It’s Almost Hilarious How Bad The Mariners Are At Adding To The Big League Club

Earlier in the week, I wrote about a bunch of former Mariners and talked about how they’re doing on their new teams. Some are doing great, some are having terrible seasons, and a lot of them are in the squishy middle.

I’ve also spent all season writing about how bad most of the new Mariners are, as well as how bad a bunch of longtime Mariners have been. It’s truly mindblowing how God awful this offense is. And yet, here we are, in first place in the division – thanks to an elite pitching staff – and we’re talking about this team making deadline deals in hopes to bolster our playoff chances.

But, are we sure we want THIS group of front office people making those decisions?

Who are the biggest offseason players we brought in to try to turn things around after a disappointing 2023? Mitch Haniger, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Luis Urias, and Luke Raley. They’ve all been terrible except for Raley, who has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst like those other four guys.

So, let’s go back to the trade deadline last year; who did we bring in? Dominic Canzone and Josh Rojas. Canzone has flashed competence, but has mostly been wretched. Rojas has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst.

You can come back and tell me that you need good players like Raley and Rojas, and I won’t argue with you. But, every hitter on the Mariners who isn’t the fucking worst is good. Just okay. Julio has been good. Cal has been good. Ty and J.P. have had their moments. Dylan Moore has been fine. Right now, I would lump all of those players together; they’re all the same. They’re all just kinda meh.

We can keep going backwards. Who did we bring in ahead of 2023? Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Tommy La Stella, and Teoscar Hernandez. Three pieces of shit and one good player.

In 2022 – when we finally broke the curse and made it back to the playoffs – we brought in Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Carlos Santana, and Eugenio Suarez. Winker was a colossal bust, Frazier was a dud, Santana was mostly bad (with a precious few bright spots), and Suarez was good (until 2023, when he was bad again).

In 2021, we brought in Abraham Toro at the deadline; a total and complete nothing. We also traded for Jake Bauers, who was even less than nothing. That wasn’t much of a year for trades or free agents, because we were still in rebuild mode.

But, just look at that track record! Who are the veteran players we acquired who were worth a damn?!

There’s an argument to be made that – when it’s all said and done – Josh Rojas will have been the best of the bunch, if he isn’t already. A journeyman, soon-to-be 30 year old infielder; THAT is the best veteran acquisition we’ve made on the hitting side of things in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

And this is the leadership group we want to entrust with our ballclub next month at the trade deadline.

You wonder why I’m so nervous about what’s going to happen?

Don’t get me wrong, this team has nailed pitchers. Luis Castillo, A+. Robbie Ray, B-. Damn near everyone in the bullpen? Gold stars all around! And, I would give them kudos for the players they’ve drafted, or otherwise fostered from very young prospect status. Julio, Cal, J.P., the rest of our starting pitchers, Munoz, Brash … that’s a core you can write home about.

Which brings me around to my ultimate point: maybe this organization should do what it does best. Maybe they should stick with their own prospects that they’ve developed and nurtured over the years. Maybe it’s smarter to be more patient and wait for them to be ready for the Majors.

Because whenever we try to go out and get some veteran help to have a positive immediate impact? It seems to end in total and complete failure. No one ever plays up to the backs of their baseball cards. No one is a sure thing, unless that “sure thing” is to come to Seattle and suck ass. Doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, on the cusp of the Major Leagues, or smack dab in the middle of your prime; odds are, if you come here, you’re going to turn into a turd.

So, maybe skip that step. Because it’s not going to work out anyway, and it’ll come with the added detriment of also giving away potentially-useful players to other teams. Fuck it, the Mariners are mediocre. But, making a bunch of trades to blow up your farm system is a surefire way to ensure we’re not only bad now, but for years to come.

Stick to your guns! I’m starting to get used to the 54%. It’s all we deserve.

How Are Certain Ex-Mariners Doing After Two Months?

If you were following along in mid-April, you might’ve caught wind that certain ex-Mariners – guys we traded away, or otherwise didn’t retain for whatever reason – started off the season quite hot.

If you’re still following along today, you might be aware that certain current-Mariners that we brought in to replace those ex-Mariners aren’t doing so hot. Mitch Garver stinks, Jorge Polanco is hurt (and a total disappointment in every way), Luis Urias is so bad he’s in Tacoma right now, Mitch Haniger is playing more like a 43 year old than a 33 year old, Gregory Santos still hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch in a Mariners uniform. It makes one wonder – two-plus months into the season – did we make a series of calamitous mistakes? Should we have held onto the players we once had?

So, let’s go around the horn, and see if those certain ex-Mariners are still tearing things up, or if they’ve come back down to Earth.

Let’s start with Jarred Kelenic, because why not? Once touted as The Future of the Mariners’ organization, he’s trying to rebuild his career down in Atlanta. I would say he’s doing okay, but definitely reverting closer to career norms. .268 batting average, .717 OPS, not quite a starter, but appears to be the left-handed platoon partner he’s destined to be. Seems like he’s more or less what he was last year, which is leaps and bounds better than he was in his first two seasons in the bigs, but obviously a far cry from the superstar we all hoped he’d be. If you pit him against Luke Raley, I’d say the Mariners have the better platoon bat. But, it’s still early, and this could be a neck-and-neck race for years.

How’s Eugenio Suarez doing down in Arizona? Well, after a torrid first week-to-ten-days, he’s kind of fallen off a cliff. He’s still an everyday third baseman, but his -0.1 WAR isn’t a pleasant number to look at. He has 4 homers in almost 60 games – which, to be honest, is also what Julio has – and he’s batting .205 with a .582 OPS. Considering the player Josh Rojas has been so far this season, this has honestly worked out exceedingly well for the Mariners.

Sticking with Arizona, how about Paul Sewald? Well, he missed the first month and change with an injury, but since he returned on May 7th, he has 5 saves and has given up 1 run in 8.1 innings across 9 appearances. So far in his tenure with the Diamondbacks, he looks like the same ol’ Paul Sewald we knew and loved with the Mariners. It’s too early to say for sure who’s winning that trade, but at the moment Ryan Bliss is just starting to get his feet wet at the Major League level (having gotten his first hit last Saturday), Dominic Canzone has some decent power numbers, but otherwise is who we thought he was, and we’re clinging to Josh Rojas being on this hot pace, which seems destined to cool considerably sooner rather than later. Would I rather have the Sure Thing reliever or the three question marks? Tough to say, but with Dylan Moore eating into third base with Urias down in Tacoma, I’d probably rather have the stud reliever (especially with Brash out for the year, and Santos likely down until the All Star Break, at best).

