What’s Happening Here? The Mariners Won The Series Over The Astros

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. Even in those recent seasons where the Mariners have mostly contended for a playoff spot, we never had results like this.

Oh sure, we’ve seen 5-2 type road trips, especially in the month of April it would seem. What happens afterward? Invariably, we return home to face the fucking Astros. The hype train starts chugging along in the leadup to that Friday night game, with everyone thinking, “If we can keep this going against the divisional favorite, we might really have something this season!” And THEN what happens? The Astros fucking smack us down and we return to the depths of our own despair, tails between our legs, resigned to another year of mediocrity.

It’s that point, in every season, where hope is dashed. Emphatically. You can set your watch to it! My friends and I texted all about it. We ultimately decided to forego gambling against the Mariners on Friday because every time we’ve ever been this sure about an outcome, we’ve lost miserably.

For a while there, it looked like a bit of a missed opportunity. After four scoreless innings, the Astros put up three runs in the 5th. Just to tease us, the M’s got two back in the 6th, only to watch the Astros get two more in the top of the 7th to make it 5-2. At that point, I don’t know if there was a Mariners fan alive who would’ve been delusional to expect a comeback.

Yet! The Miracle Mariners are starting to make some of us into believers! Two runs in the bottom of the 7th made it 5-4. An Evan White solo homer in the 8th tied it up. And, I shit you not, a ground-rule single in the bottom of the 9th walked it off!

Get the fuck out of here! What are we seeing?!

Well, admittedly, we’re seeing a depleted Astros squad that was missing four prominent players due to some sort of COVID-related issue. But, even without those guys, the Astros are still plenty good, so I’ll take a win over them any way I can get it.

Yusei Kikuchi had another impressive-looking start going, only to have his numbers look not-so-hot in the end: 7 innings, 5 runs. It seemed to me that he was dealing through the first four no-hit innings by featuring his live fastball. Then, he went away from it, featuring some iffy breaking pitches that the Astros were able to handle. Maybe it was to conserve his pitch count (he finished with 91 over those 7 innings), but I wish he’d put Aledmys Diaz away with the hard stuff before he hit that 2-run single, even if he ended the game at a sub-90 pitch count. Those two runs were nearly the final nail in the coffin.

That being said, the top of this lineup is ridiculous. Haniger, France, and Seager combined to go 6 for 12, with 5 RBI and 2 runs scored. That’s a beautiful thing! You obviously can’t expect that to remain the entire season, but in the early going this team is going to have to rely on those guys to carry the mail, until Kyle Lewis returns from injury (this week, hopefully) and Jarred Kelenic gets the call-up.

When the top of your lineup is dealing like that, anything you get from the other six guys is gravy. White and Crawford have struggled, but at times they’ve flashed as well. I hope that tips to where they flash more than they don’t. Tom Murphy coming around with his bat will be huge too; I’m not as worried about him as I am the younger guys.

As for the Saturday game, I missed it entirely. I mean, it’s hard to blame me, blink and you would’ve missed it! 1-0 defeats are VERY rare in today’s game, and while it sucks to be on the losing end, there are still positive take-aways for the Mariners.

Chris Flexen went six innings, spreading out 10 hits while somehow limiting the damage to just the 1 run. Insane! I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but it’s nice to see a gutty performance like that. The bullpen as well continued to keep it on lockdown, which makes it all the more disappointing that the hitters couldn’t get one over on Zack Greinke (who went 8 shutout innings, striking out 6, on just 91 pitches).

Again, if this were one of those Mariners teams of years past, the rubber match probably would’ve been a lost cause. But, instead if was an emphatic 7-2 victory!

This one could’ve gone haywire in a hurry. Nick Margevicius had to be pulled during the first at-bat of the fifth inning, with … arm fatigue? Is that a thing? Anyway, he’s supposedly going to make his next start, so that’s neither here nor there. He went just the four innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned), and the M’s were temporarily down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.

That’s when the offense came alive, with a 2-run triple by Haniger (that was almost caught for a heartbreaking out in deep centerfield) and a 2-run homer by France (who else?). Haniger and France added on in the 7th, with back-to-back RBI doubles to give the game its final score.

