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.

George Kirby’s Debut Can’t Paper Over How Terrible The Mariners Have Been Lately

Making the Sunday finale your only victory of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is annoying in so many ways. By the time you get to that game, you’re so fucking sick and tired of the Mariners’ bullshit, you can barely muster the energy to watch. However, it’s a joyous occasion nevertheless, and sends you off into a new week with a better taste in your mouth. Nevermind the fact that for three days prior, they’ve been shovelling shit into your mouth; that last spoonful of sugar makes things seem like they’ll be okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just three days of shit, just three days of shit courtesy of the Rays. Prior to that, we were swept in three games by the Astros. If you want to take it back even further, it’s been shit in 10 out of 11 games prior to Sunday. I’d say we got our fill.

On a semi-related tangent, this is why the Mariners have been so reluctant to extend Mitch Haniger. We needed him desperately for this stretch, and where has he been? Sure, it’s terrible luck that he got COVID (although, I mean, if he’s not vaxed against it, then I don’t know if I feel sorry for him in that regard) and backed that up almost immediately by spraining an ankle, but this is the sort of hard-luck shit he’s had to deal with for most of his career. He has supremely terrible injury luck! So did Franklin Gutierrez and a million other guys throughout the history of this game. If you can’t count on someone to be on the field almost everyday, then what’s the point in signing them to a long-term extension?

I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this Rays series; in the grand scheme of things, who cares? We officially went 2-5 against them this season, so that’s a playoff tiebreaker we won’t have, if it comes to that. On Thursday, Robbie Ray had “One Bad Inning”, which is an excuse I’ve always hated, dating back to the Jeff Fassero days. You can have one bad inning out of seven innings pitched until the cows come home, but if you give up 4 runs in that inning, and lose 4-3, then I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a good game that day.

We had a chance to break this streak on Friday, but Paul Sewald had a rare blown save/loss by giving up a 3-run homer in the ninth. I was in attendance on Saturday, but even that wasn’t enough good luck to turn things around, as Diego Castillo had a total meltdown (5 runs, including a grand slam, without registering an out).

The saving grace (sort of) was that Kirby start on Sunday. He looked every bit the elite, ace-type prospect everyone’s said he is, by going 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. He touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and averaged in the mid-90’s. His breaking stuff was pretty nasty. He saw a lot of full counts – from what I saw, on the little TV, while re-watching the first season of Stranger Things on the big TV – but was able to challenge hitters and keep them off-balance.

Even then, the M’s did everything they could to try and lose it, not scoring until the bottom of the ninth. After the Rays finally scored in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Mariners would lose 1-0. Then, Mr. Clutch, Abraham Toro, pulled a solo homer into the right field stands to tie it up. Paul Sewald got back on the horse to keep the Rays off the board in the tenth, giving Ty France a chance to win it with a single in the bottom half. An exciting, 2-1 extra innings victory is a helluva way to end the six-game losing streak, but I’m still going to bitch about those losses for a while.

The Mariners are 13-16. They’re still hitting like shit up and down the lineup. Ty France can’t do everything. J.P. Crawford came up with back spasms in Saturday’s game (in a stupidly futile attempt to dive into first base, most likely), so he’s day-to-day. No word on Haniger’s return, but I’m sure he’s going to keep making it worse instead of letting it heal on its own. Kyle Lewis is in Tacoma trying to work his way back, but I’m not holding my breath. That Ken Giles signing – a 2-year deal, knowing the entire first year would be lost to injury – sure looks idiotic now that he’s on the 60-day IL and is looking like he’ll miss both fucking years.

Oh, and in all of their infinite wisdom, the Mariners have decided to not only send Matt Brash to Tacoma, but have converted him to a reliever in hopes that he’ll be able to return to the Major Leagues this season in time to help us with our playoff run. This is a topic for a separate post, because I have a lot to say on this particular issue. Spoiler alert: the Mariners are idiots probably.

