The 2022 Mariners Are A Complete Disaster

This past (long) weekend gave the Mariners every opportunity to make up some ground in a crowded field of wild card hopefuls, against one of the teams in direct competition. A team that’s in our division no less. Indeed, a team that had been in SUCH a freefall that they lost a crazy number of games in a row and fired their highly-touted manager.

The rare five-game series. Thanks to MLB dragging their feet to get the CBA done, necessitating the regular season to start a week late, we apparently have a number of pre-scheduled doubleheaders throughout the year to help make up for lost time. I actually really enjoy doubleheaders, and wish they’d do this more often. But, I also wish they’d give teams more off-days throughout the year as a compromise, and that’s probably not happening anytime soon.

Anyway, we got a glimpse at how the Angels and Mariners match up against one another. Two teams – on paper – that appear to be pretty close to one another. Yet, here we are – four days later – and it’s the Angels who won 4 of 5. Now, we sit and wait, wondering if the Mariners will be the next team to fire their manager after a particularly miserable stretch.

It’s not 14 losses in a row, but this homestand saw the Mariners go 3-8. That’s after the little blip of hope we saw with the M’s winning 4 consecutive series, to ever-so-slightly turn things around. I guess that was just a mirage. I feel like these are the true Mariners we saw over the last 11 games (again, all at home), where we were shut out a whopping 4 fucking times.

I’ll say this: shit-can the hitting coach and do it immediately. What a fucking joke. That’s 10 fucking shutouts in 68 fucking games. 15% of all Mariners outcomes are a shutout loss! That’s asinine! A fucking lamp post would be a better hitting coach!

Of course, that might not be the only head that needs to roll in this situation. I mean, how many times do you need to watch Mike Trout beat you (I count four in this last series alone) before you understand he needs to be pitched around? I don’t care who else they have in that lineup; it’s literally Mike Trout killing us every fucking time! Scott Servais, ultimately, is the best manager we’ve had since Lou Piniella (and, I would argue, Sweet Lou wouldn’t fare NEARLY as well with the guys we’ve had in Servais’ tenure, given his management style), and I don’t believe he should be let go. But, it’s hard to watch him bungle every important Trout at-bat by allowing our pitchers to continuously miss down in the strike zone (where he hits them long and far).

The real culprit is twofold: the players our front office is bringing in, and the development of said players at the minor league level. All of that lands at the feet of Jerry Dipoto. But, of course, he’s got all the power at this point, so I don’t know what you do there. You can’t really keep Servais and punt Dipoto. All you can do is clean house, and hope the next regime doesn’t have their heads up their own asses.

It would be one thing if it looked like the “future core” of this organization looked like it was developing at an appropriate pace. Even the silver lining of a Julio Rodriguez is something I’m going to reserve judgment for until season’s end. I want to see the full year – all the ups and downs – before I call him a raving success. He could go in the tank and then what are we talking about? A good month or two? Isn’t that what we’ve seen from just about every other highly-touted prospect who’s come through here?

This is the worst hitting lineup since 2010, bar none. Nothing about it makes any sense. And nothing I’ve seen from these guys gives me ANY hope for the immediate future. Even if we write off 2022 – as I expected would probably be the case, heading into this season – what do we have to look forward to in 2023 and beyond? One good hitter, maybe (Julio) and one good pitcher (Gilbert). Take a look at the Angels (Trout and Ohtani) to see what that gets you. Julio and Gilbert by themselves aren’t going to do it all.

Jesse Winker gets a lot of shit – and rightly so – for playing so far below his expectations. He was just signed through the remaining two Arbitration years, I believe, heading into this Angels series. What was our reward? 1 hit in 10 at-bats. Nice job, Jerry.

Thankfully, we’re out from under Adam Frazier after this year. He went 3 for 13 against the Angels, all singles. No RBI. Only one of them resulting in a run scored by Frazier.

Abraham Toro is getting WAY too much playing time out of necessity, thanks to injuries. He was the big prize in our deadline deal last year, that at the time was widely praised by all who took notice. He went 2 for 14 against the Angels, both harmless singles.

I could go on and on, but let’s finish with Justin Upton. His career is clearly washed, but we brought him in as a hail mary (again, thanks to injuries). He stunk in Tacoma – and probably didn’t get enough time to acclimate to even AAA-level pitching, to say nothing of what we’ve got in the Majors – but was called up during the series against the Angels because that’s the team that cut him earlier this year. So, why not hopefully capitalize on some revenge factor, right? Well, he went 1 for 10 with a harmless double. Yay. Another .100 hitter to throw onto the pile.

This is Jerry Dipoto’s organization. He’s built it from the ground up. He brought in all the players from outside the organization, he’s responsible for who we’ve drafted, and the buck stops with him when it comes to the minor league coaching that “develops” those guys. Who have we developed? It’s obnoxiously rare that anyone’s hit thanks to our system. Who has flailed? I mean, how much time do you got? Jared Kelenic – a can’t-miss prospect if there ever was one – is currently a complete mess. That’s on Jerry and his team. He’s proven in the past he doesn’t have what it takes (see: his tenure with the underachieving Angels), and he’s proving again that he is who we thought he was.

Ultimately, the more we hear about free agents who don’t want to come here, the more it’s clear that they’re not just rejecting Seattle. They’re specifically rejecting Jerry Dipoto and his Mariners.

The bloom isn’t just off the rose at this point. It’s withered and burned to ash. What will ownership do to rectify things? And, more importantly, how many more decades are we going to have to wait until the Mariners make the playoffs again?

The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

What The Hell Are The Mariners Doing For A Fifth Starter?

I’m a little concerned, everyone. After the Winker trade, I heard the Mariners were mostly done making moves, at least when it came to adding to the offense. But, I fully expected there to be more moves to be made for pitching. Starting pitching, especially, but you obviously wouldn’t throw another reliever out of bed for eating crackers.

With Casey Sadler going down for the year (underrated VERY important piece to our bullpen’s success last year, and an all-around bummer of an injury considering how much fun he was to watch), the signing of Sergio Romo is a nice little pick-me-up for that bullpen (even though his second half in 2021 was far worse than his first half), but that doesn’t explain the total lack of activity when it comes to the rotation.

I generally like the first four starters the Mariners are planning to roll out:

  • Robbie Ray
  • Chris Flexen
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Logan Gilbert

Nice mix of veteran and youth, nice mix of hard throwing and off-speed savvy, all guys either in their primes or approaching their primes (with no one over the hill).

