It’s Time To Blow Up The Seattle Mariners

For real.  It’s time.

We are officially 8.5 games behind the A’s for the second wild card spot, with 18 games to go.  So, stick a fork in the Mariners everyone!

If that isn’t bad enough, we’ve fallen so far that the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams have officially caught us in the standings.  A team that really wasn’t trying to Win Now at the trade deadline – sending away some quality talent for prospects – has done so good in its second half run that the Mariners are doomed to fall two teams out of the playoffs.  Fantastic.

Here are my thoughts on what the Mariners should do this off-season.

Bye Bye Nelson Cruz

People were talking about extending Nelson Cruz throughout the year, as he’s on the final year of his deal.  Which, of course, got me to wondering what the M’s should do this off-season to try to improve.  SHOULD they extend Cruz?  Abso-fucking-lutely-fucking-not!  Dude’s hitting .260!  Sure, he’s got 34 homers, but that’s ALL he’s got!  He has a whopping 16 doubles and is easily on pace for his lowest double count in a Mariners uniform.  Dude can’t run, can’t hit for average; if he’s not swinging dingers or grabbing the occasional walk, he’s totally useless.

Let’s see Nelson Cruz for what he is:  one of the best free agent signings in Mariners history.  We got four REALLY GREAT years out of the guy.  If you asked me at the time of signing, I would’ve told you I hoped for 2 great years, 1 okay year, and 1 dreadful year.  The fact that we’ve milked that cow for all he’s worth is pretty fucking astounding.  LET’S LEAVE IT AT THAT!  Let’s remember Nelson Cruz fondly!  Let’s be able to look back and say we MAYBE got rid of him a year too early, rather than a year too late.  For what it’s worth, I think getting rid of him after this season is RIGHT ON TIME, but regardless, he’s not getting any better.

From there, that opens us up to options.  But, all I want to see is this team shedding salary and shedding talent for high-level prospects.

Trade James Paxton

He’s never going to be fully, 100% healthy in any full season ever.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been this year.  His value has peaked.  He’s still got 2 more Arbitration years, so that contract is in great shape.  We should be able to get ELITE-level prospects for a guy like Paxton, so jump at the opportunity.

Trade Mitch Haniger

You’re not going to get any prospects of quality whatsoever for the real dregs of this team:  Seager, Cano, Felix; so we’re going to have to trade some players of actual value if we’re going to rebuild this organization.  Haniger has 4 more years left of team control and he’s already an All Star; his value will never be higher.  We should be able to get a TON of prospects for him.

Trade Edwin Diaz

Unless he’s the next Mariano Rivera, relievers don’t have a long shelf life.  Particularly ones who regularly throw in the high 90’s and have an awkward-looking arm slot.  Diaz just strikes me as a guy who’s going to have elbow and/or shoulder problems, MAYBE as early as next year.  He’s leading all of baseball in saves, he’s the best closer in the game, ergo we should make a KILLING in this trade.

Dump Robinson Cano or Put Him At DH

I’m in the camp that we’ll never be able to move Cano’s salary.  He’s making $24 million per year for the next 5 years.  If a team offered the Mariners literally ANYTHING for Cano – even if it’s a low-level PTBNL – you jump at the opportunity.  Hell, even if we have to send a bunch of millions over to make the deal work, whatever money we can save while getting out from under that contract, you do it.  You also do it because, frankly, I think Cano still has some value to a team.  I think he’s still a pretty good player.  And, for the objective of the Mariners blowing it up, we don’t WANT pretty good players on this team.  We want useless assholes who can’t hit, can’t pitch, and suck at fielding.  We’re not going to make the playoffs anyway, might as well be the very WORST team in the league.

If I’m right, and we can’t deal Cano for a bag of balls, then he’s got to slot over to DH.  That’s where he’s destined to go in his old age anyway.  If we’re going to be stuck with him for five more years, then we’re going to get the most value out of him at the DH spot.

Dump Dee Gordon or Leave Him At 2B

Dee’s another guy who’s owed a ton of money – an average of $13.5 million per year over the next 3 years – so it’s not likely we’d get anything for him.  Again, MAYBE a bag of balls, and probably only if we shell out some millions to get someone else to take him off our hands.

I’m less upset about being stuck with Dee because he’s fun.  He’s also not really that good.  Assuming he doesn’t regain his former hitting form as a .300 hitter, he should be a nice little drain on this team as we try to tank for the #1 overall draft pick the next few years.

Get Rid Of Kyle Seager

We’ve got Seager for $18-19 million per year for the next three years (his buyout in 2022 should be nominal).  So, like Cano and Dee, that’s a tough one to move.  However, I could see moving him as a more plausible objective based on the fact that he’s pretty well-liked in baseball circles.  He very well could just need a change of scenery to get his bat and his mojo going again.  Put him in a stadium with a short porch in right field and let him go to work yanking balls down the line; how are the Red Sox stocked at third base?

Either way, he’s got to go.  Unless he’s hiding some secret injury that we won’t hear about until after the season, I don’t see him turning his career around at all in Seattle.  He’s just TOO bad.

Keep Mike Zunino

He’s not any good anyway.  Plus, I just don’t see us getting anything of value back in trade, considering he’s never been able to hit and he seemingly never will.  Zunino is going to be cheap for the next 2 years anyway, so keep him, and try to develop his replacement when he’s a free agent and we let him walk.

Don’t You Touch My Felix!

He’s got one more year to go.  He’s earning $27 million next year.  No one will pick up that salary.  We’d likely have to send $20 million with him just to get rid of him for zero prospects.  Plus, I like Felix, he’s still ours, and YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM I DON’T CARE HOW BAD HE GETS!

