Tempering Expectations For This Mariners Rebuild

What interests me most about the game of baseball is the long game. In football, you’ve got rosters twice the size of a baseball team, yet we see it every year: teams going from worst to first. You can turn around a football team in one offseason! But, in baseball, it takes seemingly forever (and, for an organization like the Mariners, LITERALLY forever).

I did a big, long post about the first successful Mariners rebuild. I originally wrote that in 2013, when we all were hopeful that we were in the middle of the next successful Mariners rebuild. There were so many moves made between the nadir of this franchise (2008) and the next time you could legitimately say the Mariners were in contention for the post-season (2014, when we finished 87-75, just 1 game back of a Wild Card spot) that it truly boggles the mind.

That rebuild was ultimately a failure. It produced three winning seasons between 2014 and 2018, and zero playoff appearances. Following last year’s collapse, Jerry Dipoto made a bunch of moves to jettison veterans and infuse the farm system with prospects. Our veteran holdovers include names like Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Roenis Elias, Dan Altavilla, and Dan Vogelbach; most (if not all) of those players will not be on this team the next time it reaches the post-season.

So, we’re stuck rooting for prospects. Rooting for potential. Rooting for the young guys to step up and prove themselves not just worthy of Major League roster spots, but ultimately good enough to get this team back to the playoffs one day (ideally one day very soon). Jerry Dipoto is staking his reputation and his job on these players. If it all falls apart like it did last time, he, Scott Servais, and a bunch of other very smart baseball men will be looking for employment elsewhere.

As I noted, we’ve been through this before. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

See, it can be fun and exciting knowing your team is out of it before the season even begins. First, there’s no expectations, so any on-field success you see is all gravy. Then, of course, there’s the factor of the unknown. New, young players you’ve never seen before are ALWAYS more interesting than old veterans who’ve been around for years. We pretty much know what guys like Seager, Healy, Felix, and Leake are; there’s nothing to learn about those guys. So, we pin all our hopes and dreams on the prospects. We want to see them in a Major League uniform right this minute, to pump them full of experience with the hopes that they’ll pan out immediately. This can lead to guys getting called up too early (a la Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Matt Tuiasosopo, etc.) or guys just being huge disappointments.

Let’s start with the 2008 season, the aforementioned nadir. That team lost 101 games and we were all miserable. Successful players like Felix, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez, and even Yuniesky Betancourt were no match for the suck-asses that were Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Jeremy Reed, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, and so on. General Manager Bill Bavasi was fired, and The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild was on!

2009 proved to be a welcome surprise. Franklin Gutierrez was brought over in a trade, as was Jason Vargas (Doug Fister was one of the rare Bavasi draft picks that stuck in the org and actually panned out). Ichiro was still Ichiro! Russell Branyan and David Aardsma were quality pick-ups. Even the return of Ken Griffey Jr. for a victory lap proved valuable. That 85-win season led everyone (but the stat geeks, who knew those wins were on a shaky foundation) to believe we were way ahead of the curve on this rebuild. So much so that Jackie Z decided to make a big push to go for it in 2010.

We traded for Cliff Lee! We got rid of Carlos Silva and brought back a useful piece in Milton Bradley! Our young core of starters (Felix, Vargas, and Fister) were bolstered with key bullpen additions like Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and Sean White. So, what happened? The team fell apart (ultimately losing another 101 games; in hindsight, a second go-around with Old Griffey proved disasterous) and shipped off anyone of value for prospects. Lee was flipped for Justin Smoak (among others). Our high draft pick was used on a pitcher who got hurt so many times he never made the Bigs. And The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild 2.0 was on.

2011 was a key year for the rebuild, as the team REALLY went for it this time. Taking a stroll through that roster is long and arduous. Ichiro, Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, and Adam Kennedy were the veteran everyday players; Felix, Vargas, Bedard, and Fister were still holding down the rotation (though Fister would be swapped for a bunch of nobodies at the deadline; yet another example of a trade that totally backfired for the Mariners); and League, Wright, and David Pauley (among others) were the steady influences in the bullpen. But, the young guys were the stars of the show. 2008 first rounder Dustin Ackley was called up midseason, as was Kyle Seager. Justin Smoak was handed the first base job. Guti started his slow descent into an injured adulthood. Then, there were guys like Michael Saunders, Greg Halman, Alex Liddi, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Gimenez, Carlos Peguero, Adam Moore, Mike Wilson and more. On the pitching side of things, Michael Pineda was an All Star, but then there were guys like Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush (remember when he was a starting pitcher?), a younger Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Chance Ruffin, and Shawn Kelley.

Those were all the players we hung our hats on. How many of them actually panned out? You can count them on one hand. How many of them panned out for the Seattle Mariners? That number is even smaller.

2012 saw the influx of guys like Jesus Montero (swapped for Michael Pineda), Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and John Jaso. They were paired with the holdovers like Smoak, Seager, Ackley, Felix, Vargas, Ichiro (starting his decline) and Figgins (at the end of his miserable Mariners career).

Then, there’s 2013, with prospects like Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino (a year after being drafted), Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. Veterans like Kendrys Morales, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Jeremy Bonderman, and Hisashi Iwakuma saw extensive playing time, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The old guys didn’t do enough (and most were gone in short order), and the young guys (predictably) never panned out for this team.

So, please, keep all these duds in mind as we go forward. You’re going to hear A LOT of new names you’re not familiar with in 2019 and 2020. The team is going to tout these players as The Future; don’t believe ’em. The vast majority of these players will be more in a long line of losers that help to keep the Seattle Mariners out of the post-season.

Some guys will be promising, only to fall flat on their asses the following year when expectations are raised and other teams learn how to handle them. Some guys will be promising only to suffer devastating injuries that hinders their development. Some of those injured guys will be brought back too soon, only to struggle and lose their confidence. Some guys will just flat-out stink from the get-go. One, maybe two guys, will be okay. But, they won’t be enough. They’ll just embolden this organization to spend a bunch of money when the time “feels right”. At that point, some flashy veterans will be brought in to supplement our future “rising stars” and we’ll go through the process of “contending (for a wild card spot)” all over again.

The Mariners are never going to be the Astros or Cubs or Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers. They’re closer to the Athletics and Rays than anything else, just a Major League farm club for better-run organizations. The tremendous amount of luck required to turn us into one of those truly good teams isn’t ingrained in the city of Seattle and its sports teams. The best we can hope for is competent mediocrity.

The best we’re going to get is just outside, looking in.

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

2008 was the lowest point in Seattle sports.  It was our Absolute Zero.  Rock Bottom.  The total nadir of sports humanity!

It was the primary inspiration for the title of this website.  Take an already-crappy sports city, with practically no history of real success whatsoever, then rain down a million boulders while giving fans only a tiny umbrella to protect themselves.

We did NOT deserve this …

Well, we just finished the 2012 sports year with the 2012/2013 Husky basketball season coming to its conclusion.  As such, I have taken it upon myself to take a look back.  Five years ago, it was 2008; we were just getting started with the worst year ever.  How have things changed with our primary Seattle sports teams?

