The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part II

We continue from yesterday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m not gonna lie to you, this one was a lot tougher.  Aside from a couple of very obvious names, not a lot of Seahawks immediately jump out as annoying.  Unlike baseball – where your every move is on display for everyone watching, so if you screw up regularly, you WILL be noticed – it’s a lot easier to mask your mistakes.

Of course, that doesn’t make a ton of sense, because look at all the mediocrity, especially in the late 80s and all of the 90s.  But, that’s just it:  sure, they were mediocre, but it’s hard to point to just a couple of guys as the primary culprits.  When you have a bad football team, it’s because the whole TEAM is bad.  Not a lot of people really stood out, at least to me.  Maybe you have ideas that I don’t.

At the top of this list, now and forever, is Ken Behring.  He bought the team from the Nordstrom’s in 1988 for a scant (in today’s dollars) $80 million.  Ironically, at the time, in an article in the Spokesman-Review, he called out then-Mariners owner George Argyros who was threatening to move baseball out of Seattle, saying:

I sure don’t agree with anything he does.  I’m not sure he even wants to win.  I’m not sure he knows where he wants to be.  We’re far, far apart in what we’re trying to accomplish.

Bold words from a guy who – less than eight years later – was looking to move the team to Los Angeles.  It’s telling, actually, in that same Spokesman-Review article, he was asked about the possibility of moving the Seahawks to Oakland (after Al Davis had moved the Raiders down to L.A.).  Seemingly, there was no trust for this man from the get-go, which would seem to jibe with the family’s feelings that Seattle never really embraced Ken Behring.

Ken Behring’s reign started with a division championship in 1988, but then everything fell apart, with the nadir being the 1992 season and its 2-14 record.  After that first year, no Behring-led team would finish better than third in the AFC West.  Finally, in February of 1996 (a decade before this team would play in its first Super Bowl), Behring ordered the moving vans and drove the equipment to Los Angeles to play where the old Rams called home prior to moving to St. Louis.

Luckily for Seattle, two things existed:  a local government willing to work to keep the team here, and a sports league that was unwilling to see yet-another team change cities (after the Raiders moved back to Oakland, the Rams moved to St. Louis, the Oilers moved to Tennessee, and the Browns moved to Baltimore).  Gary Locke partnered with Paul Allen to help the billionaire purchase the team, and we passed measures to build what is now CenturyLink Field.

Ken Behring is one of the all-time pricks, no doubt about it.  But, this isn’t exactly the same thing as Clay Bennett buying the Sonics and moving them to OKC.  Even though the trust might not have been there from the beginning, I think that comes with the territory.  Whenever a non-local guy (or group) comes in to buy your team, you’re wary of the possibility of them moving.  But, to be honest, there was no inkling back in the late 80s about Behring having an agenda.  Besides, the lease on the Kingdome ran through 2005.  When the Sonics were purchased, the lease on KeyArena was much MUCH closer to running out.

However, similarities they share include an unwillingness to make things work here.  That means, the instant the going got tough, Ken Behring was on the horn to Los Angeles.  Which leads me to believe this L.A. move was a longer time coming than simply a snap reaction to the county rejecting $150 million in Kingdome improvements.  He also, let’s be honest, didn’t do everything he could to put a winning product on the field.  In that same Spokesman-Review article, Behring is quoted as saying:

We want the coach and the general manager to run the team.

This was in response to a question about having minority owners, with Behring taking the stance that local minority owners would try to butt into the affairs of the team.  Which is FUNNY, because in 1991, with the 16th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks selected one Dan McGwire out of San Diego State.  It’s reported that then-head coach Chuck Knox really wanted to draft Brett Favre.  But, Ken “We Want The Coach And The General Manager To Run The Team” Behring stuck his big snout into the proceedings and forced the team to draft the all-time greatest bust in Seahawks history.  Brett Favre went on to be a Super Bowl winning Hall of Famer.  Dan McGwire went on to suck dick for crack rock (allegedly).

Ken Behring was no NFL owner.  He was a fucking tourist.  He was a sexual harassing Good Time Charlie who enjoyed the power and prestige of owning an NFL franchise, but he wasn’t really an NFL fan.  This quote, from his own son, then-team president David Behring, is pretty telling:

“I had tremendous passion for the game,” said David Behring, who opposed his father’s decision to move the franchise. “I felt that I was getting along with many of the people, and I was trying to push my father into background so as not to be a target. But the ’92 season really turned him off from football. When you’re 2-14, you’re criticized daily.”

Bring a little adversity into his life, and look at what he does!  Tries to take his prestige and power to a city that placates people with prestige and power.  Seattle doesn’t give a FUCK about your money or your status (at least, not compared to L.A.).  So, while he might not have been a snake in the grass a la Clay Bennett, we’re still talking about an inevitability.  Seattle wouldn’t embrace him as being the King Sultan of the World, so he wouldn’t embrace Seattle.  It’s as simple as that.  You want to know why people from the Pacific Northwest tend to badmouth people from California?  Look no further than the example set by Ken Behring.

