The Mariners Absolutely Must Fire President Kevin Mather Immediately

I don’t come to these types of reactionary decisions lightly. I’m not waiting around, scrolling Twitter all day, just looking for something to be offended by. Indeed, when I come across something that either already has blown up, or clearly WILL blow up in the very near future, I tend to chuckle and think, “Well, that person just ended their own life.”

These types of responses – so and so must be fired immediately – get lumped in with this phony concept of Cancel Culture. For starters, it doesn’t exist. No one is ever canceled; at worst, they go in Time Out for a while and then get to resume earning a living again. If Brett Ratner can get another job directing a major motion picture, if Mel Gibson can be welcomed back into the Hollywood fold, if Louis C.K. can start touring again after a nine-month vacation, you tell me who’s really canceled. Beyond that, you know who NEVER seems to get canceled? Good people. Isn’t that strange? It’s only the fucking assholes, or the idiots who can’t keep their mouths shut and need to boost their own egos constantly who end up taking themselves down (for a period of time). Furthermore, if you don’t know how the game is played by now, it’s your own fault. If you do or say shitty things, you will be exposed eventually … SO JUST DON’T DO OR SAY SHITTY THINGS! Because it very much is a game, and you’re losing if you get found out; there’s no money in being a martyr. Just because good people don’t get canceled doesn’t mean there aren’t bad people absolutely THRIVING; they’re just smart enough to know how the world works.

In fact, I’m annoyed that Kevin Mather’s speech at the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club (whatever the FUCK that is; I’m assuming it’s full of the absolute worst of what this area has to offer, when it comes to entitled wealthy pricks) is even SLIGHTLY brushing up against racism, because while he’s certainly being one of those entitled wealthy pricks in his comments about Iwakuma (and other players, not noted in the link above; go find the full transcript for all of his bon mots), and while those are indeed fireable sentiments, I’m not here to tell you what you don’t already know: rich old white guy looks down on those from other ethnicities, news at 11.

I think Kevin Mather should be fired because he’s fucking terrible at his job!

When you are a president of something, your primary job is to be a leader. Handing out all of the Mariners’ internal secrets – when it comes to sabotaging a player’s service time, when it comes to exposing (in broad strokes) the organization’s financial situation, when it comes to fucking badmouthing your employees (you know, the guys you rely on to play the fucking game of baseball) – that’s not being a leader. I mean, in political terms, it’s the baseball equivalent of Joe Biden handing all of our nuclear codes to the Russians; Kevin Mather is helping THE REST OF THE LEAGUE destroy the Mariners.

If you’re a player in the organization, how can you trust anything that anyone says, from manager Scott Servais, to GM Jerry Dipoto, to primary owner and CEO John Stanton? If you are a free agent, why would you ever sign with a team that has this much contempt for its players? IT’S ALREADY HARD ENOUGH TO GET FREE AGENTS TO COME TO FUCKING SEATTLE! Because we’re so far out of the way, because we’ve sucked for almost the entirety of this organization’s existence, and because the weather is fucking shit! Now you’re chopping off both of the organization’s arms and legs, tossing us a sword, and telling us to go fight?

Someone who WANTED to get fired, who went into his boss’s office and shat on his desk and motherfuckered everyone in the most public and ostentatious way possible couldn’t have done a better job than what Mather did at this meaningless online event. He name-drops just about everyone, and NOT in a good way; in fact, he has something derogatory to say about just about everyone.

The thing is, did he lie? As far as I can tell, no. He said what everyone was already thinking. We knew there was no chance that any of the high-level prospects were going to get a shot at the Major Leagues in 2020. We knew that Jarred Kelenic wouldn’t likely be called up until May of 2021, to ensure that the Mariners control his services through 2027. We knew, financially, the Mariners are in good shape, because they have a controlling stake in their own cable channel that earns them countless millions of dollars that they get to hide from the rest of the league (there’s no profit-sharing in Regional Sports Networks; that’s all M’s, baby!). But, you can’t say those things out loud! Major League Baseball has another huge collective bargaining agreement to work out with the player’s union very soon! Do you think the rest of the league wants this type of dirty laundry aired for all to see (and to be used against them)?!

What galls me is that Kevin Mather talked about how confident he is that the Mariners are going to be world champions with this group. First of all, don’t you God damn jinx it! Secondly, if you’re ostensibly so high on these players, why are you making it nearly impossible for them to want to stick around longer than they absolutely have to? Why do I envision some of these guys refusing to play, and forcing their way out of Seattle eventually? Why do I see those championship hopes slipping through our fingers like the sands of fucking time, because one way or another we’re going to shoot ourselves in the fucking foot?

That’s what this is: the ultimate act of self-sabotage. His comments are no good for the Seattle Mariners organization BECAUSE they are the truth. They are the truth and everyone knows it, because there are 29 other MLB organizations who feel the same way about their own players (the only difference is, the other 29 presidents aren’t so fucking STUPID as to speak these words into a recorded Zoom meeting – allegedly while not knowing that it was being recorded in the first place, because he’s old and technologically inept). In that sense, this is the most Mariners thing he could have possibly done. The Mariners are ALWAYS fucking things up for themselves, in new and profoundly shocking and moronic ways. It’s like we’re fucking allergic to winning!