Think of it like this, if he continues to pitch worse and worse, then that helps the Mariners tank, and maybe he retires at the end of the year and will go down as the greatest Mariners pitcher of all time who never played for any other organization.  Or, in the off chance he turns his career around and turns into a Bartolo Colon type, then great!  Maybe we can extend him at a team-friendly salary season-to-season and enjoy Felix in his overweight twilight years.

Only Trade Segura If There’s Good Value

For who he is, he’s actually got a pretty friendly contract all the way through 2023.  Even though he’s been dinged up with minor aches & pains recently, he’s still hitting over .300.  If another team offers the M’s a nice package of prospects, then absolutely jump on it!  But, don’t make him a straight up salary drop; wait for the teams to come to us and maybe start a bidding war if possible.

Here’s the deal:  Jeff Passan brought up a good point yesterday on Brock & Salk; when asked if the M’s should just blow it up, he asked if we’re ready to be terrible for the next 5 years.  And, as Salk mentioned, we’ve been pretty fucking terrible for the last 17, so what’s 5 more?

The Astros aren’t going away.  The A’s are young and solid.  The Angels are never going to stop trying to build around Trout and they’ve proven to be willing to over-spend on superstars.  The Rangers are already in the midst of their rebuild, so they’ve got a head start on us.  I don’t want to just contend for Wild Cards every year!  I don’t want to go dumpster diving for veterans on 1-year prove-it deals to try to make this fucked up nucleus work!  I don’t want to watch Nelson Cruz get booed and look shitty at the plate.  And I don’t really want to see what Robinson Cano looks like in the final couple years of his deal.

I want a total and complete rebuild, with high-level prospects.  I want the organization to stick to its philosophy of Controlling The Zone and defense and all that, and I want them to bring in guys who FIT that philosophy!

I’m just tired of losing all the fucking time … so let’s lose A WHOLE LOT for a few years, then hopefully be great for a while after that.

And yeah, I get it, the Astros’ model is no guarantee.  If we draft the wrong guys, if we don’t develop them properly, if we get unlucky with injuries, then it can all still go to shit and we can be right back where we started.  In a perpetual loop of utter fucking incompetence.  But, at least it’s trying something different.

I’m already numb to the Mariners sucking.  They’ve been doing it all my life.  Even when they were good, they still sucked when it counted!  The M’s falling apart this second half has hardly hit me at all.  Oh sure, I’ve been mad a few times, but more than anything I’m just resigned to my fate.  It’s never going to get good until we let it get really fucking bad.

So, blow it up, Mariners.  Do the right thing.  Let the Astros and A’s run their course and by the time they’re old and crappy, maybe we’ll be in a position to be the NEW Astros.

Gotta have hope, after all.  And, with the roster as it’s currently constructed, there is none.

The Mariners Are Why Seattle Is Sports Hell

It’s hard for me to believe that the Mariners are just in a slump, because with their run differential (-19), it feels like they’re just playing to expectations at this point, and really this is who they are.  They’re a team that loses 3/4 to the God-awful Toronto Blue Jays, at home, with their Canadian fans totally overwhelming our home fans in attendance.

The annual fucking embarrassment is over, so that’s the good news.  But, we’re living in Hell right now, in case you didn’t know.  Seattle sucks again, and the Mariners are the primary culprit.

On Thursday, Felix did the bare minimum (5 innings, 2 runs) and Juan Nicasio blew it in the 7th, giving up 2 runs in less than an inning.  He’s since been dumped on the DL with a knee issue, and I hope it’s for the rest of the fucking year, because he’s a fucking worthless pile of shit and is actively killing this team.  The final score was 7-3.

It was somehow even worse on Friday, as Marco gave up 4 runs in 7 innings, and the offense just did absolute jack shit.  A late-game meltdown was essentially meaningless as we lost 7-2.

And, LOOK AT THAT, it got even worse on Saturday.  Paxton went 7 innings, giving up 3 runs, but we lost 5-1 as it appears no one in our bullpen could get anyone out this series.

We somehow salvaged a win on Sunday even though Sam Gaviglio was going for Toronto and essentially equalled Mike Leake’s production through his rotation turn.  It was 3-3 heading into the bottom of the 7th before Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager blew it open.  We got the game to Edwin Diaz who was able to shut ’em down for his 41st save in a 6-3 win.

This team is just a garbage fire right now, and it’s about to get a whole lot messier as we head out on a road trip through the A.L. West.  Texas, then 4 in Houston, then Oakland, with no days off (only to come home to the Dodgers and Astros again).

Oh yeah, by the way, we’re now 2.5 games behind Oakland for the second Wild Card spot.  Neat.  They say the best time to visit Sports Hell is in the summer, when the weather is nice, the people are content, and the baseball team is sucking a non-stop train of dicks.

The Mariners Are Now Tied For The Second Wild Card Spot

Sigh.

That’s right, after being 11 games up back in June, we’re now tied with the A’s for the second wild card spot.  The A’s have won a million games in a row and the Mariners have lost every single day since I can remember.  Everything sucks and now Toronto and their shitty fans invade our stadium for the next four days.

That series with the Astros started off promising enough.  James Paxton out-duelled Gerrit Cole to take the first game 2-0.  It was all down hill from there, though.  We got a very Mike Leake-y start the next day (6 innings, 3 runs) and the offense couldn’t do shit.  The bullpen gave up a 2-run ding dong late, and we lost 5-2.  That left us with an opportunity to still win the series, with folk legend Wade LeBlanc on the mound.  Bad time for him to have his worst start of the season, though, as he was knocked out after 4.1 innings, having given up 7 runs in the process.  He left meatballs out over the plate all day and was getting crushed accordingly.  The offense had few opportunities to make a comeback, and couldn’t take advantage of any of them as we lost 8-3.

