The Mariners’ Magic Number Is Down To One

The excitement is palpable. It’s actually a really fun day today, everyone’s so happy and hopeful! A Mariners victory tonight over the A’s, or an Orioles loss this afternoon against the Yankees, and the Mariners will clinch a spot in the post-season for the first time since 2001. As has been belabored to death for as long as it’s been a fact: this is the longest active playoff drought in North American professional sports. And it’s FINALLY. FUCKING. OVER.

It’s especially beautiful for anyone who’s been a Mariners fan throughout, because it’s been so fucking hard to BE a fan. To support this team. This organization that has been among the most ineptly-run since its inception.

Today isn’t about that, though. It’s not about the past. It’s not about playoff positioning (for the record, we’re currently slotted in the second wild card spot – the one that would have to play the first round in Toronto – a half-game ahead of the Rays and a game and a half behind the Blue Jays). There will be time to bemoan our fate. But, for now, today is ONLY about the impending celebration that’s likely to take place at the end of the day.

How did we get here? Well, it’s been a whole lot of losing by Baltimore, for starters! But, also, we won a series! What a concept!

It didn’t look great on Tuesday, as the Rangers shut us out 5-0. Robbie Ray was okay (5.2 innings, 2 runs), but the offense was nowhere to be seen. Following that game, Scott Servais tried to settle everyone down by skipping batting practice the next two days, and so far it seems to be working.

On Wednesday, we won 3-1. George Kirby pitched 6 innings, giving up 1 run (nice bounce-back after a bad outing the last time around), and the bullpen was nails from there (with Andres Munoz being particularly nasty in his inning of work). We got a Suarez RBI double (3 for 3 on the day, with a walk) and a Haniger sac fly in the first. Then, Santana grounded out to score a run in the third.

Thursday was a different kind of Mariners Special, winning 10-9 in 11 innings. Marco wasn’t great (5 innings, 4 runs), but the offense showed up in spades. Haniger hit two homers. Kelenic hit two homers. That scored our first 7 runs and staked us to a 3-run lead heading into the seventh inning. Unfortunately, Paul Sewald got beat up pretty good, giving up two solo homers. Then, Munoz was forced to get four outs, and got touched up for a blown save in the 8th in the process.

We got it to extras, though, with each team scoring a ghost runner in the 10th. The Rangers also scored their ghost in the 11th to take a brief lead, but we got two runs in the bottom half to walk it off.

So, here’s the thing: I know I should be excited, and I am. But, also … I’m going to the game tomorrow, and I kinda want to BE there when the big moment happens. I want to be in a crowd full of maniacs as we explode in jubilation. There’s nothing like it. I was in the Kingdome when Heathcliff Slocumb locked down a save to put us into the playoffs in 1997, and it was probably the loudest fan experience of my life. As someone who’s slogged through these last 21 years of Mariners baseball, I feel like I’ve earned the right to be there.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping me from going to the game tonight, other than I’m kinda low on funds at the moment and have other plans I don’t especially want to get out of. I can always hold out hope that the M’s lose tonight and the Orioles stave off elimination for one more day. But, that seems unlikely to say the least. The way they’ve been playing lately, I’m sure we’ll have clinched before our game even gets to the third inning.

And when we do, I’ll be thrilled, I know it. Tomorrow will be nothing but one long party, and that’ll be super fun in its own right.

The Mariners Are Making People Awfully Nervous Heading Into The Final Homestand Of The Season

The off-day yesterday couldn’t have come soon enough. Let’s get everyone home on Sunday night, let’s take a day to relax and reflect, and then let’s end this season the right way.

Which, again, is with the Mariners finishing with the third wild card slot.

And don’t give me this shit about “Well, you don’t necessarily want to play Cleveland either, because they’re hot and blah blah blah.” They’re not the Astros. They’re not the Blue Jays in Toronto. Those are the teams I’m looking to avoid the most. Of course, every team that makes the playoffs is good. Of course, any team that gets to that point can go all the way; look at the Braves last year. But, it doesn’t matter how you finish the REGULAR season as long as you get in. It matters that you flip the switch when the games are do-or-die.

The Mariners have the kind of pitching that should keep them in every single game. The Mariners have the kind of hitting that’s frustrating as hell, that goes in the tank for long stretches of season, before pulling out of the nosedive and doing just enough to get this team over the hump. We’re in a nosedive now. That doesn’t mean we’ll be in a nosedive forever.

I’m still not worried. We’ve got a good-sized lead over the Orioles. We’re still only a half game behind the Rays (who have been just as bad as we’ve been over the last couple weeks, but nobody’s flipping the fuck out about the Rays). It’s fine. We’re all good here!

That being said, sure, I get the worry. We lost two of three to another bottom-dwelling team in the Kansas City Royals. That’s three series in a row, to three of the very worst teams in the American League. We just finished a 3-7 road trip against those teams, which is far from ideal. Looking big picture, I understand why people are nervous. If we’re losing to THOSE teams, how are we ever going to beat the teams in the playoffs? Well, we’ll see!

It was a 5-1 loss last Friday. Marco had a very Marco start (5 innings, 4 runs, 3 earned), and the offense was very much our offense. Cal Raleigh had a solo homer and that was that.

Saturday’s 6-5 victory was as thrilling as it gets. Logan Gilbert gave up 5 runs in 5 innings, but the bullpen came to play.

We were down 5-3 heading into the top of the sixth, where Cal Raleigh showed up once again. With a runner on, he jacked a homer to tie it at five apiece. Then, in the top of the ninth, he jacked a double (that was almost another homer) to give us the go-ahead run. Paul Sewald pitched two scoreless for the win, and Andres Munoz got his fourth save of the year.

That brought us to Sunday, where the offense very much continued that hot streak. We were up 11-2 at one point! Then, Luis Castillo fell apart in the sixth inning (immediately after signing a bigtime extension to stay with the Mariners for the next five years or whatever). He led off with a strikeout, then walked a guy and gave up a homer. Then, he walked another guy and was pulled. From there, Festa walked a guy, gave up a single to load the bases, and let someone score on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Festa was pulled for Brash, who gave up a 2-RBI double, two walks, and an RBI infield single. Having gotten zero outs, Brash was pulled for Swanson, who gave up a 2-RBI single, a 2-RBI double, and another RBI single for good measure before the runner got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Really, one could argue, Swanson got zero outs, but his defense saved his bacon.

So, that’s a bullpen meltdown of a lifetime! I hope we don’t see that again this year!