The bullpen has been on fire lately, with the best ERA in baseball over the last week and change. I especially liked how Servais stuck with Rafael Montero in the highest-leverage situation in the 8th, even though the M’s had just tacked on two more runs. The 3-4-5 hitters were coming up, and even though we had a 5-run lead, that’s just the type of scenario where you could see a team like the Astros start to mount a comeback. Better to put them away right then and there, to give Steckenrider a soft landing in the 9th.

The Mariners are 10-6, everyone! The Mariners were in first place heading into this series, and the Mariners are still in first place today! Who saw that coming?

The Mariners Can’t Stop Trading, Also Won’t Stop

Yeah, so this time it’s Roenis Elias & Carson Smith to the Red Sox for Wade Miley & Jonathan Aro.

From what I understand, the main pieces in this deal are Smith for Miley; the Red Sox needed a dominant, late-inning reliever, and the Mariners needed a mediocre, left-handed innings eater.  That may be oversimplifying things a bit, but not all that much.  I feel like Aro was thrown in to help mitigate the sting of giving away our best reliever; he looks like a guy on the cusp of competing for a Major League roster spot.  And, I feel like Elias was thrown in … because the Red Sox were asking for the moon and the stars and the Mariners decided to oblige?

A lot of Mariners fans hate this deal, so Welcome To Seattle, Jerry Dipoto!  Mariners fans are probably going to hate A LOT of your deals, because as Seattle sports fans, we’ve had a lot of experience getting shafted by inept general managers.  This just sounds like a lot to give up, to get so little in return.

Carson Smith, many believe (I among them) will be a dominant pitching force for years to come.  He’s already great now, just think of how awesome he’ll be with five more years of experience!  This has shades of trading away Jeff Nelson back in December of 1995; he went to the Yankees and won a bunch of championships with Tino Martinez and the gang.  So, that right there is bad enough.  When you throw in Elias – another young guy who should only improve with experience, and who’s already had the better part of two seasons in the Major Leagues as it is – it’s hard to feel, as a Mariners fan, like we haven’t just been bent over and taken to town with a 12-inch strap-on dildo.

For what?  Wade Miley and a prospect?  Wade Miley, the second coming of J.A. Happ’s miserable half-season with the Mariners before he miraged his way through the National League into an insane contract with the Blue Jays this offseason?  What did we do to deserve THIS?

Well, for starters, blame the rest of the fucking league for paying through their asses for some of these pitchers.  I mean, seriously, over $30 million per year for Zack Greinke and David Price?  Get the fuck right out of here!  I know these guys are great pitchers, but no one is WORTH that much!  Enjoy your albatross contracts when they inevitably get injured and start to decline.

Anyway, as a result of that, and with a specific nod to the Dodgers for prying Iwakuma away to the tune of 3 years & $45 million, the Mariners had to do something in this pitching-crazy market.  That something, apparently, was to trade for a lefty starter with mediocre numbers, whose greatest attribute has been his health.  Because if there’s ever a curse that comes with having mediocre players on your baseball team, it’s the curse of everlasting health.

For what it’s worth, I am glad the Mariners didn’t go to a third year with Iwakuma.  I like Kuma as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy to save his life.  It sucks having to count on him, only to see him miss two months every year.  Which brings up the interesting question:  would you rather have four months of a quality, ace-lite starting pitcher, or a full season with a 4th/5th starter who will be great one week, and then can’t get out of the second inning the next?  I’m torn on the subject.

The one variable we have yet to discover is how Miley will be affected by pitching in Safeco.  I know, we went through this same thing with Happ just last year, but if Miley can turn into a Jason Vargas-like pitcher for us, while continuing to eat up innings, this deal might be palatable.

When you look at the big picture, you can see why the Mariners went this way.  We preserve our 11th overall draft pick by not signing a free agent pitcher with a qualifying offer.  We also save some money by not paying those extravagant free agency prices, as Miley is set to earn just under $15 million combined over the next two years (with a $12 million option on the third year, if we’d like to keep him).  In this context, it’s pretty apparent that the team is in no position to increase salary this year.  I’m not necessarily saying this is good or bad, but it appears to be a fact.  Right now, counting just the players under a Major League contract (not counting arbitration guys, or younger guys under team control), we’ve got $102,250,000 tied up in 11 players.  When you pad that out with the rest of the guys on the 40-man, you’re looking at a team that’s RIGHT around its payroll limit.  There might be a moderate increase for a lower-tier first baseman (potential platoon option with Jesus Montero, should he show continued signs of life in Spring Training), but other than that, some flyers on veteran pitchers, and maybe another bullpen arm or two, what you see is what you’re going to get.