I am usually inclined to give people a second chance, if they speak out of turn or let some small thing slip out in conversation, or if something is taken out of context, but we’re talking about a keynote speech. This isn’t something he just blurted into a hot mic; this is something he worked on and maybe even rehearsed. To not know that this would get out into the world is BEYOND arrogant and/or asinine, because EVERYTHING gets out into the world! Shit man, even Ted Cruz can’t sneak away to Cancun for a weekend – abandoning his state in its time of need like the miserable fucking snake oil salesman that he is – without his picture (ON THE PLANE) circulating throughout every corner of the Internet. You think, you, Kevin Mather, are somehow exempt from the world that is 2021?

Of course, I had completely forgotten about how Mather was wrapped up in that sexual harassment scandal (and somehow got away scot-free with his employment with the organization intact). I was going to say that even though this is his first strike (it would, in fact, be his second strike … that we are aware of), he needs to be fired immediately, because this goes above and beyond damaging to the Seattle Mariners. It’s fucking sabotage.

His apology (riddled with spelling and grammatical errors as it is; perhaps he needs an English interpreter to help him with his statements) is meaningless. It’s also the first time he’s lied to us in this entire ordeal. Those comments are his own, because they are also reflective of the Seattle Mariners’ organization. They come off of years of strategy meetings and conversations with the rest of the higher ups, formulating their plan on how to run this rebuild. He can work to make amends all he wants, but that needs to be done with a pink slip in his back pocket.

Kevin Mather clearly can’t be trusted with delicate, valuable information related to the Seattle Mariners. Furthermore, I don’t know of a damn thing he has EVER done that makes him worthy of keeping his job. The best thing you could say about Mather up to this point is that he managed to stay OUT of the news (again, aside from the sexual harassment scandal). That’s something Chuck Armstrong – his predecessor – couldn’t seem to accomplish, as he kept sticking his big foot in his mouth in seemingly every interview. But, to blow up whatever good will he’d built up in such spectacular fashion is akin to striking out the side on a single pitch.

ONETWOTHREESTRIKESYOU’REOUT, Kevin Mather. I know you’re only fluent in Dumb, but I trust you won’t need anyone else to spell it out for you to help you understand.

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.

Let’s Take An Early Look At The Mariners’ Starting Rotation 2019

Last week, I wrote about the difference between the 2018 everyday lineup and the projected 2019 everyday lineup. TL;DR: drastically worse at a few spots, slight improvement at a few spots, banking on bounce-back years from a lot of veteran guys. If you squint, you can sort of make out a Major League lineup with this group of guys, though I still find the reduction of power worrisome.

The pitching staff has been shaken up quite a bit as well compared to 2018. While the bullpen won’t be settled until we’re deep into Spring Training, the starting rotation is more or less on the 40-man roster as we speak, so I feel pretty safe in getting into this.

Gone from 2018 Roster

  • James Paxton
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Hisashi Iwakuma

Starting from the bottom, Iwakuma didn’t throw a single inning for the Mariners in 2018, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t work his ass off all year to try to come back from injury! That ship has officially sailed, as he’s back in Japan to close out his professional career. He was always a longshot anyway, so getting nothing out of him last year feels pretty appropriate. He was nevertheless a quality starter for this team for a number of years.

Ariel Miranda spent most of last year in the minors, making only one start in Seattle. He has since asked out of the organization, to also pitch in Japan in 2019. It was somewhat surprising, after all he did in 2017 as a guy who wasn’t supposed to make the team, then ended up pitching most of the year in Seattle due to injuries. But, the rotation stayed mostly healthy in 2018, and Miranda just couldn’t find a way to make the leap. It’s not a substantial loss, as he’s really a Quad-A player, but it hurts this team’s depth, no question.

Erasmo Ramirez was supposed to be a starter out of Spring Training last year, but got hurt, and kept having setbacks throughout an overall disappointing year. He closed out 2017 strong, but never got it going in his 10 starts in 2018. The team let him walk, as he rightly wasn’t deserving of a raise in arbitration. Let’s hope this is the last time we sign up for the Erasmo Ramirez Experience.

The big loss, obviously, is our ace – James Paxton – getting traded to the Yankees. He has yet to stay healthy for a full year (28 starts in 2018 was as close as he’s gotten), but when he’s on, there are few better in the game today. The Mariners haven’t really filled this part of their rotation – 2019 should prove to be ace-less – but the hope is one of the younger guys steps up in the next couple years.

Holdovers from 2018

  • Marco Gonzales
  • Mike Leake
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Roenis Elias

Starting from the top, I think this is how you’d rank these guys heading into 2019. Marco Gonzales had a rough go after the trade in 2017, but with all of 2018 to develop and get better, he really stepped up and proved a lot of people wrong, myself included. He’s still young – he’ll be 27 this year – but already he’s proven to be a reliable #3-type starter. As he ages, you figure that total innings number will grow (he had 166.2 last year), so the name of the game is staying healthy, refining his approach, and continuing to battle. He’ll never be an ace, but it wouldn’t shock me if he took another step forward at some point to be a quality #2 starter in this league.