This was a game where the Mariners had scored 8 runs in the fifth inning, and we were somehow out-done by 11 runs in the sixth. We were down 13-11 after all that chaos, got one back on a Torrens sac fly, but the game ended 13-12. It’s a good thing everyone was watching the Seahawks blow it to give too much of a shit.

I don’t really know what else to say about a series like that. Technically, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have beaten the Royals; that was as flukey of a loss as you’ll ever see. How does 4-6 look compared to 3-7 for that road trip? Not ideal, but obviously would’ve appeared better on the surface if we’d ended it with back-to-back victories.

I’m discouraged to see Luis Castillo gag away two games to the A’s, then turn around and fuck it up so severely against the Royals. What did we get ourselves into? This better be a temporary blip; he’s supposed to be our Game One starter in the playoffs!

I’m pretty encouraged by Jarred Kelenic though. It’s an extremely small sample size and everything, but he’s got at least one hit in all four of the games he’s played in this month, with three doubles and a homer. Not to mention our outfield defense hasn’t skipped a beat with Julio hitting the IL.

We’ve got Texas tonight for the first of three. Then, we’ve got the A’s over the weekend (I’ll be there on Saturday to oversee the righting of the ship). Then, it’s 4 games in 3 days against Detroit Monday through Wednesday. Then it’s the playoffs, however that ends up shaking out. Pretty significant next 10 games, I’d say!

The Mariners Losing Games Isn’t So Much A Concern As Losing Players

The good teams can withstand a few injuries and still be great. The good teams can withstand players underperforming expectations, or otherwise going through prolonged slumps, because they have enough depth to fill things out and compete at a high level.

The Mariners aren’t there yet. The Mariners are on a shoestring tightrope they’re trying to walk, with pretty much zero depth and therefore zero margin for error when it comes to players getting injured. That’s why, this slew of guys either suffering severe injuries, or otherwise playing through nagging ones, is much more of a nightmare scenario than the Mariners having a sub-par road trip.

Julio Rodriguez had to be pulled from the outfield yesterday, as he’s dealing with back tightness that it sounds like will land him on the IL. Eugenio Suarez is famously already on the IL with an injured hand that might prevent him from playing third base again this season (rendering him as exclusively a DH, which really does a number on our team defensively). Mitch Haniger is playing through aches and pains. Ty France is playing through aches and pains (and has to try his glove at third base for the first time in years). J.P. Crawford missed yesterday with a leg issue or some damn thing. Cal Raleigh has an injured thumb on his glove hand.

This is forcing us into a position we’d rather not be in. Like having Carlos Santana out there every day (when he’s probably best served with regular rest days, at his advanced age). Like being forced to use Winker in spite of his struggles both at the plate and in the field. Like riding Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore, when you figure both will come with diminishing returns the more they’re exposed to MLB pitching. Like playing Toro even though he’s a nonsense man with zero bat-on-ball skills whatsoever. Like taking stabs in the dark, with Kelenic called back up even though he can’t hit Major League bendy pitches (and, from what I recall, his prowess at hitting Major League straight pitches isn’t all that elite either).

Everyone feels this need for the team to fight to the bitter end for that top wild card spot, when that’s just asinine to me. Rest everyone who needs to rest – putting them on the IL for 10 days, if need be – and let’s just back into the playoffs as Wild Card #3!

There’s no way Baltimore is catching us. They play Houston for 4, the Red Sox for 4 on the road, the Yankees for 3 on the road, and the Blue Jays for 3 to close out their season. They won’t have the wins when all is said and done. And the White Sox aren’t even on my radar; they’re too far back. I don’t give two shits about the #1 or #2 wild card slots. Just give me #3 and let’s call it a season.

Meanwhile, let’s use these remaining 2 weeks to get healthy! We need all these guys for the post-season. How we finish the regular season is irrelevant! We did it! We’re good enough with the pitching we have to coast into that third wild card slot. But, if we keep pushing guys before they’re fully healed, then it’ll all be for naught.

I only care about what happens in the playoffs, against the Guardians of Cleveland, the Yankees of New York, and whoever we might face in a potential ALCS.

So, you can panic about this Oakland series all you want. It’s not phasing me. We lost 4-1 on Tuesday after managing all of one hit. Seems like a bad luck game to me more than anything (Luis Castillo falling apart against that lineup for a second time is a bit perturbing, though). We lost 2-1 on Wednesday, but that was even crazier of a scenario, where Robbie Ray went 6 shutout innings and some poor defense behind Erik Swanson doomed us.

Sanity was restored (at least for one day) in yesterday’s 9-5 victory. Sure, Julio had to leave, but Kelenic had a couple of monster hits (has he FINALLY turned a corner? We’ll see over the next week and change), and France and Haniger seem to be waking up from their slumber. It wasn’t a good outing by Kirby, but it was nice to see the offense overcome against a team they’re supposed to beat.

One final trip – to Kansas City – and then we’re home until the playoffs. We’ve only got a half-game cushion with the Rays keeping us in that third wild card spot. We’re still 4 up on Baltimore (but really we’re 5 up, since we hold the tiebreaker).

The Luis Torrens Era Comes To An End With The Mariners

Before the Mariners headed to Texas yesterday to start their road trip tonight, they made a couple more roster moves. As expected, Julio Rodriguez came off of the IL, with Jarred Kelenic being sent back down to Tacoma. This means that in the short term, Jake Lamb gets a stay of execution. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a little disappointing with regards to Kelenic.

Kelenic started the year on the Major League roster and lasted through May 11th before being sent down. At that time, he was hitting .140/.219/.291. In this most recent stint, he appeared in nine games, and all of those numbers have managed to go down. That’s in spite of some promising developments at the AAA level, which is just demoralizing to me as a fan, so I can only imagine what it’s been like for him. Last year, after he was sent down, he returned and made an impact at the big league level. Part of me was hoping that would be the case again this year, but it’s clear there’s something broken with … whatever he’s doing at the plate. I mean, I’ve never seen a more uncomfortable-looking batting stance in my life. I feel like going back to the drawing board might be in order there.

He had 2 hits (1 of them a homer in that 6-run first inning Gerrit Cole game) in 27 at bats, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts. I will say that the defense was still there, but you can’t really make a career out of just competent outfield defense. I think that nails it as far as 2022 being a total and complete Lost Year for him. I also think – barring a very dramatic development between now and next year – that we’re going to have to forever temper our expectations when it comes to Kelenic. In all likelihood, he’s never going to pan out, and if he does it’ll be with another franchise.

