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.

Will Ariel Miranda Get A Legitimate Shot At Next Year’s Mariners Rotation?

In any season where a team finishes with 86 wins and a few games short of the playoffs, there are going to be plenty of pleasant surprises to go along with the smattering of disappointments that prevented you from reaching your goal in the first place.  Of all the deals made in Jerry Dipoto’s first year, one of the few that didn’t either totally backfire or result in no net change whatsoever for either involved team was the Wade Miley for Ariel Miranda trade.

Miranda was a Cuban AAA prospect on the cusp of breaking through to the Majors.  With the Orioles in the pennant race – and with the Mariners in pretty bad shape by the end of July – this was seen as a clear power move for Baltimore, and another sign of the Mariners giving up on their season (to go along with sending a valuable bullpen piece/spot starter in Montgomery away, as well as a veteran set-up reliever in Benoit).  In all likelihood, aside from the Montgomery deal, the Mariners were no worse after those other two trades than before.  But, sending Miley and Benoit to contenders was clearly a cost-cutting move for a team that had less than a 50% chance of making the playoffs (going into August, the Mariners were 52-51, so not the most inspiring of records).

Anyway, for the Orioles, you could see why they opted for Miley over Miranda, even though both were lefties with marginal stuff:  Miley was the veteran, and in a pennant race, you always want the guy with experience over the guy who has never started in the Bigs before.

I’d say it wasn’t shocking that Miley stunk up the joint upon going to Baltimore; he’s a terrible pitcher, and it was a bad idea to bring him here in the first place.  But, he got us Ariel Miranda, and considering what we gave up to get Miley in the first place (Roenis Elias and Carson Smith), we might’ve still come out ahead in the whole thing.  Miranda is already better than Elias ever was, plus he MUST have more club control.  Carson Smith was injured throughout most of 2016, so we’ll see how he comes back from Tommy John surgery.  But, Smith is just a reliever, and you’d trade a quality reliever for a quality starter 9 times out of 10.

The Mariners brought Miranda along slowly, which was absolutely the right thing to do, even as the team itself started playing better down the stretch and closing the gap between themselves and the wild card teams.  His longest start was only 7 innings, and his highest pitch count in any one game was 103.  He averaged about 84 pitches per start.  As such, we were able to keep him fresh through September, we were able to keep him healthy, and we were able to preserve his confidence, as he often found himself rolling through the first five innings before quickly being pulled at the first sign of trouble late in games.  By season’s end, he was on a great run, finishing with 3 quality starts in September (including an impressive 7-inning, 2-run, 8-strikeout victory against Houston of all teams).

When you tack on his seemingly unflappable nature (he more than held his own in his final start against the A’s, a do-or-die game for this team, going 5.1 innings of 1-run ball), Miranda has more than earned a chance to compete for a starting job next spring.  My question is:  will he get that chance?

Obviously, we’re pretty far away from that point, so anything I say from here on out is pure speculation, but the rotation as it stands right now – indeed as it stood at season’s end – is:

  1. King Felix
  2. Iwakuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Walker
  5. Miranda

Regardless of what happens, Felix and Kuma aren’t going anywhere.  I believe James Paxton has earned a spot in this rotation with his work in 2016, so he doesn’t have to compete for anything.  He just has to show up in shape and ready to build his arm up to where it was this year.  I think Walker will be given every opportunity to win a spot in this rotation, but I also think he’s going to have to earn it.  He’s going to have to come in healthy, with the right mindset, and ready to pound the zone with strikes.  I also think he’s fully capable of doing that, and putting up good spring numbers, so his situation boils down to whether or not the team wants to make an example of him.  To tone down expectations a little bit and let him settle into a groove in Tacoma for the first month before getting called back up.  It wouldn’t shock me, so I hope, for his sake, he comes into camp all business next year.

I also think, as I’ve written before, that the team isn’t set on this rotation.  I’d bet my next four paychecks that the Mariners will end up either trading for or signing a veteran free agent sometime before Pitchers & Catchers report.  Now, the question here is:  will they go after a Wade Miley type?  I.e. a supposedly-solid veteran who has his rotation spot all but guaranteed?  Or, will it be more of a Jeremy Bonderman type who comes in under a minor league deal, with a shot at the big league camp in Spring Training, but who likely starts his season in Tacoma before proving he’s worthy of a real opportunity in Seattle?  Regardless, when you throw that person (or persons) into the mix, alongside Nate Karns (if he manages to return from injury), along with whoever from the minors decides to make a big splash, I could see a real dogfight for these last two spots.

As I said, Walker probably has the edge, but if we bring in a bona fide veteran (which is the way I’m leaning, if I had to make a prediction), that means it’ll be Walker vs. Miranda for that final spot.  Both have options left, so either one could start his year in Tacoma.  But, Walker has better stuff and higher upside.  So, if Miranda is going to make a name for himself, he’s really going to have to step up his game.

I like Miranda’s fastball well enough.  It’s hard to tell if he got as far as he did this year because no one really knew him or faced him; I’d be curious to see how he does next year, when opposing batters have more of a book on him.  He’s also got a splitter that he tends to leave up in the zone, as well as a change up that looks like the same thing.  He’s got to get better at keeping those off-speed pitches down in the zone.  And, it would help if he developed a curve or a slider to keep lefties off-balance.

I won’t be totally pissed if Miranda has to start his year in Tacoma, because I know that sooner or later we’re going to need him.  I know I’ve said this repeatedly in the past about Roenis Elias, but it’ll be nice to have Miranda as starting insurance, because it’s nearly impossible for a rotation to stay fully intact with the same five guys for a full season.  If Miranda works on his craft and stays healthy, he might be one of the better 6th starters in the league!

Mariners Tidbit 11: What’s Happ-ening?

You know who’s presumably got two thumbs and is in a no-win situation?  J.A. Happ.

After the Cruz signing, and probably the Seager extension, the trade for J.A. Happ has gotten the most pub in Seattle.  It makes sense – and in a way, even the trade makes sense – but I don’t think there’s any way this thing ends well for Happ in Seattle.

