Jack Zduriencik Is Gone

I remember June 16, 2008, like it was seven years and a few weeks ago.  We were in the middle of a year that would just get worse and worse and worse.  The Mariners, coming off of a winning 2007 campaign, revamped their starting rotation with the Erik Bedard trade and the Carlos Silva signing.  A would-be weakness for the team was bolstered by the addition of a second ace pitcher, and an innings eater who’d solidify the back-end of the rotation while pitching half his games in the spacious Safeco Field.

Those 2008 Mariners would go on to lose over 100 games, netting the #2 overall draft pick.  On June 16, 2008, Bill Bavasi was fired after four and a half miserable fucking seasons.  And we all rejoiced, for we all knew Bavasi was not only the face of Satan incarnate, but the most bumbling and inept motherfucker ever to be given the keys to a professional franchise (tell me I’m wrong, COME AT ME BRO; I will fight you to the death).  Every year of his reign was another chance to reload.  Re-BUILD?  What does that even MEAN?  The Mariners were coming off of their most fruitful seasons under Pat Gillick; but those veterans were all long dead and buried.  Bavasi made it his mission to bring in veteran after veteran to try to right the ship, at the expense of our entire farm system and anything else he could get his hands on.  He wasted money, he traded away superstars, and he brought us nothing but losses piled upon losses piled upon shit.

On October 22, 2008, the Mariners brought in Jack Zduriencik, and while we didn’t really know much about him, we knew he worked in the upper management in Milwaukee, for a Brewers organization on the rise.  He was responsible for that team bringing in some of its biggest stars, and was the first non-GM to win Executive of the Year in 2007.  This guy was a rising star in his own right, and it seemed like he’d fit into the GM world like a glove.

On August 28, 2015, the Mariners fired Jack Zduriencik.  He’d been at the helm for a little over 6 and a half seasons.  So, it was time.  He’d out-lasted his predecessor and really wasn’t all that much better at his job.

Bill Bavasi’s Mariners record:  322-395, .449 winning percentage
Jack Zduriencik’s Mariners record:  506-595, .460 winning percentage

Over time, the Bavasi regime has become known for the Erik Bedard/Adam Jones trade, and the dual trades to the Indians in 2006 giving them quality All Stars Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera for magic beans.  Those are desperate moves no GM would EVER live down.  The Zduriencik regime will ultimately go down for the Triad of Suck that was Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero.  The Mariners gave up some legitimately great capital to bring in those guys (2nd overall draft pick, Cliff Lee, and Michael Pineda, respectively) and they all blew up in Z’s face.

Considering Jackie Z’s extensive history in scouting for Major League Baseball, that makes his transgressions all the more galling.  He’d been here for over 6 years and all he had to show for his work was Kyle Seager.  Anyone he ever brought in who was worth a damn was either an established free agent (Cano, Cruz) or some scrub who’d previously washed out of baseball either via injury or ineffectiveness, only to make his comeback with us for an anomalous year or two (Chris Young, Mark Lowe, Tom Wilhelmsen, Joe Beimel).  I mean, will you LOOK at some of the bullshit that’s crossed our paths thanks to Jackie Z:

  • Dustin Ackley, draft pick
  • Chone Figgins, free agent
  • Eric Byrnes, free agent
  • Justin Smoak, trade
  • The Entire Doug Fister Trade, less Charlie Furbush (a sometimes-okay lefty specialist out of the bullpen)
  • Jesus Montero, trade
  • Brandon League, trade
  • Casey Kotchman, trade
  • Mike Morse for John Jaso
  • Logan Morrison for Carter Capps
  • Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo
  • Mike Zunino, draft pick
  • Danny Hultzen, draft pick
  • Nick Franklin, draft pick
  • Corey Hart, free agent
  • Jason Bay, free agent
  • Joe Saunders, free agent
  • Hector Noesi, trade
  • Miguel Olivo, free agent
  • The Hitless Wonder That Is Brendan Ryan, trade
  • Jack Cust, free agent
  • Blake Beavan, trade
  • Milton Bradley, trade
  • Rob Johnson, trade(ish)

You could go on and on, and I know I’m just picking and choosing the most worthless piles of crap out there, but LOOK AT THAT LIST!  Look at all those miserable bastards that have contributed to nearly 600 losses the last 6+ seasons!  That’s Jack’s legacy!  Did he give away studs on par with Jones, Choo, Cabrera, Tillman and the like?  No.  But, he did get PENNY on the dollar out of stud trade chips like Cliff Lee, Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, John Jaso, and Carter Capps.  He had three draft picks in the top 3 overall and we’ve yet to see any of them amount to anything more than somewhat quality defense.  After this year, it’s highly likely two of those three draft picks won’t even be in the organization, with Ackley traded, Hultzen an injured free agent who should probably retire, and Mike Zunino fighting for his life somewhere between Tacoma and Seattle.

Was he as destructive as Bill Bavasi?  No, he was not.  That’s why August 28, 2015, came and went a little bit differently than June 16, 2008.  I don’t feel quite the sense of elation as I did when Bavasi finally got the ax.  That was on par with the Wicked Witch of the West getting assassinated; this is more like Old Yeller taking a bullet out behind the house.  Could the Mariners afford to keep him in charge even one more year?  Absolutely not.  His rabies-infested mind would surely destroy us all; he NEEDED to be put down, for his sake as much as our own.

But, it’s not even like that.  I have no real affinity for Jackie Z; it’s not like I’m going to miss him now that he’s gone.  But, it’s still a bummer, because this isn’t supposed to be how it ended.  There was a lot of flawed decision-making when it comes to Jackie Z’s reign; but, there’s also a lot of moves where you could see why he thought the way he did.  A lot of moves that looked good on paper, and then that paper was set ablaze by a fucking cannon.  Guys like Smoak and Ackley and Figgins and Montero – they all came highly touted and having produced quite a bit in their careers up to the point they arrived in Seattle.

In fact, you could say 2015 was a perfect microcosm of the entire Jackie Z era.  There was hope – coming off of a year where the Mariners ended up 1 game out of the playoffs.  There was a smart signing – Nelson Cruz, MVP candidate in 2015.  There was flawed logic – trading away a professional catcher during Zunino’s worst year in the Bigs for a righty power bat who will never play well in Safeco (and who’s yet another DH who shouldn’t be playing out in the field to boot).  And there was a whole lot of bad luck – Cano’s shitty start to the season, Ackley turning back into a pumpkin after last year’s bonanza second half, the bullpen absolutely falling apart after being one of the best units in the American League last year.

Like him or hate him, it’s just sad.  This whole season has been depressing as shit!  Jackie Z getting the boot is just the cherry on top.

The worst part is:  what do we do going forward?  When Bavasi was fired, there was a clear thought process:  scrap everything and start over through the draft.  It only got muddled when the Mariners had a winning record in 2009; that shouldn’t have happened, and it set things back in a lot of ways.  The Mariners made “contending ballclub” moves when they should’ve stuck to the gameplan to keep rebuilding.  It backfired in 2010, meaning we wasted two good rebuilding years thinking we were worth a damn.  We started anew in 2011, built the club up into a winner in 2014, only to see it all bottom out yet again.  Unexpectedly.  Yet again.  But, maybe we should have expected it.  This city is cursed in a lot of ways, and it took one of the greatest football teams of all time to break that spell in 2013.

Now, like in 2008, the Mariners have no farm system.  But, they’ve got plenty good at the Major League level.  This team is far from great, but it’s also far from the worst.  Will the organization be able to find the right guy to come in here and put all the pieces in place?

No.

It won’t.

Because Howard Lincoln is still the man calling all the shots.

He’s an imbecile and he needs to go.

But, we’re stuck with him, and that’s why we’ll always be losers.

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

2008 was the lowest point in Seattle sports.  It was our Absolute Zero.  Rock Bottom.  The total nadir of sports humanity!

It was the primary inspiration for the title of this website.  Take an already-crappy sports city, with practically no history of real success whatsoever, then rain down a million boulders while giving fans only a tiny umbrella to protect themselves.

We did NOT deserve this …

Well, we just finished the 2012 sports year with the 2012/2013 Husky basketball season coming to its conclusion.  As such, I have taken it upon myself to take a look back.  Five years ago, it was 2008; we were just getting started with the worst year ever.  How have things changed with our primary Seattle sports teams?

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners came off of a surprising 2007 campaign that saw them appearing to turn a corner.  Beltre, Ibanez, and Ichiro led the offense.  We hoped that a possible resurrection of Richie Sexson would bring about a further boost.  Two young guns up the middle – Lopez & Betancourt – were proof positive that what we were doing in our farm system wasn’t a complete joke.  Felix was coming into his own.  Losing Weaver & Horacio Ramirez was addition by subtraction.  You figured, with another quality starter, and another bat or two, and we’d be in business!

Well, we know what happened with 2008.  The Erik Bedard trade was a total and complete disaster (though, it went a long way towards the Orioles making their surprising playoff run in 2012).  The Mariners opted to let Jose Guillen walk and replaced him with the corpse of Brad Wilkerson.  Richie Sexson became a local pariah.  And, oh yeah, the other big pitching piece – Carlos Silva – was signed to the single-worst contract in recorded history.  You tack on little things – like J.J. Putz going from the greatest reliever in baseball in 2007, to an injured pile of crap in 2008 – and it all boils down to this team losing 101 games.  The first team with a payroll over $100 million to lose over 100 games.  Everyone was fired; it was brutal.

Enter Jackie Z, who could seemingly do no wrong at first.  He replaced Sexson with Russell Branyan – big upgrade.  He traded Putz for Franklin Gutierrez, who had an amazing season both in the field and at the plate.  We also ended up with Jason Vargas in that Putz deal, who came in and earned his way into the starting rotation.  He brought in Ken Griffey Jr., who wasn’t a total disaster as a DH.  In short, there was an immediate turnaround thanks to God knows what.  Good vibrations?  Luck?  I dunno.  But, this team improved 24 games over 2008 and contended well into the summer.  Everyone thought we’d struck gold!

Then, like some kind of sick fucking plague, every move Jackie Z made to help bolster the 2010 team turned to shit.  Chone Figgins was signed to a 4-year deal and immediately was the worst player in baseball.  Branyan was allowed to walk in favor of Casey Kotchman; Kotchman was terrible and Branyan was brought back in a panic-deal mid-season, because we had the most punch-less lineup in all of baseball history.  Silva was traded for Milton Bradley – which was a move of pure GENIUS until it turned out trading one cancer for another still leaves you on your deathbed.  Griffey was brought back, because HEY!, he hit 19 home runs the year before and it’s not like players suddenly lose all of their ability to swing a bat all at once or anything.

