Tempering Expectations For This Mariners Rebuild

What interests me most about the game of baseball is the long game. In football, you’ve got rosters twice the size of a baseball team, yet we see it every year: teams going from worst to first. You can turn around a football team in one offseason! But, in baseball, it takes seemingly forever (and, for an organization like the Mariners, LITERALLY forever).

I did a big, long post about the first successful Mariners rebuild. I originally wrote that in 2013, when we all were hopeful that we were in the middle of the next successful Mariners rebuild. There were so many moves made between the nadir of this franchise (2008) and the next time you could legitimately say the Mariners were in contention for the post-season (2014, when we finished 87-75, just 1 game back of a Wild Card spot) that it truly boggles the mind.

That rebuild was ultimately a failure. It produced three winning seasons between 2014 and 2018, and zero playoff appearances. Following last year’s collapse, Jerry Dipoto made a bunch of moves to jettison veterans and infuse the farm system with prospects. Our veteran holdovers include names like Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Seager, Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, Wade LeBlanc, Roenis Elias, Dan Altavilla, and Dan Vogelbach; most (if not all) of those players will not be on this team the next time it reaches the post-season.

So, we’re stuck rooting for prospects. Rooting for potential. Rooting for the young guys to step up and prove themselves not just worthy of Major League roster spots, but ultimately good enough to get this team back to the playoffs one day (ideally one day very soon). Jerry Dipoto is staking his reputation and his job on these players. If it all falls apart like it did last time, he, Scott Servais, and a bunch of other very smart baseball men will be looking for employment elsewhere.

As I noted, we’ve been through this before. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

See, it can be fun and exciting knowing your team is out of it before the season even begins. First, there’s no expectations, so any on-field success you see is all gravy. Then, of course, there’s the factor of the unknown. New, young players you’ve never seen before are ALWAYS more interesting than old veterans who’ve been around for years. We pretty much know what guys like Seager, Healy, Felix, and Leake are; there’s nothing to learn about those guys. So, we pin all our hopes and dreams on the prospects. We want to see them in a Major League uniform right this minute, to pump them full of experience with the hopes that they’ll pan out immediately. This can lead to guys getting called up too early (a la Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Matt Tuiasosopo, etc.) or guys just being huge disappointments.

Let’s start with the 2008 season, the aforementioned nadir. That team lost 101 games and we were all miserable. Successful players like Felix, Ichiro, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez, and even Yuniesky Betancourt were no match for the suck-asses that were Richie Sexson, Jose Vidro, Jeremy Reed, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Erik Bedard, and so on. General Manager Bill Bavasi was fired, and The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild was on!

2009 proved to be a welcome surprise. Franklin Gutierrez was brought over in a trade, as was Jason Vargas (Doug Fister was one of the rare Bavasi draft picks that stuck in the org and actually panned out). Ichiro was still Ichiro! Russell Branyan and David Aardsma were quality pick-ups. Even the return of Ken Griffey Jr. for a victory lap proved valuable. That 85-win season led everyone (but the stat geeks, who knew those wins were on a shaky foundation) to believe we were way ahead of the curve on this rebuild. So much so that Jackie Z decided to make a big push to go for it in 2010.

We traded for Cliff Lee! We got rid of Carlos Silva and brought back a useful piece in Milton Bradley! Our young core of starters (Felix, Vargas, and Fister) were bolstered with key bullpen additions like Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and Sean White. So, what happened? The team fell apart (ultimately losing another 101 games; in hindsight, a second go-around with Old Griffey proved disasterous) and shipped off anyone of value for prospects. Lee was flipped for Justin Smoak (among others). Our high draft pick was used on a pitcher who got hurt so many times he never made the Bigs. And The Great Jack Zduriencik Rebuild 2.0 was on.

2011 was a key year for the rebuild, as the team REALLY went for it this time. Taking a stroll through that roster is long and arduous. Ichiro, Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, and Adam Kennedy were the veteran everyday players; Felix, Vargas, Bedard, and Fister were still holding down the rotation (though Fister would be swapped for a bunch of nobodies at the deadline; yet another example of a trade that totally backfired for the Mariners); and League, Wright, and David Pauley (among others) were the steady influences in the bullpen. But, the young guys were the stars of the show. 2008 first rounder Dustin Ackley was called up midseason, as was Kyle Seager. Justin Smoak was handed the first base job. Guti started his slow descent into an injured adulthood. Then, there were guys like Michael Saunders, Greg Halman, Alex Liddi, Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Chris Gimenez, Carlos Peguero, Adam Moore, Mike Wilson and more. On the pitching side of things, Michael Pineda was an All Star, but then there were guys like Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush (remember when he was a starting pitcher?), a younger Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Dan Cortes, Chance Ruffin, and Shawn Kelley.

Those were all the players we hung our hats on. How many of them actually panned out? You can count them on one hand. How many of them panned out for the Seattle Mariners? That number is even smaller.

2012 saw the influx of guys like Jesus Montero (swapped for Michael Pineda), Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez, Lucas Luetge, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, and John Jaso. They were paired with the holdovers like Smoak, Seager, Ackley, Felix, Vargas, Ichiro (starting his decline) and Figgins (at the end of his miserable Mariners career).

Then, there’s 2013, with prospects like Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino (a year after being drafted), Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker. Veterans like Kendrys Morales, Endy Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Jeremy Bonderman, and Hisashi Iwakuma saw extensive playing time, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. The old guys didn’t do enough (and most were gone in short order), and the young guys (predictably) never panned out for this team.

So, please, keep all these duds in mind as we go forward. You’re going to hear A LOT of new names you’re not familiar with in 2019 and 2020. The team is going to tout these players as The Future; don’t believe ’em. The vast majority of these players will be more in a long line of losers that help to keep the Seattle Mariners out of the post-season.

Some guys will be promising, only to fall flat on their asses the following year when expectations are raised and other teams learn how to handle them. Some guys will be promising only to suffer devastating injuries that hinders their development. Some of those injured guys will be brought back too soon, only to struggle and lose their confidence. Some guys will just flat-out stink from the get-go. One, maybe two guys, will be okay. But, they won’t be enough. They’ll just embolden this organization to spend a bunch of money when the time “feels right”. At that point, some flashy veterans will be brought in to supplement our future “rising stars” and we’ll go through the process of “contending (for a wild card spot)” all over again.

The Mariners are never going to be the Astros or Cubs or Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers. They’re closer to the Athletics and Rays than anything else, just a Major League farm club for better-run organizations. The tremendous amount of luck required to turn us into one of those truly good teams isn’t ingrained in the city of Seattle and its sports teams. The best we can hope for is competent mediocrity.

The best we’re going to get is just outside, looking in.

How Early Is Too Early To Get Excited About The Seattle Mariners?

Off the top of my head, I’m going to say, “Now.”  Now is too early to get excited about the Seattle Mariners.

We’re three games in!  One full series!  Granted, it was a series sweep, on the road, against the hated Angels, where we beat them 26-8 over the three games (likely 26-6 if Hector Noesi didn’t exist), but come on now!  I know we’re starved for quality baseball, after languishing in the wastelands of perpetual mediocrity, but let’s not go nuts.

There are a lot of things we don’t know – a lot of things we CAN’T know – until we start playing some other teams.  Like, for instance:  are the Angels just REALLY REALLY bad?  Josh Hamilton sure looks like a $125 million clusterfuck at the plate.  Albert Pujols looks like the least-fearsome #3 hitter in the American League.  Raul Ibanez is their mother-pooping designated hitter for crying out loud!  That fountain of youth must have dried up at the All Star Break last year and is showing no signs of returning.  And their pitching … YE GODS THEIR PITCHING!  I’ve seen a better collection of arms at the World Leprosy Foundation’s annual “Give ‘Em A Hand” Conference.