As for the rotation itself, as noted above, Miley is a considerable step down in talent from Iwakuma.  That’s going to put some pressure on some other guys to step up.  With Iwakuma in the fold, the Mariners had a natural #2 type pitcher to slot in behind Felix.  Now?  Someone is going to have to step into that role.  Is that pitcher Taijuan Walker?  I sure as shit hope he’s ready to make the leap, because if he’s not ready, we’re looking at a lot of 4/5-type starters in this rotation behind The King.  Karns is young & unproven.  Paxton is also young & unproven, plus he’s an injury waiting to happen and our most likely trade chip.  Montgomery is unproven and another likely trade chip.  Nuno is probably better suited as a bullpen guy/long reliever/spot starter; but, I’m starting to get the feeling that he’ll have a very real opportunity to lock down the 5th starter’s job, especially if Paxton is dealt for a first baseman and/or turns up injured again.

I’m pretty sure I read a quote somewhere from our GM about the Miley trade, saying that he wanted to bring in a proven guy who will take the ball every fifth day, to help compensate for the fact that we’re relying on so many younger guys to fill out our rotation.  I think that was something of a shot at Elias (indirectly, of course), as he, along with our other fringe starters, have been anything but consistent.  But, I’ll tell you what, if those younger guys don’t develop in a hurry, we could be looking at another long season.

As for Elias, it really stinks that he was a throw-in to this deal.  He was an excellent security blanket to be able to stash in AAA in the likely event of injury.  I mean, how often are you able to bring up a guy with significant Major League experience to either spot start for you or flat out slot into your rotation for a few months?  Elias wasn’t the greatest, but I thought he battled out there like a pro.  Give him another year or two, and I think he’ll be a rock-solid starter for years to come.  Maybe not an All Star, but could he really be THAT much worse than Wade Miley?

**UPDATE**

Now hearing about a trade bringing in Adam Lind from the Brewers.  Plays first base, gets on base a lot.  GIVE US A BREAK!!!!

Free Agent Watch: There Are No Free Agents, There Is Only Zuul

The Dodgers signed Zack Greinke, the Reds traded for Shin-Soo Choo, the Angels have now signed Josh Hamilton to 5 years, $125 million.

The Mariners have signed Jason Bay.

I’m not going to sit here and kill the Mariners for not giving truckloads of money to Greinke or Hamilton, just as I’m not going to kill them for not trading away truckloads of prospects for Choo or Justin Upton.  As with any deal, you have to consider the risk/reward factor.  If you’re a team that’s a piece or two away from legitimately contending for a championship (unlike those 2008 or 2010 Mariners teams, coming off winning records in 2007 and 2009 respectively), then it’s okay to assume a little more risk in trading away the farm for an impact bat.  Especially if that impact bat will reward you with getting over that hump.

Unfortunately, the Mariners aren’t a piece or two away.  They’re about 9 or 10 pieces away.  EVERYONE on the team, except for a select few, sucked last year.  Of course, we’re not going to overhaul a team like this just because Ackley and Smoak had down years; you’re going to give them another chance and hope they improve.  That having been said, it would be pointless to trade away all those farm animals we’ve cultivated just to bring in one guy.  That’s risking EVERYTHING, with the reward being … what?  1/9 of your offense?  Just so we can start all over trying to re-stock our farm system?  No thank you.  And what happens if that one bat is a bust?  Then, we’re royally fucked once again.

As far as I’m concerned, trading prospects for other prospects is a risky venture.  Robbing Peter (our wealth of pitching in the upper Minor Leagues) to pay Paul (our dearth of hitting at the lower Major Leagues) doesn’t exactly give me the biggest boner in the world.  Everyone talks about the Mariners and their minor league pitching like we’ve got it growing on trees, when really we’ve just got a small handful of guys.  And each of them struggled in the second half of last season, so who knows if even THEY will pan out?

