The 2022 Mariners Are A Complete Disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have The Mariners Now Hit A New Low For This Season?

Losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Oakland A’s – a team everyone keeps telling me “isn’t even trying to win” – to drop to last place in the A.L. West at 18-27, tied for the fifth-worst record in all of baseball, sure does feel like Rock Bottom. I guess we could’ve been swept by those same A’s, but the season is still relatively early and we still have five more series to play against them.

I can kind of understand why we bring in these hitters – this year, it’s Jesse Winker, for instance – and they struggle right off the bat and also forevermore. Seattle’s a tough place to play. Odds are you’re far away from your home, or at least where you’d ideally rather be living (though, make no mistake, the few homegrown locals we manage to bring back here also struggle just the same). The ballpark – even with the fences brought in a few years back – is a tough place to hit, what with the marine layer knocking down potential homers and an outfield that’s decidedly unfriendly to doubles hitters. Then, there’s just the stigma of multiple decades of hitters coming here and sucking (save Nelson Cruz, who is a magical creature, and we damn well didn’t appreciate him enough when he was here), infecting the fragile psyches of guys ill-equipped for the mental rigors of wearing that Mariners uniform and being absorbed into our organization of utter mediocrity. It can be a lot. I don’t envy any hitter who is brought here against his will and forced to play for such dysfunction.

Same goes for hitting prospects we bring in here, who would be sure-fire All Stars for any other organization. They have all of the above, plus the indignity of having to “learn” from a collection of hitting coaches throughout all levels that are and always have been completely and totally inept at their jobs. Only the Mariners could fuck up a sure thing like Jared Kelenic. It is our destiny.

But, what I don’t understand is why certain pitchers come here and revert back into pumpkins. Robbie Ray was a legitimate free agent prize this past offseason, coming off of a Cy Young Award. How is he so hittable?! How is his stuff so pedestrian?! For someone with as much strikeout potential as he has, he seems to also dump a lot of meatballs right down the middle; it’s infuriating.

And yet, I’m supposed to sit here and feel glad because Julio Rodriguez looks like the real deal right out of the gate? Wow, I guess 1 out of 30 fucking hitting prospects isn’t bad, huh? Is this what it’s come to?

I’m NOT glad, because it’s not that hard to find one fucking stud prospect to be the face of your franchise. The Mariners ALWAYS have one stud. Before Julio, we had Felix. Before Felix, we had Ichiro. Before Ichiro, we had A-Rod and Edgar and Griffey (you know, all those teams you hear about ad nauseam, because that’s literally the only fucking time the Mariners were ever fucking good). Felix and Ichiro account for most of the last two decades, but what did we ever do to build winners around them? Jack Shit. We did a lot of half measures and panic deals when we thought we were close, only to fall short time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time again.

So, great, we have one stud again. Julio. Is he going to single-handedly win us a title? How’s Mike Trout doing down in Anaheim? Lots of playoff glory under his belt?

What’s most infuriating – as I’ve said before – is the fact that 2022 isn’t even all that important in the grand scheme of things. This year was supposed to be about further building up the young guys. Getting them experience, and getting them used to the rigors of facing other Major Leaguers. But, guys like Kelenic and Raleigh and Brash and Toro and on and on down the line are fucking SUCK-ING!

It’s also, not for nothing, kind of obnoxious that the bullpen is who we thought it was. Regression away from the unsustainable heights of 2021. Just so fucking predictable. If it’s something some dimwit like yours truly can easily warn you about ahead of time, it’s as fucking hack as it gets. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. But, the likes of Drew Steckenrider and Diego Castillo have turned me into some sort of prophet with their horseshit performances.

God damn this fucking team. God damn them for getting our hopes up and shitting the bed like so many Johnny Depp cocaine parties. It’s the end of May and I’m pissed off beyond all rationality, so in other words, right on time.

I fucking hate the Mariners. Why do we put ourselves through this?

I’m Not Interested In The Mariners Trading For Blake Snell Right Now

I wasn’t going to write anything today, but I’ve got some free time this morning, so HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Here’s a post about Hot Stove Baseball.

There’s rumors abound that the Tampa Bay Rays are listening to offers for ace pitching prospect Blake Snell. Why would the Rays be interested in trading away one of the best starting pitchers in the American League, who is on a very-reasonable deal where he’s only making $39 million over the next three years? Because they’re a cheap organization who plays in a dank cave of a stadium where you wouldn’t even know there’s a pandemic going on right now because they never played in front of any fans anyway.

I was going to make some crack about how terrible they are as an organization, but let he who isn’t a Mariners fan cast the first stone.

The fact of the matter is, aside from being so cheap and not spending any money, the Rays are a GREAT organization! They’re up there with the Oakland Athletics on doing more with less. They draft well, they develop their young talent (especially pitchers), and they consistently win at a high rate! They’ve only been around since 1998 (compared to the Mariners in 1977); in the last 13 years alone, the Rays have been to the World Series twice, and in the playoffs six times (the Mariners, as we all know, haven’t been to the World Series ever, haven’t been in the playoffs since 2001, and in their entire 40+ year history have only been to the postseason four times).