But, if you look at the rest of the 40-man roster, it’s a shitload of relievers! I see only two, maybe three, starting prospects in that particular bunch:

  • Justus Sheffield
  • Matt Brash
  • Nick Margevicius

Sheffield stinks. He’s washed up. Because he’s cheap, you can conceive of him in a long reliever type of role in the bullpen – making spot starts here and there – but he gets hit too damn hard to be a reliable presence in the rotation. Margevicius is a slightly less-bad version of Sheffield, in that he doesn’t get hit quite as hard, but is still otherwise a pitch-to-contact lefty with little-to-no strikeout ability. The only reason I’m not as down on him is because he spent most of 2021 injured, but shit, I don’t even know if he’s healthy now or not! He might not even be an option.

Then, there’s Brash, a promising young prospect who has never pitched above the AA level. I think we all love his stuff and his potential, but are we really going into this year just handing him a rotation spot out of Spring Training? I think most of us would prefer to give him a softer landing in Tacoma, just in case there are any kinks to work out. But, that would necessitate having a better option in a Mariners uniform for that fifth starter job, and I don’t know if that person exists at the moment.

Another option – off of the 40-man roster – includes George Kirby, an even better-looking prospect who also has never pitched above the AA level. Brash and Kirby look far-and-away to be our best options, but that’s a harrowing thought going into a year where expectations are for the Mariners to finally make it back to the playoffs.

We like Logan Gilbert a lot too, but remember all of his growing pains last year? Prior to September (when he started figuring things out), he averaged 1 start per month of 6 or more innings. It takes a lot of kid glove treatment to get a rookie through his first Major League season without totally obliterating his confidence.

Also, remember last year when we clung to the 6-man rotation for longer than was practical, necessitating many multiple Bullpen Days? Are we going back to this plan, at least to start the season, in an effort to build up rotation arms so they can pitch deeper into ballgames? Because as it is, we don’t even have a great 5th starter option; now we might be thinking of going with a 6th even-worse option?

This is a fiasco! I don’t understand why we haven’t made a move outside the organization to bring in another starter. What are we waiting for?! I’m more or less fine with the accumulation of offensive talent Dipoto has brought in, but he has severely neglected the rotation.

Bringing in another starter isn’t going to “block” one of these prospects. Injuries – especially to pitchers – happen all the fucking time! I’d like to have a little more certainty – not to mention a little more depth – heading into this all-important season. Because, what happens when we go into April with the guys we have now, and THEN the injuries start mounting? What kind of filler nonsense are we going to have to watch until our good arms come off the IL?

This is my nightmare. Welcome to Mariners fandom, for anyone who’s new.

Culture Is Everything In The NFL

Buyer beware, because I can already tell this is going to be a long, rambling mess. Buckle up!

I’m on record as being in favor of the Seahawks retaining Pete Carroll, even if it’s at the expense of Russell Wilson demanding a trade out of Seattle. Yes, I’ll acknowledge the obvious: it’s really fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL who’s capable of leading you to a championship.

There are differences between run of the mill franchise quarterbacks, and those who can take you all the way. Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback for many years; he led the Bengals to the playoffs a number of times. But, he was never going to win them a title. Not without a remarkable level of talent around him, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I would lump guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford into that camp, even though Flacco won it all, Ryan very nearly won it all, and Stafford very well might win it all this season. Flacco rode an elite defense and a red-hot playoff streak to a title; Ryan had the biggest Super Bowl choke job in NFL history; and Stafford has a crazy fantasy roster around him helping prop up his damaged throwing hand and shaky decision-making.

The point is, none of those guys are on the level of Russell Wilson. And I would still pick Pete Carroll over him, even though odds are Carroll’s time in the NFL will come to an end first. Because I would argue it’s just as hard – if not harder – to find a quality head coach in the NFL to build the kind of winning culture you need to succeed for many years.

Head coaching in the NFL is a neverending revolving door. Really, you can extend that to all the major professional sports.

The Seahawks have been lucky in that regard. We’ve had three Grade-A culture builders in our relatively short tenure in the NFL. Chuck Knox was the first, and arguably one of the most underrated; if he was blessed with a proper ownership group, there’s no telling where he could’ve taken this franchise. Even still, from 1983-1991, he led the Seahawks to the second-best winning percentage in franchise history (minimum of 10 games), even better than Mike Holmgren (who everyone points to as the first great culture builder in Seahawks history). Holmgren, obviously, helped build and lead the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Then, we’ve got Pete Carroll, hands down the best of the bunch. Those three guys comprise 31 of the Seahawks’ 46 seasons of existence; we’ve been spoiled with great culture builders!

You’ll notice, though, of the 15 other years, we had a total of 5 separate head coaches. And that’s common throughout the NFL. I couldn’t tell you what the average is, but it feels right to say guys get approximately 3 years to prove if they’re winners or not. When you consider it’s predominantly the worst organizations who are doing most of the hiring of new coaches – you don’t see the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, or Seahawks hiring and firing guys all willy-nilly all the time – it’s doubly hard to turn things around. You really have to catch lightning in a bottle with the right quarterback, the right roster construction, the right scheme, and the right salary cap situation to see those kinds of quick results. All just to prolong your tenure an extra few years! But, as you’ll frequently see, even guys who’ve won it all don’t get a free pass forever. One or two bad years and suddenly you’re washed up. This leads to going the complete opposite direction with who you hire next: a stern disciplinarian might give way to a “players’ coach”, a defensive guru might give way to an offensive mastermind, etc.

Now, take a step back and look at the Mariners, for instance. Lou Piniella was our greatest and longest tenured manager in franchise history; he was out following the 2002 season. Scott Servais is already the second-best and second-longest tenured manager in Mariners’ history at only 6 seasons. Of the Mariners’ 45 years in existence, Piniella and Servais have managed for 16 seasons; of the remaining 29 seasons, the M’s have had 18 official managers (interim or otherwise). That’s insane. Merely taking into account the 13 seasons between Piniella and Servais, we had 8 managers. When you think of the worst-run, most-dysfunctional North American professional sports franchises, you think of – among many others – the team with the longest playoff drought: the Seattle Mariners. Is it any surprise that we would have 8 managers in 13 seasons, until finally stabilizing things under Servais and Dipoto? I’m not saying either of them are perfect, but unless things go totally FUBAR, they should be the ones to lead us back into the post-season (even if an extra playoff spot will help necessitate it). I’d say it’s looking good – with the talent we have at all levels of the organization – that they’ve done a good job of both finding the right talent and turning the culture into a winning one. They still have to go and do it, of course. But, that’s how hard it can be. That’s how long it can take. The Mariners were one of the best baseball organizations from the mid-90s through the early 2000’s; then they were one of the worst for almost two full decades. That has everything to do with the culture we let fall apart with the loss of Lou Piniella and Pat Gillick; finding their replacements has been exceedingly difficult.