Mike Leake, when he’s on, is probably this team’s best starter. He made 31 starts last year and 18 of them were of the Quality variety. 9 of those starts were 7 innings or more, with 2 runs allowed or less. His problem, obviously, is that when he’s NOT on, he’s about as bad as you can get. 5 of his starts went less than 5 innings, and were some real turds. At 31 years of age, he is who he is at this point, which again is right in that #3 starter sort of range.

Felix has had a rough go of it the last couple years. 2017 was largely related to injuries, 2018 was largely related to ineffectiveness. He’s in the final year of his huge contract, and it’s hard to imagine he’s going to get any better than he was last year. 155.2 innings over 28 starts (and 1 relief appearance that was like a start, as he came in for an injured Paxton in the first inning). He had 8 Quality Starts, but only 3 of those really special Felix Quality Starts (7+, 2 or less). A lot has been made of the dwindling speed on his fastball, but it’s his command more than anything that’s let him down, as teams lay off his off-speed stuff and totally beat him into submission with anything else. He gave up 27 homers last year, easily a career high, while his K/9 is all the way down to 7.23. More often than not, he’s gutting his way through 5 innings, but one of those innings (usually the first) will be absolutely miserable for everyone involved. We’re running out the clock on this guy, and it couldn’t be sadder.

Wade LeBlanc got a nifty little extension last year after entering the rotation and putting up some really quality numbers. He made 27 starts and for the most part kept this team in ballgames. At this point, he’s anywhere from a #3 to a #5 starter, but at that price point and with those results, you’ll take that all day every day. He may not be a long-term solution, but he’s not a bad guy to have around on a team like this, with absolutely no expectations whatsoever.

Roenis Elias is back on another Arb year contract and figures to start the season in the bullpen. With the way this roster has shaken out, he figures to get a good share of spot starts, but at this point he’s no better than a #5 guy who on a good team would still be in AAA (assuming he has options, which I don’t know if he does or not). Either way, as a long reliever, you could do worse, particularly with this group of guys, all of which are capable of absolute duds on any given night.

Incoming 2019

  • Yusei Kikuchi
  • Justus Sheffield
  • Erik Swanson

The big name – and the lock to make the Opening Day Starting Rotation – is Kikuchi. He’s not an ace, but he probably tops out as a solid #2, which if he does that in his first MLB season would be a remarkable achievement. For 2019, it’s probably better to temper expectations. But, if he pans out, it’ll be a big reason for this team’s theoretical turnaround.

Sheffield is the big name from the Paxton deal with the Yankees. If anyone on this 40-man roster is destined to turn into an ace, he’s it. He’s the highest-rated pitching prospect in this organization, and unless someone I haven’t heard of comes from out of nowhere, our next ace is either Sheffield or it’s someone not currently under the Mariners umbrella. Now, early projections aren’t great – it’s far from a guarantee that Sheffield unlocks his full potential – but for now he’s the great Mariners hope. I wouldn’t expect greatness in 2019; just cross your fingers and pray for nominal improvement.

Swanson also came over in the Paxton trade and is flying WAY under the radar, which I think actually bodes well for his future in the organization. He’s right there on the same level as Sheffield, but he’s a little less raw in his approach. The higher floor/lower ceiling guy of the two, but people are already saying he has a chance to contend for a starting spot out of Spring Training. He probably needs an injury to cement that opportunity, but it’s nevertheless a good sign. Figure the Mariners at some point will get a good look at both of these guys in a Major League uniform in 2019, but odds are they’ll both start the season in Tacoma.

Outlook

Here’s my prediction for the 5-man rotation out of Spring Training:

  1. Marco Gonzales
  2. Mike Leake
  3. Yusei Kikuchi
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Wade LeBlanc

Also Known As: a rotation full of #3 starters!

It’s going to be really interesting, because we more or less have a solid, professional everyday lineup, combined with a solid, professional rotation. There likely won’t be any breakout stars among these five guys in 2019, but I think they’ll keep you in ballgames more often than not. At this point, I think Scott Servais has a pretty good handle on the four holdovers – he knows when to pull them from games, just as he knows when he can squeeze out a little extra – so he’s not going to (for instance), let the ship go down with a poor Felix outing. He has no qualms about yanking him in the first or second inning if need be, just as he has no qualms about sticking him in the bullpen for a spell until he finds his command again. So, I think you could certainly field a respectable overall team with this group of guys … for about 5-6 innings every game. After that, WHO THE HELL KNOWS WITH THIS BULLPEN?!

As the Mariners drastically over-achieved in 2018 thanks to the strength of our back-end relievers, so may this team fall apart with the lack thereof. We’ll get to that in another post, likely as we’re deeper into Spring Training.

But, competing in 2019 isn’t really important to me. In that sense, I really only care about Felix (because I always care about Felix), Marco (to confirm he still has at least what he had in 2018, but hopefully to see some improvement), and Kikuchi (to see how he adjusts to the switch to American baseball, as well as to see if he’s worth the committment both financially and in the number of years on his contract).