Next up, we have Teoscar Hernandez with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are a great team, in first place in the N.L. West, with such superstars as Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman. Yet, it’s Teoscar who is leading the Dodgers with 38 RBI. It’s Teoscar who’s 2nd on the team in homers with 12 (two behind Shohei). It’s Teoscar with the .790 OPS, who would be killing all qualified Mariners hitters with that figure (and even leading most non-qualified Mariners, or all the ones who’ve appeared in more than 5 games). Oh sure, he has 76 strikeouts, but tell me that wouldn’t fit in with Cal and Julio (both over 70). He’s got a 1.3 WAR at the moment, which would only be behind Cal and Moore. You’re telling me that’s not worth $20 million? You’re telling me you’d rather have Garver over Teoscar as your DH? If things keep up like this, I can only call the move to not retain Teoscar (while paying the same amount to Garver, albeit over 2 seasons, which is arguably worse because it means we have to suffer his ineptitude for more than just 2024) a total disaster, and one that ultimately might cost us a real shot at contending for a World Series.

Hey, does anyone remember Jose Caballero? We traded him to the Rays for Luke Raley straight up, which is an interesting conundrum for me, because I’m on record as liking Raley over Kelenic. BUT, if you’re asking me if I would rather have Kelenic and Caballero, or Raley and Polanco’s Rotting Corpse … yeah, I think the Mariners would be better off with the former. Caballero is mostly an everyday player at short stop for the Rays – as opposed to sort of a replacement second baseman for the Mariners last year – and he’s having an even better 2024 than he was in limited duty in 2023. He’s 4 hits off of his season total from a year ago, in about half the games; he’s already got 20 stolen bases (after getting 26 last year); he’s got a higher batting average and slugging percentage, though his OBP has taken a dip, giving him a fairly comparable OPS. All in all, I’d say he’s a slightly better version of himself from a year ago, playing a more difficult defensive position. Meanwhile, Polanco is a fucking decomposing mummy shuffling out there with tattered rags and rigor mortis. If Raley wasn’t raking as much as he’s been, I’d be more upset. But, this one hurts a lot more than I thought it would, I’m not gonna lie to you.

I’d like to visit with the San Francisco Giants for a bit, because they have a number of former Mariners and would-be Mariners, if certain fans had it their way. Tom Murphy is there, and finds himself on the 60-Day IL. In other words, the least-surprising development of all time. In spite of his being injured – and being remarkably terrible when he was healthy – I’d say it’s still a wash between him and Seby Zavala.

Then, there’s Robbie Ray, who still hasn’t returned from his injury sustained in the first game of 2023. However, he’s getting close to throwing in extended Spring Training or whatever, so it does indeed look like he’s poised for a second half return, if all goes well over the next month. That being said, would I rather have him for half a season over the rotation we’ve got currently? No way.

And, I thought – for shits and giggles – I’d throw Blake Snell into the mix. Blake Snell: the 2-time Cy Young Award winner. Blake Snell: who signed a 2-year, $62 million contract with the Giants very late into the offseason. Blake Snell: the Seattle resident who very desperately wanted to sign with the Mariners (and who many Mariners fans wanted as well). Well, in 6 games, he’s 0-3 with a 9.51 ERA and a -1.1 WAR. He got a late start to the season, then got hurt for a month, and overall has been pretty abysmal. Is this just a Year From Hell situation? Or is he – at age 31 – not necessarily worth $31 million per year? Again, I would 1,000% rather have the Mariners’ rotation that we have currently.

There’s also Marco Gonzales with the Pirates, who I alluded to in this post, who was having a decent start to the season until he got hurt. There’s Isaiah Campbell with the Red Sox, who’s appeared in 7 games, then got hurt, and looks no better than he was last year (and might be worse). And there’s Justin Topa, who finds himself on the 60-day IL with the Twins, and doesn’t figure to start throwing again for another month.

All in all, I would say the majority of the Mariners who got away were let go for a good reason. Nevertheless, there’s a few moves here and there that we might live to regret.

The Disappointing Mariners Tenure Of Robbie Ray

Was this always a dumb idea? We sit here and we piss and moan about the Mariners not spending any money on free agents, then when they actually do – to the tune of 5 years and $115 million for Robbie Ray a couple years ago – what happens? He doesn’t quite live up to the hype, then he gets injured and misses a season and a half.

I will say that this Walking Tommy John Surgery Waiting To Happen line is scarily accurate.

In hindsight, of course this was a dumb idea. We got Robbie Ray immediately following his career-best season. We bought stock in him at the absolute peak of his value. He’d never really seriously contended for a Cy Young Award before that; he was always kind of up and down throughout his career. AND we were getting him starting with his Age 30 season, banking that he’d learned whatever trick he needed to learn to be an upper echelon starting pitcher (when, in reality, he just had an inordinate amount of good luck with Toronto in 2021, and it was going to be impossible for him to ever replicate that again).

Ray started his 2022 season with two straight months of mediocrity (a near-5 ERA through the first week of June), before focusing on his 2-seam fastball and jumpstarting a fantastic turnaround. The rest of the way, he was much better, with some pretty notable exceptions.

July of 2022, he had back-to-back starts against the Astros, where he combined for 5.2 innings, 10 runs on 15 hits and 4 walks, with only 4 strikeouts. Fast forward to back-to-back starts in September, against the Braves and Angels, where he combined for 10 innings, 9 runs on 16 hits and a walk.

Then, there were the two disasterous appearances in the playoffs. 4 runs in 3 innings against the Blue Jays (where we miraculously came back to win 10-9), followed by a walk-off, game-losing homer allowed two pitches into a bullpen appearance against the Astros. He ate up two thirds of an inning in that 18-inning marathon loss to the Astros a few days later, but the damage was done.

There was cautious optimism for a rebound in 2023. If anyone was veteran-enough and confident-enough to make it back from such a disastrous finish to a season, it was Ray. He had a tremendous Spring Training, but it was all for naught, as he threw 91 pitches in 3.1 innings of his first start before blowing out his arm and requiring that aforementioned Tommy John surgery. He went on to miss the rest of 2023, and it was announced that the earliest he’d be available is around the All Star Break in 2024. That always bodes poorly, as pitchers are rarely the same after such a substantial layoff. Best case scenario is he’s something close to normal by the start of 2025, but by then he’ll be 33 years old, so that’s asking a lot.

You can’t really rule out a comeback in 2024, but I’m just going to say it’s not very likely. In an ideal world, he’s a boost to your rotation late in the season, and some injury insurance if you can hang around contention for that long. But, I was heading into this year not expecting anything out of Robbie Ray, and willing to be pleasantly surprised if he proved me wrong.

I guess I can’t be shocked, then, that the Mariners decided to trade him. We already got rid of the over-inflated contracts of Marco Gonzales, Evan White, and Eugenio Suarez; part of me wondered if Robbie Ray would be next. Given the M.O. of this ownership group and front office, $23 million is a lot to spend on someone who might not help you out at all this year (or, at the very least, not at all through the first half). According to Mariners Math, we couldn’t afford it (it’s like Girl Math, only MUCH more stingy).