In other words, the Rays know what they’re doing. Blake Snell’s value is as high as it’s ever going to be. Now is the time to strike, if indeed someone is willing to trade away the farm to get him.

The consensus (sensible) thinking is that it’s going to take quite a haul to get Snell away from the Rays. Idiots can sit there and believe the Mariners could have him for Yusei Kikuchi and a few low-level prospects, but that’s clearly the ramblings of a lunatic. As much as I’d like to preserve our dream outfield of Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez, while still acquiring Blake Snell (maybe by sending off a newly-healthy Mitch Haniger and some other guys), I know that’s not realistic; to get Snell, one of those big three would have to go.

Kyle Lewis just won the American League Rookie of the Year award. Jarred Kelenic looks like the surest of sure things (and a potential mini-Mike Trout in the making), and some prospect websites have Julio Rodriguez rated even HIGHER than either of them! So, I mean, who do you want to part with as a jumping-off point? You would think any one of those guys would be plenty when compared to a starting pitcher, but that’s not how it works; it would still take probably 3-4 other prospects going away (albeit, not nearly as highly-rated, but still probably guys who will be contributors on a Major League team someday).

Look, I know as fans of a particular team (in this case, *sigh*, the Seattle Mariners), we always overrate our own prospects. Every single guy in the system is bound to be an All Star someday and we’re all going to be enjoying 20 World Series titles in a row very soon! So, rationally, I know that it’s VERY unlikely that all three of Lewis, Kelenic, and J-Rod pan out (by “pan out” I mean “reach their fullest potential”). Gun to my head and I had to choose one to go, I’d probably send Kyle Lewis away, but I wouldn’t feel great about it! He’s the only one who has actually done literally ANYTHING at the Major League level, but that’s also how highly I think of the other two guys. Regardless, a big part of me just wants to see an outfield with all three of these guys healthy and kicking ass. I don’t care nearly as much about the rest of the Mariners’ minor leaguers; just give me this one outfield!

Besides that, though, I just don’t think it’s practical. The Mariners are still smack dab in the middle of the rebuild. 2020 was fun, but it was a fluke. If you play that season outside of a pandemic setting – for a full 162 games – I don’t think we’re looking back on it quite as fondly. A lot of warts are covered up by a 60-game season; with the way Lewis was struggling down the stretch, I highly doubt he would’ve been the ROY, for instance. I think the dog days of August and September would’ve been a feeding ground for teams to eat up the Mariners’ inferior pitching and inexperienced hitting. A lot of people are expecting the 2021 Mariners to take another step, with an outside shot at making one of the Wild Card spots; but, I’m telling you right now, don’t sleep on a possible regression. The Mariners could look a lot worse next year. 2022 was the goal for playoff contention, but it very well could be 2023 or even 2024; at which point, we would have wasted all of Blake Snell’s remaining team control. At that point, he’ll be commanding a contract at or near the top of the starting pitching market, and his value will plummet accordingly.

Trading for Snell this year is a move better suited for a team that’s closer to contending in 2021. Who needs one final piece of the puzzle to push them over the top. The Angels make a lot of sense, because they have a great farm system and they like spending lots of money (on top of needing a HUGE pitching upgrade). The Mariners, even if we have Snell, would still have so many holes to fill. We need to focus on getting our young guys more experience at the Major League level.

STAY THE COURSE! Now is not the time to panic. The Rays sure as shit aren’t panicking. That’s why they’re “listening to offers” and not “actively shopping” him. There’s a difference. The Jets were listening to offers for Jamal Adams, but would’ve been just as willing to keep him on the roster; the Seahawks had to come in over the top with two first round draft picks to get him. Similarly, the Rays are more than capable of handling Snell’s salary for at least another year. They don’t NEED to trade him. Indeed, coming off of a World Series appearance, it might be in their best interests to NOT trade him until after the 2021 season (to fully take advantage of their current Championship Window). It would have to take a team going over the top – like the Seahawks did with Adams – to make it worth the hit to their short-term title chances.

I hope the Mariners aren’t that team. Let Snell go somewhere else (ideally outside of the A.L. West entirely).

The Mariners Split With The Angels The Hard Way

Well, the good news is: we never have to play the Angels again in 2020.

There is no bad news.

It’s not all that dire, actually; I just don’t like them very much. The Mariners split the weekend 4-game series, and they split the 10-game season series; considering seven of those games were down in Anaheim (because MLB’s scheduling is dumb), that’s actually kind of impressive (of course, considering the Angels might be even worse than the Mariners, that’s also whatever the opposite of “impressive” is; Google says “unimpressive” might be the word I’m looking for there).

Game 1 of this series was pretty rough on the ol’ offense. Nick Margevicius spun another relative gem – 6 innings, 2 runs – but the bullpen gave up a late solo homer to Guess Who* and our ninth inning comeback fell one run short. Seager and Crawford had doubles in this one; Lopes and Swingin’ Sam Haggerty had the RBI.