And, just in case anyone was wondering about potential help coming from the minors, in case this Kirby experiement also goes tits up and we need a veteran starter to eat innings, I wouldn’t count on it. Nick Margevicius just got cut for extreme incompetence, Justus Sheffield is also getting rocked in Tacoma, and you’re better off not looking at the stats of the other guys we have starting down there. It turns out, the PCL is a total wasteland in every single respect (hitting is too easy – making the jump from AAA to the Majors extremely difficult – and pitching is almost impossible to do well).

It’s May in Seattle, which means it’s time to lose all faith in the Mariners. Right on schedule!

The Mariners Sure Did Suck On That Road Trip

How do you blow up all the good will you built over an exciting 7-2 homestand? Well, you promptly go out on the road and lose 7 of 9, and you look fucking inept doing it.

There’s nothing quite as impotent as the Mariners when they play baseball in Houston (except maybe the Democrats whenever they have the presidency and a majority in both houses of Congress … politics!). This was on full display this week, as we were treated to a shitshow of all shitshows. The M’s SHOULD HAVE been shut out for three straight games. As it was, they were shut out for 24 consecutive innings in this series, and 26 out of 27 innings overall.

3-0, 4-0, 7-2. That’s all you need to know. We had 5 hits on Monday, all of 2 at-bats with a runner in scoring position; we had 4 hits on Tuesday, again just 2 at-bats with a runner in scoring position; and, for good measure, we had 5 hits yesterday, going 0 for 1 with a runner in scoring position (the two runs were scored on a 2-run bomb by Suarez with a runner on first base, after the Astros had already built up their 7-run advantage).

This was just a pathetic road trip any way you slice it, with the nadir coming in Houston. Crawford and France are the only hitters showing up. Frazier has been a huge disappointment (with his defense being borderline atrocious); Winker has been a collosal fucking turd, and I don’t give a fuck about how “unlucky” he’s been; Suarez is more bust than boom; Toro doesn’t do ANYTHING well, and is killing his trade value; Julio is a rookie and he gets a pass; but Kelenic ISN’T a rookie and he needs to get his shit together in a hurry, or else he’s got a date with a certain Tacoma-based minor league baseball team; and the catchers have cooled off considerably.

The only good thing to come out of this series was Jose Altuve fouling a baseball off his testicles. I know we don’t root for injuries, but we sure as shit root for cheaters to get their just desserts with extra chopped nuts on top.

Oh, and as icing on the cake, Matt Brash suffered his second consecutive shitty start with four runs given up in three innings on Wednesday. I know he’s a rookie and he gets a pass as well, but it would be nice to see a quality start here and there, you know, to mix things up a little bit.

Of course, the Mariners now come home to play the Rays over the next four days. They appear to be vastly better than us right now, so I don’t have a lot of hope for turning things around. In fact, the rest of the month of May looks like one monster matchup after another. This might indeed put us in a hole we’re unable to get out of. Just like last year. Fun!

The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

The Mariners Are Red Hot, Swept The Royals

I don’t think anyone is confusing the Kansas City Royals with a potential playoff team – so our head-to-head record against them will probably not mean much – but you still love to see your team win the games they’re supposed to win, and these were three games the Mariners were SUPPOSED to win.

This, in large part, makes up for that infuriating loss to the Rangers. We really should’ve had the sweep there, so failing that, it’s nice to get one here. Heading into this 9-game homestand, if you offered me 7-2, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. So, I’m not going to be butthurt that it wasn’t 8-1. In all honesty, if you told me we’d go 7-2, I would’ve expected to lose both of those games to the Astros, so this is actually BETTER.

As it happened, I missed all three against the Royals. On Friday, I was at the Dave Attell show at the Tacoma Comedy Club, so you can forgive me if I have priorities. It sounds like I missed a hell of an enjoyable game! Chris Flexen pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball, Anthony Misiewicz got the hold, and Andres Munoz got the first save of his Mariners career.

Even more impressive – given the game finished 4-1 – is that all the runs were scored off of extra-base hits by the future of the franchise: J-Rod with a 2-run double, and Kelenic with a 2-run triple. In a game without much firepower from the offense, that’s HUGE. Suarez led the way with 3 hits; J.P. Crawford and J-Rod both had 2 hits to go with Kelenic’s one.

