a first round pick on him; I wasn’t sad when we let him walk.

Remember when I said that you can throw literally anyone in there at first base and get by defensively? Someone go and tell Jesus Montero that, because he was so inept physically that he couldn’t even manage that simple task. We all suspected – when we traded away our second ace in Michael Pineda to bolster our offense – that Montero probably wouldn’t stick at catcher. But, God damn, we had no idea how useless he actually was! This was one of the highest-rated prospects in all of Major League Baseball at one point! He was a can’t-miss offensive threat, with power to all fields … except when he came to Seattle and fell on his fucking face. The low point was when a coach or a scout – monitoring him in a minor league stint – sent him an ice cream sandwich (a crack about his lack of physical fitness, no doubt) IN the actual dugout, only for Montero to find him in the stands and presumably start brawling with him (I don’t remember all the details, nor do I care to look it up). His career ended after 38 Major League games in 2015; no other team bothered to elevate him above the AAA level after that.

I’ve already talked about Jim McIlvaine ad nauseam, but he was the beginning of the end for the great Supersonics run of the early-to-mid 90’s. We signed him to a fat 7-year contract even though he did nothing but be tall. He gave us nothing that we couldn’t have gotten from some 7-foot scrub off the streets. Fans hated him from the jump – clearly seeing what the organization could not – and Shawn Kemp resented the fact that this loser was making more money. As a result, Kemp forced his way out of Seattle, and we were all worse off as a result. We literally could’ve just brought back all the guys from 1996 and been better off in 1997; instead, we had to tinker, and it bit us in the ass. The Sonics would go on making dumb fucking decisions for the rest of their time in existence, including selling to the Starbucks guy, followed by selling to a group of Oklahomans who were openly looking to move the franchise before the ink was dry on the deal.

Of course, Jim McIlvaine wasn’t the start of the Sonics making boneheaded moves. They brought Kendall Gill in prior to the 1993 season. His claim to fame is being on two VERY underachieving Supersonics teams that each lost in the first round, including the first number 1 seed to ever lose to an 8 seed. He didn’t come close to being the offensive weapon he was the previous two years in Charlotte, and as a result, we never quite had our proper fourth option offensively when we needed him most (not until Hersey Hawkins joined up and filled that void. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Gill THOUGHT he was a stud offensively, but he shot like shit, .317 from 3-point range his first year, and only improved to .368 the second year. Also, if I recall correctly, he never got along with Gary Payton either, which is an OBVIOUS red flag. Fuck him.

Chone Figgins came over in the same offseason when we traded for Cliff Lee. I was riding high praising this organization for their shrewd moves. Who knew they’d all fucking backfire?! I never wrote a formal blog post on his signing – I was still in my infancy as far as regular sports blogging was concerned – but I remember distinctly being thrilled. He seemed like the perfect guy to play in Seattle. He was a jack of all trades for the Angels in his career, playing all over the field. He always hit for a high average, so even though power was hard to come by in this part of the country, that didn’t matter because that wasn’t his game. His game was to be an on-base machine behind Ichiro in the lineup, setting the tables for the rest of our hitters to have a field day with all the RBIs they’d be generating. AND, he was coming off of his very best season as a pro, so he should’ve been smack dab in the prime of his life. At the very least, his skills should’ve sustained, so even as he declined, it should’ve been a long, slow decline. Instead, he fell off a cliff as soon as he started here. It makes no sense! He couldn’t do fucking anything except cash his checks. While I unfortunately don’t have a blog post about his signing here, I do have a pretty funny one right after he was released that you can check out. It pretty much sums up my feelings about a guy who was also a clubhouse cancer.

“Richie Sexson Sucks.” I used to have a LiveJournal, and for a while there in 2007, the start of every title was “Richie Sexson Sucks” followed by whatever it is I wanted to write about that day. Sometimes it was about him, sometimes it had nothing to do with him. But, he DID suck that year, and I felt the need to let everyone know about it as much as humanly possible. We had to suffer over half of a whole fucking year with his .205 average and his severe drop-off in power. Then, he came back in 2008 and was even worse, to the point where we released him that July. He was brought in the same time as Adrian Beltre, as part of our mid-2000’s spending spree under Bill Bavasi; that did NOT bear any fruit. The lowlight of his career was throwing a helmet or a bat or something at a pitcher who didn’t even hit him. If he wasn’t already a joke, he was after that. He wasn’t the first hometown guy I hated, but he was the guy I hated the most for a period of time. I couldn’t get over the fact that we kept running him out there every day! Granted, I didn’t fully grasp how money works in baseball, other than knowing fully-guaranteed contracts were fucking dumb. If you suck, teams should be able to cut you, especially if we’re a ways into your contract. No one epitomizes the sports contract albatross quite like Richie Sexson. Big Sexy my ass!

