The 2019 Mariners Have Even Bigger Ewing Theory Potential Than The 2001 Mariners

All credit to Bill Simmons, let’s go back JUST a bit, to 2001.

To put it in context, we all remember that crazy-wonderful 1995 team that saved baseball in Seattle. In 1996, behind a number of questionable dealings, and one glaring Randy Johnson-sized hole in our rotation, we fell back to Earth a little bit. But, the original core put it all together for a quasi-memorable playoff run that ended in the ALDS. That team was absolutely LOADED, with one of the all-time best power offenses in MLB history (264 homers, 925 runs scored, tops in the league in slugging & OPS), to go along with a healthy Big Unit, a rock-solid complement of starters featuring Jamie Moyer & Jeff Fassero, and a zoo of a bullpen that eventually coalesced into something halfway passable (though it cost us an arm & a leg in deadline deals to make it happen).

If you want to talk about one of the most underrated Seattle sports What Could’ve Been’s, the 1997 Mariners are right at the top. I mean, how does a team with Griffey, Edgar, A-Rod, and Buhner (all at the absolute PEAK of their powers) lose to the Baltimore Orioles in 4 games in the ALDS with Randy Johnson losing TWICE? It’s absolutely unfathomable. You’re telling me that team couldn’t have taken out the Indians and the Marlins for a World Series title? Get real!

Anyway, halfway through the 1998 season, the M’s traded Randy (as opposed to extending him; he would go on to win 4 Cy Young Awards and a World Series title in Arizona) while we slogged through a losing season. Then, after another slog through 1999, Griffey demanded a trade. We somehow managed to parlay that into a 2000 Wild Card finish and an ALCS appearance. Following that, A-Rod walked to the Rangers with a then-record $252 million contract, and in 2001 we somehow managed to parlay it into a tie for the most wins in a season in MLB history.

I now refer you back to that Bill Simmons article, which was actually written in the early stages of that 2001 season. Sometimes, freaky shit like this happens! The Mariners dropped three of their most talented players of all time – in the primes of their respective careers – and somehow improved. What the shit is that?!?

Fast forward to 2019. The Mariners just rid themselves of – or are otherwise playing without – the following guys:

  • Robinson Cano
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Kyle Seager
  • Jean Segura
  • James Paxton
  • Alex Colome

Those are just the BEST guys, or ostensibly the guys who are supposed to be the best. That doesn’t even factor other bullpen arms, Mike Zunino, various other Quad-A outfielders, and so on and so forth. But those 7 guys up there are pretty huge. And yet, the 2019 Mariners are now 10-2 and absolutely DESTROYING everyone in their path!

Now, as it relates to this team’s 2001 Ewing Theory status, at least that team was coming off of a playoff appearance. THIS team is coming off of zero playoff appearances in 18 years!

Of course, the question is: How long can this continue? As I’ve written about ad nauseam so far, it’s only a matter of time. But, then again, who knows?

What we do know is that this offense is raking through 11 games, having hit 5 more homers last night en route to another lopsided victory. +37 in run differential is now the best in all of baseball, and from what we heard all last year, that’s the most important indicator of a team’s success, right?

So, maybe instead I should be asking: How long can this offense keep it up?

I don’t have a good answer for you there, but I hope it’s forever. If they are indeed the Best Offense In Baseball, then I think we’ll have to shift expectations for where this team can end up. Either way, at this point I’m glad I didn’t bet on the over/under for season wins, because I’m pretty sure I would’ve taken UNDER 74.5, and I’d be looking like an idiot right now.

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.

Mariners Fire Sale! Everything Must Go!

I’ve had sort of mixed emotions about the first two big deals on this list (that I linked to, if you want to read about my feelings).  I think they were definitely necessary moves the Mariners needed to make, to shake things up and boost our farm system, but ultimately I wonder if we got enough back in return.  A starting catcher (who’s also a defensive wizard) for a centerfielder who probably won’t be here for more than a year or two before we get tired of yet another slap-hitting singles artist FEELS like pennies on the dollar.  Then, giving up a potential Ace starting pitcher for a mixed bag of minor league talent – again, while bolstering our terrible minor league teams – FEELS like yet more pennies on the dollar.  Now, of course, both of those guys (all three, if you want to include Heredia) come with their own risks.  Paxton and his injury issues, and Zunino with his woeful hitting issues, could submarine their respective new teams.  Or, they could figure it out/catch a little luck, and be superstars we gave up on too soon.

Before we get to the next slate of deals, I’ll talk about the minor moves the M’s made.  For starters, it seems odd that we’d dump Herrmann when we were already looking to trade Zunino, and the fact that the Astros made a play on him is doubly concerning.  In the end, probably no big thing, and he’s probably not a guy you’d want to guarantee a 40-man roster spot at this point in his career, so whatever.

Not going to arbitration on either Erasmo or Nick Vincent is probably a net gain.  I’m on the record as not having a whole lot of belief in Erasmo.  I think, for what he brings, he shouldn’t cost you very much in salary, so if he gets that elsewhere, more power to him.  And, while I like Vincent as much as the next guy, he was due a significant raise, and given his age and his declining abilities in 2018, that’s money poorly spent for the direction this team is going in.  I’m okay without either of them going forward, as I particularly think Vincent’s best days are behind him, and he’s going to get WAY too much money from another team.

The M’s offered Elias arbitration, and I think that’s cool, but I would’ve been cool if we didn’t as well.  I don’t think he’s in the longterm plans, but you do need to fill out a 25-man roster.  As a reliever/swing starter, there’s some value there.  He was good in 2018, and it’s just as likely he’ll be terrible in 2019, in which case that helps us on our quest to get a higher draft pick.

Finally, Casey Lawrence asked for his release so he can go pitch overseas.  I wish him the best, but again, no great loss.  He was mostly AAA fodder with occasional underwhelming call-ups.

***

Okay, now to the big deals!  Let’s start with the appetizer.