***

The other big name on this list for the Seahawks is Tim Ruskell.  Ruskell was brought in to replace Bob Whitsitt (who himself had supplanted Mike Holmgren in 2003 as the primary general manager).  This move was a no-brainer, because Whitsitt (originally hired by Paul Allen when he purchased the Seahawks to be the president of the team) was a basketball guy (also being Allen’s right hand with the Trail Blazers down in Portland).  Ruskell immediately selected Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill in the 2005 draft and the team went on to lose in the Super Bowl that very same year.

We thought, “All right!  We got something here!”  Holmgren was largely believed to be spread thin by doing double duty as head coach and GM; most people here thought his GM duties suffered.  He needed a football guy to handle player personnel, and after one season, Ruskell seemed to be the magic man.

But, Ruskell immediately lost all his goodwill by dicking around with Steve Hutchinson.  He also traded away a first round pick for Deion Branch (an insane price for a sub-par receiver), drafted an endless string of busts (Kelly Jennings, Lawrence Jackson, Josh Wilson, Aaron Curry), and signed an endless string of useless, old players (T.J. Duckett, Julius Jones, T.J. Houshmandzadeh).  By the time he was forced to resign after the 2009 season, it was pretty clear:  that Super Bowl team was Mike Holmgren’s team.  Holmgren brought in the bulk of the core that got us to the promised land.  Ruskell just caught on at the right time and bought himself five seasons even though he was a complete moron.

After those two guys, I’m finding it hard to find Seahawks I hate.  I think there’s a reason for that:  in baseball, it’s a lot easier to hate the player, because all of his money is guaranteed.  If you sign a huge contract in baseball, then you go on to suck, you’re stuck with him!  In football, if they sign big and suck, you just cut him and save yourself the cap space.

The first player that comes to mind for me is Jerramy Stevens.  I can’t STAND that guy.  He was a first round pick at tight end that was supposed to lock down the position for a decade or more.  But, of course, he came in and was middling at best.  He was NOT the dynamic game-changer you expect out of a first round pick.  Then, he ran his stupid fucking bitch mouth in the week leading up to Super Bowl XL, and THEN he proceeded to drop crucial, game-changing balls IN the Super Bowl!

I blame the refs for a lot when it comes to losing that game, but a VERY close #2 is Jerramy Stevens.  I hope that game haunts him until his dying breath.  Jerramy Stevens is the primary reason why you should NEVER draft a home town guy who is known to have legal issues in college.  If a guy has legal issues in college (drugs, drunk driving, date rape, plowing your vehicle into nursing homes), that means he’s a fucking idiot.  It also means he has fucking idiot friends.  When drafting a fucking idiot, you’ve got to get him as far away from his fucking idiot friends as possible, otherwise he’s never going to mature to the level you need him to.

After Stevens, I guess I’d throw Rick Mirer on this list.  This one’s a stretch, though, because he’s been gone so long.  And, when we traded him, we got a pretty hefty haul from the Bears in draft picks, so that mitigated a lot of the hate.  Nevertheless, he was a #2 overall draft pick after the Seahawks went 2-14.  A #2 overall drafted quarterback is SUPPOSED to be a franchise guy you can build your team around.  Mirer went on to have a decent rookie season, then made absolutely no strides whatsoever, and was a constant disappointment every season thereafter.

I don’t know what to tell you after those four guys.  The Boz?  There were quite a few Seattleites who didn’t like the guy.  He was KIND OF an overrated pile of shit who Bo Jackson made his bitch.  Then, he was an action movie star?  Then he was irrelevant?  I dunno, man.  I read his autobiography and I find him entertaining.  And now?  Now, I just kinda feel sorry for him.  Not only is he a punchline for his “movie career”, but he’s a punchline for the thing he ostensibly did the best:  play linebacker.  I don’t know what the Boz is doing with his life right now, but if it doesn’t involve soliciting gentlemen to pull out their dollar bills while playing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and asking that we all “give it up for Roxie”, then he has REALLY missed his life’s calling.

I know there are still some hard feelings about the whole Hutch debacle, with Seahawks fans soured on him for his dickish attitude following his signing with Minnesota, but truth be told I put 100% of the blame on Ruskell.  First, for not getting the long-term extension done, and second, for not using the Franchise Tag (but, rather, the Transitional Tag, which doesn’t come with nearly the penalty for other teams when they poach your players).

In fact, it’s hard to hate any of the free agent or draft busts either, because we know the person who was in charge.  Were Housh and Deion Branch irritating?  Sure they were!  It’s always irritating when you’re confronted with aging stars who think they’re better than they are (or better than they were five years prior).  But, they didn’t ask to come here.  They were brought over on the whim of a GM who was willing to over-pay so this team would be JUST good enough to be mediocre (but not so bad as to be blown up and start a true rebuilding process, which this team so desperately needed as it aged into retirement).

Since this post is also longer than I had anticipated, I’ll be making this one a three-parter.  God help us all.