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners came off of a surprising 2007 campaign that saw them appearing to turn a corner.  Beltre, Ibanez, and Ichiro led the offense.  We hoped that a possible resurrection of Richie Sexson would bring about a further boost.  Two young guns up the middle – Lopez & Betancourt – were proof positive that what we were doing in our farm system wasn’t a complete joke.  Felix was coming into his own.  Losing Weaver & Horacio Ramirez was addition by subtraction.  You figured, with another quality starter, and another bat or two, and we’d be in business!

Well, we know what happened with 2008.  The Erik Bedard trade was a total and complete disaster (though, it went a long way towards the Orioles making their surprising playoff run in 2012).  The Mariners opted to let Jose Guillen walk and replaced him with the corpse of Brad Wilkerson.  Richie Sexson became a local pariah.  And, oh yeah, the other big pitching piece – Carlos Silva – was signed to the single-worst contract in recorded history.  You tack on little things – like J.J. Putz going from the greatest reliever in baseball in 2007, to an injured pile of crap in 2008 – and it all boils down to this team losing 101 games.  The first team with a payroll over $100 million to lose over 100 games.  Everyone was fired; it was brutal.

Enter Jackie Z, who could seemingly do no wrong at first.  He replaced Sexson with Russell Branyan – big upgrade.  He traded Putz for Franklin Gutierrez, who had an amazing season both in the field and at the plate.  We also ended up with Jason Vargas in that Putz deal, who came in and earned his way into the starting rotation.  He brought in Ken Griffey Jr., who wasn’t a total disaster as a DH.  In short, there was an immediate turnaround thanks to God knows what.  Good vibrations?  Luck?  I dunno.  But, this team improved 24 games over 2008 and contended well into the summer.  Everyone thought we’d struck gold!

Then, like some kind of sick fucking plague, every move Jackie Z made to help bolster the 2010 team turned to shit.  Chone Figgins was signed to a 4-year deal and immediately was the worst player in baseball.  Branyan was allowed to walk in favor of Casey Kotchman; Kotchman was terrible and Branyan was brought back in a panic-deal mid-season, because we had the most punch-less lineup in all of baseball history.  Silva was traded for Milton Bradley – which was a move of pure GENIUS until it turned out trading one cancer for another still leaves you on your deathbed.  Griffey was brought back, because HEY!, he hit 19 home runs the year before and it’s not like players suddenly lose all of their ability to swing a bat all at once or anything.

Mind you, just about everything Jackie Z did in anticipation of the 2010 season was believed to be the right thing.  Except for Griffey, but really, if we didn’t make the playoffs that season, it wasn’t going to be exclusively the fault of our elderly DH.  And, to a lesser extent, the Brandon League for Brandon Morrow trade was a bit questionable.  I mean, who trades a bona fide Major League starting prospect for an 8th inning reliever type? Nevertheless, this was a bold move looking to shore up our bullpen.

The cherry on top was the Cliff Lee trade.  We gave a bunch of Bavasi draft rejects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee in his final season.  At best, he’d be the starting pitcher to put us over the top.  At worst, we’d be a losing team and trade him at the deadline to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects.

Like everything else that happened in 2010, even THIS ended up backfiring.  Cliff Lee came with a built-in contingency plan!  And he was traded for Justin Smoak – a disappointment to date – Blake Beavan – a less-than-adequate starting pitcher – and what has turned into a season’s worth of Michael Morse, a season’s worth of John Jaso, and a season’s worth of Josh Lueke.  There’s still time to turn around our fortunes, but unless Smoak figures out a miracle cure to his sucking ways, this has bust written all over it.

So, what happens when every single offseason (and in-season) move you make backfires?  You lose another 101 games, your franchise icon retires mid-season, your manager gets fired, and your GM is lucky to still have a job.

2010 was a wake-up call, both for fans and for the organization.  The last two times the Mariners had winning records – 2007 and 2009 – they immediately went out the very next offseason and tried to Win Now.  All the moves they made in hopes to Win Now were total disasters, so they had to come up with a new plan.  Either you keep riding this rollercoaster, firing your manager and/or GM every two seasons, or you start over from scratch.

Even though Jackie Z managed to bungle every Major League move known to man, he had still built up the minor leagues a fair amount.  With another high draft pick in his pocket, he put his head down and went to work.

The 2011 season was essentially given over to the kids.  Our major offseason moves included bringing in Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan, and handing over the starting rotation to guys like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Blake Beavan.  In addition, Ackley, Seager, and Carp all got their feet wet; Peguero was given an inordinate amount of playing time for what he was actually bringing to the table.  Others, like Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Saunders, and Halman all got varying amounts of playing time.  2011 was Try-Out central in Seattle.  Throw a bunch of spaghetti noodles into a pot of boiling water, take them out and see which ones would stick to the wall.

2012 took it a step further.  The big free agent pick-ups consisted of Millwood, Iwakuma, and a backup shortstop in Kawasaki.  We traded away Pineda – our best pitching prospect – to bring in Jesus Montero, because we absolutely could not live with the same old offense we’d had the past two seasons.

What did 2011 and 2012 accomplish?  Moderate gains in the win/loss column (+6 wins in 2011, +8 wins in 2012), moderate gains in our offensive production, and a whole lot of salary coming off the books.  The Silva/Bradley money, the Ichiro money, the Olivo money, another season’s worth of the Figgins money.

Now, it’s 2013.  The Mariners brought in some big bats via trade – Morse & Morales for Jaso & Vargas respectively – and some veteran bats via free agency – Ibanez and Bay.  They re-signed Iwakuma (when they realized he’s actually a quality starter), brought in Joe Saunders (who will probably be terrible), and have given the back-end of the rotation over to youth (Maurer and Beavan).  The crown jewel of the 2012/2013 offseason was re-signing Felix through 2019.  That’s huge.  The Mariners may never make the post-season while he’s with us, but God damn it, if they do WATCH OUT.

There is reason for optimism five years after bottoming out in 2008, but we’re still in a Show Me stage.  I’ll believe it when I see it, and all that.  2013 is critical, because if they don’t show some significant improvement, I think a lot of people will be out on their asses again and we’ll be looking at ANOTHER rebuild.

Husky Football

The Huskies ended their 2007 season with a 4-9 record.  Their 2007 schedule was deemed by many to be the toughest schedule in the nation.  Tyrone Willingham was coming off of his third consecutive losing season (going 2-9 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006), and many believed he should have been fired then and there.  I was one of those simple-minded folks who said we should give him ONE more chance.  Jake Locker had a full season under his belt, why not give Willingham an opportunity to turn things around with the guy he brought in as his quarterback?