The crux is: how do the younger guys look? Will Sheffield and Swanson pan out? Can they make an immediate impact, so in 2020 we’re looking at a rotation that looks something like this:

  1. Justus Sheffield
  2. Yusei Kikuchi
  3. Marco Gonzales
  4. Erik Swanson
  5. Wade LeBlanc

In this hypothetical scenario, Felix retires and we find a taker for Leake (ideally at the 2019 deadline for a starter-needy team, who is willing to flip us a nice little prospect and take on the remainder of his salary). I think this is the best-case scenario for the Mariners’ prospects of contending in 2021 and beyond, because it means Sheffield becomes our ace, Kikuchi is as advertised, Gonzales is our bulldog in the middle, and Swanson is our underrated #4 guy with #3 or #2 stuff (and LeBlanc is still keeping us in ballgames).

Obviously, EVERYTHING has to go right for this to happen at such an accelerated pace, so don’t count on it looking even remotely like this in 2020. But, that’s what this year is for: it’s time to dream as big as possible … so we can have our hearts broken again and again and again.

The Mariners Signed Yusei Kikuchi

This is pretty significant news all by itself, so it gets its own post. For the rest of the Mariners’ recent moves, stay tuned later this week.

Here’s what we know. The Mariners have Kikuchi signed for 3 years and $43 million. From there, let’s say he stinks or otherwise the M’s don’t want him around anymore and his value plummets; he has a player option for 1 year and $13 million. On the flipside, let’s say after those 3 years, he’s tremendous. The Mariners have a team option for 4 years and $66 million ($16.5 million per), which voids the player option and keeps him around for a full 7 seasons. Both the team and player could also opt to mutually part ways after those first 3 years, so it’s either:

  • 3 years, $43 million
  • 4 years, $56 million (player option)
  • 7 years, $109 million (team option)

So, that’s interesting, right?

Kikuchi is a 27-year old left hander from Japan. The M’s haven’t really been too successful with these guys since, I guess, Iwakuma? A lot of bigger names have come through the pipeline, only to fall to other teams, so this is a pretty significant get, especially for a team that’s clearly rebuilding. The draw has to be that he’s allowed to start right away and that it’s a relatively soft landing. Low expectations, and the ability to work him in slowly.

Apparently, the plan is to have him be an “Opener” every fourth or fifth start, and to otherwise keep his innings limited, to reduce the strain on his arm and help acclimate him to the MLB way of life. In Japan, I guess they use six starters, so everyone is pitching just once a week (God, that seems like a MUCH better way of doing things; I wish we’d expand the rosters to 30 and give that a try). Considering the Mariners aren’t playing for anything in 2019, I’m all for it.

From reading around the Internet, it sounds like Kikuchi throws in the low-to-mid 90s, so he’ll fit in perfectly with the other softer-tossing lefties we’ve got on this team. I’d expect to throw that “mid” part right out the window when he comes here; most likely he’ll be scraping by with stuff around 90 or 91, which means he’s going to have to be accurate with what he’s throwing. I’d love it if he could primarily force hitters to keep the ball on the ground. It doesn’t sound like he has an amazing change-up, which has me worried about what righties might do to him. At this point, it’s just wait-and-see.

I like the signing, though. He’s got potential to be a solid #2 or #3 starter for this team for a long time. Ideally, for 2019, he just stays healthy and doesn’t totally shatter his confidence. I’m not expecting the moon and the stars for him or anyone on this team; I just want to see improvement out of our younger core group, and especially for those guys in the minors who we’ll be counting on in 2020 and beyond.

The Mariners Won The Series Opener Against The Athletics

And also sent a couple pitchers onto the DL.  So, you know, you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

Got another Felixy good start in this one!  6 innings, 3 runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts.  Numbers probably would’ve been better, but as has been the case just about every single game, he was brought out to start an inning he shouldn’t have started, gave up a couple baserunners immediately without getting an out, then the bullpen was left to fend for itself.  Maybe in another 10 or 20 years, the Mariners will find a manager who has a clue and runs a pitching staff the way it’s supposed to be run in the 21st century.

Dan Altavilla was one of the arms to go on the DL.  He has a minor strain of something or other that shouldn’t keep him out too long, but I dunno.  Are we sure this isn’t something that’s going to nag at him all season?  We’ve got five months to go!  Knowing absolutely nothing about the injury, I’m setting the over/under at 2.5 months of Major League action out of Altavilla, and right now I’m staring hard at the under.  Because when do pitchers ever just bounce back like nothing happened, without further repercussions down the line?  Everyone’s always super optimistic right when the injury happens, then there’s setbacks, shutting him down, ramping him back up, rehab assignments, a return a few weeks later, then after a bunch of subpar performances, BAM, shut down for the season.  Maybe that over/under was too high.  Maybe 1.5 months is more accurate.

Anyway, in his place, Struggling Nick Vincent handled the 7th inning, gave up both of Felix’s runs, then managed to get out of trouble.  Juan Nicasio did his thing in the 8th (he’s REALLY looking like the guy we signed to the big bucks this past offseason), and Edwin Diaz worked around a couple walks in the 9th to strike out two guys in getting his 12th save of the season.  Absolutely mind-blowing!