Mind you, just about everything Jackie Z did in anticipation of the 2010 season was believed to be the right thing.  Except for Griffey, but really, if we didn’t make the playoffs that season, it wasn’t going to be exclusively the fault of our elderly DH.  And, to a lesser extent, the Brandon League for Brandon Morrow trade was a bit questionable.  I mean, who trades a bona fide Major League starting prospect for an 8th inning reliever type? Nevertheless, this was a bold move looking to shore up our bullpen.

The cherry on top was the Cliff Lee trade.  We gave a bunch of Bavasi draft rejects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee in his final season.  At best, he’d be the starting pitcher to put us over the top.  At worst, we’d be a losing team and trade him at the deadline to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects.

Like everything else that happened in 2010, even THIS ended up backfiring.  Cliff Lee came with a built-in contingency plan!  And he was traded for Justin Smoak – a disappointment to date – Blake Beavan – a less-than-adequate starting pitcher – and what has turned into a season’s worth of Michael Morse, a season’s worth of John Jaso, and a season’s worth of Josh Lueke.  There’s still time to turn around our fortunes, but unless Smoak figures out a miracle cure to his sucking ways, this has bust written all over it.

So, what happens when every single offseason (and in-season) move you make backfires?  You lose another 101 games, your franchise icon retires mid-season, your manager gets fired, and your GM is lucky to still have a job.

2010 was a wake-up call, both for fans and for the organization.  The last two times the Mariners had winning records – 2007 and 2009 – they immediately went out the very next offseason and tried to Win Now.  All the moves they made in hopes to Win Now were total disasters, so they had to come up with a new plan.  Either you keep riding this rollercoaster, firing your manager and/or GM every two seasons, or you start over from scratch.

Even though Jackie Z managed to bungle every Major League move known to man, he had still built up the minor leagues a fair amount.  With another high draft pick in his pocket, he put his head down and went to work.

The 2011 season was essentially given over to the kids.  Our major offseason moves included bringing in Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan, and handing over the starting rotation to guys like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Blake Beavan.  In addition, Ackley, Seager, and Carp all got their feet wet; Peguero was given an inordinate amount of playing time for what he was actually bringing to the table.  Others, like Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Saunders, and Halman all got varying amounts of playing time.  2011 was Try-Out central in Seattle.  Throw a bunch of spaghetti noodles into a pot of boiling water, take them out and see which ones would stick to the wall.

2012 took it a step further.  The big free agent pick-ups consisted of Millwood, Iwakuma, and a backup shortstop in Kawasaki.  We traded away Pineda – our best pitching prospect – to bring in Jesus Montero, because we absolutely could not live with the same old offense we’d had the past two seasons.

What did 2011 and 2012 accomplish?  Moderate gains in the win/loss column (+6 wins in 2011, +8 wins in 2012), moderate gains in our offensive production, and a whole lot of salary coming off the books.  The Silva/Bradley money, the Ichiro money, the Olivo money, another season’s worth of the Figgins money.

Now, it’s 2013.  The Mariners brought in some big bats via trade – Morse & Morales for Jaso & Vargas respectively – and some veteran bats via free agency – Ibanez and Bay.  They re-signed Iwakuma (when they realized he’s actually a quality starter), brought in Joe Saunders (who will probably be terrible), and have given the back-end of the rotation over to youth (Maurer and Beavan).  The crown jewel of the 2012/2013 offseason was re-signing Felix through 2019.  That’s huge.  The Mariners may never make the post-season while he’s with us, but God damn it, if they do WATCH OUT.

There is reason for optimism five years after bottoming out in 2008, but we’re still in a Show Me stage.  I’ll believe it when I see it, and all that.  2013 is critical, because if they don’t show some significant improvement, I think a lot of people will be out on their asses again and we’ll be looking at ANOTHER rebuild.

Husky Football

The Huskies ended their 2007 season with a 4-9 record.  Their 2007 schedule was deemed by many to be the toughest schedule in the nation.  Tyrone Willingham was coming off of his third consecutive losing season (going 2-9 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006), and many believed he should have been fired then and there.  I was one of those simple-minded folks who said we should give him ONE more chance.  Jake Locker had a full season under his belt, why not give Willingham an opportunity to turn things around with the guy he brought in as his quarterback?

Well, we kicked off 2008 by being trounced in Oregon (who would go on to finish 10-3).  Then, we lost by a single point at home to BYU (thanks to the infamous penalty flag thrown on Locker as he ran in for the would-be game-tying touchdown and tossed the ball over his shoulder … thank you Pac-10 referees for being so damn competent) on a missed extra point at the end of the game.  Then, we lost at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to lose to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game).

THEN, we lost our quarterback, our best player, and really our only GOOD player, in the Stanford game.  After that, with the likes of Ronnie Fouch at the helm, we proceeded to lose all the rest of our games (including a pathetic heartbreaker of an Apple Cup, 16-13 in overtime).

0-12.  Doesn’t get any worse than that.  Can only go up from there, right?

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

The 2009 Huskies improved by 5 games.  There was a signature win at home over the then-#3 USC Trojans, 16-13 on a last-minute field goal.  There was a signature near-win the first game of the season at home against LSU.  Jake Locker took huge strides in his development as a passer.  Everything looked great for the future.

The 2010 Huskies weren’t all that much more improved than the 2009 team, but they managed to win six regular season games (winning out after starting 3-6, thanks to a soft schedule to finish things) and earned a bowl game against Nebraska.  Of course, they got killed by Nebraska, IN Husky Stadium, earlier that season.  But, in the rematch, this Husky team was totally reborn and they took it to the Cornhuskers, stifling them 19-7.

That led to somewhat higher expectations for 2011, but how high could we possibly make them?  Let’s face it, we’d lost our best player and were breaking in a new quarterback.  Our defense was still on the fritz, and we were still in a very tough conference with Oregon, Stanford, and USC.  Not to mention we had to go to Nebraska, where we most certainly got our shit kicked in.

2011 was a disappointment because there was no Signature Win.  In 2009 and 2010, we had victories over USC and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  In 2011, we barely squeaked by Eastern Washington in the first game.  We were absolutely terrorized by the aforementioned heavy hitters (losing the games to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Nebraska by a combined 190-93).  In spite of losing ALL the games were were technically “supposed” to lose, we were still in line for a 1-game improvement over 2010.  That officially died when A. we went into Oregon State and lost (they ended the season with 3 wins) and B. we faced RGIII and the Baylor Bears and gave up 67 points on 777 yards of offense in losing by 11.

Back-to-back 7-6 seasons left a bitter taste in our mouths.  After storming the field against the Cornhuskers, we bent over and grabbed our ankles against the Bears.  2012 would SURELY be different, though.  We had a full season with Keith Price, he had surpassed our wildest expectations by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  How could 2012 NOT be a huge improvement?  On top of all that, we didn’t wait that extra season to see if Nick Holt could turn things around on defense.  We went out, brought in some heavy hitters at recruiting and defensive coaching, and nabbed some top prospects in the process.

Well, there was improvement.  The 2012 Huskies DID manage some signature wins against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State (both in the top 10 at the time we beat them), but they also fell completely flat against the likes of #3 LSU, #2 Oregon, and #11 USC.  In spite of yet another 3-game losing streak in the middle of the season, these Huskies were looking at possibly winning 8 or 9 games when all was said and done!

They were 7-4 (riding a 4-game winning streak) going into the Apple Cup in Pullman.  They had an 18-point lead going into the final quarter … so of COURSE they ended up blowing the game in overtime.  This ultimately led to the Huskies facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and ending up – once again – 7-6.

In short, the Huskies went from 0-12 in 2008, to 5-7 in 2009, to 7-6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  No 7-6 record is created equal, obviously, but at the end of the day people don’t remember how you got there.  They just see where you were and shake their heads.

Keith Price showed all the promise in the world in 2011.  But, he lost all his major weapons (Kearse and Aguilar at receiver, Chris Polk at running back) and couldn’t recover in 2012.  In the Baylor bowl game, Price accounted for 7 touchdowns on offense and looked like the best quarterback on the field – even better than the Heisman Trophy winner and ultimate #2 overall draft pick.  However, in the Apple Cup and again in the Boise State bowl game, Price ended both with interceptions.  He was going into the 2013 season fighting for his job, but from all accounts he’s got it locked up after Spring Ball.  Nevertheless, I have to imagine he’s on a short leash.  We can’t suffer the kind of downgrade in production again.

At this point in Sark’s tenure, he’s got all his own guys now.  2013 is the year we’re expected to win and win consistently.  The non-conference schedule is relatively easy, and the conference schedule isn’t too bad either.  We’ve got veterans in all the right places, we’ve got some serious talent on defense for the first time since he got here, and Price has had a chance to gel with his offensive weapons.  2013 isn’t a Rose Bowl or Bust, but it’s close.  The Huskies have to at least be in the conversation.

I’m not gonna lie to you, beating the Ducks for the first time in eons would go a long way towards cementing Sark’s status as a legend ’round these parts.

Husky Basketball

The 2007/2008 Huskies were a definite low-point in the Romar era.  They finished the regular season 16-16, losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and received the #1 seed in the College Basketball Invitational.  You know, that post-season tournament for the teams not even good enough for the N.I.T.

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

In 2008/2009, we brought in Isaiah Thomas and he was a firecracker right from the start.  We enjoyed Brockman’s senior season, and we rode that wave to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 loss to 5-seed Purdue by two points.  More or less, it was a successful season, but once again it ended prematurely.

In 2009/2010, we had another senior leader taking to the forefront.  This time, it was Q-Pon, who averaged 19 and 7 per game in leading us to a Pac-10 Tournament victory, an 11-seed in the tournament, and upset wins over #6 Marquette (where he hit the clutch game winner) and #3 New Mexico.

Once again, though, the Romar-era Huskies couldn’t get past the Sweet 16.  This time, we lost to West Virginia, thanks to them totally having the length advantage on us.

In 2010/2011, we had our version of a Big 3 with Thomas, MBA, and Holiday.  The last two were seniors and Thomas was playing in what would be his final season.  We rode this squad to another Pac-10 Tournament victory (you all remember COLD BLOODED don’t you?).  This resulted in a 7-seed – our third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – and a victory over 10-seed Georgia before losing in the Round of 32 to 2-seeded North Carolina (by only 3 points, but still).

