M’s Win but Lose

When is a win not a win? When it highlights the inadequacy of the young core of the team and shows our reliance on washed up vets (and Kendry Morales- who is awesome)

Baker made a quite eloquent Debbie Downer post on the subject, hidden behind his paywall, so I won’t link it or reference it here other than to say much of his analysis aims arrows at M’s personnel and development staff. 

But you know what- The M’s hit 3 Homeruns  1 with runners on base, they whooped a pitcher who had had his way with our poor lineup the last few times out and Aaron Flippin Harang through a CG 4 hitter… Let’s take a minute, shoot down a porcine that has taken wings, make a BLT and celebrate the day.

 

Side note: I am going to take 2 weeks, working sporadically, on this blog as my Masters program is kicking my arse.

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As the Roster Churns

Mariners win! Mariners win! Mariners win!

Talk about your nail biter, despite multiple opportunities for the M’s to blow this one. The team managed to persevere struggle through and eek one out. A couple things struck me, 1) the Rangers are a pretty amazing baseball team, that offense is legit, even the strugglers that are hitting poorly can hurt you. They have legitimate bats on the bench, as the Mariners were trotting out Carlos Triunfel,the Rangers send out AJ Pyrzienski. Those two players are just a bit different, which one would you rather have batting with the game on the line?

Now let’s be real, the M’s and the Rangers are in two different places, but still the disparity is pretty evident. This 8 game slide and the injury to Saunders earlier this year really highlighted the lack of depth on this team and in this organization.

Rumors swirling, this Monday 5/27, that Nick Franklin will be arriving from Tacoma with Dustin Ackley going down to “find his smile”. Best case scenario here is Franklin becomes an all-star, Ackley finds his swing and with Franklin ripping the ball, would transition to the OF. You ask why not leave Ack at 2B, move Franklin to SS? Well, Franklin can play SS but he is not a SS, nor is he the SS of the future, that would be Mr. Miller in Jackson (or Tacoma by is point). Your best case scenario improves the M’s offense at 3 positions as fully potentialled, Franklin is an upgrade from Ackley, Miller upgrades Ryan, and Ackley offers an upgrade over Ibanez/Bay/Morse quagmire in LF.

Now nothing is guaranteed, but getting 2 of those 3 to pan out is absolutely critical for the M’s. Failure to develop these high draft picks could cripple the Mariners rebuilding plans for the foreseeable future. The Bavasi era of drafting ruined our minor league system, bad signings, bad drafting and losing a first round pick to sign Chone Effing Figgins. Trader Jack has restocked the minors but these prospects have to pan or we will endure a cycle of suck forever.

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Day Off: M’s Don’t Lose

This just in MLB hates all of us here in SE Alaska how else do you explain the last 9 game stretch for our M’s. Nine game road trips are not all that unusual but given the brutal early season schedule for our M’s 9 games in 3 different time zones seems a bit harsh. We already know the M’s will log more frequent flyer miles than any other team but MLB does little to even out the travel disparity.

msLook at April’s schedule for example. Yes the M’s had 16 home games balanced against 13 road games, but in the span of 30 days they had 5 time zone changes traveling from central to west, due to a scheduling quirk, without the benefit of a day off. MLB clearly is doing Seattle no favors. now it’s possible the travel will even itself out as the year goes on but it seems unlikely to change all that much. So what does this mean?

Houston’s inclusion allows for a Texas/Houston road trip, where in previous years those road trips were invariably Texas- then Det., Chi, KC road trips. (photo credit: wikipedia.com)

Well for starters we can’t lose a series to Houston. Those were supposed to be our cupcakes that were to add to our win total. Dropping the third season of the season to a team currently on pace to challenge for the title of worst baseball team in the HISTORY of the game is unacceptable on so many levels. Moving beyond that I know this is a young team but guys need to get used to this, the perks of living in SE Alaska is people have to travel to us. In 95 it had an effect on New York, used to commutes to Boston and Baltimore, they had to board their charter for the 4+ hour flight losing 3 hours of time with the time zone change as well. The M’s need to capitalize on their home field, and keep their heads afloat on the road.