On offense, Dee Gordon went 5/5 with 2 stolen bases and a run scored.  Nelson Cruz had a 3-run bomb in the 5th to take the lead for good in the game.  And Jean Segura tacked on a couple of RBI – including a crucial late insurance run – to salt the game away.

The Mariners are now 17-11, and notably, +1 in run differential.  That’s somewhat concerning, as you gotta wonder when the other shoe is going to drop with the back-end of that bullpen.  I’m not saying it’ll fully collapse, but Diaz and Nicasio won’t be this dominant every single game.  On the flipside, with the offense fully healthy, we gotta hope that we’ll see more GOOD Mariners blowouts as opposed to the bad ones that have hindered our run differential thus far.  I’ll be more curious what that figure is in another month, as we get more time with our full roster.

Or, as close to it as we can get.  The bigger of the two DL drops yesterday goes to Erasmo Ramirez, who we can’t confirm was brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury … but he was totally brought back too quickly from his Spring Training injury.  It’s disappointing, I guess, but I dunno.  I wasn’t expecting Ramirez to replicate his August and September of 2017, because for him, that was an unsustainable run.  Now, by the same token, I didn’t expect him to be as bad as he was in his first two starts this year, but again THE TEAM RUSHED HIM BACK TOO SOON!  My overall feeling on this injury – which looks like it could keep him out for a month at a minimum, but probably a lot longer – is No Big Loss.  It’s Erasmo Ramirez, it’s not James Paxton.  It’s not Felix Hernandez.  It’s not even Mike Leake!  Replacing Erasmo Ramirez with Wade LeBlanc (which is the plan this week) or Ariel Miranda at some point down the line, or a couple of the other no-names in Tacoma, isn’t a huge drop-off from Ramirez.  It might not be ANY drop-off!  And, dare I say it, if the baseball gods are on our side, could we be talking about addition by subtraction?

What I do know is, with Hisashi Iwakuma’s latest setback, don’t count on him filling this role.  He’s done.  It’s not official, but he’s done.  It’s time to stop CPR and call the time of death.  He had a nice career with the Mariners, made more money than he should need for the rest of his life, so I tip my cap and let’s move on.

Paxton goes tonight.  Hopefully, with the new calendar month, he figures it out and gets it going.  Should probably win this one if we hope to win the series, as LeBlanc is a huge question mark going tomorrow.

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!

My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Hope For 2018

And, so, here we are.  Opening Day is tomorrow.  Time to get back on the horse.

The Mariners have been disappointing fans far and wide since before I was born.  Most of the time, they’re just bad.  Sometimes, there’s hope that if things break right, they’ll be in contention in September.  Once in a blue moon, they’re good, but still fall short of the ultimate goal.

Always:  they let us down.  2018 will be no exception.

In this recent stretch of Mariners seasons – since we brought in Cano and Cruz to lock down the middle of our lineup – there’s been plenty of reasons for optimism.  Indeed, since the start of the 2014 season, the Mariners actually have a winning record!  327-321.  With the advent of the second wild card spot, the M’s have been RIGHT THERE pretty much every year.  We’re mired in one of those stretches where if things had just broken right, we might’ve actually made the playoffs for the first time since 2001.  But, there’s been untimely injuries, and regression from formerly great players, and bullpen issues at just the worst possible times.  Somehow, some way, the Mariners have found a way to lose just enough to keep alive the longest playoff drought in all of the major professional North American sports.  It’s absolutely mind-boggling, and it’s never going to end.

Last year was particularly bad with the injuries, as the Mariners ran through approximately 5,000 different pitchers, and the offense just wasn’t good enough to carry the load like we’d hoped going into the season.  The M’s made a number of moves last year to try to mitigate some of the injury losses to the rotation and such, bringing in guys like Marco Gonzales, Erasmo Ramirez, Mike Leake, and David Phelps, while also working in minor league guys like Andrew Moore, Chase De Jong, James Pazos, Max Povse, and relying on someone like Ariel Miranda when he was ill-equipped for the rigors of a full Major League season in a starting rotation.  A lot of those moves happened mid-season, and as such the front office is trying to spin it like they’re part of THIS offseason, as an excuse for why they haven’t done a whole lot via trades or free agency since the 2017 season ended.  No starters were added, which is arguably where the Mariners need the most help; a couple of relievers were brought in who look pretty good.  But, for the most part, we’re running it back with the same pitching staff as last year.  The same pitching staff that spent more time on the DL than off of it.  The same pitching staff that – even when healthy – wasn’t good enough to get this team back into the playoffs.

To combat that, the Mariners made some moves to bolster the offense a little bit, in unique ways.  Dee Gordon – Gold Glove second baseman – was brought in and has been converted to centerfield.  So far, through Spring Training, it sounds like he’s taking to it pretty well, but I have to believe there’ll be some growing pains.  Ryon Healy was brought in to start at the revolving door that’s been first base.  He seems like he’ll be no better and no worse than any of the other schlubs we’ve ran out at that position.  As there’s literally no talent whatsoever in the minor leagues, it’s not like the Mariners had a whole lot of ammunition with which to trade for guys; all of our value is already up in the Major Leagues.  Some of the most important moves were the moves the Mariners DIDN’T make.  They kept both Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger, which I think we all were expecting at least one of those guys to get shipped off so the team could bring in pitching help.  Gamel is nursing an oblique strain, which tends to nag and drag on, causing players to struggle well after they’ve returned from the DL, so maybe that’s unfortunate.  Nevertheless, I think we all like those guys’ potential to grow into quality Major Leaguers, so I guess I’m more or less okay with those guys staying here.