* – Mike Trout, of course

Game 2 was a miserable affair I was more than happy to have missed (winning all of $10 playing poker against my family). A 16-3 laugher where Justus Sheffield didn’t quite have it (4.2 innings, 6 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks, with 6 strikeouts) and Tim Lopes got to pitch an inning of mop-up duty. Shed Long hit a homer – to prove he doesn’t JUST make outs all the time – and Austin Nola got his last walk in a Mariners uniform.

Games 3 and 4 were a couple of thrilling 2-1 victories for the good guys! I truly loved every minute of these!

Justin Dunn (in Game 3) followed up his 6 innings of 1-hit, 0-run ball by producing yet another line of 6 innings of 1-hit, 0-run ball! This time with 3 extra walks, but with the same 6 strikeouts! Kyle Lewis provided a solo homer in the top of the seventh to put Dunn in line for another win, but that was immediately coughed back up by the bullpen. The score stayed that way into the top of the 10th inning, when Tim Lopes hit automatic baserunner Kyle Lewis in from second base to take the lead, which Yohan Ramirez locked down for his first career Major League save.

I’ll admit, I’m not really a fan of starting a guy off at second base when we get to extra innings, but it’s new and different, so that makes it interesting (at least for now). At some point, I feel like that novelty is going to wear off and it’s going to stop feeling like legitimate baseball. You should need more than a bloop single to win an extra-innings game. I dunno, maybe that’s just a sign I’m getting old. You kids today with your “participation trophies” and your “baseball games that no longer go 18 innings once in a blue moon”.

Game 4 might’ve been my absolute favorite game of the season. Marco Gonzales had a complete game 4-hitter, with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts! He was absolutely marvelous! There were a couple of unlucky, broken-bat singles in the ninth inning to make it interesting, but then Guess Who* came to bat nursing a 3-strikeout game. He promptly hit a line drive right at Kyle Seager, who was able to double off the runner at second base for two outs. From there, the game was well in hand. He only needed 102 pitches in this gem! GOD I MISS COMPLETE GAMES!

Jose Marmolejos continued his red hot road trip with the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning; prior to that, Joe Odom (current starting catcher until the guy from the Padres gets cleared to play) knocked in Jake Fraley to get the scoring started for the Mariners.

The Mariners currently sit 15-22 and in third place in the A.L. West (VERY comfortably behind the top two teams). That record is good for 8th in the draft order for next season. On the one hand, getting swept by the Angels would’ve put us in the driver’s seat for one of the top draft spots, but on the other hand: how embarrassing that would’ve been!

In COVID news, I guess someone on the Athletics caught it? So, that means at least the first two games of the 3-game set that would’ve started tonight are postponed. If everything looks good, maybe we get a doubleheader in on Thursday. It’s pretty convenient that this is a homestand for the Mariners, so at least they can enjoy the break in the comfort of their own homes. The downside is, this is the last time Oakland was scheduled to come to Seattle, so if they’re ever going to make up that third game, they’ll have to do it on one of the teams’ mutual off-days in September:

  • Could be Monday the 14th; Seattle will return home the day before, though Oakland would have to hop from Texas (on Sunday) to Seattle (Monday) to play in Colorado on Tuesday
  • Could be Thursday the 17th; Seattle has a rare mid-homestand off-day, while Oakland would tack an extra day to their Texas/Colorado road trip before returning to Oakland for their game on Friday
  • Otherwise, MLB could unfairly add to the three games in Oakland the Mariners are set to play to close out the season, but I don’t think that’s very likely.

Here’s to hoping – for the teams’ sakes – that they’re able to at least get one of these games played on Thursday of this week. But, you know, better to be safe than sorry and all that.

If The Astros Beat Up On The Mariners And I’m Not Around To Watch It, Does It Make A Sound?

Looks like I picked a good weekend to go camping with my friends. Spoiler Alert: the Mariners lost all three games down in Houston over the weekend!

So, let’s go through this together, shall we?

Apparently Yusei Kikuchi was scratched from his start on Friday with neck spasms. We’re hoping that he misses just the one start, and is fine for his next scheduled go-around. But, in the meantime, Friday was a bullpen day, and if you know anything about this Mariners bullpen, it’s that – HOLY HELL – do they suck!

Nestor Cortes got the “start” – if you want to call it that – and got exactly one out, while giving up 8 runs (7 earned), before handing the ball off to Bryan Shaw (who was called back up to the Majors against my wishes). All told, the Mariners gave up 9 runs in the first inning (and 10 runs across the first two innings) to make this one totally and completely pointless. In the end, the M’s lost 11-1 and Bryan Shaw was finally released from the organization after his 1.2 innings of 2-run ball. He’s shot, from a Major League perspective, and while he was a fun punching bag while it lasted, it’s starting to literally feel like beating a dead horse.

One good thing that came out of this one is Yohan Ramirez went 3 innings and only gave up 1 run. He’s a promising young bullpen arm we poached from the Astros, so it would be nice if he did well this season. We also apparently picked up someone by the name of Brady Lail, who also went 3 innings in this one, giving up 0 runs on 0 hits while striking out 3. So, could be a name to watch going forward.