So, that’s that, then.  The A’s are here to stay, and the Mariners are pretty much done.

This is just the worst feeling, you guys.  We’re talking about a team with the longest playoff drought in all of the major North American professional sports.  A team that – FINALLY – 17 years later, got off to just a torrid start.  Heading into the 4th of July holiday, the Mariners were 55-31.  They were locked into that 2nd wild card spot with no enemies in sight.  We were talking about maybe even challenging the Astros for the division!  Sure, it was a pipe dream, but those were simpler times!  We could afford to daydream, because THIS was the year!  We were finally going to break the curse!

We’re also talking about a team, mind you, with a very narrow window for contention.  The farm system is garbage.  Some of our very best players are getting up there in age (and some of them are over the hill already).  There’s a nice core of guys in Haniger, Segura, Diaz, Gonzales, and Gordon, but by and large this team is made up of guys no one else wanted.  We’re not laden with young, superstar talent like the Astros or Yankees or Red Sox or Athletics.  The Mariners are a fragile ecosystem that needs everything to go right just to eke out a victory; but if even one little thing goes wrong, it all implodes and we lose by a ton!

This wasn’t a team built for the long haul; it’s a team built for 2018 and that’s it.  We’re 18 games over .500 with a -9 run differential; it’s not a sustainable model and it never has been!  This is a once in a generation type of team that’s been coasting on the very best luck the league has seen in years.  You could make carbon copies of every single player on the roster and try running it all back again in 2019 and you know what you’ll get?  A Mariners team desperately trying to stay around .500.  We were always going to be screwed in 2019 and beyond; at some point, it’s going to crumble, and with no help on the horizon in the form of a development system, the Mariners will crater and be among the very worst teams in all of baseball.  That time is coming, and it’s coming very soon.

Which is what made 2018 so important.  If we don’t break this playoff drought this year, it might not happen for another decade or more.  That’s why this sucks as much as it does.  Because it now feels inevitable that the A’s are going to keep on winning, and the Mariners are going to play .500 ball the rest of the way.

Sure, the hitting has been abysmal, and even with the return of Cano, how much better can we reasonably expect it to get?  Jean Segura is starting to slow down from his unsustainably hot pace.  Same with Dee Gordon.  Ben Gamel had been one of the team’s hottest hitters of late, and they just sent him to Tacoma for no fucking reason, just so we could keep the black hole that is Guillermo Heredia on the roster.  Nelson Cruz still has plenty of pop in his bat, but his average is dipping down into the .260s (showing his age, and the need for this team to probably move on from him after this season is over, if for no other reason than to move Cano to DH next year).  Haniger’s been slipping, Healy is an 0’fer on most nights, we’re mired in Seager’s very worst year as a Major Leaguer, and Mike Zunino STILL can’t manage to bust through the Mendoza Line!

That’s not even factoring in how we have absolutely no business having any faith in any starting pitcher not named James Paxton or Marco Gonzales.  LeBlanc has been ridiculously good, but that can’t last.  Leake is who he is, and Felix looks like he’s just about done.  And you think Erasmo Ramirez is going to save this rotation?  Please!  Also, I love Edwin Diaz as much as the next one, but a string of blown saves is coming, mark my words.  No closer is this good for this long without at least a little hiccup along the way.  We won’t be able to blame using him in tie games for his struggles, is all I’m saying.

It’s all darkness and evil thoughts.  Thank God football season is starting back up again.

The Mariners Wrapped Up The July 31st Trade Deadline By Getting Cameron Maybin

Yesterday, I talked about the trio of relievers we brought in.  Then, in the afternoon, one more deal trickled through the cracks.  We went back to the Miami Marlins well, this time for centerfielder Cameron Maybin.

Again, it’s not a huge deal (we gave up minor league infielder Bryson Brigman and some International Slot Money), but it’s something.

With Cano out, and Dee Gordon sliding back to second base, we’ve had what I’m told is a pretty big black hole out in center.  Guillermo Heredia has gotten the lion’s share of starts and we’ve seen his offensive production slip pretty dramatically since starting off the season pretty strong.  Most people had him pegged as – at best – a team’s 4th outfielder, and they don’t appear to be wrong.  The league has seen enough of Heredia, and they KNOW how to get him out.

What’s surprising to me is that his defense is also not great?  That really doesn’t pass my smell test, but I don’t get to watch all the games, so maybe I’m missing something.  Also, “Smell Test” isn’t really a sabermetrically-sound way to determine who’s good and who’s not.  The nerds will tell you Heredia isn’t helping matters even with his glove, and considering he was probably the best defensive centerfielder we’ve had all year, you can only imagine how much our outfield defense has declined when Haniger, Gamel, and Span have been out in center (saying nothing of Gordon, who I also thought was fine, but was indeed learning a brand new position at the Major League level).

So, how much of an upgrade is Maybin?

Well, he’s a veteran hitting .251 this year, as a mostly-everyday outfielder.  I think that’s about what you can expect of him going forward (anything more than that is gravy).  He’s 25 points or so better than Heredia (who’s trending ever downward the more he plays, so that number could increase as the season goes on), so right away we should expect a bit of an offensive boost.  He’s in no way a power threat, so he’s more Denard Span than Mitch Haniger in that regard, and I GUESS you could say he’s a speed threat on the bases, but he’s only got 8 steals against 5 caught stealing this year, so that’s pretty far from elite.  The best thing going for Maybin is that he walks pretty regularly, so he should be MUCH more of an on-base machine than Heredia.  That, if nothing else, makes this a nice little upgrade to the offense.