You know what gets me? He used to be so delightfully cocky. It was 90% of his charm! He was so dominant through the minors, and he really let his personality shine through in interviews. Now, all I can see is someone who appears to be internally struggling with confidence. And that’s a recipe for disaster in professional sports. I really hope he gets it figured out, but I’m not holding my breath at this point.

***

This was supposed to be a Luis Torrens post, and there I go talking about Kelenic!

The other roster move the Mariners made yesterday was to call up Curt Casali off of the IL. He’s the backup catcher we traded for with the Giants, in a very necessary move to help give Cal Raleigh some rest.

Raleigh has been playing in a crazy number of games this year for a catcher, appearing in 72% so far. It’s even more impressive when you figure the M’s had a whopping three catchers on their roster to start the season, before Tom Murphy had a season-ending injury. And that also factors in a short stint in Tacoma where Cal was sent down to work on his swing (he left Seattle with a slash line of .083/.214/.208 in late April; it’s up to .207/.276/.458 now). Ever since Murphy went out – and since Cal started raking the ball – Raleigh has been playing virtually every day. Not literally, of course. Usually if there’s a day game after a night game, he’ll get a blow, but even then he might still come in to pinch hit or take care of the 9th inning catching duties.

I’m guessing, since he’s a big, strong kid without a lot of miles on his legs, the Mariners feel they can get away with it in the short term, but you can’t run him into the ground. They saw that at the deadline, and hence the Curt Casali deal.

As I mentioned at the time, Casali isn’t anything special. It’s not like we nabbed some other team’s starting catcher and brought him over here to back up Cal. He’s a clear #2. But, he’s also a competent one, by all accounts. And, unfortunately, that’s just not Luis Torrens.

Torrens came over in that famed fleecing of the Padres, where we brought in Ty France, Andres Munoz, and Taylor Trammell for Austin Nola and a couple of scrub relievers. I mean, that one goes in the Mariners Hall of Fame for best trades ever, but here we see the first chink in the armor.

Torrens’ bat was always the draw when it came to his overall package. No one ever really expected him to be an “everyday” starting catcher. I remember there being questions about him eventually moving to another infield spot. That came to a head in 2021. He was sent down early in the year because of his hitting, and when he returned he started to seriously rake, but never really got behind the plate again. He was primarily a DH, with a sprinkling of first base opportunities (and some work behind the scenes, I believe, at second or third base).

With his offensive woes seemingly rectified, he returned in 2022 with a new lease on life. We figured, again, he’d play some DH, but also opted to work him back in at catcher when we had that 3-man rotation (and Cal was struggling). That proved to be quite necessary when Murphy got hurt. I don’t remember there ever being a time this year when Torrens was the main starter – it seemed pretty simultaneous that after Murphy went on the IL, Cal took over as the team’s starter thanks to his offensive resurgence (to say nothing of his skills handling the pitching staff and calling games).

The main problem with Torrens is the fact that his offense has totally cratered. And he’s out of options, so we can’t just send him to Tacoma to work on it.

It’s a bummer. I really liked Torrens’ bat. You don’t see a lot of guys with his kind of power, especially to the opposite field (especially in Seattle). He had some big hits with the Mariners since 2020, most recently in that epic 1-0 victory over the Yankees in the 13th inning as a pinch hitter.

But, it’s becoming clear that he’s a man on an island in some respects. He’s just not what you want, defensively, from a catcher. He’s not atrocious; he’s passable. But it seems like whenever he has to take on too many defensive responsibilities, his bat goes down the tubes. And he’s not good enough defensively to make up for those kinds of limitations on offense.

Thankfully, the National League has embraced the DH, so I think he’ll be back again. I had my doubts that Daniel Vogelbach would stick around very long after leaving Seattle, and yet we still see videos of him popping up on Twitter from time to time, doing something fucking rad. Torrens is a DH, and an emergency fill-in at a couple of spots defensively. If he’s free to just focus on hitting, I think he’ll be okay and stick around a little while. Of course, he’d have more value if he hit lefty, but that’s neither here nor there.

Also, I guess there’s a slim chance that no one claims him and he accepts a demotion to Tacoma. After all, we’re one more injury away from him being back with the Mariners in that scenario. But, after his struggles this season, a change of scenery might be in his best interests.

3-DAYS LATER UPDATE: The slim chance comes to fruition! But, the M’s DFA’d Ken Giles over the weekend for some reason. That’s going to be annoying if he jumps to a contender and dominates in the playoffs.

The Mariners Won Another Wildly Impressive Series Over The Yankees

The thing is, you can’t talk about this series victory over the Yankees without talking about the miserable 9-4 loss on Monday. Oh believe me, I don’t want to talk about it; I want to ignore it and move on! But, there’s cause for real alarm, because Logan Gilbert gave up a season-worst 7 runs in 4.0 innings of work.

That follows Gilbert’s previous-worst mark of 6 runs given up last week in New York against this very team (that was in 5.1 innings). It’s been a terrible month of August (13 runs in 9.1 innings over the two starts) and a concerning overall inflation of his numbers as the season has gone along. Now, MAYBE the Yankees just have his number; I guess we’ll see the rest of the way. But for a guy who had been the best and most consistent overall starter for the Mariners (at least, until Luis Castillo came to town), that’s not what you want to see from someone who’s slated to play an important role in this team’s playoff run. Especially when you consider he’s most likely to join the top two guys in any post-season rotation we roll out there. The Mariners need Gilbert to continue being great, is what I’m getting at.

One of the problems seems to be the fact that he’s so fastball-heavy, especially early in games and early in counts. The Yankees have jumped all over Gilbert, and I don’t see why others wouldn’t do the same.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about Monday’s game. That’s because Tuesday’s game was so thrilling, that’s ALL I want to talk about, ever again, for the rest of my life!

Round 2 of the heavyweight matchup between Luis Castillo and Gerrit Cole was always going to be better and more impressive than Round 1 last week (where Cole gave up a 6-spot in the first inning, and we cruised to a 7-3 victory). But, even if you had high expectations for this one, the game exceeded it by leaps and bounds!

Cole was brilliant: 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Castillo was even better: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts.

There wasn’t anything even close to offensive output through seven innings. That’s mostly because whenever the Mariners managed to get to first base, they ran themselves out of the inning (a blunder by Frazier trying to turn a single into a double, and a caught stealing by Haggerty that wasn’t even close to succeeding). The Yanks almost served a knockout blow to Castillo in the eighth – as they had two runners on for the first time all day – but with his 110th pitch, Castillo was able to induce a ground ball to get out of the mini-jam.

