The Mariners Dominated The A’s, Barely Got The Sweep

There’s something exciting about a sweep. They don’t come easy, even against the very worst teams. And, I think it’s safe to say, the A’s are indeed one of those very worst teams.

That’s why you kind of have to temper that excitement a little bit. Wake me up when the Mariners do it against a good team, you know? Even a mediocre team would be more impressive than something like this. The A’s are a small handful of very good players away from being a glorified AAA squad.

On top of that, it feels like a fluke that we got the sweep at all. The first two wins were about as impressive as it gets – 8-2 and 9-0 – but this afternoon’s nailbiter was idiotic as all get-out.

Marco Gonzales looked exceptional on Tuesday, going 7 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in his 7th inning of work, after the M’s had amassed a 7-0 lead). That was his eighth quality start on the season, fourth out of his last five games, and sixth out of his last eight. This one was noteworthy for how efficient he was (only 2 strikeouts, but also only 1 walk and 7 hits given up), with 17 ground ball outs (easily a season high). The game was also noteworthy in it being Ken Giles’ first game back in the big leagues since his 2020 injury that required Tommy John surgery. He’ll be brought back slowly to start, but so far he looked pretty good.

We’ll remember this game as the one where we had back-to-back-to-back homers by J-Rod, Winker, and Suarez. France and J-Rod both had 3 hits apiece, Winker had two extra-base hits, Upton had an RBI single, Trammell had a solo homer, and Cal Raleigh got on base every plate apperance.

Wednesday’s game featured 6 shutout innings from George Kirby (5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts). Winker, Crawford, J-Rod, and Trammell all had multi-hit games. Raleigh and Winker each had homers. And, we got to empty our bench (for the most part) with this game being a laugher by the end of the fifth inning.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Yet another quality start, this time by Robbie Ray (6 innings, 1 run on 4 hits & 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts). The A’s manufactured a run in the bottom of the first with two outs, then there was nothing but zeroes until the ninth inning. The Mariners are on some crazy streak of games where the starters have pitched at least 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less, it’s really been fun (and would be a lot more fun if we didn’t have so many of these types of games where the offense can’t do a damn thing).

I don’t know how you explain this one. In the top of the ninth, Moore and Winker walked, with a J-Rod pop-out and a Suarez strikeout mixed in. Then, Kevin Padlo walked to load the bases. A wild pitch by the second reliever in the inning pushed home the tying run. Then, a second wild pitch – on ball 4 to Toro – scored the go-ahead run.

And, that was it. 4 walks and 2 wild pitches = 2-1 victory. Diego Castillo got the win, Paul Sewald got the save, bingo, bango, bongo.

Of course, we can’t have anything nice without something disasterous also happening. In this case, Ty France was trying to make a play defensively at first base and the runner ran into him, causing him to possibly hyperextend his elbow. It’s either going to keep him out for a few days or a few months, with probably no in-between.

In other words, if you haven’t already written the season off, then I’d go ahead and get your quill and inkwell ready. It was announced today that Tom Murphy is having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. That’s not the worst news in the world, but if you were counting on help from him sometime this season, think again. With Haniger out for at least another month, and Lewis out for God knows how long, a significant Ty France injury is the last nail in the coffin. We don’t even have a healthy Evan White to throw into the mix! Not that he’d be worth a damn at the plate, or even come CLOSE to making up for the loss of France’s bat. I guess what I’m getting at is: get ready for a lot more Dylan Moore!

I just hope this injury to France doesn’t keep him out for any of the 2023 season. More and more, it’s looking like we’re (at least) another year away from playoff contention. Even that comes into serious doubt if we don’t get France back for a full season next year.

The Mariners Are Such A Fucking Bummer

I have no real reason to write about the Mariners for a second consecutive day. They didn’t even play a game last night! But, from a Seattle sports perspective, there isn’t anything worse that could have happened to us in 2022, and so I feel compelled to wallow.

I … don’t have a healthy relationship with sports.

The Kraken were one of the worst teams in all of hockey, and they didn’t even get rewarded with a top 3 draft pick in the lottery. The Husky football team is in full rebuild mode, and figures to be spinning its tires for the foreseeable future. The Husky basketball team is coming off of a somewhat-entertaining season, but also appears to be heading into a rebuild mode sooner rather than later. The Seahawks, obviously, just traded their franchise quarterback and figure to be boringly mediocre (at best) in the upcoming season. And, of course, we haven’t had an NBA team in 14 years.

All we had to sustain us in 2022 were the Mariners. Coming off of a 90-win season, with lots of exciting young prospects and promising young vets, even if a step-back was mathematically likely (for all the reasons we’ve discussed ad nauseam), you still had to figure there’d be enough magic in that old silk hat they found to at least compete for one of the umpteen wild card spots.