All of this is a way to say that it’s been a LONG time since I’ve been as apathetic about this team’s post-season chances as I am right now.  Even when we were at our very worst, in 2008, I could hate this team with a passion (also, going into that season – coming off of a pretty successful 2007 – my hopes were high for a real playoff run; ditto 2010).  Most years, I can contort my brain into believing that our good players will stay good (and healthy), that our young guys will develop into stars, and that we’ll get just enough pitching to push this thing over the top (again, if everything breaks in our favor).  But, this year?  I got nothing.

The Mariners JUST finished a season with 78 wins, 7 games out of the second wild card (with 4 teams in our way), and a whopping 23 games out of the AL West title.  As I just explained:  the Mariners have done next to nothing to improve upon a team that was already pretty bad.  Moreover, the Mariners have done next to nothing to get rid of injury-prone players (even going so far as to bring Hisashi Iwakuma back on a minor league deal to see if he has anything left in the tank), therefore I see no reason to expect this team won’t be just as injury-prone as they’ve been the last 2-3 years.  Paxton?  Felix?  Haniger?  Ticking time bombs.  And that’s not even counting all the players who already went down in Spring Training (money well spent on Lorena Martin, Director of High Performance; a barrel full of whiskey and a rabid donkey could’ve done a better job of keeping these stiffs healthy so far).  And, that doesn’t even get into the Mariners’ competition.  Remember the Astros?  The team that was 23 games better than us last year?  The World Series champs?  Yeah, they’re still there, they’re still amazing, and they’ve actually made a number of moves to – you know – IMPROVE THEIR BALLCLUB.  Remember the Angels, who were 2 games better?  Same deal.  Remember the Rangers, who were exactly the same in record?  They also suffered a number of injuries that held them back last year, and they’ve also done more than the Mariners have in improving their ballclub.  Even Oakland, who’s clearly rebuilding around young talent, has more reason for optimism than the Mariners, AND THEY PLAY IN OAKLAND HALF THE TIME!

So, yeah, I’ve written off this Seattle Mariners team and they’ve yet to even play a game.  Fuck you and your opinions on the matter.  Does it make me any less of a fan?  WHO CARES?  If you want to be a Mariners Super Fan, and live in a land of make-believe, be my fucking guest.  I plan on riding this team so fucking hard this season, they’re going to be ground into dust.

But, as I alluded to in the title of this post, I’m here to write about my hopes for the 2018 season.  Primary among them, of course, is this team proving me wrong.  Most of my life, I’ve held some kernel of belief that the Mariners could possibly do something amazing and blow away everyone’s expectations.  Most of my life, I’ve been wrong.  I’m ALWAYS wrong!  And, as a result, I’m always let down.  Well, I’ve never been so certain of a team not contending in my life; if there was any way to short the Mariners’ chances of making the playoffs, I would’ve bet the entire Taylor Family Farm!  As such, maybe I’m wrong again!  Maybe the Mariners will do something so crazy that I can’t even fathom how it would be possible!

Maybe all the best guys will stay healthy, and all the young guys will turn into stars and the Mariners will be 30 games over .500 in 1-run games.  Just an unsustainable run of unexpected greatness, and we’ll all come back here at the end of the season and I’ll take the roasting I so richly deserve for all my negativity!  Okay, even in this dreamland scenario, winning the AL West still seems like a bit of a stretch, but a miracle second wild card run would be just the thing that would knock me on my ass.  Thankfully, next-to-no one in the national media punditry is picking the Mariners to do anything but hover around .500.  I know I’m wrong all the time, but those guys – especially when they pick the Mariners to do well – are wrong ALL THE TIME.

More realistically, here are some hopes I hope:

I hope Felix stays healthy and has an okay year.  Maybe an ERA around 4.50, with a couple real standout games against the likes of the A’s or White Sox, and not too many blown saves by the bullpen.

I hope Paxton limits his DL stints to just one, and for only a month at the most.  Ideally, maybe knock that out in late May or June, so he has the whole second half of the season to really shine.  He has Cy Young-quality stuff, and I hope he gets as close as he’ll ever get to putting his name in that conversation.

I hope Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales really blossom into viable starters.  Leake’s already been around for a while, so he is what he is, but if he can just sort of hang around and be a #3-type starter, that would be ideal.  Gonzales is still young enough that I can fool myself into thinking he has another level to his talent.  Most likely, he’ll be a bum, but guys have put it all together before.  I hope he learns how to pitch effectively and shocks the world by being better than we ever expected.

I hope Edwin Diaz is just amazing.  I love that kid, he’s fun to watch, and not for nothing – if this whole thing falls apart in a nasty way – he could be a huge trade chip.