The 2011/2012 season saw the emergence of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Both were young, extremely talented, and irritatingly inconsistent.  Ross would disappear for minutes at a time.  Wroten had no jump shot whatsoever, so he had to fight for every single basket in the paint.  This team ended up winning the Pac-12 outright, but since the Pac-12 sucked dick that season, and since the Huskies lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, AND since they had no quality wins over ranked non-conference opponents, the Huskies were denied a fourth consecutive NCAA invite.  Instead, they locked down the #1-overall N.I.T. seeding and ran with it to the Final Four in New York City.  It ended with a loss to Minnesota, who would end up losing to eventual-champion Stanford the very next game.

The less said about the 2012/2013 season, the better.  Wroten and Ross both bolted for the NBA, and absolutely no one came in to replace them.  That’s what happens when you’re a good-not-great recruiter in a good-not-great university for basketball:  sometimes you DON’T bring in a player of quality and you suffer as a result.

Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, and N’Diaye were left to pick up the pieces.  This team was pretty solid on defense, but ultimately inept on offense, and now at least three of those guys are gone (with Wilcox having a difficult decision to make regarding his final year of eligibility).  The 2012/2013 Huskies didn’t beat a single ranked team, only beat three teams who ended up going to the NCAAs (Saint Louis, California, and Colorado), and wound up being a 6-seed in the N.I.T., where the subsequently got their shit kicked in at BYU.

What’s in store for 2013/2014?  Well, a solid incoming class with one McDonalds All American at point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss.  If Wilcox comes back, that gives us a veteran scoring presence (for the record, he’s a fool if he leaves; his past season was absolutely dreadful and injury-plagued).  If we can get anything from our young forwards, you could look at a team that surprises a lot of people.  Or, you could be looking at a third-straight N.I.T. bid.  If it’s the latter, I’m not so sure I’d be confident about my job security if I was Romar.

Seattle Supersonics

I won’t go into excruciating detail on this end.  We all know what the last five years have been like for the Sonics.  They went 20-62 in their final season in Seattle (after drafting Kevin Durant and bringing in one of the finest GMs in the game from the San Antonio organization).  They were given away by the city of Seattle, they struggled again the following season, and then they went to the playoffs four straight seasons (losing most recently in the Finals to the beloved Miami Heat).

Now, we’ve got an ownership group and an arena deal in place, and we’re fighting like crazy to steal the Kings from Sacramento.  If all goes according to plan, we will have pro basketball back in Seattle for the 2013/2014 season.  If it doesn’t, then this part of next year’s “Five Years” post is going to be REAL fucking depressing.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m saving the best for last because I can.  Because, honestly, it’s all a little too much and I can hardly believe it myself.  There is cautious optimism for the Mariners and their young core to turn things around.  There’s more confident optimism that the Husky football team will turn some heads this fall.  There’s hope that the Husky basketball team can somehow gel with their new incoming players and make an improbable Tourney run.  There’s delusions that the NBA will be back in Seattle this time next year.

But, that’s nothing.  There is outright SWAGGER for the Seattle Seahawks.  How did we get HERE?

In 2008, we went 4-12.  We had dicked around with Mike Holmgren, we signed on his replacement – Jim Mora Jr. – to be his defensive backs coach, and all the major veterans took a huge dump.  This was coming off of a 2007 season where the Seahawks once again won the division.  But, Shaun Alexander was released at the end, losing out to another injury.  So, Tim Ruskell opted to reload via free agency.  Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were brought in to liven up the running game, but no dice.  Hasselbeck missed a bunch of games, Walter Jones tried surgery but wasn’t the same and was forced to retire at season’s end … it was just a mess.

In 2009, there was something of a fresh start expected with Mora.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in on a huge free agent deal, Aaron Curry was signed as our can’t-lose first round draft pick … in short, we were one of the oldest and least-talented teams in the NFL.  When all was said and done, these Seahawks improved by only 1 game and both Mora and Ruskell were fired.

2010 was the REAL fresh start.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider tag-teamed this roster from head to toe.  They traded for Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst (hey, they can’t all be winners).  They got rid of Housh (taking a healthy bath in the cap hit) and later Deion Branch.  They brought in a rejuvinated Mike Williams who led the team in receiving.  They drafted Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor.  They made hundreds upon hundreds of free agent moves, giving tryouts to anyone and everyone who they thought might be an upgrade.  They got significantly younger, and thanks to a piss-poor division, ended up making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Understand, this wasn’t a legitimate playoff team.  Yes, after two years in the wilderness, they found their way back to civilization, but it was totally phony!  The fact that we beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field is a travesty of common decency (though, it did provide us with the greatest NFL play ever, Beastmode’s Touchdown Scamper).  Our “Cinderella” run ended the following week in Chicago, and you had to wonder how long it would be before the Seahawks made the playoffs again.

The 2011 Seahawks were hamstrung by the NFL Lockout.  They fired their offensive coordinator and hired Darrell Bevell from Minnesota.  Which meant, if they stood any chance of competing in ANY games that season, they’d have to bring some people in who knew Bevell’s system.  This meant Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  They let Hasselbeck go with a cordial goodbye and handed the keys to the team over to Tarvar (without so much as a second look at Whitehurst, who was as bad as we all remember him being and then some).

Tarvar proved tough, but ultimately inept when the game was on the line.  Those 2011 Seahawks also finished the regular season 7-9 and weren’t given the benefit of a lousy NFC West to “earn” a home playoff game.

With a full offseason going into 2012, the Seahawks needed to make a change.  They’d drafted well, bringing in guys like Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright.  But, they needed a signal-caller with some zazz!  So, they signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, and they went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

People say if Wilson was just 2-3 inches taller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick.  But, he’s not, so now he’s ours.

Wilson earned his opportunity to have an Open Competition in Training Camp.  This led to him wowing us in the Pre-Season, which ultimately led to him winning the job and running with it.  The 2012 Seahawks took it easy with him for the first few weeks, but once they knew he could handle himself, they opened things up.  This resulted in the Seahawks being the best team in football over the second half of the season.  Still, their early-season slip-ups meant that the 49ers won the division, relegating us to the fifth seed in the NFC.

We went into Washington and somehow came away with a victory.  Then, we went into Atlanta, gave them a 20-point lead, and somehow led in the game with 30 seconds to go.  That was choked away, but the message was sent.  It wasn’t, “Wait Until Next Year,” the way most fanbases say it, more resigned to their current fate as losers, sorely, bitterly hoping that things will turn around for them in short order.

No, this is, “Just you WAIT until next year, chickenfuckers!”  Because the 2013 Seahawks are a runaway train that has Super Bowl or Bust written all over them!

In five years, the Seahawks have gone from one of the oldest and worst teams in the NFL to one of the youngest and best teams.  In five years, the Seahawks have gone from bottom-feeders to would-be kings.  We fans are cashing in our 401Ks in anticipation of buying Super Bowl tickets in 2014.  It’s never been so clear and so positive in the city of Seattle.  They can single-handedly reverse the fortunes of this desolate sports city.  All they need to do is win.

What’s more, they’re spreading around the positivity.  People are stoked on the Mariners WAY more than they should be thanks to the good will generated by the Seahawks.  Sports fans have something to look forward to and spirits are bright.  This is carrying over to the other sports in hopes that the good vibes will roll on.

We’ll see.  If the Seahawks win it all, the Mariners contend for a playoff spot, the Huskies make a run at the Rose Bowl, the basketball Huskies make a run at the NCAA Tournament, and the Sonics return to Seattle, we could be talking about the greatest 5-year turnaround any sports city has ever seen.  Fingers crossed.

The Major Moves Of Jack Zduriencik

On October 22, 2008, Jack Zduriencik was hired by the Seattle Mariners to be their General Manager.  Here are the major player personnel moves the Mariners have made in that time.

For the 2009 Season:

12/3/2008 – Signed Russell Branyan to 1-year contract
12/10/2008 – Traded J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, Sean Green, and others for Jason Vargas, Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez, Mike Carp and others.
1/20/2009 – Traded for David Aardsma
1/29/2009 – Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
2/18/2009 – Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
7/29/2009 – Traded for Jack Wilson & Ian Snell

For the 2010 Season:

11/11/2009 – Re-Signed Ken Griffey Jr. to 1-year contract
12/8/2009 – Signed Chone Figgins to 4-year contract
12/16/2009 – Traded for Cliff Lee
12/18/2009 – Traded Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley
12/23/2009 – Traded Brandon Morrow for Brandon League
1/7/2010 – Traded for Casey Kotchman
1/21/2010 – Re-Signed Felix Hernandez to 5-year extension
1/29/2010 – Signed Eric Byrnes to 1-year contract
2/6/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
2/12/2010 – Re-Signed Mike Sweeney to 1-year contract
6/27/2010 – Traded for Russell Branyan
7/9/2010 – Traded Cliff Lee & Mark Lowe for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan & others

For the 2011 Season:

12/2/2010 – Re-Signed Erik Bedard to 1-year contract
12/10/2010 – Signed Jack Cust to 1-year contract
12/12/2010 – Traded for Brendan Ryan
1/3/2011 – Signed Miguel Olivo to 2-year contract
1/10/2011 – Signed Adam Kennedy to 1-year contract
7/30/2011 – Traded Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, & others
7/31/2011 – Traded Erik Bedard & others for Trayvon Robinson & others

For the 2012 Season:

11/27/2011 – Traded Josh Lueke for John Jaso
12/8/2011 – Claimed Lucas Luetge in Rule 5 Draft
12/21/2011 – Signed Munenori Kawasaki to 1-year contract
12/30/2011 – Signed George Sherrill to 1-year contract
1/5/2012 – Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 1-year contract
1/18/2012 – Signed Oliver Perez to 1-year contract
1/23/2012 – Traded Michael Pineda & Jose Campos for Jesus Montero & Hector Noesi
1/24/2012 – Signed Kevin Millwood to 1-year contract
7/31/2012 – Traded Steve Delabar for Eric Thames.  Traded Brandon League for others

For the 2013 Season:

11/2/2012 – Re-Signed Hisashi Iwakuma to 2-3-year contract
11/3/2012 – Re-Signed Oliver Perez to a 1-year contract

These by no means comprise ALL of the moves, but if I tried to list ALL the moves I’d be here all fucking month.  These are the guys who, more or less, made some kind of an impact on the major league ballclub.  I left out anything related to the draft, because it’s not draft season and that’s not really the point of this post.

What has Jackie Z done to improve the Major League ballclub?