Apathy Reigns Supreme: Seahawks Lose To Dallas

I’m not gonna lie to you, I woke up yesterday with plenty of time to catch this 10am contest (the end of Daylight Savings certainly helped with this), but I just had no desire whatsoever to sit here and actually watch it.  But, I did dip in and out a little bit.

What did I see when I DID see some of the action?  Well, I saw DeMarco Murray running all over our defense.  I saw Tarvar make terrible decisions on the way to three interceptions.  I saw Tony Romo do enough good things to justify his status as a starting quarterback in the NFL.  And I saw our defense completely unable to make any plays whatsoever.

No sacks.  Only three QB hits.  No picks.  One recovered fumble at the goalline after the Cowboys drove down the length of the field.  I’m all for a bend-don’t-break defense, but that’s only worthwhile when your offense isn’t worthLESS.  Now, I know we’re breaking in a lot of young players (especially in the secondary), but this defense is never going to take the next step into the Elite status if they can’t find a way to get to the quarterback!

We’ve got Chris Clemons with 5.0 sacks in 8 games.  The next-closest Seahawk in sacks is 7 guys … tied with 1.  The Seahawks as a team have 13 sacks, which puts us tied for 29th with the Indianapolis Colts.  The only teams worse are Tampa and Kansas City; not exactly the class of the NFL.  Now, I’m not gonna sit here and blame someone like Red Bryant – who I spend all this time raving about for how he’s helping our run defense – but someone HAS GOT to step up!  You know, it’s not completely unheard of for defensive tackles to get sacks!  The offensive line can’t double-team EVERY wide-body we have in the middle of that line!  Somebody needs to take the pressure off of Clemons, so he’s not the ONLY guy getting to the quarterback!

You know, it’s tough.  When a team – from an overall talent standpoint – falls as far as the Seahawks have fallen, you’ve got to build through the draft to fix certain positions on the team.  The Seahawks have chosen, the last two years, to fix the offensive line and the secondary (to the detriment of the Quarterback position and the defensvie line).  I know and fully understand that we HAVE to make a big splash in the draft for a QB, but sooner or later we’re going to have to take a high draft pick and shore up that D-Line with a big, fast, talented freak of nature.  We’ve spent too many years trying to play catch-up by signing past-their-prime free agents who inevitably get hurt inside of two seasons and never play football again.  At some point, we’ve got to build from within.

The 90s may have been a highly frustrating time to be a Seahawks fan (some of the most frustrating seasons ever), but one thing those teams could do was get after the quarterback.  Michael Sinclair, Cortez Kennedy, Michael McCrary, Phillip Daniels, Sam Adams … those were high-quality to All-Pro type guys!  An active and tenacious defensive line can single-handedly keep you in games.  They make quarterbacks rush their throws, they sack the quarterback & stuff the run, they put teams in 3rd & Long situations and they generate fumbles.  Obviously, all of that doesn’t mean anything if you’ve got the Seahawks’ offense playing they way they played yesterday.

BUT.  This is a defense I think we can all agree is starting to look like it’s going places.  We’ve got two huge playmakers at our safety position; we’ve got a couple more tall, lanky cornerbacks who are quickly making us forget the names Kelly Jennings & Josh Wilson; we’ve got hard-hitting, low-draft choice linebackers out there making plays; and we’ve got Red Bryant being a total game-changer at the defensive end spot (even though he doesn’t get sacks).  We’re ALMOST there.  We just need a guy now who can help Clemons (and eventually replace Clemons) as a pass-rushing monster.

Defensive line is a need and it has been a need for some time now.  Mike Holmgren spent his entire tenure neglecting the position.  We can’t continue with this trend under Pete Carroll.  Sunday’s game is one of the MANY reasons why.

Seattle Mariners 2011 Preview, Part 2: The Hitters

It’s a preview, so I could easily bang this post out in my sleep (the only real requirement involves Being Totally & Completely Wrong).  But, I read this little number from Larry Stone yesterday, and I couldn’t resist playing Copycat.  For the record, Stone is MUCH more forgiving than I am (one would think it’d be the opposite, with the fan (me) figuring out ways as to how this squad will be a MILLION times better than last year’s, but I digress).

Let’s start with the Catcher position:

Olivo/Moore vs. Moore/Bard/Rob Johnson.  This looks to be no contest in favor of 2011’s tandem.  Rob Johnson was a waste of fucking life, Bard is no better than any other aging career backup (a.k.a. Rob Johnson in five years), and Moore briefly started to get things going, then he got hurt and never recovered.  Olivo looks to be better than all of them combined, but then again what is that really saying about our 2010 catchers?  At best, he’s top 2 in team OPS (again, what is THAT really saying about our team as a whole?); at worst he’s a Jose Lopez-like drain smack dab in the middle of the order.  The horror.

Nevertheless, give the nod to 2011.  I may have complained about the signing when it happened, but he’s going to be a crucial part of our success (or failure) this season, so I better get used to Miguel Olivo.