In that case, the return makes sense. Frisco takes our dead money, and we take theirs. Mitch Haniger is a walking oblique strain waiting to happen, and that starter we got from them is nothing more than a J.A.G. But, at least Haniger might give us a third of a season, and the pitcher might give us some sub-par bullpen outings in blowout games. And, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t have to pay Robbie Ray an additional $50 million across 2025 and 2026 (assuming he sticks around on the player option); we just have to pay Haniger $15.5 million in 2025.

I will say, though, the potential upside for this deal is all on the Giants’ side. It’s MUCH more likely that Ray turns into a useful starter again, than it is that Haniger will play anything close to a full season over the next two years. Even if we take extra special care of Haniger, give him lots of rest days, and he manages to make it through without an IL stint, I don’t trust that he’s still a good player. His numbers have been in steep decline since 2018, and he’s 33 this year. I’m guessing he’s very close to being done as a Major League player, if he isn’t done already.

I don’t think this is a good deal for the Mariners. It’s also probably not a good deal for the Giants, but I think it has the potential to be a better deal for them than I do for us. The Giants are buying low, so even if he does the bare minimum for them, it’s going to be a better outcome than it would ever have been for us.

All of that being said, I don’t entirely dislike Robbie Ray. He was kind of put in a no-win situation with the M’s. There was never going to be any living up to the contract. But, he did himself no favors by putting up way too many Erik Bedard-like outings. Ultimately, I think he’ll go down as being well-liked by fans, if for no other reason than he was a mentor to guys like George Kirby and Logan Gilbert. That’s cool, I guess. If his teachings made those guys better than they would’ve been otherwise, then I’ll hold him in high esteem.

Who was that old reliever who taught J.J. Putz his forkball? Eddie Guardado? I mean, that was probably his greatest contribution to the Mariners’ organization, and he’s pretty well-liked.

But, in the grand scheme of things, George Kirby was always going to be elite. Robbie Ray was … less than. And, he’ll go down as one of the biggest busts in Mariners history. For what he cost, for what he produced on the field, and for what he got us back in trade.

Is this the end of the Mariners’ cost-cutting trades this offseason? Well, there’s still another month or so before Spring Training. Somebody find Luis Castillo and make sure he’s still on the team!

The Mariners Made A Couple Of Trades To More Or Less Wrap Up Their Offseason

Full disclosure: I’m writing this on Friday afternoon of January 5th, the day these two trades went down. It was noted at this time by Dipoto that these were pretty much it as far as it goes for the major moves this offseason. There might be a small piece here or there coming in, but nothing to write home about. Nothing that’s going to drastically shake-up the organization’s chances to compete in 2024. So, if that’s not correct, and something huge happens between this day, and the day this post hits the Internet, you almost certainly won’t even be reading this paragraph, as I’ll need a new lede.

To recap this offseason so far:

You know what that has the feel of? A tear-down. Not an overwhelming tear-down, but you’re taking guys who were significant contributors to your team last year, you’re cutting them out, and you’re replacing them with …

Suffice it to say, the whole Root Sports brouhaha has been a disaster for our collective fan morale. This was a team that already needed to improve at left field, second base, and DH, and went ahead and added third base and right field to the mix (to say nothing of the uncertainty surrounding first base, with Ty France and his dwindling production). And what did we get for our consternation? Around $20 million.

Okay, so $20 million to play around with. There was some talk about the Mariners having intentions of still finding a way to out-spend our already-middling salary total from last year, so that’s not a zero chunk of change. But, it’s hard to see how you can fill out a whopping five spots on your everyday roster, not without significant trades to deplete your resources elsewhere. And, at this point, based on everything they’ve done, I find it VERY hard to believe we’re even going to spend as much as we did last year, let alone go past that mark.

The Mariners started their hard road back to relevancy by signing Mitch Garver to be our everyday DH (with maybe a start here and there at first base, or as an emergency backup catcher). That accounted for $12 of the $20 million, across two years. Probably means that’s it for free agency.

Which brings us to the flurry of moves made on January 5th:

  • The Mariners traded Robbie Ray to the Giants for Mitch Haniger and starter Anthony DeSclafani (in a deal notable for it being a money-neutral swap for 2024)
  • The Mariners traded Jose Caballero to the Rays for outfielder Luke Raley

If you follow me on Twitter (currently known as X) – and why wouldn’t you? I’m a mediocre-at-best follow – you already know how I feel about these trades, but I’ll reiterate here.

I like Mitch Haniger a lot as a person (and, not for nothing, I’ve never been super-into Robbie Ray as a Mariner, but that’s neither here nor there), but I don’t understand the unconditional love for this deal. Haniger is what we thought he was: consistently injured. Injured guys can’t help you win ballgames (unless it’s addition by subtraction, which at this point you have to put on the table). Haniger played in 61 games last year, with a whopping THREE stints on the IL. He played in 57 games in his final season with the Mariners in 2022. He played a full season in 2021, but no games in 2020, and only 63 games in 2019. 2018 was his last (and his only) great season at the Major League level, and we’re never seeing him play at that level again. At this point, with how broken down his body is, it’s fair to wonder if he’s even someone who’s playable. He might be a sub-.200 hitter for us going forward.

This year’s money is irrelevant (though it’s in excess of $17 million) because the money’s gone either way (we were either giving it to an injured Robbie Ray or an injured Mitch Haniger), but he’s also set to earn over $15 million next year on a player option. Why would he turn that down to become a free agent? Only someone who plays the vast majority of a full season at a relatively competent level would do that!

As for the pitcher, he supposedly “isn’t bad”. A ringing endorsement if I’ve ever heard one. I’ve never seen the guy pitch, so I can’t really sit here and tell you any different. But, based on his numbers (a FIP in the 4-5 range the last two years, a career 7.9 K/9 average – which dipped to 7.1 last year – and someone who in the last five years maxed out at 167.2 innings in a season), he strikes me as a right-handed Marco Gonzales. He also was lost to injury last year in July, and only appeared in 5 games in 2022. So, not even as durable as Marco then. Neat. At least he’s on the last year of his deal.

I think the most interesting aspect of this particular trade is what Dipoto said afterward. First of all, right out of the box it’s being declared that DeSclafani is destined for a long relief role in the bullpen. That’s assuming our five starters – Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, Miller, and Woo – make it through Spring Training healthy.

More importantly, though, Dipoto said that the Mariners looked into the possibility of trading one of their young starters, and “never liked the way it looked.”

I think that’s tremendously informative, and might be the most important thing the Mariners have done to try to salvage the long-term viability of this team going forward.