Well, we kicked off 2008 by being trounced in Oregon (who would go on to finish 10-3).  Then, we lost by a single point at home to BYU (thanks to the infamous penalty flag thrown on Locker as he ran in for the would-be game-tying touchdown and tossed the ball over his shoulder … thank you Pac-10 referees for being so damn competent) on a missed extra point at the end of the game.  Then, we lost at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to lose to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game).

THEN, we lost our quarterback, our best player, and really our only GOOD player, in the Stanford game.  After that, with the likes of Ronnie Fouch at the helm, we proceeded to lose all the rest of our games (including a pathetic heartbreaker of an Apple Cup, 16-13 in overtime).

0-12.  Doesn’t get any worse than that.  Can only go up from there, right?

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

The 2009 Huskies improved by 5 games.  There was a signature win at home over the then-#3 USC Trojans, 16-13 on a last-minute field goal.  There was a signature near-win the first game of the season at home against LSU.  Jake Locker took huge strides in his development as a passer.  Everything looked great for the future.

The 2010 Huskies weren’t all that much more improved than the 2009 team, but they managed to win six regular season games (winning out after starting 3-6, thanks to a soft schedule to finish things) and earned a bowl game against Nebraska.  Of course, they got killed by Nebraska, IN Husky Stadium, earlier that season.  But, in the rematch, this Husky team was totally reborn and they took it to the Cornhuskers, stifling them 19-7.

That led to somewhat higher expectations for 2011, but how high could we possibly make them?  Let’s face it, we’d lost our best player and were breaking in a new quarterback.  Our defense was still on the fritz, and we were still in a very tough conference with Oregon, Stanford, and USC.  Not to mention we had to go to Nebraska, where we most certainly got our shit kicked in.

2011 was a disappointment because there was no Signature Win.  In 2009 and 2010, we had victories over USC and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  In 2011, we barely squeaked by Eastern Washington in the first game.  We were absolutely terrorized by the aforementioned heavy hitters (losing the games to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Nebraska by a combined 190-93).  In spite of losing ALL the games were were technically “supposed” to lose, we were still in line for a 1-game improvement over 2010.  That officially died when A. we went into Oregon State and lost (they ended the season with 3 wins) and B. we faced RGIII and the Baylor Bears and gave up 67 points on 777 yards of offense in losing by 11.

Back-to-back 7-6 seasons left a bitter taste in our mouths.  After storming the field against the Cornhuskers, we bent over and grabbed our ankles against the Bears.  2012 would SURELY be different, though.  We had a full season with Keith Price, he had surpassed our wildest expectations by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  How could 2012 NOT be a huge improvement?  On top of all that, we didn’t wait that extra season to see if Nick Holt could turn things around on defense.  We went out, brought in some heavy hitters at recruiting and defensive coaching, and nabbed some top prospects in the process.

Well, there was improvement.  The 2012 Huskies DID manage some signature wins against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State (both in the top 10 at the time we beat them), but they also fell completely flat against the likes of #3 LSU, #2 Oregon, and #11 USC.  In spite of yet another 3-game losing streak in the middle of the season, these Huskies were looking at possibly winning 8 or 9 games when all was said and done!

They were 7-4 (riding a 4-game winning streak) going into the Apple Cup in Pullman.  They had an 18-point lead going into the final quarter … so of COURSE they ended up blowing the game in overtime.  This ultimately led to the Huskies facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and ending up – once again – 7-6.

In short, the Huskies went from 0-12 in 2008, to 5-7 in 2009, to 7-6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  No 7-6 record is created equal, obviously, but at the end of the day people don’t remember how you got there.  They just see where you were and shake their heads.

Keith Price showed all the promise in the world in 2011.  But, he lost all his major weapons (Kearse and Aguilar at receiver, Chris Polk at running back) and couldn’t recover in 2012.  In the Baylor bowl game, Price accounted for 7 touchdowns on offense and looked like the best quarterback on the field – even better than the Heisman Trophy winner and ultimate #2 overall draft pick.  However, in the Apple Cup and again in the Boise State bowl game, Price ended both with interceptions.  He was going into the 2013 season fighting for his job, but from all accounts he’s got it locked up after Spring Ball.  Nevertheless, I have to imagine he’s on a short leash.  We can’t suffer the kind of downgrade in production again.

At this point in Sark’s tenure, he’s got all his own guys now.  2013 is the year we’re expected to win and win consistently.  The non-conference schedule is relatively easy, and the conference schedule isn’t too bad either.  We’ve got veterans in all the right places, we’ve got some serious talent on defense for the first time since he got here, and Price has had a chance to gel with his offensive weapons.  2013 isn’t a Rose Bowl or Bust, but it’s close.  The Huskies have to at least be in the conversation.

I’m not gonna lie to you, beating the Ducks for the first time in eons would go a long way towards cementing Sark’s status as a legend ’round these parts.

Husky Basketball

The 2007/2008 Huskies were a definite low-point in the Romar era.  They finished the regular season 16-16, losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and received the #1 seed in the College Basketball Invitational.  You know, that post-season tournament for the teams not even good enough for the N.I.T.

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

In 2008/2009, we brought in Isaiah Thomas and he was a firecracker right from the start.  We enjoyed Brockman’s senior season, and we rode that wave to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 loss to 5-seed Purdue by two points.  More or less, it was a successful season, but once again it ended prematurely.

In 2009/2010, we had another senior leader taking to the forefront.  This time, it was Q-Pon, who averaged 19 and 7 per game in leading us to a Pac-10 Tournament victory, an 11-seed in the tournament, and upset wins over #6 Marquette (where he hit the clutch game winner) and #3 New Mexico.

Once again, though, the Romar-era Huskies couldn’t get past the Sweet 16.  This time, we lost to West Virginia, thanks to them totally having the length advantage on us.

In 2010/2011, we had our version of a Big 3 with Thomas, MBA, and Holiday.  The last two were seniors and Thomas was playing in what would be his final season.  We rode this squad to another Pac-10 Tournament victory (you all remember COLD BLOODED don’t you?).  This resulted in a 7-seed – our third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – and a victory over 10-seed Georgia before losing in the Round of 32 to 2-seeded North Carolina (by only 3 points, but still).

The 2011/2012 season saw the emergence of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Both were young, extremely talented, and irritatingly inconsistent.  Ross would disappear for minutes at a time.  Wroten had no jump shot whatsoever, so he had to fight for every single basket in the paint.  This team ended up winning the Pac-12 outright, but since the Pac-12 sucked dick that season, and since the Huskies lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, AND since they had no quality wins over ranked non-conference opponents, the Huskies were denied a fourth consecutive NCAA invite.  Instead, they locked down the #1-overall N.I.T. seeding and ran with it to the Final Four in New York City.  It ended with a loss to Minnesota, who would end up losing to eventual-champion Stanford the very next game.

The less said about the 2012/2013 season, the better.  Wroten and Ross both bolted for the NBA, and absolutely no one came in to replace them.  That’s what happens when you’re a good-not-great recruiter in a good-not-great university for basketball:  sometimes you DON’T bring in a player of quality and you suffer as a result.

Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, and N’Diaye were left to pick up the pieces.  This team was pretty solid on defense, but ultimately inept on offense, and now at least three of those guys are gone (with Wilcox having a difficult decision to make regarding his final year of eligibility).  The 2012/2013 Huskies didn’t beat a single ranked team, only beat three teams who ended up going to the NCAAs (Saint Louis, California, and Colorado), and wound up being a 6-seed in the N.I.T., where the subsequently got their shit kicked in at BYU.

What’s in store for 2013/2014?  Well, a solid incoming class with one McDonalds All American at point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss.  If Wilcox comes back, that gives us a veteran scoring presence (for the record, he’s a fool if he leaves; his past season was absolutely dreadful and injury-plagued).  If we can get anything from our young forwards, you could look at a team that surprises a lot of people.  Or, you could be looking at a third-straight N.I.T. bid.  If it’s the latter, I’m not so sure I’d be confident about my job security if I was Romar.

Seattle Supersonics

I won’t go into excruciating detail on this end.  We all know what the last five years have been like for the Sonics.  They went 20-62 in their final season in Seattle (after drafting Kevin Durant and bringing in one of the finest GMs in the game from the San Antonio organization).  They were given away by the city of Seattle, they struggled again the following season, and then they went to the playoffs four straight seasons (losing most recently in the Finals to the beloved Miami Heat).

Now, we’ve got an ownership group and an arena deal in place, and we’re fighting like crazy to steal the Kings from Sacramento.  If all goes according to plan, we will have pro basketball back in Seattle for the 2013/2014 season.  If it doesn’t, then this part of next year’s “Five Years” post is going to be REAL fucking depressing.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m saving the best for last because I can.  Because, honestly, it’s all a little too much and I can hardly believe it myself.  There is cautious optimism for the Mariners and their young core to turn things around.  There’s more confident optimism that the Husky football team will turn some heads this fall.  There’s hope that the Husky basketball team can somehow gel with their new incoming players and make an improbable Tourney run.  There’s delusions that the NBA will be back in Seattle this time next year.

But, that’s nothing.  There is outright SWAGGER for the Seattle Seahawks.  How did we get HERE?

In 2008, we went 4-12.  We had dicked around with Mike Holmgren, we signed on his replacement – Jim Mora Jr. – to be his defensive backs coach, and all the major veterans took a huge dump.  This was coming off of a 2007 season where the Seahawks once again won the division.  But, Shaun Alexander was released at the end, losing out to another injury.  So, Tim Ruskell opted to reload via free agency.  Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were brought in to liven up the running game, but no dice.  Hasselbeck missed a bunch of games, Walter Jones tried surgery but wasn’t the same and was forced to retire at season’s end … it was just a mess.

In 2009, there was something of a fresh start expected with Mora.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in on a huge free agent deal, Aaron Curry was signed as our can’t-lose first round draft pick … in short, we were one of the oldest and least-talented teams in the NFL.  When all was said and done, these Seahawks improved by only 1 game and both Mora and Ruskell were fired.

2010 was the REAL fresh start.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider tag-teamed this roster from head to toe.  They traded for Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst (hey, they can’t all be winners).  They got rid of Housh (taking a healthy bath in the cap hit) and later Deion Branch.  They brought in a rejuvinated Mike Williams who led the team in receiving.  They drafted Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor.  They made hundreds upon hundreds of free agent moves, giving tryouts to anyone and everyone who they thought might be an upgrade.  They got significantly younger, and thanks to a piss-poor division, ended up making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Understand, this wasn’t a legitimate playoff team.  Yes, after two years in the wilderness, they found their way back to civilization, but it was totally phony!  The fact that we beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field is a travesty of common decency (though, it did provide us with the greatest NFL play ever, Beastmode’s Touchdown Scamper).  Our “Cinderella” run ended the following week in Chicago, and you had to wonder how long it would be before the Seahawks made the playoffs again.

The 2011 Seahawks were hamstrung by the NFL Lockout.  They fired their offensive coordinator and hired Darrell Bevell from Minnesota.  Which meant, if they stood any chance of competing in ANY games that season, they’d have to bring some people in who knew Bevell’s system.  This meant Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  They let Hasselbeck go with a cordial goodbye and handed the keys to the team over to Tarvar (without so much as a second look at Whitehurst, who was as bad as we all remember him being and then some).

Tarvar proved tough, but ultimately inept when the game was on the line.  Those 2011 Seahawks also finished the regular season 7-9 and weren’t given the benefit of a lousy NFC West to “earn” a home playoff game.

With a full offseason going into 2012, the Seahawks needed to make a change.  They’d drafted well, bringing in guys like Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright.  But, they needed a signal-caller with some zazz!  So, they signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, and they went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

People say if Wilson was just 2-3 inches taller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick.  But, he’s not, so now he’s ours.

Wilson earned his opportunity to have an Open Competition in Training Camp.  This led to him wowing us in the Pre-Season, which ultimately led to him winning the job and running with it.  The 2012 Seahawks took it easy with him for the first few weeks, but once they knew he could handle himself, they opened things up.  This resulted in the Seahawks being the best team in football over the second half of the season.  Still, their early-season slip-ups meant that the 49ers won the division, relegating us to the fifth seed in the NFC.

We went into Washington and somehow came away with a victory.  Then, we went into Atlanta, gave them a 20-point lead, and somehow led in the game with 30 seconds to go.  That was choked away, but the message was sent.  It wasn’t, “Wait Until Next Year,” the way most fanbases say it, more resigned to their current fate as losers, sorely, bitterly hoping that things will turn around for them in short order.

No, this is, “Just you WAIT until next year, chickenfuckers!”  Because the 2013 Seahawks are a runaway train that has Super Bowl or Bust written all over them!

In five years, the Seahawks have gone from one of the oldest and worst teams in the NFL to one of the youngest and best teams.  In five years, the Seahawks have gone from bottom-feeders to would-be kings.  We fans are cashing in our 401Ks in anticipation of buying Super Bowl tickets in 2014.  It’s never been so clear and so positive in the city of Seattle.  They can single-handedly reverse the fortunes of this desolate sports city.  All they need to do is win.

What’s more, they’re spreading around the positivity.  People are stoked on the Mariners WAY more than they should be thanks to the good will generated by the Seahawks.  Sports fans have something to look forward to and spirits are bright.  This is carrying over to the other sports in hopes that the good vibes will roll on.

We’ll see.  If the Seahawks win it all, the Mariners contend for a playoff spot, the Huskies make a run at the Rose Bowl, the basketball Huskies make a run at the NCAA Tournament, and the Sonics return to Seattle, we could be talking about the greatest 5-year turnaround any sports city has ever seen.  Fingers crossed.

Seattle Sports Hell Goes Camping

I’m not gonna lie to you, there could be better days during the year to leave this dump and go camping in another dump for four days, but this is the weekend it works best for my family, so I’m falling in line.