You can see on the timeline where it all went awry.  Just about all of his major moves before the 2009 season were solid gold!  And, of course, what happened in 2009?  The Mariners ended up with 85 wins and somehow found themselves contending to the last month (or so).  It was only natural to think, given a few tweaks here and there, the 2010 season could be pure magic.

So, what did Jackie Z do?  He brought out the whuppin’ stick.  Within a 10-day period, we had our first MAJOR major signing of the Jack Zduriencik era:  Chone Figgins, 4 years.  No one at the time thought that was a stupid idea.  Piggybacking on that, in the aforementioned 10-day period, we brought in Cliff Lee to have one of the better 1-2 punches of all baseball starting rotations; and THEN we traded the dead weight of Carlos Silva for a possible reclamation project in Milton Bradley!  Hell, a bag of turds would’ve been better than Carlos Silva, so either way, there’s no losing THAT deal, right?  To top off his offseson, Jackie Z traded for League (to bolster the back-end of our bullpen), Kotchman (to give us some defense and decent pop at first base), and re-signed Felix to a 5-year extension.

I mean, my GOD, if Jackie Z wanted me to suck his dick after that string of moves, I gladly would’ve closed my eyes and opened my mouth.  THIS is exactly what we’ve been missing out of our baseball GM all these years!  He was doing it, he was really doing it!  There could be no downside to these moves!

Except, Figgins turned to crap.  Kotchman continued being crap.  Bradley continued being crap.  Griffey fell off the map.  Cliff Lee was hurt for the first month of the season.  League was nothing special (and Morrow still might be for someone else).  Byrnes was a fucking disgrace to the game of baseball.  We eventually had to bring back Branyan in a mid-season trade (and even THAT couldn’t prevent our offense from being the worst in the modern era).  And, since we weren’t contending, there was no point in holding onto Cliff Lee; we traded him for what looks like utter shit and disappointment.

Every move for that 2010 season (save re-signing Felix) COMPLETELY backfired.  And yet, at the time, every move was completely defensible!  The only thing you could possibly argue is:  the Mariners didn’t go far ENOUGH.  Of course, that’s the story of this franchise (see:  1996-2003).

After that, the organization put a total and complete halt on trying to contend whatsoever.  Going into 2011, the Mariners signed two veterans at the minimum (Cust & Kennedy), traded for a defense-only shortstop (Ryan), and their only major signing was Olivo on a 2-year deal with an option for a 3rd (that has since been denied, because Olivo).  That was it!  Four guys!  One of which was released before season’s end!

2012 was no picnic either.  Three more veterans at the minimum (Millwood, Sherrill, Perez), a backup shortstop (Kawasaki) who was somehow worse at the plate than Ryan, a Japanese pitcher coming off a major shoulder injury (Iwakuma), a Rule 5 reliever (Luetge), a backup catcher who somehow turned into the cream of the crop (Jaso), and another backup catcher in trade (Montero) who will hopefully be a future designated hitter for years to come.

It’s been two straight years of sifting through a muddy river of shit hoping to find a few tiny flecks of gold.

Now, with enough money off the books, and with the fanbase completely up in arms over all the losing, the Mariners are ready to spend money and hopefully try to compete once again.

Which got me to thinking.  Well, this blog post by Geoff Baker got me to thinking.  The money quote:

Towards the end of the call, I asked Zduriencik about the Chone Figgins experience and whether it caused any hesitation for him going forward when it comes to this winter’s crop of free agents — especially when it comes to inking longer-term deals of more than three years. I wasn’t doing it to rub his face in the Figgins mess — which no one really could have seen imploding as badly as it did — but rather to gauge whether this current administration is prepared to go longer than three years on any deal this winter.

The two biggest free agent acquisitions of the Jack Zduriencik era (not counting Felix, since he was already under contract) before this offseason’s Iwakuma deal have been Chone Figgins (4 years, $36 million) and Miguel Olivo (2 years, $7 million).  That’s IT!  The rest of his moves have either been in trade or of the bottom-feeding veteran minimum variety.

Obviously, this has been by design.  The organization wanted to rid itself of burdensome contracts.  The organization wanted to let some of the young kids play, to see if a “youth movement” could jumpstart things.  But, also, the organization was patently unwilling to increase payroll for the types of free agents that were becoming available the last two offseasons.  Let’s call a spade a spade here; the Seattle Mariners were pushing the Reset Button on this whole thing and starting over from scratch.  I don’t mean that literally, of course; it’s not like they could just waive everyone they didn’t like and bring up all new guys.  But, essentially, the Reset Button is what they did.

Up until now, I would say that the Figgins contract had little to do with the Mariners’ overall plan (except, obviously, they needed to fill their third base position with a rookie).  I don’t think being gunshy about Figgins’ 4-year deal prevented the Mariners from signing other guys to long-term contracts.  I think it was all the reasons I stated above.  That having been said, though, if the Mariners don’t sign someone to a long-term contract THIS off-season … then I’d have to say the Figgins deal is weighing on them.

It would only be natural, after all.  I mean, who WOULDN’T be gunshy?!  From the day Jackie Z took this job, give me the names of the free agents who have worked out beyond even a decent first season?  Yeah, the answer you’re looking for is ZERO.  Hisashi Iwakuma would be the first, if he comes back in 2013 and does well (which is no guarantee, let me tell you).

So, yeah, they SHOULD be apprehensive!  They SHOULD do as much due diligence as humanly possible on this offseason’s free agent crop.  Because it’s fucking NASTY out there!  You’ve got lemons and land mines all OVER the place!

The Mariners Most Likely Won’t Lose 100 Games This Year

The Seattle Mariners currently sit at 62-87.  Doing the math (or better yet, just doing the counting), I see that the Mariners have only 13 games left in the season.  We would have to lose every game the rest of the way to get to 100 losses.

Our magic number is 1!

I don’t suppose that’s a magic number in the sense most people are familiar with magic numbers in sports, but for the Mariners, 1 win will make all the difference.

Look at it:  we came into this season with lower than low expectations.  Anyone who predicted a .500 season, or anything close to a .500 season is a God damn moron, there I said it!  Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!  All you blogs, all you sports writers and beat reporters and national pundits!  You all had the Mariners in the 70-win range when you had NO REASON for it!  And you M’s fans, forget about it!  You’re fucking CRAZY!

Regression.  That’s all you got?  Certain players had outrageously bad seasons and SURELY they couldn’t replicate the badness back-to-back!  Bullshit, of course they could!  And, in many cases, they did.  Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, Jack Wilson, Michael Saunders; ALL of those guys followed up bad seasons with even worse seasons.  Compound that with the fact that Ichiro took a huge dive, Justin Smoak went on an extended slump (that is, when he wasn’t out with injury), Miguel Olivo is a walking Golden Sombrero …

I didn’t intend for this to be a 2011 Retrospective.  There will be plenty of time for that in the off-season.  This is a call-out to all the people who predicted this team would be better than it actually is.

And, for a while there, they were looking pretty damn good and I was looking pretty damn foolish.  For a while, the Mariners were at or above .500.  They were in contention for the AL West, their starting pitching was off-the-charts good, and their bullpen was doing things (Jamey Wright, David Pauley) that nobody in his right mind EVER could have expected.  Then, that 17-game losing streak happened.  I guess that’s one case where regression actually makes sense.

You know what I predicted for this year?  “Record Prediction:  65-97.  AL West Finish:  4th Place.  Draft Pick in 2012:  4.”  I’m EERILY fucking close to all of those things hitting right on the nose.  Look at my post HERE (and trust that I didn’t go back later and adjust it).

To hit my record, the Mariners have to go 3-10.  Look at the schedule!  6 games against the Rangers (fighting hard with Anaheim for the division), 3 games in Minnesota, another game in Cleveland, and 3 games at home vs. Oakland.  It’s not the most difficult schedule in the world, but 3-10 is VERY much on the table!

Currently, the Mariners are drafting 4th by a half game (San Diego is tied with us in the loss column, with one more in the win column) and by one and a half games (Baltimore has 1 extra loss, 2 fewer wins).  Should we go 3-10, as I predicted, I would say 4th is a stone cold lock (if not a lock for an even better draft slot).

And, obviously, the Mariners are last in the AL West.  By a whopping 5.5 games.  This one is a done deal.

Anyway, before I got all sidetracked on your idiotic predictions, I was talking about how 1 win will make all the difference.  And it will!  The psychological disgust involved with seeing triple-digits in the loss column is overpowering.  It’s a stench so foul, it will haunt you in your nightmares!  It’s the kind of thing that gets GMs and field managers unnecessarily fired.

I’ve said all along, while I thought the Mariners would be terrible, I still want to see Jackie Z retained.  That’s still true.  It’s a lot easier on management (I mean upper management here, the guys who hire and fire guys like Jackie Z) to NOT fire someone if they’ve got fewer than 100 losses.

However, a GM who has proceeded over a team with back-to-back 100-loss seasons … that’s a bitter fucking horse pill to swallow.  And I understand Z has already been signed to an extension, but first of all, who really expects contracts to ever be honored (even in Baseball where everything is guaranteed)?  Secondly, back-to-back 100-loss seasons is only going to serve in additional pressure on our already-beleaguered GM.

I don’t need Z suffering the ill effects of Armstrong & Lincoln breathing fire down his neck, whispering in his ear, “You gotta win now!  We gotta get more asses in those seats!”  That’s the kind of pressure that makes a guy panic in his wheelings and dealings.  Signing guys he wouldn’t normally sign because they’re a big name who might attract a few hundred more season ticket holders; trading away blue-chip prospects for guys who will help us in the interim, but won’t help us in the long run.

Look, I’m not one of those guys who says, “Don’t trade ANYBODY,” and keeps talking about the farm system like it’s some magical fairyland that produces nothing but top-notch Major Leaguers.  I understand not ALL of our prospects will pan out; I understand that we need to make trades to bring in guys to help the big ballclub (as opposed to the other way around; trading Major Leaguers to help the farm).  But, I just don’t want Z making the wrong deals, or deals he will later come to regret, simply because there’s this pressure on him to Win Now Or Else.

The Mariners winning 1 more game will go a long way toward helping that.  99 is better than 100.  Yeah, it’s just 1 game, but the distance between those numbers is a country mile wide.

A Mid-August Look At The Mariners’ Youth Movement

With the start of football season, the Mariners just haven’t been all that interesting, so my posts on the team have been unsurprisingly less frequent.  However, of late, the Mariners have produced some exciting moments from a batch of our younger guys getting a late-season showcase.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  This is August.  This is a team far from contention.  We’ve seen this before; we’ll reserve our judgment for next year.  Let’s see if they can continue to produce when the games, the at bats, the pitches actually mean something.