A lot of us believed in an inevitable trade from one of those five guys, to try to bolster our lineup. Maybe we’d back-fill the rotation via free agency, or in a separate, lesser deal. But, to truly improve our lineup, we’d need to deal from a position of strength (thereby diluting it). The likeliest trade chips were Miller and/or Woo. They were the least-proven of our starters who finished the season last year, which meant they had an unknown upside, but also an unknown downside. The hope being: maybe they’re not as good as we think, so let some other team find that out the hard way, while we get one of their stud hitters.

It doesn’t shock me that the Mariners were looking at all of their trade options. Ownership really tied their hands this offseason, so what other choice did they have? I will say that it’s somewhat surprising to hear the return wasn’t looking as bright as we’d once imagined. But, we don’t know all the ins and outs. We don’t know, for instance, how much salary this organization would be willing to take on. It’s one thing to trade Woo for whatever high-priced slugger is on the trade block at the moment; but, if ownership is unwilling to take on that salary, then obviously the point is moo (you know, a cow’s opinion).

But, we also don’t know how other teams value our pitchers. Maybe they weren’t as high on Miller or Woo as we are. Maybe everyone was holding out for Kirby or Gilbert, and we’re steadfast on keeping them. OR, maybe we’re the ones over-valuing our starters, and other teams refused to match our demands. There’s a lot of variables we don’t know about.

I find it somewhat encouraging, though, knowing that we’re taking a stand. We’re holding strong to our young, vibrant rotation. We’re keeping our strength, and at least heading into 2024 knowing we’re set somewhere. It may not be enough to get us to the playoffs, but at least it’s a plan.

I’m encouraged by that, even knowing how pisspoor this lineup is likely to be.

I can already tell this post is too long, so I’ll save my Robbie Ray thoughts for another time. Spoiler alert: the upside for the Giants is significantly higher than it is for the Mariners in this trade, even though it’s likely to be inconsequential-to-bad for both teams.

I’ll tell you what, though, I actually like the trade with the Rays! Maybe that’s a bad sign; when have the Rays ever NOT swindled us? But, getting rid of Caballero and bringing back a potentially-useful outfield bat – without having to throw in more prospects to get the deal done – is pretty sweet!

I was not a Caballero fan. I know I’m in the minority here, but so be it. His best attributes consisted exclusively of bothering the shit out of the Astros and Rangers (among other teams, I’m sure), because I guess he fucked with them when it came to the pitch clock. But, I mean, we’re talking about a guy who didn’t hit for average, didn’t hit for power, was okay defensively and on the basepaths, but who also made a lot of mistakes in both areas. He started off last year relatively hot – mostly in on-base percentage – but by the end of the season he was only getting on base if guys plunked him. He was hit by 17 pitches, and I’m willing to bet a good number of those were on purpose because he was so annoying.

I was not looking forward to another year of Caballero as this team’s mostly-everyday second baseman. Now, watch the Rays turn him into an All Star.

Luke Raley, on the other hand, is a little more seasoned, and is coming off of a year where he had a 126 OPS+. In 118 games, he had 45 extra base hits, to go along with 14 stolen bases. He does garner his fair share of strikeouts, but with the loss of Kelenic, we had a need for some lefty power.

In fact, there’s a pretty interesting comparison to be had between the 2023 seasons of Kelenic vs. Raley:

  • Kelenic: 105 games, 416 PA, .253/.327/.419/.746, .359 BABIP, 25 2B, 2 3B, 11 HRs (2.6% HR rate), 13 SB, 41 BB (9.9% BB rate), 132 K’s (31.7% K rate)
  • Raley: 118 games, 406 PA, .249/.333/.490/.824, .330 BABIP, 23 2B, 3 3B, 19 HRs (4.7% HR rate), 14 SB, 28 BB (6.9% BB rate), 128 K’s (31.5% K rate)

Pretty comparable, honestly. But, Raley clearly has the better home run power, with maybe not quite as good of an eye at the plate, but also maybe better bat-to-ball abilities. In looking at their respective batted ball rates, we see some more interesting similarities and differences in 2023:

  • Kelenic: Exit Velo 90.9, Hard Hit 45.6%, Line Drive 29.8%, Ground Ball 43.8%, Fly Ball 24.4%, Pull 33.1%, Center 52.1%, Oppo 14.9%
  • Raley: Exit Velo 89.6, Hard Hit 45.7%, Line Drive 17.2%, Ground Ball 40.9%, Fly Ball 27.6%, Pull 39.7%, Center 47.0%, Oppo 13.4%

Kelenic is hitting more line drives, which contributes to a higher BABIP and a higher batting average. But, Raley is hitting fewer grounders and more fly balls, and is hitting drastically more to the pull side, which contributes to his increased home run numbers. I feel like, if anything, that’s going to help him play a little better at T-Mobile Park, considering the short porch in right. How frustrating was it to see Kelenic hit the ball hard to center or the other way, only for it to be gobbled up by an outfielder? Hopefully, we’ll see less of that from Raley.

This post is WAY off the rails, so I’ll stop here. At some point in the near future, I’ll talk about what this means for our lineup in 2024.

What Happens If This Is It For The Mariners?

The recent moves by the Mariners have a rationale behind them. You’ll note there that I didn’t say it was a GOOD rationale. I didn’t even say it was a rationale that I buy. But, they – the Mariners (ownership and front office) – feel they are in an economic pinch. This is in spite of 2.7 million fans coming to games in 2023, this is in spite of all the success this team has had the last two seasons, this is in spite of all the countless millions of dollars this team has generated over the years.

Where is the economic pinch coming from?

Well, local cable provider Xfinity/Comcast/Whatever The Fuck decided they would do their customers a solid by removing Root Sports from the basic cable package. That saved people, what, $10 per month? Something like that? On the one hand, it makes sense. The vast majority of people who subscribe to cable aren’t necessarily interested in sports programming, and if given the choice of saving $10 per month, or having the option to scroll past a sporting event, I’m sure most people would gladly take the ten bucks. Sports fans – and there ARE many of us – tend to forget that we’re actually a minority in this world (depending on the sport, of course, and depending on the locale; in Alabama, for instance, I’m sure football fans are in the majority; you get the idea).

What has been the gripe all along about people on the west coast generally, and in the greater Seattle area specifically, when it comes to the Pac-12? There isn’t enough fan interest – compared to the SEC and Big10 – to generate the kinds of revenues for our schools to be able to compete on a level playing field. Well, I guess for Seattle, you can extend that to Major League Baseball (Mariners), Hockey (Kraken), and the NBA (Trailblazers), among other lesser sports. We apparently don’t care enough about these teams to force Xfinity’s hand in keeping Root Sports on the basic plan. As a result, if we want to keep Root Sports – and we’re forced to go with Xfinity – we have to pony up for whatever the sports tier is, something like $18-$20 extra per month. I would bet that most fans interested in the Mariners, for example, don’t give a shit about all the other things one might get with that sports tier; they just want the M’s. So, then it comes down to a decision: do you want to pay an extra $20 per month for all the bells and whistles, just to get the one thing you want? Or do you want to say, “Fuck it, I don’t need to watch the Mariners anymore, I can listen on the radio”? Or do you find an alternative streaming option that offers Root Sports at a lower financial level, cutting the Xfinity cord for good?