Now, take a look around the rest of the NFL. The longest tenured head coaches are Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid. All are guys at the top of their profession, who regularly take their teams into the playoffs and have won at least one championship. But, aside from Belichick, they’ve all weathered some down periods. Down periods that lesser organizations might’ve fired them over. Of course, they’re still employed because those down periods aren’t very long, nor are they very bad, but still. Head coaches have been fired for a lot less, because their organizatons lack the fortitude to ride out the rough patches.

Every coach aside from those top five have been hired in 2017 or later. Not coincidentally, I would argue those head coaches are one or two bad years away from also joining the unemployment line, even though they’re coaches who’ve led their teams to conference championship games and Super Bowls.

Not all of them, of course. I think there’s a valid point that a great head coach needs a great quarterback, but I would also say the reverse is true: a great quarterback needs a great head coach. Granted, great quarterbacks have been propping up good-to-mediocre head coaches since time immemorial, but a great QB by himself is only going to take you so far. How many titles has Aaron Rodgers won in his Hall of Fame career? How about Drew Brees? On down the line.

I would argue great quarterbacks are helped along and nurtured to their fullest potential by the elite head coaches who’ve built a culture in which they can thrive. It’s when they try to bash heads with the head coach and the culture where things go sideways. And organizations – fearing reprisal from the fanbase – will almost always side with the elite QB over the elite head coach.

For those who wanted to put the issue to bed after one Tom Brady championship in Tampa Bay, just look at what Belichick has done in that same time: he had a down year with Cam Newton at the helm, then he turned right around and made it back to the playoffs with a rookie QB. Now, it looks like the Patriots are set up for another decade of success, while Brady just went and retired. THAT is what an elite coach – with an elite culture – can do for an organization.

Meanwhile, look at the Dolphins. They just fired Brian Flores after back-to-back winning seasons. His first season with the team was arguably his best, in spite of a 5-11 finish. The ownership and GM did everything to strip that team of all its talent; yet, Flores managed to win 5 of his last 9 games with a nothing roster.

Now, he can’t get hired anywhere, even though I think he’s proven to be an effective and winning head coach with a great culture. The reason why the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs in 2021 has everything to do with being saddled with a sub-par quarterback. And yet, Flores still managed to coach them to a winning record! He’s suing the NFL and I think he has a point; the Giants knew who they wanted to hire well before they “interviewed” Flores for the job. Flores was only cursorily considered for the job because he’s a person of color, and therefore fits the requirement under the Rooney Rule.

Look at David Culley of the Houston Texans. He – another person of color – replaced Bill O’Brien, someone who gutted the organization in his desperation to cling to his job. O’Brien, not for nothing, was a mediocre coach and culture builder, responsible for some of the worst and most lopsidedly terrible trades I’ve ever seen. How he kept his job for as long as he did is baffling. Culley only won 4 games this year and was fired after one season on the job. A season, mind you, where the Texans – much like the Dolphins in 2019 – gutted the roster to try to tank for the top draft pick. The fact that they won any games at all is a testament to the job Culley did.

These are just two examples of dysfunctional organizations; I haven’t even mentioned the Washington Football Team, which seems to embarrass itself on a monthly basis with its variety of scandals. Or the Jaguars, who churn through terrible head coaches like cheap sticks of gum. Or the Lions or Bears or Cowboys or Raiders or Jets, who have done nothing but underachieve for years and years and years. They continue to fuck up on the regular, with zero accountability from the top.

Is that what you want for the Seahawks?

Most franchises pay a lot of lip service to diversity and doing the right thing; very few actually back that up in their hiring practices and the way they construct their organizations. The Seahawks aren’t perfect; no team is. But the Seahawks do it better than most.

I don’t worry about the Seahawks paying lip service to hiring their next defensive coordinator. Because they have the culture in place, and a proven track record of hiring based on their scheme and the qualifications of the coach, regardless of race. If the Seahawks hire a white guy, I’ll at least be satisfied with the fact that they searched far and wide for the best person for the job. If the Seahawks hire a person of color, ditto.

The thing about culture is it has to be about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for everyone involved. It can’t be all about one man’s ego trip. That’s where you see pitfalls throughout professional sports. The ego of the owner, the ego of the general manager, the ego of the head coach, the ego of the quarterback (or that team’s best player, whoever it may be). Once it becomes about one man’s quest to be the best, all is lost. That person is the cancer, and that person is who needs to go. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done, the higher they are on the organizational chart.

Kyle Seager Was The Best Mariners Third Baseman Of All Time

When we’re doing an All Mariners Team – which is pretty fun to think about, now that I bring it up – you can pen in Kyle Seager as the third baseman (with all due respect to Mike Blowers). For shits n’ giggles, let’s run it down real quick:

  • Ichiro (RF)
  • Ken Griffey Jr. (CF)
  • Jay Buhner (LF)
  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • Alex Rodriguez (SS)
  • Bret Boone (2B)
  • Alvin Davis (1B)
  • Dan Wilson (C)
  • Edgar Martinez (DH)

Not too far off from what I had back in 2012 (although, the more I think about it, the more I think Ichiro deserves the respect of having right field; plus, can you imagine Buhner’s arm throwing out guys from left?!). I’ll also say I was THIS CLOSE to putting Robinson Cano at second base, but I just couldn’t. Even though he signed that huge deal, he never really felt like a Mariner; he was always a New York guy.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, because we’re talking about Kyle Seager today!

It was always assumed 2021 would be Kyle Seager’s last year here. Truth be told, he would’ve been traded a while back, but they built a poison pill into his contract that guaranteed his 2022 option would be paid in full upon completion of any trade. Given the way baseball inflation was going at the time of signing – prior to the 2015 season – and given the way Seager had played up until that point, an optimist might’ve assumed his 2022 option would be a bargain. But, that turned out to decidedly not be the case, and he became an albatross around Jerry Dipoto’s neck as we headed into the rebuild.