And yet, here we are. 10 games under .500, three weeks into June, with 94 fucking games remaining, and no sign of there being any improvement on the horizon.

Sigh.

SIGH.

sigh …

On June 21st a year ago, we were 38-36. Obviously, we were a little ahead of the pace we’re on now because that season started on time. But, even when you factor in where we were 68 games into the 2021 season, we were only 2 games under .500 (33-35), and that just feels like a tremendously huge advantage over where we’re at now (29-39). It’s four games. But, it’s so much more than four games.

This has to do with HOW the Mariners are winning and losing. Last year, the Mariners made a habit out of getting blown out on occasion, while winning the majority of close games, to ultimately be one of the funnest teams in all of baseball. This year, it feels like the opposite, even though that’s not totally true. I will say this, though: the 2021 Mariners were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5+ runs); the 2022 Mariners are 8-7 in said affairs. Our run differential in blowouts is actually +10 this year, while it was -135 in 2021. And, when you figure overall our run differential is -19 on the season, that means in all games decided by 4 runs or fewer, we’re getting crushed. If we’re 8-7 in blowouts, then we’re 21-32 in games decided by 4 or less. And, not for nothing, but when you figure we’re 12-11 in 1-run games, that means in games decided by 2, 3, or 4 runs, we’re 9-21.

Well over half of our games are entirely winnable. And we’re finding ways to lose them more often than not.

Same Old Mariners, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

I want to sit here and cry out to the heavens, “Why is this happening?!” But, the answer is obvious: it’s the hitting, stupid! And yet, the 2021 Mariners were arguably a worse hitting team. To wit:

  • 2022: .232/.315/.374/.689; 24th in BA, 15th in OBP, 25th in SLG, 21st in OPS
  • 2021: .226/.303/.385/.688; last in BA, 28th in OBP, 26th in SLG, 27th in OPS

You figure the 2021 numbers were over a whole entire season, while the 2022 Mariners are likely to improve if for no other reason than the weather will be warmer going forward (to say nothing of the guys they’re likely to get back from injury later in the year). Also, it’s hard to see the OBP numbers dropping considerably (barring injury), while again the slugging should improve over where it stands today.

When you tack on how vastly superior our starting rotation is this year compared to last, it truly boggles the mind! We had significant innings going to the up-and-down nightmares of Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, and Yusei Kikuchi, not to mention a rookie in Logan Gilbert, and a very down first half from Marco Gonzales. This year, we’ve got Gilbert pitching like a true ace, significant improvement from Gonzales, and significant improvement out of our back-end with Kirby (to say nothing of the potential of a bounce-back from Robbie Ray, who’s starting to mix things up and pitch better of late).

It really boils down to that infuriating fucking bullpen. In 2021, they were a wrecking crew; this year, they’re a disaster zone. All other things (hitting and starting rotation) not just being equal, but improved, and yet here we are.

Of course, if you want to go by Win/Loss record, Marco and Flexen are a combined 10 games under .500, which is the exact number of games the TEAM is under .500, but that’s neither here nor there. That ignores the vast number of inherited runners the bullpen has allowed to score (the same guys, mind you, who were stranding at an impressive rate in 2021).

The thing is, again, this is what we expected. Of everyone, the bullpen was the most likely to regress, because they were playing out of their minds last year. What we needed to happen – what we were banking on, for the 2022 Mariners to be similarly entertaining – was for the other elements to be improved enough to make up the difference. We needed the hitting to put us in a position to afford the bullpen some slip-ups here and there. I think we’re getting as much as could be hoped for out of the rotation, but I suppose if they were playing out of their minds to a similar extent that the 2021 bullpen was playing at, we’d probably be happier than we are now.

But, I’m sticking with the offense narrative, because it’s just a nightmare to watch on a nightly basis.

And yet, when you toggle back and forth, you see a lot of similarities – and even improvements – when you compare the 2022 offense to the 2021 incarnation. Ty France is even better this year! He had a 4.2 WAR in 2021; he’s already at a 3.0 WAR not even halfway through 2022. J.P. Crawford is better: a 3.8 WAR in 2021, already a 2.6 WAR in 2022. Eugenio Suarez is a step up from Kyle Seager (1.6 WAR vs. Kyle’s 2.0 over all of last year). And Julio is more than making up for the loss of Mitch Haniger (1.9 WAR vs. Mitch’s 2.9 over all of last year). Cal Raleigh is improved over where he was a year ago (0.9 WAR vs. -0.5 WAR), as is Kelenic (0.0 WAR vs. -1.7 WAR) by simply not being here.