The fact of the matter is, they’re prospects.  And if you’re trying to trade prospects for legitimate Big League Bats, you’re going to need to trade A FUCK-TON of prospects to get what you’re looking for.  Prospects flame out all the time!  That’s just the nature of the beast.  But, they don’t ALWAYS flame out.  Sometimes, they turn into All Stars.  At which point, you really regret your decisions when you trade away All Stars and you get benchwarmers in return.

Again, that’s the risk.  There’s also the matter of value.  We, obviously, value our prospects a lot more than other teams.  We know them, we’ve grown with them, and we’re also tainted because they’re ours and we want so desperately for them to be good.  Other teams don’t have that kind of attachment.  Likewise, other teams aren’t trying to help us out.  They want theirs.  They want to take as many prospects away from us as humanly possible.  What would be the incentive for them to just give away proven bats with team-control?  That’s why it takes five guys to bring back one good guy.  And if that one good guy turns into Erik Bedard, while a number of the other guys turn into All Stars, that’s how people lose their jobs.

People talk about trading prospects like it’s just this easy thing to do.  That Jackie Z can wrinkle his nose and make a trade appear out of thin air.  But, really, at this point we’re talking about a team (The Seattle Mariners) who isn’t even REMOTELY on the cusp of contending.  It will take three or four additions, and a lot of improvement by guys already on the team, to make the Mariners into a playoff contender.  So, trading the farm for one impact bat is out.  At this point, if I’m in charge, I’m only comfortable with something along the lines of last year’s Pineda for Montero swap.  A one-for-one type of deal that brings back seemingly equal value.  A high-end pitcher prospect for a high-end hitter prospect.

Of course, that still leaves us with Free Agency.

Free Agency.  Man, talk about a losing proposition!

For starters, the best free agents almost NEVER see the light of day!  If you’re smart, and you’ve got a hot-shot young stud still under team control, you’ll extend them out beyond the point where their rookie deal ends (like with the way the Mariners extended Felix).  And, if that player just so happens to be the face of your franchise, at the end of THAT deal, you’ll extend them again.  Because you have to reward your very best players, no matter the cost.

You extend them through what you believe to be their primes.  Once they’ve reached the end of their extension, you should have a good idea on whether or not they’re on the downside of their careers.  At which point, even though they’re on the downside, if they were ever any good, they’re probably coming off of a really great season.  That’s when you’re talking about a guy who wants one final HUGE contract.  It’s at THAT point, you let them test the waters.  See:  Albert Pujols.

In other words, you’re pretty much guaranteed to NOT get any kind of return on investment.  You’re left with a worthless, dried out old husk of a player making too much money.  For every Vladimir Guerrero In His Prime who lands in Anaheim and continues to dominate, there are a million Josh Hamiltons (or Richie Sexsons) out there who are overpriced, will give you 1-2 good seasons, and then completely fall off the face of the Earth.

Unless you’re getting a guy at the end of his rookie deal, who is either just starting his prime or is still on his way up, you’re likely not getting your money’s worth on any big free agent deal.

That’s why, going after Josh Hamilton (when he’s coming off of a season – and especially a second half – where he struggled with his contact rate) and giving him 5 years is insane.  Unless you’re an organization that will be willing to throw more money on top of the problem in 2-3 years when Hamilton finally wears down.  That’s why giving Prince Fielder that super-long contract is equally insane.  You’re telling me that tub of lard is still going to be worth all that money in his final years?  I’ll believe it when I see it.

The very biggest contracts should only go to the guys who are home grown superstars.  They’ve played with you, they’ve won for you, they deserve a nice reward.  Poaching superstar free agents is a great way to kill your franchise.  They have nothing invested with you; they just picked you because you gave them the most money.  They’re hired guns!  The fans don’t know them, except from what little they’ve seen on Sportscenter.  New fans and a new team bring a new kind of pressure that many free agents can’t handle.  Expectations are always higher when you’re talking about a guy going to a new team.

If we were to re-sign Felix today for a 10-year, $300 million deal, I would be fine with that.  You know why?  Because I’m familiar with Felix.  He’s already done so much for this team and I have no reason to believe he would be anything less than excellent for us through the duration of his contract.  However, let’s pretend Felix is a free agent.  And let’s say the Texas Rangers signed him to a 10-year, $300 million deal.  If I’m a Rangers fan, I’m thrilled, but I’m also thinking, “OK, here we are.  This is the guy who’s going to win us a World Series Championship!”  Anything less, from a team standpoint, or specifically from an individual standpoint, and I’m pissed.  If Felix got rocked for the first month of the season, then sort of came around, but ended up with an ERA in the 4.50 range, I would be killing the organization for giving him so much money.