I hear you.  How many times have we seen a pitcher come on like gangbusters in September, only to suck to high heaven the following spring?  How many hitters have made a name for themselves with their late-season call up, only to have that name erased forever when shit was on the line?  But, I will say this:  I’d rather have guys produce now than the alternative (being:  not producing at all).  Do quality at bats & innings pitched guarantee success in the following season?  No, of course not.  But, at least they open the door to possibility.  To hope.

I’m going to give an overview of a few of the more exciting players who’ve made an impact of late.  Let’s start with the pitchers, since they’re actually the less interesting of the two sides.

Dan Cortes – Did you know this guy has one of the lowest ERAs on the team?  You wouldn’t think so, by reading all the blogs around the city.  Of course, we’re talking about 8 measly innings pitched, but still.  All I ever hear about the guy is how he walks the world, but truth be told he’s only walked 3 guys.  What’s probably the most disturbing is that he’s struck out 0.  It’s too early to tell if the guy is going to be a major bullpen threat next year, but he’s shown so far in his few outings that he can go multiple innings, he can keep guys off base, and he’s even induced more groundball outs than flyball outs.  If he can keep it up, and have an awesome Spring, you could be looking at a trusted 6th/7th inning guy.

Tom Wilhelmsen – In my opinion, a guy who has no business being on a major league roster right now.  Granted, he’s got a live arm, but he’s too damn wild and ineffective.  He’s given up 12 walks vs. 10 strikeouts, he’s got an ERA in the mid-6 range, and he doesn’t appear to be making any progress.  For every decent outing, he’s got an absolute disaster right around the corner.  My best case scenario for this guy:  manage to somehow not kill the rest of his trade value over the next month and a half, then package him with some other prospects for a quality bat.  He’s a guy I wouldn’t mind losing, even if his is a story heart warming.

Josh Lueke – Glad we traded for this guy, glad we kept him glad he’s gotten a chance to show what he can do after his abomination of an April.  Don’t let the 8.44 ERA fool you; he was over 17 when he was originally sent down to Tacoma after his first 8 appearances.  The guy couldn’t do anything right, the velocity on his fastball was disturbingly low, and he was just getting pounded left and right.  Ever since his mid-July call-up, he’s pitched 9.2 innings and given up only 3 runs (with 7 strikeouts vs. 2 walks).  He’s too young to be closing games in the Majors, but one day he could be the man.  It’s nice having him around on his way up (as I imagine his trip back down the ladder of success will be a quick & painful one).

Charlie Furbush – The jury isn’t just out on this guy; the jury has yet to be selected!  He’s started 3 games for us, relieved in another.  He’s had a good start (5 innings, 1 run), a terrible start (4 innings, 7 runs, 6 earned), and a great start (7 innings, 1 run, against the Red Sox of all teams).  Sure, there’s promise, but promises are made to be broken.  The upside is:  he becomes a left-handed Doug Fister (i.e.  he’s a capable innings-eater who doesn’t strike anybody out, but also doesn’t walk the world).  If all he becomes is the left-handed Doug Fister, then we’ve pretty much come away from that trade ahead, since there are three other guys involved with the deal (not counting Pauley, who nobody in their right mind will ever miss).  If he fails in his charge to become the left-haded Doug Fister, then who cares?  Doug Fisters are a dime a dozen (you’ll never know how it pains me to say that, as I was actually a pretty big Doug Fister fan while he was here).

Blake Beavan – Here’s another guy with limited upside.  Essentially, we want him to be the right-handed Doug Fister (or, just Doug Fister).  At first, you had to LOVE what you saw out of the kid.  6 consecutive quality starts to kick off his career (including a couple of impressive performances down in Anaheim, going 14.1 innings over 2 starts, giving up 3 earned runs).  He has since backed those games up with a couple of real clunkers (11.1 innings, 11 runs, 6 home runs against Boston & Toronto).  That’s not going to cut it.  He’s got to find a way to be a little more spectacular in his wins and a little less like Chinese Water Torture in his losses.  I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in this guy right now, but I don’t think there’s any pitcher I’m more interested in seeing down the stretch.  Can he bounce back?  Will he flame out like the Challenger Explosion?

Now, to the hitters (in an effort to not bum everyone out, I’ve decided to leave Justin Smoak off this list).

Trayvon Robinson – Talk about an exciting debut!  The kid has flashed some serious glove, some serious power, and some serious consistency.  He’s 9 for 36 so far with 4 doubles and a homer.  Of course, in his 10 appearances he’s struck out 14 times with only 1 walk (so, in that sense, he’s just like Halman, Peguero, and all the rest of our high-strikeout AAA bashers).  People in the know seem to have higher hopes about Robinson in spite of these K’s, so who knows?  What I want to see out of him more than anything else is a batting average that doesn’t plummet to Figginsian levels with steady playing time.  All of these guys seem to start out ablaze, then a month goes by and it’s like they’ve been hit with a dozen fire extinguishers.

Casper Wells – Before the trade, Wells was hitting .257 with 4 homers, a .323 OBP, and a .451 slugging percentage in 113 at bats spread out over the first four months.  Since the trade, Wells is hitting .326 with 5 homers (including a homer in 4 consecutive games), a .413 OBP, and a .652 slugging percentage in 46 at bats.  Sure, a smaller sample size, but it could also be a testament to what the guy can do when given a chance to compete for a starting spot (and given a chance to play everyday).  A lot to like about the guy’s results, but I question if he can do it over the long haul.  For the moment, though, he’s making the Fister trade look like a fucking blockbuster.

Mike Carp – This guy is easily my favorite story of the year.  Not Pineda, not Ackley, not Wedge shaving off his moustache, not even the cutting of Milton Bradley.  Here’s a guy who looked like nothing more than a AAA also-ran.  Someone with not enough power for the power positions (left field, first base, DH) and not enough skill for the skill positions where we’re hurting the most (third base, short stop, catcher).  Essentially, he was a baseball player without a position.  No matter where you put him, he would ultimately never live up to the ideal.

Then, something happened.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the guy took a few dozen massive doses of steroids, but I’m pretty darn certain that’s not the case.  Simply put, the guy turned into a wild, uncaged animal for our Rainiers.  As guys like Peguero and Halman kept all the Major League playing time for themselves (and doing a poor job at it to boot), Carp quietly went about his business of being the Osama Bin Laden of the PCL (terrorizing, he was terrorizing them).  Finally, in early June, the Mariners had no choice.  They HAD to bring the guy up.

And, I don’t want to say he struggled, but he certainly wasn’t the hitter he was in Tacoma.  He had a .200 batting average with 2 doubles and 0 homers in 35 at bats … okay, so he struggled!  He still had enough walks to keep his OBP at .333.  When he was sent back down in early July, I was convinced that was it for the Mike Carp era.  It proved once and for all that Carp was indeed nothing more than a AAA also-ran.

Then, he was called back up.  And all of a sudden, he started dominating.  They gave him an everyday job and let him take his lumps.  As a result, Carp has rewarded the team with .371 batting average over his last 105 at bats.  He’s hit 6 homers, 6 doubles, and a triple.  He’s slugging .619 over this span to give himself an absolute Ruthian OPS.

You know why he’s my favorite story of the year?  Because he reminds me so much of Edgar.  A guy who toiled in the minors well into his 20s, then finally got a shot on some bad teams.  Once he had a regular opportunity to bat, he ran away with it, winning batting titles and the hearts of the Pacific Northwest.  Who’s to say Carp couldn’t do the same thing as our DH of the future?

I implore Mariners executives:  don’t go out and buy another past-his-prime designated hitter in the hopes that he’ll rebound to his 2-years-ago self.  2 years in baseball years might as well be 2 decades when you’re old.  Mike Carp is here now, he’s inexpensive, and he’s poised to tear the cover off the ball for years to come!

Dustin Ackley – This kid is just amazing.  There’s nothing else to say about him.  I have no concerns whatsoever that he’s going to regress next year.  I fully expect him to have a Wade Boggs type career for the next decade-plus.  Even when he’s struggling (like he has in August, with a .241 batting average), he’s still awesome (a .379 on-base percentage in that very same span).  On the year, he has 25 walks vs. 35 strikeouts.  He’s hit 5 homers, 5 triples, and 11 doubles; I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome that is for a second baseman.  In seriously not that many years, he’s going to go down as the best second baseman the Mariners have ever seen (with apologies to Harold Reynolds).  I love you Dustin Ackley.  So very damn much!

Damn You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!

Anybody else glad it’s Friday?  This road trip this week has just been the WORST.

As our batting average with runners in scoring position slogs back down toward its .215 norm, I’m constantly reminded that this is a team in flux.  It seems like a million years ago that Jack Wilson was our starting, everyday 2nd baseman.  Now he’s lucky to get 2 games a week.  The breath of fresh air that has been every other incoming outfielder has really done wonders for making me forget that Milton Bradley ever existed.  And wasn’t it cute back when Chone Figgins batted second in our lineup and was an everyday player?  Awww.

It’s been a slow, gradual churn, but here we are.  The Youth Movement in full effect.  Mike Carp is DHing, Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero are running down balls in the outfield, Justin Smoak has seemingly locked down first base for a while, Dustin Ackley is something like a week or two (tops) from being in the Majors, Michael Pineda is working miracles with a 100-pitch-count-limit.

The ranks of the Triple-A are infiltrating our big ballclub!  That’s a good thing, obviously, for two reasons.  First, you always want to see what you have in your farm system.  Generating Major League ball players from within is the primary objective for any organization that wants to be a winner.  Especially for a team that’s been as bad as the Mariners in the last decade.  You NEED guys to fill your holes (huh huh), and by season’s end, if a few holes still remain:  well, now you know what to go after in free agency.

Incidentally, the second reason why the Youth Movement is a good thing is more for the fans:  we get sick and tired of watching the same overpaid veterans suck dick night in and night out.  If we’re going to lose anyway, we’d rather lose with the young’uns with the hope that over time they’ll get better and replace the veteran losers we loathe so much.

The Youth Movement is also a bad thing, though.  VERY bad.  Guys just starting out, trying to make it in the Major Leagues … they’re not Major Leaguers!  They’re Triple-A guys getting a shot.  It takes time and success to prove you belong in the Major Leagues.  The kids will get time, sure.  No one was banking on contending in 2011 anyway.  But the longer they fail, the likelier it’ll prove they really don’t belong. 