Houston coming to the AL West helps, now if we can get MLB to send us to our hated rivals, the Padres or those Dodgers in L.A. instead of Pittsburgh maybe we can save ourselves a cross country flight or two. At any rate it can only get better form here playing 29 games in 30 days in April could theoretically allow us a few more days off as the year progresses. Talk to Pete and see what the Hawks are doing to cope with the travel and copy them.

This is Captain Felix speaking we will be cruising at 3,000 feet.
(Photo Credit: @realKingfelix)

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Montero Tacoma Bound

The first of many dominoes resulting from the 6 game losing streak that saw the M’s go from 1 game under .500 to  now 7, 10 games out of first, has fallen. Jesus Montero was optioned to AAA Tacoma, with Jesus Sucre the Raniers’ part time backstop headed to Seattle, presumably to be Kelly Shoppach’s back up and part timer behind the dish. Coinciding with this is The Mariners moving Brandon Bantz from AA Jackson to carry the catching load in Tacoma with heralded prospect Mike Zunino.

What does this mean?

Montero’s catching days appear to be over. (photo credit: cbssports.com)

With Montero going down, and another catcher coming up from AA, his days behind the plate are effectively over.  He’s in Tacoma to learn to play 1B and hit the ball, hopefully well and hard. Somewhere between Columbus (NY AAA affiliate) and Seattle, Montero lost his swing- he needs to find it because he will be the 1B/DH of the future if he can fulfill the potential he has shown. The apparent power play between management and coaching is seen in Montero. Who wanted him in the line-up everyday? Was it Wedge that thought he “could” be an everyday catcher or was that belief held above the field general’s head. Whatever the issue was, it’s gone now, as his catching days swill be few and far between. Best case Scenarios moving forward: Carlos Delgado, as many on the twitterverse have noted went from bad catcher to a 1B/DH and mega superstar. Ibanez quit catching and all of a sudden became a legit MLB hitter. The effect not playing 9 innings in a crouch has on Montero’s core  strength and power will be intriguing, time will tell if he can be the hitter we all thought he could be.

Another observation, Zunino is not yet ready. His torrid pace has cooled and some holes in his swing have been exposed as he is no longer being challenged with fastballs down in the zone, instead being force-fed a steady diet of breaking balls, and high heat. He is beginning to adjust, but this time last year he was walking the grad line in Gatorland, to be headed to the major’s- one year removed from college- is a lot to ask of the young man.

This is the first move will it be the last? Ackley struggling! Ryan and Andino are automatic outs at the plate! Franklin and Truinfel are they ready? Who can take the ball after Hernandez and Iwakuma?

Montero going down is the first and most obvious move but what is next? That one move will not get the M’s back to the promise land, what’s next?

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The Seattle Mariners Ring of (Dis)Honor

Was engaging a few Seattle fans in the twitterverse on the Aaron Harang and his place on the Chone Figgins Scale of disdain (Kudos to @alexSSN and @seattlevandal for the discourse that led to this posting). So without further adieu I present the:

THE SEATTLE MARINERS RING OF (DIS)HONOR

Chone Figgins

Figgins throws his hands in the air and cashes yo check like he just don’t care (phot Credit: Mynorthwest.com)

Chone Figgins is a caustic, overpaid, contemptuous, little bastard. Barry Bonds was a caustic, contemptuous, big bastard. So while one is beloved by his team’s fans the other  is basically the gold standard for wasted money and time. So why do M’s fans hate Figgins so much? Hailed as the catalyst that would take the oh so close Mariners of 2008 to contenders Figgins instead struggled to hit his weight, an ignominious charge given his slight frame. We Mariner fans have put up with more than our fair share of poor performances, what set Figgins apart was his hefty price tag, four years and 36 million, and then his demeanor when asked to accept responsibility for his poor performance, Figgins mea culpa was to throw everyone but himself under the bus. For his poor performance and general dickheadedness Figgins will forever be (Dis)Honored here.