We’re all abundantly aware that Michael Saunders was the price to obtain Happ.  Saunders was deemed – by the organization – to be too much of an injury risk to keep around.  He promptly required knee surgery at the beginning of Spring Training this year, but it looks like he’ll nevertheless be ready for the start of the regular season.  For some reason, I doubt that’s the last time we’re going to hear about Saunders missing time or going under the knife.

Anyway, the fans were up in arms over the move.  We all saw what Saunders was capable of – when healthy – and it seemed like too much to give up for what we got in return.  Happ is a middle-of-the-road innings-eater in the same vein as Chris Young, Joe Saunders, Jeremy Bonderman, Aaron Harang, and Kevin Millwood, to name a few.  It seems like every year, the Mariners are in the market for one of these re-treads, and every year we get a new experience.  Chris Young was the epitome of Best Case Scenario and Jeremy Bonderman was probably at the opposite end of the spectrum.  You don’t bring these guys in and give them spots in your rotation for their upside, because at this point there IS no upside.  Chris Young was pretty solid last year, but he’s still far from the ideal (and, besides that, there’s a reason why it took him so long before he caught on with a ballclub).  You employ these guys as injury insurance, or as insurance against one of your younger (higher upside) pitchers not quite being ready for primetime.

Either way, no one WANTS to employ a J.A. Happ.  But, it makes good sense, if he can keep you in enough ballgames and give you something close to a .500 record in his starts.

Happ’s start to this spring has been less than ideal.  He’s made three starts and all he’s really accomplished is getting his pitch count up into the 80s.  Obviously, no one in his right mind should be focused to intently on the numbers one puts up in Spring Training, but it’s just more ammo to throw onto the fire in the case against Happ ever being a fan favorite.  What’s most important is what happens in the regular season, but what right do we have to be excited about his regular season performance, based on his past experience?

The hope – and probably the Best Case Scenario – with J.A. Happ is that he’s able to turn in a Safeco Joe-esque one-year career with the Mariners.  Puts up decent-to-good numbers at home, and is mostly a trainwreck on the road.  While it’s evident that these types of nothing pitchers are able to extend their careers by pitching half their games in Seattle, it’s still putting a Band Aid over a severed foot.  Eventually, they start struggling at home as well as on the road, and when that happens they’re effectively useless.

I’m calling it right now:  J.A. Happ will cause more harm than good.  The team will be well-served to demote him to the bullpen or DFA him altogether, because I have no doubt in my mind that he’s clearly the sixth best starting pitcher in this organization.  Hell, at this point I wonder if Erasmo Ramirez is even better than Happ!  Here’s to hoping the Mariners realize this before he costs us our shot at the postseason.

How Early Is Too Early To Get Excited About The Seattle Mariners?

Off the top of my head, I’m going to say, “Now.”  Now is too early to get excited about the Seattle Mariners.

We’re three games in!  One full series!  Granted, it was a series sweep, on the road, against the hated Angels, where we beat them 26-8 over the three games (likely 26-6 if Hector Noesi didn’t exist), but come on now!  I know we’re starved for quality baseball, after languishing in the wastelands of perpetual mediocrity, but let’s not go nuts.

There are a lot of things we don’t know – a lot of things we CAN’T know – until we start playing some other teams.  Like, for instance:  are the Angels just REALLY REALLY bad?  Josh Hamilton sure looks like a $125 million clusterfuck at the plate.  Albert Pujols looks like the least-fearsome #3 hitter in the American League.  Raul Ibanez is their mother-pooping designated hitter for crying out loud!  That fountain of youth must have dried up at the All Star Break last year and is showing no signs of returning.  And their pitching … YE GODS THEIR PITCHING!  I’ve seen a better collection of arms at the World Leprosy Foundation’s annual “Give ‘Em A Hand” Conference.

That franchise is straight-up broken, son.  And I couldn’t be happier that it’s happening sooner than we all anticipated.  The way I see it, Albert Pujols was always going to turn into an albatross with that contract; but who could have seen him being this bad this soon?  Ditto Hamilton.  If everyone wants to sit there and tell the Seattle Mariners, “Robinson Cano by himself won’t magically turn you into a winning ballclub,” well, I’ve got some sour news for you, Jack:  Mike Trout by himself won’t magically turn the Angels into a winning ballclub.  Couldn’t have happened to a douchier-looking guy.  Mike Trout may spend every waking moment outside of baseball volunteering at soup kitchens, but as for me, I’m always going to picture him going up to random guys at bars, saying, “I boned your girlfriend.  It was a while back; she was just all right.  But, hey, good for you, bro …”

Anyway, getting back, I think there are two different ways to read that title.  It’s never too early to be excited, I suppose.  But, it’s certainly too early to start booking your World Series tickets.  Unless you were one of the few people out there projecting 90+ wins before the season started, I think you should probably pump your brakes and not get too insane over three games.  Relish the start, for sure!  After all, the Angels just played their opening three games at home and were trounced in all three; that’s hilarious!  The Mariners could go right in the tank starting tonight in Oakland and we’ll still always have those first three games that proved to everyone how over-rated the Angels really are.

And, I’ll tell you why you should probably hold off on your enthusiasm; five words:  Roenis Elias and Chris Young.  These 3-0 Mariners we’re all falling over ourselves to praise could just as easily be 3-2 by the time Felix hits the mound on Saturday.  At least with Ramirez and Paxton, we had a little idea of what they could potentially deal on any given night.  I’ve never even HEARD of Elias until the last couple weeks of Spring Training, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen Chris Young pitch the one game in my life, and that was the final Spring Training outing last week.  Granted, I can’t guarantee they’ll be terrible – I can’t guarantee they’ll be Brandon Maurer and Jeremy Bonderman – but I also can’t get too pie-in-the-sky until I actually see them do something worthwhile in a game that matters.