Then, it was a battle of the bullpens. We got the best the Yankees could throw out there, and they got the best of what we had to offer. Andres Munoz not only struck out the side in the ninth, but he struck out the top of the order. Paul Sewald took care of the 10th (thanks to a nifty pick-off move as the ghost runner tried to steal third before he threw his pitch). Matt Festa looked a little erratic out there, but he generated a line-drive double play to second to once again eliminate the ghost runner, before allowing another line drive – this time to right field – that was caught before it hit the ground.

Enter Matt Brash – game still scoreless – for the 12th and 13th innings. In his very first at-bat, Brash snagged a groundball behind his back in some sort of miracle play that resulted in him forcing the ghost runner into a pickle (he would run himself out of the baseline for the first out), and as the batter tried to reach second base, he too ran himself out of the baseline for the double play. It was as absurd of a play as you’ll ever see, and I loved every second of it. Brash got a strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the bottom of the 12th, it looked like we might FINALLY end this thing. With one out, Haggerty (the ghost runner) advanced to third on a ground out from France. With two outs now, Haniger and Jake Lamb walked to load the bases, with Suarez at the plate. But, he couldn’t get that elusive base hit (indeed, the Mariners hadn’t gotten a single base hit since the 8th inning at this point), striking out swinging and breaking his bat in two with his knee as he walked back towards the dugout.

That seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. I should point out that at some point in extras, we pinch hit Santana for Kelenic, which necessitated the Mariners putting Haniger (the erstwhile DH) in right field. That meant we lost our DH, and Brash’s time was limited (since there’s no way you’re letting a pitcher bat in a game this important).

He was able to go back out there in the 13th inning though, and once again he worked some sort of voodoo to keep it scoreless. Right off the bat, we intentionally walked Aaron Judge, because there’s no way we’re letting that freak of nature beat us. Then, after a strikeout, Brash walked the bases loaded. Thankfully, he was able to get another strikeout, followed by a ground out, and that kept the game right where we needed it to be.

Cal Raleigh led off the 13th by singling to right; with Judge’s arm, there was no way Suarez (the ghost runner) was scoring there. With no outs, though, that’s a pretty enticing scenario! J.P. Crawford ended up tapping it back to the pitcher, but it advanced Raleigh to second. That led to an intentional walk of Sam Haggerty (the second time they’d done that to him in the extras), which brought up the Brash spot in the lineup. Luis Torrens – who has been having a God-awful season to date – pinch hit, which was risky in its own right, because he’s the only backup catcher we have right now. If he failed, that would’ve put a lot of pressure on Raleigh to stay healthy through the end of the game.

Thankfully, Torrens came through! He took strike one looking, swung at strike two (both pitches 97 miles per hour and nasty looking), and then put the third fastball into play, pushing it to right field for the game-winner. 1-0, an all-time classic. Absolutely unreal!

The M’s would be forgiven if there was a bit of a hangover on Wednesday afternoon’s getaway game. Once again, it was another amazing pitching matchup – Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Robbie Ray vs. All Star (and former Mariners reliever) Nestor Cortes – and while this one didn’t quite live up to the magic of Tuesday night, the game was still scoreless through five and a half innings.

Indeed, Cortes was spinning a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth, when Sam Haggerty jerked a line drive home run off of the left field foul pole for a 1-0 lead. That would prove to be short-lived, as Ray – maxing out at 115 pitches – couldn’t quite get out of the seventh unscathed. It’s understandable – given how many relievers we had to use the night before – that Servais would try to squeeze an extra inning out of Ray (especially when he was dealing so hard through six), but he walked one too many guys, then paid the price with a 2-run homer to the Yankees’ #9 hitter.

That ended Ray’s day, but it didn’t end the Yankees’ seventh inning scoring spree. Aaron Judge (of course) saw a hanging slider from Penn Murfee, and did what he does with those pitches, depositing it to left for a solo homer and a 3-1 lead. I figured that was the ballgame, but boy was I wrong again!

In the bottom of the same inning, France reached second on a single and a passed ball; he would end up scoring on a Haniger RBI single to make the game 3-2. After a Suarez strikeout, Carlos Santana did what he does: hit go-ahead bombs. This one was jacked to right field for a 4-3 lead.

That lined us up for Diego Castillo’s return from the IL (a 1-2-3 eighth inning), followed by Sewald’s 15th save on the season. The best part: no Aaron Judge coming around in either of those innings to rain on our parade.

We have an off-day today, and boy is it well-earned! Those last two games felt like 40. It’ll be nice to go back on the road and (hopefully) beat up on the Texas Rangers some more.

Some quick bits of news that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on the blog: Abraham Toro was sent down to Tacoma earlier this week for sucking. Kyle Lewis was sent down to Tacoma more recently, also for sucking. Chris Flexen has been put into the bullpen, because it’s impractical to run a 6-man rotation out there with only 13 pitcher spots allowed. And, it looks like Julio Rodriguez is going to return soon (possibly as early as tomorrow).

In other news, Jake Lamb sucks (and was batting in the cleanup spot in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory for some God-foresaken reason; he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a meaningless walk) and I don’t know why he’s here. Also, Jarred Kelenic sucks as well, and figures to get the demotion upon Julio’s return. Oh, and Jesse Winker had to leave Monday’s game with back spasms, so we’ll see how long he’s out for.

We’re so close to a lineup without any black holes, I can almost taste it!

The Mariners Won A Series In New York Against The Yankees

I know, I’m as shocked as you are!

It’s the Yankees and the Asstros as the top two teams in the American League, followed by a HUGE gap, followed by everyone else. And, you know, depending on the day, the Yankees are the very best. They’re impressive from top to bottom, and as they absolutely should do, they only got better at the trade deadline. You can’t say there were many holes – if any – on their active roster, but they filled them and then some, with the big gets being the outfielder from Kansas City, and the pitching package they brought in from the A’s.

Of course, the one that got away – Luis Castillo – plays for our hometown Mariners, and that might ultimately change the entire landscape of the MLB playoffs this year. Had he landed with the Yankees, there might’ve been no stopping them. But, as it is, I don’t envy any team that has to face them in the A.L.D.S.

Even though the Mariners are firmly wild card contenders, this series always felt like a lost cause to me. Much in the way the M’s fared against Houston since the All Star Break (winning 1 out of 7 games), the Yankees are flat out a better team, and it would’ve made all the sense in the world to go into New York and get swept.

And, through one game, that looked very much in play.