Saturday’s game sounded like a lot of fun (unless you’re a fan of pitching). Matt Brash ran into some trouble in the fifth; he finished with 4.1 innings, 3 runs on 5 hits and 4 walks, with only 2 strikeouts. The bullpen and defense (two more errors, including yet another by J.P.) didn’t help a whole lot, but thankfully the offense was up to the task. It wasn’t all terrible by the bullpen, of course, but Yohan Ramirez took the brunt of it, giving up 3 runs while only recording a single out. Otherwise, they gave up 1 unearned run in 4.1 innings.

Where do you even begin with the offense, though? The M’s scored in each of the first three innings, to build a 5-1 lead. Then, we tacked on a run in the 6th and 7th before exploding for six more runs in the 8th. So, even though the Royals had a brief 7-6 lead in the top of the 7th, we really mauled the shit out of them to win 13-7.

Ty France was 5 for 6 with 3 runs and 5 RBI (including a 3-run homer to put it away in the 8th). J.P. was 2 for 5 with a 2-run homer early, Suarez was 2 for 3 (both doubles) with 2 walks, Murphy and J-Rod both had two hits and two runs scored, and Toro, Kelenic, and Winker all had big hits and RBIs. Basically, everyone but Adam Frazier contributed, and it was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

The Mariners capped off the homestand with a 12-inning thriller on Sunday, where we won 5-4. In this one, Jesse Winker was the long-overdue hero, hitting a sac fly in the 10th to re-tie the game, before hitting an RBI single in the 12th to win it.

Robbie Ray had another Quality Start, going 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, and the bullpen did their job heading into the 9th, with Festa and Swanson both doing good work. However, Drew Steckenrider had his second consecutive pisspoor outing, giving up a solo homer to tie the game at 3-3. From there, though, the bullpen snapped right back into dominant mode. Castillo gave up the ghost runner on second in the 10th, but both Matt Koch and Ramirez held the Royals scoreless the next two innings to give us a chance to win it.

Ty France had another 3 hits and 2 RBI, J.P. had two more hits in the middle of our lineup, and Frazier had a hit and 3 runs scored at the top.

I’ll tell you what, France is as hot as I’ve ever seen anyone, slashing .375/.459/.656. J.P. Crawford is up there, though, with .352/.471/.574. I’m also loving what Suarez is bringing to the table; he’s certainly exceeded expectations, even though his .527 slugging percentage is no shocker. Toro and Frazier are starting to contribute more and more, and J-Rod doesn’t look overwhelmed in the slightest. With Kelenic and now Winker starting to heat up, this is a VERY formidable lineup (that will only get stronger whenever Haniger gets off the COVID IL). To go with how strong our bullpen has looked, you’ll also forgive me if I start to get a little hyped up here.

The Mariners are 10-6, which is tied with the Blue Jays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. We have a 1-game lead over the Angels, and a whopping 2.5-game lead over the Astros. We’ve also scored the second-most runs in the A.L. (77, just behind Anaheim’s 79), AND – not for nothing – we have the best run differential in the league with our +18.

Granted, we’re not even really at the 10% mark through the season, but you do the math. That puts us on pace for 100 wins! I’m just saying. This is EXACTLY the kind of start you want to see out of a team that’s a fringe prospect for making the post-season. I’m not going to quibble about how bad the Rangers and Royals are, because the Twins, White Sox, and Astros are all really good.

We have a well-earned off-day before a beefy road trip. Three in Tampa, three in Miami, then three more in Houston. Let’s hope some of these COVID guys start feeling better soon, and let’s keep the win train chugging on down the tracks!

The Mariners’ Rotation Is Holding Up Remarkably Well So Far

Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s early. We are 2 and one-fifths of the way through the rotation not even two full weeks into the season. But, that’s sort of the point of today’s argument, because this early in the season is when you really have to worry about a starting rotation holding up.