Plus, let’s face it, the Athletics’ lineup isn’t as pathetic and top-heavy as the Angels’.  There may not be many superstars, but the A’s are straight-up steady.  They’re going to work counts, grind out at-bats, and all that other good clichéd stuff you hear about.  And, just when you think you’re going to get out of a jam … BAM!  3-run home run.  Happens every time …

The great thing is:  we’ve got a 4-game series.  And one of those games features Felix, who absolutely DESTROYS the A’s (now, watch us go 3-1 with the only loss coming in that Felix game).  If you ask me, I’d take a 2-2 series split right now, no questions asked, and consider this first road trip a rousing success.  5-2, coming back home to play the Angels again in a 2-game series?  Oh yeah, I’d consider that a perfect way to start a season.

I’ll tell you what I’m feeling right now.  Before the season, I was pretty down on this team, as I think I had every right to be.  Right now, I’m guarded.  I want to believe!  I really do!  But, I’m going to need to see the Mariners play at least one other team before I start making any bold proclamations.  But, I’ll tell you what, if we get through this Oakland series with the Mariners going 3-1 or 4-0, with their offense looking just as mighty as it did in Anaheim and the young pitching continuing to deal … so help me, I may need to pee my pants.

Let’s do this!  Let’s get me to pee my pants!  ‘Merica!

Laughing At The Mariners’ Starting Rotation

In the last two days, the Mariners released Scott Baker and Randy Wolf.  With Baker’s loss, we all breathe a sigh of relief.  That guy had nothing left and everyone could tell.  In his case, literally just about anyone was a better option.

With Wolf’s release, however, there seems to be more consternation than appropriate.  That’s probably because we’re now staring down the barrel of Blake Beavan or Hector Noesi kicking off the season as our #5 starter.  Here’s the thing, though:  everyone seems to look at that Opening Day Roster as the be-all, end-all, when RARE is the case that you go with the same five guys throughout an entire season.  In this case, it should be abundantly clear that the guys at #4 & #5 in this rotation are mere placeholders.  It would be no different if Iwakuma and Walker went down with minor injuries in the middle of June.  Except, in this case, it’s to start the season, so people are freaking out.

It’s an odd move – today’s release of Wolf – but not unheard of.  The team apparently said he’d won a starting job out of Spring Training, then immediately turned around and tried to get him to sign a 45-day release contract (where, if he’s not on the team after 45 days, the team is not liable to pay his entire salary).  If you ask me, these pantywaist baseball players have had it too easy for too long with these 100% guaranteed contracts.  A player like Randy Wolf SHOULD have to earn his spot on a team!  He SHOULD have to play well enough through 45 days to earn the rest of his season’s salary!  It’s NOT too much to ask!  What has he done the last half decade to warrant a guaranteed ANYTHING?

If you ask me, this was a sweetheart of a deal for him and he fucked it up.  Why?  Because he has no confidence in his abilities to be worth the money after 45 days.  He’s so afraid of turning back into a pumpkin that he’s not willing to wager on himself.  But, look at it this way:  if he’d signed the deal, he’d be IN this rotation right now.  He’d be guaranteed to be starting every fifth day for a Major League ballclub for at least the first couple weeks, if not for the first month of the season.  Now, if he would’ve played well in that scenario, then you’d have to think he’d stick; because look at it this way:  what are the odds Ramirez, Paxton, Walker, AND Roenis Elias (whose highest level achieved was AA, just last year) all succeed right out of the gate to the point where they keep their spots in the Majors?

Now, it looks like Walker will be back a couple weeks into April (barring a setback).  If Wolf comes out of the gate getting people out and being a veteran presence in that clubhouse, do you REALLY think the Mariners are just going to ship him off?  Guess again.  My hunch is that Elias gets a taste of the bigs, and unless he comes out tossing back-to-back-to-back shutouts, he gets sent to Tacoma for more seasoning regardless.  That still leaves Ramirez, Paxton, and Walker to hold down the fort before Iwakuma returns (probably in early May).  I think the team gives that trio the benefit of the doubt if they do well, but I STILL think it’s a longshot that all three of those guys stay with the big league club all season.

Wolf had a real chance!  And he blew it!  Even if he does well and we cut him when Iwakuma returns, then guess what:  he’s got tons of film on him, in 2014, getting Major League hitting out.  He’d get picked up by another team in no time.

Worst case scenario would have been Wolf struggling and getting cut in mid-April, but you have to think, in this scenario, he would’ve been cut even if his whole contract was guaranteed anyway.

Now, he’s got a week to catch on somewhere else.  Maybe it works out and he fills another team’s void after suffering injuries to THEIR rotations, but I still think he had a peach of a deal in his hands when you consider he would have been pitching in Safeco.

But, fuck it, you know?  Now we roll with Beavan.  Is that really a crime?  He’s going to stink, but Wolf was probably going to stink too.  Now, we don’t have to worry about this team being a slave to the Veteran Clubhouse Presence.  My worst nightmare is someone like Wolf (or Harang, or Saunders, or Bonderman) getting an unfair advantage just because they used to pitch in the Majors in 2007 and were somewhat not-terrible.

If this Mariners team is going to contend, it’s not going to be due to the arm of someone like Randy Wolf.  Of course, it’s not going to be due to the arm of Blake Beavan either, but at least we KNOW he’s expendable.  He plays until Walker comes back and then he’s gone (again, unless Elias shits the bed).  Then, whoever remains between Elias and Beavan will also go to Tacoma when Iwakuma comes back.  It’s a simple little equation!

So, there you have it, your starting five (in some order) for the bulk of the regular season (hopefully):

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Hisashi Iwakuma
  3. Erasmo Ramirez
  4. James Paxton
  5. Taijuan Walker

With Elias as your 6th man keeping his arm fresh in AAA.  Sure, I’ve seen better, but for the first time in a long time I’m actually intrigued.  It may suck dick in the first month, but the next five – if things go according to plan – could be a lot of fun.  Felix is a Top 3 pitcher in all of baseball.  Iwakuma has proven himself to be a solid #2 (if he can just keep that finger from blistering over or going out of joint).  The other three are young up-and-comers (we hope).  No hack veteran at the end of a 13-year career just hanging on for one more fucking paycheck.  No dumpy loser who struggles to throw 88mph and gets hit all over the field like we’re playing fucking tee-ball.  Just five young men, in the primes of their lives, hoping to keep dominating (in the case of the first two) or to get to the point where they’re established Major Leaguers (in the case of the last three).