I’ll admit, I’m not thrilled about missing the third pre-season game, which is also Russell Wilson’s first start as a professional, but who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky.  Come 5pm tomorrow, I’m going to test the limits of 710 AM (and probably get nothing but static).  To be perfectly frank, these could be some of the most pivotal four days of the entire year!  What if Russell Wilson does so well they name him the starter for the regular season?  Which would lead to perhaps trading Matt Flynn and keeping Tarvar as a backup … which would lead to Wilson severely twisting his knee in Week 1 … which would lead to yet another season of Tarvar at the helm!

I’d rather not think about that.  My goal is to avoid hearing about the game on Friday, then going home and watching the replay on DVR before turning on my phone or my computer.

In the meantime, this site is going dark.  A website going dark is NOT the end of the world!  You people (what do you mean, “you people”?) will get along just fine without me.

But, just in case, I’ll try to give you some things to occupy your minds while I’m gone.

This article on Greg Halman is making the rounds.  It’s kind of a doozy.

TMQ is back at it.  He actually had his return column last week on the 14th.  And here is his AFC Preview from the 21st.

I’m not a huge fan of the Oral History format, mostly because 80% of the names are people who you don’t recognize and continuously forget who they are throughout.  Nevertheless, “White Men Can’t Jump” is about as good as it gets in my book as far as sports movies are concerned.  Yo mama’s an astronaut …

Here’s an excellent series on hip-hop from the AV Club.  I would recommend going back to the beginning of the series and continuing onward as he takes us through a journey to the year 2000.

Also, if you’re not watching Breaking Bad, what the hell is wrong with you?  Take these next four days to buy all the seasons on DVD (or download them illegally, if that is your wont) and watch them all, in a row.  I’m serious, quit being an asshole and watch this show already!

Finally, turn down the volume on your computer before opening this.  Ron Swanson is my favorite.  My favorite what?  Just my favorite.

The last time I went on vacation, the Mariners were perfect game’d by the worst pitcher in the universe.  What were the odds we’d be facing the very same team this weekend, only this time he’s no longer in the rotation?

Greg Halman Is Dead

It always sucks when people you like die; that’s just a given.  It’s always a little different when they’re a celebrity of sorts.

Obviously, in this situation you’ve got a guy who – by all acounts – was really an awesome person.  That trumps everything else and you can’t help but feel shattered for the loss of his close friends and family.  As a fan of the Mariners, and a fan of Greg Halman, I don’t have that deep sense of personal pain.  But, that doesn’t mean it’s still not a shock.  Doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt.

Greg Halman the baseball player was an up-and-comer.  A super-talented, super-athletic outfielder who could play all three spots.  He had speed, he had power, and the only reason he was an up-and-comer as opposed to a guy who’d officially Made It is because he struck out a little too often and he walked a little too few and far between.  He was what’s known as “Toolsy”.  He had all of the skills to make it big in the Big Leagues; all he needed to do was develop an eye at the plate and he would’ve been there.

It’s just such a damn shame because I liked him more than the rest of our outfield prospect glut (which includes Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero, Mike Wilson, and Mike Carp).  He had more power than anyone except, arguably, Peguero; he had the best ability to hit the ball the other way and still hit it out; and his defensive skills were only outmatched by, arguably, Michael Saunders, who had more experience because he was given more of a shot.  I figured if there was a chance for any of these guys to stick and make an impact in the outfield (considering I feel Carp is more of a first baseman or DH), it most likely would’ve been Halman (followed by Wells, then probably Robinson).

This one hurts.  It hurts because the team is weaker for it, but most importantly it hurts because a good person was cut down in his prime.  He had so much more to give.  The world is worse off for having Halman out of it.

A Mid-August Look At The Mariners’ Youth Movement

With the start of football season, the Mariners just haven’t been all that interesting, so my posts on the team have been unsurprisingly less frequent.  However, of late, the Mariners have produced some exciting moments from a batch of our younger guys getting a late-season showcase.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  This is August.  This is a team far from contention.  We’ve seen this before; we’ll reserve our judgment for next year.  Let’s see if they can continue to produce when the games, the at bats, the pitches actually mean something.

I hear you.  How many times have we seen a pitcher come on like gangbusters in September, only to suck to high heaven the following spring?  How many hitters have made a name for themselves with their late-season call up, only to have that name erased forever when shit was on the line?  But, I will say this:  I’d rather have guys produce now than the alternative (being:  not producing at all).  Do quality at bats & innings pitched guarantee success in the following season?  No, of course not.  But, at least they open the door to possibility.  To hope.

I’m going to give an overview of a few of the more exciting players who’ve made an impact of late.  Let’s start with the pitchers, since they’re actually the less interesting of the two sides.

Dan Cortes – Did you know this guy has one of the lowest ERAs on the team?  You wouldn’t think so, by reading all the blogs around the city.  Of course, we’re talking about 8 measly innings pitched, but still.  All I ever hear about the guy is how he walks the world, but truth be told he’s only walked 3 guys.  What’s probably the most disturbing is that he’s struck out 0.  It’s too early to tell if the guy is going to be a major bullpen threat next year, but he’s shown so far in his few outings that he can go multiple innings, he can keep guys off base, and he’s even induced more groundball outs than flyball outs.  If he can keep it up, and have an awesome Spring, you could be looking at a trusted 6th/7th inning guy.

Tom Wilhelmsen – In my opinion, a guy who has no business being on a major league roster right now.  Granted, he’s got a live arm, but he’s too damn wild and ineffective.  He’s given up 12 walks vs. 10 strikeouts, he’s got an ERA in the mid-6 range, and he doesn’t appear to be making any progress.  For every decent outing, he’s got an absolute disaster right around the corner.  My best case scenario for this guy:  manage to somehow not kill the rest of his trade value over the next month and a half, then package him with some other prospects for a quality bat.  He’s a guy I wouldn’t mind losing, even if his is a story heart warming.

Josh Lueke – Glad we traded for this guy, glad we kept him glad he’s gotten a chance to show what he can do after his abomination of an April.  Don’t let the 8.44 ERA fool you; he was over 17 when he was originally sent down to Tacoma after his first 8 appearances.  The guy couldn’t do anything right, the velocity on his fastball was disturbingly low, and he was just getting pounded left and right.  Ever since his mid-July call-up, he’s pitched 9.2 innings and given up only 3 runs (with 7 strikeouts vs. 2 walks).  He’s too young to be closing games in the Majors, but one day he could be the man.  It’s nice having him around on his way up (as I imagine his trip back down the ladder of success will be a quick & painful one).