First base:

Smoak vs. Kotchman/Smoak.  Stone gave the edge here to 2011, but I’m holding the damn phone.  While I will TOTALLY grant you that this position couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse (unless it were the DH position of a year ago), I’m still not so sold on Smoak.  He’s going to have to prove it to me.  Because if he comes out struggling (for whatever excuse you want to give:  pressing too much, trying too hard, wanting to do too much, not staying within himself), he’s likely going to be benched and probably even sent down to Tacoma to “work on his swing”, whatever that means.  Struggling begets struggling in this game, and if struggling leads to Smoak turning into Adam Kennedy, we’re going to WISH we still had Casey Kotchman to kick around.

Ergo, I’m saying this is Even and giving the edge to no one until Justin Smoak shows me otherwise.

Second Base:

Jack Wilson/Dustin Ackley vs. Figgins.  Stone gave the edge to 2010, mostly based upon a marginally torrid second half out of Figgy.  When “.286 after the All Star Break” is the barometer you’ve set for success, you know you’re gonna have a bad time.  Personally, I like Jack Wilson.  Yes he gets a bad rap for always getting injured (probably because he’s always getting injured), but when he’s healthy I think he’s quite effective!  I mean, he’s no Luis Sojo, but the guy has been known to get hot at the plate every once in a while.  Of course, he’s also been known to get equally as cold, but that’s neither here nor there.  I like Jack’s bat a helluva lot more than I like Josh Wilson’s, and I might even like it even more than Brendan Ryan’s.  As for Ackley, I think it’s a foregone conclusion he takes over second base for good, once the Mariners are officially 20 games out of first place (a.k.a. sometime in Early June).  But, that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily sold on Ackley The Rookie coming in and dominating.  You know how I feel about rookies.  Yes, I think they should get the most playing time on bad teams to show what they can do, but no, I don’t think they should be counted on to produce like All Stars.

I’m calling this one Even as well.  I think Jack Wilson’s first half will be close to equal to Figgins’ second half last year; and I think Ackley’s second half will be close to equal to Figgins’ first half last year.

Short Stop:

Brendan Ryan vs. Wilson/Wilson.  I was going to make this a trifecta of Infield Evens, but I think Stone convinced me to give the edge to 2011.  Look, Josh Wilson’s a likeable guy, and he filled in admirably last year (especially on the defensive side of things; we never missed a beat with the glovework between the two Wilsons), but he’s more Mascot or Team Pet than he is a Major League ballplayer.  Brendan Ryan is a Major League ballplayer.  No, I don’t expect him to set Safeco Field’s fences on fire with all his doubles power, but he’s got to be worth more than an injury-plagued Wilson and a singles-slapping Wilson.

Advantage 2011, but just BARELY.

Third Base:

Figgins vs. Lopez.  The theme of 2011, what everyone is banking on is:  It Can’t Get Any Worse.  So many players last year were at their absolute worst, including Bradley, Lopez, Kotchman, Griffey, and yes, Figgins.  Most of those players are no longer with the team; ALL of those players were priced to move for any trusting club to take off of our hands.  BUT, Figgins remains.  And I’ll go ahead and bite:  Figgins COULDN’T POSSIBLY be any worse than he was in 2010.  Unless you think his career is over, and I don’t.  NOT because of his “hot” second half last year, but because he’s had these anomaly-type seasons before and has always bounced back.  I’ll even go so far as to believe the switch back to third base will be beneficial.  But, there’s no way he’s done.  I’m going to leave it in the hands of Faith on this one.

Lopez, meanwhile, is done.  Just ask the Colorado Rockies.  Advantage 2011.

Left Field:

Bradley/Saunders vs. Bradley/Saunders.  I’m tweaking this from Stone’s version, as I believe Saunders will eventually stick in Left Field.  Something tells me he’s going to turn it on this year at the plate.  I do agree with Stone that (like third base), we couldn’t possibly do any worse, but there’s no way Bradley survives a full season of playing in the field.  SOMEONE else will force a platoon, and why not Saunders?  In 2010, he finally showed a little of that power he’s always had; now, if he can just manage to get a hit in better than 1/5 of his at bats, we just might have something here.

To 2011!  To Michael Saunders realizing his full potential (finally)!

Center Field:

Guti vs. Guti.  Stone has the edge to 2010 based solely on the fact that we don’t know what’s wrong with Guti’s stomach and we don’t know how long it’s going to keep him out.  I agree wholeheartedly that this is of utmost concern – in fact, it might be the biggest story of the season that no one is really talking about.  What if they NEVER find out what’s wrong with Guti?  What if he tries to eventually play through the pain only to struggle like he did last year?  Guti is a core guy!  He’s a building block to what’s supposed to be a winning ball club (in a few years)!  We NEED this guy!

I’m calling this a Draw based on the simple fact that I’m going to be optimistic in this one instance.  Guti started strong, then faded badly in 2010; I’m banking on the reverse this year.

Right Field:

Ichiro vs. Ichiro.  How could this NOT be even.  Stone and I are of the same mind here.  Give the man 200 hits and a Gold Glove and GET THE HELL OUT OF HIS WAY!