Here it is, in all its glory.  If you’re upset, then be upset at the roster construction job that took place over the winter.  But, don’t be upset now.  These are the GOOD guys!  Just try to look past the fact that Blake Beavan is on the Opening Day roster.  He’s just a placeholder.  Every team gets stuck with a Blake Beavan-type eating up a few starts throughout the season.  We get our turn out of the way early, that’s all.

You know, this turned out to be WAY more complimentary than I’d originally anticipated.  I guess that’s what happens when you write the title before the blog post.

Now, in all likelihood, the Mariners are going to struggle.  The young guys will be up and down, Iwakuma will probably not return as early as we’d hoped.  It’ll be Felix followed by praying for four days of rain and earthquakes.  But, if there’s even the SLIGHTEST chance that this team turns out sorta okay and contends into September, it’ll be because our two studs are rolling and our three youngsters turn into little mini-aces.

The hitting is going to be what it’s going to be.  The bullpen is about as frightening as it gets.  But, the biggest margin for error sides with the starting rotation.  They could be a trainwreck, or they could be the best part of this team by a mile (and anywhere in between).  If you choose to be optimistic about this team, then I have to ask what the fuck you’re smoking, then you think all the young guys will be just good enough to take over.  If you choose to be pessimistic about this team, then you’re waiting for the back-end of this rotation to completely fall apart.  Right about now, I’m about 65% pessimistic, but I’m willing to completely flip that percentage at the first sign of success.

Because when guys like Walker, Paxton, Ramirez, and Elias do well, you know there’s a chance for greatness (whereas when guys like Wolf, Baker, Harang, and Bonderman do well, you know it’s a fluke and just wait five days for the tables to turn).

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part I: Pitching

When you end up with a season like the Mariners just finished, you blame it on one thing:  lack of a plan.

Tell me, where was the plan?  The team swapped Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales, the team swapped John Jaso for Mike Morse, and the team filled in the empty spaces with a lot of filler bullshit.  You could argue that the team at least tried something different with the hitting.  It opted to trade defense for home runs, but at least they did SOMETHING.  You can yell and scream until you’re blue in the face about how that’s a pretty crappy idea, but think about it this way:  if the team didn’t try to make it all about the dingers – if they went super defensive and super OBP on us – would it have made any difference whatsoever?

I argue it would not have made one bit of difference.  Because this team totally crapped the bed when it came to pitching.

Remember when Jon Garland was almost our 4th/5th starter?  That was a thing that almost happened.  In Spring Training, we were banking on him to make this big comeback from injury to carry the load at the back-end of our rotation.  We weren’t totally sold on him, and he had an opt-out clause, so when push came to shove Garland moved on and started 12 games for the Rockies before being released.  But HE was almost in our rotation.  Think about that!  We could have had Saunders, Garland, Harang, and Bonderman all starting games for us this year!

As it stands, just having Saunders, Harang, and Bonderman was bad enough, but what were you going to do?  As I said before, the Mariners decided to totally and completely neglect the pitching side of things.

Yes, you can count on Felix to be your Ace.  Yes, you could see good things coming from Iwakuma.  Maybe not as good as he actually turned out to be, but I was never worried that he was going to take a huge step back either.  After that?  We all figured Joe Saunders would be Vargas-lite, but he was so much WORSE.  I don’t care why he was worse, I just know that he only had 13 quality starts out of 32.  That’s terrible.  You want your #3 starter to be better than 50% with their quality starts (I’d say at least 20 of 32) and he was nowhere near that.  More often than not, Joe Saunders gave this team NO CHANCE to win in his starts.  That’s a guy who started for us all year.

After that, we had hopes that our younger guys would step up.  But, of course, Erasmo Ramirez came out of the gates injured and didn’t make it back until around the All Star Break (and even when he returned, he was pretty mediocre).  We were hopeful that Danny Hultzen could crack the bigs somewhere around mid-season, but he pitched in all of 6 games in Triple-A before being shut down with shoulder problems.  Brandon Maurer did make the team after an otherworldly Spring Training (making the jump straight from Double-A), but he proved to be totally ineffective in getting left-handed bats out and had to go down to Tacoma for further seasoning.  Taijuan Walker wasn’t ready to pitch in the Majors until September.  Ditto James Paxton.  And Beavan and Noesi further proved they are never going to be Major League starters.

As you can plainly see, the kids were not up to the task for one reason or another.  So, we had to bring up Bonderman when Maurer finally pitched his way to the minors.  We had to panic-trade for Harang when Beavan did the same.  Neither of these veterans lasted to September, because neither of these veterans had any fucking business being in the Major Leagues at this point in their careers.

In short, our starting rotation was a total joke.  Yeah, our top two guys were as good as any other team’s top two guys; but our bottom three were arguably the worst in all of baseball.  Regardless of who was plugged in there (9 other guys started games for the Mariners aside from Felix & Kuma), they were all the fucking worst!

And, when you combine a trainwreck of a starting rotation with the most volatile bullpen in the game, it’s pretty easy to see why the Mariners lost another 91 games.

The team had a 65% save percentage.  23 of 66 total save opportunities were blown.  Oddly enough, the team was NOT led in blown saves by erstwhile closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who was 24 of 29 in save opportunities.  He blew his fifth game by mid-June, was given a couple weeks off of closing duties, pitching in middle relief, then picked right back up again with a fairly solid July before absolutely going to shit in August.  The team sent him to Tacoma to work on some things, and after he returned he lost his job for good.

The team turned to Danny Farquhar, who had an excellent strike out percentage, but he wasn’t without his faults.  He ended up finishing the season as our closer, and saved 16 of 20 games.  Still, you have to wonder if you can count on him at all going forward.