That franchise is straight-up broken, son.  And I couldn’t be happier that it’s happening sooner than we all anticipated.  The way I see it, Albert Pujols was always going to turn into an albatross with that contract; but who could have seen him being this bad this soon?  Ditto Hamilton.  If everyone wants to sit there and tell the Seattle Mariners, “Robinson Cano by himself won’t magically turn you into a winning ballclub,” well, I’ve got some sour news for you, Jack:  Mike Trout by himself won’t magically turn the Angels into a winning ballclub.  Couldn’t have happened to a douchier-looking guy.  Mike Trout may spend every waking moment outside of baseball volunteering at soup kitchens, but as for me, I’m always going to picture him going up to random guys at bars, saying, “I boned your girlfriend.  It was a while back; she was just all right.  But, hey, good for you, bro …”

Anyway, getting back, I think there are two different ways to read that title.  It’s never too early to be excited, I suppose.  But, it’s certainly too early to start booking your World Series tickets.  Unless you were one of the few people out there projecting 90+ wins before the season started, I think you should probably pump your brakes and not get too insane over three games.  Relish the start, for sure!  After all, the Angels just played their opening three games at home and were trounced in all three; that’s hilarious!  The Mariners could go right in the tank starting tonight in Oakland and we’ll still always have those first three games that proved to everyone how over-rated the Angels really are.

And, I’ll tell you why you should probably hold off on your enthusiasm; five words:  Roenis Elias and Chris Young.  These 3-0 Mariners we’re all falling over ourselves to praise could just as easily be 3-2 by the time Felix hits the mound on Saturday.  At least with Ramirez and Paxton, we had a little idea of what they could potentially deal on any given night.  I’ve never even HEARD of Elias until the last couple weeks of Spring Training, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen Chris Young pitch the one game in my life, and that was the final Spring Training outing last week.  Granted, I can’t guarantee they’ll be terrible – I can’t guarantee they’ll be Brandon Maurer and Jeremy Bonderman – but I also can’t get too pie-in-the-sky until I actually see them do something worthwhile in a game that matters.

Plus, let’s face it, the Athletics’ lineup isn’t as pathetic and top-heavy as the Angels’.  There may not be many superstars, but the A’s are straight-up steady.  They’re going to work counts, grind out at-bats, and all that other good clichéd stuff you hear about.  And, just when you think you’re going to get out of a jam … BAM!  3-run home run.  Happens every time …

The great thing is:  we’ve got a 4-game series.  And one of those games features Felix, who absolutely DESTROYS the A’s (now, watch us go 3-1 with the only loss coming in that Felix game).  If you ask me, I’d take a 2-2 series split right now, no questions asked, and consider this first road trip a rousing success.  5-2, coming back home to play the Angels again in a 2-game series?  Oh yeah, I’d consider that a perfect way to start a season.

I’ll tell you what I’m feeling right now.  Before the season, I was pretty down on this team, as I think I had every right to be.  Right now, I’m guarded.  I want to believe!  I really do!  But, I’m going to need to see the Mariners play at least one other team before I start making any bold proclamations.  But, I’ll tell you what, if we get through this Oakland series with the Mariners going 3-1 or 4-0, with their offense looking just as mighty as it did in Anaheim and the young pitching continuing to deal … so help me, I may need to pee my pants.

Let’s do this!  Let’s get me to pee my pants!  ‘Merica!

The Shitshow That Was The 2013 Seattle Mariners, Part II: Hitting & Defense

Catch Part I HERE.

To be honest, it’s been two days of this and I’m already bored and frustrated by rehashing the 2013 Mariners season.  I’d quit right here, but then what kind of Seattle sports blogger would I be?  A half-assed one, that’s what!  Well, I’ll have you know that I’m determined to use my whole ass starting right now!  So, get used to it!

The best and only hitters you could reasonably qualify as “good” on this team in 2013 were Kendrys Morales and Kyle Seager.  Morales, as we’re all well aware, was received in trade for Jason Vargas.  Not to get too deep into this, I’ll just say that the Mariners traded a strength to fill a weakness and essentially came out even in the deal.  I don’t necessarily know what Vargas did in Anaheim and I don’t care, because what he did there has no bearing on what he would have done in a Mariners uniform.

I like Morales.  I don’t love him.  I don’t think he’s worth $14 million a season and I don’t think he’s worth having around for more than two years (three tops, but that’s really pushing it).  Apparently, the Mariners have either extended a qualifying offer to him (for the aforementioned $14 million) or are going to extend him a qualifying offer, but either way it doesn’t sound like he’s going to accept it.  Either that means the Mariners reach some sort of multi-year deal with him, or they let him go to another team and receive some sort of first round draft compensation.

So, what does the 2013 Kendrys Morales season mean to me?  Well, if he ends up going to another team, it’ll mean absolutely nothing.  We kind of figured he’d be a one-year-and-done player anyway when we traded for him; and besides, who really wants to stay with the Mariners for longer than they have to?  Besides Felix (God bless you, sweet Felix).  And, if Morales stays around for another three years?  Then, his 2013 season showed us that he’s still got it.  What is “it”?  Well, on the one hand, you can look at him and say he’s an over-priced quasi-slugger who has no business playing in the field, and offers nothing in the base-running game, so his value is limited.  Or, on the other hand, you can look at him and say he’s easily the best designated hitter we’ve had since Edgar Martinez.

Are you a Glass Half Empty guy or a Glass Half Full?  Yeah, he’s going to cost us a lot of money if he stays.  But, he beats the fucking shit out of the Carl Everetts and Jose Vidros of the fucking world.  So, calm the fuck down.  It’s not your money.  Besides, it’s about time the Mariners start shelling out some dough so I don’t have to watch a colossal bunch of fuck-ups year-in and year-out.

Kyle Seager, on the other hand, is our little third base pride and joy.  He’s steady as the day is long.  30+ doubles, 20+ homers, solid defense.  He’s a true middle-of-the-order (anywhere from 2-5 in the lineup) hitter and best of all:  he’s actually someone we drafted and cultivated from our very own farm system!  I’m starting to doubt that he’ll ever be that perennial All Star, but I’ll tell you what:  I’d give anything to have eight more hitters just like him at all the other positions.  And, you gotta figure that sooner or later he’s going to really pop and have a year where he bats .330 with maybe 40 doubles and 30 homers.  Wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.

Of course, it also wouldn’t shock me if he just fell off the face of the Earth, because that’s what everyone else does in this organization.

Dustin Ackley had something of a bounce-back year, at least at the plate.  I’m not ready to start sucking his dick and writing him in as an everyday player for this team going forward, but let’s just say I’m cautiously encouraged.  He absolutely stunk through the first two months of the season, somehow batting even worse than he did in 2012 (which I didn’t think was physically possible for him).  The Mariners finally had to send him back down to Tacoma because, Jesus Christ, he was batting .205 again!  In Tacoma, he proceeded to fuck everyone’s shit up and found himself back in the Majors by the end of June.  Of course, at this point, Nick Franklin had usurped his job at second base, so the organization converted him back to a center fielder.

His defense wasn’t the worst I’d ever seen, but he was clearly the team’s third best center fielder (behind Guti & Michael Saunders), and maybe even the fourth best (behind Endy Chavez).  Whereas his second base defense was quite solid, his center field defense was doing his WAR no favors.  And, when he returned to the Mariners, his batting average cratered to a season-low .194.  He more-or-less struggled through July and everyone thought he was done.  Too good for Triple-A, but not good enough for the Majors.  Just another Jeremy Reed.  Then, something happened.  He caught fire in August with this line:  .390/.420/.597/1.017, raising his season average to .258 in the process.  He coasted on that hot August through September to finish the season with a .253 average.  Rubes have hope for the future of Dustin Ackley.  The rest of us jaded fucks have our doubts.

Justin Smoak was similarly interesting, in that he started shitty, missed some time, came back, and peaked somewhere in July.  He tailed off at the end of the year leaving us all to believe this is just who he is.  A .240-ish hitter with minimal pop and okay defense at first base.

Michael Saunders was more distressing than anything.  Everyone thought he had turned a corner in 2012 after fiddling with his batting stance in the off-season.  For him to take a step back the way he did in 2013, you can’t help but think he’s a fourth outfielder at best.  Essentially, 2014 will be his last shot, but who knows if he’ll even HAVE a last shot?  The team seems pretty set on going full-boar in finding some new outfielders to replace the gaping holes we’ve had for the better part of a half decade.

Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, and Mike Zunino were three call-ups in 2013 who were all probably rushed into starting Major League jobs before they were ready.  Miller acquitted himself well, though his propensity for defensive blunders are a little nerve-wracking.  Franklin started off a house afire, but he really struggled the longer he remained in the starting lineup.  I know when Ackley was on his torrid streak, people were calling to move him back to his old second base job, but at that point you can’t start jerking people around (especially when there was nothing to play for this season except for experience, which Franklin got in spades).  Zunino gets an incomplete because he broke his hamate bone and missed a bunch of time.  His leadership and defensive abilities are a welcome addition.  But, he’s still pretty raw at the plate.

In a nutshell, this season was defined by the veterans and how they failed us.  I already went over the veteran starting pitchers who totally stunk up the joint.  Well, they were joined by guys like Raul Ibanez, Mike Morse, Jason Bay, Brendan Ryan, Endy Chavez, Kelly Shoppach, Henry Blanco, Robert Andino, and of course, the oft-injured Guti. All brought in (or retained) with the intent to add “leadership” to our young core.

Ibanez tied the record for most home runs by a senior citizen with 29.  That was good for a lark, especially when he managed to bash 24 of them before the All Star Break.  Hell, we all thought he was going to SHATTER the record.  But, of course, what happens when you let a 41 year old play every fucking day?  His production goes down the shitter.  5 more homers the rest of the way.  And, if you think I’m talking about Ibanez’s home runs too much, that’s because his homers were literally the ONLY thing he was bringing to the table.  We couldn’t play him at DH where he belonged, because that’s where Kendrys Morales belonged (and, truth be told, it’s also where Mike Morse and Jason Bay belonged, but they can’t ALL be designated hitters).  So, we got to enjoy Raul’s baffling defense in left field on a near-everyday basis.  Lucky us.

It was no better with Morse in right, but at least he was injured for most of the season.  His first couple of weeks were pretty intense; it looked like he might mash 50 homers.  Since this is Morse we’re talking about, you had to figure his body would break down.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re no longer free to take steroids as much as you’d like.

I refuse to acknowledge the presence of any of the other veteran hitters on this team because each one is worse than the last.  I’ve already blown through way too many words on this group of hitters as it is, so I’ll cut this short and save some stuff for tomorrow when I look at what the Mariners should do this off-season.  If you catch me writing anything other than “Blow the whole fucking thing up,” then I encourage you to write your congressman and have me put in prison.

The Mariners Are The Abomination Of Obama’s Nation

It’s been a veritable Era Of Good Feelings around these parts for the past month or so, what with the Seahawks and Huskies going a combined 6-0 to start their seasons.  You could say that I’ve seemingly lost sight of this website’s mission statement (then again, you could also say that I’m really going overboard on all the Sunshine & Lollipops sentiment to set myself up for the big, heartbreaking fall when everything turns to shit, but you didn’t hear that from me).

But, of course, you have to factor in how it has been 4 weeks since I’ve written anything about the Seattle Mariners.  I’d venture to say that ANYONE’S outlook on life would be a little rosier if they chose to blatantly ignore the worst thing in the world.

Eric Wedge just said that he’d be leaving the team after the weekend series with the A’s.  There’s your impetus for this particular post.  With this news comes a range of emotions, mostly negative.  Here’s what it boils down to:  prior to the season (and/or during the season), the organization came to Wedge and said they’d like to sign him to an extension through 2014.  They did the same thing to Jackie Z and he signed (news of his extension came out sometime mid-season as a bit of a shock, because no news came with it about Wedge).  As the year has drawn to a close, everyone wanted to know what they were going to do with Wedge.  His having a stroke back in July muddied things, as strokes are wont to do, and we all wondered, “Would the Mariners fire Wedge while retaining Jackie Z?”  How does that even work, anyway?  Who in their RIGHT MIND would come into this situation knowing that the general manager is on the shortest of short leashes?

As a bit of a tangent, I’d like to comment on something Jackie Z said on the radio last night.  It’s something to the effect of, “Organizations fire managers & general managers all the time, so length of contract really shouldn’t matter.”  That is 100% true.  There is nothing stopping this team from signing Jackie Z or Eric Wedge to crisp, new 5-year extensions and then firing them after the 2014 season when we inevitably go 70-92 again.  And yet, the organization is even unwilling to do THAT.  What does it say about the situation – the fucking QUAGMIRE – we’re in now that this organization is unwilling to do what literally every other organization does?  Things are so bad here, we can’t even fake it by giving guys extensions of more than a single year.

Knowing that, getting back to my last point:  no self-respecting manager is going to sign with the Seattle Mariners knowing that the general manager is on the final year of his deal and is apparently on a year-to-year situation like a guy at the end of his apartment lease who is going month-to-month until he can find a better home.  Because when that general manager is inevitably fired, guess what!  You’re fired too, because the new GM is going to want to hire HIS guy.  Period.

Eric Wedge, of course, IS a self-respecting manager.  He knows it’s bullshit to be hung out to dry with these 1-year extensions.  He has the balls to do what Jackie Z couldn’t:  tell the Mariners to take their 1-year deal and SHOVE IT UP THEIR ASSES!  Eric Wedge would rather be an unemployed dick in the yard with the stigma of a “quitter” around the rest of the Major Leagues (which will ultimately be brought up every time he tries to find another job) than accept your bullshit offer of temporary job security.

Here’s the thing, though:  in the end, I don’t know if I’m all that upset to see Eric Wedge go.  Some people are glad he’s gone and think he was actively hurting the organization with his in-game tactics and his dependency on “leadership” over outright talent.  Trying to shove one of the worst defensive outfields in the history of baseball down our throats (featuring a regular spot for Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse) even though what those guys bring to the plate is far out-weighed by their ineptitude in the field and on the basepaths.  I find it hard to believe that there are too many people all that broken up about Wedge leaving; the best I’ve heard about him so far is that the way the guys have played this season isn’t all his fault.  Not really a ringing endorsement, if you ask me.

In the end, this decision of Wedge’s – and the revelation that the organization has been dicking around with him in this way – brings about more boiling contempt for the people at the top.  It’s yet another excuse to bemoan the fact that Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong are still twiddling their dicks at the top of this sinking fucking disaster.  While all signs point to this organization setting itself up for a record-breaking sale (no long-term contracts outside of Felix Hernandez, the new TV deal set to kick in in 2015, one of the smaller payrolls in baseball even though we’re far from the smallest market in baseball), that doesn’t change how things are right now.

Right now?

Right now there is no reason to expect that things will ever change.  Because we have no reason to expect them to change.  The organization has denied all rumors linking this team to a potential sale.  Of course, if there WAS a potential sale, they would be saying the same thing, because no one wants to queer the deal by having a bunch of reporters actively digging into the negotiations.  On the flipside, you can’t ignore the possibility that, for once, the Seattle Mariners AREN’T lying right to our faces.  Maybe there ISN’T any plan in place to sell the team within the next year or two!  Maybe this fucking horse shit is going to go on FOR-FUCKING-EVER!

If there was any question as to whether the Mariners are the worst organization in all of baseball, let Wedge’s decision put your worries to rest.  The Seattle Mariners are THE WORST ORGANIZATION IN ALL OF BASEBALL!  Someone needs to make a giant banner, climb the facade of Safeco Field, and hang it for the world to see.  The Mariners, by default, are in the running for Worst Organization in All of Professional Sports, with the likes of the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and I don’t know enough about the NBA or NHL, but I would assume the likes of the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and the Washington Wizards.  Worst Organization of All Time?  That puts the Mariners in the running with the recent Los Angeles Clippers (before they miraculously got good), Cincinnati Bengals, the Matt Millen-led Detroit Lions, Portland Jailblazers, and the Maloof-led Sacramento Kings.

Here’s something:  when do you ever see a baseball manager quit?  Answer:  you don’t.  You don’t!  It just doesn’t fucking happen!  There are 30 of these jobs in Major League Baseball; it’s one of the most-coveted jobs in all of sports.  You get paid millions of dollars to sit around and “manage” a baseball team.  What does that even mean?  You set lineup cards and make pitching changes and hope like crazy that your players come through in the clutch.  And, if you’re Joe Maddon, you play around with your infield defensive alignment.  That’s pretty much it!  You toss in some tirades when the going gets tough, you talk to the media day-in and day-out, and you get winters off to relax when it’s all over.  Hell, you play your cards right and you’re finished by the end of September; who are these suckers working their fingers to the bone in October anyway?  Mamas’ boys!  Teachers’ pets!