Designated Hitter:

Cust vs. Branyan/Griffey/Sweeney.  Stone likes Cust.  I like EVEN!  Essentially, Cust IS Branyan, except without the pure power.  I believe if you took 2010 Branyan, played him all year at DH with the 2010 Mariners, they would have almost identical lines except Branyan would have a few more homers than 2011 Cust.  Yes, Griffey was complete and total dead weight, but don’t forget Sweeney was a man possessed when he finally got the nod (and before he went down with back spasms).  Sweeney, in his month of terror, was better than every hitter except for Ichiro last year.  Man, I miss Sweeney.  I miss the hugs!

I like Cust, but I don’t like him THAT much.  And I think his strikeouts will start to outweigh his power and his walks over the course of a full season.  Even Steven.

Overall, my impressions aren’t great, but they’re equal to or better than 2010 across the board.  Mostly going on faith in this one.  I’m going to trust Olivo has enough pop to make up for what Lopez was SUPPOSED to give us last year.  I’m going to assume Figgins will return to glory and Bradley will … not fall below the Mendoza Line once and for all.  I’m going to go out on a limb and hope for progress out of Smoak and Saunders, and I’m going to pray to the Pepto gods that Guti gets over whatever it is he’s got.  I’m going to perish the thought of Ichiro finally starting to show his age, and finally I’m going to not expect too much out of our middle infielders (and accordingly be pleasantly surprised).

Do I think we will be better?  Compared to what?  The sheer abomination that was 2010?  We were LITERALLY the worst hitting ballclub in the modern era!  How could we NOT be better?

Well, let’s see.  Maybe Ichiro’s bat speed takes a dive and he hits .240.  Suddenly, he’s not legging out those infield singles anymore and what little power he had completely vanishes.  Smoak and Saunders continue to struggle, putting them mere steps away from being out of baseball.  Miguel Olivo is our home run leader with 16.  Jack Cust turns into Richie Sexson-heavy.  Jack Wilson gets injured in May and Adam Kennedy is Eric Byrnes Redux.  Brendan Ryan remains Brendan Ryan; Milton Bradley remains Milton Bradley.  Chone Figgins discovers he’s got the full blown Mariners Curse.  Franklin Gutierrez never fully recovers from his stomach ailment.  And with a rash of constant injuries beleaguering our lineup from top to bottom, we’re forced to play a bunch of AAA guys who seriously are NOT ready for Prime Time.

I guess that’s how we could be worse.  Dear God I hope we’re not worse.

And I don’t REALLY think we will be.  But, that doesn’t mean I believe we’ll be all that much better.  I wish I knew what amount of wins it would take to guarantee that Jackie Z keeps his job, because I want to see what he can do next winter when he’s actually got some money to throw around.  Does it even matter?  Is 70 the magic number?  Is it 75?  Or is it simply NOT losing another 100 games while showing marginal improvement from the guys who are believed to be the Future of the Franchise?

I hope it’s that.  Because I think that’s something we can actually accomplish.  There’s a lot to like with what Z is doing for our farm system.  We’ve improved tremendously since he got here AND we have the Number 2 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.  That’s another rising star not long for the minors.

I’m getting off topic here.  Do I think we’re better?  Yes, but not by much.  The outfield is exactly the same as last year.  Exactly.  The infield is basically the same as it was for the second half of last year, just shuffled around a bit.  Brendan Ryan is pretty much the same type of power threat as Jose Lopez was in his underperforming last season.  Cust is Branyan, meaning our only real improvement is Olivo over Rob Johnson/Josh Bard.  We’re 1 man better (with a lot of hoping and praying that everyone else who did poorly last year improves).  That should amount to more overall wins, but not many.

Record Prediction:  65-97.  AL West Finish:  4th Place.  Draft Pick in 2012:  4.

Looks Like We’ve Got A Roster

Sorry for the website sucking dick; at least I can finally start posting again. 

Josh Wilson is gone.  I guess I didn’t really see that one coming.  Then again, it’s not shocking.  I’m not falling out of my chair in disbelief.  He’s a poor man’s Willie Bloomquist; you can find them on any street corner for two bits a gander.

Luke French has been sent away.  Again, nothing we haven’t come to expect over the last couple weeks when Michael Pineda started asserting his dominance like a rottweiler over a poodle.

Some crappy relievers were pushed aside to give young bucks who like to fuck a chance to show their smoke.

It’s Wednesday, a little after 7am, and thus far no word on any trades coming down the pike.  It LOOKS like … we’ve got an Opening Day Roster!