We went into this series a little undermanned with our bullpen, having relied on them so thoroughly just to keep it close against the Asstros in Houston. As such, we really needed Marco Gonzales to give us a quality start on Monday. He proceeded to give up a 3-run home run to Anthony Rizzo in the first, a 2-run home run to Aaron Judge in the second, and a solo homer to Jose Trevino in the fourth. I guess you could say he settled down a little bit after that, but he ultimately only made it 5.1 innings, and those 6 runs were more than enough to bury us. We went on to lose 7-2, with very few offensive bright spots to speak of.

I really want to like Marco Gonzales. He’s the kind of crafty, gritty fighter with underwhelming stuff that seems to be getting phased out of the game of baseball nowadays. And, he indeed goes through stretches where everything clicks into place and he’s able to baffle opponents with his change up and cutter combo. But, while I don’t have concrete evidence in front of me, it seems like whenever you need him to step up in a big moment, that’s the moment where he gets shelled instead.

You can’t count on him. You look at Marco’s numbers at the end of the year and they’re always kinda the same: 140-200 innings (depending on injuries), an ERA right around 4.00, and usually a winning percentage just over .500 (though this has been a hard-luck year with his 6-11 record to date). You can set your watch to Marco, and yet his route to get there is completely unpredictable. It’s not just that he gets destroyed by good teams and mops up against the bottom-feeders … sometimes he gets roughed up by those bad teams as well. I can almost guarantee he’ll come back this weekend and give us an unimpressive quality start of 6 innings and 3 runs given up, with no rhyme or reason to it.

I was a little annoyed when I saw on Twitter that the Phillies were scouting him in that game against New York, as a potential trade candidate. But, I don’t believe we would’ve traded him anyway. They would’ve lowballed us, and at this point his leadership and chemistry fit with the rest of the team isn’t worth whatever low-level prospect we would’ve gotten in return.

What would’ve been worth it is not having him under contract the next two years, when his guaranteed dollars start to balloon, but that’s neither here nor there.

I don’t know a lot about the Yankees’ starter in Tuesday’s game, but at that point it didn’t really matter who they threw out there, because their offense is so good it seemed like they’d just rake their way to victory. Nevertheless, the Mariners’ offense also decided to join the party, and not a moment too soon.

We kicked things off with a Suarez 2-run bomb in the first, followed by a Raleigh solo homer in the second. To cap it, Carlos Santana hit a sac fly in the third to put the M’s up 4-0. That only carried us to the bottom of the fourth, where Logan Gilbert gave up a 3-spot to close the gap. However, a Santana 2-run double in the next half-inning put us up 6-3, as we chased their starter.

Once again, our lead was short-lived, as Gilbert got abused in the sixth, giving up a pair of homers to tie the game 6-6. From there, it was a battle of the bullpens, and with all due respect to Seattle’s unit, this one seemed like it was slipping away.

Thankfully, the offense wasn’t done. In the next half-inning (again), Sam Haggerty (this time) hit a solo homer to put us up 7-6. Then, the resurgent Adam Frazier knocked in an insurance run in the ninth to make it 8-6.

We still needed the bullpen to hold things down though, which they did a superb job of. Penn Murfee got us out of the sixth. Paul Sewald took down the top of the order in the seventh. A combo of Swanson and Brash made it through the eighth. And, Andres Munoz got two quick strikeouts before the wheels started to fall off in the ninth. A single and two walks loaded the bases, before he got one more strikeout to finish it. Huge moment for Munoz, since there wasn’t anyone else. He was going to either get the save or wear it, and he managed to regain his command.

That takes us to our would-be pitchers duel between our respective aces on Wednesday: Luis Castillo vs. Gerrit Cole. It ended up being a pretty soft landing for our newcomer, as not only did Aaron Judge get the day off, but the M’s pounded Cole for six runs in the top of the first to blow it wide open.

There was a Suarez 3-run homer, followed by a Santana solo job, followed later by a Kelenic 2-run bomb. Cole was catching too much of the plate in that first inning, and the M’s were making him pay. To his credit, he settled down to go 6 innings, giving up just those 6 runs, but the damage was done. We added a Winker solo homer in the seventh for good measure.

Castillo was very good in his Mariners opener, going 6.2 innings, giving up 3 runs (two of them on a home run that ended his day) on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 8 strikeouts. He was hitting the upper 90’s with some nasty off-speed stuff in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Everything was as advertised; it was awesome to behold. The bullpen shut it down from there for the 7-3 victory.

The Mariners get a deserved day off today (after flying home across the country yesterday) before hosting the Angels tomorrow for a 4-game weekend series (including another scheduled doubleheader on Saturday). My how our fortunes have changed since the last time we faced off against the Angels! I’ll be curious to see if we’re met with cooler tempers this time around. I’m sure the fans will be all riled up, if that matters at all. Here’s hoping the Mariners give fans something to be riled up about.

The Trade Deadline Came In Like A Lion & Went Out Like A Lamb For The Mariners

You can’t be happy with that headline, can you? We can do better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a relatively big fan of the Luis Castillo trade (I’ll be a bigger fan of it if he shoves against the Yankees later this morning), even if there’s a distinct possibility that we overpaid to get him here. But, at best, that only represents a solution to ONE of our problems.

As we’ve all talked about endlessly, you can’t have enough bullpen help. I like the stuff of Ken Giles, but he obviously missed all of 2021, and has had multiple setbacks/injuries in 2022 that have thus far limited him to 5 appearances. He can’t be counted on. Diego Castillo has bounced back in a big way after struggling in April, but he landed on the IL and I don’t think he’ll be the last. Ryan Borucki has had a pretty impressive turnaround in his career since joining the Mariners, but how legitimate is that?

We’ve got Paul Sewald, who I think we’re all happy with. We’ve got Andres Munoz, who has fucking electric stuff, but who can also lose the feel of his pitches at the drop of a hat and will start walking the world. Erik Swanson has been a revelation, but this is really the first year he’s put it all together; there was a time in his career not too long ago when he was used exclusively in mop-up situations when the game was out of hand one way or the other. And I guess Penn Murfee looks like the real deal, but he’s also a rookie, so there’s at least a little concern on my part.

One more ace reliever would’ve hit the spot. If this team is going to push all its chips into the middle on the strength of their starting and relief pitching, then really just going all out and making sure we’ve got the best we can possibly get is paramount.

That’s because our most glaring weakness is hitting. And yet, the company line all along centered on how we were largely standing pat with the bats.