Again, though, the big upgrade is coming in two weeks when Cano returns.  There’s no way around it, Cano HAS to play everyday upon his return.  If that means sitting Ryon Healy’s home-runs-every-10-days production, then so be it; the other 9 days he sucks, so that’s not a guy you HAVE to keep in your lineup.

I’ll say this about Maybin:  he makes our lineup look a lot better:

  1. Gordon (2B)
  2. Segura (SS)
  3. Cano (1B)
  4. Cruz (DH)
  5. Seager (3B)
  6. Haniger (RF)
  7. Span (LF)
  8. Zunino (C)
  9. Maybin (CF)

There’s a lot you can do with a lineup like that.  You can flip-flop Maybin and Gordon, for starters (as Gordon isn’t really tearing it up like he was earlier in the season).  You can bump Segura up to the top and move Haniger to the 2-hole if need be (or Maybin in the 2-hole, or Span for that matter).  There’s a lot of flexibility, is what I’m saying.  As Maybin is a righty, you can always start Ben Gamel in his place in a pinch (if, again, you want to sacrifice some defense).  I’m told Maybin is certainly an improvement in the field, but I’m also told he’s not some remarkable phenom or anything.  As he is with his bat, he’s a marginal improvement over Heredia with his glove.  Considering the cost (a low minor leaguer), it’s not too shabby for a guy who will be a free agent at the end of the year.

There is, of course, the potential for more deals in August (a la Mike Leake last year).  These would be players who pass through waivers unclaimed (most likely due to onerous contract situations).  Everyone talks about the money saved by Cano’s suspension as a catalyst for getting more of these types of deals done (maybe for another starter?), but we’ve made a bunch of deals already!  There can’t be all that much money left!

If we see a deal that takes on significant salary, I’d be willing to bet the team is going into the red, which is admirable.  Let’s hope it pays off.

The Mariners Won 60 Of Their First 100 Games

The Seahawks’ Pre-Pre-Season Preview takes a little break today, but we’ll be back at it tomorrow digging into the defense.  For now, the Mariners’ Weekend That Was.

The hapless White Sox were in town for a 3-game set coming out of the All Star Break, so the table was set for the Mariners to get right again, after that stumble in the prevous 10 games or so.

Wade LeBlanc got the start on Friday, and boy does he look like the real deal!  7.1 innings, 1 run, 1 walk, 4 hits, and 10 strikeouts!  The usual suspects closed it out and the offense had just enough in the tank as we won 3-1 in a picture of efficiency.

Felix started on Saturday and looked dominant though three innings.  But, he gave up a 4-spot in the 4th and that was that.  The Sox shut us out 5-0 as the offense never really got it up in this one.  Felix was pulled after 5 and it’s looking increasingly likely that if we do make the playoffs this year, he won’t be involved in a starting capacity, which is just too depressing for me to handle right now, so I’m just not going to think about it.

Marco Gonzales took the hill in the rubber match and continued his streak of greatness, this time going 6.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 6.  The bullpen took care of business and Ryon Healy was finally able to bust this one wide open as he hit two 3-run home runs, including one in the bottom of the 8th inning to spare us the need of using Edwin Diaz for a second time this series.  It was Healy’s 20th homer of the season, and is anyone else surprised by how high that number is?

I know we’ve all been lamenting the lack of pop in this lineup, particularly of late as the M’s have struggled, but we’ve got five players with double-digit homers, including four players with 16 or more homers with 62 games remaining.  That’s not terrible.

The bottom line, I think, is that this team really needs Robinson Cano back in the lineup everyday.  It’s a shame that it’ll largely come at the expense of Ryon Healy – as I believe Heredia is really the biggest piece of dead weight at the plate, and this team would be so much better off if we could play Dee Gordon in center again.

In a sense, yeah I get it, Cano is eliminated from the post-season, so we have to keep Gordon fresh at second base, but does it really mean we have to play him there EVERY day?  Why can’t he do both second AND center?  Play him in center maybe 4 days a week, and toss him in at second 2-3 days a week just to keep him sharp.  Is that really going to fuck with him so bad?  Utility guys bounce around from position to position and don’t seem to be struggling too much.

At this point, with Oakland surging the way they are, just making the wild card game isn’t the foregone conclusion it was a month ago.  So, while I understand that this team needs to focus on the post-season, it needs to focus MORE on just making it in the first place!  Having the best lineup in there on a daily basis is going to be of utmost importance, and that’s gonna mean having Cano, Dee, and Healy in the lineup at the same time.  You can only do that by having Dee play in the outfield (unless you really want to sit Nelson Cruz regularly, which I think would be bananas).

It’s obviously a good problem to have, as this team should be able to rest players pretty regularly from here on out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not actually a PROBLEM.  At this point, not letting Cano play at second base but once in a blue moon feels more like a punishment towards him for getting popped, but it’s to the detriment of the team and I hope we come to our senses before too long, or else I’m afraid this season will really get away from us.

Also, not for nothing, but at 100 games into the season, we’re 20 games over .500, with a run differential of +1.  Baseball is dumb.

The Mariners Got Pounded By The Angels And Oh By The Way Paxton Injured His Back

Fucking great.

Before we all go jumping off of buildings, I’m gonna wait and see how this plays out.  Given the timing of this – with the All Star Break next week – it might not be the worst thing in the world.

Remember last year, when the Mariners were sort of barely clinging to contention for the second wild card spot, and going into the All Star Break I was talking about how we needed – above all else – to maximize James Paxton the rest of the way?  He spent most of the month of May on the shelf, then had a really rocky month of June as he worked his way back to his usual dominance.  Well, it was paid off in July, when he went 6-0 and won the A.L. Pitcher of the Month award.  He had a 1.37 ERA and went at least 6 innings in all 6 of his starts.  I figured:  yes, get him as many starts as humanly possible between now and the end of the year (even if it meant having him pitch every 5th day regardless of off-days, and shuffling the rest of the rotation around him accordingly), and MAYBE the Mariners would be within reach of the wild card by the end of the year.