And here is Wedge, throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime, because he has enough pride and self-worth to know that this is a bullshit organization.  And even if he never again gets another opportunity to manage a baseball team, it’s still better than the alternative:  one more fucking year with the Seattle Mariners.

Lou Piniella quit after the 2002 season.  Since then, the Mariners have ran through 7 managers in 11 seasons.  Three were fired, two quit, and two were interim managers not retained past their partial seasons.  Just because I don’t place a lot of importance on what a manager actually DOES for a baseball team doesn’t mean I can’t see the problem with this.  While I’m a skeptic, players aren’t.  Players already in this organization want stability.  More importantly, players OUTSIDE this organization want stability, if they even THINK about considering Seattle as a potential landing spot.

While building your team through free agency isn’t necessarily the smartest plan for a franchise that has intentions on winning, the fact remains that this team will need to supplement the talent we have in place with guys outside the organization.  By all accounts, the Mariners have money to spend and the willingness to spend it.  And yet, who in his right mind would sign with this team, considering all the instability at the manager and general manager positions?  I’ll tell you who:  the same dickless bottom-feeders we’ve seen for the last decade.  Your Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman types.  Guys clinging for dear life WELL past their sell-by dates!  Hope you enjoyed Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and the like, because that’s who you’re getting for 2014!

The outlook for the 2014 season is so unbelievably bleak, I don’t even know why I bother.  I should just cut ties with this fucking mess right now and get it over with.  What’s the point?  Sitting around, watching a bunch of .240 hitters, with a bunch of feast-or-famine pitchers (and Felix and Iwakuma)?

The other day, I asked a buddy of mine if he would even miss the Seattle Mariners if they said they were going to pick up and move to Albuquerque tomorrow.  He said he would, but not me.  At this point in the season, where I’m at my most fed-up with this fucking team, I wouldn’t give two shits if the Seattle Mariners left my life forever.  Most likely, I’d follow Felix around and root for whatever team he played for.  Then, when he retires, I’d retire my desire for baseball, probably forever.

Hiroshi Yamauchi died on September 19th and a lot of tributes were written.  Most of them were positive, as he purchased the team when it was still in a state of flux.  The Seattle Mariners very nearly moved to Tampa Bay and if they’d done so, we never would have enjoyed that 1995 season and all the good times that followed, through 2001.  Of course, there was a decent amount of negativity written as well.  Yamauchi was an absentee owner, there’s no other way to say it.  I don’t care if he never attended a Mariners game, and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad thing that he was as hands-off as he was.  There are too many cases of meddling owners fucking things up in the world of sports.  Honestly, Yamauchi was a refreshing change in that regard.  Nevertheless, you can’t ignore the fact that he put Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong in charge.  In spite of countless pleas from I would say about 98% of the Mariners fanbase, he stuck by them and left them in charge.  You can’t even say their names during the Hall of Fame ceremony for Ken Griffey Jr. without expecting a cascade of boos from an otherwise cheery crowd!  I understand the importance of loyalty as much as the next guy, but Howard and Chuck are the biggest fucking boobs on the planet!

So, yeah, Yamauchi gets a lot of credit for “saving baseball in Seattle” as well as a lot of flak for allowing the organization to suck as much dick as it has this past decade-plus.  But, why doesn’t anyone comment on the fact that Yamauchi could have saved us a LOT of headaches by simply NOT buying the Seattle Mariners and letting them inevitably move to Tampa Bay?

I became a fan of the Seattle Mariners during their stretch run of 1995.  Before that year, I hadn’t seen a single baseball game, and I was 14 at the time!  It was football, then basketball with me (and to this day, still is).  Had the Mariners moved in 1992 or whenever the fuck, I never would’ve had the opportunity to be sucked in!  Seattle would have lost Major League Baseball and to this day we probably would have yet to get it back (or, we’d currently be the Seattle Rays, who with proper ownership, would be contending for annual playoff spots).

Yes, we would lose all of those wonderful memories of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez and all of that.  But we’d gain years of our lives back!  Years where we wouldn’t have to dwell on the piss-poor baseball being played in our own backyard!  Is it really better to have loved & lost than to have never loved at all?  I don’t know!  What if that “love” of which you speak is never really lost, but sticks with you, festering?  Soured by years of neglect and taking one another for granted.  Hiroshi Yamauchi could have done me a real solid by looking at the offer to purchase the Seattle Mariners and saying, “No thanks.”

Who knows?  Maybe I would’ve become a baseball fan anyway.  Maybe I would’ve become one of those insufferable Red Sox fans back in 2004.  Yeah, we mock all of those Bellevue Red Sox fans, but do you know how many fucks they give?  Zero.  Zero fucks.  Because, right or wrong, they root for a team that has won two titles in the past decade.  They root for a team that knows how to win and make the playoffs consistently.  They root for an organization that has one down year and then immediately reloads for another pennant chase.  AND, they don’t have to live in Boston, so it’s win-win-win-win-win.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, July 2013 Edition

Well, that 8-game winning streak sure was fun, right?

April, May, June.  What’s the buzzword for July?  What’s my overarching feeling about this Mariners team as we head into the final two months of the season?  Meh.  That’s how I feel.  Meh.  The Mariners picked up five games in their quest to finish the season at .500, with a 15-10 record in July.  The Mariners had a CHANCE to do so much more, but of course because they’re the Mariners, they couldn’t let a month go by without double-digit losses.

July started out rock-solid, with a 4-2 road trip against the likes of Texas and Cincinnati.  Then, the Mariners came crashing down to Earth with a 3-1 series defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.  I’m sure everyone was thinking as I was, “Same ol’ Mariners,” but then something amazing happened.

Yes, the 8-game winning streak.  The streak that defined the month.  Three over the Angels, three over the Astros, and two more over the Indians.  Things were looking VERY good.  The delusional among us were even contemplating the impending possibility of playoff contention.  Then, the Mariners split a 4-game series to the lowly Twins and followed that up with these last two road losses to the Red Sox.  This 2-5 finish has really put a damper on what was once an exciting month.

I said it last night and I’ll say it again:  my opinion on the Mariners’ month of July totally depended on how yesterday’s game ended.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  A second consecutive defeat to the Red Sox meant it was yet another series the Mariners wouldn’t win.  More than that, it’s the ultimate example of how the Mariners are not There yet.  They’re not a player.  They would have no business being in the playoffs, because there are still truly great teams out there like the Red Sox to thump us back down the beanstalk.

But, what does that mean?  Yesterday was one game.  It was the difference between either 15-10 or 16-9.  I say that knowing full well it’s a ludicrous statement, and yet here we are.  I wouldn’t call July a failure, but it’s certainly a disappointment considering it could’ve been so much better.  Tack on a couple more wins – last night’s game and the Felix nine-inning no-decision to the Twins – and I’m a lot more pleased.  But, what are you gonna do?  They are who they are.

July saw the return of Erasmo Ramirez, which also meant we got to say goodbye to Jeremy Bonderman.  Win/win.  July also saw the fracturing of the hamate bone of Mike Zunino, which also means Henry Blanco is now a semi-full time starter along with some other scrub.  Lose/lose.  Mike Morse returned from the DL and Jason Bay was DFA’d … same/same.  Eric Wedge had a minor stroke and has been away from the team for the last couple weeks … let’s move on.

August is going to suck.  I’m just going to put that out there right now.  The Mariners won’t be going on any 8-game winning streaks this month; nor will they end the month with a winning record.  Raul Ibanez is in the toilet right now.  Miller and Franklin have their good days and their dreadful days.  The bottom of our lineup includes a pile of crap (Ackley), a pile of crap that plays good defense (Saunders), and a cover-your-eyes honest-to-goodness shit-hole that is whoever is catching that day.  Kyle Seager and Kendrys Morales are the only two people batting worth a damn, the team is jerking around Smoak’s playing time in favor of watching Morse strike out five times a day (three in the game and two more in the batting cage just for practice), and at this point I don’t even know why Brendan Ryan is even on the team anymore.