I hope Dee Gordon hits well, because I want to see him running around the bases as much as humanly possible.  I also hope he takes to centerfield, because it would be fun to have another great defensive centerfielder.

I hope Mitch Haniger also limits his DL stints to just one, and for only a month at the most.  It’s too much to ask for guys like him or Paxton to stay totally healthy – because none of us can ever have nice things – but in the grand scheme of things, just a month on the DL isn’t the end of the world.  Not when you have 5 other months to get things going.  I hope when he is healthy, Haniger is the stud we all thought he was.

I hope Dan Vogelbach parlays this torrid Spring Training into taking over the starting job at first base for the foreseeable future.  I also hope that we squeeze one more great year out of Nelson Cruz and then let him walk when his contract expires – getting out hopefully a year too early rather than a year too late – so we can shift Vogelbach over to his more natural DH position (or have him split time between first & DH with Cano, when his legs inevitably prevent him from sticking at second base through the back-half of his contract).  I also hope we don’t see the start of the inevitable Cano decline, as including 2018, we’ve got 6 more years on this deal.

I hope Mike Zunino turns into an All Star.  Oddly enough, this IS within the realm of possibility, which is an absolute mindfuck.  We might one day sing Jackie Z’s praises for his foresight in selecting Zunino with the 3rd overall pick in 2012!

Finally, I hope that if all of this blows up in our faces in April and May, the team has the foresight to cut and run.  I hope they’re able to unload insane contracts, bring back quality minor leaguers, and re-load the farm system with studs who might one day lead this team back to the playoffs for the first time in forever.  There’s a lot of trade-able talent on this team.  So, if we’re just treading water – or worse – like I think most of us expect to be, then don’t dilly dally.  Burn this motherfucker down.  Put us out of our misery and give us a reason to REALLY have hope again.

The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

The Mariners’ Offense Caught The Red Eye To Atlanta Before The Finale Yesterday

What a waste of a perfectly good Yovani Gallardo start!  I mean, he won’t win any awards for going 6.1 innings and giving up 3 runs, but he pitched into the seventh inning for the first time in forever, and until that knockout 2-run homer, he was on a pretty good roll!

The offense just brought nothing to the table.  3 hits and 2 walks, that’s it.  0 for 1 with RISP, and just 4 LOB.  It obviously didn’t help that Seager got the day off, as he’s recovering from his stomach bug, but it’s just a bummer the team couldn’t complete the sweep when it was right there for the taking.

In other roster transaction news, Casey Lawrence was brought back up.  He was sent down for Sam Gaviglio the other day, but with Jarrod Dyson going on the DL, we were allowed to swap those pitchers right back.  Also, Taylor Motter made his return – starting for Seager yesterday – as it looks like we may have seen the last of Danny Espinosa.  Try to keep that name in mind, as he’s sure to be an occasional answer on those Lookout Landing Sporcle quizzes.  The Danny Espinosa Era consisted of 3 hits in 16 at bats across 8 games, 2 of them doubles, with 2 runs scored & 2 RBI.

In spite of the downer of an ending, the road trip overall is off to a fine start.  We put just a little bit of distance between us and the Rays, one of our competitors for that second Wild Card spot, and we’re still hanging in there overall, 1.5 games behind Anaheim.  Now we go to Atlanta, where quite frankly we should dominate.  Whether we will or not is, of course, anybody’s guess.  It’s going to be pretty fucking depressing if we go out and tank this series.

In Injured Pitching News, I heard that all our guys – Phelps, Paxton, Felix, and even Kuma – are on some sort of throwing programs and hence on the mend.  Some guys are closer than others, and I’m sure that will make itself known to me at some point soon.

The Mariners Need To Keep Winning These Close Games

As we dip our toes into August, things are starting to come into focus.  Whereas a month ago, you could argue each and every team in the A.L. had a chance at the Wild Card, now you can start to write some teams off.  The White Sox, the Tigers, the A’s, and I daresay even the Blue Jays and the Rangers, particularly with their trading of Yu Darvish to the Dodgers.  And, not far behind them, you’ve got teams like the Angels, Twins, and maybe even the Orioles, who just need another mediocre couple of weeks before you figure they throw in the towel and start playing their younger guys.

At that point, it’s almost easier to count the teams in the race.  The Astros, obviously.  With the Yankees winning the Sonny Gray sweepstakes, you have to like their chances.  The Red Sox will give them a run, of course.  In the Central, you’ve got the surging Royals and the steady Indians.  And, right there, tied with the Mariners, you’ve got the Rays at 54-53 with two full months to go.  We’re both of us 2.5 games behind the Royals for that second Wild Card spot; with the July 31st Trade Deadline come and gone, now it’s time to get to work.

As you know, I’m not very bullish on the Mariners’ chances.  Obviously, Paxton is one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but after that it’s a wasteland.  Felix is on the decline (5.1 innings of 4-run ball last night; he was fortunate the offense and bullpen bailed him out — how many times could we have said THAT over the course of his career?), Erasmo Ramirez of all people is slated to take the hill tonight.  Then, we’ve got the poo-poo platter of Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo who will REALLY have to start picking up the slack the rest of the way if this team wants a shot at the post-season.