The rest of the bullpen was full of hit-or-miss guys.  Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina, for the most parts, were solid.  Furbush was okay at times and the plague at other times.  Stephen Pryor pitched in seven games before he was lost for the year.  Carter Capps – my predicted pick as best bullpen guy going into the season – also couldn’t get lefties out, in spite of his rocket fastball.  The rest of the Triple-A garbage the team brought up and plugged in throughout the year isn’t even worth mentioning.

The bullpen led baseball in strikeouts, and that’s about it.  They were either lockdown, or they were walking the world and giving away games.  There was very little in-between, and as mentioned above, it was about 65/35 as to whether you’d see Angel Bullpen or Devil Bullpen.

I’ll get into the future prospects of the pitching staff in Friday’s post, so I’ll save my opinions on what they should do (who they should keep, who they should get rid of, etc.).  My overall impression of this team is that it failed, horribly.  That’s nothing new.  But, as opposed to years past – where the pitching was often a strength – this year, the Mariners failed in a 50/50 split.  50% of why the Mariners were bad was because of the pitching, and 50% of why they were bad was because of everything else.  You’re not going to make the playoffs with two good starters and a bullpen that saves games 65% of the time.  Not unless you hit a ton like the 1997 Mariners.  But, as I’ll get to tomorrow, this team was FAR from the ’97 Mariners, in spite of the fact that they tried to hit homers like ’em.

The Mariners Are The Abomination Of Obama’s Nation

It’s been a veritable Era Of Good Feelings around these parts for the past month or so, what with the Seahawks and Huskies going a combined 6-0 to start their seasons.  You could say that I’ve seemingly lost sight of this website’s mission statement (then again, you could also say that I’m really going overboard on all the Sunshine & Lollipops sentiment to set myself up for the big, heartbreaking fall when everything turns to shit, but you didn’t hear that from me).

But, of course, you have to factor in how it has been 4 weeks since I’ve written anything about the Seattle Mariners.  I’d venture to say that ANYONE’S outlook on life would be a little rosier if they chose to blatantly ignore the worst thing in the world.

Eric Wedge just said that he’d be leaving the team after the weekend series with the A’s.  There’s your impetus for this particular post.  With this news comes a range of emotions, mostly negative.  Here’s what it boils down to:  prior to the season (and/or during the season), the organization came to Wedge and said they’d like to sign him to an extension through 2014.  They did the same thing to Jackie Z and he signed (news of his extension came out sometime mid-season as a bit of a shock, because no news came with it about Wedge).  As the year has drawn to a close, everyone wanted to know what they were going to do with Wedge.  His having a stroke back in July muddied things, as strokes are wont to do, and we all wondered, “Would the Mariners fire Wedge while retaining Jackie Z?”  How does that even work, anyway?  Who in their RIGHT MIND would come into this situation knowing that the general manager is on the shortest of short leashes?

As a bit of a tangent, I’d like to comment on something Jackie Z said on the radio last night.  It’s something to the effect of, “Organizations fire managers & general managers all the time, so length of contract really shouldn’t matter.”  That is 100% true.  There is nothing stopping this team from signing Jackie Z or Eric Wedge to crisp, new 5-year extensions and then firing them after the 2014 season when we inevitably go 70-92 again.  And yet, the organization is even unwilling to do THAT.  What does it say about the situation – the fucking QUAGMIRE – we’re in now that this organization is unwilling to do what literally every other organization does?  Things are so bad here, we can’t even fake it by giving guys extensions of more than a single year.

Knowing that, getting back to my last point:  no self-respecting manager is going to sign with the Seattle Mariners knowing that the general manager is on the final year of his deal and is apparently on a year-to-year situation like a guy at the end of his apartment lease who is going month-to-month until he can find a better home.  Because when that general manager is inevitably fired, guess what!  You’re fired too, because the new GM is going to want to hire HIS guy.  Period.

Eric Wedge, of course, IS a self-respecting manager.  He knows it’s bullshit to be hung out to dry with these 1-year extensions.  He has the balls to do what Jackie Z couldn’t:  tell the Mariners to take their 1-year deal and SHOVE IT UP THEIR ASSES!  Eric Wedge would rather be an unemployed dick in the yard with the stigma of a “quitter” around the rest of the Major Leagues (which will ultimately be brought up every time he tries to find another job) than accept your bullshit offer of temporary job security.

Here’s the thing, though:  in the end, I don’t know if I’m all that upset to see Eric Wedge go.  Some people are glad he’s gone and think he was actively hurting the organization with his in-game tactics and his dependency on “leadership” over outright talent.  Trying to shove one of the worst defensive outfields in the history of baseball down our throats (featuring a regular spot for Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse) even though what those guys bring to the plate is far out-weighed by their ineptitude in the field and on the basepaths.  I find it hard to believe that there are too many people all that broken up about Wedge leaving; the best I’ve heard about him so far is that the way the guys have played this season isn’t all his fault.  Not really a ringing endorsement, if you ask me.

In the end, this decision of Wedge’s – and the revelation that the organization has been dicking around with him in this way – brings about more boiling contempt for the people at the top.  It’s yet another excuse to bemoan the fact that Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are still twiddling their dicks at the top of this sinking fucking disaster.  While all signs point to this organization setting itself up for a record-breaking sale (no long-term contracts outside of Felix Hernandez, the new TV deal set to kick in in 2015, one of the smaller payrolls in baseball even though we’re far from the smallest market in baseball), that doesn’t change how things are right now.

Right now?

Right now there is no reason to expect that things will ever change.  Because we have no reason to expect them to change.  The organization has denied all rumors linking this team to a potential sale.  Of course, if there WAS a potential sale, they would be saying the same thing, because no one wants to queer the deal by having a bunch of reporters actively digging into the negotiations.  On the flipside, you can’t ignore the possibility that, for once, the Seattle Mariners AREN’T lying right to our faces.  Maybe there ISN’T any plan in place to sell the team within the next year or two!  Maybe this fucking horse shit is going to go on FOR-FUCKING-EVER!