Oh, and by the way, why are the Mariners so insistent on playing Ackley in center and bumping Saunders over to one of the corner outfield spots?  Ackley’s arm is terrible, his range isn’t all that great, and he’s clearly the inferior defender.  You’re supposed to hide those types of guys in left field!  But, then again, I guess they really can’t when they’re already hiding Ibanez’s broken ass in left.  Hey, here’s a great idea:  play a 41 year old every fucking day because he was on a hot streak for a month.  That’s a genius way to make sure the guy gets overworked and turns into a pathetic flailing mess at the plate!

Defying all expectations, Aaron Harang is still a thang (!).  I give it two more weeks before the team picks up whatever triple-A pitcher is going best and dumps Harang on his ass (James Paxton alert!  Please keep going on that roll you’re on!).

Felix is still mowing people down and looks like he’s got the inside track for the Cy Young Award.  That’s exciting.  Iwakuma is still plugging along, though he won’t be getting any Cy Young consideration.  Joe Saunders is Joe Saunders.  Erasmo is still working the kinks out, but I fully expect him to deliver a quality outing any time now.

The bullpen feels to me like it has been slightly better of late.  I know it’s hard to judge, what with the late-game & extra-innings defeats lately.  Wilhelmsen has his closer’s job back.  The team didn’t trade Oliver Perez.  Hector Noesi was sent back to Tacoma recently (hopefully for good).  And I can’t bring myself to talk about anyone else.

Like I said, I fully expect August to be terrible.  But, that’s okay, because one week from today, we’ll be looking at the first Seahawks pre-season game.  And even if the starters only play a couple of drives, who cares?  It’s football!  Football isn’t baseball!  Which means that football is good!  God I hate baseball with all of my being!

The Mariners Are Impossibly Thin, With No Depth

You want a reason for the Mariners to stand pat and not trade anybody in the next couple weeks?  This would be Reason #1.

The argument against trading people are many.  The veterans we have aren’t worth a whole helluva lot, which means we wouldn’t get anything back except for middling prospects (see:  Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, etc.).  Right now, the Mariners are going good, and do you REALLY feel like messing with that just to bring back some tryout flunky who will probably be traded or waived within two years?

I’m as realistic as I can be right now; I know the Mariners aren’t playing for anything THIS season.  At best, I’m hoping they end up at or near .500; anything over that mark would be a huge bonus.  As such, I know that anybody we bring in via trade will be someone that likely WON’T help us and won’t make us any better, either this year or in the future.  They will be organizational filler.  I’m tired of organizational filler.  We’ve got an organization FILLED (!) with organizational filler!

Yes, the Mariners are going good right now, but things won’t always be this good.  There’s another lull right around the corner (probably).  How soon that lull arrives, or how debilitating that lull is to our chances of ultimately achieving that .500 goal, all depends on what happens at the Trade Deadline, and what happens with injuries going forward.  A good way to speed up that lull will be to trade away guys like Morales, Ibanez, Joe Saunders, or even Oliver Perez.  Tired of watching this new, exciting brand of Mariners baseball?  Yearning for the duds we’ve seen the past three seasons?  Then, start clamoring for the Mariners to make ill-advised moves.  I’ll be over here, ironically pounding the podium for the status quo (ironic because I’m usually with the rest of you, demanding trades at all costs for players who won’t be around next season anyway).

Concerned about the Mariners?  Then, be concerned about the status of our everyday lineup and our pitching rotation.  This team is thin.  The bench consists of guys like Henry Blanco, Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, and Brendan Ryan.  You don’t mind playing Blanco once or twice a week (at the most) because catchers need off days.  The rest you don’t mind seeing in the occasional spot-start, or as defensive replacements in later innings; but they’re not guys you want to see playing everyday.  We’ve been there, we’ve done that, it didn’t turn out well.

Also, are you looking to shake up the starting rotation?  Well, for starters (!!), no one is going to trade you a fucking thing for Aaron Harang, so just stop it.  STOP IT!  Felix is untouchable (of course) and Iwakuma isn’t going anywhere (we’ve still got him on a cost-effective basis for next year and most likely 2015 as well, on a team option at a reasonable price).  Erasmo Ramirez is someone you hope will be part of the future, so he’s out.  That just leaves Joe Saunders.

Tired of Joe Saunders?  Want to see the team trade him while his stock is high?  OK, I’ll bite.  You know that’s going to create a huge, Grand Canyon-sized hole in the middle of this rotation, right?  Anybody we get back will likely be some triple-A hitter of little value, or a pitching prospect who is not yet ready for the Majors.  That’s what teams in contention give you for guys like Joe Saunders.  They’re not going to give you some young stud you can throw immediately into the rotation; if they had that, they’d keep him and use him instead!  Without Joe Saunders in our rotation, that leaves some pretty sad options:  Blake Beavan (the leader in the clubhouse), Hector Noesi (who, as you can plainly see, is still terrible), James Paxton (who, despite some recent success, still probably isn’t ready for anything more than a September call-up and one or two starts), and that’s about it.  Danny Hultzen is injured and keeps suffering setbacks by the week; I’m putting my Smart Money on him being finished for the season.  Taijuan Walker JUST started pitching in Tacoma a couple weeks ago and is on a strict pitch count.  Even if we bring him up, he’s going to be shut down in about 45 innings or so (he has pitched 84 innings in AA and 21 innings in AAA; reports have him at around 150 innings for 2013 before being shut down).  What is that?  5-8 starts?  Whatever it is, his number of starts is going down by the week.  I’d eat my hat if he becomes Joe Saunders’ replacement.

Yeah, so Blake Beavan for Joe Saunders; that’s what you’re looking at.  Still gung-ho about ridding ourselves of this middle-of-the-road pitcher?  For my money, Saunders is a helluva lot better and more reliable than Beavan.  I’ve seen enough of Beavan to know I never want to see him again.

As for our bullpen, word on the street is Oliver Perez’s days are numbered.  He has the highest value, he’s not our closer anymore, and he’s likely gone after this season; why not, right?

Well, it’s true, Tom Wilhelmsen has seemed to regain his former position as the team’s closer, but does he really inspire a ton of confidence right now?  We’re all still waiting for his strikeout numbers to return; I have a feeling we’ll be waiting until the end of time.  Yoervis Medina has been a pleasant surprise in 35 games thus far.  Charlie Furbush has been used appropriately and has turned out some positive results.  But, after that, it gets pretty dicey.  The aforementioned Noesi is up here because it looks like the Mariners want to stretch Beavan back out to starting.  He’s a terrible pitcher, but he can eat up innings in a blowout, so there you go.  Lucas Luetge is back, but he still can’t get out right handed batters, so he’s usually only good for a third of an inning.  Capps has been sent down to Tacoma for getting torched too often.  Farquhar – after a promising start to his Major League career – has shown why he was so available in that Ichiro trade.  Bobby LaFromboise isn’t anyone I ever want to see again.  Stephen Pryor is working his way back from the 60-day DL and who knows if he will make it back before season’s end?  The other guys are in Tacoma for a reason.

This bullpen, in short, has Perez, Medina, an iffy Wilhelmsen, an iffy Furbush, and that’s it.  If you ask me, I’d like to see Perez stay here and help us win as many games as we can.  He, like everyone else trade-able on this roster, won’t garner much in return.

Getting back to our hitters – and our toothless bench – there isn’t much help on the horizon.  Mike Morse will probably be back pretty soon.  At which point, I guess he goes into a time-share with Ibanez?  Honestly, I don’t know what we do with Morse when he returns.  Ackley seems pretty entrenched in center, Michael Saunders is probably the team’s best defensive outfielder, and Ibanez has been hitting lefties just as good as he’s been hitting righties.  Does Morse’s return spell the end for Jason Bay?  His playing time has diminished to almost nothing since our current outfield incarnation has presented itself as viable.  Does Bay bring anything to the table, aside from being slightly better defensively?

Also, what does this team do if Guti returns?  Part of me hopes he NEVER returns, because what’s the point?  We would have to waive Endy Chavez.  Granted, Chavez isn’t good, but I like what he brings in a very part-time role.  He doesn’t walk, but he gets hits (singles, mostly) and plays solid defense.  As a defensive replacement for Ibanez, you have to like him on the team.  You know, if we waive him for Guti, some contender is going to snap him up and put him on their bench.  Then, a week later, Guti will get hurt again, and where are we?  Welcoming back Carlos Peguero, apparently.