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 3: My Top 5

Here’s Part 1 and Part 2. Get ready for tomorrow when I give you my Mount Rushmore, followed by my top three and a half, my top two and 7/8, and my top 0.991.

All right, let’s cut the bullshit. You already know who these guys are from yesterday’s post, so let’s get to ranking. Here’s my official Top 5 Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes:

  1. King Felix
  2. Beastmode
  3. Bam Bam Kam
  4. The Reign Man
  5. The Big Unit

I was never upset at Randy Johnson for forcing his way out of Seattle. Admittedly, for a while, I was annoyed by his 1998 season, when it seemed pretty obvious he wasn’t trying very hard for Seattle, only to lay the National League to waste upon being traded to Houston (going 10-1 in 11 starts with a sub-2 ERA after going 9-10 in 23 starts with a plus-4 ERA for the M’s). The fact of the matter is: the Mariners were being fucking tightwads and using his back issues as an excuse to lowball him. Of course, we know what happened: he won 4 consecutive Cy Young Awards in Arizona, at the exact time the Mariners most desperately needed a proper ace at the head of our rotation (Freddy Garcia was nice and all, but he wasn’t a true #1, and that hurt us in the playoffs). When he was here, though, and he was on his game, there wasn’t anyone more exciting to watch. Getting to witness Randy Johnson every five days was a thrill to behold. That raging fastball, that diabolical slider (known as Mr. Snappy), that imposing figure he cut on the mound, glowering at opponents moments before making them look absolutely foolish. Also, the stamina to regularly throw WELL over 100 pitches in order to get through 7+ innings. He was one of the last of a dying breed, and the game is all the worse for it.

Shawn Kemp was a man among boys, even when he was just a boy entering the league straight out of community college. The Supersonics of the early-to-mid 90’s were one of the best and most fun teams in the NBA. Run and gun and dunks and outstanding defense; they were everything you’d ever want out of a dynasty … minus the championships. It goes to show you how difficult it can be to get over the hump. Anyway, Kemp was mighty raw entering the league, but also one of the most athletic players on the court on any given night. Over time, he really developed his game, becoming a dominant post presence, and even perfecting a nice mid-range jumper. But, it’s the transition dunks that he’s most remembered for. Between his high-flying theatrics and Kevin Calabro’s genius play-by-play, Sonics fans were provided hundreds of hours of entertainment. It’s just too bad the signing of a shitty white center soured Kemp’s relationship with the organization to the point where he forced his way out. As with Randy, I don’t blame Kemp one bit. Only Gary Payton could possibly deserve more money than Kemp, but certainly not someone as oafish as Jim McIlvaine.

In keeping with great players who were also disgruntled for part of their tenures here, it’s hard to top Kam Chancellor for sheer bad-assery. The guy was the dictionary definition of an enforcer on defense. Punishing fools who dared cross his path. It’s hard to say who was more important and more vital to this team’s success between him and Earl, but even though both were safeties, they played vastly different positions. Kam was a hitting machine, could blow up your spot along the defensive line and in the short passing game, but unlike Jamal Adams, Kam also had the ability to cover guys down field. He frequently was tasked with shutting down the opposing offense’s best tight ends. No one ever gave Gronk a run for his money like Kam. Same goes for receivers like Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson. No one played bigger than Kam. Even better, you rarely got the sense Kam was a shit-talker. I love a good shit-talker as much as the next guy, but it’s even cooler when a total fucking stud goes out there and lets his play do the talking. Every once in a while – after a particularly important play – he’d drop the hammer with his Bam Bam Kam routine, and it just pumped everyone up even more.

It takes a lot to be higher in my esteem than someone like Kam, but Marshawn Lynch did just that. He was the offensive equivalent, bulldozing through guys, to the point where they just didn’t want to deal with him anymore by the ends of these games. When you talk about wearing down a defense with your running game, you’re talking about Beastmode. That’s the ideal. On top of which, by all accounts he was just the coolest fucking guy off the field, giving teammates the shirt off his back if they asked for it. And he also ended up being the first and only guy to hold the Seahawks hostage to the point where he actually earned a raise with his holdout. Isn’t that something?! There’s the Beastquake, the antics during Super Bowl Media Days, anytime he popped up on a TV show or on a late night show. He’s a delight everywhere he goes!