There was all this talk about the above-referenced blockbuster deal with the Mets, but before we were finished obsessing over that one, Jerry Dipoto snuck in a sneaky-good deal with the White Sox.  Alex Colome was another guy with some value who was not in our longterm plans.  He’s still got closing ability, he did pretty okay in 2018, so that value was probably not going up considerably.  Better to strike now rather than at midseason, when he could suck (or get injured) in the first half and see his value drop to zero.

On top of that, we get a starting-calibre catcher in return!  Omar “Don’t Call Me Navarez” Narvaez is a bat-first, lefty-hitting catcher who can take a walk and hit for a decent average.  He lacks Zunino’s power, but he’s improved in that area over the last year.  Where he stinks, unfortunately, is every aspect of his defense, as he rates as one of the very worst in the league.  Pitch-framing, throwing out runners, blocking pitches in the dirt, you name it, he sucks at it.  So, that’s going to be a drastic change of pace.  He’s essentially the Anti-Zunino, so if you REALLY hated Zunino, you’re REALLY gonna love this guy.

We’ll see if he can pick it up defensively, but I feel like that’s something you either have or you don’t, and you don’t really develop it if you lack it in the first place.  I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like he’s NOT the Catcher of the Future, not unless we find more pitchers who are able to miss more bats (without diving balls between and betwixt his legs).

Regardless, if you can get a starting catcher with multiple years of team control for a reliever on the final year of his contract, that’s a deal you make 10 times out of 10.

So, that solves the Zunino-sized hole at our catcher spot.

***

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s dig into the main course:  the Mets deal.

Robinson Cano has 5 years and $120 million left on his deal.  He’s old, but he’s still pretty effective; if I had to guess I’d say he has at least 2-3 more years left playing at his current level of productivity.  There’s always the chance that he’ll start his decline sooner rather than later – particularly on defense – but he’s too naturally talented to be a total black hole at the plate.  That having been said, as his legs go, it’ll end up being either singles, homers, or strikeouts, so unless he beefs up his homer totals, I can’t see him hitting a significant number of doubles from here on out.  With Nelson Cruz seemingly out of the picture, it looked like Cano was a natural to start to transition to his eventual destination as this team’s primary DH.  But, the M’s obviously had other plans.

So, what changed in a year?  Obviously, the PED suspension.  I’m trying to get a handle on if it’s a concern of a second suspension (and a yearlong ban), or if it’s just his attitude/personality and how it might clash with the new/younger direction this team is looking to make.  He’s obviously a big character on this team, and commands a lot of respect wherever he goes, and maybe the Mariners just want the players to learn from a different voice.  I mean, Cano is an All Star, so you can obviously learn a ton from a guy who built himself up from nothing.  But, there are the usual concerns about his hussle and his passion for the game.  I dunno.  I don’t know if we’ll ever get the real dirt about why the Mariners wanted out from under this deal.  I would assume the concern lies in the fact that he probably NEEDS the PEDs to keep up with his usual All Star level, and without them, his decline will start earlier.

With the $24 million per year contract, we obviously were never going to trade him by himself.  Unfortunately, the only real carrot we could dangle to get him out of here was our all-world closer Edwin Diaz.

I’ve been on record from the very beginning as saying this team should deal Diaz, and if I had it my way, we would’ve traded JUST him to the highest bidder, and gotten a REAL prospect windfall in return.  Honestly, I don’t believe he has it in him to stay at that level for very long.  I think with the way he throws the ball, he’s destined to sustain a serious arm injury, maybe even as soon as 2019.  It wouldn’t shock me in the SLIGHTEST to see him tear something and be out for a year.  I think, regardless of whether he injures his arm or not, he’s destined to lose velo on his fastball sooner rather than later – certainly well before he’s set to hit free agency – and with that I think his value as a closer will plummet.  This is, without question, Edwin Diaz at the peak of his value, and we were never going to have a better opportunity to replenish our minor leagues.

If it were up to me, and the Mariners are just hellbent on ridding this culture of Robinson Cano, then I would’ve just cut him and paid him his remaining salary, while trading Diaz for the highest bounty possible.  But, obviously, it’s not my money, so that’s easy for me to say.

That scenario just isn’t realistic.  I don’t see the harm in forcing him to exclusively DH (while maybe spot starting at second in an emergency), and riding out the remaining years of his contract.  Was he really so poisonous to this culture?  Would his presence alone have set us back so much?

Now, obviously, there’s the fringe benefit of making the Mariners worse by getting rid of him now.  Like I said, Cano can still play, and I bet he’ll be pretty solid for the Mets in 2019.  If our goal is to bottom out, then obviously you don’t want a guy in your lineup doing POSITIVE things like hitting for a high average, lots of extra-base hits, and lots of RBI.  So, that’s something.

In return, we take on some high-priced/low-performing contracts from the Mets.  Jay Bruce is set to earn $26 million over the next two years.  He’s a corner outfielder and I can’t imagine his defense is worth a damn.  Maybe he starts in left; maybe he platoons with Gamel (though, they both bat lefty, so that seems unlikely); maybe the M’s find a way to flip him to another team!  He was okay in 2017, but really had a bad 2018.  He does have some pop in his bat, and he’ll be 32 next year, so maybe we run him out as the DH?  Feels like the best way to preserve his legs and keep him away from anything related to defense.

Anthony Swarzak is on the hook for $8 million in 2019; he’s a veteran reliever who also had a good 2017, then bottomed out in 2018.

If we just talk about money, that’s $21 million for Bruce & Swarzak in 2019, and $13 for Bruce in 2020; that totals $34 million out of Cano’s remaining $120 million.  On top of that, the M’s chipped in an extra $20 million, meaning we ended up saving a total of $66 million going forward (not counting the remaining guys in the deal).  That’s not an insignificant number, especially when you hope that by the time 2021 rolls around, this team will be in a position to contend again.  That’s just the time when Cano should start to suck and Diaz should be recovering from a shoulder surgery!