We’re right out of Spring Training. Rosters are slightly expanded for this very reason: pitchers’ arms aren’t built up yet. Pitch counts are relatively low as a result. And, should they run into too many travails, starts can be cut short, resulting in over-taxing of the bullpen.

2021 was kind of the Worst Case Scenario in this regard. We lost James Paxton early in his very first start. We lost backup starter Nick Margevicius not long after. We had to suffer through numerous full-on bullpen days because we were trying to run a 6-man rotation out there to limit innings and keep guys fresh, without sufficent healthy backup options to roll with (saying nothing of other starts being cut short due to early-season ineffectiveness).

The bullpen was gassed, and it necessitated multiple back-and-forth moves between Tacoma and Seattle just to keep this pitching staff afloat. But, we haven’t had that problem this year.

The worst start we’ve had so far was Marco Gonzales’ 2.0 innings in Minnesota. The next-shortest stint was a 4.1 affair by Flexen, also in Minnesota. Everyone else has gone at least 5.0 innings per start, including rookie Matt Brash, who is reported to be on a VERY strict pitch count for this season.

I think that’s pretty remarkable. Maybe I have low standards in this regard, but it’s clearly showing in our bullpen’s performance thus far. We have a bullpen ERA under 3 and the only blown save on our ledger is a game we came back and won.

This could all change at a moment’s notice, of course, but I think it’s a pretty good sign. In the not-too-distant future, our Major League roster is going to shrink a little bit, and we’ll be limited in the number of pitchers we can keep up here. Not wearing guys out in the most fragile part of the season should hopefully work wonders towards keeping this staff in good working order.

Beyond that, though, the starters have looked good in games! Our team ERA is 3.03, so it’s not like the bullpen is doing everything. Robbie Ray had one rough start in Chicago in that crazy rain game, but otherwise has looked every bit the ace. Matt Brash has been a revelation, and looks like he’ll be a valuable big league pitcher for many years to come. Logan Gilbert has quietly been a monster. Marco bounced back with a VERY impressive outing in our home opener against a very good Astros lineup. And, Chris Flexen looks just as steady as he was last year. Considering Marco and Flexen are our 3/4 pitchers, I think that speaks very well of the talent in this pitching staff.

I’m cautiously optimistic, because the better the pitching staff does now, the better our team should be as a whole. Clearly, we’ve needed the pitching to get off to a good start. Now that the offense has started to come around since we returned home, it’s starting to look like things might be okay. The last thing we need is to go into a deep hole with our record. 6-5, with a +8 run differential isn’t shabby in the least. I’ll take it! That’s something to build on, for sure.

The Mariners Did A Number On The Astros

My friends and I kept up on our almost-every-year tradition of going to Opening Day and, as expected, there were some strikes and gutters (as there is with pretty much anything). The game was a full-blown sellout, which meant that by the time I looked into buying tickets, I couldn’t even bother with Ticketmaster. That comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll save for another time. Long story short, four tickets in the 300-level ended up coming to $52 apiece, including fees and whatnot.

They weren’t the best seats in the world, nor the worst. The four of us had our own row, which is nice. No getting up and down for restless patrons needing to pee or buy food every other inning. But, we were right on the stairwell going into the upper 300-section, in clear view of the 300-level walkway, which meant occasionally people were standing in our way. Thankfully, we had a VERY good usher in our section – literally the only time I’ve ever said that at a Mariners game – who was not only on top of getting people out of our sightlines, but was very chill about our (mostly) clean jeers of certain Astros players.

With it being a sellout, that comes with the usual sellout issues. Namely: people. A lot of them. The Mariners have done a lot to try to speed up the concessions process. They have refillable sodas now where the people can just do it themselves. They have cashless concessions, so we’re not dealing with old people fumbling for quarters. But, I don’t know what to tell you. The walkways were constantly jammed pretty much from the first inning onward. We got there right before first pitch and were able to get food and drink okay. But, once the game got going, it was a nightmare to ever leave your seats. I don’t know if they were having technical issues, or if that’s just the way it is whenever you have anything approaching a sellout crowd, but if the Mariners end up being really good, this could be the norm more often than not, and they probably need to figure something out on those occasions.