That’s the pinch. What we don’t know exactly is how much this is costing the Mariners. They have a controlling ownership stake in Root Sports. This was done, in theory, to bring in extra revenue streams for the team that they didn’t have to share with the rest of Major League Baseball. This SHOULD have been making us countless millions of extra dollars every year, to ideally put us in the upper echelon of Major League teams when it comes to revenue, as a result, allowing us to spend with the big boys. But, we don’t know if that’s true or not. We don’t know if this deal has been as good for the Mariners as they intended. Maybe it has! But, as with all billionaires, it doesn’t matter what you made LAST year; it only matters what you make NEXT year. And, again, we don’t know what this is going to cost the M’s. Either it’s super dire, and the RSN model is going to collapse upon itself as more and more people cut the cable cord, or it’s just kind of annoying and is going to take some millions of dollars out of the pockets of literal billionaires.

CAN’T HAVE THAT! Losing even one dollar is an outrage to fucking billionaires, because they’re fucking psychopaths. Greedy fucking villains who we entrust with our sporting allegiance, because we have no other choice. We’re not Packers fans.

Anyway, now the Mariners have – through the trades of Suarez, Gonzales, White, and Kelenic, and through the lack of a qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernandez – saved themselves, what, $20 million for 2024? Hypothetically something close to $40 million, if Teoscar would have signed? Anyway, let’s just say $20 million; that feels like a comfortable round number to work with. We assume this is money the team is going to use towards filling out the roster, but we also assumed the Mariners would increase payroll over last year, rather than savagely cut it, so where does assuming get us?

What can you get for $20 million?

We need a right fielder, left fielder, third baseman, second baseman, and designated hitter. I think it’s safe to say we’re never going to get a legit DH under this front office group; they’d rather put whatever bullshit in there they have laying around, under the guise of giving guys “rest days” (that never actually happen, because it just ends up being Mike Ford or some bullshit). If we take DH out of the equation – and project some scrub already on the roster for that role (Canzone, Haggerty, Moore, whatever) – that’s still four starters we need. If we project Urias in that third base spot (a black hole if I’ve ever met one), and maybe Dylan Moore in that second base spot, that’s still two outfielders we need to find, and only $20 million with which to spend.

YOU CAN’T GET ANYTHING IN BASEBALL FOR UNDER $20 MILLION! Do you remember what A.J. Pollock cost last year? His broke ass was $7 million, specifically to be a platoon partner; he wasn’t even brought here to be an everyday player! Who the hell are we going to get for $20 million, to fill anywhere from 2-5 open spots in the everyday lineup? No one. No one good, anyway.

For the record, I do kind of expect the Mariners to spend this $20 million. I don’t think we’re done making moves; there will probably be a few new players coming in at some point. Remember that year when the Seahawks had some extra money to spend, and rather than sign one great offensive lineman, they spread it around on 4-5 scrubs? I think that’s what the Mariners will do. They’ll bypass all of these potentially impactful bats, wait around for the guys nobody wants, and still probably overpay a few of them into coming here, kinda like the way the Seahawks overpaid for Luke Joeckel.

When I talk about “this being it” for the Mariners, that’s what I mean. I think all of the potential impact bats are already on this roster. Julio, Cal, J.P., hopefully Ty France with a new Driveline swing.

Then, there’s everyone else: Dylan Moore, Josh Rojas, Jose Caballero, Sam Haggerty, Luis Urias, Dominic Canzone, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell. You know, all of these junk guys who are just around because they don’t have any minor league options. That’s the kind of talent we have, and that’s the kind of talent I expect the Mariners to bring in with their meagre ration of $20 million.

By my count, we have 4 spots left on the 40-man roster. I would say, if the season started today, all of the guys I just listed – plus a backup catcher, also a nobody – are the 13 position players on the 26-man active roster. Maybe we mix and match, drop a guy here and there down to the minors, depending on who we’re able to bring in via free agency or trade, but again, the talent level isn’t going to be all that different from what we’re looking at.

Pretty grim! Almost no power, almost no high batting averages, very little ability to get on base with any regularity. That seems like a lineup that’s destined to take this team absolutely nowhere. It’s significantly WORSE than it was in 2023, and again, that was a lineup that failed to push us back into the playoffs. We can only go downward from here with a lineup even closely resembling THAT.

So, where do we turn to for hope?

I think, at this point, it’s safe to say we should start thinking of the Seattle Mariners in terms of the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, and the like. I know we’ve always lamented the Mariners for being too cheap, but that hasn’t really been the case until now. They’ve always just been afraid to go the extra step. They’ve always been content with half measures. They’ve always failed to finish the job to put this team over the top. In that sense, how is this any different? We get close to where we want to go – in the playoffs for the first time in two-plus decades, then a game or two short of the playoffs a season later – but never do what needs to be done to turn this team from a fringe contender into a legitimate World Series contender.

But now? With this kind of cost cutting? With reports that it’s all but certain that the Mariners are never going to be able to extend Cal Raleigh – because he’ll cost too much, and likely because he wants to go somewhere to be on a winner – we’re not only fucking up our contention window, but now we know this window has a finite timetable to it.

We’re never going to be able to keep this young core together. That was the plan before, right? Draft and develop a spectacular young core, then fill in around the edges with quality outside veterans to push us over the top. Now, we have to pick and choose who we can keep. We have to think about a future where we can have George Kirby OR Logan Gilbert, but not both. We have to think about all of these young guys as they head into their arbitration seasons, where their salaries will skyrocket based on their high levels of performance as very young players. We’re not going to be able to extend them all early. And we’re not going to be able to afford them even DURING those arbitration years, let alone afterward when they become unrestricted free agents. That means – since, again, we’re thinking in terms of A’s, Rays, Royals, etc. – that we’re going to have to start trading some of these guys for more cost-controlled prospects and just hope and pray we can develop the guys we get in return into viable Major League pieces.

The bummer in all of this is that our next crop of homegrown prospects are another full year or two away from hitting the Major Leagues. So, not only do we have an ever-shrinking window with our current crop of young Major League talent, but there’s likely going to be a significant gap between when those players start leaving, and the next crop ascends.

How long do we have with our current crop?

Cal Raleigh is arbitration eligible in 2025-2027. Logan Gilbert is eligible in 2024-2027 (his estimated 2024 contract will be $5 million, and will only go up and up and up from there). George Kirby is eligible from 2025-2028. Luis Castillo is signed through 2027, with a vesting option for 2028. Robbie Ray is here likely through 2026 (he has a player option after 2024, but considering he’ll at best be playing half a season next year, seems unlikely he’d opt out); we’re stuck with his crazy salary unless he gets lumped in with the next round of salary dump trades. And J.P. Crawford is signed through 2026. Obviously, Julio isn’t going anywhere, so I hope he likes being our ONE good player, because I’m guessing if we haven’t won a World Series by 2026, we’re going to start moving on from most of these guys.