As for the prospects, your guess is as good as mine.  Kelenic was the 6th overall selection in the 2018 draft.  He’s an 18-year old outfielder with all the tools; he just needs to develop them.  He would be the prize of this deal.  Again, if you can trade a reliever for a starting-calibre outfielder, you make that trade 10 times out of 10.  The question is:  do you trust this organization to develop him the right way?

Dunn is a 19th overall draft pick from 2016 and was the Mets’ highest pitching prospect.  He was in AA last year, so he appears to be on the right track.

Bautista is a reliever who can apparently throw 100 miles per hour.  Obviously, he has command problems, but we have a couple years to work out those kinks before hopefully he’ll stick in our Major League bullpen (or get flipped for still more prospects, if the ol’ rebuild hasn’t gone according to plan).

For what the Mariners were trying to do – acquire top-flight prospects while shedding some money and ridding the clubhouse of a possible cancer – this is probably as good as it gets.  If the outfielder pans out, it’s a terrific deal.  If he doesn’t, and the starter converts to relief, and the reliever flames out, then this could’ve busted SUPER HARD.

***

And, for dessert, I bring you the Jean Segura deal.

This one … REALLY makes me mad.  For starters, we traded for him prior to 2017 in what was at the time a CLEAR victory for the Mariners.  For Taijuan Walker (who doesn’t look like he’ll come close to being the ace we thought he could be), we got an All Star short stop and an All Star outfielder in the primes of their careers.  He started off strong in 2017, so we signed him MID-SEASON to a 5-year extension when we could’ve easily let him play it out through 2018 and seen what we had in him.

But, we liked him enough, so fine, 5-year extension.  He was officially part of our future.  And they didn’t realize until halfway through 2018 that he’s a headcase???  That he’s kind of soft and kind of a clubhouse cancer and we’re now bound and determined to do whatever it takes to be rid of him?

Look, I get the spirit of the rebuild, I really do!  But, this is an All Star player – particularly with the bat – on a very REASONABLE contract; he should be worth more than this!

Segura is due $14.25 million per year for the next 4 years.  In that time, he’ll almost certainly be worth that figure, if not be an outright bargain.  But, whatever, we save that money and we ostensibly get worse at the short stop position in 2019 (again, so we can tank and get that higher draft pick).  Then, there’s Juan Nicasio’s $9 million for 2019.  He, of course, sucked a fat one in 2018, but that could obviously flip entirely the very next year, because that’s how it is with relievers; randomness abounds!  Nevertheless, that’s a lot for an 8th inning reliever who may or may not be finished.  James Pazos has a nothing salary, which is most galling, because he’s both young and good!  Why couldn’t HE fetch a pretty penny on the open market?  Why the need to throw him into the mix?

Particularly when Carlos Santana is coming our way?!  He’s a first baseman (or a DH, depending on what else we do with that first base spot) who’s owed a combined $35 million over the next two years ($500,000 of that is a buyout for 2021, because you figure there’s no way in hell this team is going to pay a 35 year old first baseman another $17.5 million when they don’t have to).  Santana – like all these other useless veterans we’re getting back in these deals – was great in 2017 and stunk in 2018.  So, NOT GREAT, JERRY!

The prize in this deal, I guess, is J.P. Crawford, who will be a 24-year old glove-first/no-bat short stop in 2019.  If we can develop the bat into something halfway decent, then maybe that’s an upgrade in the end.  But, that’s obviously no guarantee.

And, that’s it.  A new short stop and a savings of another $31 million.  On the plus side, all these massive contracts expire after 2019 or 2020, so RIGHT ON TRACK FOR 2021 YOU GUYS!

As always, it’s hard to judge anything until you see the rest of the offseason moves.  But, you figure the biggest deals have been made (unless the team goes full boar and unloads Haniger for another bevy of prospects), and now it’s time for the rest of the roster moves to fill in around these guys.  But, on a surface level, it’s hard to get too excited, when so many variables are in play.

The Mariners Traded James Paxton, The Next Great Rebuild Is On

James Paxton to the Yankees
Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners

So, yeah, this is what we all wanted, right?  Stop pussy-footing around, trying to merely contend for a wild card spot, and start tearing things down to rebuild the foundation even stronger in the seasons to come.  Will the Mariners suck in 2019?  Absolutely.  Were they going to be worth a damn anyway, if we’d re-signed Nelson Cruz, maybe brought in a guy or two from free agency, and tried to run it back with the same core of guys?  Probably not.  The Mariners were going to suck – or at best be mediocre – for years to come; I’d rather they REALLY suck and hope to hit on some young prospects, while waiting out the Astros and A’s and whoever else who are already good now, and figure to be good for a long time.

I’ll start with this:  James Paxton had to be one of the first to go.  That guy is a walking injury waiting to happen, he’s at the peak of his value as a front-line, ace-type starter, so we had to get him out of here while his arm was still attached to his body.  Counting on him to survive a full Major League Baseball season is unrealistic, because he’s literally never been able to do it to date.  Does that mean he’ll NEVER do it?  No; I’m sure as soon as 2019 he’ll be a Cy Young contender.  But, over the long haul, he’s going to be on the DL more than his fair share of times, and it would’ve been frustrating to try and root for the guy who can never stay healthy for longer than a month or two.

There’s also the very real possibility that the Yankees figure something out about his mechanics or whatever and fix him, so he goes on to have a Randy Johnson-esque career in his 30’s.  Never rule out the ineptitude of the Mariners’ organization and its coaching staff.

As for the return?  It’s underwhelming.  It was always going to be underwhelming.

For starters, I’ll agree with what Mike Salk has said on 710 ESPN:  I also hate trading for Yankee prospects because they ARE the most over-hyped prospects in the game.  Now, part of that is due to the fact that they manage to find so many diamonds in the rough; their great teams are ALWAYS built on homegrown talent.  So, yes, they do have an eye for it, but more importantly, they keep what’s going to work best for them, and they ship off the duds.