However, if Felix – upon re-signing with the Mariners for the same contract – gave us the same production, I would be more likely to dismiss it as “just a down year”.  I would be convinced that Felix could turn it around because he’s the best!  And, I would probably be convinced that Felix was playing through injury all season and that’s why he sucked the way he did.

So, no, I’m not upset that Josh Hamilton is with the Angels.  I’m sure that team will be very formidable in 2013.  But, how will they look in 2015?  Old and beat up?  I sure hope so.

The bottom line is:  this free agency class sucks.  Probably.  I can’t say that with any certainty, but I really can’t say ANYTHING with total certainty.  Nevertheless, are you really telling me that Nick Swisher gets your dick hard?  A career .256 batting average, a guy who last hit over 30 home runs back in 2006, a guy who couldn’t hit more than 29 home runs while playing half his games in Yankee Stadium?  A guy who just turned 32 and is one of those free agents I was just talking about who’s looking for One Final Huge Score?  Like a master thief trying to rob one more bank vault before retirement, I would expect Swisher’s chances of success to be mighty slim.  He might not fall off completely like a Richie Sexson, but he will certainly taper off the face of the Earth.  Making more and more money each year as his production dwindles and dwindles. 

How about Michael Bourn, the other swingin’ dick free agent on the market?  Does his career .272 batting average, his history of injury, his history of high-strikeout seasons, and his complete lack of power sound like something you might be interested in?  He’s turning 30 in two short weeks.  Feel like over-spending for six years of a guy who bats leadoff and gets a lot of steals?  Doesn’t that sound like someone we just got rid of?  Doesn’t that sound like someone who was killed by the local media because smart teams don’t put all their money into slap-hitting singles machines?  Remember when the Mariners had TWO of those guys, and they were supposed to be the 1-2 punch that would jumpstart this offense?  They get on base, they steal bases, they get in scoring position … all sounds good to me, until you realize there’s no one behind them to hit them in.  And then they get old, so they’re not even on base enough for anyone TO hit them in!

Yeah, can you PLEASE sign me up for another six years of THAT?  I can’t fucking wait.

This offseason is a trainwreck, in case you haven’t heard.  You can twist the numbers any way you like, but those numbers aren’t created in a vacuum.  There’s something to be said about the fact that all these big-name free agents are coming from winning organizations.  If the Seattle Mariners signed them, they’d immediately be transplanted into a losing organization.  So, not only do they get the added pressure of trying to impress a new city, but they also get to be “The Savior”.  The guy who is FINALLY going to bring winning ways to the city of Seattle!  All of our hopes and dreams and criticisms are going to be levied upon you, the great baseball hope.

Do you ever wonder why Ichiro went from being a .261 hitter to a .322 hitter in the very same season?  Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that he went from a Loser to a Winner?  Do you think that maybe, just MAYBE, playing on a GOOD team, surrounded by GOOD players, might make it easier for one’s peace of mind?  Instead of focusing on how everything sucks, you can focus on a stretch run for the playoffs.  Instead of being faced with the burden of trying to carry an entire franchise on your back, you can just go out and play baseball like a kid again.

It goes both ways.  You know why there are so many under-the-radar type of free agent guys who go on to have some serious success?  Because they are signed without hype, without expectations.  They can go out on a 1-year deal, play their hearts out, and try to earn that next big deal the following offseason.  It’s not sexy, but the risk/reward ratio is phenomenal!

Obviously, I’m not saying we should go out and sign 9 more Jason Bays.  But, there’s a middle ground in there somewhere.  Guys who are younger and more spry than Jason Bay, but who aren’t necessarily big-name albatrosses like Josh Hamilton.  Can we get a couple of THOSE?  I guarantee we’ll end up happier in the long run.

Mariners 2011 Season Overview: Felix Hernandez

I’m probably NOT going to do one of these on every player, but this will be a running theme over the next month or so.  I figured, if we’re going to look back on the team that was, we might as well start at the top.