That’s a 2-3 year window. 2024 & 2025 for sure, MAYBE 2026, if ownership hasn’t totally panicked by then and switched to a new GM/manager combo. We can write off 2024, as the team has no prospects ready to come up. 2025 is maybe a possibility to improve from within. Leaving us with a narrow pinpoint window of 2026 as the ideal target.

By then, maybe Cole Young, Harry Ford, Colt Emerson, Michael Arroyo, Felnin Celesten, Tai Peete, and the like, will be ready to make their mark at the Major League level.

If that’s how ownership is going to treat this team – if all we have left to hope for is our prospects taking the next steps – then I think it’s time to turn our attention to the minors. Because I don’t think there’s going to be any significant help coming via free agency. Sure seems like most trades – from here on out – will be shipping off guys with less club control for guys with more club control. Then, it’s just retreads and reclamation projects as far as free agency is concerned.

Obviously, I’m not saying that 2026 is the year we win the World Series. That’s a BEST case scenario, and also the soonest we should even be thinking about that. I think the lead-up to 2026 is going to be pretty frustrating, and 2026 itself might be a total disaster for all I know.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I’m at with this team anymore. I feel like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Again, I don’t know why I should’ve expected any different. But, it hasn’t felt like dire straits like this for a while. It still felt like this team was on the rise, even with the pitfall that was 2023. But now? I can only see the doom and the gloom.

I don’t know how much more I can give as a fan to this team. I think as this ownership group starts pulling back its money and its effort from the talent level on the Major League roster, so will I start to pull back my interest in watching this team, in going to their games, in investing my heart and soul into the day-to-day grind. As the Mariners predictably fall short on the field, so will I fall short in giving a fuck.

There’s more to life than Mariners baseball. I know I’ve threatened leaving this team high and dry for years now. But, I also wasn’t married then. I didn’t have a family then. I didn’t have other things that would draw my attention away from this organization that CLEARLY doesn’t give two shits about this fanbase. Why bother? Why feed into their villainy? Let them run the Mariners into the ground. I’ve got my own life to live.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Had The Worst Weekend Possible

That’s a harsh way to look at a 4-game series where the Mariners won 3 games, especially against a team that had so thoroughly owned us this season (we finished 4-9 against the Rangers; essentially the story of our year), but that’s what you get when you dick around all month, ruining all the momentum you had in a torrid August.

The Mariners finished 11-17 in September. Can’t do that. Not if you want to make noise in the playoffs.

Anyway, nothing mattered this weekend, because the Astros swept the Diamondbacks. We could’ve swept Texas and we’d still be in the same place we are right now: out of the playoffs. What makes matters worse is that we HAD a chance to prevent the Astros from winning the division. All we needed to do was lose in the finale on Sunday. Instead, we somehow clung to a 1-0 victory, thereby ensuring that the reigning champs have this week to reset their rotation, rest their bullpen, and get nice and ready for another dominant playoff run.

Yay.

Our season technically ended Saturday night. That just so happened to be the game me and my friends were going to. It’s the annual Oktoberfest game, where they have a give-away of a special Oktoberfest beer stein or boot or whatever they decide to come up with. By my count, I’ve gone six times so far; it’s the best give-away the Mariners do all year. For the price of your ticket, you get the stein or boot or whatever, AND you get a voucher for one free drink. Can’t beat it!

Unfortunately, I should’ve known I was going to be in for an annoying day when I got an email that morning from the Mariners saying our steins were delayed. I don’t know how that happens when you know about it all fucking year, but there you go. I ended up having a pretty nice day anyway, but that had everything to do with me being with my lovely fiance and my terrific friends (and nothing to do with the product on the field – another inept 6-1 loss – nor the product they were selling in the stadium).

Luis Castillo couldn’t get out of the third inning, at least not without giving up 5 walks, 5 hits, and 4 runs. That’s back-to-back pisspoor outings from our “ace” against our two direct rivals for the division. One could argue, if he was his usual dominant self in these final two games against the Astros and Rangers, we’d be division champs right now. Or, at the very least, in the playoffs. Of course, it also didn’t help that the offense could only muster a single run in each of those contests, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mariners were trying something a little different with their 200-level concessions (I didn’t scout the other levels, but I’m sure this wasn’t the only spot), where they sell the hot dogs and sodas and whatnot. They had all the hot food sitting out, presumably under a heat lamp. So, you grab what you want (in my case, two of those junior dogs and a pretzel), take them to the check-out, order your drink and pay. Made things a lot faster! But, the hot dogs were cold and the bun tasted a bit stale. Also, I’m staying away from those pretzels from now on; they aren’t great.

Probably the most annoying thing was the fact that they weren’t taking our free drink vouchers that came with the give-away. You’d think we just drew a Mariners logo on a piece of paper and were trying to pass it off as a coupon! We went to the bar area in the 200-level and they turned us away, saying you had to get the drinks from a concessions stand. So, we went to a place that had the hard ciders we wanted – in this case, the pasta station – and they started to turn us away too. Luckily, we were standing right behind someone higher up who works for the Mariners, and they were able to text someone in charge. But, if they weren’t standing right there at that exact moment, we’d probably still be looking for a place to take these damn things!

I’ve never had this much trouble with an Oktoberfest. It was honestly really disappointing. I invited a bunch of people who’d never been to an Oktoberfest Mariners game, and it’s just a shame that there had to be so many snags.

After Saturday’s game, Cal Raleigh came out and admonished the Mariners for not spending enough, and not bringing in enough quality players to fill out this roster. HE SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US, MARINERS!!! The team made him apologize on Sunday morning, but he still got his point across, and J.P. Crawford (as well as others) backed him up after the game Sunday afternoon.

You can’t field a playoff team with the likes of Haggerty, Ford, Caballero, Canzone, Rojas, and Dylan Moore taking up everyday at-bats. Not when Ty France, Jarred Kelenic, Eugenio Suarez, and Teoscar Hernandez are so fucking streaky (to be kind; some of them were outright disasterous). Second base, DH, and left field were fucking black holes YET AGAIN. As was backup catcher after Tom Murphy went down, but what else is new? When you’re already going super-cheap on your bullpen arms – and you’ve got a ton of cost-controlled starters – it’s fucking ridiculous that this team pinches pennies the way it does. Trying to get by with the likes of A.J. Pollock, Kolten Wong, and Tommy La Stella; you should be FUCKING ASHAMED of yourselves, Mariners front office!