Let’s face it, unless your name is Ichiro, you’re not going to make the jump to the Major Leagues and hit .300.  It’s just not gonna happen.  You’re GOING to struggle, you’re GOING to bat around Mendoza, you’re GOING to strike out with men on base and the pitch in the dirt.  It’s just going to happen.  The same qualities that got you INTO the Majors – usually “hitting the fastball real hard” – are the same qualities that will make you look foolish when you run into pitcher after pitcher with quality curveballs.

This Youth Movement makes me yearn now more than ever for quality baseball veterans to hit like the back of their baseball cards.  We’re going to be playing anywhere from 3-5 kids a night who are all going to have a few good days mixed in with a lot more bad days.  We NEED guys like Ichiro, Figgins, Ryan, Olivo, and Gutierrez to pick up the slack.  And, not that it matters much beyond this year, but it would be nice if Kennedy kept his hot streak going (and, for that matter, it would be nice if Cust didn’t totally blow ass all the time).

Once the second half of this season starts, I fully expect the notion of “contending” to be a thing of the recent past.  At that point, it’ll be a full-blown Youth Explosion.  Be that as it may, I’m still not ready to watch the kind of crappy baseball I had to endure last year.  To avoid this, one of two things needs to happen:  either the kids all come together and start blowing everyone away, or the veterans get their shit together and start carrying this team like veterans are supposed to do.

If we get neither, then look out.  It could get real ugly real quick in Marinerland.  The Youth Movement is sexy and new, but it’s also unreliable and inconsistent.

Carlos Peguero Fights For His Life

The Mariners were GOING to make a move.  Left Field has been a black hole for FAR too long this season.  Michael Saunders has been given EVERY opportunity to show he belongs on a Major League roster and all he’s proven is that he’s a quality late-inning replacement defender.  With the bat?  He’s as useless as an asshole on an elbow.

But, who was any better?  Peguero and Mike Wilson are both hitting under .200.  It’s laughable to think Jack Cust could still play left field.  Adam Kennedy is an emergency outfielder at BEST.  All of these guys, if made to play left field on an everyday basis, would make us long for Milton Bradley so fast it would make our heads spin.

Of course, there’s Mike Carp down in Tacoma.  He’s blistering the everloving SHIT out of the baseball this season.  And not just for the last couple weeks, or for the month of May.  He’s been doing it pretty much all season!  And he’s not letting up.  He’s all anyone who’s covering the team can talk about, especially with the elephants in the room being our current crop of Major League left fielders being the suck-asses that they are.

That brings us to last night.  A right-hander on the mound for Tampa, so Peguero gets the start in left.  Kinda surprised that Saunders didn’t get the start – what with this being Felix Day and wanting the best defense on the field behind him – but upon new shit being brought to light, I guess I’m not all that surprised after all.  Anyway, Peguero starts, and LO and BE-FUCKING-HOLD!

Two home runs.

The first a 3-run blast to right field to make it a 5-0 game in the 2nd inning; the second a solo shot to left – absolutely crushed to the opposite field – in the 4th inning to make it 7-0.  Yes, Jack Cust had his first Safeco Field home run as a Mariner, and yes Justin Smoak dropped a bomb to raise his slugging percentage; but I’m here to talk about Peguero, and how he just saved his fucking job!

When I look at a new player – be it rookie, or free agent signee – I like to look for signs.  I’m not necessarily looking for them to be MVPs right out of the box, but I like to know two things:  what I can reasonably expect to be an average game for them, and what’s possible in their BEST game.

When I look at Peguero, I know I can reasonably expect a low batting average, a lot of strikeouts, and a home run here and there when he makes decent-to-good contact.  However, NOW, when I look at Peguero, I also know in the back of my mind that he has a 2-homer game in him.  I can’t say that about most of the rookies who’ve graced the Mariners uniform the last few years; but I can say it about Peguero.

Indeed, it was announced yesterday that one of our left fielders was going back to Tacoma.  From what I understand, this happened after the game, and it was indeed Michael Saunders who got the knife.  Maybe this was Wedge’s thinking going into yesterday’s game.  Maybe he’s known for a while now that Saunders – and not Peguero – would be the one who needed to be sent down to work on his swing and his confidence.  Maybe.  All I know is, if there was ever an ounce of doubt that he was making the right call, yesterday’s 2-homer performance from Peguero surely silenced that little inner critic.  At least, for the time being.

In return for Saunders, we have NOT Mike Carp, but instead Greg Halman.  Greg Halman, from what I remember, is the exact same hitter as Peguero and Mike Wilson.  They all take big swings, they all make big misses, and occasionally they hit the ball far.  Halman, unlike the other two (and unlike Mr. Carp), is fast and rangy and can play center field in case Guti needs a day off.

It would appear, if Mike Carp is EVER going to get a chance to play for the Mariners this year, he’s going to need Peguero to stop having 2-homer games.  Or he’ll need an injury out of Cust or Smoak.  Perish that last thought!  Why can’t you be a third baseman Mike Carp?  Then I could love you long time!

Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings (Part 2)

Editor’s NoteThis is the original blog post.  If you want to see the comprehensive list, click HERE.  I update the master list semi-regularly, whenever I can find the time.

Here we are with Part 2 of the series.  Look for the link in the menu bar above to be updated accordingly with my exhaustive timeline of a generation’s worth of bungling.  There will likely be a Part 3 of the series, but in that one I’ll focus on supposed bad moves made by the Good Guys that I’ll end up defending as “not that bad”.  It’s in this “Omissions” article where you’ll find the likes of the Randy Johnson Trade and the Ken Griffey Jr. Trade.

Of course, this is by no means a complete list.  And again, I welcome any and all suggestions from the peanut gallery.

June 26, 1991 – (Sonics) – Rich King 1st Round Draft Pick:  14th overall.  I don’t want to say this is the “first” in a long line of busted centers for the Seattle Supersonics, but he’s certainly the first on my list.  7 feet 2 inches of complete and utter worthlessness.  The guy gave us absolutely nothing for four straight years before signing elsewhere at the end of his rookie deal.  To be fair, I don’t know much about the guy – maybe he suffered through chronic injuries or something.  Regardless, for a team on the rise, the Sonics really missed on this pick.  The only way you could defend the team on this one is that there really weren’t any studs left once Dale Davis was snapped up 1 pick prior.  Nevertheless, there’s nothing I can’t stand more than a tall, unathletic white guy who does little else than take up space.

September 1, 1993 – (Sonics) – Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson & 1st Round Pick to Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill & 1st Round Pick:  for me, Kendall Gill is Public Enemy #2 among Sonics in the 1990s (just below Jim McIlvaine).  We were looking for a solid shooting guard to play alongside GP and the boys; what we got was a dour, cancerous sideshow.  Is it any surprise that he was on the first ever 1-seed to lose to an 8-seed?  Is it any surprise that his play and his attitude destroyed what should’ve been another championship run in the ’94-’95 season?  Not in my book.  Kendall Gill was an assclown before Milton Bradley stole his crown.  To make matters worse, Barros was a stud sharpshooter and Eddie Johnson was a quality all-around player.  Fortunately, to make matters much better, on June 27, 1995, the Sonics traded him BACK to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate.  Result:  Sonics team chemistry skyrockets and they go to the NBA Finals.  Coincidence?  You better believe NOT.

July 18, 1994 – (Sonics) – Ricky Pierce, Carlos Rogers & Two 1995 2nd Round Picks to Golden State Warriors for Sarunas Marciulionis & Byron Houston:  I remember nothing about Byron Houston, probably because he DID nothing for us.  Ricky Pierce, on the other hand, was a veteran guard who could come off the bench and still give you quality minutes (and, in fact, he did for a few years after this trade).  The real culprit here, though, is Sarunas Marciulionis.  The guy was supposed to come in and be Instant Offense.  Instead, for his lone season with us (that disaster of a ’94-’95 campaign) he averaged 9.3 points per game while playing abysmal defense.  If you can’t tell, there was a lot to hate about that ’94-’95 team.  Fortunately, glory would shine down upon us when we flipped both Marciulionis and Houston on September 18, 1995 to Sacramento for Frank Brickowski.  You know what they say:  if you’re going to be an unathletic white center, you better bring the pain on your opponents (okay, so maybe they don’t say that, but they should).

July 22, 1996 – (Sonics) – Jim McIlvaine signs 7-year $33.6 million deal:  the beginning of the end.  This one wasn’t just a team-destroyer, this was a franchise-destroyer.  First of all, McIlvaine was a nothing backup for the Bullets for 2 seasons.  We sign him to this monster deal RIGHT after our run to the Finals when we should have God damned signed Shawn Kemp to a nice fat extension.  Instead, Kemp is unhappy, plays another season where we lose in the 2nd round (with McIlvaine giving us no help whatsoever), forces a trade where we get 1 good season out of Vin Baker (before the strike-shortened season gets him all fat), and then the wheels come off (ultimately leading to a bunch of up-and-down Sonics teams, and finalized by those Oklahoma City chickenfuckers stealing our team).  Maybe it wasn’t all Jim McIlvaine’s fault; but it was CERTAINLY the fault of Wally Walker and company.  We had no business bringing in this guy, nor giving him the kind of money that would make All Pros like Shawn Kemp jealous.  He broke up our golden team, and for that this sin of signing him is unforgivable.  There was plenty of good basketball left with GP and Kemp; it’s a crime we didn’t get to see it.

September 25, 1997 – (Sonics) – Shawn Kemp to Cleveland Cavaliers for Vin Baker (from Milwaukee Bucks in a 3-way deal):  I got into this one a little bit in the Jim McIlvaine section, but this definitely deserves to be on the list.  One could argue that, in the end, it was one overweight disappointment for another, but I refuse to see it that way.  First of all, Shawn Kemp wasn’t an alcoholic.  Gary Payton would’ve made DAMN sure to keep him in tip-top shape during that NBA Lockout.  And anyway, who could’ve seen the lockout coming (or, at least, who could have seen it costing us so many games that season)?  What you COULD see coming was breaking up a dynasty.  Yes, Kemp pretty much forced this trade upon us (and yes, Vin Baker WAS a quality player at the time on par with Kemp’s level of production), but since this correlates DIRECTLY with the Jim McIlvaine signing, the Sonics were doing nothing more than compounding one mistake on top of another.  Had we kept Kemp happy in the first place, none of these other things would’ve happened (and, as you’ll see, the trail of tears from that McIlvaine signing will continue).