Felix Hernandez has been on a tear.  Over the last three seasons – when the Seattle Mariners FINALLY let the King rip to his full potential – these are just a smattering of his numbers:

2009:  238.2 IP, 71 BB, 217 K’s, 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 19-5 record
2010:  249.2 IP, 70 BB, 232 K’s, 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 13-12 record
2011:  233.2 IP, 67 BB, 222 K’s, 3.47 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 14-14 record

To start, he’s not just giving you 200 innings every year, he’s huffing and puffing and blowing 200’s house in!  He’s giving you well over 200 strike outs while doing a great job of otherwise keeping guys off the base paths.  His traditional numbers are excellent and his sabermetric numbers are elite level.

Still, it’s plain to see that there was something a tad off about his 2011 season.  And I’m not just looking at an uptick in ERA to come to this conclusion.  You could just SEE it out there, with your eyes, Felix wasn’t the same Felix he was last year.  And I find that somewhat odd.

I don’t remember many, if any, games where he was that dominant force down the stretch in the later innings.  Remember those?  Games where he’d give up a cheap run in the first inning, then mow them down for the next eight.  His change up getting nastier and nastier with each passing inning, as if the sweat dripping from his right hand gave the ball magical bat-avoiding powers.  Instead, it seemed like Felix was a little more mortal this season.  He would tire in the later innings.  Laboring on the mound, reaching deep into his aresnal to find the perfect pitch, ultimately watching in horror as that pitch didn’t do what he wanted it to do.

I remember a lot of cheap runs coming LATE in ballgames this year.  I won’t say it looked like Felix was giving up out there; I’m just saying he didn’t exactly look otherworldly as he had in 2009 & 2010.

It says on his stat line that he had 5 complete games, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you that any of them stood out.  And it’s not like Felix is Mr. Shutout or anything, but he ends the season with 0.  In fact, there was only one game all season where he left with the other team having scored 0 runs (actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not, I bet the bullpen let inherited runners score a time or two).  In 2009 & 2010, I remember Felix posting 0’s left and right!  Maybe not complete game shutouts, but he’d go 7 or 8 with 0 runs scored for the other team.

His best month of 2011 was August, but it’s not like you can look at that – or any other stretch of quality games – and say that he was truly DOMINANT.  Remember in 2009, after the month of May when Wak laid into him about giving up stolen bases and overall being a leader?  Remember his month of June in 2009 when he gave up 4 earned runs?  FOUR!  In nearly 40 innings, he allowed FOUR earned runs.  Or that September when he gave up 7 earned runs in 46+ innings?  Or in August of last year (plus his first start in September) when he gave up THREE earned runs in over 50 innings pitched?  Those were some dominant stretches of baseball.  Dominant stretches we never quite got to see this year.

So, what is our answer to the question of Why?  He gave up a few more hits than the last couple years, but he still walked slightly less.  His number of home runs given up is only 2 more than last year; there doesn’t appear to be anything mechanically wrong with him.

Most people want to blame a lack of focus because he’s on a terrible team.  I COULD buy that, except for two very important reasons.  First, he was on a terrible team last year and that seemed to only fuel his fire to get his first Cy Young Award all the more.  He needed perfection night-in and night-out last season and that quest only made him better.  Second, these Mariners WERE in contention through June.  And yet, Felix’s numbers through June were pretty much what they are now at season’s end.  Good, not great.

If nothing else, Felix has been steady this season.  There were never any real big ups or downs with him.  He came out, he got his work in, he led by example, and he wasn’t dominant.  But, even still, Felix is so talented – so breathtakingly talented – that him at his sub-par is still a sight to behold.  If one pitch doesn’t seem to have any life on a given night, he can reach for 3 or 4 other pitches to carry him through to the quality start.  And when he IS on (like that 13-strikeout, 0-walk game against San Diego back in May), he will punish you and make you wish you’d never even HEARD of the game of baseball.