One solution should be: have more vendors walking around. Where are all the guys with tubs hanging around their necks, hollering about beer and peanuts and whatnot? The lower sections might’ve had a couple, but the 300’s got the shaft, and that feels like a mistake. We needed beer, we needed hot dogs, and we needed popcorn but would’ve gladly settled for peanuts if it meant not having to miss 1-2 innings of action just to go out and get it. By the way, I don’t even know if they have hot dog vendors walking around anymore, but dammit, they need to come back, because there’s nothing like a plain ballpark hotdog!

I will say that getting INTO the stadium was pretty painless, so that was nice. I had expected a lot more trouble with that part of it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The game itself was fantastic! Five stars, no notes!

As you can imagine, I hate the cheating Astros. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. I even hated them before they were cheaters! They’ve never had any business being in the A.L. West and it’s ridiculous we’ve had to endure them for as long as we have. So, anytime you can beat their fucking asses by double-digit runs, you have to relish the experience.

It didn’t hurt that we had the over 8.5 combined runs, as well as the Mariners to win the game outright. If only Kelenic’s fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth had another 10 feet or so on it, we would’ve REALLY made a killing (but that’s neither here nor there).

Marco Gonzales was remarkably efficient in this one, going 7 innings, giving up just the 1 run on 4 hits (no walks), with 6 strikeouts, all on 93 pitches. That was a far cry from his first start of the season, but I’m willing to call that one an outlier for the way our error derailed things. It was great to see Marco bounce back, and I hope this portends to better things to come this year over last.

Offensively, the M’s did everything to make me eat my words about how bad they looked up until that point. Adam Frazier had 4 hits (including a double and a triple), 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Suarez had a 2-run bomb and 3 RBI. Winker and Haniger both had 2 hits. Ty France had 2 RBI, Tom Murphy had 3 runs scored, J.P. Crawford scored 2 runs, and Kelenic and J-Rod both had positive contributions. Up and down the lineup, everyone chipped in!

It just felt like a celebration from the very first inning, and it was great to see the likes of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the everloving shit booed out of them. My friends and I were on it all the way through, and like to believe we had an effect. Fuck those guys, and everyone else on those cheating Astros teams. The fact that Altuve couldn’t even finish the game (I like to believe he asked to be taken out because he couldn’t handle it) was the cherry on top.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect. Justin Verlander started on Saturday and went 8 shutout innings, en route to a 4-0 Astros victory. I missed this one, but I wouldn’t say I was “missing” it, Bob. Flexen had a so-so Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs), but we were never going to win this one regardless. We had 3 hits on the day, two by France. So, you know.

But, we bounced right back with a 7-2 victory on Sunday! Matt Brash got his first win, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in the sixth inning on a 2-run homer). He was … effectively wild in this one, walking 6, but he only gave up the two hits (both in that sixth inning). It was never going to be a true No Hitter for Brash, given the limitations on his pitch count this season, but it was great to see him handle some adversity when he didn’t totally have command of his stuff. It gave the M’s enough time to stake him to a big lead.

We scored 1 in the first on a Suarez double, then rallied for 5 more in the fourth, highlighted by a France 3-run homer. Frazier and Kelenic both had two hits apiece, and Torrens, Toro, and J-Rod all chipped in. Take that, Fun Differential! We’re +4 in run differential on the year!

Paul Sewald closed out the sixth inning without any more damage, and the rest of the bullpen was lights out from there. This time, it went Steckenrider, Munoz, and Castillo over the final three frames. Interesting to see Munoz already in that mix, but his stuff is so nasty, you can see why.

We get our first off-day today, followed by a home set against the Rangers. Now, we’re in it! Baseball season! Catch the excitement!

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.”

The Mariners Salvaged One In Chicago

This opening road trip was pretty much nonstop annoyance, particularly after our 2-0 start in Minnesota. The weather was shit, the offense was shit, the bullpen was shaky, and the opponents are probably going to be important rivals for a precious wild card spot at year’s end. This was anything but a soft landing for the Mariners, and the results were anything but ideal.