August 9, 1999 – (Sonics) – Vernon Maxwell signs 3-year $5 million deal:  no, it wasn’t an exorbitant amount of money.  But, we were getting a guy whose prime was CLEARLY well behind him (and, even then, what kind of a “prime” can you really call it?) and we were getting a guy who couldn’t stick with a team.  He’d changed cities TEN times before he landed in Seattle!  You HAVE to think something’s not quite right with a guy when he’s got that kind of background (again, see:  Bradley, Milton).  Sure enough, he was turmoil incarnate when he joined the Sonics.  I mean, what kind of a dick throws a fucking free weight at a teammate?  He injured two of our guys while battling it out with GP, and wasn’t long for the team after that (he was traded on September 20, 2000 in that collosal Patrick Ewing deal).  Any shock to anyone that he was thereby waived 15 days later (and again in December of that same year)?

August 18, 1999 – (Sonics) – Vin Baker re-signs for 7-year $86 million deal:  and here we are, with the zenith of Jim McIlvaine’s horrorshow.  WHAT were we THINKING???  Vin Baker just finished a horrendous strike-shortened season – where of course he came back drunk and overweight – and we rewarded him with a max contract.  Incredible.  Un-fucking-believable.  We got three full seasons of lessened production out of this schlub, then we dealt him on July 22, 2002 to Boston with Shammond Williams for Kenny Anderson, Joseph Forte, Vitaly Potapenko.  I can’t imagine anyone really “won” that deal, but it’s just frustrating.  From ’96/’97 onward, we squandered Gary Payton’s prime with a subpar supporting cast.  On behalf of everyone in Seattle, I hereby apologize to GP for not getting you the ring you deserved when you were with us.

April 21, 2001 – (Seahawks) – Koren Robinson, 1st Round Draft Pick:  9th overall.  There were plenty of other wide receiver fish in the sea in the 2001 NFL draft, but we decided to go big with Koren Robinson.  He was supposed to be a Randy Moss-type of guy who would speed down the field and go up for the long bombs.  Instead, we got a lush who wasted all of his God-given ability.  Koren Robinson single-handedly turned me (and most of Seattle) off of drafting wide receivers high in the first round.

June 5, 2001 – (Mariners) – Michael Garciaparra, 1st Round Draft Pick:  this was a guy we seemingly drafted on name alone.  I mean, Nomar was such a great player for Boston, how could his brother not be equally as amazing?  And at the same short stop position no less!  Well, he was a dud.  This was our supplemental pick for losing A-Rod, so there’s some more salt for your wounds (I better hear plenty of extra boos for Pay-Rod now that you’re thusly reminded!).  Making matters worse:  David Wright was drafted by the Mets two picks later.  Wouldn’t it have been nice to have that third base position locked down all this time?

July 31, 2001 – (Sonics) – Calvin Booth signs 6-year $34 million deal:  now HERE’S where the rediculousness of the Sonics’ search for a starting center reached new heights.  I guess averaging 7.5 points per game (over merely 15 games) for the Dallas Mavericks means you’re worth a skyscraper of a deal (at long as the Sonics are the willing buyer).  And, as laughable as it sounds, we would’ve RELISHED 7.5 points per game!  Only for the Sonics could a suck-ass player manage to get markedly worse.  In the end, we traded his final three years away on July 26, 2004 BACK to the Mavs for Danny Fortson’s final three years.  You’d think after McIlvaine, we would’ve learned our lesson.  Of course, you’d think after McIlvaine AND Booth, we REALLY would’ve learned our lesson.  In a sense, I guess we did, since we opted henceforth (for the most part) to get our shitty centers direct from the NBA Draft.

July 18, 2002 – (Sonics) – Jerome James re-signs 3-year $15 million deal:  the thing I’ll never forget about this deal was in the 2002 NBA playoffs we played (and lost to) the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.  As a 7-seed, we took them to the brink of five games, and in those games Jerome James exploded for production up to that point unseen.  He was a monster.  Scoring, rebounding, defending.  He was our MVP and almost single-handedly led us to the next round.  Ignoring all of his regular season struggles up to that point, we gave him this contract and our starting center job.  He went on to revert right back to his old ways, then somehow snookered the Knicks into giving him a huge payday.

December 19, 2003 – (Mariners) – Scott Spiezio Signs 3-year $9.15 million deal:  we stole him away from the Angels (after their World Series win) and got nowhere near what we paid for.  He batted .215 for us over 112 games (a remarkable decline).  We played him for a bit in 2005 where he got 3 hits in 47 at bats, then we released him on August 19, 2005.  Nearly 4 years and 4 months later the Mariners would go on to steal Chone Figgins from the Angels.  Here’s a hint fellas:  Angels are only good when they’re Angels and they get to play 19 games against the Mariners!

January 8, 2004 – (Mariners) – Carlos Guillen to Detroit Tigers for Juan Gonzalez & Ramon Santiago:  not the Juan Gonzalez you’re thinking of.  This Juan Gonzalez was a minor leaguer who never cracked the majors.  Ramon Santiago was a glorified minor leaguer who SHOULD’VE never cracked the majors.  Meanwhile, Carlos Guillen went on to kick ass and take names.  We really missed his streaky-ass.

January 8, 2004 – (Mariners) – Rich Aurilia Signs 1-year $3.5 million deal:  on the SAME DAY.  We replaced a guy who went on to be a cornerstone for a quality Tigers run with a guy who’d be released 6 months later.  National Leaguers can NOT hit in Safeco!  Say it with me now!

June 24, 2004 – (Sonics) – Robert Swift, 1st Round Draft Pick:  12th overall.  We could’ve had Al Jefferson; think HE could’ve helped out our front court?  Instead, we got the 7-foot project out of high school who spent more time rehabbing knees and getting tattoos than he did playing pro basketball.  What a magnificently frightening bust!

December 15, 2004 – (Mariners) – Richie Sexson Signs 4-year $50 million deal:  this was the beginning of a very happy week for Mariners fans.  We’d just wrapped a total collapse of a season where all of our veteran players died simultaneously.  This was after an epic string of Mariners seasons where 90 wins was the norm.  A lot of money was coming off the books.  I mean, a LOT of money.  In his first major foray with the team, Bill Bavasi was looking to both make a big splash and return the team to dominance.  First:  Richie Sexson.  He missed most of 2004 with injury, but before that he was a home run machine with the Brewers.  He had two seasons of 45 homers in a 3-year span; SURELY he’d bring that much needed bop over to Seattle!  And, to his credit, he did … for two seasons.  But, if you were paying attention, you’d know that was really 1.5 seasons; because in year 2 of his 4-year deal he got the bulk of his numbers in the 2nd half of the season when the team was already out of it.  2007 saw that first-half malaise push through to the full season; 2008 saw him clearly done.  He was making an ass-load of money by going out there making an ass of himself.  The team finally had the decency (to its fans) to release him on July 10, 2008, but by then the damage had been done.  That 2008 team was a clusterfuck of epic proportions, only matched (somehow) by 2010’s clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks.

December 17, 2004 – (Mariners) – Adrian Beltre Signs 5-year $64 million deal:  two days after landing the whale that was Richie Sexson, the Mariners went out and doubled down on Adrian Beltre.  Most of us, over time, came to respect Beltre for what he was:  a hard-nosed, inconsistent hitter with a little bit of power and a ton of defensive ability at the hot corner.  We could respect the guy for playing through pain (and massive shoulder injuries) and giving his absolute all to a consistently losing effort.  But, he wasn’t worth the money and it was obvious early on.  Coming off a career year (steroids anyone?) in Los Angeles where he hit .334 with 48 home runs (after his previous career high was only .290 and 23 home runs – not in the same season), he’s the epitome of a Contract Year Player.  Year 1 with the Mariners:  .255 with 19 homers.  Believe it or not, Beltre was the more loathed between him and Sexson.  That went on to change, but we’ll never forget the disappointment on all our faces when we realized that Beltre would never come NEAR to approaching .334 with 48 homers again.

January 4, 2005 – (Mariners) – Pokey Reese Signs 1-year $1.2 million deal:  it’s not the amount of money, it’s not the length of contract.  It was the fact that he never played a GAME.  Not for the Mariners in that year, not for another Major League Baseball team ever again!  In his place, we were introduced to Yuniesky Betancourt.  And the rest, as they say, is hostility.

June 7, 2005 – (Mariners) – Jeff Clement, 1st Round Draft Pick:  3rd overall.  Out of the top 7 picks, there was one bust, one mediocre player (who could still be decent if this year’s promise means anything), and five super studs.  Guess which one the Mariners drafted!  Let me run down the list:  1. Justin Upton, 2. Alex Gordon, 3. Clement, 4. Ryan Zimmerman, 5. Ryan Braun, 6. Ricky Romero, 7. Troy Tulowitzki.  Four of those guys have are considered All Stars and Romero is a quality starter for Toronto.  We screwed up ROYAL in this draft.  Where is Jeff Clement now?  Probably in the Pirates’ farm system (where he belongs; the worst Major League team’s minor leagues).  Who did we get in return?  Try Ian Snell and Jack Wilson.  I’ll give you a minute to bang your head against the wall.

July 30, 2005 – (Mariners) – Randy Winn to San Francisco Giants for Jesse Foppert & Yorvit Torrealba:  or, in other words:  “Randy Winn to San Francisco Giants for Nothing.”

December 22, 2005 – (Mariners) – Jarrod Washburn Signs 4-year $37.5 million deal:  hey, another Angels player they didn’t want!  I bet this turned out swell for the Good Guys!  Except it didn’t; we got three sub-par seasons before he miraculously turned it around long enough in 2009 so we could trade him to the Tigers on July 31st for Mauricio Robles & Luke French.  That was a Jackie-Z miracle if I ever witnessed one.  French is a back-end starter (currently toiling for the Rainiers) and Robles has the potential to be great.  Or, at least, greater than Washburn ever was for us.

January 4, 2006 – (Mariners) – Carl Everett Signs 1-year $3.4 million deal:  you can point to this signing as the beginning of the Mariners suffering through rent-a-veterans on their last legs.  He would be released on July 26th of that year, but not before hitting 11 homers and batting .227.  Funny thing is, what WOULDN’T we give to have 11 homers and a .227 batting average out of our designated hitter in 2011?

April 29, 2006 – (Seahawks) – Kelly Jennings, 1st Round Draft Pick:  undersized cornerback wanted for:  giving up long touchdowns and never intercepting the ball.  Must be able to occasionally ankle-tackle and make Marcus Trufant look like a Pro Bowler by comparison.  Start immediately.