So, yeah, Justus Sheffield might be their best prospect NOW, but Jesus Montero was once their best prospect.  It might be a down period for Yankee prospects (because so many of them have made it to the Major League level in recent seasons).  Sheffield has also been traded twice in his young career; are we sure we want to get too excited about a guy that two teams have already given up on?

Sure, he COULD be the next James Paxton, but he could also be a back-end of the rotation nothing.  He throws UP to 97 miles per hour, but how much do you want to bet he actually sits closer to 93-94?  And that doesn’t even go into how trading for ANY pitching prospect is risky business, with all the injuries that befall pitchers nowadays.

The bottom line is, scouts around the game feel he likely tops out as a #2 starter, whatever that means.  I guess it means he’s not going to be one of the top 10-15 starters in the league.  For the purposes of the Mariners’ organization, he’ll likely be our #1, but he’s a #1 starter like Freddy Garcia was once a #1.  It all depends on the rotation; someone’s gotta go on opening day.

That’s already underwhelming, and I haven’t even gotten to the throw-ins.  Erik Swanson is another pitcher who’s already been traded twice in his career.  He’s yet to actually make any Major League appearances, though (whereas Sheffield at least made it into 3 games in relief towards the end of last year).  Swanson did pretty good in AAA last year – and both of these guys figure to at least get a look in Spring Training in 2019 – but I’d bet the family farm that he starts out in Tacoma.  Swanson is projected to be a back-end of the rotation starter at best, with some guys projecting him to eventually end up in the bullpen.  In which case, whoop-dee-freaking-doo.

Then there’s Dom Thompson-Williams, an outfielder who made it all the way to the high-A level last year.  He’s young-ish, but probably should’ve made it higher than he has.  He figures to start in AA in 2019 and I guess we’ll see.  They say he plays center, but he projects more as a corner outfielder, and ultimately probably a 4th outfielder at the Major League level.  Either way, don’t expect to see him on the Mariners before 2020 or 2021.

Which, incidentally, is what Jerry Dipoto said is the target for the Mariners to start turning it back around again.  We’ll see.  That sounds pretty optimistic.

As I said up top, I’m all for trading Paxton, but I dunno.  Maybe we could’ve held off until AFTER Thanksgiving to see what we could get.  Is this really the best deal out there?  Are we sure there wasn’t another team willing to chip in just a little bit more?  Obviously, we were limited.  The teams who’d be in on Paxton are the teams who feel they’re World Series contenders RIGHT NOW.  There wouldn’t have been any rebuilding teams, or middling wild card teams in on him, because those teams would be looking for better bets on long-term health.  The Yankees are just hoping Paxton can keep it together for 1-2 years; if he has that in him, maybe they go to the World Series next year.  Or, if he lands on the DL a bunch in 2019, they can always trade him next off-season to recoup whatever they can get.

My thing is, the Mariners believe in their ability to develop players more than I believe in them.  The Mariners probably feel like they can get the most out of Sheffield, that with their coaches, they can turn him into an ace.  I’ll tell you right now, that’s not gonna happen.  Developing fringe talent into stars is probably the WORST thing the Mariners do.  Killing it on social media, engaging with the fans, having cool ballpark give-aways, celebrating their retired stars?  That’s more in their wheelhouse.  It’s fine, we all have our special talents.  Being good at baseball just isn’t one of the Mariners’.

Of course, I’m talking out of my ass, because I haven’t seen any of these guys play at all.  They could shock the world and prove Jerry Dipoto to be a genius.  Based on precedent, I have my doubts.  I’m a Mariners fan, and as such I’m destined to always root for a loser.

Looking At Some Numbers And Stuff About The 2018 Mariners

The Mariners’ season ended with a whimper over the weekend.  The M’s took 3 of 4 against the Rangers to finish 89-73.  That’s good for 14 games behind the Astros for the division and 8 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card (also, 1 game behind the Rays for the first runner up position to that second wild card, but that’s neither here nor there).

The Mariners were -34 in run differential, which comes out to a pythagorean win total of only 77.  They were 45-36 at home and 44-37 on the road.  They were 36-21 in 1-run games and a whopping 14-1 in extras!

Somehow, the Mariners had a winning record against every single team in the division:

  • 10-9 vs. Houston
  • 10-9 vs. Oakland
  • 11-8 vs. Anaheim
  • 10-9 vs. Texas

The Mariners were 23-9 against the AL Central, 19-15 against the AL East.  But, as I talked about before, the Mariners were a dreadful 6-14 against the National League (which, again, if you flip that, then we’re tied with the A’s for that second wild card spot).

Here’s the month-by-month:

  • March/April:  16-11
  • May:  18-11
  • June:  19-9
  • July:  10-13
  • August:  12-16
  • September:  14-13

And just to rub some salt in the wounds:

  • Pre July 4th:  55-31
  • July 4th onward:  34-42

I like to point to July 3rd as the high-water mark, but it was really just the beginning of the end.  The REAL high-water mark was at the conclusion of our game on June 5th, where we beat the Astros in Houston and took a 2-game lead in the A.L. West.  We, of course, lost to the eventual champs the very next day and after another week of hovering around first place, we ended up dipping below for the duration of the season.

*Sigh* those were wonderful, delightful times back in early June.  I was so young and naive in those days!

Let’s move on to some individual accolades.

  • Jean Segura is your 2018 Mariners batting champion, with a .304 average
  • Robinson Cano is your 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .374
  • Mitch Haniger is your non-suspended 2018 Mariners OBP leader with .366
  • Nelson Cruz is your slugging champ with .509
  • And Haniger is your OPS champ with .859 (narrowly besting Cruz’s .850)

Here are all the guys who had 10+ homers:

  1. Cruz – 37
  2. Haniger – 26
  3. Ryon Healy – 24
  4. Kyle Seager – 22
  5. Mike Zunino – 20
  6. Segura – 10
  7. Cano – 10

With all of that, the Mariners were just 11th in the AL in homers.