Tuesday’s game was a raging disappointment. Matt Brash got the start – the first of his Major League career – and looked phenominal! He’s going to have a pretty short leash (i.e. a limited pitch count) all year, but in this one he made the most of it, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts. All on only 85 pitches! Unfortunately, he gave up a garbage run in the third, and a solo homer in the sixth, on a day where the Mariners’ offense did next-to-nothing.

We got a Eugenio Suarez solo homer in the second (his first in a Mariners uniform), and then nothing until the 9th, when we scraped together another run. But, Diego Castillo was wild and ineffective in his lone inning of work, resulting in our 3-2 defeat. It’s the little things, and in this one, all the little things went the way of the White Sox.

Wednesday’s game was a nightmare. It was postponed because of rain, and it probably never should’ve happened at all, because it was played with anywhere from a drizzle to a downpour throughout. The second inning was particularly egregious with the rain, and unfortunately that happened with Robbie Ray on the mound, getting knocked around. In total, he gave up 6 runs in 6.1 innings (on 10 hits and 2 walks, with only 4 strikeouts), with a whopping 3 homers on the day.

With this offense? Against the corpse of Dallas Keuchel? No way we were overcoming that (indeed, we lost 6-4).

Crawford had a good day with 3 hits, and France had a homer and 2 RBI, but otherwise the offense was a huge shrug yet again.

The aforementioned game we salvaged – spoiler alert – happened on Thursday (a.k.a. Getaway Day). Logan Gilbert spun 5 innings of 1 unearned run brilliance (that unearned run coming off of multiple dropped infield pop-ups, thanks to the insane wind blowing around the stadium), where he struck out 4, walked 0, and gave up only 4 hits. The bullpen was lights out in this one, and the offense finally came to play.

Jarred Kelenic hit a rocket of a 2-run bomb off of the foul pole in the second. Cal Raleigh hit a right-handed solo homer to left (that may or may not have been aided by the wind) in the seventh. And Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run bomb (no doubt about that one) in the eighth. Those were firsts on the season for Kelenic and Raleigh, and the third on the year for Haniger. Thank Christ for Mitch Haniger.

In the grand scheme of things, 3-4 on our first road trip of the year, against two likely playoff teams, is pretty okay. But, that doesn’t mean we have to be thrilled with how they got there. The offense was supposed to be improved over last year, but instead it looks like more of the same. The pitching, however, appears to be what we expected it to be (slightly better in the rotation, with some negative regression coming for the bullpen), and we REALLY haven’t had any major injuries as of yet, outside of a couple middle relievers. You know the pitcher injuries are coming, and coming in droves. So, the sooner the offense can get its shit together, the better.

We return for our home opener tomorrow, against the Astros. I’ll be there with my friends! I can’t wait. I should also be getting up my season preview tomorrow as well; only a week late, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Who’s begging for this? Never you mind! This press conference is over!

What Is Evan White’s Future With The Mariners?

I never feel comfortable when there’s anything even remotely resembling an albatross contract on the Mariners’ roster. Whether it’s fair or not, the Mariners are notorious for being a penny-pinching organization. Personally, I don’t think that’s totally accurate. I think, yeah, in the pre-2000’s you could definitely make that argument. But, I think what’s more applicable is that the Mariners are a half-assing organization.

They’re not the A’s. They’re not the Rays. They’re not the Royals or Pirates or Reds. But, they’re also never going to be the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers. They’re never going to go All In. They’re never going to approach the salary cap luxury tax threshold. If things look good and there’s an opportunity to improve incrementally, the M’s might leap into the outskirts of the Top 10 in payroll. But, they’re never going to be in the Top 5 or Top 3.

The highest the Mariners have ever ranked is 7th in payroll, in 2007, when they were rewarded with a 2nd place finish in the division and no playoff berth. I remember vividly the 2008 season – when the M’s increased payroll by over $11 million – and lost 101 games for their troubles. In spite of the increase, they were 9th in payroll that year, and yet they took a significant bath as a result.