The only guy currently on the 25-man roster I won’t actually miss is Jason Bay.  This team could conceivably also get rid of Brendan Ryan, because Nick Franklin is a serviceable back-up at short stop, and Ackley can always slot back over and play second base if needed.  Other than that, there’s nothing I want to see this team do in trades, nor is there anything I want to have happen as far as health is concerned.  Let us just ride this wave to its conclusion and make whatever moves we feel like making this offseason.

What To Expect From The Mariners In The Second Half Of 2013

At the end of June, the Mariners were 35-47.  They had just finished a homestand where they played 8 games in 10 days (with a 2-game Pittsburgh series sandwiched between two off days) and they went 3-5.  This was following a road trip where the Mariners lost another 4 of 7 games, which followed a home stand where they went 5-5.  Let’s face it, if this season’s ship was ever going to be righted, it was going to be in the month of June where they played 18 of 27 games at home and had a whopping three days off sprinkled in.  Instead, the Mariners finished June with an 11-16 record, and all hope was officially lost.

Then, the first two weeks of July happened.  I wouldn’t call June 30th the season’s low point (for that, you’d probably have to look at the end of Game 8 of that 8-Game Losing Streak back in May), but it was one of many low points that left this team at sort of a crossroads.  Would they play for the current season, in hopes of saving some high-level jobs?  Or, would they play for the future, in hopes of saving some high-level jobs?

As it turns out, there’s a way to do both, and it just might be working!

To kick off July, the Mariners won 2/3 in Texas and another 2/3 in Cincinnati.  In case you hadn’t heard, those are two very good baseball teams.  Riding that wave of euphoria, the Mariners came home and promptly lost 3/4 to the Red Sox.  Here’s where it gets wonky, though:  in that 4-game series, the Mariners scored 30 runs … IN SAFECO!  And, not for nothing, but I don’t think the new brought-in fences had much to do with it.  These were legitimate offensive numbers, and they were a long time coming.  Buoyed by this resurgent offense, the Mariners went out and swept the Angels in the three games leading up to the All Star Break, outscoring them 18-6.  In that homestand, the Mariners averaged nearly seven runs a game.

Let me say that again:  in that HOMEstand, the MARINERS averaged NEARLY seven RUNS a game.

So, where does that leave us now?  Two weeks later, after the Mariners struggled so profusely, with an 8-5 record in that span, suddenly there’s something resembling Buzz about these Mariners.  You could knock me over with a feather.

First, let’s go ahead and analyze this buzz.  I would argue that there wouldn’t be NEARLY the buzz if this team didn’t sweep the Angels.  If they were to have lost that last game on Sunday (which they very nearly did), this would be an entirely different discussion.  But, they did sweep the Angels, and it was their FIRST sweep of the season.  That’s significant.  Along with the fact that the first sweep immediately preceeded the All Star Break, we’ve had three full days to sit and digest what we’ve seen.  Obviously, what we’ve seen most recently takes precedence, as it’s freshest in our memories, so here we are.  Buzzed.

At this point, there’s a lot to like about this team, rather than just a lot to be hopeful about.  In season’s past, we would all hold out hope for guys like Casper Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, and of course bigger prospects like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Michael Saunders.  Ultimately, all of those guys would go on to brutally disappoint, rendering our hope as futile as it gets.

But, not the 2013 Mariners!  Right here, we’ve got something we can hold in our hand!  Hard, firm numbers, gently pulsating, exciting us to climax.  Guys like Brad Miller and Nick Franklin who are actually DOING something.  Not just sitting there with all the promise in the world, failing us at every turn.  Then, we’ve got guys like Kyle Seager and Justin Smoak absolutely tearing the cover off the ball … with their bats … because they hit the balls so hard the stitches come loose … I don’t get it either.  Anyway, we’ve got production, and not just from the usual gang of idiots!  It’s not ONLY Ibanez and Morales.  It’s the younger guys, FINALLY contributing.  And it feels like a million God damn dollars in here.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement you feel when your team finally turns the corner.  For the Seahawks, that happened in the middle of the 2011 season, when they improbably beat teams like Baltimore and the New York Giants.  Yeah, they finished that season 7-9, but you could see things coming together.  These Mariners, if they are indeed turning the corner, likely won’t finish much better, percentage-wise.  They currently sit 9 games under .500, which it seems like they’ve been hovering at this mark the whole damn season.  For the Mariners to reach .500, they would have to finish 38-29.  It’s not an impossible dream for this team, especially if they figured out how to bottle whatever it was they had the first two weeks of this month.  If the Mariners can get to .500, or very close to it, considering how they started this season, I would consider 2013 a success.  .500 would mean that the youngsters have continued to produce.  .500 would mean a winning record in the second half, which will hopefully mean continued winning in 2014.  .500 would mean that the Seattle Mariners have FINALLY turned the corner.

Of course, if they keep hovering around 9-12 games under .500 for the rest of the year, then you could probably make the argument that they turned the corner, only to run into another brick wall.  The last thing I want to see out of this team is the injury bug tearing through our core.  If they start dropping like flies and their numbers suffer accordingly, everyone will go into the offseason saying, “If it weren’t for their being injured, they would’ve had great seasons!”  Which, judging by how often we’ve used that line of logic the last half decade, is utter bullshit.

So, no injuries, get to .500, and have the young core be the primary reason for our second half success.  THAT’S what I expect from this team.  Continuing this winning streak by sweeping the Astros (series starting tomorrow) would be an excellent start.

Mariners Complete First Sweep Of The Season

I decided to get my sports nerd on this weekend.  It all started on Saturday morning.  I was coming off of a night of comedy at the Moore Theater (Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary treated us to the likes of Marc Maron, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, Jon Benjamin, Jon Glaser, Kyle Dunnigan, and Kurt Braunohler.  Somehow, I escaped the night unscathed by hangover, which left me most of the day Saturday to fuck around (before going to the Sub Pop music fest in Georgetown that night, featuring Mudhoney & Built To Spill).

On a lark, I started following DJ’s Sportscards on Facebook and noted they had a 25% off sale in celebration of their 25th anniversary.  As a child, I collected massive amounts of football cards.  Starting in 1988 and running through 1990 (with a little spillover into 1991), I was treated to a pack or two of football cards every week (as I had pretty nasty allergies and had to go in for allergy shots 1-2 times a week).  1988 Topps (of which I now have a complete set), 1989 Pro Set, Topps, and Score (of which I have a smattering), and 1990 Pro Set (of which I now have a complete set, which is pretty massive and required a lot of help from eBay).  My furor for buying packs of cards started to wane in 1991 (my tenth year of existence) in favor of buying individual cards of my most favorite players (which would cost more money, but were much more satisfying to display).

Over time, I gave up on football cards altogether in an effort to amass the biggest collection of rock n’ roll compact discs you’ve ever seen (at one point, I was signed up for Columbia House’s CD club under three different family names, to buy the minimum and quit, before starting all over again).  Nowadays, I keep my sports memorabilia to a minimum.  Part of that has to do with the fact that there haven’t been too many Seattle sports stars of late that I’ve wanted to openly display my affection for.  Part of that has to do with me not having a whole lot of disposable income (until recently).

But, with the knowledge of Felix’s long-term extension, and with guys like Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman on the Seahawks, I can feel the bug starting to burrow itself into the part of my brain that’s willing to throw money around in large clumps.

So, with nothing else to do on Saturday, I went to DJ’s Sportscards and bought a box of 2012 Topps football cards (specifically 2012 Topps Magic).  24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, with a guarantee of 3 autographs per box.  Truth be told, these are some pretty cool-looking cards, with lots of different types of random inserts (and, for some reason, identical cards that are 2/3 the size of a normal card).  I was hoping to get a rookie Russell Wilson, but no dice.  I did get two different RGIII rookies, two different Luke Kuechly rookies, two different Doug Martin rookies, two different LaMichael James rookies, a Kirk Cousins rookie and a Stevan Ridley rookie.  And, for some local flavor, I got a Jermaine Kearse rookie, a Sidney Rice, a Robert Turbin rookie, a Chris Polk rookie (for some reason, even though he hardly played last season), a Golden Tate, and a Bobby Wagner rookie.  The signed cards were less than impressive:  Quinton Coples, Ryan Broyles, and Montario Hardesty.  Also, randomly, this set includes some old timers, so I have the likes of Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Barry Sanders.  One box gets me nowhere NEAR the complete set, but I like them enough to at least make a second attempt at a box (which is pretty pricey at over $100, so suffice it to say this won’t be a weekly endeavor).