Charlie Furbush – The jury isn’t just out on this guy; the jury has yet to be selected!  He’s started 3 games for us, relieved in another.  He’s had a good start (5 innings, 1 run), a terrible start (4 innings, 7 runs, 6 earned), and a great start (7 innings, 1 run, against the Red Sox of all teams).  Sure, there’s promise, but promises are made to be broken.  The upside is:  he becomes a left-handed Doug Fister (i.e.  he’s a capable innings-eater who doesn’t strike anybody out, but also doesn’t walk the world).  If all he becomes is the left-handed Doug Fister, then we’ve pretty much come away from that trade ahead, since there are three other guys involved with the deal (not counting Pauley, who nobody in their right mind will ever miss).  If he fails in his charge to become the left-haded Doug Fister, then who cares?  Doug Fisters are a dime a dozen (you’ll never know how it pains me to say that, as I was actually a pretty big Doug Fister fan while he was here).

Blake Beavan – Here’s another guy with limited upside.  Essentially, we want him to be the right-handed Doug Fister (or, just Doug Fister).  At first, you had to LOVE what you saw out of the kid.  6 consecutive quality starts to kick off his career (including a couple of impressive performances down in Anaheim, going 14.1 innings over 2 starts, giving up 3 earned runs).  He has since backed those games up with a couple of real clunkers (11.1 innings, 11 runs, 6 home runs against Boston & Toronto).  That’s not going to cut it.  He’s got to find a way to be a little more spectacular in his wins and a little less like Chinese Water Torture in his losses.  I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in this guy right now, but I don’t think there’s any pitcher I’m more interested in seeing down the stretch.  Can he bounce back?  Will he flame out like the Challenger Explosion?

Now, to the hitters (in an effort to not bum everyone out, I’ve decided to leave Justin Smoak off this list).

Trayvon Robinson – Talk about an exciting debut!  The kid has flashed some serious glove, some serious power, and some serious consistency.  He’s 9 for 36 so far with 4 doubles and a homer.  Of course, in his 10 appearances he’s struck out 14 times with only 1 walk (so, in that sense, he’s just like Halman, Peguero, and all the rest of our high-strikeout AAA bashers).  People in the know seem to have higher hopes about Robinson in spite of these K’s, so who knows?  What I want to see out of him more than anything else is a batting average that doesn’t plummet to Figginsian levels with steady playing time.  All of these guys seem to start out ablaze, then a month goes by and it’s like they’ve been hit with a dozen fire extinguishers.

Casper Wells – Before the trade, Wells was hitting .257 with 4 homers, a .323 OBP, and a .451 slugging percentage in 113 at bats spread out over the first four months.  Since the trade, Wells is hitting .326 with 5 homers (including a homer in 4 consecutive games), a .413 OBP, and a .652 slugging percentage in 46 at bats.  Sure, a smaller sample size, but it could also be a testament to what the guy can do when given a chance to compete for a starting spot (and given a chance to play everyday).  A lot to like about the guy’s results, but I question if he can do it over the long haul.  For the moment, though, he’s making the Fister trade look like a fucking blockbuster.

Mike Carp – This guy is easily my favorite story of the year.  Not Pineda, not Ackley, not Wedge shaving off his moustache, not even the cutting of Milton Bradley.  Here’s a guy who looked like nothing more than a AAA also-ran.  Someone with not enough power for the power positions (left field, first base, DH) and not enough skill for the skill positions where we’re hurting the most (third base, short stop, catcher).  Essentially, he was a baseball player without a position.  No matter where you put him, he would ultimately never live up to the ideal.

Then, something happened.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the guy took a few dozen massive doses of steroids, but I’m pretty darn certain that’s not the case.  Simply put, the guy turned into a wild, uncaged animal for our Rainiers.  As guys like Peguero and Halman kept all the Major League playing time for themselves (and doing a poor job at it to boot), Carp quietly went about his business of being the Osama Bin Laden of the PCL (terrorizing, he was terrorizing them).  Finally, in early June, the Mariners had no choice.  They HAD to bring the guy up.

And, I don’t want to say he struggled, but he certainly wasn’t the hitter he was in Tacoma.  He had a .200 batting average with 2 doubles and 0 homers in 35 at bats … okay, so he struggled!  He still had enough walks to keep his OBP at .333.  When he was sent back down in early July, I was convinced that was it for the Mike Carp era.  It proved once and for all that Carp was indeed nothing more than a AAA also-ran.

Then, he was called back up.  And all of a sudden, he started dominating.  They gave him an everyday job and let him take his lumps.  As a result, Carp has rewarded the team with .371 batting average over his last 105 at bats.  He’s hit 6 homers, 6 doubles, and a triple.  He’s slugging .619 over this span to give himself an absolute Ruthian OPS.

You know why he’s my favorite story of the year?  Because he reminds me so much of Edgar.  A guy who toiled in the minors well into his 20s, then finally got a shot on some bad teams.  Once he had a regular opportunity to bat, he ran away with it, winning batting titles and the hearts of the Pacific Northwest.  Who’s to say Carp couldn’t do the same thing as our DH of the future?

I implore Mariners executives:  don’t go out and buy another past-his-prime designated hitter in the hopes that he’ll rebound to his 2-years-ago self.  2 years in baseball years might as well be 2 decades when you’re old.  Mike Carp is here now, he’s inexpensive, and he’s poised to tear the cover off the ball for years to come!

Dustin Ackley – This kid is just amazing.  There’s nothing else to say about him.  I have no concerns whatsoever that he’s going to regress next year.  I fully expect him to have a Wade Boggs type career for the next decade-plus.  Even when he’s struggling (like he has in August, with a .241 batting average), he’s still awesome (a .379 on-base percentage in that very same span).  On the year, he has 25 walks vs. 35 strikeouts.  He’s hit 5 homers, 5 triples, and 11 doubles; I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome that is for a second baseman.  In seriously not that many years, he’s going to go down as the best second baseman the Mariners have ever seen (with apologies to Harold Reynolds).  I love you Dustin Ackley.  So very damn much!

Don’t Give Up On Guti Just Yet

With all of these Quad-A outfielders being thrown around (Greg Halman, Mike Carp, Carlos Peguero, Mike Wilson, Michael Saunders, the newly acquired Casper Wells, Wily Mo Pena, and Trayvon Robinson), there’s been talk that Franklin Gutierrez needs to step it up or risk losing significant playing time (even talk of him being traded and becoming the next great defensive 4th outfielder).

I will grant you, Guti has been a huge disappointment.  From whenever this stomach ailment first kicked in around midseason of last year, through the present, Guti has been very un-Guti at the plate (“Guti” being synonymous with all things awesome).  But, if you’re thinking that this is the perfect time to unload a troublesome bat, I would pray you reconsider.

History is riddled with guys whose teams gave up on them too soon.  Hell, right off the top of my head I can think of any number of Mariners – David Ortiz, Shin Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Raul Ibanez (the first time we let him go in free agency), Carlos Guillen, Mike Morse – ALL of those guys have gone on to bigger and better things for other teams.  I fear, if we end up trading Guti this offseason, he’s going to bulk up, get stronger, and be a better-than-average-at-the-plate centerfielder (to go along with his top-of-the-line defense).  I DON’T want to see that happen.