What happened?  He made 2 starts in August before going back on the DL, struggled through half of September, and had 1 more quality start the rest of the way (on October 1st, the final game of the season).  The Mariners finished under .500 and out of the playoffs, and his absence was one of a million reasons why this team underachieved.

Of course, that made one of the keys to this 2018 season to:  Keep Paxton Healthy.  His entire offseason program was centered around making all of his starts for the first time in his career.  He’s been the ace of this staff through the first half, but obviously it’s all coming to a head with this injury he suffered last night.

After biffing that series against the Rockies over the weekend, the M’s didn’t play their best baseball against the Angels in Anaheim.  In fact, in two of these games they might’ve played their very worst baseball of the season.

On Tuesday, Leake could only make it through 4 innings, giving up 7 runs (5 earned), and the bullpen allowed them to tack on a couple more to really put it away.  Anaheim’s starter left injured in the third, but we couldn’t take advantage of their bullpen and ended up losing 9-3.  Haniger had a good game – with a double, a homer, and 3 RBI – but everyone else was unremarkable at best.

The M’s didn’t completely shit the bed this series, as they notched a win on Wednesday behind Marco Gonzales’ 7 shutout innings, on 2 hits and 0 walks.  David Freitas of all people hit a homer (the first of his brief Major League career), and Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run single to put the M’s up 3-0.  The bullpen was able to keep it that way, with a scoreless inning apiece from Colome and Diaz (for hold #14 and save # 36, respectively).

That led us into last night’s game, with a chance to win the series and feel a lot better about things heading into Colorado this weekend.  But, Paxton apparently never felt right even in his warmups, and just prayed that his back would loosen up during the game.  It didn’t, and he was pulled 2 outs into the first inning.  We were up against Anaheim’s best pitcher, and our bullpen couldn’t keep us anywhere even remotely in it (behind a 4-run inning from the completely inept Nick Rumbelow, who spent most of the year on the DL, and was mystifyingly called up after a short stint in Tacoma – THREE GAMES – even though he really has no Major League success of which to speak whatsoever!  Why are we moving Heaven and Earth to get this guy to the bigs when it’s clear he needs a lot more seasoning in AAA?).

(I mean, Rumbelow has made 8 appearances – all defeats – and has given up at least 1 run in 5 of those games!  How much more do you need to see out of this guy?  You’re telling me there’s absolutely NO ONE ELSE down in Tacoma who can take this guy’s spot?  It’s not like he’s out of options, so what the fuck?).

Anyway, getting back, the M’s lost last night 11-2.  We put Andrew Romine in there to pitch the bottom of the 8th because it got so out of hand (he gave up 2 runs, yet still managed to get Trout & Pujols out, which is something he’ll have to tell the ol’ grandkids one day).  It was ugly, to say the least (I’m glad I slept through this entire series, to be honest).

Aside from being super proud of my boy Marco (and, SUPER DUPER proud of my fellow M’s fans for voting Jean Segura into the All Star Game this week), it hasn’t been so hot for the Mariners of late.  That’s 5 losses in 8 games, following our 8-game winning streak, following our 3-7 stretch against the Red Sox & Yankees.  A real rollercoaster; the All Star Break can’t come soon e-fucking-nough.

3 more games.  Felix is on the DL for the break, Paxton looks like he’ll join him there; Zunino has been keeping the shelf nice and warm with his own issues.  This isn’t trending in the right direction.  All of these guys need to come back fast, and not just so we can put a bunch of other guys down; the rest of the team absolutely needs to stay healthy as well.

The A’s have won a million games in a row and are now only 5 games behind us for that second wild card spot.  We’re a full 3 games behind the Astros for the division.  And, even though it’s essentially meaningless, our run differential is all the way down to +5.  We’re 22 games over .500 and just 5 runs over .500!  Do you know how insane that is?  It’s insane, just in case you forgot.

We’ve got Christian Bergman going tonight.  He has 1 start this year with Seattle, where he went 7 shutout innings (in a game we somehow lost 5-1) before being sent right back down to AAA.  He’s been pretty good, but far from amazing, in Tacoma, so while I like him as a spot starter type, I’m pretty lukewarm on the idea of him making many multiple starts for the Mariners this year.

So, get well soon James Paxton!  And, when you do come back, don’t suck balls for a month like you did last year!

The Mariners Took 2 Of 3 Against The Angels

Seemingly on the ropes, the Angels brought back Shohei Ohtani just to DH this series, but it wasn’t enough.  Turns out the Angels don’t do a whole lot when Mike Trout isn’t hitting .600 against the Mariners.

I was at the game on the 3rd, sitting in a suite, drinking all I could drink and eating a fair amount to boot.  As I was rightly hammered, I don’t remember a whole lot about this game.  Other than the sweet beer can tower we built out of 16-ouncers:

This took three men and a lot of heart …

Wade LeBlanc signed his extension before the game, which was a bit of good news.  I was all ready for him to fall on his face against the Angels, allowing me to make an endless string of “perfect timing” jokes, but the dude’s a stud and this signing is looking better and better all the time.  7 innings, 1 run on 3 hits & 1 walk with 4 strikeouts.  The M’s built up a 3-run lead in the first and a Nelson Cruz homer late was all we needed.  Edwin Diaz got his 33rd save and we won the game 4-1.