I don’t know how to feel looking ahead to next year. On the one hand, I guess we have to like where the rotation sits. Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby should all be full go’s. Miller and Woo should have increased workloads. Ray will be back. You have to think we’re taking whatever we can get in trade for Marco. But, then there’s the bullpen we have to find a way to reload (presumably with more retreads that we hope we can fix).

It’ll ultimately come down to what we can do to improve the offense. I guess we like J.P., Julio, and Cal. Suarez probably isn’t going anywhere. J.P. said he’s taking Ty France with him to Driveline to fix his swing, but will he even be around after what’s become of his Major League career? Teoscar is a free agent; maybe we put a qualifying offer on him and keep him for one more go-around. Kelenic … we’ll see. We still need a boost at second base, and DH is still a nothing-burger. And the bench … ye gods.

Nobody wants to come here and hit in our stadium. That means trades. No one in the minors is ready for a call-up just yet. Our best prospects will be heading to AA – at best – in 2024. They won’t be ready until 2025 at the earliest. Is it another year just like this one? Or do we flush our farm to try to win now? Will that even bring in enough to put us over the top?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, compared to how we felt at this time last year. This might be the most important offseason we’ve ever seen around these parts. And, for the first time since the Jackie Z era, I’m having my doubts that we have the management in place to get it done.

As usual, the common denominator is ownership. It’s all on them. So, I guess we’re fucked.

The Mariners Are On The Brink With Their Starting Rotation

I don’t want to alarm anyone, or overlook all the awesome things the Mariners are doing as a team this year. But … this is just something to keep an eye on.

The unquestioned strength of the 2023 Mariners is its starting rotation. It’s interesting to think of what could’ve been had everyone stayed as healthy as they were in 2022, but there’s definitely an argument to be made that injuries to Robbie Ray and later Marco Gonzales actually made this rotation stronger.

We have no idea how Robbie would’ve responded after some late-season challenges last year; he is a former Cy Young Award winner, after all. There’s no reason why he couldn’t return to form. But, I think some skepticism is a little smart – and valid – and if you asked me who I would want right now to start an important game between Bryce Miller and a fully healthy Robbie Ray, I’d pick Miller and it’s not even close. As for Marco, he’s been on a clear downward trend since 2020; his stuff wasn’t even good enough to crack the playoff roster last year. Between an inexperienced and sometimes wild Woo or Gonzo, I think I’m taking Woo’s stuff and not looking back.

The thing is, while that’s fine in a hypothetical, in reality we’re talking about two rookie pitchers who have limits to how long they can pitch this season. They’re both skyrocketing beyond their career highs in innings. The short IL stint for Woo will help, but just think where we were a week ago. We were staring down the barrel of a 6-man rotation, with the addition of another impressive young arm in Emerson Hancock. An embarrassment of riches! Just as the offense is catching fire and pulling this team back into the playoff race. It was all so perfect.

It turns out, a little too perfect. Hancock’s last start got cut short after two innings, he came up lame with a shoulder issue, and now he not only finds himself on the IL, but the 60-day IL. His season is done. It speaks to a tragic long-term outlook – considering this is the third time he’s found himself with serious arm issues – and if you look at the way he throws a baseball, it just looks fucking painful. I imagine this won’t be his last time on the IL, and I’m seeing a bullpen role ultimately being his fate.

Okay, fine. Woo has returned and we’re back to our five best starters. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.

The thing that scares me is now we’re talking about the third season-ending injury to a valued starting pitcher. Four if you want to count Easton McGee (whose season was dashed after one spot start in Seattle), though I don’t know if I’d call him “valued”. Digging deeper into our depth, obviously Chris Flexen was a flop and was DFA’d. And, until this year, Taylor Dollard was an up-and-coming prospect who just got his feet wet in AAA before going down for the season after 3 starts. Who’s left? Darren McCaughan (of the 5.99 ERA in Tacoma, and underwhelming mop-up appearances with the Mariners) and Tommy Milone (of the 4.44 ERA in Tacoma, with two decent spot starts with the M’s spanning 9 total innings). That’s it. The cupboard is bare in AA; there aren’t any more flashy prospects waiting in the wings.

Now, I see that – as part of yesterday’s spate of roster moves – we picked up someone named Luke Weaver. He’s just flat out bad. He started all year for Cincinnati and sucked through and through with a near-7 ERA, averaging less than 5 innings per outing. It was pretty clear the Reds didn’t trust him, nor was he someone to be trusted, ultimately resulting in his release last week.

We’re told that he’s going to be a long reliever, and an occasional spot starter, and BOY HOWDY does that sound unappealing coming from him.

It’s weird that we’d choose Weaver over Milone or McCaughan, two guys in our system, whose stuff we’re familiar with. What do we know about Weaver? He’s got a good pitch mix, but just hasn’t unlocked his potential yet? He’s 30 years old! He is who we thought he was! Besides, is late August of a pennant chase the best time to build up a reclamation project? Can you even call someone a “reclamation project” if he’s never put together a full season of competence?

Here’s my concern: what if we lose another starter? That’s what I’m talking about when I say we’re on the brink. God forbid we lose one of our top three guys, but even if we lose Miller or Woo to injury, the dropoff is CONSIDERABLE. Again, the plus side is that it’s late August. A pisspoor fifth starter won’t ultimately be the reason we’d fail to miss the playoffs in that scenario. But, then again, the Mariners are where they’re at, and the margin for error is pretty thin. So, YEAH, a pisspoor fifth starter MIGHT ultimately be the reason we flame out! One bad game in the last week or two of the season might be the one game that costs us.

Hopefully, the offense is here to stay, and maybe they’d bail us out going forward. That’s what I have to cling to, anyway. The Rays have been bitten by the injury bug probably more than any contender, and yet they’ve still managed to stay in the thick of things. They’re an inspiration! Here’s to the Mariners being like the Rays (minus employing the alleged underage sexual assaulters).

Well, really, here’s to the Mariners not losing any more guys to injury. Let’s stay just the way we are from here on out!

Is Now The Right Time For The Mariners To Call Up Emerson Hancock?

I always find August to be the most interesting time in a baseball season. It’s also often the most frustrating. When you hear about the “dog days of summer” in reference to baseball, this is the time that’s being referenced. Early-to-mid August through the end of the month; this three week (or so) stretch. You’re past the All Star Break, you’re past that stretch run in July where every game fells like life or death because of the impending trade deadline, and you’re a little bit beyond that deadline, where you see a little boost from whatever moves you ended up making (to either add to your big league club, or from minor leaguer call-ups after subtracting from your big league club).

It’s also, critically, before the stretch run in the month of September, where playoff spots are won or lost.

These are the hardest games. Everyone’s tired. Everyone’s at least a little banged up. The weather is fucking miserable. And, lord help you if the scheduling gods have thrust an extended road trip upon you.