I’m somewhat conflicted about Kyle Seager. He was fun to root for from the very beginning, as a rookie in 2011. He got called up right around the same time as Dustin Ackley, and for half a year anyway, both of them looked like potential cornerstones to the franchise. Ackley quickly petered out from there, but Seager continued to improve. He wasn’t a natural third baseman, but that was where he ended up thanks to the Mariners’ hole at the spot, and Seager took advantage of the opportunity. Indeed, he got better every year through the 2016 season, before things took a turn for the worse.

In 2016 – the second year of his contract extension – he was a 6.9 WAR player who garnered a little bit of MVP attention. Two years removed from his only All Star appearance, and his only Gold Glove award, he slashed .278/.359/.499, with 30 homers, 36 doubles, and 99 RBI. It was the culmination of six straight years of improvement! Every year, I kept expecting a little more, and every year he kept delivering. Not only that, but his floor wasn’t bad either. Even with those 2016 numbers, I felt like he had potential for more.

Then, the dreaded infield shift became popularized and entrenched in the game of baseball. And, with Seager being such an extreme pull hitter, it decimated his offensive value. In 2017, he was a 2.5 WAR player; he would never see another WAR higher than that. In 2018, he really fell apart as a sub-1 WAR player; his slash line fell all the way to .221/.273/.400. Not only was he basically a replacement-level player, but he was never hurt and therefore in the lineup every single day! That changed in 2019, when he landed on the IL, but by then he started to figure out how to be productive as a pull hitter in a shifting world; he finished that season at 2.4 WAR that might’ve been higher had he been healthy all year.

Seager became something of a lightning rod of controversy in 2021, through no fault of his own really. The whole Kevin Mather thing put Seager’s final year under a microscope, as he called him overpaid, and essentially told the world what the organization feels about its best-ever third baseman: they didn’t want him. Seager, nevertheless, has always been the consummate professional, showing up everyday, mentoring young players, and being an all-around mainstay in the middle of an otherwise struggling lineup.

Seager in 2021 had arguably his best-ever power season, hitting a career-high 35 homers and 101 RBI. His slash line was pretty wretched – .212/.285/.438 – but he still salvaged a 2.0 WAR just by being so productive with his extra-base hits; he had 63 extra-base hits and 65 singles. Guys who hit for such a low average still have a place in this league if they can mash 35-plus homers a year – or 30-plus homers along with quality defense – so I would call Seager’s 2021 a success.

At the same time, I wouldn’t expect too many more successful seasons if he remained in a Mariners uniform. MAYBE one more year, but even then he could fall off the cliff in a hurry. I would expect Seager might be able to prolong his career elsewhere, in a more lefty-friendly environment. He’s always crushed it in the state of Texas, so that might be an option for him! But, I like the idea of Seager leaving Seattle on a high note.

For the most part, Kyle Seager was a great member of the Seattle Mariners. I’d rather he leave with us remembering him fondly, than us seeing him as an aging veteran who can barely hobble around the bases.

I would argue it’s also time to move on because I don’t think he wants to be here anymore. Rumors abound that he was the source behind a lot of angry quotes about the organization this year, especially after the Kendall Graveman deal. Granted, I think Dipoto has made it clear he didn’t want to keep Seager through the end of his contract, and probably did everything in his power to try to rid the team of him, so I don’t blame Seager one bit for feeling the way he does. The fact of the matter is, the Mariners never would’ve gotten anything in trade close to the value of what Seager still brought to a potential team. It made sense to keep him from that standpoint, but it also made sense to keep him because even though we were going Full Rebuild for the first time in forever, you still need veteran leadership to help guide players through the choppy waters as the talent level on the big league ballclub plummets. I would argue that kind of leadership was largely absent from the years of 2008-2013, and that could be a big reason why the Mariners never got off the ground in that time.

What I’m trying to say is that the Mariners got their money’s worth out of Kyle Seager, even if he never got to play in the post-season. I mean, shit, A LOT of Mariners failed to reach the playoffs, it’s not just a Seager problem. He just had the misfortune of succeeding in an inept, bumbling organization.

I don’t know what Seager’s legacy is other than the Greatest Mariners Third Baseman. He was never the flashy prospect of a King Felix. He was never at a Hall of Fame level of an Edgar Martinez. He was never a big worldwide household name like a Griffey or an Ichiro. He just quietly went about his business, day-in and day-out. In that sense, he should be my favorite type of player.

But, my big take-away is one of lost potential. In another era, Seager would’ve continued to blossom beyond his 2016-level of production. But, he could never fully recover from the shift. When I think of Kyle Seager, that’s what I think of: rolling over on a ground ball to a second baseman playing in shallow right field.

Kyle Seager had good, solid power. 242 homers, 309 doubles, 807 RBI, 704 runs scored. From a career slash line perspective, it’s not the worst: .251/.321/.442. But, there’s a big difference between the first half of his career, and the second half:

  • 2011-2016: .266/.334/.446, with a 119 OPS+
  • 2017-2021: .231/.304/.436, with a 103 OPS+

That later era, that’s when he was age 29-33; those are supposed to be your PRIME years as a professional baseball player! That’s when you’ve got all the experience and smarts in the world, while still being pretty much at your peak physically. When you think of someone like Nelson Cruz, he was just hitting his stride at age 33! Different body types and all of that, but it’s just frustrating is all.

You could argue Kyle Seager is one of the unluckiest baseball players in the history of the game. The advent and apex of the shift happened right as his prime got started, and it’ll likely be legislated out of the game not long after he hangs ’em up (they’re already working rules into the minor leagues that forces the infield to keep two players on either side of second base, while disallowing them to stand in the outfield). I mean, he’s made well over $100 million in his career – including a $2 million buyout coming his way for 2022 – so it’s a real World’s Smallest Violin type of “unlucky”. But, you get the idea.

That having been said, my fondness level for Seager is well over 50% compared to my disappointment, so I’ll always remember him as one of the Mariners greats. Eventually, cooler heads will prevail and he’ll enter the team’s hall of fame; he’ll be back in the fold and rightly celebrated for all of his accomplishments, throwing out a first pitch here and there, and conversing during game telecasts as we watch this team through the years. Until then, I wish him the best in his future endeavors. I hope he makes it back to the playoffs on another team (unless it’s the Astros; in that case, he can go straight to Hell).