I watched the game on the 4th from home, slightly hungover, but not too damaged.  Mike Leake didn’t really have it in this one and we were 2/12 with RISP.  Lots of mistakes in this one cost us the sweep, but that’s okay.  Angels took it 7-4.

Last night’s game was past my bedtime, but I hear nothing but good things from Marco Gonzales, who gutted out 6 innings of 1-run ball.  Guillermo Heredia had a couple doubles; Dee Gordon had a triple and a single (and a run, and an RBI, and a miraculous diving catch to save at least a run from scoring); and Chris Herrmann had his first homer in a Mariners uniform.  The bullpen was near perfect and Edwin Diaz got his 34th save of the year, as the M’s won again by the score of 4-1.

On the downside, Mike Zunino is on the DL with an ankle injury.  Considering he plays practically every day, maybe giving him a couple weeks to rest isn’t the worst thing in the world for his longevity late in the season.  Mitch Haniger was also scratched before the game, as he ran into a wall and has a bruised knee.  He’s not on the DL yet, as he’s only expected to miss a couple games, so let’s hope that’s the case.

The Mariners now have a 12-game lead over the Angels, who would need to go on a crazy hot streak to get back in contention.  This just doesn’t feel like their year (single sarcastic tear).  I suppose, for the time being, the A’s are our only competition for the second wild card spot, and they’re still a whopping 7.5 games back.

On the brighter side of things, we’re just 2 games back of the Yankees for the first wild card spot, and only 1.5 games behind Houston for the division lead.  Got a long way to go, but the Mariners are here to stay.

The Rockies come to town this weekend, then it’s a quick trip to Anaheim and Colorado, then it’s the All Star Break.  Let’s get ready to rumble and whatnot.

Should The Mariners Extend Nelson Cruz?

When the Mariners signed Nelson Cruz to a 4-year deal before the 2015 season, I was in the camp that yelled out to the heavens, “IT’S ABOUT TIME!”  I wanted him a year earlier – when he was a bargain for the Orioles on a 1-year deal – but we missed out.  Not letting that opportunity slip through our fingers a second time, Jackie Z & Co. signed him to a $57 million contract (all guaranteed, because MLB), $1 million as a signing bonus, with four equal shares of $14 million per year paying out accordingly.

Given his age, his declining athleticism from an outfield defense perspective, and his injury history, I think we all took that deal in the same vein we did the Robinson Cano deal:  if we can get his usual offensive production for half of the deal, it would be worth it.  Anything beyond that is pure gravy.

Well, we’re just over halfway through the final year of that deal, and as Mariners fans we’re up to our EYEBALLS in gravy!

I know it sounds crazy, but as purely a DH making $14 million per year, Nelson Cruz has nevertheless been a total bargain.  He’s averaged over 150 games per season (and is on his way to matching that this year), he’s hit for 44, 43, and 39 homers (respectively), and he’s already got 22 this year (on pace to surpass 40 homers yet again).  This is what we brought him here for, to hit dingers and hit for a solid average.  And, while those numbers have been steadily declining, it’s been ever-so-slight; so slight as to really be negligible from a production standpoint.  2015 was his best year with the Mariners (and arguably his best year ever), but he’s only dropped a tad since then.  Instead of falling off of a mountain, Cruz is enjoying a leisurely stroll down a molehill.

He could drop dead the moment I publish this post and his stint with the Mariners would STILL be better than my wildest dreams upon his signing 4 years ago.  Which brings us to the ultimate question:  should the Mariners keep him around beyond 2018?

I find myself saying the same things I always say about a beloved veteran athlete whose prime might be just behind him, but is otherwise still playing at a high level:  I wouldn’t mind having him back, under the right contract.  Obviously, I want something that’s somewhat team-friendly, but I also live in the real world, and I understand how deals work in the MLB.  Reports indicate Cruz is looking for a multi-year deal.  Given how much of a boss he’s been for the majority of his career – but especially when he got out of Texas and became more of an all-world DH – my hunch is he’ll get what he’s looking for.  But, “multi-year” can mean a lot of things.  Since he just turned 38 years old this week, I can’t imagine he’ll land anything beyond a 2-year contract (it only takes one team, of course, so it wouldn’t TOTALLY shock me if he saw a 3-year deal from someone like the Royals or, I dunno, the Orioles maybe; but I highly doubt it).  So, would I be interested in the Mariners signing him to a 2-year deal worth $26-$30 million?

I mean, again, I probably wouldn’t be devastated, but the more I think about it, the more I start to wonder if I’m coming at this from the wrong angle.

I keep saying I want to be the type of fan that roots for teams who get rid of aging players a year too early vs. a year too late.  So, I need to build some thicker skin about these types of things.  Yes, Cruz has been wonderful in a Mariners uniform; you can consider me a fan for life for all he’s done.  Do I really want that legacy tarnished if he turns into a Richie Sexson in his final season with us?

More to the point:  do I think Cruz has two MORE years where he can give us this type of 4-win production?

The Mariners just signed Wade LeBlanc to an extension this week.  He’s got guaranteed money for 2019, with apparent team options (and incentives) based on his performance that could see him in Seattle through 2022.  It’s basically one of the most team-friendly deals I’ve ever seen that wasn’t negotiated by the player directly.  A lot of the Mariners core we have now is locked up at least through next year, if not for many years to come.  Cruz is really the most important player not under contract for next year, which is why this is coming up now.

For what it’s worth, the LAST thing I want to have happen is for the Mariners to extend him before the season ends.  I mean, let’s face it, he’s one major injury away from calling it a career.  That’s just the way these things go when you get to be his age.  If he tears a rotator cuff or an ACL or otherwise has to go on the shelf for up to a year, how good do you think he’s going to be when he comes back?  That’s assuming he has no setbacks!  Will he have the power he has now?  Will he be able to hit for the average he’s hitting now?  Or, will both of those numbers dip to the point that – considering he plays no defense whatsoever – he’s just a replacement-level player that can only DH?