The Mariners were in need of a quality start following that debacle, which makes it all the more impressive that Nick Margevicius – on Saturday – went 6 innings, giving up just 2 runs on 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 3. With the bullpen behind him holding things down, that’s a game you’d expect even a team like the Mariners to win! But, unfortunately, the offense was PRETTY dormant in this series. Again, we were held to just one run – an Evan White blast to center – in a 2-1 defeat.

So, technically, I lied when I said I didn’t see any of this series. I got home just in time to see Justus Sheffield get through his sixth and final inning of work (he only gave up 2 runs, 1 earned, on 6 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 4). It was 2-2 at the time and the game was handed off to the bullpens of both teams. In my defense, though, I was texting and otherwise catching up on all the news I’d missed over the weekend, so my mind was occupied elsewhere for the hour or so that I was in front of the TV. We got into the ninth still tied, when in walked Erik Swanson, who ended up suffering his second tough loss in a week. I kept wondering – as I occasionally looked up at the screen – why he kept pitching to a left-handed batter low and inside, until lo and behold, the dude jacked a solo homer to right to end the game 3-2. This is a week, I’m sure, Swanson will be happy to forget and move on from.

As you can see, the offense shit the bed in this one as well. Kyle Lewis had a couple hits, but otherwise there wasn’t much to see here. As I discussed last week, it doesn’t get any easier for the Mariners, as we have four games against a dominant Dodgers team coming up.

What did a three-game sweep do to our draft stock? Well, we’re still the third-worst team in Major League Baseball. We’ve played considerably more games than both the Red Sox and Pirates, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if they have to make up those games they missed. At 7-16, we’re only a half game worse than the Angels, which boggles the mind considering they have Mike Trout and a very high payroll full of quality players.

The good news is, after this past weekend, we never have to go to the state of Texas again in the 2020 season. Not that I was overly concerned about our level of travel this year, but it’s kind of nice considering that was as far east as we were ever going. All but three of our remaining road games are in the state of California (with the aforementioned three non-California games being in Arizona).

The offensive struggles are a wee bit concerning, but I’m not losing my shit just yet. Kyle Lewis has cooled off a tad, but that’s good. It’s good for him to have to adjust and work through a dip. Kyle Seager and Austin Nola are still plugging away. J.P. Crawford is probably always going to be a little streaky. Shed Long is still batting under .200, which is unfortunate; I don’t think he’s going to end up being our everyday second baseman of the future. And Evan White is still struggling, though hopefully that homer he hit over the weekend is a little spark that gets him going.

After this Dodgers series, the schedule eases up considerably the rest of the way (until the last week of the season), so that might be a good opportunity for our young guys – and our pitching staff – to get into a bit of a groove. I don’t really believe the Mariners are the third-worst team in baseball. They’re PROBABLY better than that, and just in a bad streak right now. They also very well could be exactly that bad or worse, at least from a record standpoint. Young teams like this tend to find ways to lose more than they find ways to win. So, you’ll often see when the pitching is good (like it was on Saturday & Sunday), the hitting goes in the tank. Or, if our hitting rebounds, then the pitching goes in the tank. It’s not ideal, but it’s also not an indicator of things to come, next season and beyond. That’s why I’m rooting for as bad of a finish as possible. Let’s stockpile more high draft picks – hopefully in a 2021 draft that’s more than five rounds long! – continue to replenish this farm system (currently ranked third in all of baseball) and try to build a sustainable winner for years to come!

I Like The Proposed MLB Playoff Changes

I doubt they’ll happen, but that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, change simply for the sake of change is a good thing for baseball. Shit is BORING! Especially when your favorite team is the Mariners and they suck EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. YEAR.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t love everything about the proposed changes. But, I can understand why the league would want something like having teams choose their opponents: it makes for excellent sports radio and print fodder. ESPN would have, like, a whole hour of non-football-related content to devote to this!

While that part feels gimmicky, I’m almost always for expanding playoff teams, particularly in a game like baseball. If they wanted to shake things up for the better, they’d take away about 20 games from the regular season on top of this, but as has been said repeatedly since the dawn of man: that’s never happening. Owners will never willingly give up the revenue from those lost games (even though the games that remain would have increased significance, particularly since you’d be pulling from the lowest-attended days of the week – likely Mondays or Tuesdays).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 162-game seasons are a bear! You’re never making it through unscathed, and even if you do make it to the finish line, you’re so banged up and tired that it hardly seems fair to not at least guarantee teams one day off a week!

Again, neither here nor there.

The Wild Card system as we have it now is a joke. Reducing a full season’s worth of games for two teams in each league to a loser-goes-home match is as pitiful as it gets. If MLB does nothing else, they at least need to make the Wild Card a 3-game series (like they’re proposing here). I also like having the bottom two division winners involved in the fracas, because too many teams (I’m looking at you, A.L. Central) get to coast on inferior inter-divisional opponents only to slide right into the Divisional Series. No, the top team gets a BYE, and the rest of you should be fighting for your lives in a 3-game Wild Card round. Letting them host all three games feels like overkill a little bit (they should do a 1 & 2 series where the first game for the higher-seeded team is on the road, before hosting the final two), but beggars can’t be choosers.