But, there are three massive black holes who are getting a lion’s share of games, and just giving us NOTHING in return. Adam Frazier is a -0.1 WAR player (he’s been anywhere from a 1.8 WAR to a 4.0 WAR player, save the COVID season). Jesse Winker is a -0.5 WAR player (he was good for a 2.7 WAR season last year). And Abraham Toro is a -0.3 WAR player (he was good for 1.7 WAR last year, including 0.9 WAR in a comparable number of games with the Mariners post-trade). Those three guys all by themselves have added up to lose us a full game, which isn’t easy to do only 68 games into the season. They’re not the only duds, of course. Luis Torrens is -0.4 WAR (he was 1.0 WAR last year, largely as a DH). And the dregs of our roster depth have all been below replacement-level.

This is what happens when guys like Haniger, Tom Murphy, and Kyle Lewis can’t stay healthy. This is what happens when a young stud you were counting on – Jared Kelenic – is so abysmal, he has to be sent to Tacoma to keep from further embarrassing himself.

This is what happens when you put the kind of pressure on an organization – to Win Now – because it’s beyond time to start winning some fucking ballgames and getting back to the playoffs, and you don’t fill out the roster with capable players to step up in times of crisis.

You know what’s bumming me out the most? I’d gladly accept a 29-39 record if it meant Kelenic took a step forward from his promising September last year. I’d be elated with a losing record if Matt Brash was kicking ass in the rotation. I’d be thrilled if Raleigh did more than strike out and hit dingers. I’d be elated if other guys who figure to be part of our future: Winker, Toro, and Suarez, for instance, could be counted on for a better collective batting average. Suarez gets a pass for kind of being who we thought he’d be – especially when Winker and Frazier have shit the bed so thoroughly – but it’s not like he’s an All Star or anything. Maybe if Suarez was hitting a 40+ home run clip, but at this rate he’ll be lucky to see 30 (he’ll probably finish in the mid-to-high 20’s).

There’s just little-to-no hope. Not compared to last year. Last year, we still had Kelenic as a viable option to bust out. We had Toro as a competent super sub type of player. We had Torrens giving us a quality professional at bat throughout the second half of the season. And we had Mitch Haniger playing at a Comeback Player of the Year type of level, with the potential to stick around beyond 2022 as a steady veteran presence in the middle of our lineup.

Now, what do we got? Haniger can’t stick around beyond this year, not if we know what’s good for us. We get two more years of a shitty Winker. We have Kelenic languishing in Tacoma. We have a boom or bust guy in Raleigh.

On the plus side, we’ve got J-Rod, Crawford, and Ty France. And a whole lotta prospects too far down in the minors to make any sort of imprint on the Major League ballclub in the near future. Our holes to fill in 2023 and beyond include second base, and left and right field (that’s if you’re okay with mediocrity at third, catcher, and a revolving Rest Day at DH). That’s not even getting to the pitching staff, which will probably need someone to improve over Flexen, and whatever we end up doing with this fakakta bullpen.

Every year, it’s one step forward and four steps back. Every year, it’s too many holes to fill on a mediocre roster and not enough resources to even come close to making this team good. Ever year, it takes the absolute perfect collection of moves, and that almost never happens in the game of baseball. Every team deals with injuries. Every team deals with acquisitions who are total busts. But, the Mariners thoroughly and completely lack the depth to compensate for such fuck-ups. As a result, we’re given yet another team that fails to make the post-season. We’re told once again to wait until next year. We’re fed a line of horse shit and asked to believe in the process. Just when our hopes are their highest, SURPRISE, the team is fucking shitty once again!

It’s not even July. Which means the weather isn’t even nice around here. Not that the greater Seattle area is pleasant even when the weather IS nice (in those small handful of days between the perma-overcast fall/winter/spring and the summer wildfires that send a blanket of smoke to cover the entire Pacific Northwest). It’s overcrowded, with too much traffic, and chock full of fucking assholes with their heads up their fucking asses. We could always say – even if Seattle was Sports Hell – the rest of it was nice. Not anymore. Everything fucking sucks here now, especially the sports.

Thanks Mariners. I know you tried your best. And that’s what’s so utterly depressing about all of this.

The Mariners Barely Scraped By The Rangers

After the nadir of losing two of three to the Oakland A’s at home (who, surprise surprise, are still in last place and among the very worst teams in all of baseball), the Mariners have won their last three series, all by exactly 2 games to 1. That was impressive when we were talking about the Astros … but it’s less thrilling when you’re talking about the Orioles and Rangers.

To their credit, the Orioles and Rangers are right around the same as the M’s (the Orioles are a couple games worse, the Rangers are a couple games better), but that’s the problem: neither team was supposed to be in our league heading into the season. Yet, here we are. We’ve made our bed and now we’re sleeping in it.

The Mariners have ground to make up, so it’s unsatisfying to have only picked up three games in the last 10 days. We’re still six games under .500, so at this rate the world will implode before the M’s are in any position to make the playoffs.