Sorry, but you HAVE to wait to see how his season plays out before even CONSIDERING an extension.  At which point, I say you wait for the market to dictate what he’s worth.  Teams haven’t been willing to shell out mega millions for designated hitters in recent years.  You could argue he’s different, and given his work ethic and leadership abilities, he’s worth more than your average lumbering slugger.  But, I wouldn’t bet he’ll get insane money.  It’s even possible he’d earn less of a base salary (with more in the way of incentives) than he’s getting now.

And, as always, Bob Dutton makes some good points here.  What do the Mariners want to do with Robinson Cano after this year?  We’re in the 5th year of his 10-year deal, and the plan all along was to eventually move him away from second base.  With his suspension, it looks like that plan has been accelerated.  It was always going to require the Mariners getting a worthy second baseman to take his place, and with Dee Gordon’s emergence, you can see why the team is comfortable with him there.  And, with Healy under team control (arbitration eligible through 2022), and Evan White behind him, I don’t see a lot of free time from the first base position.  Besides that, how would Cano take to a possible transition there?  He might prefer (and even be better suited) to simply DHing.

These are all questions we have facing us in mid-August when Cano returns from his suspension, by the way.  Where does he fit?  I would assume he’ll still play some at second base, but not so much that it cuts Dee Gordon out (who will need to be our starter there in the playoffs).  I would also assume Cano fills in at first base on a part time basis – possibly against right-handed pitchers? – but it’s going to be a struggle.  You can’t play Cano at DH over Cruz, barring injury.  But, you CAN play him at DH starting next year, if Cruz is playing elsewhere.

Based on the way the roster is constructed, this seems to be the most sensible and smartest way to go.  I love Cruz, and in another world I wouldn’t mind him finishing his career in Seattle.  But, we’ve got Cano for another 5 years, at $24 million per year, rendering him effectively untradeable.

Best case scenario has the Mariners passing Cano through waivers in August and sending him somewhere in a salary dump deal with a team looking for some veteran leadership.  But, considering he has a full no-trade clause, that seems unlikely.  It would also require the Mariners to eat anywhere from $10-$14 million per year for the rest of the contract, which almost defeats the purpose.

Unless the purpose is to use the money you’re saving to put it up toward a Nelson Cruz extension.  Long story short, the only way I want to see the Mariners extend Cruz is by first ridding themselves out from under the albatross that is Cano’s massive contract.  Since that seems impossible, I’m afraid we’re going to have to bid adieu to Mr. Cruz after this season, with the consolation being that we enjoyed the perfect free agent transaction (which is so rare nowadays).

The Mariners Split The Series With The Red Sox

All in all, I’d say that went pretty well.  We lost a close one in that good Felix game; we won one in exciting, high-scoring, come-from-behind fashion; we won a 1-0 nailbiter in that outstanding Wade LeBlanc game; and we got torched on get-away day.

That game on Friday was as exciting as it gets.  I think we all figured the best left-handed starter we’d see this weekend was going to be starting that night, but James Paxton didn’t have his usual stuff.  Also the defense – with its 3 errors that very easily could’ve been 4 or 5 – didn’t have its usual stuff either.  In an absolute disaster of a third inning, Paxton was only able to get one guy out before being pulled, having given up 6 runs (somehow 5 of which were earned).  Chasen Bradford limited the damage to just that, but the M’s found themselves – once with a 3-run lead – down 6-3.

That’s when recently recalled Rob Whalen entered the game to soak up some innings.  (oh shit, if we’d been playing Tampa, I could’ve said “soak up some Rays”!  But we’re all done playing the Rays this season!  I’ll have to save that gem for next year …).  Rob Whalen ended up going 4 scoreless innings to allow the M’s to chip away at that deficit.  Mitch Haniger hit one in in the fifth; Mike Zunino homered in the seventh.  That set the stage for the bottom of the eighth, down 6-5, runners on first and second with one out, and Denard Span pinch hitting for Guillermo Heredia.  He jerked a ball down the right field line for a 2-run double, as the Red Sox outfielder was playing WAY over in right-center for some reason.  With a 7-6 lead, Edwin Diaz came in to shut them down for his 26th save of the season.

If you thought THAT was unexpected, just wait until you get a load of Saturday’s game!  Wade LeBlanc vs. some knuckleballer, on the FOX game of the week!  I have to imagine they were a little underwhelmed with the matchup coming into it, but hot damn were they treated to a pitcher’s duel to end all pitcher’s duels!

To his credit, Steven Wright was pretty outstanding.  The knuckleballer went 7 innings, giving up just 1 run on 5 hits & 2 walks with 4 strikeouts.  As it turns out, though, Wade LeBlanc was remarkably better.  He went 7.2 innings of shutout ball, giving up just 2 hits while striking out 9!  My dad asked me what we could expect of LeBlanc before the game, and I said I’d be ecstatic if he gave up just a couple runs in 5 innings, but he really blew my projection out of the water!  It was as dominant a performance as I’ve seen this year, as he allowed a leadoff hit to start the game, and then nothing until – with two outs in the eighth – he allowed a single to end his night as he faced the minimum up to that point.  Honestly, that first hit he allowed was pretty bogus – as the ump didn’t have his strike zone quite figured out yet – and should’ve been a strikeout.  So, we were THAT CLOSE to perfection, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

The one run the Mariners scored was back in third on a single by Cruz, and somehow it held up.  Colome got out of the eighth unscathed, and Diaz worked the ninth for his 27th save of the season.  Easy peasy.