The only reason I can come up with, like an itch in my brain that can’t be scratched because it’s entirely conjecture, is that Felix was one man on a mission in 2009 and 2010.  The Mariners let him off his leash, let him push his talents and his body to the limits, in that quest for the first Cy Young Award of his career.  2009 was a snowball rolling down a mountain after the month of May; unfortunately, Zack Greinke was just THAT much better than him.  2010 was a different story entirely.  That year was All-Felix All The Time.  He forced the Baseball Writers to vote for him in spite of a VERY pedestrian win/loss record by the simple fact that he WAS the best pitcher in baseball; numbers be damned.  You could just SEE it; like you could see Felix wasn’t All-Felix this year.

My point is, those two seasons may never come around again for Felix in a Mariners uniform.  Hell, they may never come around again for Felix period.  But, he went through a lot to get his hardware last year.  Two solid years of intense focus and back-breaking labor to grasp the prize that was so deservedly his.

Can you begrudge a man one hangover season, especially when that season is still very good compared to most other pitchers in the Major Leagues?  Let the man recharge.  Let him regroup his focus.  Let him come out next year and light the motherfucking world on fire like Sherman’s march to the sea.

One thing to keep in mind:  Felix appears to be pushed by greatness.  In 2009, Felix still had Erik Bedard on his team, as well as a rejuvenated Jarrod Washburn (for approximately half a season each); in 2010, Felix had Cliff Lee (again, for about half a season).  Those were established veterans having career years in the presence of the King; Felix HAD to assert his dominance over the rest!  In 2011, Felix was clearly the Alpha Male by a country mile; it wasn’t even close.  In 2012, though, Pineda will be in year two.  Will we see a guy who’s ready to push Felix back into that dominant role of Greatness we’re so used to seeing?

Count on it.

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 107

Friday’s game was pretty impressive.  Not only did we win (which in and of itself is a pretty rare and amazing feat nowadays), but we won by a whopping 6 runs!  AND we did it off of our mortal enemy, Zack Greinke, who I’m pretty sure until this weekend hadn’t given up a run to us in the last two seasons.  Well!  On Friday we bent him over and smacked that ass to the tune of 6 earned runs in 7 innings, including a home run by one Ryan Langerhans, who just might be the best 4th outfielder who absolutely never gets any playing time.  It’s almost criminal at this point how not often Jagerbombs gets to play.  OK, so maybe he’s batting in the low .200’s; but he’s getting on base in the high .300’s and shit, he’s only had 65 at bats or so!  Anyway, getting back.  This game wasn’t only unbelievable because of the win, the score, the opposing pitcher, or the best hitter of the game.  It also had a lot to do with Luke French, his 8 innings pitched, and his 1 run allowed.  Granted, this isn’t the same Royals team that batted their way to one of the top offenses in the AL; they’ve suffered a lot of injuries in the last month.  But still, Luke French did his job, kept the ball down, and did what he’s been doing in Tacoma all year.  You don’t know how he does it, because he doesn’t have overpowering stuff or that Cliff Lee command.  He just does it.  More often than not, in the bigs, he’s looked like John Halama rather than Jamie Moyer.  But, if he can just figure out a way to stay consistent, work on that change up a little more, and somehow keep an ERA in the 3’s, French could be a solid Number 5 starter.  If he can do that, if Fister can be our 4, and if Vargas can continue to be our 3, with Felix as the Ace and Pineda as a potential future number 2 …

A Paragraph With The Mariners – 16

I thought today’s edition was going to write itself. In fact, I went so far as to write one out yesterday before the game in anticipation of another losing road effort. Let’s face it, the odds were long. Zack Greinke – reigning Cy Young winner – vs. our offense. Ian Snell – he who’s hardly pitched at all this month, he who’s faced personal tragedy recently, he who’s battling an inner ear infection, he who’s all but guaranteed to be demoted to the bullpen in lieu of Cliff Lee returning (in spite of the fact that Ryan Rowland-Smith has yet to flash his late-season swagger) – vs. a pretty good-hitting Royals lineup. This had Recipe For Disaster all over it. And, to his credit, Greinke showed everyone exactly why he’s a Cy Young winner, going 7 innings of shut-out ball. I have no doubt he would’ve went all 9 innings had he not required a whopping 119 pitches to get through the 7. It’s tough to say we chased him from the game, but at least we made the most of our opportunity against their minor league bullpen. Boy did we need that. By the way, do you know what kind of odds you would’ve had to have given me if I bet – before this series started – that the Mariners would lose the Felix game and go on to win the Greinke game? I could’ve retired on that shit.