On the one hand, I get it. Mitch Haniger returning to full strength is like getting an All Star middle-of-the-order bat with two months to go. Julio, France, and Haniger topping our lineup is something I can get behind. And, let’s not forget, Kyle Lewis was the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago. If we can just get some positive regression out of Adam Frazier and Jesse Winker – two veterans who should have figured it the fuck out by now – while continuing to get what we’ve gotten from Suarez, Crawford, Raleigh, and Santana, then that’s a good-enough lineup (with the pitching we’ve got) to roll into the playoffs and try to make some noise.

On the other hand, though, I’m in agreement with all the experts who are saying the Mariners are not obligated whatsoever to continue giving Carlos Santana everyday at bats. Also, if I never see Toro in the lineup again, it’ll be too soon. Santana should be a bench guy playing part time, and most everyone else comprising the depth on this team is just fucking atrocious.

I know what they say – the depth everywhere is bad – but it just seems like the Mariners have the worst of the worst, and there’s no good internal options.

Look at some of these guys we’ve seen this year! Future trivia answers to questions no one has any business asking. Donovan Walton, Travis Jankowski, Jack Larsen, Stuart Fairchild, Steven Souza Jr., Mike Ford, Marcus Wilson, Kevin Padlo, Andrew Knapp. And that’s not even getting into the names we’ve actually heard of (who still aren’t worth much of a damn). Justin Upton, Jarred Kelenic, the aforementioned Toro, Dylan Moore, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens.

So, it comes with no positivity whatsoever to announce the non-Castillo moves the Mariners made at the deadline yesterday.

  • Curt Casali (backup catcher) from the Giants
  • Matthew Boyd (lefty starter/reliever) also from the Giants
  • Jake Lamb (reserve corner infielder/outfielder) from the Dodgers

In return, we gave up some reliever no one’s ever heard of, a low-level catcher prospect (both going to the Giants), and cash (going to the Dodgers).

Casali’s just a guy. But, with the Tom Murphy injury (out for the year), and considering Torrens is giving you less than nothing, having just a guy is actually a modest improvement. Of course, we’ll see how his bat plays in Seattle. At least his defense is supposed to be good.

Boyd is a starter who figures to join our bullpen. As a starter, he’s ho-hum; as a reliever, he’s an unknown. He does not seem to be an improvement over anyone; indeed, it seems like he’s nothing more than an innings-eater.

What’s worse is that both Casali and Boyd are currently injured, so they can’t even help us out now anyway. Casali is on the mend – rehabbing at the AAA level – so we should probably see him soon. But, Boyd had arm surgery, hasn’t pitched at all in 2022, and has already had one setback. Apparently, we traded for him based on the strength of a bullpen session he threw? September seems to be the earliest he could help us, if he’s going to show up at all. On top of that, he’s on a 1-year deal, meaning he’s strictly a rental and will be a free agent at the end of the season; so it’s not even like we can stash him and hope he pans out next year!

I’ll be honest, I don’t love this deal. But, I’m also pretty confident this will ultimately be a trade that helps neither team.

The deal that I really don’t understand, though, is bringing in Jake Lamb, a 31 year old past-his-prime reserve infielder/outfielder with no pop and pretty mediocre numbers overall. His last useful season was in 2017, and he fell off a cliff after that!

What’s his role here? Clearly, as a backup. But, when is he going to see the field? Why would you play him over Sam Haggerty, for instance, who actually has done a little bit in his reserve role? Is he even better than Toro, who – say what you will – has at least had the occasional bright moment here and there?

Taken as a whole, what the Mariners did on the August 2nd trade deadline was marginal at best. At least all of them will (potentially) be gone by next year, unless we opt to re-sign them.

I’ll conclude with this: there’s a chance that this was all shrewd by Jerry Dipoto. I hate coming off as an apologist for him, because I don’t think he’s earned it. There’s a real opportunity for these 2022 Mariners to not only make the post-season, but actually make a dent. Luis Castillo was a fantastic start towards that goal. But, an impact bat really could’ve put us over the top and given us a chance to do some playoff damage (don’t talk to me about Soto, because the M’s clearly didn’t have the prospects to bring him in, unless you were willing to give up on Julio, Gilbert, and Kirby).

That being said, making a deal just to make a deal isn’t always a good thing. What if we traded for a guy and he shit the bed? Then, not only have we brought in someone who’s clogging up our everyday lineup, but we’ve given away valuable prospects to do so.

There’s reason to believe the aforementioned veterans Winker and Frazier will turn their seasons around and approach their career norms. We’re already starting to see what Frazier is capable of; after a miserable June, his rebound has been a big boost. And we’ve seen glimpses out of Winker; oddly enough, his June was really his best (and only good) month (across the board, reaching his career norms), though he’s cooled off considerably since the All Star Break.

We could’ve dumped Frazier and found a proper everyday second baseman. But, Winker was never going anywhere. He’s signed through 2023, and he was supposed to be the crown jewel of that first Reds deal this past offseason. Right now, his value is pretty minimal, so trading him would’ve been a tough ask. We just gotta hope that he gets better as he figures out American League pitching.

If those two guys step up, and we get a boost from Haniger and Lewis – all the while hanging onto Gilbert, Kirby, and the prospects we’ve got left in the organization – then Dipoto will look like a genius.

But, if we fail to make the playoffs, or if our offense totally faceplants in the post-season, then I think we can point to this deadline as a real missed opportunity.

That being said, I don’t think Dipoto is going anywhere anytime soon. I also don’t believe that we’re one big bat away from winning the World Series this year. The onus is on the upcoming offseason, and what the Mariners are able to do in the free agent market, combined with what we’re able to make in trades.

But, it’s batshit crazy to start thinking about that now, when we’ve got an exciting finish to this regular season to look forward to.

The Mariners Traded For Luis Castillo As They Were Nearly Swept (Again) By The Astros

I can’t wait for the Mariners to sneak into the playoffs as one of the wild card teams, only to get swept by the Asstros in the A.L.D.S.

I don’t want to talk about this weekend series. The Mariners won 1 out of 4 games, and they were LUCKY to even win that. Even worse, Julio Rodriguez went on the IL and Ty France is sitting out a few days, both with wrist injuries that figure to linger the rest of the season. It’s about as low as I can imagine feeling while still technically qualifying for the second Wild Card spot.

Anyway, the deal: the Mariners get Luis Castillo from the Reds in exchange for 4 prospects. Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Moore, and Levi Stoudt.