Some other individual numbers:

  • Cruz beat Haniger in RBI, 97-93
  • Haniger beat Seager in doubles, 38-36
  • Dee Gordon beat Denard Span in triples, 8-6
  • Segura edged Haniger in total hits, 178-170
  • Segura also edged Haniger in runs scored, 91-90
  • Gordon topped Segura in steals 30-20

My MVP has to go to Mitch Haniger, who was amazing this year.  He finished with a 6.1 WAR, which was easily the best on the team, and looks to be just scratching the surface of a great MLB career.

On to the pitchers:

  • Your ERA champ among qualified starters was Wade LeBlanc with 3.72
  • James Paxton led the team in strikeouts with 208
  • Mike Leake led the Mariners in innings pitched with 185.2
  • Marco Gonzales led the team in wins with 13
  • Leake led the team in quality starts with 18

Here’s your pitching section just devoted to the miracle that was Edwin Diaz:

  • (Obviously) led the Mariners in saves with 57
  • 57 is tied for 2nd all time in a season in MLB history
  • He fell 5 short of the all-time leader, Francisco Rodriguez
  • He led the team in pitching WAR with 3.2
  • Paxton was second with 2.9
  • He led the team in K/9 with 15.22
  • Only Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances had higher K/9 in the A.L.
  • Even though he’s just a reliever, and pitched fewer than half the innings of the starters, Diaz’s 124 strikeouts was still good for 5th on the team (one behind King Felix, who pitched 82 more innings)
  • The next-closest reliever in strikeouts was Nick Vincent with 56
  • He led the team in WHIP with 0.79
  • He led the team in ERA with 1.96
  • He led all pitchers in games played with 73 (Vincent was second with 62)

Without making it a whole thing, here are some props to some non-Diaz relievers who had great seasons.  Alex Colome, Roenis Elias, and James Pazos all logged in some serious innings for the Mariners and all had sub-3 ERAs.  I know that stat doesn’t mean much anymore, but I mean, those guys were dealing more often than not.

Nevertheless, Edwin Diaz is my Mariners Cy Young Award winner and it’s not even close.

Finally, let’s take a look at how some of these Mariners greats stacked up against the rest of the American League:

  • Segura was 7th in batting average, and one of 8 in the A.L. to hit over .300
  • Haniger was 9th in WAR
  • Segura was 15th in WAR (with 4.3)
  • Haniger was 10th in OPS
  • Cruz was 14th in OPS
  • Cruz was 8th in homers
  • Diaz (again, obviously) led the league in saves (2nd place had 43)

So, that’s that.  Another playoffs-less season in the books.  Do it all again in 2019?  Sure, why not?  What the hell else do I have going on in my life?  Might as well continue to root for a mediocre baseball team some more.

It’s Time To Blow Up The Seattle Mariners

For real.  It’s time.

We are officially 8.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild card spot, with 18 games to go.  So, stick a fork in the Mariners everyone!

If that isn’t bad enough, we’ve fallen so far that the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams have officially caught us in the standings.  A team that really wasn’t trying to Win Now at the trade deadline – sending away some quality talent for prospects – has done so good in its second half run that the Mariners are doomed to fall two teams out of the playoffs.  Fantastic.

Here are my thoughts on what the Mariners should do this off-season.

Bye Bye Nelson Cruz

People were talking about extending Nelson Cruz throughout the year, as he’s on the final year of his deal.  Which, of course, got me to wondering what the M’s should do this off-season to try to improve.  SHOULD they extend Cruz?  Abso-fucking-lutely-fucking-not!  Dude’s hitting .260!  Sure, he’s got 34 homers, but that’s ALL he’s got!  He has a whopping 16 doubles and is easily on pace for his lowest double count in a Mariners uniform.  Dude can’t run, can’t hit for average; if he’s not swinging dingers or grabbing the occasional walk, he’s totally useless.

Let’s see Nelson Cruz for what he is:  one of the best free agent signings in Mariners history.  We got four REALLY GREAT years out of the guy.  If you asked me at the time of signing, I would’ve told you I hoped for 2 great years, 1 okay year, and 1 dreadful year.  The fact that we’ve milked that cow for all he’s worth is pretty fucking astounding.  LET’S LEAVE IT AT THAT!  Let’s remember Nelson Cruz fondly!  Let’s be able to look back and say we MAYBE got rid of him a year too early, rather than a year too late.  For what it’s worth, I think getting rid of him after this season is RIGHT ON TIME, but regardless, he’s not getting any better.

From there, that opens us up to options.  But, all I want to see is this team shedding salary and shedding talent for high-level prospects.

Trade James Paxton

He’s never going to be fully, 100% healthy in any full season ever.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been this year.  His value has peaked.  He’s still got 2 more Arbitration years, so that contract is in great shape.  We should be able to get ELITE-level prospects for a guy like Paxton, so jump at the opportunity.

Trade Mitch Haniger

You’re not going to get any prospects of quality whatsoever for the real dregs of this team:  Seager, Cano, Felix; so we’re going to have to trade some players of actual value if we’re going to rebuild this organization.  Haniger has 4 more years left of team control and he’s already an All Star; his value will never be higher.  We should be able to get a TON of prospects for him.

Trade Edwin Diaz

Unless he’s the next Mariano Rivera, relievers don’t have a long shelf life.  Particularly ones who regularly throw in the high 90’s and have an awkward-looking arm slot.  Diaz just strikes me as a guy who’s going to have elbow and/or shoulder problems, MAYBE as early as next year.  He’s leading all of baseball in saves, he’s the best closer in the game, ergo we should make a KILLING in this trade.