Also, the fact that long-time baseball writers and old, stodgy fans hate this proposal means it can only be GOOD for the sport in the long run. They need to do more to generate interest in younger fans and the masses at large, besides belittling someone like Mike Trout for not making himself a bigger presence in media campaigns. Let the man hit; it’s the league’s job to generate popularity for its sport!

Seattle Hasn’t Had Anyone Like Kobe

I’m not here to write another puff piece about how the death of Kobe Bryant affected my life. I thought it was startling, I thought it was a bummer, it sucks not just for his family but all the other families who were involved. But, look, I wasn’t the biggest Kobe fan. I wasn’t necessarily a Kobe hater either; I’m Kobe Ambivalent.

And, as a Sonics fan who stopped following the NBA in 2008, I’ve always kinda hated the Lakers, so what did you really expect from me?

Successful people really REALLY loved Kobe, and I get that. He’s the personification of an intense desire to achieve all of your hopes and dreams. He’s a beacon to anyone looking to get ahead and make a name for themselves. I am … NOT successful. I don’t have that drive to be the best at everything I do. I have a drive to be okay at a lot of things, and sample the variety that is life.

So, you know, I can’t relate. To that part of it, anyway.

As a sports fan, I can certainly relate to the loss of a beloved player you’ve followed your entire life. A player who brought you nothing but joy for an extended period of time, and most importantly, a player who brought you that success that every fan craves for their favorite teams.

Which got me to thinking: who would be that massive loss for Seattle fans?

Ken Griffey Jr. pops immediately to mind, and as far as personal achievements are concerned, he’s certainly the best professional athlete we’ve ever had. He reached the top of his sport, he was known and admired throughout the world, and an entire generation of baseball players all wore their caps backwards and pretended to be HIM at the plate (like today’s generation, I’m sure, will all try to be the next Mike Trout).

And, yeah, while the Mariners had some good teams during his tenure, and there are a lot of positive memories of those teams, he never brought us a championship, let alone multiple championships like Kobe did.

I think, no matter how great you are, no matter how many Hall of Fame votes you get, you’re always going to get bumped up another level every time you win a title for your city, at least when it comes to the fans of that team. I’m sure, if Griffey died in a tragic accident, the city of Seattle would mourn like crazy. But, I can guarantee the world wouldn’t mourn as massively as they have for Kobe, and I think it has a lot to do with his team success on the court as much as his individual success (taking nothing away, of course, from the people who truly mourn the loss of the others in that crash; I’m talking strictly from a sports fan perspective).

When you boil it down to that, Seattle doesn’t have many candidates. Gary Payton is probably the most beloved Sonics player, but that wouldn’t have the resonance. We’re too far removed from the 1979 championship team for it to matter as much.

The closest person Seattle has to someone like Kobe is probably Russell Wilson. He has that drive to be the best, he’ll almost certainly have a long and Hall of Fame career when it’s all said and done. Now, it’s just a matter of winning a few more titles. Russell Wilson might go down as the greatest Seattle athlete of all time, even surpassing the likes of Griffey, which is fun to think about. It’s fun because we’re still smack dab in the middle of his career; we’ve got so much more time left!

Let’s just hope, you know, his off-the-field shenanigans are more of the dorky variety and not … you know what? Nevermind, let’s just leave it alone.

My Confidence Level In The Mariners’ Rebuild So Far

Jeff Passan made a good point on Brock & Salk yesterday, when he asked who’s going to be part of the Mariners’ Major League team in 3 years. The more names you can pull from the current crop of players – either currently in the Bigs, or hopefully to-be-in-the-Bigs in 3 years’ time – the higher your confidence level should be in how the rebuild is going.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have a great handle on the minors, aside from all the names everyone talks about all the time, so my choices are going to be different from someone who’s an expert. But, that’s the way it goes. I’m going to split up everyone I can think of into three-ish categories.

High Confidence

  • J.P. Crawford (INF)
  • Kyle Lewis (OF)
  • Mitch Haniger (OF)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Justin Dunn (P)
  • Justus Sheffield (P)
  • Jarred Kelenic (OF)
  • Julio Rodriguez (OF)
  • Evan White (INF)

These are guys I’m all-but-guaranteeing will be part of the Mariners in three years, which right away feels both inadequate and wrong. I mean, for starters, I see four outfielders here. I suppose one or more of them could flame out and end up as a utility player, but more likely we’ll see one or more of them traded to help in other areas of the roster. My hunch is Mitch Haniger would be the one to go by the time we get to 2022, which is making me REALLY regret going out and buying his jersey earlier this year.

Kyle Lewis’ first week with the Mariners has been nothing short of phenomenal, and he’ll absolutely come into Spring Training next year looking to win a job of some sort. Rodriguez and Kelenic will look to get more seasoning in the minors next year, but if all goes according to plan, one or both will at least get a cup of coffee before the end of 2020. Evan White feels like he’s probably a couple of years away, but he too wouldn’t shock me if he saw some time in Seattle next season.