The Mariners Extended Dipoto & Servais As They Try To Contend Down The Stretch

After just totally biffing it against the Royals, the Mariners played three winnable games against the Astros, winning two of them in shutout fashion.

The only loss was in the series opener on Monday, where we bafflingly blew it in the 8th by turning a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 loss. Chris Flexen didn’t have his greatest stuff, but still pitched into the sixth inning, giving up just 2 runs. Casey Sadler locked it down through the 7th, giving us just enough time to take that all-too-brief lead in the bottom of the sixth.

The Astros scored their first two runs in the 1st inning, making the Flexen performance even more impressive. Jose Marmolejos – back with the Mariners after going on the warpath with the Rainiers for much of the season – hit a solo homer in his first at bat to make it 2-1. That’s where it remained until Dylan Moore – pinch hitting for Marmolejos – jacked a 2-run homer to make everyone happy.

But, then Joe Smith was tasked with handling the 8th inning. I don’t totally get it. Was Drew Steckenrider simply unavailable? Did Scott Servais lose his mind? Either way, shaky defense and even shakier pitching meant Smith gave up three singles and two runs, before he was pulled for Yohan Ramirez to get the final two outs of the inning. The Mariners were toast from there.

Tuesday saw Yusei Kikuchi take the mound, desperately needing a quality start to help save his Mariners career. And, to his credit, he went out and dominated: 7 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 4. His fastball was lively, he threw it often, and he got ahead of hitters; when he’s able to do that, good things tend to result.

The game was, nevertheless, scoreless as we headed into the bottom of the eighth. Paul Sewald got the job done in the top half against the top of the lineup, setting the stage for Kendall Graveman, who was making his first appearance in Seattle since the infamous deadline deal.

Graveman still has electric stuff, but the Mariners put a tough challenge on him. J.P. Crawford led off the inning with a walk, Seager singled after a Haniger strikeout, and Ty France was hit on the forearm to load the bases. The table was set … for Abraham Toro of all people, the very centerpiece the Mariners got back in return in the Graveman deal.

Toro got in a 1-2 hole early, whiffing hard on Graveman’s sinkers. But, he finally started making contact – fouling off three pitches while working the count even – before unloading on a sinker in the inner-middle of the plate for a grand slam. It was glorious! I’m not going to say the Mariners won the trade in that single at-bat – lord knows this bullpen has been plenty fallible in Graveman’s absence – but I’ve been a fan of Toro since we got him, and that further cements in my mind the value he brings to this team, both this season and in the years to come.

It was Graveman’s first loss of the season – and it dented his ERA pretty good – but he’s still been wildly effective for the Astros since going over there. Just, you know, not against the Mariners. Against us, he’s gone 1.1 innings and given up 5 runs. Shit, maybe he WAS the world’s greatest teammate! He’s so good, he’s STILL helping us win ballgames!

If the 4-0 shutout was impressive, Wednesday’s 1-0 shutout was truly remarkable. Logan Gilbert – another starter who’s struggled over the last month – went 5 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits & 0 walks, while striking out 4. Again, lots of fastballs and he did a good job of staying ahead of hitters.

This game saw the return of Justus Sheffield, now a reliever since his return from the IL. I don’t know if that’s a permanent move, or if that’s even a role he’s well-suited for, but he got through his one inning unscathed to get the win. Because we scored our lone run in the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a Crawford single, walks by Haniger and France, and a sac fly to center off the bat of – you guessed it – Abraham Toro. It wasn’t a deep fly ball by any means, but with Crawford’s speed – and the sun wreaking havoc on the outfielder – it was long enough.

Then, it was shutdown time. Sadler did his job in the 7th. Steckenrider returned to get two outs in the 8th (before putting two runners on), which necessitated Paul Sewald going in there for the 4-out save. Which he managed heroicly, striking out three guys in the process (while only getting into a little trouble in the 9th before slamming the door shut).

It’s a bummer we didn’t manage to take all three games – because at this point in the season, we could’ve really used the boost – but winning this series was very impressive the way we did it. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and we absolutely shut them down!

Before the game on Wednesday, it was announced that Jerry Dipoto was extended (and promoted to President of Baseball Operations). Essentially, he’s still the GM, and he still reports to the owner, John Stanton, but clearly this is a big endorsement of his rebuild. It was simultaneously announced that Scott Servais was also extended to continue managing the ballclub; the terms for their contracts were not disclosed, so it’s unknown how long they’re under contract for.

I don’t really know of anyone who thinks Servais is a bad manager. Quite the contrary, I think most of us are really impressed with how hard he gets his guys to play for him, even when they’re lacking in talent compared to some of the elite teams around baseball. We might get blown out here and there – that’s going to happen – but we tend to be IN most of these games at the very least, and as far as the last two seasons are concerned, winning much more of them than anyone would’ve predicted.

I like Servais. I don’t have a lot of regard for managers in baseball in general; I think, for the most part, these teams sort of manage themselves. They get too much of the blame when things go wrong, and probably an appropriate amount of the credit when things go right. But, you can really see how Servais has built the culture here. It’s different than it was under Lloyd McClendon, Don Wakamatsu, Eric Wedge, and on and on dating back to the glory days of Lou Piniella. Honestly, Servais might be the best manager in all of baseball right now, and I’ve been saying for a while: I’d LOVE to see what he does with a team that’s as talented as the Astros or Dodgers or Yankees.

And, for what it’s worth, I do think Servais makes a high percentage of the correct calls when it comes to sticking with a pitcher vs. pulling him for a fresh arm. I mean, that probably has a lot to do with the analytics department, but it’s a credit to Servais that he actually follows the numbers and not just his fucking gut (*cough* Lloyd McClendon *cough*).

As for Dipoto, he’s MUCH more divisive. Fans seem to either love him and lap up the Kool Aid like the thirsty sheep that they are; or fans seem to hate him and want to ride him out of town on a rail.

I’m in the middle. If I had my druthers, we would’ve backed up the Brinks truck to Theo Epstein’s house and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse YEARS ago. But, obviously, that’s never happening. We hired Dipoto after the 2015 season, and while his moves have been hit-or-miss, I think there’s a lot unexplained from his tenure. He inherited an aging roster that was still trying to break the playoff drought. How much did ownership hamper him when it comes to tearing it all down back then and rebuilding immediately? I would argue they meddled quite a bit, with guys like Felix, Cruz, Cano, and Seager playing at the tops of their games.