The Batters/Fielders:

C – Miguel Olivo
1B – Justin Smoak
2B – Jack Wilson
SS – Brendan Ryan
3B – Chone Figgins
LF – Milton Bradley
CF – Michael Saunders
RF – Ichiro
DH – Jack Cust

The Bench:

C – Adam Moore
Inf – Adam Kennedy
OF – Ryan Langerhans
Inf – Luis Rodriguez

The Starting Pitchers:

1. Felix
2. Vargas
3. Fister
4. Bedard
5. Pineda

The Relievers:

Closer:  Brandon League
Set Up:  Chris Ray
Set Up:  Jamey Wright
Set Up:  Josh Lueke
Lefty:  Aaron Laffey
Long:  Tom Wilhelmsen
Long:  David Pauley

Disabled List:

CF:  Franklin Gutierrez
Closer:  David Aardsma

It’s certainly going to be interesting to see who gets chopped once Guti is ready to come back.  Before this whole stomach cancer thing (or whatever it is got Guti so gone), Michael Saunders was all but a lock to start the season in Tacoma.  Meanwhile, Ryan Langerhans did everything to play his way into the 4th Outfield slot in Spring Training.  However, Saunders has showed greater discipline and greater ability to hit the low-and-away fastball over the last couple of weeks since he adopted his new stance.  If he continues this torrid streak into the first week or two of the regular season … who knows!

I’ll get to position breakdowns in the next couple of days (website or no website) with my official 2-part Seattle Mariners Preview.  In the meantime, I’ll just say this:  from a pure aesthetic standpoint, I like looking at this team more with Pineda over French and Wilhelmsen over Cesar Jimenez.  Now if we could only do something about Jamey Wright.

Predicting The Mariners 2011 Roster

I am well aware that we’re in the infancy of Spring Training, but what else are we going to do for the next few weeks but speculate, speculate, speculate?

Therefore, without further adieu, I give you what I think will be YOUR Seattle Mariners in 2011 (at least, before injuries, cuts, trades, surprise retirements, and jail time set in).

We’ll start with the Starters:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Erik Bedard
  3. Jason Vargas
  4. Doug Fister
  5. Nate Robertson

First thing’s first:  that fifth starter is easily the weakest position on the team; you better come out of the block on fire if you hope to keep your job after the first couple months.  Because we have hot shot Michael Pineda – who SHOULD be the unquestioned fifth starter, but won’t be because if we start him out in AAA, his years don’t start counting against the organization (in other words, if he started out the season with the big ballclub, he would be a free agent a year sooner, after team control finally ends).

Also, nobody is saying Nate Robertson has anything won; he’s on a minor league contract after all.  There will be a 3-way battle (sans Pineda) between him, Luke French, and David Pauley.  First place gets to rent the fifth starter job, second place gets to be our bullpen long man (and pitch every 11 days or so), and third place gets to go to Tacoma.  And, since Pauley and French are already on the active roster, Robertson will have to heavily impress in Spring Training to be retained for the season.

On to the bullpen (with one minor note that David Aardsma WILL be our closer, but since he just had hip surgery, he might miss the first full month of the season; for the sake of argument, I’m including him in the following projection):

  • Closer:  David Aardsma
  • 8th Inning:  Brandon League
  • 7th Inning:  Chris Ray
  • Set Up:  Josh Lueke
  • Set Up:  Dan Cortes
  • Set Up:  Josh Flores
  • Long Reliever:  Luke French

My guess is, with French’s stability towards the end of last season, his hard work carries over to this Spring where he wins the backup job.  He’s also a left hander, so that will be cool.  Josh Flores is a Rule 5 guy Jackie Z decided to give a shot.  He played last year in A-ball, but he has high upside, so I think we’ll do everything in our power to keep him.  Lueke and Flores are both young up-and-comers who SHOULD win spots (one or both could run into the same Michael Pineda scenario where we try to delay their debuts with the big ballclub; if one has to start in Tacoma, I’d bet on Lueke, since Flores got to see some time with Seattle in September of last year).  Chris Ray is one of a thousand relievers we signed to minor league deals, and his is one of the biggest names (he was an effective closer in recent years, coming off injuries).  The other is Manny Delcarmen, and I have to believe one of those guys is done (my bet is Delcarmen, though he may have the better fastball).  League will probably be our closer until DA returns (with probably Jamey Wright taking up DA’s spot in said meantime).

Like last year, there’s a lot to like about our pitching staff.  Of course, it’s impossible to predict who’s going to tank out of nowhere like RRS did last year, but if things hold serve, having Felix, Bedard, and Vargas as our top three will be pretty impressive.  If anyone regresses, it’ll definitely be Fister, who was unable to keep up his pre-DL production post-DL last year.  He just doesn’t have the fastball, and if he’s not hitting spots with pinpoint precision, then he’s getting crushed and will likely be demoted once Pineda’s ready.  Speaking of Pineda:  when he enters the rotation and we can pump out Felix, Bedard, Vargas, and Pineda … WATCH OUT.  A lot to like about those four guys.

The bullpen is even fascinating in its own right.  Will DA return with a vengeance?  Will League improve upon his up-and-down 2010, where at times he was unhittable and at others he was my worst nightmare?  Will Ray or Delcarmen return to being awesome?  Will Lueke and Cortes make impact names for themselves?

I don’t have nearly the glowing praise of the following hitters, but let’s take a look at the starting nine:

  1. Ichiro – RF
  2. Chone Figgins – 3B
  3. Justin Smoak – 1B
  4. Jack Cust – DH
  5. Franklin Gutierrez – CF
  6. Miguel Olivo – C
  7. Michael Saunders
  8. Jack Wilson – SS
  9. Brendan Ryan – 2B

Limited power!  A lot of strikeouts!  Low batting averages!  Who could want anything more?