Sunday, I dunno, it got away from us.  Leake didn’t really have it, giving up a 5-spot in the third.  But, he managed to keep it to just that through six innings, so at least he saved the bullpen a little bit.  I think we were all under the impression – as the game went on – that the Mariners would mount a comeback eventually, but it was sort of the opposite.  The Red Sox played add-on, and the M’s really let a lot of opportunities get by them, going 3 for 12 with RISP.  There was, however, another 2.1 innings from Elias, who only gave up 1 run, so that trade is looking better and better.

Hard to be too upset by a 50/50 split, though.  If you offered that to me before the series started, I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat.  Now, the Mariners go on the road for a huge one:  the final east coast road trip of the (regular) season.  The downside to the weekend is that the Astros just completed a 10-0 road trip to take a 1.5 game lead in the division, which is just insane.  In case you thought the division was in the bag or something (unlikely, I know), it’s not.  We are a full 8 games up on the Angels though, so fuck them.

Thankfully, there’s an off-day today before the festivities start.  One last big test before we coast to the finish line.  Up first: the Yankees.  Our likely rivals in that 1-game Wild Card.  My stomach is all in knots just thinking about it.

Fuck You Angels! The Mariners Got The Sweep

When I was a kid, I gave much more of a shit about baseball rivalries than I do now.  I hated the Yankees, obviously.  I disliked the Rangers quite a bit (especially when they signed A-Rod).  In the early 2000’s, I REALLY hated the Athletics, because even though the Mariners won 90+ games from 2000-2003, the A’s were the reason why we only made the playoffs twice (in spite of a couple 93-win campaigns).  In recent years, I guess I hate the Astros, but I don’t even know if they qualify as a rivalry, from my fan’s perspective.  It’s more of a looming dread whenever I see HOU coming up on the little pocket calendar I have hanging up at my desk.  When the switch flipped and Houston became HOUSTON, it’s been utter annihilation (and even before they were good, they still won an annoying amount of times).  Besides, this is really the first year where the Mariners and Astros have been on the same level, record-wise.  They may indeed grow to become my most hated baseball enemy when the season’s over.

But, for now, I think I hate the Angels the most.  Granted, they’re clearly the better franchise.  They’ve actually WON a World Series, for instance.  They’ve been to the playoffs 10 times to our 4; they’ve consistently been more of a winning team in general (and haven’t had those bottom-out years like the Mariners have).  Nevertheless, with the Astros way up there, I’ve always seen the Angels as more of our peers.  Whenever you find the Mariners contending for a wild card spot, the Angels always seem to be right there with us.  Also, from 2010 onward, the Angels only have the 1 playoff appearance, so it’s not like they’ve been super awesome of late.  And, they’ve had a number of players I couldn’t help but despise, from Mike Trout to Jered Weaver to (retroactively) Chone Figgins to John Lackey to Troy Glaus to Tim Salmon to Chuck Finley.  The only Angels player I ever really liked was Vlad, because he was fucking amazing and I secretly never forgave the Mariners for not making a bigger push to sign him when he was a free agent after 2003.  Can you even imagine?  That would’ve been so much fun!

Anyway, the Mariners just swept the Angels yesterday in the 3-game series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I didn’t hold out a ton of hope in yesterday’s game, even when the Angels’ starter was pulled after 2 innings with an injury.  Marco Gonzales really wasn’t as sharp as he’d been of late, only lasting 5 innings, giving up 3 runs.  We knew ahead of time that Edwin Diaz wasn’t going to be available, after pitching 3 games in a row, and in 4 games in 5 days.  That slotted the bullpen all kinds of wonky, and accordingly the bullpen wasn’t as sharp as it had been of late either.  Newcomer Mike Morin – in just his 2nd appearance since being called up from Tacoma – gave up a run on a triple and a sac fly.  Chasen Bradford – who has been all kinds of good this year – gave up 2 solo homers in the 7th to put us behind by 2 runs.  And, there we were, late in the game, facing the prospects of losing for just the third time in the month of June.

That’s when the offense went back to work.  Gamel and Zunino had RBIs in the 2nd to stake the Mariners to a 2-0 lead.  Then, after an RBI by Trout (who somehow didn’t homer in this one, though he did have two hits and two intentional walks), Nelson Cruz hit a 2-run bomb (which is his 5th in the last 5 games) to put the M’s up 4-1.  In the 7th, after Bradford gagged up the homers, Segura hit a guy in on a double; followed by Healy solo homering in the 8th to re-tie the game; ultimately setting the stage for a bottom of the 9th showdown (thanks to a couple scoreless innings out of eventual winner Roenis Elias).

With one out, Segura on at first, Mitch Haniger took a mistake by the Angels pitcher and deposited it into the left field stands for his second walk-off home run of the season.  Not for nothing, but that’s his 16th homer of the season (tying his mark of 2017) and his 52nd RBI (surpassing what he did in 2017, in 29 fewer games).  Can you imagine what it’ll be like if he can stay healthy all year?  He truly is deserving of a slot on the All Star team.

The Mariners are still 0.5 games ahead of the Astros, but are now 7.5 games ahead of the Angels, which is just the best.

Now, we’ve got a 4-game series against the Red Sox.  I hope you like a lot of annoying Boston fans, because they’re coming out in force!  The good news is Chris Sale pitched yesterday, so we lucked into avoiding one of the best lefties in the game.  The bad news is the rest of their rotation is also really fucking good.  And, James Paxton is saddled with Friday’s “Fireworks Night” game, which I believe the Mariners have lost every fucking time they’ve done it.  Here’s to hoping for a little of that old Felix magic tonight as he squares off against David Price.  This series could get REAL dicey in a hurry.