What’s slightly encouraging, I suppose, is the fact that the Mariners have kind of started looking like the M’s from 2021 a little bit more lately. Each of their last four games have been decided by 1 run, with the good guys winning 75% of ’em. The finale in Baltimore was a 10-inning thriller, and both victories in Arlington were of the come-from-behind variety.

Friday saw another excellent performance out of our REAL ace, Logan Gilbert (not that fraud of a bust in Robbie Ray). He gave up 2 runs (1 earned) in 6 innings, off 5 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts. At that point, it was the Eugenio Suarez throwing error that cost Gilbert a chance for the victory. The game was all tied after six innings, but a Rangers solo homer in the seventh put us in a hole that we took to the ninth.

Against who I am assuming is the Rangers’ closer, Suarez made up for his earlier gaffe by pushing a 2-run go-ahead homer to right for a 4-3 lead. From there, we were able to employ Paul Sewald for the traditional save (his third on the season). Suarez had 3 of the 4 runs driven in, with Cal Raleigh adding the other on a solo homer.

Saturday’s game was a boring, hard-luck loss by Marco Gonzales, who gave up just a 3-run homer in his 7 innings of work. He gets a little slack for the “one big inning” because he’s actually gone 7+ innings multiple times this year, plus he has a better track record – in Seattle – of being a successful Major League starting pitcher than Robbie Ray. It was hard-luck because the Mariners’ offense could only muster a 2-run homer by Jesse Winker (both events happened prior to the bottom of the fifth inning).

There just wasn’t a lot of offense in this one, as the M’s only had the four hits (though we did generate five walks). It’s weird seeing the Rangers being this effective at pitching, particularly in their (new) home ballpark. I’m used to the old ballpark, and all the 11-10 outcomes therein.

Sunday’s rubber match was another extra innings banger, with the Mariners overcoming a 3-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning. Suarez almost single-handedly carried the mail in this game, with a whopping 4 RBI. We were down 2-0 early, but in back-to-back innings Suarez tied it on a solo homer and a single (after some nifty baserunning by Julio Rodriguez). Then, after the bullpen tried to gag away the game, Ty France hit a solo homer before Suarez came right back with a 2-RBI double to score J-Rod and J.P. Crawford. Diego Castillo continued the roll he’s been on this road trip (for the win) and Sewald got his fourth save of the year.

George Kirby had a nice outing (even if he didn’t have super-electric stuff) going 6 innings in giving up just the 2 runs. Both were on solo homers, though, which will be something to monitor, I’m sure.

The road trip comes to a close with yet another series against the fucking Astros. If it feels like we’ve played them a ton so far, you’re right. After this series, we’ll have played them 12 times already, and we’re not even 60 games into the season. Thankfully, that means we only have to play them 7 more times in the second half.

Gotta keep the good momentum going here. Somehow, the M’s need to find a way to win 2 of 3 one more time. It’s nice that we’ve started to look like our 2021 selves a little bit more the last few games, but we’re going to need even more of that magic if we want to get out of this hole.

The Mariners Avoided Catastrophe By Defeating The Orioles

I suppose, if the Mariners keep winning series 2-1 for the rest of the year, eventually our record will improve enough to get back into the thick of a playoff race. But, we’ve dug ourselves such a deep hole that these sorts of minor victories feel hopeless. We need sweeps! We need to start winning at a 70% clip! I want to see this thing turn around in a hurry, and struggling against the likes of the Orioles is not going to do anything to soothe this nausea!

This series started off so promising, with a 10-0 rout on Tuesday. George Kirby went 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and walking 1, while striking out 8. And the offense gave him a VERY soft landing, piling up 8 of our 10 runs in the first three innings. Taylor Trammell had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Adam Frazier and Ty France had multi-hit games, and damn near everyone else in the lineup contributed in some small way.

Hopes of a cheap sweep were dashed by Robbie “One Bad Inning” Ray, who could only manage 5 innings while giving up 4 runs. He has only 4 quality starts in 11 games (and he’s supposed to be our Ace). What’s worse is that he has only 1 quality start in his last 7 appearances (the cheapest of all possible quality starts, going exactly 6 innings, giving up 3 runs against the lowly A’s). If you were interested in how many “Felix Quality Starts” he’s racked up so far (to harken back to a TRUE Mariners Ace), it’s exactly one, in his first game of the year, when he went 7 innings and gave up just the 1 run. He has no other games where he’s matched either total (never as many as 7 innings, never as few as 1 run). What a bust!

To be fair, Sergio Romo also had a meltdown from the bullpen, but that’s neither here nor there. J.P. Crawford had a homer and Julio Rodriguez had an RBI. Ty France had 3 hits.