A key, as always, will be the 3-4-5 hitters.  Will Smoak take the next step in becoming a bonafide major leaguer?  Will Jack Cust be the designated hitter we’ve been lacking since 2004?  Will Franklin Gutierrez adjust to how pitchers have adjusted to him?  All three of these things need to happen for us to be an adequate ballclub; my guess is we see a lot of shuffling of the 3-4-5 spots like last year.

I see Miguel Olivo batting 6th primarily because he’s probably our 3rd best home run threat after Cust and Gutierrez.  He might even be our 2nd best home run threat.  Go ahead and let that sink in.  I’ll wait.

If you haven’t already taken an overdose of sleeping pills, imagine the black hole our last three spots will be (don’t get up, I’ll go get the bottle).  Ye gods; I have nothing positive to say about any of those guys so I won’t say anything at all.

Our bench is looking like this:

  • Milton Bradley – LF/DH
  • Adam Moore – C
  • Adam Kennedy
  • Ryan Langerhans

My guess is Bradley – because of his contract – and Moore – because we have to develop SOMEBODY at catcher after spending so many high draft picks on them – are locks to make the team.  Adam Kennedy is in a dogfight with Josh Wilson and a bevy of other crappy infielders for that bench spot.  My guess is his old batting form returns enough in Spring Training to earn him a job, only to suck balls once the calendar flips to April (a la Eric Byrnes last year).  Ryan Langerhans is in a similar dogfight with such exciting names as Gabe Gross and Jody Gerut for the backup outfielder spot.  I think he’ll pull it out because … I dunno, I just like him I guess.  And because his last name reminds me of Jagerbombs.

Of note is Dustin Ackley, who will also be a Michael Pineda-esque casualty (only to be brought up mid-season like the other young’uns).  On the one hand, I understand the financial aspect of getting these potential rising stars for an extra year; on the other, this team is HELLA-boring when the kids are in AAA.  Assuming, of course, that we lose upwards of 60% of our games again.  Which likely WILL happen.

So, that’s that; we’ll see how right I am.  By the way, I’m still not ready for baseball to start.  Maybe a little Spring Training buzz will light my fire.

Questionable Moves: To Housh Or Not To Housh

Happy Days Are Here Again!

The youth movement continues!  By the way, this one seems to be a little less questionable than the Josh Wilson trade when you think about it, though it’s still tough to lose your most productive receiver.

Look.  You can’t kill the organization for playing it like it is:  they’re admiting that this is officially a Rebuilding Project.  Ergo, it’s more important to give younger players real game experience (as opposed to preseason experience) than it is to ride out veterans in what’s already going to be a lost cause regardless, just because they’re earning money the team doesn’t necessarily want to eat.

I think it’s refreshing to see a team willing to eat $7 million!  I’d much rather ditch the sunk cost – who’s just going to pout and bitch and rant and rave anyway – than have to suffer a losing season, on top of his pouting and bitching and ranting and raving!

For too long, under Tim Ruskell, the Seahawks tried to put a Band Aid over a sliced jugular.  Overpaying for veterans as a panic move due to previous seasons’ deficiencies.  Housh last year because of 2008’s apocalypse at wide receiver; Branch before that in a trade with New England.  Grant and Russell at safety due to the year prior’s problems with getting beat by the long ball.  Wistrom and Kerney for one decent season’s work to compensate for a lack of pass rush.  It’s about time we just trust our drafts, put the team in the hands of youth, and let’s find out what we have.

So many players have come and gone who could’ve made an impact, but were released in favor of older guys with experience.  It’s about time to give these young guys that very experience they’ll need to exceed.

The Seahawks Are Mostly-Defeated Under Pete Carroll

And a 1-3 preseason concludes with a 27-24 defeat in Oakland that was forgotten almost as soon as it ended.

This Game Would've Been More Entertaining To Watch

What did we learn in a game where Hasselbeck never played?  Where the leading rusher went 6 carries for 31 yards?  Where the leading receiver was Deon Butler with 7 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown (while T.J. Houshmandzadeh is currently riding the cold steel of the Trading Block)?  Where the only real flash of excitement came on Louis Rankin’s 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown (when he’s not exactly a lock to make the team thanks to God Damn Julius Jones)?

We didn’t learn a damn thing.  This game was pointless, we no longer have Josh Wilson, we’re looking to unload or maybe even release Housh, and my 6-10 prediction for the season is firm in my gut.

Charlie looked okay.  Mare hit 3 field goals.  Bring on the regular season.

Questionable Moves: Wilson & Hill

Well, so much for this post being relevant.

I’m officially keeping track of all Questionable Moves that these teams make while on my watch.  I’d say yesterday’s transactions were the 2nd/3rd questionable moves of the season right after giving away so much just to sign Charlie Whitehurst.  These are the moves we can look back on later and either say, “I told you so,” or “Shut my mouth!”