Dump Robinson Cano or Put Him At DH

I’m in the camp that we’ll never be able to move Cano’s salary.  He’s making $24 million per year for the next 5 years.  If a team offered the Mariners literally ANYTHING for Cano – even if it’s a low-level PTBNL – you jump at the opportunity.  Hell, even if we have to send a bunch of millions over to make the deal work, whatever money we can save while getting out from under that contract, you do it.  You also do it because, frankly, I think Cano still has some value to a team.  I think he’s still a pretty good player.  And, for the objective of the Mariners blowing it up, we don’t WANT pretty good players on this team.  We want useless assholes who can’t hit, can’t pitch, and suck at fielding.  We’re not going to make the playoffs anyway, might as well be the very WORST team in the league.

If I’m right, and we can’t deal Cano for a bag of balls, then he’s got to slot over to DH.  That’s where he’s destined to go in his old age anyway.  If we’re going to be stuck with him for five more years, then we’re going to get the most value out of him at the DH spot.

Dump Dee Gordon or Leave Him At 2B

Dee’s another guy who’s owed a ton of money – an average of $13.5 million per year over the next 3 years – so it’s not likely we’d get anything for him.  Again, MAYBE a bag of balls, and probably only if we shell out some millions to get someone else to take him off our hands.

I’m less upset about being stuck with Dee because he’s fun.  He’s also not really that good.  Assuming he doesn’t regain his former hitting form as a .300 hitter, he should be a nice little drain on this team as we try to tank for the #1 overall draft pick the next few years.

Get Rid Of Kyle Seager

We’ve got Seager for $18-19 million per year for the next three years (his buyout in 2022 should be nominal).  So, like Cano and Dee, that’s a tough one to move.  However, I could see moving him as a more plausible objective based on the fact that he’s pretty well-liked in baseball circles.  He very well could just need a change of scenery to get his bat and his mojo going again.  Put him in a stadium with a short porch in right field and let him go to work yanking balls down the line; how are the Red Sox stocked at third base?

Either way, he’s got to go.  Unless he’s hiding some secret injury that we won’t hear about until after the season, I don’t see him turning his career around at all in Seattle.  He’s just TOO bad.

Keep Mike Zunino

He’s not any good anyway.  Plus, I just don’t see us getting anything of value back in trade, considering he’s never been able to hit and he seemingly never will.  Zunino is going to be cheap for the next 2 years anyway, so keep him, and try to develop his replacement when he’s a free agent and we let him walk.

Don’t You Touch My Felix!

He’s got one more year to go.  He’s earning $27 million next year.  No one will pick up that salary.  We’d likely have to send $20 million with him just to get rid of him for zero prospects.  Plus, I like Felix, he’s still ours, and YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM I DON’T CARE HOW BAD HE GETS!

Think of it like this, if he continues to pitch worse and worse, then that helps the Mariners tank, and maybe he retires at the end of the year and will go down as the greatest Mariners pitcher of all time who never played for any other organization.  Or, in the off chance he turns his career around and turns into a Bartolo Colon type, then great!  Maybe we can extend him at a team-friendly salary season-to-season and enjoy Felix in his overweight twilight years.

Only Trade Segura If There’s Good Value

For who he is, he’s actually got a pretty friendly contract all the way through 2023.  Even though he’s been dinged up with minor aches & pains recently, he’s still hitting over .300.  If another team offers the M’s a nice package of prospects, then absolutely jump on it!  But, don’t make him a straight up salary drop; wait for the teams to come to us and maybe start a bidding war if possible.

Here’s the deal:  Jeff Passan brought up a good point yesterday on Brock & Salk; when asked if the M’s should just blow it up, he asked if we’re ready to be terrible for the next 5 years.  And, as Salk mentioned, we’ve been pretty fucking terrible for the last 17, so what’s 5 more?

The Astros aren’t going away.  The A’s are young and solid.  The Angels are never going to stop trying to build around Trout and they’ve proven to be willing to over-spend on superstars.  The Rangers are already in the midst of their rebuild, so they’ve got a head start on us.  I don’t want to just contend for Wild Cards every year!  I don’t want to go dumpster diving for veterans on 1-year prove-it deals to try to make this fucked up nucleus work!  I don’t want to watch Nelson Cruz get booed and look shitty at the plate.  And I don’t really want to see what Robinson Cano looks like in the final couple years of his deal.

I want a total and complete rebuild, with high-level prospects.  I want the organization to stick to its philosophy of Controlling The Zone and defense and all that, and I want them to bring in guys who FIT that philosophy!

I’m just tired of losing all the fucking time … so let’s lose A WHOLE LOT for a few years, then hopefully be great for a while after that.

And yeah, I get it, the Astros’ model is no guarantee.  If we draft the wrong guys, if we don’t develop them properly, if we get unlucky with injuries, then it can all still go to shit and we can be right back where we started.  In a perpetual loop of utter fucking incompetence.  But, at least it’s trying something different.

I’m already numb to the Mariners sucking.  They’ve been doing it all my life.  Even when they were good, they still sucked when it counted!  The M’s falling apart this second half has hardly hit me at all.  Oh sure, I’ve been mad a few times, but more than anything I’m just resigned to my fate.  It’s never going to get good until we let it get really fucking bad.

So, blow it up, Mariners.  Do the right thing.  Let the Astros and A’s run their course and by the time they’re old and crappy, maybe we’ll be in a position to be the NEW Astros.

Gotta have hope, after all.  And, with the roster as it’s currently constructed, there is none.

Taking A Look At What The Mariners Need To Do To Surpass The Athletics For The Wild Card

Alternate Title:  The Mariners Couldn’t Sweep The Season Series Against The Orioles.

It’s funny how the last two months of losing makes it so we can’t even enjoy the times when the Mariners actually WIN a series.  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-good Arizona Diamondbacks, but we dropped that finale!  Yeah, we took 2/3 from the very-bad Baltimore Orioles, but we didn’t sweep their asses!

This is what it’s come to.  We’re in the home stretch of this thing.  One and a half more homestands, and one more long road trip and that’s it.  22 more games.  22 games to gain 5.5 on the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot, and we only play them three more times.