Of course, no one is topping Felix Hernandez. He was a tremendous prospect, he was electric as a younger player, he developed into the very best pitcher in the game, all on his rookie deal. Right there, that’s enough to rank him among my favorite Seattle athletes. But, then he did what absolutely no one thought he’d do: he signed an extension with the hapless Seattle Mariners. In February 2013, he signed a 7-year deal for $175 million dollars, and in my eyes was worth every penny. Oh sure, he didn’t age quite as gracefully as we hoped and expected. But, he played his entire 15-year career in a Mariners uniform, when he absolutely didn’t have to. All he wanted to do was win, was to lead this franchise into the post-season; when he signed his extension, we were already a dozen years removed from our previous playoff game. Then, we proceeded to keep letting him down year after year after year, until eventually he couldn’t carry this team anymore. But, you know what? He gave us 12 amazing years. Every fifth day was a new Happy Felix Day, and you never knew what you were going to get. One of those days was the most recent Perfect Game for Major League Baseball. But, there were countless Felix Quality Starts (7+ innings, 1 or fewer runs allowed). Even as his fastball waned, his change-up was the best in the game and turned him into a wizard out there on the mound. Teams didn’t know what to do with him for the longest time.

Felix is forever my guy. During his entire run here, I wasn’t a Mariners fan; I was a Felix fan. That more or less remains unchanged, even though he’s gone. I’d run through a wall for that guy. It’s the least I can do for all the times he made Seattle relevant and the Mariners worth watching.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top 10

You can check out Part 1 from yesterday.

For the record, this isn’t in any particular order. Though, I will say – spoiler alert – that the top five listed here comprise my favorite five, which I’ll get around to writing about tomorrow. Sorry to really drag out this flimsy concept!

My Top 10

  • King Felix
  • The Big Unit
  • Beastmode
  • Bam Bam Kam
  • The Reign Man
  • The Glove
  • Young Zeke
  • Tui
  • Reg-gie
  • Steve Largent

Look, not everyone can have a cool nickname or shorthand. But, for the first – I dunno – 25 to 30 years of my life, Steve Largent was my favorite athlete of all time. When you’re a kid just getting into sports, you gravitate towards the very best players. And, in the late 80’s, that guy was Largent for me. He had every wide receiver record at the time of his retirement (eventually surpassed by Jerry Rice, among others), but nothing’s ever going to top this sequence of events with Mike Harden. What’s insane is that Largent didn’t even miss a game after that cheap shot in week one! Talk about tough as nails.

I don’t know of a great way to rank all the amazing Husky wide receivers through the years, but anecdotally the first name that comes to my mind is Reggie Williams. He started playing with us a year after that magical 2000 season, and is sort of synonymous with my friends and I following the team religiously. There just wasn’t anyone like him. It seemed like every game he was good for at least a small handful of big plays. And, as it turns out, it was pretty much exclusively thanks to his natural-born ability, as he was never really able to parlay his college dominance into NFL success. I’ll save that for some bitter old-time Jags fans who were underwhelmed by him on a regular basis after being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. But, as far as Huskies go, there were few better.

One of those guys would be Marques Tuiasosopo. All I need to talk about is 300/200. Against Stanford. 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing. For the longest time, he was on an all-time list of only his name, until very recently when Malik Cunningham did it with Louisville in 2021. Tui led us to an 11-1 record in 2000 and a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, and I still contend if we had a college football playoff system, that Husky team would’ve made some noise! Maybe even won it all! Just a fun guy to watch on a weekly basis though, especially when you consider how good the Pac-10 was back then, as well as how many times he pulled games out of his ass late.

Isaiah Thomas followed a succession of great Husky basketball players, but how could you not root for a guy of his size and ability? I’ll be honest, he’s on this list because of this, one of my top three favorite singular plays in Seattle sports history. I mean, it’s up there with The Tip and the Beastquake, but I’ll be honest, the one I keep coming back to and rewatching on YouTube is the Cold Blooded call from Gus Johnson in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Championship Game. It’s just unfortunate that the program hasn’t even come close to getting back to that level of play.

The Supersonics were the model sports franchise in Seattle for the longest time. From the 70’s through the 90’s, they were consistent winners. Regularly in the playoffs. Made the finals three times – winning once in 1979 – and had our lone world championship until the Seahawks won it all in 2013. Clearly, there were a lot of tremendous players to wear that uniform, but none were better than Gary Payton. He was the heart and soul of all those 90s squads, and I’d put him up there with any Seattle sports all time great, Griffey, Largent, you name it. He made a name for himself with his unrivaled defensive ability, but over time he really developed a strong offensive game. He was one of the more potent post-up guards in the league, and eventually he even found his 3-point stroke. Things became a lot more challenging for him once he lost his partner in crime in Shawn Kemp, but he still did his best to keep this franchise afloat. Also, he makes this list for being one of the best shit-talkers in the history of mankind.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.