Let’s talk about … the discourse. This deal, of course, happened over the weekend, so the best I could do is follow along on Twitter. It SOUNDS like there’s panic in the ranks of Mariners fandom. And I get it, this is a massive haul of prospects going away. Marte was probably our highest-rated prospect, and word on the street is that Arroyo has the potential to be even better. Two short stop prospects for a year and a half of a starting pitcher?! That’s a lot! To say nothing of the reliever who throws over 100 mph (Moore) and the lottery ticket of a starter (Stoudt).

I’ll just say this and move on: Twitter is a poor example of the general populace. They’re only the most vocal and complain-y members of the populace (and I absolutely acknowledge my very small part in that). But, I think more Mariners fans – especially the most casual Mariners fans – are deeply in favor of this move, because it means we’re FINALLY going for it, after all this time.

It’s the loons who obsess over prospects all the time that really get to me. How many prospects actually pan out and turn into stars? It’s a very small percentage. How many of those same loons pegged Jarred Kelenic as a can’t-miss uber-prospect? Well, I’d say he’s very much missed in his parts of two seasons in the bigs. And I don’t think it looks good for him going forward.

We all figured Marte was on the trade block. We’ve got J.P. Crawford locked up long-term, for starters. And even if Marte is destined to shift over to second or third base, he was probably at least two years away from being in a position to crack our roster. That’s for a guy who, again, is no guarantee. He’s not Julio. Now, he might turn into a very good player, but them’s the breaks. You need to trade some good prospects every now and then to get in some good players. Guys who, you know, will perform well at the Major League level right away.

Arroyo hurts, though. He’s not as highly-rated as Marte – at the moment – but his trajectory suggests his prospect rating is about to explode. He could go down as not just the one that got away, but the really embarrassing folly of this deal. For the two of them, plus a reliever with tremendous potential, plus a starter, again, it seems like the Mariners should’ve gotten more.

At the very least, I would’ve loved to have seen this deal at the beginning of the year, piggybacking on the Winker/Suarez deal.

The rational side of me understands this is what the Mariners need to do. First of all, they need to over-pay for literally everyone, because they’re not the Yankees. We’re all paying that fucking Yankees tax, because everyone in the world over-rates Yankees prospects to the point of insanity (when, in reality, the Yanks are the best in the world at keeping their very best guys, while jettisoning good-looking guys who will ultimately under-perform expectations).

But, moreover, the Mariners have to take this opportunity. To strike while the iron’s hot. Because you don’t get a lot of these chances in the game of baseball.

That being said, the irrational side of me sees this as the Erik Bedard Deal 2.0. Remember that disaster? Remember how the Orioles got marginally better with players we could’ve desperately used to actually contend? What are the Reds going to do with our guys, other than flip them down the road for more prospects, while maybe squeaking into a wild card once or twice?

Here’s the upside, though: Luis Castillo is legitimately amazing! He throws in the mid-to-high 90’s with a devastating change up. He’s been compared to young Felix (given how hard he throws) and veteran Felix (when he wrangled that change into a Cy Young-winning weapon of mass destruction), so I’m conditioned to like this guy!

He’s an ace, period. Now he’s in a rotation with Robbie Ray (shrug emoji), Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, George Kirby, and Chris Flexen. Say what you will – and spoiler alert, I’ve got some thoughts – but that’s a pretty formidable rotation.

We needed another starting pitcher for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Kirby is going to reach an innings limit and almost certainly won’t get to participate in the playoffs. There’s also talk about pulling back on Gilbert, since this is just his second season – and first full season – in the big leagues. Then, there’s always injuries to contend with. So far this year, we’ve seen the injury bug hit our bullpen pretty hard, and our everyday lineup a fair amount. But, our rotation has been wildly, unsustainably healthy through four months. I think everyone expects that to change at some point; at least now we’re better prepared. I shudder to think who might’ve stepped in had we not brought in Castillo.

He also gives us the best opportunity to make a significant impact at the deadline. If you’re like me, then you’re pretty sure the Mariners either don’t have what it takes to wrestle Juan Soto from the Nationals, or they’re not willing to do what it would take. My hunch is, what it would take starts with a Julio Rodriguez and goes from there. There just aren’t a ton of great bats out there! The best addition we’re likely to see is Mitch Haniger when he comes off of the IL.

What happens if we trade for a bat, and he’s like so many other guys we’ve brought in? Either he’ll need an adjustment period to get used to playing half his games in Seattle, or he’ll downright fucking suck his entire time here. We’re just as likely to see positive regression from the guys already on our roster (Winker, Frazier, Suarez) than we are to see a vast improvement from some outside bat (again, if you believe Soto is unreachable). So, I’m cool going this route and holding off until the offseason before addressing the offense again.

This team lives and dies with its pitching. That’s also – not for nothing – what most of the very best playoff teams do. If we’re going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, we need monster pitching (which is why I hope we make moves for another ace reliever or two).

I have high hopes for Castillo. He’s been elite even in that bandbox they play in over in Cincy. I’m a little annoyed that his first two appearances in a Mariners uniform are going to be against the Yankees and Gerrit Cole, but here we go! We’ll get a great look at how his stuff is going to play. If he comes in on fire, I think that bodes well for this year and next. If he struggles, then I think we’re going to be justifiably concerned. We HAVE guys who can dominate the Rangers and A’s; we need someone to take down the Yankees and Astros!

If he pans out, there’s nothing that says we can’t extend him beyond next year. If the Mariners are out of contention next season – and an extension doesn’t look likely – we can always flip him at the deadline. But, otherwise, heading into 2023, our rotation looks set, and it looks pretty fucking great. Castillo, Ray, Gilbert (with the training wheels fully off), Marco, and Kirby (who should be that much stronger in his second season in the bigs).

In the short term, that’s it for the Cheating Astros for the regular season. God willing, we won’t have to see them again until 2023. Don’t think they’re cheating anymore? Well, don’t tell Robbie Ray that, because they seem to be tipped off to what he’s throwing, better than most other teams in the A.L.

What Should The Mariners Do At The Deadline?

There are three schools of thought: trade for more Major League-ready (albeit shorter-term) talent, trade away our Major League talent for more prospects, or stand pat.

The Stand Pat option is the least-satisfying one, not to mention pretty psychologically damaging to the mental well-being of the players and coaches in that clubhouse (not to mention to us as fans). While I’m sure they’re very confident in each other and their own abilities, even the biggest World Series contenders could always use a little help in some key areas. That being said, the Stand Pat option also might not be the worst one of the three, though I couldn’t possibly advocate for it here.