If there was any question as to whether the Mariners are the worst organization in all of baseball, let Wedge’s decision put your worries to rest.  The Seattle Mariners are THE WORST ORGANIZATION IN ALL OF BASEBALL!  Someone needs to make a giant banner, climb the facade of Safeco Field, and hang it for the world to see.  The Mariners, by default, are in the running for Worst Organization in All of Professional Sports, with the likes of the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and I don’t know enough about the NBA or NHL, but I would assume the likes of the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and the Washington Wizards.  Worst Organization of All Time?  That puts the Mariners in the running with the recent Los Angeles Clippers (before they miraculously got good), Cincinnati Bengals, the Matt Millen-led Detroit Lions, Portland Jailblazers, and the Maloof-led Sacramento Kings.

Here’s something:  when do you ever see a baseball manager quit?  Answer:  you don’t.  You don’t!  It just doesn’t fucking happen!  There are 30 of these jobs in Major League Baseball; it’s one of the most-coveted jobs in all of sports.  You get paid millions of dollars to sit around and “manage” a baseball team.  What does that even mean?  You set lineup cards and make pitching changes and hope like crazy that your players come through in the clutch.  And, if you’re Joe Maddon, you play around with your infield defensive alignment.  That’s pretty much it!  You toss in some tirades when the going gets tough, you talk to the media day-in and day-out, and you get winters off to relax when it’s all over.  Hell, you play your cards right and you’re finished by the end of September; who are these suckers working their fingers to the bone in October anyway?  Mamas’ boys!  Teachers’ pets!

And here is Wedge, throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime, because he has enough pride and self-worth to know that this is a bullshit organization.  And even if he never again gets another opportunity to manage a baseball team, it’s still better than the alternative:  one more fucking year with the Seattle Mariners.

Lou Piniella quit after the 2002 season.  Since then, the Mariners have ran through 7 managers in 11 seasons.  Three were fired, two quit, and two were interim managers not retained past their partial seasons.  Just because I don’t place a lot of importance on what a manager actually DOES for a baseball team doesn’t mean I can’t see the problem with this.  While I’m a skeptic, players aren’t.  Players already in this organization want stability.  More importantly, players OUTSIDE this organization want stability, if they even THINK about considering Seattle as a potential landing spot.

While building your team through free agency isn’t necessarily the smartest plan for a franchise that has intentions on winning, the fact remains that this team will need to supplement the talent we have in place with guys outside the organization.  By all accounts, the Mariners have money to spend and the willingness to spend it.  And yet, who in his right mind would sign with this team, considering all the instability at the manager and general manager positions?  I’ll tell you who:  the same dickless bottom-feeders we’ve seen for the last decade.  Your Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman types.  Guys clinging for dear life WELL past their sell-by dates!  Hope you enjoyed Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and the like, because that’s who you’re getting for 2014!

The outlook for the 2014 season is so unbelievably bleak, I don’t even know why I bother.  I should just cut ties with this fucking mess right now and get it over with.  What’s the point?  Sitting around, watching a bunch of .240 hitters, with a bunch of feast-or-famine pitchers (and Felix and Iwakuma)?

The other day, I asked a buddy of mine if he would even miss the Seattle Mariners if they said they were going to pick up and move to Albuquerque tomorrow.  He said he would, but not me.  At this point in the season, where I’m at my most fed-up with this fucking team, I wouldn’t give two shits if the Seattle Mariners left my life forever.  Most likely, I’d follow Felix around and root for whatever team he played for.  Then, when he retires, I’d retire my desire for baseball, probably forever.

Hiroshi Yamauchi died on September 19th and a lot of tributes were written.  Most of them were positive, as he purchased the team when it was still in a state of flux.  The Seattle Mariners very nearly moved to Tampa Bay and if they’d done so, we never would have enjoyed that 1995 season and all the good times that followed, through 2001.  Of course, there was a decent amount of negativity written as well.  Yamauchi was an absentee owner, there’s no other way to say it.  I don’t care if he never attended a Mariners game, and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad thing that he was as hands-off as he was.  There are too many cases of meddling owners fucking things up in the world of sports.  Honestly, Yamauchi was a refreshing change in that regard.  Nevertheless, you can’t ignore the fact that he put Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong in charge.  In spite of countless pleas from I would say about 98% of the Mariners fanbase, he stuck by them and left them in charge.  You can’t even say their names during the Hall of Fame ceremony for Ken Griffey Jr. without expecting a cascade of boos from an otherwise cheery crowd!  I understand the importance of loyalty as much as the next guy, but Howard and Chuck are the biggest fucking boobs on the planet!

So, yeah, Yamauchi gets a lot of credit for “saving baseball in Seattle” as well as a lot of flak for allowing the organization to suck as much dick as it has this past decade-plus.  But, why doesn’t anyone comment on the fact that Yamauchi could have saved us a LOT of headaches by simply NOT buying the Seattle Mariners and letting them inevitably move to Tampa Bay?

I became a fan of the Seattle Mariners during their stretch run of 1995.  Before that year, I hadn’t seen a single baseball game, and I was 14 at the time!  It was football, then basketball with me (and to this day, still is).  Had the Mariners moved in 1992 or whenever the fuck, I never would’ve had the opportunity to be sucked in!  Seattle would have lost Major League Baseball and to this day we probably would have yet to get it back (or, we’d currently be the Seattle Rays, who with proper ownership, would be contending for annual playoff spots).

Yes, we would lose all of those wonderful memories of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez and all of that.  But we’d gain years of our lives back!  Years where we wouldn’t have to dwell on the piss-poor baseball being played in our own backyard!  Is it really better to have loved & lost than to have never loved at all?  I don’t know!  What if that “love” of which you speak is never really lost, but sticks with you, festering?  Soured by years of neglect and taking one another for granted.  Hiroshi Yamauchi could have done me a real solid by looking at the offer to purchase the Seattle Mariners and saying, “No thanks.”