Bobby Ayala

Bobby Ayala Blows yet another save to nail down his spot. Unitl Figgins he was the most hated Mariner EVER (Photo credit: Seattle Times)

People forget that Bobby Ayala was once good. int he strike shortened season of 1994 he was lights out saving 18 games but it was pretty much down hill from there. His penchant for blowing games in breathtaking and excruciatingly horrific ways made him reviled in Seattle Fandom. Until Figgins he held the place of (Dis)Honor as most hated Mariner ever. As with Figgins for Ayala it was his demeanor off the field that separated him from the average crappy mariner player. Presumably pissed off at his own incompetence and fueled by alcohol, he once broke a hotel window with his pitching hand (Seattle Times Archives) requiring stitches and a lengthy DL stay. Then, he was derided mercilessly for his anger issues, in hindsight we should have been thanking him, as his DL stint meant he would not be blowing any more saves that season. Another aspect of his sucktitude Management seeing his shortcomings in the miracle ’95 season Traded 2 promising prospects for a closer in Heathcliff Slocumb (we’ll talk about that trade later), Ayala bares the brunt of that trade as well as the trade of Jose Cruz Jr. to bolster the back-end of the bullpen. For his ineptitude and his anger, and those two factors gutting our farm system Bobby Ayala earned his spot in the Ring of (Dis)Honor.

Mario Mendoza

The Yankees have Murder’s Row- The M’s have a SS who can’t hit his weight  (Photo Credit: fangraphs.com

You don’t have to be hated to bring (Dis)Honor, as evidence i present Mario Mendoza. Mendoza has long since been the gold standard for offensive futility. The term Mendoza Line is a reference to Mario’s less than spectacular prowess at the plate, it came to light during the 1979 season when Mendoza who frequently dipped in the .170-.180′s  was flirting with .200 for most of the month of May, two teammates dubbed.200 the Mendoza line and at his become the standard in which Modern players are held. The Mendoza Line is a black eye for M’s fans struggling for legitimacy. As a M’s fan I like to think that the franchise really started in `92 when we trade Langston for Randy Johnson, The ancient history of the M’s is littered with clowns like Mendoza. But Mendoza is the only one that lives in the infamy of the modern game and for that, he earns his (Dis)Honor.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions

Heathcliff Slocumb- Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe- He had no control over who we were stupid enough to give up for him, and he did pitch well enough in ’95 to get us past the angels and into the post season But damn… Derek Lowe had pitched well in ’95 in spot duty and Varitek was regarded as the best catching prospect in the upper minors…

Bill Bavasi- Gutted the minors to save his job, signed high priced Fail Free Agents that cost us 1st rounders and is mostly responsible for the mess we are in right now. Traded Adam Jones for Bedard Signed Carlos Silva and Carl Everett, Scott Spezio- many of those high priced free agents costing us our 1st round pick. When we had 1st picks he picked poorly eschewing Hometown Tim Linncecum for Brandon Morrow since traded and mostly inconsistent.

Carl Everett- Dinosaurs man Dinosaurs

Alex Rodriguez: The Golden Boy- let’s be honest it’s rather surprising he signed with the M’s considering he  was a golden boy coming out of Miami, the reality is he chased the money. Never gave the M’s a legit chance to retain him, and gave lip service in terms of their chances. In the end if someone offered you a quarter of a billion dollars we’d all jump and soothe our chaffed morals with pocketfuls of cash. He does make the list because he has always been a bit of a prick.

Franklin Gutierrez’s Hamstring, Head, Shoulder, Quad, Knee, Digestive System: Man when he is healthy he is a pretty good player his various body parts make the list because for all of them we are deprived of perhaps the best defensive center fielder in the game today. He doesn’t see the field. Death to flying things was fun while it lasted and should have had a much longer run, just not fair.

Who is most deserving of their (Dis)Honor?

Who else belongs on the list? Does anyone need an upgrade from HM to full membership? Come up with your own!

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Another if I ran the M’s Post

When things aren’t going well you see the ever present and popular if I ran the M’s post crop up. All the beat writers and journalists from Drayer, to Stone (paywall be damned), to Baker- whom daily assumes the GM’s role, to the blogosphereites at USSMariner and Lookout Landing- everyone is calling for changes before the wheels come completely off this train. But is now truly the time to make changes?

This regime from day one has preached, pleaded and begged for patience. There was, and is, a vision Between M’s management in the office and management on the field. We were told to trust Jackie Z and he would rebuild it, re-tool it, and take us to the promise land. Patience! So what changes are being called for? Where has our patience worn pencil thin?