I’m no doctor, but I gotta think that these stomach things (IBS or Crohn’s Disease or whatever) don’t just fix themselves overnight.  Not only do you have to overhaul your entire dietary way of life, but you have to give these changes time to stick.  You don’t go from feeling like utter shit, to feeling like a .300-hitting Major Leaguer just like THAT.  And, I imagine, making all these changes during the middle of a baseball season isn’t exactly conducive towards a speedy recovery.

Like, imagine if you’re a baseball pitcher, and you find out just before the season starts that you’ve got diabetes … are you REALLY going to snap back to being a Cy Young candidate just because you have your illness diagnosed?  Of course not.  Shit like that takes time to come to grips with!  Then, after you’ve mentally girded yourself, you’ve still got the long process of normalizing how you feel.  So you can go out there every day and play the game of baseball!

Guti is a huge talent.  He’s shown that he’s able to handle American League pitching.  He’s CERTAINLY shown he’s a better hitter than what he’s been so far THIS year!  He’s not old, he’s not fat, so you can’t say he’s simply losing his ability like every Major Leaguer eventually will.  He’s just been weakened by this debilitating disease and it’s going to take him some time to get back to full strength.

If he’s not already turning it around in the month of September, then I would fully expect him to bounce back better than ever by next spring.  He knows what he has to do to get better and get stronger, he will have survived this punishing 2011 campaign, and I bet he’ll be more motivated than ever to turn it all around and give this team the centerfielder it deserves!

Besides, there are defensive 4th outfielders, and then there’s Guti.  His defense is special.  His defense is something you don’t give up on just because of some woes at the plate.  He’ll turn it around.  You’ll see.

I just hope he’ll turn it around while he’s still a member of this team.

Kyle Seager Is A Seattle Mariner, I Guess

So, I guess all you have to do is get really hot down in Tacoma for a couple weeks and you’re the next hot Seattle Mariner prospect.

Because that’s LITERALLY what just happened yesterday.  We’re willing to ride whatever gravy train we can get our hands on, if it means not having to watch guys like Chone Figgins and Jack Cust flail around like assholes.

Granted, you could probably take any player from any level of the minor leagues and he’d be a better fit for this team than Chone Figgins, but still.  This says almost NOTHING of the ability of Kyle Seager and everything of the abilities of these current Mariner hitters.  How fucked up is it that we can pencil in performances like yesterday’s 2-hit comedy festival before they even happen, based solely on the fact that Chone Figgins is starting at third base?

Not that he’s our only problem, or even our MAIN problem anymore.  Franklin Gutierrez isn’t a Major League baseball player right now.  Carlos Peguero has NEVER been a Major Leaguer.  Justin Smoak is in a full-fledged nosedive, Brendan Ryan is barely clinging to a .250 batting average, and Adam Kennedy is 35 fucking years old.

At least we have Ackley.  And now, we’ve got his college teammate.  If Kyle Seager works out, we may have to bring in that entire North Carolina baseball team and give them their hacks.

This year is truly unprecedented.  All these young hitters getting a chance with the Major League club when, by all rights, most of them should still be in Triple-A.  Obviously, you can’t expect them all to shake out in your favor.  Ackley looks like a winner, Smoak looks like he’s here to stay (though, he’s going to need to run into a hot streak sooner or later), and Halman looks like he could be a decent fourth outfielder.  Is Kyle Seager our new third baseman going forward?  I guess we’ll find out.

That’s one good thing about being dead last in all important offensive catagories:  we’re ALWAYS going to have a chance to find out if a player is ready for promotion or not.

How Much Shuffling Is Too Much Shuffling?

The Mariners’ offense is pretty inept.  STOP THE PRESSES, I get it.  But they appear to be more inept than normal lately, because the pitching in the month of June – for the most part – has been rock solid.  Kicking away those games in Washington, losing again last night, falling below .500, and getting passed by the Angels in the standings have put a huge damper on what’s been an otherwise delightful season, given our expectations.

People say that baseball is mostly a mental game (they try to quantify that with some kind of percentage, but I just don’t see the point).  I’ve never really understood this, but maybe that’s because I was never much of a baseball player.  It would seem to me, regardless of where you are in the lineup, your job is to get hits and push runners home.  Your placement in the batting order isn’t necessarily a reflection of what’s expected of you so much as an assessment of what you’ve accomplished up to this point in your career.  Ichiro bats first because, thus far in his tenure in the Major Leagues, he’s been good at getting on base.  Jack Wilson bats towards the bottom because he’s not quite so good.  But, that doesn’t mean his job is any different than Ichiro’s; he’s still expected to get on base and help the team score.

Therefore, the “pressure” a player may feel by batting in the top four or five spots is based on nothing more than what others in the game of baseball have traditionally done in those spots.  Yes, there’s more expected of you if you’re batting cleanup, but that’s only because you’ve shown in the past that you’ve been able to do what it takes to get the job done.

So, my question is:  why does someone who was once an awesome hitter toward the bottom of the order start to struggle now that he’s been placed higher in that same lineup?  I mean, after all, other teams have seen what you did before; they know what you’re capable of.  If you were still down there, being awesome, they’d pitch to you the same way they are now.

It goes back to that mental thing.  Players rarely, if ever, admit that the pressure starts to get to them, but how else do you explain it?

Perhaps “pressure” isn’t the right word.  Perhaps it has more to do with a comfort level.  “Knowing your role” as they like to say.  We talk about it all the time when it comes to bullpens, but that makes sense because they don’t play every day.  Different guys are used in different situations; and yeah, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice no matter what, but it’s got to be nice to know that if your team has a lead, there’s a set order of guys used.  You can better prepare yourself mentally for your job as the later innings approach.

I would think, to a degree, the same would apply to position players.  Everyday players know that they’re going to play most every day.  Platoon guys can look ahead to who’s the starting pitcher for the other team and know they’ll most likely be in there on those days.  In that sense, I would say Eric Wedge has done a very good job.  His communication skills have been lauded far and wide this season, and his consistency with his convictions has been top notch.

Except, of course, when it comes to writing out the lineups.  Aside from Ichiro, spots 2 through 9 have been shuffled on a near-constant basis.  The other day was notable for the beat writers because it was the first time (all year?) in at least a very long time that Wedge has used the same lineup two days in a row.  If you buy all this mental mumbo jumbo, then you’d have to conclude that this practice can be quite damaging to a player.  Again, I don’t get it; my thought on the matter boils down to:  Just Hit The Ball, Stupid.  But, I’m not a baseball player, so what do I know?

What I WILL argue, however, is:  What’s the point of all this shuffling anyway?  If it means so much to the players (who, again, will never admit it), then why don’t you just leave the lineup alone for a while?  Is it REALLY going to “jumpstart” someone like Peguero or Halman by moving them all around in the lineup?  Unlikely!  So, just pick a spot and put them there.  Feel free to adjust your lineup depending on whether or not a righty or a lefty is starting, but after that STOP MOVING PEOPLE AROUND.