The rubber match looked like it was going our way after the top of the sixth, when we took a 6-3 lead. But, in the bottom half of the inning, Matt Festa gave up a run, while leaving two more runners on. Paul Sewald came in to mop up, and for the second straight appearance he gave up inherited runners, this time to tie it at 6-6. Just another in a long line of shaky bullpen games from this unit that was supposed to carry the team.

The game remained tied through regulation, when Abraham Toro tripled in the ghost runner to take a 7-6 lead. Scott Servais apparently didn’t have any other choice than to squeeze a second inning out of Diego Castillo, who came up huge for the win.

Luis Torrens and Jesse Winker each had 3 hits, J-Rod had 2 hits, and a bunch of other guys came up with offense.

Does anyone get the feeling that Servais doesn’t trust Chris Flexen as far as he can throw him? It seems like he’s always on the shortest of leashes, and clearly it’s not to preserve his arm. I dunno, maybe it is. Of course, it’s not like his performances this season have earned him the kind of faith we might expect.

His contract has a club option for 2023 that doubles from $4 million to $8 million and converts to a player option if he reaches 150 innings pitched this year (or a combo of 300 innings between 2021-2022). He had 179.2 IP last year, and is at 55.1 this year, for a total of 235. You gotta wonder if some shenanigans are at play, especially if the club has already decided he’s not in our long-term plans. Again, though, if he’s going to be as mediocre as we’ve seen for most of this year, do you blame them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Kirby’s Debut Can’t Paper Over How Terrible The Mariners Have Been Lately

Making the Sunday finale your only victory of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is annoying in so many ways. By the time you get to that game, you’re so fucking sick and tired of the Mariners’ bullshit, you can barely muster the energy to watch. However, it’s a joyous occasion nevertheless, and sends you off into a new week with a better taste in your mouth. Nevermind the fact that for three days prior, they’ve been shovelling shit into your mouth; that last spoonful of sugar makes things seem like they’ll be okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just three days of shit, just three days of shit courtesy of the Rays. Prior to that, we were swept in three games by the Astros. If you want to take it back even further, it’s been shit in 10 out of 11 games prior to Sunday. I’d say we got our fill.

On a semi-related tangent, this is why the Mariners have been so reluctant to extend Mitch Haniger. We needed him desperately for this stretch, and where has he been? Sure, it’s terrible luck that he got COVID (although, I mean, if he’s not vaxed against it, then I don’t know if I feel sorry for him in that regard) and backed that up almost immediately by spraining an ankle, but this is the sort of hard-luck shit he’s had to deal with for most of his career. He has supremely terrible injury luck! So did Franklin Gutierrez and a million other guys throughout the history of this game. If you can’t count on someone to be on the field almost everyday, then what’s the point in signing them to a long-term extension?

I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this Rays series; in the grand scheme of things, who cares? We officially went 2-5 against them this season, so that’s a playoff tiebreaker we won’t have, if it comes to that. On Thursday, Robbie Ray had “One Bad Inning”, which is an excuse I’ve always hated, dating back to the Jeff Fassero days. You can have one bad inning out of seven innings pitched until the cows come home, but if you give up 4 runs in that inning, and lose 4-3, then I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a good game that day.

We had a chance to break this streak on Friday, but Paul Sewald had a rare blown save/loss by giving up a 3-run homer in the ninth. I was in attendance on Saturday, but even that wasn’t enough good luck to turn things around, as Diego Castillo had a total meltdown (5 runs, including a grand slam, without registering an out).

The saving grace (sort of) was that Kirby start on Sunday. He looked every bit the elite, ace-type prospect everyone’s said he is, by going 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. He touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and averaged in the mid-90’s. His breaking stuff was pretty nasty. He saw a lot of full counts – from what I saw, on the little TV, while re-watching the first season of Stranger Things on the big TV – but was able to challenge hitters and keep them off-balance.

Even then, the M’s did everything they could to try and lose it, not scoring until the bottom of the ninth. After the Rays finally scored in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Mariners would lose 1-0. Then, Mr. Clutch, Abraham Toro, pulled a solo homer into the right field stands to tie it up. Paul Sewald got back on the horse to keep the Rays off the board in the tenth, giving Ty France a chance to win it with a single in the bottom half. An exciting, 2-1 extra innings victory is a helluva way to end the six-game losing streak, but I’m still going to bitch about those losses for a while.

The Mariners are 13-16. They’re still hitting like shit up and down the lineup. Ty France can’t do everything. J.P. Crawford came up with back spasms in Saturday’s game (in a stupidly futile attempt to dive into first base, most likely), so he’s day-to-day. No word on Haniger’s return, but I’m sure he’s going to keep making it worse instead of letting it heal on its own. Kyle Lewis is in Tacoma trying to work his way back, but I’m not holding my breath. That Ken Giles signing – a 2-year deal, knowing the entire first year would be lost to injury – sure looks idiotic now that he’s on the 60-day IL and is looking like he’ll miss both fucking years.