June 6, 2006 – (Mariners) – Brandon Morrow, 1st Round Draft Pick:  5th overall.  This pick will forever be known as the time where the Mariners passed on multi-Cy Young winner (and local hero) Tim Lincecum.  Odds are, we would’ve ruined him the same way we did Morrow – by fucking with his confidence, and jerking him around between starting and relieving – but you never know.  Maybe not.  Maybe, if we would’ve gone with the proven winner over the guy with one year’s college experience, he would’ve commanded a starting rotation slot from the get-go.  We’ll never know; and San Francisco is all the luckier for it.

December 14, 2006 – (Mariners) – Miguel Batista Signs 3-year $24 million deal:  in what universe is Miguel Batista worth $24 million?  Well, THAT’S certainly a silly question!

December 18, 2006 – (Mariners) – Emiliano Fruto & Chris Snelling to Washington Nationals for Jose Vidro:  Vidro was awesome back in his prime.  You know, when he could play the field and hit well over .300.  By the time we got him, he was less than a shell of his former self.  Yet, he still managed a respectable batting average in the 2007 season – though, for a DH, his power numbers were attrocious.  Unfortunately, in 2008, the wheels came off (like they did for Sexson and pretty much the entire team).  We stuck with him for 85 excruciating games that season, then released him on August 13th.

January 30, 2007 – (Mariners) – Jeff Weaver Signs 1-year $8.3 million deal:  and the hits just keep on coming for the Bill Bavasi era.  Pretty much because of a single World Series game for the Cardinals, Jeff Weaver “earned” $8.3 million for the Mariners.  “If he was so important to their success in 2006, why didn’t St. Louis want him back,” you might be asking yourself.  I don’t have an answer for you.  What I CAN tell you is that he gave us 27 of the most worthless games imaginable in 2007.  And HE wasn’t even the most loathesome starting pitcher for that team (thank you very much Horacio Ramirez).

December 20, 2007 – (Mariners) – Carlos Silva Signs 4-year $48 million deal:  or, The Straw That Broke Bavasi’s Back.  He was awful for his two seasons in Seattle.  I have nothing redeeming to say about the man.  We traded him on December 18, 2009 to the Chicago Cubs for Milton Bradley in a swap we hoped would be one of those “Change Of Scenery” deals.  Well, the scenery was different, but there would be no change.  Yeah, Silva had half a good season in 2010, but then he reverted right back and was cut before the 2011 season.  Bradley, of course, was miserable for the Mariners.  The worst part of it all?  Not only did we take on Milton Bradley, his contract, and all his emotional baggage (all of which the Cubs were DESPERATE to get rid of), but we ALSO had to pay them an additional $9 million.  How’s that for a nice Fuck You?  Wonder why the Mariners were so bad in 2010?  Wonder why we couldn’t get any free agents in 2011?  Look no further than the money we have on the books for both of these jack-wagons.

January 31, 2008 – (Mariners) – Brad Wilkerson Signs 1-year $3 million deal:  not only did he play right field – forcing Ichiro into the uncomfortable position of playing center – but he didn’t even make it out of the first month, released April 30th.  What a douche.

Is It Crazy To Think The Mariners Can Contend?

Short answer:  fuck yes!

Long answer:  still yes, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

I’m not saying the Mariners are going to contend.  I’m generally in the market of making outrageous statements, but I gotta draw the line somewhere.  This is still a team that’s 29th out of 30 teams in runs scored.  This is a team that regularly trots out either Jack Cust or Miguel Olivo on an everyday basis as its Cleanup Hitter (in spite of the fact that they’re only even remotely capable of “Cleaning Up” my vomit after I watch them try to hit with runners in scoring position).  This is a team with more black holes at the bottom of its lineup than a (edited for inappropriate, mildly racial, and overt sexual content).

But, you know what?  Call me crazy, but I really like this team right now!

What’s wrong with me?  Have I been slipped some narcotic that’s giving me such a rosy outlook in times of … well, “despair” is too strong a word, so I’ll just say “inconsistency”.

Anyway, you can’t argue with the Scoreboard.  And right now, the “Scoreboard” is saying that we’re only 3.5 games out of first place, and here we are on the 20th of May.  That’s something!  Do you know where we were as of May 20, 2010?  We were 15-26 (as opposed to today’s record of 19-24), and still in last place in the division, except that meant we were 8.5 games behind Texas.

After our initial swoon where we started out 4-11, we’re 15-13 (thanks in large part to two rainouts in Cleveland last weekend).  Nevertheless, over the last month’s worth of games, we’re a team that’s over .500.  Heckuva deal.

So, the team as a whole is playing better; obviously, that’s always going to be a source of optimism.  But, what about the individual players?

Well, first and foremost, the dark cloud of angst and failure that was Milton Bradley is officially gone.  Not having to watch him struggle mightily 8 out of every 10 at bats is pretty satisfying.  Likewise, not having to watch him have some small modicum of success (or, even a large, game-winning amount of success) followed by seeing the sourpuss to end all sourpusses on his face is quite the relief.  There’s nothing more aggravating than watching an athlete get paid millions of dollars to play a game NOT enjoying himself when he does something good.  For Christ’s sake, crack a smile when you hit an RBI double, you miserable fuck!

Anyway, THAT’S gone.  And, in his place, we have two young kids doing fairly well.  Mike Wilson and Carlos Peguero are mixing it up, batting in runs, looking nothing less than overjoyed to be on a Major League ballclub.  Refreshing!  So very refreshing.

We got Guti back as of Wednesday, and he’s one of my favorite players on the team!  So, that’s two bits of goodness for the price of one, because I was getting sick and tired of watching Michael Saunders suck dick at the plate night in and night out.  Yes, Saunders was a wonderful centerfield defender while he got the chance, but if I had to watch him fall behind in the count thanks to him taking strikes right down the middle ONE MORE TIME …

Whoa, easy tiger.  This is supposed to be a Positivity Post.

Speaking of our middle of the order (OK, so I wasn’t speaking of them per se, but a guy’s gotta transition anyway he can), while Miguel Olivo has been pretty much the waste of fucking life we’ve all expected, at least Eric Wedge isn’t INSISTING that he stick as our Number 4 hitter just because.  And, even though Cust has yet to homer, as I mentioned earlier this week, his hitting has come alive.  If I can’t have a homer-slugging DH, I guess I’ll take a doubles-slugging DH.  It’s better than what we were getting in the month of April.

And, to wrap things up, Smoak has been better than expected, Ichiro has been as expected, and Figgins has been worse than expected, but not a total waste.  No, he’s not worth the $9 million he’s making this year (and probably never will be worth it for the duration of his contract), but he’s raised his batting average about 80 points in the last month.  It’s not incredible (considering how poorly he started), but it’s something at least.

When you account for all the hitting I’ve outlined above, yes, it’s insane to think about contention.  But, then again, what is “contending”?  Is it a reasonable, rational run at a division title?  Or, is it just hanging around, 3-5 games back for most of the year?  When you look at it like that, it’s not BATSHIT crazy.

Our starting pitching is among the best in the American League.  From 1 to 5, we’re solid every step of the way.  Our bullpen has settled into a nice little rotation of Pauley, Laffey, and Wright (who all have amazing ERAs).  And, aside from the nuclear holocaust that was last week (which, mind you, happened to him a couple times last year), Brandon League has been pretty kickass.  Rare is the closer who’s perfect for a whole season.  Rare is the reliever period who’s rock solid for six straight months.  I would look for League to come back strong for a solid run through the summer.

With those arms, if they’re able to keep it up, I argue that we’re closer than we think.

I’m not saying we should sell the farm to trade for some hired guns for a pennant run (too many holes to fill along our offense; besides, we’re not at a point where we can take on a bunch of contracts), but I do think if some of our younger guys continue to develop (Smoak, Guti, Ackley, Wilson, Peguero) and gain some quality big league experience – all the while playing for a team that’s hovering right around .500 and right around the AL West leader – maybe we’re not that far off.  Maybe, instead of 2013 or 2014, we can seriously contend in 2012!

Of course, 2011 is out of the question.  One of these teams – likely Texas – will figure it out.  One of them – again, likely Texas – will make a blockbuster trade at the deadline for a big piece that helps them make a huge run in the last two months.  A baseball season is too long for a team like the Mariners to hang around forever.

Still, a girl CAN dream, can’t she?

We Have A Bradley-Less Lineup!

Now, we just have to wait and see if it sticks.

For shits and giggles, before I reveal the true identity of tonight’s lineup; here’s my prediction for what the Everyday Lineup will be going forward:

1.  Ichiro
2.  Chone Figgins
3.  Jack Cust
4.  Miguel Olivo
5.  Justin Smoak
6.  Left Fielder
7.  Jack Wilson
8.  Brendan Ryan
9.  Michael Saunders

That isn’t what tonight’s lineup is, but it’s damn close.  Adam Kennedy is playing tonight, so that throws things a little bit.  For some reason, Wedge likes Kennedy in the upper half of the lineup; don’t ask me why!  When Wilson starts, though, I bet you whoever’s playing left field (until Guti comes back) will be batting in the 6-hole.

Anyway, I still think mine will be right in the long run, but here’s what it’s looking like tonight:

1.  Ichiro
2.  Chone Figgins
3.  Justin Smoak
4.  Miguel Olivo
5.  Jack Cust
6.  Adam Kennedy
7.  Carlos Peguero (Left Field)
8.  Brendan Ryan
9.  Michael Saunders

What everyone wanted to know was:  what to do about Smoak?  I was SURE they’d leave well enough alone for the entire season, but no.  Will this pull him out of his comfort zone?  I sure as shit hope not; but if his average drops 30 points, I guarantee a return to the 5-hole will transpire immediately.

And, not for nothin’, but when Guti comes back, I think that’ll happen anyway.

I dunno.  I like MY lineup!  Ichiro and Cust are on-base machines, plain and simple.  Figgins isn’t totally worthless (yet), and Olivo … Olivo is like your significant other’s annoying cat.  Whenever you go over to her apartment, the cat is always there, scratching you, crapping in your shoe while you sleep over, generally making your life miserable.  BUT, if you want this thing to go anywhere, you just have to accept the annoying cat and move on with your life.  Miguel Olivo batting Cleanup is that annoying cat.  He ain’t goin’ anywhere, so get used to it.

Essentially, the crux of my argument is:  Jack Cust should be batting before Justin Smoak.  With his on-base percentage, Cust is still a somewhat useful cog.  With more guys on base for Smoak, the more use you’re going to get out of his doubles and home run power.  Think about it.

I’m not gonna gripe too much, though, because today is the first day of the rest of my life without Milton Bradley.  I’m going to cherish it.