You only get so many bites at the apple, as they say. If you’re not doing everything in your power to take advantage of the opportunity your strong play has created, then you’re just not doing your job as a General Manager. This is especially true in baseball, since it’s so damn wonky.

Maybe I’m just spoiled by following the Seahawks, but it seems like in the NFL – as long as you have a top tier franchise quarterback – you’re always going to be in contention for a playoff spot. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything when it comes to making the Super Bowl – you need so many things to go right for that to happen – but you frequently see teams with quality quarterbacks go on hot streaks at just the right time.

With baseball, I think you see teams catch fire in the playoffs even more often; the key is simply getting there. What do we remember about the Mariners from 1995-2003? A lot of good, right? All of our post-season appearances took place in this period of time. But, in those 9 seasons, we actually made the playoffs only 4 times (heartbreakingly, we won 93 games in 2002 and 2003, yet failed to reach the post-season). What happened those other five years?

Well, we obviously had the talented core to put up a lot of great stats, and win a lot of ballgames, but we failed in our charge to add to the team when the playoffs were within our grasp. The Pat Gillick years were unmatched in our level of on-field success. But, there’s a reason why he was derisively called Stand Pat. Because more often than not, he did nothing when he should have done something; and the few times he went and made a move, it ended up being the wrong one (hello: Al Martin).

There’s a part of me that sees the level of talent we’ve been able to draft and trade for in recent years, and wants to continue on this course where we have a young, cheap core of players for the next decade. But, there’s absolutely no guarantee that any of the guys in the minors right now will amount to a hill of beans in the majors. Meanwhile, we’ve got some pretty good ones in the bigs right now who need some help around them, if we want to make a dent in the playoffs.

The Mariners are 51-42, right in the thick of the Wild Card hunt. Not just in the hunt, but IN the playoffs, if the season ended today. Our current playoff odds place us at 80% to make it; I couldn’t possibly tell you the last time it was that high! Probably 2003.

As such, it makes zero sense to ship off our veterans for more prospects. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I could see maybe one or two veterans getting moved. But, that would almost certainly be in conjunction with bringing in other veterans to take their place. Maybe we find a taker for Adam Frazier; he is an unrestricted free agent next year, after all. But, if we do that, that would probably be because we’ve found a replacement at second base who looks a little more promising, either for the remainder of this year, or hopefully for the next year or two. Maybe we package Jesse Winker with some prospects to help bring in a high-falutin’ outfielder who’s a little less volatile at the plate. Maybe we flip Carlos Santana – now that we’re confident Ty France is healthy – and would rather save the DH spot for Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger, to bring them back more slowly when they return.

Really, what needs to happen is what I’ve been alluding to all along: the Mariners need to do (almost) whatever it takes to improve the Major League ballclub, whether or not it’s a combination of veterans and prospects. And, at this point, I don’t think you can afford to leave any stone unturned.

There are obvious guys you don’t deal. You have to keep Julio and Cal. You’re probably locked into J.P. and Suarez given their contracts. And I really don’t think Haniger or France are going anywhere (especially Hangier, given he’s more valuable to your team than he would be on the trade market). On the pitching side of things, Robbie and Marco aren’t going anywhere. You’d probably be idiotic to trade Gilbert, Kirby, or Munoz. And there might literally be a mutiny if you trade Sewald.

But, as far as minor league prospects are concerned, or anyone else on the Major League roster I haven’t mentioned, I think they’re fair game. Now, obviously, this is where Jarred Kelenic comes into question. I don’t think he’s totally fallen off the map when it comes to prospect status – he could still very well turn into a great Major Leaguer. But, there’s no question that his value has taken a significant hit. This is the second consecutive year since he was called up to the bigs where he’s had to spend a good portion of the season in Tacoma. He’s got massive holes in his swing, on top of confidence issues that have left him endlessly tinkering with his approach. Before the 2021 season, you could’ve asked for the moon and stars when it came to a potential Kelenic deal; now, he’d be little more than thrown into a package of prospects to bring in a quality Major Leaguer. It would be Kelenic plus 2-3 other high-level prospects to bring in an All Star.

So, would I do that? It depends on the All Star. I’d love to lock down another premium spot on the field that we’re currently filling with a replacement-level guy. Maybe a corner outfield spot, maybe second base. I would need that guy to come with a big bat that’s not going to falter in T-Mobile Park, nor require a platoon because his splits are so stark.

The question on everyone’s mind is Juan Soto, who apparently rejected a 15-year, $440 million contract extension with the Nationals. He’s under team control through 2024. If he’s turning down THAT deal, then what are we looking at? He’s already earning over $17 million in his first Arb year this year. So, not only are you paying an arm and a leg over the next two years, but you’re probably giving him the biggest contract in Major League history to stay here long term. How do you get that done, and then turn around and extend Julio Rodriguez (who, I would argue, is the higher of the two priorities, in this hypothetical scenario where Soto gets traded to the Mariners)?

Do you just pull the trigger and let the chips fall where they may, hoping you win it all at some point between now and 2024? Do you pull the trigger, give it a couple years, and then maybe trade Soto at some point in 2024 to try to recoup? Do you try to pay both him and J-Rod and just pray you have enough pieces making the minimum around them to continue contending for the playoffs?

Half measures are a great way to win nothing, both in the short and long term. Trading for Soto would be anything BUT a half measure. However, is he enough? It seems to me, you make a Soto deal when you need that final piece to the puzzle (or, if you’re looking for a boost and a superstar to build around). The Mariners have their superstar to build around in Julio. We’re also more than one piece away from World Series contention. If we’re going to drastically trade off prospects to bolster the Major League roster, then I’d like to see them go to other areas of need.

I’d love to trade for another ace-level pitcher, for instance. What does Ray, Gilbert, and Ace 3 look like, when surrouned by Marco, Kirby, and Flexen as a 6th guy/long reliever type? Pretty great, right? Maybe add another reliever or two who throw in the upper 90s with filthy breaking stuff? Can’t have enough relievers! And, I think you can get away with middling another bat, either as an outfield platoon/insurance, or as a starting second baseman, to spare us the combo of Frazier/Toro/Moore.

If we can do that, while not completely decimating our minor league system – to save some prospects for next year and beyond, either to bolster our Major League roster, or to trade for more help – then I think I’ll be happy with the effort put forth to contend in 2022.

I already believe this is going to be a playoff team, barring more injuries. It’s not unfathomable that this could be a team that makes some noise in the post-season. With the right collection of players, and a good amount of injury luck, we might even make the World Series for the first time!

The Mariners Are Such A Fucking Bummer

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

SIGH.

sigh …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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