I don’t know how to search for this – or if the information even exists to someone like me (without going through every single season and doing the math for 40+ years) – but anecdotally it feels like the Mariners fucking stink in the month of August. Like, more than most teams. I’m sure I’m way off base and we’d find them somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I think it’s actually a pretty safe assumption given how mediocre the Mariners have been for the duration of their history. Nevertheless, I always dread this stretch of August, because bad things always seem to happen.

Is it any coincidence that the greatest collapse in Mariners history – a 15-14 defeat in Cleveland in 2001, when we had a 14-2 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning – happened right around this time (August 5th)? I will always believe that was a turning point in our 116-win season, that ultimately led to an unceremonious ouster in the ALCS.

Anyway, I find this particular stretch, in 2023, to be more interesting than almost any other in my time following the M’s. Obviously, we all know what’s happened so far this year. The Mariners were supposed to be playoff (and even divisional) contenders, they got off to an absolutely mediocre start, and have only in the last month and change clawed their way back to respectability. The job isn’t done yet – not by a long shot – but the Mariners are just now starting to resemble the team we all expected them to be.

It’s an interesting time because of what we did – or didn’t – do at the trade deadline. We kept our everyday lineup mostly intact. There were a couple of addition-by-subtraction moves in jettisoning Pollock and Wong, along with a couple of We’ll See additions of Canzone and Rojas (who, for now, are largely on the fringe of regular playing time, mixing in with the group we already had in place, rather than getting extended looks). What’s happened is what was obvious to everyone: the M’s were only going to start winning more often when the core guys started hitting more often.

But, maybe the most important thing is happening as we speak. We’re at a crossroads, so to speak, when it comes to the back of our rotation.

We lost Robbie Ray after his first start of the season. We lost Marco Gonzales at the end of May. We lost Chris Flexen to ineffectiveness. That, in turn, opened up two spots in the rotation that were filled by AA call-ups Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo. As has been pointed out by the Seattle Times, among others, they’re both nearing their innings limits. Miller is at a combined 106 innings, after throwing for 133.2 last year. Woo is at a combined 99 innings, after throwing only 57 last year (he’s coming off of a major arm injury in 2021). I don’t know what the upper limit is for these two guys, but I get the sense it’s fast approaching. The Mariners are all about working guys up slowly, to hopefully prevent long-term damage, which is the right thing to do, but a bitter pill to swallow in a playoff chase.

The tough part is: there’s no veteran help coming anytime soon. Ray is out for the year. And we have no idea when Marco will be able to throw again; he very well also might be done. We have Tommy Milone – a Quad-A guy in Tacoma at the moment – and that’s pretty much it as far as guys with Major League experience.

Enter Emerson Hancock.

It’s not totally clear what the plan is at this point. We know that Woo was placed on the IL with a forearm strain, so probably Hancock is taking Woo’s spot for now. My hope is that the M’s are fudging the numbers a bit, and this is just an excuse to give Woo some healthy rest, without needing to make a more serious move to free up a spot on the active roster.

Assuming that’s the case, what’s the plan for when Woo returns? Are the Mariners going to move one of these young guys to the bullpen? Are they going to go to a 6-man rotation for the next few weeks/the rest of the season? Some combination of the two (a 6-man rotation, then convert one or two to the bullpen at season’s end)? Anything could be on the table.

My main questions for today are: is this the right move? Is it the right move for the Mariners? And is it the right move for Hancock’s professional baseball career?

Hancock was selected in the first round of the 2020 draft. He pitched most of 2021 in Everett, before a late call up to AA Arkansas. Then, he spent the entirety of 2022 in AA (with, I believe, some injury issues limiting his availability), and so far in 2023, he’s spent a comparable amount of time (0.1 fewer innings in 1 fewer start) in AA, working on things and growing as a pitcher.

In that sense, he’s probably ready. The Mariners, for their highest-rated prospects, like to call them up directly from AA. It makes you wonder why they even have a AAA team in the PCL, if all the stadia are so bad for pitchers/good for hitters, but the allure of having the Tacoma Rainiers right there in your backyard (for IL purposes, as well as hopefully-temporary demotions to work on things or get heads right) should be obvious to all.

I like to look through game logs in cases like these, where a highly-rated prospect is invited to The Show. Just looking at a stat line might be deceiving, unless the numbers are so blazing hot they’re undeniable. Hancock, at first blush, doesn’t look like a dominating AA force (4.32 ERA in 98 innings across 20 games), but that doesn’t tell you everything. Before his most recent outing on August 2nd (5 innings, 3 runs, on 6 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts; nothing to sneeze at), he was on fire: 20 IP, 1 ER, 8 hits, 2 walks, 19 K’s across three starts.

Cause for concern: in the start immediately preceeding that stretch, he was knocked out in the second inning, after giving up 9 runs on 9 hits, with 2 walks and 2 K’s. But, by and large he’s been mostly good this year, especially since the beginning of June. And, again, not even the game logs tell the full story, because we don’t really know what the team was asking him to do. Maybe he was told to focus on his secondary pitches, to get them up to snuff (knowing his fastball and control would play anywhere).

In the first two months of Woo’s season down in AA, he wasn’t anything spectacular. He was fine, but the starts tended to run short (almost certainly by design), and the results were up and down. But, apparently he’d mastered whatever it was the Mariners wanted him to work on (at least, well enough to get the call-up once Marco went down), and that’s all that mattered.

Similarly, with Bryce Miller, he wasn’t setting AA ablaze in the month of April. He had one good start, and even that was limited to 5 innings! So, you know, it’s impossible for someone like me, outside of the organization, to make any sort of educated determination on a pitcher’s readiness.

I would say Hancock is at least as ready as Miller or Woo. Maybe more! He has far and away more innings logged in AA than Miller and Woo combined. We’ll see how it translates to Hancock’s performance with the Mariners – especially in the dog days of summer, in the middle of a playoff race – but I can’t argue with decision, knowing what we know.

So, we’ll see if this is the right move for this year’s Mariners. I would think, going forward, this experience will be invaluable in the years to come. Either Hancock ingratiates himself as a permanent member of this rotation, or he turns himself into an even more valuable trade chip this offseason, in the event we find a deal for a quality bat. He’s never going to reach his fullest value as a trade prospect until teams see him pitch at this level. You have to believe – with Ray returning next year, and with one more year of Marco under contract – that the Mariners will be trading one of these young arms (as loathe as we are to think of it) in the offseason.

But, as I said before, for 2023, it’s either Hancock or Milone. Milone can get called up anytime; he’s not going anywhere. He’s a known quantity. You like him as a spot start guy in an emergency, but there’s diminishing returns the more exposed he becomes to Major League hitting. Hancock, on the other hand, has vastly more impressive stuff, and he’s a bit of a mystery. Here’s hoping that plays well in the short term, to give us a much-needed boost in this oh-so-critical time of the season.