This is your offense, Eric Wedge.  For better or for worse.  Until we’re able to infuse it with fresh talent, these guys are who you’ve got.  So quit jerking everyone around and settle on a starting nine already!  Shuffling them all up and down the lineup isn’t going to make them better hitters.  It’s just going to give them complexes.  I’d rather have the players comfortable, so some of this mental torment can be lifted and we can see what they can really do.

Here’s a hint:  not much.

Fun Mariners Are Fun!

See, if anything, I bet most people would’ve predicted before the series began that we’d win on Saturday (Felix vs. Nobody) and lose on Friday and Sunday.

But lo, those Mariners, they ain’t what they used to be, ain’t what they used to be, ain’t what they used to be.

Maybe it was just because we played the Phillies, but I’m sensing that the fans are starting to feel it a little bit.  Did Philly just travel really well this weekend?  Has their success turned them into something of a Red Sox Nation where they have fans who’ve never even seen them play in their home stadium?  Could be part of it; I guess we’ll find out next weekend.

Because if you can’t get excited for being in an American League park and seeing your team’s pitchers bat right before your eyes, then there’s just nothing I can do for you.

You know what we could really use?  A good winning streak.  Another 9 wins in 11 games kind of thing.  Something to not only vault us into first place in the AL West (currently 0.5 games behind Texas), but vault us convincingly into first place.  Convincingly enough that we might just have to talk about being buyers at the Trade Deadline.

Isn’t that an odd thing to think about?  Here we are, a team with half its farm system up and contributing … and yet we’re still contending for the division?  This is a transition year!  This is a rebuilding year!  This is a year where we’re giving the kids a shot to see who we can count on going forward!  This isn’t a year where we’re supposed to think about trading some of those kids to get a veteran bat for a pennant chase!

Except it is.  It’s June 20th and we’re within half a game.  If we’re this close a month from now, we have to realistically think about things like Trading For A Bat.  Remarkable.

Remarkable and a little nerve-wracking.  Because all of our best trade chips are the same people who are keeping us in this race.  Our pitching.  Can’t move that.  If we traded away a single starter, we’d be hosed!  Who would take his place?  Have you seen Tacoma’s rotation thus far?  It’s abysmal!  And, if you convert David Pauley back into a starter, guess what:  that makes your bullpen all the crappier. 

Of course, that might have to be the way to go.  Because you know Smoak and Ackley aren’t going anywhere.  And guys like Peguero, Halman, and Carp haven’t done enough in the Majors to net you diddly squat.

And please, let’s just forget about trading Figgins.  It’s just NOT going to happen, okay?

God, I can’t tell you how much fun it is to think about these things, considering my expectations going into the year.  This is a fun baseball team to watch.  Here’s to that showing up at the Safeco turnstiles next weekend.

Mariners Call Up Dustin Ackley

FINALLY!

It’s always exciting when new players are promoted from the minor leagues, especially when you’re a Not Very Good Team.  While the Mariners are currently 1 game over .500 and 1 game behind first place Texas, they’re still a Not Very Good Team.  They’re GOOD, but not Very Good.  Good teams don’t make the playoffs.

It’s even more exciting when new players are promoted from the minor leagues and start to show signs of real Major League success.  ESPECIALLY after a long string of failures (of which I’ll list but a few):

  • Michael Saunders
  • Matt Tuiasosopo
  • Wladimir Balentien
  • Jeff Clement
  • Bryan LaHair
  • Mike Morse
  • Jeremy Reed
  • Justin Leone
  • Bucky Jacobsen

This year, I would argue, we’ve promoted guys who are ALL better than the chumps I’ve just listed.  Guys like Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, Michael Pineda, and I would even include Justin Smoak in that list, since he played primarily in Tacoma last season after we traded for him. 

The jury is still out on Peguero, but I think it’s very telling that he’s played in 30 games already and doesn’t look TOTALLY overwhelmed.  Granted, his batting average is only .223, and he’s averaging a little over a strikeout per game, but he doesn’t inspire the same sense of doom that guys like Balentien and Clement once did.  I honestly believe that on any given pitch, Peguero could hit one out of the park.

As for Halman, you’re looking at an even smaller sample size of 9 games, but the kid is showing an uncanny ability to hit the ball up the middle and the other way.  For a right-handed hitter in Safeco, that’s CRUCIAL to making it.  I hope he gets a chance to continue this run he’s on; I’d rather see Halman patrolling left field than Carp or Peguero.  And if that means Cust continues to ride pine, then so be it.

Mike Carp hasn’t made a tremendous impression since his call-up last week, but he’s limiting mistakes and that’s just as good for now.  I’d be more worried if his batting average were under .100 and he was striking out 2 of every 3 at bats.  But, he’s not doing those things, and the power will come as soon as he’s comfortable.  Or, it won’t, and he’ll be sent down; either way, he deserves at least a small modicum of our attention.

Justin Smoak, obviously, is our first baseman of the future, and he’s shown it this year.  For a guy who’s not quite a rookie anymore, but is still getting his first full season as the established first baseman under his belt, I’ll take .250/.350/.450 every damn time.  The sky is the limit for this kid; I firmly believe it’s only Up from here.

Of course, aside from Pineda, the most anticipated call-up of 2011 has surely been Dustin Ackley.  He hit .303, with a .421 on-base percentage and an OPS of .908 down in Tacoma.  That’s as a second baseman!  I’m not expecting him to do that for the Mariners this year, but I’m also not putting it past him.  Either way, I have to expect those are the kinds of numbers he’s CAPABLE of producing, at some point in the future.  And now, FINALLY, we get to see him in action.  Real action.  Life or death action.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see this lineup:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Ryan – SS
  3. Smoak – 1B
  4. Peguero – DH
  5. Olivo – C
  6. Kennedy – 3B
  7. Gutierrez – CF
  8. Ackley – 2B
  9. Halman – LF

That’s what I want to see, at least once this weekend.  And eventually, if everything I wish for turns to gold – with every single one of these prospects realizing their full potential – I’d like to see THIS lineup:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Ackley – 2B
  3. Halman – LF
  4. Smoak – 1B
  5. Peguero – DH
  6. Olivo – C
  7. Gutierrez – CF
  8. Ryan – SS
  9. Figgins/Kennedy/Other – 3B

Wouldn’t that be somethin’?  Huh?  Ackley lookin’ like a left-handed Derek Jeter.  Halman lookin’ like A-Rod with a personality.  Smoak lookin’ like a switch-hitting Mark McGwire (minus the bacne & ‘roid rage).  Peguero lookin’ like a left-handed Jay Buhner.  Olivo, Ryan, and Figgins/Kennedy down in the order where they belong …

I love days off after a thrilling win.  I love days when hot shot prospects are called up and let us dream about a future filled with World Series banners.  I love living in total and complete denial, if only for a few hours before reality comes crashing down.