Which leads me into Sunday, where I woke up once again sans hangover.  At around 10am, with a 1:10pm first pitch, I decided to head over to the Mariners game.  I left my apartment at 11, walked to the Link tunnel downtown, and was inside Safeco by noon-ish.  I bought a ticket at the box office and it was like the lady could read my mind!  I told her I wanted an outfield seat.  She said she could get me in the third row in the lower right field, but if I wanted to sit back a ways, I wouldn’t be surrounded by so many people.  I told her that sounds delightful, let’s try to get me on an aisle.  So, I sat in the first seat in the last row in section 108 and pretty much had the row to myself for the first couple innings before people started filling in around me.

The Mariners featured a dream line-up for me (which goes to show you how uninteresting my dreams are):

  1. Brad Miller (SS)
  2. Nick Franklin (2B)
  3. Raul Ibanez (LF)
  4. Kendrys Morales (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Justin Smoak (1B)
  7. Michael Saunders (RF)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Dustin Ackley (CF)

Sundays are so often squandered with giving guys days off (or “rest” even though, come on, it’s baseball, you can’t play every day?) and playing your bench.  I can’t stand it!  But, we were treated to a day without Jason Bay, without Henry Blanco, without Brendan Ryan, and without Endy Chavez.  Who could ask for anything more?

On the line, we had a bunch of compelling stories.  First and foremost, would the Mariners extend their team-record string of games with a home run to 22?  Answer:  yes, thanks to Michael Saunders’ two-run bomb in the second inning to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Also on the line:  would guys like Miller, Franklin, Seager, and Smoak continue their hot-hitting ways?  Answer:  yeah, sort of.  Miller went 1-4 with a run scored to bring his slash line to .246/.324/.393.  It’s not the best line you’ve ever seen, but after a semi-slow start, it’s exciting to see what this kid is capable of.  Franklin went 0-1 with three walks in his first three plate appearances, to bring his slash line to .268/.337/.451.  He’s a little on-base machine and it looks like he’s going to be putting up high-quality at-bats and making life miserable for opposing pitchers for years to come.  Seager went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, to bring his team-leading line to .293/.359/.488.  This guy is going to be a perennial All Star VERY soon.  And, finally, Smoak went 2-3 with a walk, a double, and a run scored to bring his line to a very-respectable .272/.372/.431.  Those are four guys who represent a core foundation for this team.  When was the last time we could say we had four hitters we could count on?

Shit, fuck that, because there’s also Ibanez and Morales to consider.  SIX!  Six guys we can count on in our line-up!  Unreal.

The third storyline:  what about our struggling youngsters?  Saunders, Zunino, and Ackley.  Well, like I said above, Saunders had that 2-run homer in his 1-3 day.  He’s currently batting .225, but it feels like any time now he’s going to go on a hot streak and bring that up to the .260-.270 range.  Zunino, I would argue, is looking better every day.  He had a hit and a sac-fly to bring in a run (in a text-book manufactured run-scoring situation in the fourth inning, with a single, a walk, and a Saunders sac-fly preceeding Zunino’s RBI).  Also, Zunino’s strong throwing arm makes me quiver with sexual excitement, so there’s that.  Ackley, unfortunately, has not brought his success in Tacoma with him to the Majors.  He went 0-4 and is still batting .205.  His at-bats don’t look QUITE as hopeless as before he was sent down, but he’s not getting any kind of results either.

The final storyline going into this game was Hisashi Iwakuma.  Coming into this game, he was riding a string of five consecutive sub-par starts:

  • 5 innings, 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts in Oakland
  • 7 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts vs. Oakland
  • 8 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts vs. Chicago Cubs
  • 6 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 homers, 1 walks, 2 strikeouts in Texas
  • 3 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 3 homers, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts vs. Boston

All told, that’s five starts, a little less than 6 innings per, with 6 and a half hits per, 4 and a half runs per, less than 4 strikeouts per, and a whopping 10 total homers.  Not good numbers for any starting pitcher, but ESPECIALLY not good for a guy going into his first All Star Game.  You’ve got people talking about how he didn’t deserve the honor (even though he had the American League’s leading ERA when he was picked) and you even have people talking about trading him at this year’s deadline to see what we can salvage from him.  For the record, I don’t think we should trade him.  I think he had a cold streak as all pitchers do.  Still, it was important for him to come out and be on top of his game.

And, to his credit, he was very strong against the Angels.  7 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 homer, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.  The homer was a solo shot by Mark Trumbo, but for the most part he was able to keep them off-balance and spread the hits out.  After a shaky 6th inning where he gave up 2 runs to bring the game to within a run, I thought Wedge was playing with fire by keeping him in there.  At that point, batters 1-8 had all seen him three times (with #9 hitter Erick Aybar already having gone 2-2).  Yes, his pitch count was low (in the 80s), but with the top of the lineup (featuring best player in the game Mike Trout in the 2-hole) coming up in the 7th, I didn’t like our chances.  But, again to his credit, Iwakuma went out there and shut ’em down in order (punctuating it with a strikeout of Trout).

Which brought up a bonus storyline:  how would the bullpen fare?  To be sure, the bullpen has struggled to say the least this season.  Not this time, however, as Furbush nailed down the 8th inning hold and Tom Wilhelmsen (still in a sort of time-share with the closing duties) locked up his 19th save of the season.  I like Wilhelmsen (well, really, I like all these guys, more or less), so I hope he’s able to turn it back on and start dominating again.  Of note was his complete lack of any strikeouts today.  His strikeout rate is pretty pisspoor, so that’s gonna have to change.

Nevertheless, the Mariners won 4-3.  It’s the first sweep of the season, and their first 3-game winning streak since the beginning of May (there is no 4-game winning streak).  They go into the All Star break 9 games under .500 and still in fourth place in the AL West, but they also go into the All Star break on an 8-5 streak.  We’re not talking about the Mariners in contention or even scratching their way back into contention.  Right now, we’re just talking about some exciting baseball.  With the kids starting to improve by the day, relying less and less on the veterans to win ballgames.  And, we’re talking about the team trying to save the jobs of Eric Wedge and Jackie Z.  The second half should be VERY interesting (that is, until the Seahawks start to take over the city like a rampaging Cloverfield).

All in all, a great weekend for geeking out on sports, comedy, and music.  To put a capper on it, they introduced the All Star Game jerseys.  They’re blue and pretty cool looking, so when I got home after the game I bought a Felix jersey.  It should be here in a week or two, and I plan to wear the hell out of it.

The Mariners Don’t Necessarily Have To Be Sellers

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, exactly 3 weeks before the trade deadline.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, the Mariners are 13.5 games out of first place, resting comfortably in the bottom third of the American League.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where bad teams (like the Mariners) are looking toward the future, ready and willing to foresake the present, because the present is too soul-crushingly awful to think about.

The Mariners have already started along that path.  Guys like Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, and Erasmo Ramirez are all getting their shots with the big boys.  Raul Ibanez is still forcing his way into the everyday lineup, but with Ackley’s transition to the outfield (ostensibly for One Final Shot at sticking with the M’s), with Morse’s return from the DL, and with the cock-tease that is Guti’s temporary good health, the outfield will be a source of too many mouths to feed.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where bad teams (like the Mariners) start looking for salary dumping opportunities anywhere they can.

Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Franklin Gutierrez, Joe Saunders, and Aaron Harang are all on the final years of their contracts.  Most, if not all, will not be around next year.  Of those seven players, only Morales is a player anyone with any sense would want back.  I think it would be idiotic to try and count on Morse in any sort of full-time capacity.  Jason Bay is another nice story (like Bonderman, I guess), but he needs to go away after this year.  I can’t envision a world where Raul Ibanez DOESN’T sign a contract extension with the Mariners in the offseason, so if we’re bound and determined to keep him, he makes Bay as redundant as Bay has been throughout 2013.  Guti is Guti, someone will take a shot.  Joe Saunders is a nice 5th starter, but he’s a substandard #3 starter.  The Mariners could always try to extend him, but let’s stop there and not fill our rotation with a bunch of over-the-hill soft-tossers like we have in 2013 thus far.