Oh, and in all of their infinite wisdom, the Mariners have decided to not only send Matt Brash to Tacoma, but have converted him to a reliever in hopes that he’ll be able to return to the Major Leagues this season in time to help us with our playoff run. This is a topic for a separate post, because I have a lot to say on this particular issue. Spoiler alert: the Mariners are idiots probably.

And, just in case anyone was wondering about potential help coming from the minors, in case this Kirby experiement also goes tits up and we need a veteran starter to eat innings, I wouldn’t count on it. Nick Margevicius just got cut for extreme incompetence, Justus Sheffield is also getting rocked in Tacoma, and you’re better off not looking at the stats of the other guys we have starting down there. It turns out, the PCL is a total wasteland in every single respect (hitting is too easy – making the jump from AAA to the Majors extremely difficult – and pitching is almost impossible to do well).

It’s May in Seattle, which means it’s time to lose all faith in the Mariners. Right on schedule!

What Is Evan White’s Future With The Mariners?

I never feel comfortable when there’s anything even remotely resembling an albatross contract on the Mariners’ roster. Whether it’s fair or not, the Mariners are notorious for being a penny-pinching organization. Personally, I don’t think that’s totally accurate. I think, yeah, in the pre-2000’s you could definitely make that argument. But, I think what’s more applicable is that the Mariners are a half-assing organization.

They’re not the A’s. They’re not the Rays. They’re not the Royals or Pirates or Reds. But, they’re also never going to be the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers. They’re never going to go All In. They’re never going to approach the salary cap luxury tax threshold. If things look good and there’s an opportunity to improve incrementally, the M’s might leap into the outskirts of the Top 10 in payroll. But, they’re never going to be in the Top 5 or Top 3.

The highest the Mariners have ever ranked is 7th in payroll, in 2007, when they were rewarded with a 2nd place finish in the division and no playoff berth. I remember vividly the 2008 season – when the M’s increased payroll by over $11 million – and lost 101 games for their troubles. In spite of the increase, they were 9th in payroll that year, and yet they took a significant bath as a result.

Ever since then, it seems like the Mariners have hedged every single one of their bets. Never going all in. Never taking advantage of free agents who might be had for a few extra million dollars. Never making a push to build around King Felix and the like. Content to spend just enough to make it look like they were kinda-sorta trying, while never going back into the red in any individual year (like 2008) ever again.

The M’s bottomed out in payroll in 2020, but it was for a reason. And, yeah, that reason had a lot to do with COVID. Without fans in the stadium, you can’t be going hog wild with player salaries and expect to turn a profit. BUT, the more prevailing purpose was The Rebuild. I can forgive them for spending less than $50 million that year, because I knew we were giving the young players an opportunity to gain experience (that is, the ones who weren’t languishing in Tacoma playing practice games against themselves). We dropped to 21st in payroll that year, and then 25th in payroll in 2021 (though overall, our total increased by $16 million year over year). Fine. Whatever. The kids got a chance to play, and our results actually improved.

It looks like The Rebuild is on the right track. But, I would still argue these are the Half-Ass Mariners. How do I know that? Because we saved all this money over the last two years, and stopped short of going over the top in our spending this offseason. Is there a method to our madness? Maybe. Or, maybe the Mariners will be rewarded for their cheapness in spite of themselves, when the likes of Matt Brash and/or George Kirby prove they’re ready this year to make the leap. If they’re not ready, though, we’ll know who to blame. Half of the ass of the Mariners organization is willing to spend, but it’s that other half that refuses to pony up the greenbacks.

And, it’s difficult to see the M’s spending more money to get out from under poor contracts already on the books. The way things are going with Evan White, it looks like the deal we once lauded as filled with foresight and creativity is soon going to be a weight around our collective necks.

White has guarantees through 2025. The final two years of his deal, he’s slated to earn a total of $15 million (plus another $2 million as a buy-out, assuming we won’t want to keep him on for even more money in 2026, 2027, and 2028). $15 million over two years isn’t a huge deal – especially when we expect the money flowing into Major League Baseball to only expand over the years – but it’s not insignificant when he’s doing absolutely nothing to earn his keep.

Evan White, so far, is kind of a bust. I say “kind of” only because he does have that Gold Glove on his ledger. But, what good is that gold glove when he’s been usurped of his primary position by Ty France? He already can’t hit, and now he’s gotta try to learn to play defense on another part of the field?