As for the pitchers, Marco should still be around, but who knows? The younger guys are still too young to put too much money on staying as starters, vs. being relegated to the bullpen. Better prospects than Sheffield have been banished as such.

Medium Confidence

  • Omar Narvaez (C)
  • Tom Murphy (C)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)
  • Austin Nola (Util)
  • Mallex Smith (OF)
  • Domingo Santana (OF)
  • Yusei Kikuchi (SP)
  • Sam Tuivailala (RP)
  • Erik Swanson (P)

I feel like if Cal Raleigh is going to stick with the Mariners, it might take up to three years for him to fully earn a roster spot. I have to imagine one of the two vets we have on roster now will be gone, but I honestly have no idea who it would be. Nola feels like the perfect candidate to be a utility player who can cover first base and the corner outfield spots (saying nothing of his ability to be a third catcher). Mallex Smith would only still be here as cheap insurance in case our younger outfielders don’t pan out. Santana feels like a candidate to eventually convert to 1B/DH. Kikuchi will either have figured it out and will be a nice middle-of-the-rotation staple for this team, or he’ll be elsewhere. Tuivailala is the only reliever right now I have ANY remote confidence in; not that none of the guys we have on roster now won’t still be here, but relief pitching is the last thing you need to shore up after settling things down everywhere else (in other words, I see a lot of potential trade candidates on the Major League roster right now). I’m not convinced whatsoever that Swanson will still be starting in 2022, but I’m medium convinced he’ll still be with the Mariners in some capacity.

Medium-Low Confidence

  • Shed Long (Util)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B/DH)
  • Jake Fraley (OF)
  • Joe Rizzo (Util)

Long has enough pop in his bat, and can play enough different positions, to be a quality utility player. But, can he hit for high-enough average and get on base to this organization’s liking? On the flipside, Rizzo already has the average, and he appears to be improving on his power, but the question is his versatility. I read that they’re playing him all over the field, which is great for his chances, because it feels like his bat will play. But, if he can’t hack it defensively and he’s a man without a position, he could be some strong trade bait. As for Vogey, his first half was encouraging, but his second half has me concerned. The power is great, the on-base percentage is great, but if he’s hitting around the mendoza line, I just don’t know if there’s ENOUGH power there to make him worth all the strikeouts and whatnot. Also, if he never hits lefties, it’s REALLY hard to platoon a 1B/DH type; ideally you want him in your lineup every day mashing dingers no matter who’s pitching. All I know about Fraley is he’s a pretty highly-rated prospect for the Mariners, but he has yet to really show much in his short stint with the team this year. He feels like more trade bait.

Low Confidence

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • Dylan Moore (Util)
  • Braden Bishop (OF)
  • Dee Gordon (2B)
  • Tim Lopes (INF)
  • Donnie Walton (INF)
  • Ryon Healy (1B)
  • Every other pitcher I haven’t listed above

I have to imagine the Mariners will do whatever it takes to make 2021 Seager’s last year in Seattle. He’s not worth what he’s making now, so by 2022, it should be pretty obnoxious. Healy’s injury status makes him a probable cut candidate as soon as the end of this year. Moore feels like a dime-a-dozen utility player who won’t be worth keeping around. Dee Gordon is another guy I gotta think will be gone before his contract expires in 2021. As for the younger guys, and anyone else I didn’t list, who the fuck knows? I know enough not to be super confident that they’ll be here in three years. If I’m wrong, then GREAT! That probably means they took serious leaps in their development. Who knows, maybe Bishop could be the next Chris Taylor with a simple change in his swing?! I mean, I doubt it, but you never know.

Anyway, to wrap this all up, I guess I give the rebuild a B- so far. I love the combination of those four outfielders I listed up top. I think our catching situation is pretty strong in the near future. First base should finally be locked down once Evan White makes it. I don’t know if I see a ton of hope on the pitching side of things, unless Dunn and Sheffield stick as starters and really start kicking some ass. If that’s the case, and you can pair them with Gonzales and Kikuchi, that’s a pretty solid rotation.

Still, gonna need some of these lower candidates to pop over the next couple seasons. If someone like Rizzo could lock down the third base job, and maybe Long the second base job, with some veterans crushing it in the middle of the lineup at DH … if you squint awful hard, you can see the makings of something special.

But, really, the odds of the Mariners being great in 2022 are remote any way you slice it. The Angels have the best baseball player in the world and when was the last time they really scared you? It goes without saying I doubt the Mariners will have someone in Trout’s league by then (which doesn’t even refer to the Astros and A’s and their crack development squads).

It Only Took 146 Games For The Mariners To Get To 60 Wins

The best Mariners game I’ve seen all year didn’t actually involve the Mariners at all! It was a Texas League Playoffs matchup last Wednesday, featuring the Arkansas Travelers against the Tulsa Drillers, televised on Root Sports, featuring Jerry Dipoto doing color commentary. The Travelers won a tense 2-1 battle, though sadly they would go on to lose the series in five games. Getting to see potential future Mariners stars at the AA level is really the only source of hope in this nothing of a season.