It’s asking a lot, is what I’m getting at.  And losing ANY game from here on out just destroys our chances.

Somehow, in the next 15 games, the M’s need to pick up 2 games on the A’s.  We need to break it down like this, because what’s going to have to happen that final week of the season is we’d need to sweep the A’s in that 3-game series, and then REALLY kick some fucking ass against the Rangers in the final 4.

So, let’s get into the weeds on this, because who gives a fuck about that Orioles series?

Over the next 15 games, the Mariners host the Yankees for 3, have a day off, then host the Padres for 2.  We go to L.A. next week for 4 against the Angels, followed by 3 in Houston.  We have an off-day on the 20th, then 3 more against the Rangers before returning home to face the A’s in that showdown.

The Yankees are obviously pretty great, and they just destroyed us over in the Bronx earlier this season (as well as in Seattle LAST season, when they arguably weren’t as good and we were arguably better than we are right now), but fuck it, the Mariners are just going to have to suck it up and find a way.  That means the hitters need to fucking do their fucking jobs!  We’ve got Paxton, followed by a rejuvinated Felix, followed by an Erasmo Ramirez who looks to have figured some things out over his last few starts.  Need to find a way to win this series, and ideally sweep it.

Then, after plenty of rest, we have a 2-spot against the Padres.  I don’t fucking care how it’s done, but this needs to be a sweep as well.  NO MORE FUCKING AROUND, MARINERS!

The Angels must be in the area of giving up at this point, but I’m sure they’d love nothing more than to ruin our playoff chances.  We need to stomp on their throats.  Again, this is a series we MUST win, and also ideally a sweep.  That takes us to Houston, which is another really good team, but we still need to find a way to win the series.  And, I’m sorry, but if we can’t figure out a way to sweep a trash team like the Rangers, then we don’t fucking deserve to break this post-season curse.

In terms of numbers, you’d like the Mariners to go 13-2 in these games.  That sounds like I’m asking too much, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it’s not like this is an impossible task!  It just requires guys to stop sucking and start doing their fucking jobs and playing like we’re accustomed to seeing them play!  (of course, a cynic could say we HAVE been seeing them play like we’re accustomed to … Same Ol’ Mariners Losing Baseball).

The A’s also play 15 games between now and the time they come to Seattle (where that half-game comes into play is the A’s get an off-day between Seattle and their final series, down in L.A. against the Angels, which is just a 3-gamer; while we get no off-day and ours is a 4-gamer against the Rangers).  So, any way we can get it, we just need to pick up 2 games on them before a miracle final week.  If we go 8-7 in the next 15, they need to fall apart and go 6-9.  I went with 13-2 because the A’s are really good and they’re not likely to fall apart; 11-4 seems like a reasonable figure for them.

The A’s host Texas this weekend, then they go to Baltimore to kick off a little mini-road trip on Tuesday.  That’s unfortunate, as the A’s should be favored to win all 6 of those games; let’s hope they find a way to lose at least 1.  It gets a little tougher when they go to Tampa to play the Rays, who have been on a real hot streak of late.  We need the Rays to take 2 of those games at the very least.

Then, the A’s return home for 3 against the Angels and 3 against the Twins.  Neither team is very good, but let’s hope the Angels have a little magic up their sleeves in one of those games to get the A’s that 4th loss.

If it goes according to plan – 13-2 for the M’s, 11-4 for the A’s – then we’ll be 91-64 and the A’s will be 95-61 when we meet on September 24th.  At that point, the Mariners would HAVE to sweep, which would make us 94-64 and the A’s 95-64.  From there, we’d control our own destiny:  if we sweep the 4-game set against the Rangers, even if the A’s swept the Angels in their final three, we’d both be 98-64 and have a 1-game play-in game to get to the 1-game Wild Card game against the Yankees.

Of course, for this particular scenario to work, it would require the Mariners to go 20-2 down the stretch, which would PROBABLY be the most ridiculous thing we’ve ever seen in the history of Major League Baseball.

But, like I said before, it can be any combination of things.  Break it down like this, for the TL;DR crowd:

  1. The Mariners need to pick up just 2 games over the Athletics over the next 15 games
  2. The M’s need to sweep the 3-game series against the A’s in the final week
  3. The M’s need to pick up the final half-game on the A’s over the final weekend (meaning the M’s need to win just 1 more game than the A’s in their respective final series; the M’s play 4, the A’s play 3, so it could be as simple as both teams sweeping)

It’s far from an ideal situation, but it’s managable.  The Mariners just need to go out and fucking do it.

The Mariners Keep Losing Series After Series

It’s been a week since I checked in on the Mariners, because it’s obviously no fun talking about this team blowing its latest and best playoff opportunity.

Since that 12-inning thriller against the A’s to at least avoid a sweep in that series, the M’s have gone 2-4, losing to both the Dodgers and Astros at home.  From a series perspective – dating back to early July – the Mariners have won exactly 2 of their last 13 series (with 2-game tie vs. the Giants mixed in).  It’s been absolutely brutal, and no amount of road sweeps against an injury-depleted Astros team (that for some mysterious reason hasn’t been all that good at home this year anyway) will make up for the fact that the Mariners SUUUUUUCK right now, and probably forever.

That Dodgers series, for instance, was a fucking joke.  The Dodgers won 2 of 3 games, yet the point differential in that series saw the Mariners at -20, thanks to two miserable fucking blowouts (11-1 and 12-1).  The only saving grace was a 10th inning walk-off balk after our two best relievers blew a 3-run lead in the final two innings with 3 solo homers.  If that isn’t a harbinger of things to come, I don’t know what is.

The Astros series was only marginally better – in that we didn’t get fucking blown out in any of the games – but the result was still the same:  losing 2 of 3.  Felix gave us something close to a quality start in his first game back after his lone bullpen appearance in relief of the injured Paxton.  He went 6 innings, giving up 4 runs, and Cano bashed a 3-run dinger late to break up the tie.