Now you can tack on his 2021 season being decimated by a hip injury, followed by a sports hernia taking out a significant portion of his 2022. Every sports hernia I remember happening to a member of the Mariners has been a real nut-buster (and not in a good way). Hernias, oblique injuries, they seem to be to position players what the elbow and shoulder injuries are to pitchers, in that they always take a lot longer to recover from than anyone expects. By “recover”, I mean return to pre-injury form. Lots of guys can return on the expected timetables set by doctors, but they return as shells of their former selves, taking precious weeks and months to finally get back to normal. I don’t expect Evan White to be back to normal in 6-8 weeks. I think we’ll be lucky to see him in any sort of productive capacity before 2023; I’m writing off this whole year for him until he proves me wrong.

He’s still earning a reasonable salary for a guy giving us nothing ($1.4 million), but that jumps to $3 million in 2023, before taking the aforementioned leaps in 2024 and 2025. Coming off of two major injuries, on top of his bat being atrocious at the Major League level, while also being blocked at his best defensive position, and we’re talking about a guy with no trade value whatsoever. Everyone knows the Mariners would be elated to be rid of Evan White, but all he is right now is a salary dump to be attached to a more shiny prospect.

Failing that, then we’ve got to figure out how to get him healthy and make him work as a bench bat or an injury replacement. He’s hoping – once he’s healthy enough to play – that Ty France goes down so he can get a shot in the everyday lineup again. But, if that happens, it’s going to be a huge blow to the Mariners’ chances at making the post-season.

It’s all bad news surrounding Evan White right now. My hunch is, ultimately, there IS no future for Evan White in a Mariners uniform.

What The Hell Are The Mariners Doing For A Fifth Starter?

I’m a little concerned, everyone. After the Winker trade, I heard the Mariners were mostly done making moves, at least when it came to adding to the offense. But, I fully expected there to be more moves to be made for pitching. Starting pitching, especially, but you obviously wouldn’t throw another reliever out of bed for eating crackers.

With Casey Sadler going down for the year (underrated VERY important piece to our bullpen’s success last year, and an all-around bummer of an injury considering how much fun he was to watch), the signing of Sergio Romo is a nice little pick-me-up for that bullpen (even though his second half in 2021 was far worse than his first half), but that doesn’t explain the total lack of activity when it comes to the rotation.

I generally like the first four starters the Mariners are planning to roll out:

  • Robbie Ray
  • Chris Flexen
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Logan Gilbert

Nice mix of veteran and youth, nice mix of hard throwing and off-speed savvy, all guys either in their primes or approaching their primes (with no one over the hill).

But, if you look at the rest of the 40-man roster, it’s a shitload of relievers! I see only two, maybe three, starting prospects in that particular bunch:

  • Justus Sheffield
  • Matt Brash
  • Nick Margevicius

Sheffield stinks. He’s washed up. Because he’s cheap, you can conceive of him in a long reliever type of role in the bullpen – making spot starts here and there – but he gets hit too damn hard to be a reliable presence in the rotation. Margevicius is a slightly less-bad version of Sheffield, in that he doesn’t get hit quite as hard, but is still otherwise a pitch-to-contact lefty with little-to-no strikeout ability. The only reason I’m not as down on him is because he spent most of 2021 injured, but shit, I don’t even know if he’s healthy now or not! He might not even be an option.

Then, there’s Brash, a promising young prospect who has never pitched above the AA level. I think we all love his stuff and his potential, but are we really going into this year just handing him a rotation spot out of Spring Training? I think most of us would prefer to give him a softer landing in Tacoma, just in case there are any kinks to work out. But, that would necessitate having a better option in a Mariners uniform for that fifth starter job, and I don’t know if that person exists at the moment.

Another option – off of the 40-man roster – includes George Kirby, an even better-looking prospect who also has never pitched above the AA level. Brash and Kirby look far-and-away to be our best options, but that’s a harrowing thought going into a year where expectations are for the Mariners to finally make it back to the playoffs.

We like Logan Gilbert a lot too, but remember all of his growing pains last year? Prior to September (when he started figuring things out), he averaged 1 start per month of 6 or more innings. It takes a lot of kid glove treatment to get a rookie through his first Major League season without totally obliterating his confidence.

Also, remember last year when we clung to the 6-man rotation for longer than was practical, necessitating many multiple Bullpen Days? Are we going back to this plan, at least to start the season, in an effort to build up rotation arms so they can pitch deeper into ballgames? Because as it is, we don’t even have a great 5th starter option; now we might be thinking of going with a 6th even-worse option?

This is a fiasco! I don’t understand why we haven’t made a move outside the organization to bring in another starter. What are we waiting for?! I’m more or less fine with the accumulation of offensive talent Dipoto has brought in, but he has severely neglected the rotation.