Who knows?  Maybe I would’ve become a baseball fan anyway.  Maybe I would’ve become one of those insufferable Red Sox fans back in 2004.  Yeah, we mock all of those Bellevue Red Sox fans, but do you know how many fucks they give?  Zero.  Zero fucks.  Because, right or wrong, they root for a team that has won two titles in the past decade.  They root for a team that knows how to win and make the playoffs consistently.  They root for an organization that has one down year and then immediately reloads for another pennant chase.  AND, they don’t have to live in Boston, so it’s win-win-win-win-win.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, July 2013 Edition

Well, that 8-game winning streak sure was fun, right?

April, May, June.  What’s the buzzword for July?  What’s my overarching feeling about this Mariners team as we head into the final two months of the season?  Meh.  That’s how I feel.  Meh.  The Mariners picked up five games in their quest to finish the season at .500, with a 15-10 record in July.  The Mariners had a CHANCE to do so much more, but of course because they’re the Mariners, they couldn’t let a month go by without double-digit losses.

July started out rock-solid, with a 4-2 road trip against the likes of Texas and Cincinnati.  Then, the Mariners came crashing down to Earth with a 3-1 series defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  I’m sure everyone was thinking as I was, “Same ol’ Mariners,” but then something amazing happened.

Yes, the 8-game winning streak.  The streak that defined the month.  Three over the Angels, three over the Astros, and two more over the Indians.  Things were looking VERY good.  The delusional among us were even contemplating the impending possibility of playoff contention.  Then, the Mariners split a 4-game series to the lowly Twins and followed that up with these last two road losses to the Red Sox.  This 2-5 finish has really put a damper on what was once an exciting month.

I said it last night and I’ll say it again:  my opinion on the Mariners’ month of July totally depended on how yesterday’s game ended.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  A second consecutive defeat to the Red Sox meant it was yet another series the Mariners wouldn’t win.  More than that, it’s the ultimate example of how the Mariners are not There yet.  They’re not a player.  They would have no business being in the playoffs, because there are still truly great teams out there like the Red Sox to thump us back down the beanstalk.

But, what does that mean?  Yesterday was one game.  It was the difference between either 15-10 or 16-9.  I say that knowing full well it’s a ludicrous statement, and yet here we are.  I wouldn’t call July a failure, but it’s certainly a disappointment considering it could’ve been so much better.  Tack on a couple more wins – last night’s game and the Felix nine-inning no-decision to the Twins – and I’m a lot more pleased.  But, what are you gonna do?  They are who they are.

July saw the return of Erasmo Ramirez, which also meant we got to say goodbye to Jeremy Bonderman.  Win/win.  July also saw the fracturing of the hamate bone of Mike Zunino, which also means Henry Blanco is now a semi-full time starter along with some other scrub.  Lose/lose.  Mike Morse returned from the DL and Jason Bay was DFA’d … same/same.  Eric Wedge had a minor stroke and has been away from the team for the last couple weeks … let’s move on.

August is going to suck.  I’m just going to put that out there right now.  The Mariners won’t be going on any 8-game winning streaks this month; nor will they end the month with a winning record.  Raul Ibanez is in the toilet right now.  Miller and Franklin have their good days and their dreadful days.  The bottom of our lineup includes a pile of crap (Ackley), a pile of crap that plays good defense (Saunders), and a cover-your-eyes honest-to-goodness shit-hole that is whoever is catching that day.  Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales are the only two people batting worth a damn, the team is jerking around Smoak’s playing time in favor of watching Morse strike out five times a day (three in the game and two more in the batting cage just for practice), and at this point I don’t even know why Brendan Ryan is even on the team anymore.

Oh, and by the way, why are the Mariners so insistent on playing Ackley in center and bumping Saunders over to one of the corner outfield spots?  Ackley’s arm is terrible, his range isn’t all that great, and he’s clearly the inferior defender.  You’re supposed to hide those types of guys in left field!  But, then again, I guess they really can’t when they’re already hiding Ibanez’s broken ass in left.  Hey, here’s a great idea:  play a 41 year old every fucking day because he was on a hot streak for a month.  That’s a genius way to make sure the guy gets overworked and turns into a pathetic flailing mess at the plate!

Defying all expectations, Aaron Harang is still a thang (!).  I give it two more weeks before the team picks up whatever triple-A pitcher is going best and dumps Harang on his ass (James Paxton alert!  Please keep going on that roll you’re on!).

Felix is still mowing people down and looks like he’s got the inside track for the Cy Young Award.  That’s exciting.  Iwakuma is still plugging along, though he won’t be getting any Cy Young consideration.  Joe Saunders is Joe Saunders.  Erasmo is still working the kinks out, but I fully expect him to deliver a quality outing any time now.

The bullpen feels to me like it has been slightly better of late.  I know it’s hard to judge, what with the late-game & extra-innings defeats lately.  Wilhelmsen has his closer’s job back.  The team didn’t trade Oliver Perez.  Hector Noesi was sent back to Tacoma recently (hopefully for good).  And I can’t bring myself to talk about anyone else.

Like I said, I fully expect August to be terrible.  But, that’s okay, because one week from today, we’ll be looking at the first Seahawks pre-season game.  And even if the starters only play a couple of drives, who cares?  It’s football!  Football isn’t baseball!  Which means that football is good!  God I hate baseball with all of my being!

The Mariners Don’t Necessarily Have To Be Sellers

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, exactly 3 weeks before the trade deadline.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, the Mariners are 13.5 games out of first place, resting comfortably in the bottom third of the American League.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where bad teams (like the Mariners) are looking toward the future, ready and willing to foresake the present, because the present is too soul-crushingly awful to think about.

The Mariners have already started along that path.  Guys like Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, and Erasmo Ramirez are all getting their shots with the big boys.  Raul Ibanez is still forcing his way into the everyday lineup, but with Ackley’s transition to the outfield (ostensibly for One Final Shot at sticking with the M’s), with Morse’s return from the DL, and with the cock-tease that is Guti’s temporary good health, the outfield will be a source of too many mouths to feed.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where bad teams (like the Mariners) start looking for salary dumping opportunities anywhere they can.

Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Franklin Gutierrez, Joe Saunders, and Aaron Harang are all on the final years of their contracts.  Most, if not all, will not be around next year.  Of those seven players, only Morales is a player anyone with any sense would want back.  I think it would be idiotic to try and count on Morse in any sort of full-time capacity.  Jason Bay is another nice story (like Bonderman, I guess), but he needs to go away after this year.  I can’t envision a world where Raul Ibanez DOESN’T sign a contract extension with the Mariners in the offseason, so if we’re bound and determined to keep him, he makes Bay as redundant as Bay has been throughout 2013.  Guti is Guti, someone will take a shot.  Joe Saunders is a nice 5th starter, but he’s a substandard #3 starter.  The Mariners could always try to extend him, but let’s stop there and not fill our rotation with a bunch of over-the-hill soft-tossers like we have in 2013 thus far.

In an ideal world, the Mariners would trade some or all of those guys for prospects who turn out to be All Stars.  In the real world, none of those guys – save Morales – will command much in return.  Nothing but organizational filler and depth – at best.  If the Mariners are bound and determined to keep Morales long-term, then trading him away would make it damn near impossible to bring him back in the offseason.  One would hope that the Mariners finish the season strong with Morales leading the way, leaving a good final taste in his mouth when he’s making his decision, and giving him (and the rest of us) hope for success in the very near future.

Everyone else, you COULD trade, but if you’re not going to get anyone back who will ever be worth a damn, then what’s the point?  I’m tired of sitting around making other teams better for THEIR playoff runs.  And we’re NOT going to trade any of our young Major League prospects, so it really doesn’t make the trade market all that enticing.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where the Mariners trade salaries for suck-ass prospects who will inevitably be released within a year or two because they’re terrible and we’re terrible people.

If you ask me, I say just leave well enough alone.  Eventually, a Triple-A pitcher will play his way into Aaron Harang’s rotation spot, so that’ll be an upgrade.  As the young hitters continue to gather experience points (and as Justin Smoak continues to entice with his late-career hitting surge), we could be looking at an exciting baseball team by season’s end.  Not that momentum is worth a hill of beans, but it’ll be nice to go into an offseason with some hope we can count on.  With less holes to fill than in season’s past.  With an outside shot at contending in 2014, as opposed to 2030.

No Hard Feelings, Jeremy Bonderman

I hate it when my team signs bad baseball players.  That’s essentially every argument every baseball fan has belabored since the dawn of time.  If your team makes you mad, it’s probably because they brought in bad players, which in turn made the team bad, which in turn ruined your summer.  Bad baseball players come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of them are highly regarded and flame out.  Some of them come to your organization with a number of question marks, leaving a percentage of fans saying, “I told you so,” when they’re proven to be terrible.  And some of them come with more red flags than a Communist Pride Parade.

I’ve never liked Jeremy Bonderman:  The Baseball Player (I don’t know Jeremy Bonderman:  The Human Being; he very well could be a helluva guy).  I never liked Jeremy Bonderman even when he was supposedly GOOD.  The guy was supposed to be blazingly awesome, but never really panned out.  His very best year still only saw him a little over 200 innings and a hair over 200 strikeouts, with an ERA that still managed to be over 4.  I know ERA isn’t the greatest indicator of overall pitching talent, but give me a break!  If I was a Tigers fan, he would’ve been my least-favorite player:  a guy who was supposed to be awesome, but always ALWAYS underachieved.

Bonderman was constantly rumored to be on the Mariners’ radar, which made me cringe to no end.  When he finally destroyed his arm, I thought I was safe.  I thought we were ALL safe.  But, I was wrong.  Because the Mariners are the team that leaves no stone unturned.  And not in the good way that the Seahawks leave no stone unturned when making chicken salad out of chicken shit prospects and guys who have been out of the league for multiple years.  In the bad way, where the Mariners will try out ANYONE, because they’re desperate, and not good enough to gently shove those losers aside when it comes time to cement your 40-man roster.  Jeremy Bonderman had no business being on a Major League roster this year.  He had every business trying to make his comeback.  He also had every business to stay in Triple-A all season.  But, something would have to be very, VERY wrong with a baseball team to require his services in a starting capacity.

So, of course he made 7 starts with the Mariners.  Of course three of those starts were the God damn Devil.  Of course even his supposedly “good” starts still saw him do next-to-nothing well.  He struck out 16 batters in 7 starts.  He generated more fly balls than ground balls in all but two starts.  He went beyond 6 innings pitched just once.

Yet, because he’s a veteran who was proven to be somewhat reliable in his career (even if it was reliably shitty, according to me), and because he had an out-clause that would force the team to either cut him or give him a spot in the Major League roster, Bonderman was given a chance.  Not for nothing, but it’s not like the Mariners had anyone any better at the time.  Let’s face it, our young pitching prospects have been huge disappointments and/or not ready for the Big Leagues.  SO MANY THINGS had to happen for Bonderman to become a Seattle Mariner and pitch in seven games.  He came out of the gate sucking dick, then promptly put up three consecutive “quality starts” with the fourth not too shabby either (from a results standpoint).

You know what’s worse than bad players who put up good numbers for a temporary period of time, thereby delaying their DFA which should so rightfully be coming?  Because I don’t know a fucking thing that’s worse than that.  Now, I would never begrudge a guy who managed to turn things around, magically got better, and legitimately helped this ballclub win games.  But, when he’s just lucky?  When he’s putting up 0’s even though he’s giving up a bunch of hits and walks and not striking anybody out?  That spells doom in my book.  Not only did we have to put up with his boring-ass starts, but we had to put up with MORE of his boring-ass starts than we should’ve because he was good for a couple weeks.

Luckily, the Mariners have some other guys who they feel confident in.  Luckily, Erasmo Ramirez is back from injury and likely going right into our rotation this Thursday.  Luckily, the Mariners have enough weapons to rid themselves of dead weight.  And, “luckily”, the Mariners are terrible enough to want to give every young kid a chance to see what they’ve got.

Now, if there’s only something we can do with Aaron Harang.