I dunno, I just can’t see it.  It would be a miracle of miracles.  The writing is already on the wall:  we’re going to look back on this season and realize we were out of it the day Drew Smyly injured his throwing arm.  Could we have withstood the decline of Felix, the injury of Iwakuma, and the disaster that’s been Gallardo?  Yes, yes, and yes; but it all hinged on getting a big bounceback season out of Smyly, and that absolutely did not happen.  If Smyly could’ve been 80% of what Paxton has been, combined with a fine season from Miranda, a bulldog season out of Felix, and whatever you could get out of the fifth starter carousel, MAYBE you could talk me into being confident in this team as it’s currently constructed.  But, the day they let the deadline pass without going out and getting a top shelf starter is the day they gave up on the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what David Phelps brings to this bullpen.  But, what use does this team have for an Erasmo Ramirez when it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  What use does this team have for a Marco Gonzales when, again, it’s already got 4-5 of them in the organization?  These are half measures.  It’s making it look like you’ve done something when you’ve really done nothing at all.  These guys could’ve been gotten in the offseason just as easily, but instead they were acquired now; why?  To give the illusion that the team is trying to Win Now, when in reality this team – at the Major League level – is no better than it was before, and it could be argued they’re actually worse.  The lynchpin, of course, is Gonzales.  He’s “Major League Ready” and figures to be called up anytime now; if he comes up and does what he’s never done before (pitches well at the highest level), then I’ll happily eat all the crow you can shovel onto my plate.  But, it strikes me that we’ve heard this tune before.

Andrew Moore was Major League Ready.  Sam Gaviglio was Major League Ready.  Christian Bergman was Major League Ready.  Chris Heston was Major League Ready.  Chase De Jong was Major League Ready.  Dillon Overton was Major League Ready.  Rob Whalen was Major League Ready.  Where are they right now?

Like I said, it’s going to take some kind of miracle.  A big part of that would involve the Mariners winning more close games than they lose.  Like, A LOT more.  Like, an unsustainable amount of close games!  So far, they’re 16-10 in 1-run games, and 5-5 in extra innings games.  That needs to improve, bigly.  Especially against the teams ahead of us in the standings.

Last night wasn’t a 1-run game, but the Mariners still found a way to notch a save and come from behind.  Down 4-0 after two innings, it looked bleak.  Thankfully, the Mariners were able to take advantage of a whopping 4 errors and 2 balks, as the Rangers look like one of the sloppiest teams I’ve ever seen.  By the time Cole Hamels finished his six innings, the game was tied, and for a while there it looked like this game was destined for extras.

Scrabble was able to get out of a Felix jam in the sixth inning.  All five of Phelps’ outs were via the strikeout.  And meanwhile, this side-arming lefty reliever for the Rangers, Alex Claudio, was wiggling his way off the hook for over 2 innings of work, on a remarkably low number of pitches.

Scott Servais did something interesting in the last few days with the lineup; he’s finally gotten comfortable with Ben Gamel as an everyday hitter, even against left-handed starters.  So much so, in fact, that we’ve seen Gamel lead off the last few days, with Jean Segura batting second.  They’re both having phenomenal offensive seasons from a batting average standpoint, so they’re really pretty interchangeable at the top of the order.  But, it’s a dynamic shift where the Mariners are L-R-L-R-L-R through the first six hitters in the order.  Against teams with good lefty bullpen arms, this presents a conundrum:  do you swap your relievers out after each at-bat, or do you trust your lefty arm to pitch against, say, Jean Segura or Nelson Cruz?

Well, as we found out last night, with Claudio on the mound, the Rangers opted to pitch around those guys, intentionally walking Cruz twice and Segura once.  That put the onus on our left-handed hitters to get the job done.

It looked like it was going to work, too!  Claudio got out of a jam in the seventh when Seager hit into an inning-ending fielder’s choice with runners on the corners.  He worked a very quick and efficient eighth inning to keep his pitch count low.  And, he ALMOST got through the ninth by using similar tactics as he did in the seventh.  Had he succeeded, the Rangers would’ve been in good shape heading into extras, while the Mariners would’ve used a couple of their best bullets in all likelihood just to get there.

The top of the ninth kicked off with a Chooch Ruiz single to right.  He was lifted for a pinch runner in Jarrod Dyson, who was cut down on a fielder’s choice when Gamel hit what looked to be a rally-killing double play.  However, the throw to first got past the bag and Gamel was able to reach second base with one out.  Segura drew the intentional walk, and both runners were balked over thanks to Claudio’s funky pre-pitch arm waggling.  Against lefty Cano, Claudio had been successful two innings prior, inducing a ground ball.  He busted him inside again, but Cano was able to stay on it and lined it over the right fielder’s head.  A perfect bounce to Shin Soo Choo allowed him to throw Cano out at second, but the damage was done.  The Mariners had a 6-4 lead and Edwin Diaz threw fire in the bottom half to close it out in regulation.

I’ll admit, it was an encouraging end to the month of July.  The Mariners went 14-12 to secure their second consecutive winning month.  Now it’s time to really turn it up a notch.