Bringing in another starter isn’t going to “block” one of these prospects. Injuries – especially to pitchers – happen all the fucking time! I’d like to have a little more certainty – not to mention a little more depth – heading into this all-important season. Because, what happens when we go into April with the guys we have now, and THEN the injuries start mounting? What kind of filler nonsense are we going to have to watch until our good arms come off the IL?

This is my nightmare. Welcome to Mariners fandom, for anyone who’s new.

Seattle Mariners Trade & Free Agent Targets For 2022

I’m gonna tell you right now, that title is misleading! Because I have zero idea who is actually available in trade or free agency across the Major League Baseball landscape. Besides, I don’t like getting into the weeds of playing fantasy baseball like that; let the more thorough and dedicated Mariners blogs try to tackle that speculative nonsense.

I’m here to talk about the holes on the Mariners, where they need to fill with outside guys vs. where they can afford to fill with prospects.

The easiest start is to look at the guys we have who we want to keep around. They are, in no particular order:

  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Ty France (1B/DH/2B)
  • Abraham Toro (2B/3B)
  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jarred Kelenic (CF/LF)
  • Kyle Lewis (CF/LF)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)

Even though I’ve listed three outfielders there, and you have to figure Julio Rodriguez is going to earn a call-up at some point in 2022, I think the M’s will nevertheless seek out a veteran outfielder to throw into the mix. Meaning that I don’t see Fraley being quite so prominent a figure in that group; maybe as a reserve, but I could see him getting dealt just as easily. If we go for a high-priced free agent outfielder, we can let Haniger walk at the end of the 2022 season, or try to trade him mid-year, if things aren’t going so well in the standings. That would then open the door for J-Rod in the second half of the season and beyond. Kyle Lewis is obviously the wild card here; will he return from his knee injury? Will he ever be able to play a full season? You have to anticipate he’ll be in the mix for a good number of DH days in a best-case scenario, but I don’t think you can count on him being a full-time player until you see him prove it on the field.

The other obvious addition is either a second or third baseman. The loss of Kyle Seager is significant here, but we were always looking to improve on that spot in the lineup anyway. I expect Toro to take whatever position is left over; I’m hoping there are lots of good free agent options available. Even if we have to pull in a short stop, we should be able to slide Crawford over to second base without too much of a headache.

We also need another catcher. Tom Murphy isn’t really worth keeping around; his bat is fundamentally broken. The new guy should be a relatively good catcher who can play on a regular basis, as we still don’t know if Raleigh is our #1 just yet.

Go ahead and pencil in White and Torrens for bench spots with Fraley at the moment, though I don’t know how long that’ll last. Will Dylan Moore be back? Doubtful, but we’ll see.

Let’s look at the pitching:

  • Chris Flexen (SP)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Logan Gilbert (SP)
  • Paul Sewald (RP)
  • Drew Steckenrider (RP)
  • Casey Sadler (RP)
  • Diego Castillo (RP)
  • Ken Giles (RP)

The Mariners need two starting pitchers, minimum. I would expect one to be a quality, top-of-the-rotation type of guy, and one maybe more of a middling veteran to eat up innings. We’ve also got three minor league prospects at the top of our farm system – Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Matt Brash – who are all ready to bust down the door in 2022. Brash very nearly made his debut last month, but ultimately wasn’t needed. I think it would be foolish to bank on one of those guys taking a job out of Spring Training, but I would also expect one or more of them to be called up before June to help out with injuries and whatnot. If 2022 isn’t the playoff campaign we all hope it is, then my guess is we’ll see all three of those guys get opportunities to make the rotation for 2023 and beyond.

As for the bullpen, your guess is as good as mine as to what that’ll end up being. Bullpen pieces get moved all the time. Guys get injured, guys get worse for no reason. Every time we think we have the bullpen figured out heading into a season, it seems to always blow up in our faces. But, from the looks of things, we have lots of guys in the minors who are in the mix. I would love to see a better left-handed bullpen option emerge, either from within or outside the organization.

I’m looking at two big bats (one outfield, one infield), a solid starting-calibre catcher, two starting pitchers, and a lefty reliever. Once Seager and Kikuchi are gone, we will have well below $40 million on our payroll, so there is PLENTY of room to spend. We also have assurances from ownership that the Mariners are in a position to increase spending, which you would hope would be a given, but with this organization you never can tell.

The Mariners should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Hot Stove portion of the offseason. Does that always translate to wins on the field? As the San Diego Padres just showed us: not always. There’s reason for optimism in 2022, but I’m incapable of giving 100% blind faith over to this organization that they’ll do the right thing and make the right moves. I’ve been burned too many times; we all have.

Nevertheless, as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel an excitement level for next season that I haven’t experienced in decades! Good or bad, the 2022 Mariners will be interesting as hell.