It wasn’t until after the 2018 season – when we won 89 games, but again fell well short of making the playoffs – that we FINALLY committed to a real, official rebuild. I would say, by and large, Dipoto’s moves before that point were largely disappointing and underwhelming. Again, how much was he hampered by ownership, who likely limited his spending? I would argue quite a bit, with Felix’s dying contract, Seager’s bloated deal, and Cano’s albatross hanging around our neck.

I contend that SINCE the end of the 2018 season, Dipoto has been largely on fire with his trades, his under-the-radar dart-throw free agent signings, and his draft picks. In that time, he turned around a farm system that was one of the worst – if not THE worst – in all of baseball, into one of the best this year (including one publication ranking us #1 overall). The trade of Cano & Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic (and others) is the big draw. But, he also pulled off the Austin Nola deal (for Ty France and Luis Torrens) and the aforementioned Graveman deal for Toro.

It hasn’t worked out perfectly since then. The Mariners really bottomed out in 2019, for instance. But, we played much better in a COVID-shortened 2020 season. And, this year, we find ourselves firmly in contention for a wild card spot with a month left to play.

You can argue that many of the young position players are failing to make the leap from AAA to the Major Leagues, but if that’s Dipoto’s fault, then it’s also on all the scouts and pundits who continue to laud these players as among the most talented of all the prospects coming up in the last two years. They’re still young-enough in their careers to turn things around. Plus, there are more prospects where they came from if they do, indeed, fail at this level.

On top of which, the Mariners have cheaped out long enough. It sounds like after having this year to analyze the guys we’ve got, the purse strings are going to be loosened, allowing us to go out and make some splashy free agent deals. Between that, and the trades we can make by having one of the best farm systems in baseball, as long as we don’t fuck things up COMPLETELY, we should be watching the Seattle Mariners in the post-season sooner rather than later.

So, no, I’m not a Jerry Dipoto hater. But, I’m also not drinking the Kool Aid completely either. He still needs to finish the job. Lots of teams throughout baseball have been in the position we’re in now. VERY few actually manage to morph into World Series champions, let alone enjoy the kind of sustained success you see out of teams like the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox.

I’ll fully believe it when I see it. Don’t do what the Mariners always do: get swindled in trades for mediocre veterans who come here and shit the bed. DO do what good teams do: ship off shaky prospects for quality starters, and let’s go win us a fucking World Series title!

The Mariners Traded For Diego Castillo

We learned about this one in the early evening hours yesterday, and the first tweet I saw about it – from a non-reporter – was something to the effect of, “Ho-hum, this guy’s just whatever, he’s no Kendall Graveman.” I mean, that’s very possible; he could come here and totally shit the bed, just like countless other relievers have done throughout the years, but I feel like that’s still residual reaction from the vitriol incited by the Graveman trade more than it is an accurate reflection of that person’s feelings on this deal in a vacuum.

Diego Castillo looks like he has amazing stuff! A fastball that hits triple digits, and a slider that sits in the low-90’s? Does that remind you of someone we recently traded away in the Robinson Cano deal, who was seen as the real prize of that acquisition? As we’ve seen from Edwin Diaz since putting on a Mets uniform, that combination isn’t a guarantee of a sub-1.00 ERA forever. But, I would argue that Kendall Graveman’s stuff isn’t going to remain in that otherworldly realm forever either. He’s bound to return to normal and start blowing some saves. At which point, he’ll be no better or worse than Diego Castillo.

Yes, Castillo blows some saves every now and again. That’s going to happen to just about anyone who isn’t having an unsustainably lucky/flukey season. But he’s also – assuming he stays healthy, which is a big assumption; given how hard he throws, his arm could blow at any time – going to be good-to-great most of the time. On top of which, he’s just entering his Arbitration years, meaning we can keep him for the next three seasons after this one.

He cost us J.T. Chargois – a guy we picked up off the scrap heap before this season – and Austin Shenton, a third base prospect (who, it sounds like, doesn’t have the defensive acumen to stick at third base). Think “Ty France Type” as his ultimate ceiling. So, you know, that’s tough – it sounds like he’s got the hitting part down – but this is also the first I’ve ever heard of him, so he couldn’t have been THAT elite of a prospect.

I know, I know, “what I don’t know could fill a book.” Speaking of which … it also comes in Kindle.

The Rays apparently love Chargois’ stuff, but I think they mostly like his cheapness (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2023, so they could easily flip him this time next year if they’re so inclined). And, I’m sure they’ll get the most out of that Shenton guy, but I still like this deal for the Mariners.

Taken as a whole, it’s a Graveman for Castillo swap (a guy who’s a free agent at the end of this season, vs. a guy who will be here for three years BEYOND this season); a Rafael Montero for Joe Smith swap (two duds, but at least we’re able to recoup something for the Montero debacle); and a Shenton for Abraham Toro swap (a guy who just this year made it to the AA level, vs. a guy who is a Major League-ready prospect right now and could take a leap forward at any time); plus two prospects for Tyler Anderson (guys likely to never have much of an impact on this game, vs. a viable starting pitcher we can use starting this weekend in our push to make the playoffs).

I don’t know about you, but to me that looks like Jerry Dipoto sticking to his plan: going for it in 2021, while at the same time not sacrificing our major pieces of this rebuild.

Look, I think we learned A LOT about this team over this most recent homestand. It wasn’t a total success – we didn’t hit that 5-2 mark that I’d talked about – but it wasn’t a total failure either. It was a 4-3 homestand. If I’m being honest, kind of what I expected, in some way, shape, or form. We learned that the Mariners are indeed in contention for one of the 2021 Wild Card spots (3-1 against the A’s, one of the favorites to be in that play-in game), but we also learned that the Mariners probably aren’t in contention for the A.L. West (a lucky 1-2 against the Astros), and probably aren’t one of the elites.

Have you seen the deals they’re swinging in New York and Los Angeles? The Yankees and Dodgers are going ALL-IN on 2021 like nothing I can remember! These are mega, MEGA blockbuster trades, made by teams who are there. They’re not rebuilding, they’re BUILT. And they’re throwing any and all available minor league prospects away to get the superstars they need. And, you know what? They probably still have great farm systems plugging away behind those guys they just jettisoned! That’s what happens. That’s what success looks like.