Ever since then, it seems like the Mariners have hedged every single one of their bets. Never going all in. Never taking advantage of free agents who might be had for a few extra million dollars. Never making a push to build around King Felix and the like. Content to spend just enough to make it look like they were kinda-sorta trying, while never going back into the red in any individual year (like 2008) ever again.

The M’s bottomed out in payroll in 2020, but it was for a reason. And, yeah, that reason had a lot to do with COVID. Without fans in the stadium, you can’t be going hog wild with player salaries and expect to turn a profit. BUT, the more prevailing purpose was The Rebuild. I can forgive them for spending less than $50 million that year, because I knew we were giving the young players an opportunity to gain experience (that is, the ones who weren’t languishing in Tacoma playing practice games against themselves). We dropped to 21st in payroll that year, and then 25th in payroll in 2021 (though overall, our total increased by $16 million year over year). Fine. Whatever. The kids got a chance to play, and our results actually improved.

It looks like The Rebuild is on the right track. But, I would still argue these are the Half-Ass Mariners. How do I know that? Because we saved all this money over the last two years, and stopped short of going over the top in our spending this offseason. Is there a method to our madness? Maybe. Or, maybe the Mariners will be rewarded for their cheapness in spite of themselves, when the likes of Matt Brash and/or George Kirby prove they’re ready this year to make the leap. If they’re not ready, though, we’ll know who to blame. Half of the ass of the Mariners organization is willing to spend, but it’s that other half that refuses to pony up the greenbacks.

And, it’s difficult to see the M’s spending more money to get out from under poor contracts already on the books. The way things are going with Evan White, it looks like the deal we once lauded as filled with foresight and creativity is soon going to be a weight around our collective necks.

White has guarantees through 2025. The final two years of his deal, he’s slated to earn a total of $15 million (plus another $2 million as a buy-out, assuming we won’t want to keep him on for even more money in 2026, 2027, and 2028). $15 million over two years isn’t a huge deal – especially when we expect the money flowing into Major League Baseball to only expand over the years – but it’s not insignificant when he’s doing absolutely nothing to earn his keep.

Evan White, so far, is kind of a bust. I say “kind of” only because he does have that Gold Glove on his ledger. But, what good is that gold glove when he’s been usurped of his primary position by Ty France? He already can’t hit, and now he’s gotta try to learn to play defense on another part of the field?

Now you can tack on his 2021 season being decimated by a hip injury, followed by a sports hernia taking out a significant portion of his 2022. Every sports hernia I remember happening to a member of the Mariners has been a real nut-buster (and not in a good way). Hernias, oblique injuries, they seem to be to position players what the elbow and shoulder injuries are to pitchers, in that they always take a lot longer to recover from than anyone expects. By “recover”, I mean return to pre-injury form. Lots of guys can return on the expected timetables set by doctors, but they return as shells of their former selves, taking precious weeks and months to finally get back to normal. I don’t expect Evan White to be back to normal in 6-8 weeks. I think we’ll be lucky to see him in any sort of productive capacity before 2023; I’m writing off this whole year for him until he proves me wrong.

He’s still earning a reasonable salary for a guy giving us nothing ($1.4 million), but that jumps to $3 million in 2023, before taking the aforementioned leaps in 2024 and 2025. Coming off of two major injuries, on top of his bat being atrocious at the Major League level, while also being blocked at his best defensive position, and we’re talking about a guy with no trade value whatsoever. Everyone knows the Mariners would be elated to be rid of Evan White, but all he is right now is a salary dump to be attached to a more shiny prospect.

Failing that, then we’ve got to figure out how to get him healthy and make him work as a bench bat or an injury replacement. He’s hoping – once he’s healthy enough to play – that Ty France goes down so he can get a shot in the everyday lineup again. But, if that happens, it’s going to be a huge blow to the Mariners’ chances at making the post-season.

It’s all bad news surrounding Evan White right now. My hunch is, ultimately, there IS no future for Evan White in a Mariners uniform.