We were saddled with the dreaded bullpen game the next day, with both teams dealing with injured starters (Mike Leake was actually too sick to pitch, because even in the dead of summer, guys still get colds).  Nick Vincent got the Opener role, going 2 scoreless innings before giving way to a minor league spot start in Ross Detwiler.  Det went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs, and it’s truly unfathomable that we would go on to lose this game just giving up those 3 runs.  Somehow, some way, this offense could only muster up 2 runs and that was that.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

PLAYOFF.  TEAMS.  DON’T.  LOSE.  THESE.  TYPES.  OF.  GAMES.  HAND CLAP EMOJI!

Bummer for Detwiler was he got released the next day, because things are tight in the bullpen right now and we always have to be on the lookout for a mediocre start.  Like, for instance, Marco Gonzales, getting the nod in the rubber match!  He’s been on just a fucking trainwreck of a streak, so the team held him back a few days to rest his arm a bit.  It … did not help.  He went 3 innings, gave up 8 runs on 11 hits, and pretty much single-handedly lost us this game, as we would mount a futile comeback before losing by the score of 10-7.

Yeah, Root Sports, you COULD say the silver lining from this series was that the bats looked better.  Then again, I dunno, we only scored the 2 runs against a bullpen day.  And, it feels like no small coincidence that this surge of runs came about because the red hot Ben Gamel was called back up and started all three days, so MAYBE HE NEVER SHOULD’VE BEEN SENT TO TACOMA IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE, PARTICULARLY WHEN YOU’VE BEEN IN THE TANK SO LONG OFFENSIVELY, YOU FUCKING DOLTS!

Look, it’s as over as over can be.  The Astros weathered the storm and they’re steadily getting their regulars back from the DL.  The A’s aren’t going anywhere; this clearly is not a hot streak, but just a better approximation of what they are:  a really fucking good team.  We’re 4.5 games out of the wild card and 5.5 games out of the division; once again it’s Close But No Cigar for the Seattle Mariners

I hate this team so fucking much.

No, I Don’t Think The Mariners Will Make The Playoffs This Year

I don’t respond to every single comment – however rare they find their way into my posts on this blog – but I thought I’d answer a question someone left in my most recent entry.

For what it’s worth, I USED to think the Mariners would make the playoffs this year.  I thought they were a shoo-in!  Then, they had a 10-13 month of July (not to mention a 6-8 month of August), while the Oakland Athletics went from 34-36 on June 15th, to now being 72-48 heading into August 15th (a record of 38-12 in two months’ time) and now we’re talking about the M’s being 3.5 games behind the A’s, with 8 more games against them the rest of the year.

I might have held out a little hope heading into this 3-game set against the A’s – coming off of that 4-game sweep down in Houston – but losing the first two games has really dampened my spirits.  Not just that, but obviously the WAY the Mariners have lost.

On Monday, we lost 7-6, but it was 7-1 heading into the 8th inning.  You can take that two ways; you can laud the late comeback against a pretty formidable bullpen, or you can lament another poor pitching performance.  Marco Gonzales has been pretty remarkable this season, but his last two outings have been terrible.  He followed up a 5-inning, 7-run performance down in Texas with a 5-inning, 4-run performance in Oakland.  Everyone’s saying he’s tired, that 140 innings is by far the most he’s thrown in the Majors, but come on man, this is his JOB!  He’s a Major League starting pitcher for Christ’s sake!  I don’t want to be Get Off My Lawn guy, but it really feels like coddling if we have to give him a rest in the middle of a fucking playoff chase.

Also, I don’t know what the opposite of Pouring One Out is – maybe Pissing On The Grave? – but piss one out for Casey Lawrence, who is (I’ll say it) the WORST long reliever I’ve ever fucking seen.  Any time you ask this guy to go more than a single inning, he falls apart.  The point of a long reliever is to come in, eat up innings, and keep your team in the ballgame, in the off-chance that the offense gets its shit together and jumps back into the game.  Well, if Lawrence had done his JOB on Monday, we might’ve seen a remarkable come-from-behind victory against the very team we’re chasing for that wild card spot!  Instead, he added more gas to the dumpster fire, and here we are, one run short of a comeback.  Sending his dumb ass down to Tacoma was the best thing the Mariners have done all week.

Of course, if that wasn’t bad enough, last night James Paxton took a line drive off his forearm, and is poised to hit the DL for a start or two (or more?).  Luckily, we still had King Felix stretched out, so he was able to go 5.2 innings of 2-run ball to keep us in it (FANCY THAT, A LONG RELIEVER WHO DOESN’T SUCK!).  He’ll slide right into Paxton’s spot in the rotation until he’s able to come back, at which point it’ll probably be September and we’ll be able to expand our roster beyond the 25 guys we have now.  Maybe, if Felix can hold it down, we go to a 6-man rotation, to give everyone a little break and ease Paxton into the home stretch.

Or, maybe we’ll go right back to seeing the Felix that struggles, at which point we’ve swapped out our best starter for our worst starter, and our odds of making the playoffs got that much worse.  If I’m betting the Taylor Family Farm, I’m betting on the latter, as sad as it is to say.

I guess the only bit of good news is Robinson Cano returned last night.  He started at first base and got a hit while batting second in the order.  Seems unnecessary to move him off of his regular spot in the order (if you’re doing it to punish him, then bat him 5th or 6th), but I guess if you’re going to move him all over the field, then why not move him all around the batting order?

I just ultimately don’t think the boost we’ll get from Cano will be enough.  Too many bats are struggling – Seager, Zunino, Gordon, even Segura has significantly cooled off since the All Star Break – and with the pitching staff looking as iffy as we all expected it to be coming into this season, it all adds up to a total and complete collapse in the second half of this season.

So, no, no playoffs for the Mariners again in 2018.  The real question is:  how long will the neverending streak of losing Mariners teams continue?