The M’s are 60-86 this morning, after a couple of wins to start this week’s Reds series. The only reason to ever look at the standings if you’re a Mariners fan is to see where they’ll be drafting next year. For the last few weeks, we’ve pretty much been stuck at the 6th overall draft slot. The Blue Jays are in fifth, 3 games worse, and the Royals are in fourth, a whopping 6 games worse. So, moving down in the standings to get a better draft pick seems pretty remote with only 16 games remaining (only 6 of which are against teams with winning records, and only 2 of THOSE games are against the Astros, which at this point should be considered certain defeats).

There is still a chance to get a slightly worse draft pick, though, which is not what I want to be thinking about right now. But, the Rockies – who have been terrible in the second half of this season – are only 2 games better, and the Pirates – who we play in Pittsburgh next week – are only 4 games better (likewise, the White Sox – who we play at home this weekend – are just 4.5 games better). The point is: EYES ON THE PRIZE! There are A LOT of terrible teams on the Mariners’ schedule (those teams I just mentioned, as well as the Orioles, who are the second-worst team in all of baseball by record); we need to continue to lose just enough to at the very least keep our 6th overall draft pick!

As for how this season has gone, I haven’t the foggiest. I still don’t think I’ve seen a 2019 Mariners game all the way through. I think I read somewhere that they either set a franchise record or a Major League record for most players used in a season, which feels about right. There are a ton of guys I’ve never heard of before (especially from the bullpen side of things), and the ones I have heard of haven’t been all that riveting.

The whole thing with a “rebuild” or a “step-back” or whatever is twofold: lose a bunch of games to replenish your roster with high draft picks, and play a lot of young guys to give them the experience they need to develop into stars in the near future. Well, that first part has gone pretty well (again, in spite of that 13-2 start that grows more baffling by the day). The other half of the equation is a mixed bag.

We got a whopping 63 games out of Mitch Haniger before injuries followed by repeated setbacks to said injuries derailed his entire season. Not that he was ever REALLY in danger of being sent to the minors or anything – he was generally considered to be one of our stars and leaders of this team – but he’s still a relatively young guy in the grand scheme of things, and probably could’ve used at least a good second half to springboard into a more promising 2020.

Likewise, Domingo Santana hasn’t played since mid-August. Mallex Smith had to be sent down for a spell to correct things about his defense and his swing. Shed Long and J.P. Crawford have both missed time with injuries in an all-important year for a couple of guys looking to compete for starting jobs in 2020.

On the flipside, our catcher position has arguably never been stronger! Omar Narvaez is far and away our best hitter, and Tom Murphy has been a revelation (when he was considered a journeyman backup at best when we brought him in). Austin Nola came from out of nowhere to put up some solid offensive numbers as a first base replacement for the injured Ryon Healy. And, even Kyle Seager has had a nice bounce-back campaign after a rough last couple of seasons; in just 90 games he has 22 homers and at least looks like the Kyle Seager of old, who earned that massive contract. It’s nice to at least not have a black hole at third base heading into next year.

Those guys have been solid, Crawford has looked like a viable Major Leaguer at short stop. Mallex Smith has 41 stolen bases to make up for some soft offensive numbers. Dan Vogelbach has had a rough stretch since the All Star Break, but he still has 30 homers and a .344 on-base percentage; if he ever figures out how to hit lefties, watch out! I feel like there’s enough potential on this side of the ball to make 2020 somewhat interesting.

The real bright spot for the organization has been what’s going on in the minors. Jarred Kelenic has rocketed all the way up to AA, and hasn’t really missed a beat. Kyle Lewis was just called up from AA for a cup of coffee and has hit two homers in his first two games. A number of other guys have blossomed to the point where we’re not only NOT the laughingstock of minor league farm systems, but we’re actually pretty respectable! Maybe not in the realm of the Astros/Braves/Dodgers/Yankees, but at least in the conversation down in that next tier. Kelenic could very well be in that Mike Trout mold of superstar, should things continue on this trajectory.

The pitching is another matter, of course. Marco Gonzales is what he is, which is fine. Sometimes, he’s really on it, but sometimes he’s got nothing. His 4.30 ERA feels about right for him; he’s certainly nobody’s idea of a #1 starter. But, as a #3, he’s okay. As a #4 he’s probably better. To say that Yusei Kikuchi’s rookie season hasn’t gone according to plan has been an understatement. A lot of mediocre-to-ugly stat lines, with his bright spots few and far between. You can see the potential is there, and the stuff is there. The best thing we can say is that if he’s going to have a season like this, better to get it out of the way now, when winning isn’t really the top concern. If he’s going to have a CAREER like this, though, then yeah, he’ll be a huge bust.