In an ideal world, the Mariners would trade some or all of those guys for prospects who turn out to be All Stars.  In the real world, none of those guys – save Morales – will command much in return.  Nothing but organizational filler and depth – at best.  If the Mariners are bound and determined to keep Morales long-term, then trading him away would make it damn near impossible to bring him back in the offseason.  One would hope that the Mariners finish the season strong with Morales leading the way, leaving a good final taste in his mouth when he’s making his decision, and giving him (and the rest of us) hope for success in the very near future.

Everyone else, you COULD trade, but if you’re not going to get anyone back who will ever be worth a damn, then what’s the point?  I’m tired of sitting around making other teams better for THEIR playoff runs.  And we’re NOT going to trade any of our young Major League prospects, so it really doesn’t make the trade market all that enticing.

It’s that time of year again.  July 11th, where the Mariners trade salaries for suck-ass prospects who will inevitably be released within a year or two because they’re terrible and we’re terrible people.

If you ask me, I say just leave well enough alone.  Eventually, a Triple-A pitcher will play his way into Aaron Harang’s rotation spot, so that’ll be an upgrade.  As the young hitters continue to gather experience points (and as Justin Smoak continues to entice with his late-career hitting surge), we could be looking at an exciting baseball team by season’s end.  Not that momentum is worth a hill of beans, but it’ll be nice to go into an offseason with some hope we can count on.  With less holes to fill than in season’s past.  With an outside shot at contending in 2014, as opposed to 2030.

Shoot Me Now: The Mariners Are Still Terrible, June 2013 Edition

In the April 2013 Edition, I was pissed off.  In the May 2013 Edition, I was more resigned to my fate:  another shit season, when does Training Camp start and all of that.

Now?  Oddly, I’m hopeful … questionmark?

The team went from five games under .500 at the end of April, to seven games under .500 at the end of May, to now TWELVE God-foresaken games under .500.  What’s there to be hopeful about?  The best player on this team continues to be Raul “I Will Never Die” Ibanez; our outfield is absolutely riddled with old people, injuries, or guys sucking dick at the plate; the back 60% of our rotation has continued to flash JUST enough excellence to not get thrown out on their asses despite some truly terrible pitching …

I could go on and on.  The hitting with runners in scoring position is still all out of whack, the team still hits an inordinate amount of solo homers, the bullpen has been a trainwreck ever since Wilhelmsen was demoted to mop-up duty and we’ve gone Closer By Committee, the team now has a losing record at home for the first time in a long time, and the team is three games under .500 in 1-run games.

There, I’ll stop trying to cheer you up now.

So, why am I oddly hopeful?  Truth be told, it lies exclusively inside the over-sized batting helmet of Nick Franklin.  That kid is a DELIGHT to watch play the game of baseball.  Right this moment, 31 games into his Major League career, he’s hitting .295/.363/.482 with 9 doubles, 4 homers, 15 RBI and 5 stolen bases.  I know as soon as I say we’ve FINALLY found a prospect worth his weight, he’ll be exposed as a fraud and fall down to the Mendoza part of our lineup with all the other hacks on this team, so I’ll just say that I’m excited.

Nick Franklin and Kyle Seager.  That’s two.  We just need seven more and we’ve got ourselves a respectable fucking lineup!

Right behind those two on the Hope Bus, we have Mike Zunino and Brad Miller.  In the last month, the Mariners decided to say, “Fuck It” and give the keys to the catcher position to our uber-prospect Zunino.  Thus far, 13 games in, he’s batting .227/.261/.341.  Obviously, it’s way, way, WAY too fucking early to make any logical estimation of his abilities as a Big Leaguer.  Nevertheless, he’s got 2 doubles, 1 homer, and a game-winning, walk-off RBI to his credit.  I don’t know if he’s comfortable at the plate yet, but I know that I’M comfortable with HIM at the plate (especially over Henry Blanco, who was brought in to replace Kelly Shoppach last month as the veteran mentor du jour).

Miller is our very latest addition to the team.  He just finished his third game over the weekend and already he’s got 2 doubles and 2 stolen bases.  This kid’s a firecracker.  In fact, I’m loving 80% of this infield right now!  It’s the Whitest Infield In Baseball, but with Seager, Miller, Franklin, Zunino, and Smoak, I’m not gonna lie to you, I will TAKE that.  If the first four guys pan out, and Smoak can maintain a .250-ish batting average with a .350-ish on-base percentage … I’m telling you, it feels so close I can taste it.

Of course, if I start falling in love with this portion of the team, I’m doomed to continue repeating the mistakes of the past.  Then again, what other choice do I have?  I can always bitch about things later.

The outfield portion of this team, however, scares the bejesus out of me.  Guti is Guti, in that he’s nothing but a rotting corpse stuffed behind some attic insulation.  Michael Saunders has officially lost whatever magical amulet he held in his possession last season (which wasn’t really all that magical anyway, unless you consider .247 with 19 homers something special), so that sucks.  Would’ve been nice to have counted on him, but I guess that’s over.  Dustin Ackley, after being sent down to Tacoma to work on his mental deficiencies, was converted to an outfielder.  In his second game upon returning to the Mariners, Ackley dove for a ball and sprained his thumb.  He’s one of dozens of guys on this team who is injured, unavailable, but whatever we’re going to refrain from putting him on the DL.  Michael Morse IS on the DL, because he’s this-generation’s Jay Buhner circa 2000.  Jason Bay hasn’t been a complete flop, but he’s also someone I’m not going to miss after this season ends.  Endy Chavez almost never walks or hits for extra bases, but has been passable thanks to a batting average over .270.

Which just leaves Ibanez.  He of the 41 years of age.  He of the 19 home runs in 61 games (which puts him tied for 6th in the AL with Jose Bautista).  Not only does he lead the team in homers and RBI, Raul Ibanez leads the team in TRIPLES!  That’s a useless fact, but then again, this is a useless team, so what are you gonna do?  Raul Ibanez, in spite of the fact that we’re all irritated he’s doing good while so many of our younger kids are doing bad, has been one of the most watchable parts of this team, and I for one am glad he’s here.  Just imagine how many more games the Mariners would have lost without him carrying this team.

I feel like a broken record with this pitching staff, so I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  Iwakuma and Felix both still have ERA’s under 3.  Iwakuma, with the better ERA, has seen the home run bug strike him.  He’s also slowed down on the pace of strikeouts.  But, look, I’m not going to hate on one of the team’s premier pitchers just because he’s coming back down to Earth a little bit.

The race to see which old fuck of a starting pitcher gets the DFA first is in the home stretch, and I have to imagine Bonderman and Harang are neck and neck.  Bonderman has slightly better numbers, but Harang has those two complete-game shutouts to his credit.  If I had to guess, I’d say Harang is one more bad start away from being gone.  Erasmo Ramirez is torching (for the most part) down in Tacoma since his return from injury, and I have to think this team wants to see as much of him as possible these last three months of the season.  There are other young guys in Tacoma seemingly on the cusp, in case the Mariners want to see if there are any takers for Joe Saunders.  I mean, shit, this team was able to trade Erik Bedard, I think they can get something for ol’ Safeco Joe.

Blake Beavan has returned to the bullpen and made four appearances in June.  Except for one outing against the A’s, Beavan has been a solid mop-up guy in blowouts.  In the end, I think that’s the role he’s destined for; but right now he’s frequently out-pitching both Harang and Bonderman, so you have to believe he’s in line to get some starts pretty soon too.

As I said earlier, the bullpen is a mess.  Wilhelmsen had his best outing in weeks just yesterday afternoon, so we’ll see if he’s figured out how to locate his pitches again.  If this team is going to avoid the absolute bottom of the American League, it’s going to need someone to dependably close out games.  I wouldn’t anticipate Wilhemsen getting traded before the deadline (unless this team is just going to clean house as much as possible, or throw him into a more blockbuster-type deal), but if he can regain his confidence in closing games, we might be able to trade him in the offseason.

Welcome to the Dog Days, everyone!  2013 officially sucks for baseball.  Start counting down the days to Training Camp, when we will be talking about football and nothing but football, and I’ll essentially be writing the same article day in and day out:  Why The Seahawks Will Be Super Bowl Champs.