Sure, the Mariners have a Top 5 or Top 10 farm system now, but I would argue that’s mostly top-heavy, with guys who are either in the Major Leagues right now (Kelenic, Raleigh, Gilbert), or guys who are a year or two away (J-Rod, Kirby, maybe Hancock). Now, I think it’s definitely deeper than it’s been in the last 15-20 years, but it’s not a well-oiled machine like the Yankees and Dodgers have been producing for decades. Until we get THERE, the topic of going All-In really means something. It means totally depleting what we’ve built in the minors. So, we better be good and fucking sure that we’re ready to contend NOT JUST FOR A WILD CARD SPOT, but the whole fuckin’ thing. I’m not interested in mortgaging our future just to break the playoff drought for a single-elimination play-in game. I want to be regarded as among the greats, the Astros and Dodgers and the like. I want a fucking World Series championship in my lifetime; is that too much to ask?!

So, I’m fine with these cursory deals. These players on the edge of the roster. Little upgrades here and there, while still taking shots on guys like Toro to be bigger pieces of the puzzle. While it hurts losing Graveman from a morale standpoint, you can’t say we threw him away for nothing. Castillo mitigates that loss considerably (I hope). Toro gives us a boost at second base for now (again, I hope). And we brought in a starter who couldn’t be any worse than the Bullpen Days and sub-replacement level guys we’ve been starting (almost definitely).

But, this whole “contention” business was always going to hinge on the players we have on the active roster right now, continuing to play out of their fucking minds. To be the clutchest motherfuckers on the planet. To mostly get hits with runners in scoring position, and to be the winningest team in one-run games in the Major Leagues. There’s no crazy amount of deals that was going to turn this Mariners team into that Astros team. This is it. You need the J.P. Crawfords and Dylan Moores and Cal Raleighs and Mitch Hanigers and Ty Frances and Luis Torrenses to lead the way. You need this starting rotation – held together by duct tape and fishing line – to keep us in most every ballgame. And you need this bullpen to be lockdown 9 times out of 10. Hell, maybe even 10 times out of 10, since we’re in the home stretch.

Two months to go! We are 55-48 heading into the dog days of summer. We’re 2.5 games behind the Athletics for the second wild card spot. We’re a mere 1 game ahead of the Yankees, and would you look at that! We go to their ballpark to play them on this upcoming road trip we’re on. Considering the way they manhandled us at T-Mobile Park, on top of their additions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (a notorious Mariners-killer with Texas), I expect we won’t be too happy with what happens at Yankee Stadium.

But, you know, once an optimist, always an optimist.

The Mariners Made A Couple Of Unpopular Trades

Yesterday was pretty enjoyable, at least through the early afternoon. We were all firmly in the afterglow of Monday night’s thrilling comeback victory over the Astros (which I’ll write about tomorrow, when I get to the series recap). That all shifted ON A DIME the moment the Mariners made their first deal of the day.

Where was I when I heard about Kendall Graveman being traded? I was in my bedroom, listening to a podcast from 710 ESPN where the radio hosts did an interview with Scott Servais. I wanted to lap up every last drop of the previous night’s win. As soon as it was over, I looked at my phone and noticed the “Breaking News” alert at the top of the screen.

I saw something to the effect of “Graveman Traded To The Astros” and my mind was on fire. So many conflicting thoughts!

  • Wait, our closer?
  • Wait … to a divisional rival?
  • Wait, doesn’t this fill the Astros’ most glaring hole?
  • Who did we get?
  • The Astros have a pretty deep roster and farm system, I bet it was somebody really good!
  • I mean, after all, you don’t trade to a team in your own division unless they’re willing to pay a king’s ransom, right?
  • Oh shit, it’s going to suck when we have to try to hit off of this guy now.

I ran to the office, opened my laptop, and continued scrolling through Twitter until I got all the details.

Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to the Astros for Abraham Toro and Joe Smith.

Okaaaaaaay. Who dey?

Abraham Toro is an infielder (primarily third base, but can also play second) who is 24 years old and under organizational control through the 2025 season. All right! Not bad! Except, he’s played in parts of three seasons now and his career slash line is: .196/.278/.364. Yikes. So, he hits poorly, AND he doesn’t really have much power to speak of. And even his minor league numbers aren’t super eye-popping. He was originally drafted in the fifth round in 2016, so it’s not like he has this amazing pedigree.

But, I’ll say this: scouts seem to really believe that he’s due to break out anytime now. That’s encouraging. On top of which, he has homered in three straight games now (including Monday night against the Mariners, and last night against the Astros). I know that’s not a lot, but Mariners fans – and the players on that active roster – really needed to see him do something as a pinch hitter last night, considering the mood on the team.

If you haven’t read the Seattle Times article in the immediate aftermath of the trade yesterday, do yourself a favor and check it out. Odds are you’ve seen the quotes elsewhere, but the players – anonymously, of course – really let the organization have it, including Jerry Dipoto specifically. They DO NOT LIKE that guy! I mean, obviously, this is a continuation of the Kevin Mather nonsense from earlier this year, but now it’s all out in the open and actively harped upon: the Seattle Mariners – from the perspective of not just the fans, but the players too – do not care about winning ballgames at the Major League level.

I guess I had no idea how much the players liked Kendall Graveman! The amount of tears the article talks about is astonishing to me. I mean, I always liked the guy. He’s gutty and tough – playing through his degenerative neck issue, that has taken his ability to be a starter from him – and oh by the way, he’s also really fucking good! 0.82 ERA, 10 saves, 4-0 record across 30 games; he was far and away the best reliever in this bullpen that’s one of the best in all of baseball. That’s saying something!

But, also, he’s only signed through the end of this season. He’s on a cheap contract now, but with the way he’s been dominating, he’s going to be commanding a salary ten times that amount next year and beyond (getting it, almost certainly, from a team other than the Mariners). And, we absolutely cannot forget the fact that he has that injury issue, and could go down at any time. This is, 100%, the peak of Kendall Graveman’s value, and the Mariners would’ve been insane to NOT trade him.

However, yesterday afternoon was also 100% the peak of Worst Timing Ever when it comes to dealing Graveman, as again, we were all living in the afterglow of the previous night’s dramatic come-from-behind 11-8 victory, where Graveman came in for the 8th inning and shut the Astros down, to give the Mariners offense an opportunity to hit the go-ahead Grand Slam. He was instrumental in that victory, as he’s been in just about every game he’s appeared in this year. And, apparently he was also one of the most respected and beloved leaders on that team.