As you may recall, the Mariners spent a buttload of draft picks earlier this summer on pitching prospects, which felt like a total overreaction to the years guys like Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson were having. Swanson was always going to be a candidate to switch to the bullpen, and it appears that’s what the team has done with him in the second half of this season, which is obviously disappointing. That disappointment has only been worsened by the fact that he really hasn’t looked good in either role. There’s still hope for Sheffield, in spite of his ragged start to 2019. He was in Tacoma, he had some bad games in Seattle, he went back to Tacoma, then he was demoted even further, down to AA to get his mechanics right. That probably has more to do with the fact that the PCL is a home run factory what with the juiced balls and small ballparks, but that’s neither here nor there. Sheffield has pretty quietly had an improved second half, and in his two September starts, he’s combined to go 11 innings, giving up 12 hits, 1 run, with 5 walks and 11 strikeouts. It’s baby steps, but I’ll take it.

As for the bullpen, I couldn’t even start. I don’t even know who’s here anymore! Our saves leader – Roenis Elias with 14 – is on the Nationals, that much I do know. Our next-highest saves leaders have 4 apiece. I have to believe we’re at or near the top of Major League Baseball in BLOWN saves, but that’s not a stat they like to throw around very much.

To be fair, at this point in our rebuild, the bullpen is probably the last thing we should be worrying about. I said it earlier this season and it’s come to fruition: you want everyone on the team to play well, then you want the bullpen to absolutely tear every game apart. Gotta get that high draft pick! Gotta draft and develop well! Gotta get back to the playoffs somehow, some way! Gotta win a World Series before the Earth is swallowed up by the Sun!

The Seahawks Should Get To .500 In Arizona

The Arizona Cardinals are a bad football team.  No point in sugar-coating it, they’re fucking terrible.  They MIGHT even be the worst team in the entire league, what with Buffalo dismantling the Vikings last week; at least we know the Bills have SOME level of goodness in them.  The Cardinals appear to have absolutely none, having lost to the Redskins, Rams, and Bears by a combined score of 74-20.

Last week, the Cards came close.  They were up 14-0 on the Bears in the first quarter, they held a 14-3 lead at halftime, and were clinging to a 14-13 lead heading into the final frame.  But, the reason why the Bears kept scoring in the second half was directly attributable to Sam Bradford going INT-INT-Fumble on his final three drives before being benched for rookie Josh Rosen.  Rosen entered with just over 4 minutes to go in the game – down 16-14 – and drove the Cards to the Bears’ side of the field before throwing a pick on 4th down.  The Cards had one more chance with less than a minute to go and no time outs and couldn’t do anything.

If I can just take a moment to bitch about Sam Bradford, because SERIOUSLY, how do you bungle that game?  Just sit on the ball in the second half!  HOW DOES HE KEEP GETTING HIGH-PAYING CONTRACTS AND STARTING JOBS IN THE NFL???  I’m the first to admit I know next-to-nothing about the intricacies of professional football, but even I know Sam Bradford is a fucking useless pile of shit!  Dude will have earned upwards of $130 million in his career and he’s easily the worst quarterback that keeps getting chances to start.  I hate to pull the Colin Kaepernick card, but really?  Sam Bradford gets $20 million and Kaepernick isn’t “worth the headache”?  It boggles the mind.

I mean, seriously, hasn’t Larry Fitzgerald suffered enough?!  He’s the one respectable thing about the Arizona Cardinals organization, and yet you keep putting him in harm’s way by having sub-replacement level quarterbacks throwing him into double coverage or right into the open shoulder of a hammering linebacker/safety.  People bitch about how the Angels are wasting Mike Trout’s prime, but they can go fuck themselves!

Anyway, it’s Josh Rosen’s show now, and I couldn’t be happier.  That guy has BUST written all over him.  He was an over-rated bum at UCLA and he’s going to be an over-rated bum in the NFL.  Not as over-rated as Sam Bradford, but then again that would be literally impossible.

I was moderately concerned about this game when Bradford was the starter, because on his very best day – if he’s making smart decisions and following the dinking n’ dunking formula that works pretty well against the Seahawks – I could maybe see the Cardinals hanging around in this one and stealing it late.  But, I can’t imagine Rosen doing anything close to that.  He’s going to struggle, he’s going to turn the ball over a couple times, and the Seahawks should walk away with this one pretty easily.

If I were in charge, I’d do exactly what the Seahawks did last week.  Run-run-pass.  Super conservative, handing the ball to Carson 25+ times, and every once in a while allowing Wilson to take some safe shots deep down field (ideally against whoever Patrick Peterson ISN’T guarding).  Just get to 17 or 20 points and let the defense do the rest.

I’ll honestly be pretty upset if the Cards score in the double-digits in this one, that’s how little faith I have in their abilities.  The Seahawks’ defense has proven it’s better than we expected coming into the season, so they should have no problem keeping David Johnson in check and forcing the rookie making his first start to beat them.

If I haven’t jinxed the Seahawks enough, just know that I’m fully anticipating us to be 2-2 after this game is over.  That’ll put us a full 2 games behind the Rams and in the driver’s seat for 2nd place in the NFC West.  To get to the Wild Card, the Seahawks are going to need to go 4-0 against the likes of the 49ers and Cardinals, so don’t let me down!

Or, whatever.  Do let me down.  I bet my brother a pizza party that the Seahawks wouldn’t make the playoffs this season, so either way I WIN MOTHERFUCKERS!!!  PIZZA FOR DAYS AND DAYS AND DAYS!