First, I guess the Leroy Hill thing isn’t really all that questionable when it sits on its own:  they decided to keep his talents in the Puget Sound by taking money away from his base salary and voiding all years after this season.  In essence, he forfeited about $4 million, but he’ll be a free agent next year, so financially it’ll probably work out for everyone.  And, this way, David Hawthorne can be our starting linebacker next year.

But, that immediately becomes questionable when in the context of:  Seahawks Trade Josh Wilson For 5th Round Pick.  In short:  why keep someone like Hill and give up someone like Wilson?

Well, I guess the main answer is:  we’re stacked at cornerback, we like Thurmond the rookie, and we don’t think he’ll make it to the Practice Squad.

But Wilson … he’s OBVIOUSLY the 2nd best corner on the team!  He’s got blazing speed, he’s a bit of a ball hawk, and he’s leaps and bounds better than Kelly Jennings, who’s like a twig that’s already snapped halfway in two.

My theory – the one that keeps me sane at night when I sit awake thinking about how we gave away a talented kick returner and cornerback for only a 5th rounder – is that the team was trying like gangbusters to trade away Kelly Jennings, but unfortunately, teams either didn’t want him or were only offering something like a 7th rounder.  Those same teams probably all came back and requested Josh Wilson, but nobody’s going to give up more than a 5th round pick for someone who’s 5’9 and has never made a Pro Bowl.

In essence, that 5th rounder is probably as good as we were going to get.  My question is:  would it have been better for the team to just keep Wilson on board?  I mean, who are we going to draft in the 5th round next year that’s going to be better than Josh Wilson is now and probably will be for the next few years?

Player Profile: Josh Wilson

Will we have a surprise Pro Bowler in cornerback Josh Wilson?

Daddy Like

Now look, I’m not here betting my damn farm on whether Josh Wilson is going to make the Pro Bowl or not.  The guy isn’t even officially the starting cornerback opposite Marcus Trufant yet for Christ’s sake!

But, I’ll tell you what, now is the time for crazy predictions, and here’s one for your eyes and ears:  Josh Wilson will be in the Pro Bowl at season’s end.  I just have a feeling about the guy, don’t ask me why.  I know for damned sure that Kelly Jennings won’t be the everyday starting corner once the regular season begins; I can tell you that much right now.

“Be that as it may,” you may be saying, “but how can you make that kind of outlandish statement when a guy – who’s only 5-foot-9, I might add – has only caught 6 interceptions in 3 years?”

Look, I didn’t say it was logical.  I didn’t say it was based on any empirical evidence.  But, shit man, lots of crazy stuff happens in an NFL season.  Teams go from Worst to First.  Players, from out of nowhere, go on to have career years.  And I’m telling you right now I think Josh Wilson is poised to have a career year!

Let’s break it down, though.  This is his 4th season.  If anyone is going to be anything in the NFL, it’s going to happen in his 4th year.  You’ve gone through the rookie growing pains, you’ve made strides in your next couple of years; now you’re a veteran.  You’ve pretty much seen it all.

And let’s not forget Wilson’s tools:  he’s fast, he’s a leaper, he’s got an eye for the football, and he’s got plenty of moves once he’s got his hands ON that football.  He’s hard-nosed, and he’s been doubted his entire life.  Factor in Trufant’s improved play on the other side, and you gotta figure other teams are going to challenge Wilson more.  With more challenges comes more opportunities to make plays.

Josh Wilson is going to be a key factor in our pass defense this year.  With Earl Thomas being a rookie, with Lawyer Milloy helping out on the run and vs. tight ends, Wilson is probably going to have to make some plays on his own.  He’s probably going to have to be in the right place at the right time when balls are tipped high in the air.  He’s probably going to have to return a couple of these INTs for TDs.

But hear me well!  Josh Wilson: Pro Bowl Cornerback.  Bank on it.

Player Profile: Marcus Trufant

Who needs to have a bigger bounce-back year than Marcus Trufant?

Used To Be A Running Back In High School

One might argue Hasselbeck, but let’s face it, last season was pretty rough on my boy Trufant.

He missed the first six games last year thanks to the PUP list for an injured back, then proceeded to try and play catch-up for a team already 2-4.  His first game back was at Dallas and he was murdered by pass interference and holding penalties all game.  For the season, Trufant only had 2 picks and 6 passes defended in 10 games.  That might cut it for your nickel-back, but for the guy who’s supposed to be your starting, Pro Bowl corner against the other team’s best receiver … that’s got to improve.

Obviously Trufant is the best corner we have.  I’m still hearing that Josh Wilson will be the #3, which leads me to believe – since we didn’t re-sign Ken Lucas – that either Kelly Jennings or rookie Walter Thurmond will be starting opposite Trufant.  In other words, as Seahawks fans, we’ll have enough to worry about with other teams’ number 2 wide receivers; I don’t want to have to worry about whether or not Marcus can shake 2009 off and come back stronger than ever.

Which, I think he will.  I mean, you miss pre-season, you miss 6 games, then you’re thrown right into the fire of a desperate situation with a losing team … and who’s to say you’re even 100% when you got back?  Last year was pretty understandable.  And by all accounts, he’s healthy now.