In a vacuum, taking out all of the emotions, it’s not a bad deal for the Mariners. We traded Graveman, again, at the apex of his value. We also were able to unload Rafael Montero, who’s a guy we’d just Designated For Assignment. In return, we get a relatively highly-touted Major League-level prospect (in other words, not a guy we have to wait on to develop in the minors), who we control through 2025 … and sure, we take on a veteran reliever in Joe Smith who’s been struggling this season with a bloated 7.48 ERA (but has otherwise been rock solid throughout his 15-year career). Joe Smith and Rafael Montero are essentially the same – two proven guys who need a change of scenery – which makes this a Graveman for Toro swap.

To get a guy of Toro’s potential, and not have to give up ANY prospects whatsoever? I’d do that in a heartbeat every time!

Now, obviously, the downside is specifically 2021-related. As I mentioned, the Astros are a great team with one major flaw: their bullpen. Kendall Graveman immediately slots into the back-end of their bullpen, shoring that up in a big way in the short term. With their offense and starting pitching, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the lead in most games. If they can hold that lead to the 7th or 8th inning, with Graveman in the mix, they should have no problem whatsoever holding onto those victories. A guy like Graveman, on a team that good, is worth his weight in gold. If I’m the A’s or the rest of the American League, I’m super-pissed at the Mariners right now, because we just handed the Astros a FastPass to the ALCS.

And, considering everyone on the Mariners believed this team had the potential to overcome the deficit and at least earn a Wild Card spot, you can see why helping one of your most direct rivals in this way is a slap to the face. We were already playing with one hand tied behind our backs when it comes to how many games behind we are, and the overall deficit in talent (necessitating additions, not subtractions), now we’re that armless and legless knight in that Monty Python movie, trying to fend off our opponents with no limbs and a plucky attitude.

The other deal of the day was a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tyler Anderson. In return, the Mariners dealt two minor leaguers I’ve never heard of and don’t feel compelled to mention here (okay, you got me, they are Carter Bins – a catcher – and Joaquin Tejada – a pitcher). These appear to be low-level prospects (outside of our organizational Top 20, maybe even outside of our Top 30) who are more or less just lottery picks for the Pirates.

Tyler Anderson, meanwhile, is somewhat interesting. He’s a starter, so that’s good. He’s a lefty, which seems like overkill a little bit (with Kikuchi, Gonzales, and eventually Sheffield). He doesn’t throw particularly hard, his stuff isn’t amazing, his numbers aren’t spectacular. But, he’s an innings eater who shouldn’t embarrass himself as a member of this rotation. Indeed, if he pitches to his potential, he’ll probably be in our top three starters the rest of the way. He’s also only costing us the pro rated portion of $2.5 million. The downside is, of course, the fact that he’s only signed through this season, making him the dictionary definition of a deadline rental. But, we’ll get a good look at him and see if he’s someone who might be worth re-signing after this season. I can’t imagine he’d be super expensive even if he puts up good numbers here; Tyler Anderson is who he is: a competent back-end of the rotation starter.

Jerry Dipoto had a lot to say after the first deal of the day. He acknowledged that the Graveman trade doesn’t look great by itself, but he seemed to promise that more moves were coming. The trade deadline is July 30th at 1pm (for some reason, GMs can’t make deals on a Saturday? What is this, Shomer Fucking Shabbos?), so I still expect more deals to be made between now and then.

They better be made, because if this is it, it’s a pretty pisspoor way for the organization to say it believes in this 2021 squad. Kyle Seager said it best the other day; I’m paraphrasing here, but at some point it has to be about winning now, it can’t always be about future contention.

Jarred Kelenic’s Tacoma Rainiers Career Is Complete

Word has been trickling out this week that Jarred Kelenic is going to be called up to play for the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Assuming this is true, if you live in/around the Tacoma area and failed to go to a Rainiers game in the last week, it looks like you missed your opportunity to see Kelenic play for cheap.

The Rainiers have gone 3-3 against the El Paso Chihuahuas over the 6-game homestand. In that time, Kelenic had 27 at bats, posting the following line:

  • .370/.414/.630/1.043, 10 hits (1 double, 2 homers), 5 RBI, 6 Runs, 2 stolen bases, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts

The standard rhetoric from Jerry Dipoto and the rest of the Mariners brass – before and after the whole Kevin Mather hullabaloo – has been something to the effect of: we’re not straying from our plan, we want to make sure Kelenic is REALLY SUPER-DUPER READY so we’re not losing a year of team control somehow setting him back in his development, and we just really want to see how he handles the AAA level.

Well. Based on those numbers, I’d say he handled the AAA level pretty well.

The long national nightmare is over, Mariners fans! Jarred Kelenic is finally getting his opportunity (are you SURE you don’t want to see how he handles a AAA road trip? Or are six home games enough?), the Mariners control his rights through the 2027 season, and now they can begin the long road of trying to rebuild and repair the relationship.

Kelenic is a surefire stud and future MLB superstar. I have no doubt in my mind! When 2027 rolls around, he’s going to command the highest salary in Major League history, and he’s going to be worth it. So, Mariners, can we PLEASE try not to fuck things up anymore than you already have?

In the meantime, the M’s are 18-18, with one more game down in Los Angeles to go later tonight. After a 13-8 start, we’ve gone on a 5-10 skid, as luck and regression have not been our friends. We’re currently third in the A.L. West, 3.5 games behind Oakland for the lead. Would the Mariners’ record be any better with Kelenic up here from day one? Given the number of skids we’ve had to play in left field at times, I think unquestionably! Will any of these games we’ve given away come back to haunt us down the line? That remains to be seen.

From a team standpoint, playing around .500 ball in the pre-Kelenic portion of the season is probably better than our wildest dreams could’ve conjured up, especially when you factor in the vast number of pitching injuries we’ve had to sustain in such a short and unfortunate time. Kelenic won’t solve all of our ills, but sometimes a hotshot young player gets called up and lights a fire under an exciting and volatile team. I’m hoping that’s the case going forward.

2021 isn’t about contention. It’s about gaining experience and knowledge about which players are legitimate parts of the rebuild vs. which ones are trade fodder or future roster casualties. Nevertheless, 2021 isn’t NOT about contention either. We’re not tanking for draft picks. We’d LOVE to foster a culture of winning. And, above all, sports are supposed to be entertainment. There’s a lot of season left, and I, for one, would love it if the Mariners remained entertaining. Frankly, they’re only entertaining when they’re winning, so let’s get back to doing that. I know Jarred Kelenic can help in this charge.