Looking at our problem areas we have Major problems at: C, SS, 2B, And then other assorted issues with: OF Defense, Timely Hitting, Perplexing Batting Order, SP 3-5, Bullpen Use and roles, and finally upper upper management (which is the root of  most of this mess, and countless other messes See: SODO Arena Sonics, and an article for later).

Montero’s lack of focus killed a M’s rally against Cleveland, his poor mechanics behind the plate also played a roll. (Photo Credit: Seattle Times)

Catcher: Jesus Montero is awful, his mechanics, footwork, framing, base-running, hitting, focus, pretty much everything he does at this point pisses me off. Getting Picked of second base during the Cleveland series to me was the straw that broke the camels back, you are right there you can see the pitch the bunt, everything is in front of you stop guessing and pay the fu…. sigh . I pretty much agree with everyone Zunino is not quite ready but he needs to handle 90% of the catching duties in Tacoma, if Montero is a First Baseman/DH  Fine send him down bring up Sucre, Let him catch one day a week to give Zunino a day off, explore trade options this off season, Montero is a young dude and has shown flashes of power at the plate but it’s not happening right now, Kelly Shop is superior in every facet save age, he should be getting the bulk of the playing time. I know the front office wants to appear as though we “won” the Pineda~Montero trade and if Montero is demoted it makes them look bad. The fact remains that Montero is not a major league catcher, at this point Montero is not a major league DH orfirstbaseman. He is certainly not better than the other options we have on this team.  VerdictChange

Frustration is mounting for both Ackley and fans. Would a trip to Tacoma right his swing and confidence? (photo Credit: MyNorthwest)

Second Base: A Lot of people see Ackley’s sub-par offensive numbers and are calling for his head, demote him ship him to Tacoma let him sort himself out down there. I’m not so sure, his average has come up quite a bit and I see a lot of the progression that Smoak has had in Ackley. Here is the dilemma with Ackley though, his BABIP (Batting Avg Ball ins Play) is .272 which seems low, He is swinging at a fewer % of pitches and is seeing a fewer percentage of strikes, yet his walk rate has gone down too. The stats (thanks fangraphs) lead me to believe he’s been just unlucky, however my eye leads me to believe he’s pressing, he knows he sees fewer good pitches to hit so the strikes he sees he’s swinging and making contact with those pitches (91.2% contact rate at pitches in strike zone which puts him middle of the league based on 100 PA). Ackley need to Swing the bat more his Contact rate is acceptable, stop being indecisive and let it rip his 37% swing rate is worst among all second basemen, trust yourself and let it rip the extra basehits will come and the average will take care of itself. I like moving him to the 2 hole, If Saunders can get on base Ack will see more fastballs, and they won’t want to walk him and have ducks on the pond for Seager, Morales, and Morse. Verdict: Stay the Course

Shortstop:  I love defense, I love Brendan Ryan, I wish Brendan hit like he played Defense. His recent road trip success has brought his average up to .178. I remember a scene from the movie “Little Big League .” When the fan favorite, but struggling hitter, hits a seeing-eye-single and the everyone from the manager to the bench is downright gleeful you know perhaps it’s time to look in another direction. The M’s have Options on the farm, if they feel like big league pitching will hurt Nick Franklin’s development, call up the potentially lower ceiling Carlos Triumfel to hold down the spot until he is ready. If not I see no reason why they should not make a move here. Both AAA guys are hitting and hitting well, they both play a passable SS, Penciling in pretty much an automatic out at the bottom of the order is a white flag, in fact much of Smoak’s recent offensive resurgence has been wasted as despite being on base for much of the last series the offensive suck hole that is the bottom 3rd of our order has failed to do anything in terms of run production. Verdict: Change

Nick Franklin SS of the future (Photo Credit: MarinerBlog)

Carlos Triunfel the former SS of the future, still better than the SS of the present. (Photo Credit: Zumbio.com)

As of right now these are the only changes I would make- Bonderman/Beavan for Harang is a sideways move at best, not sure I wouldn’t give Harang one more shot. If Erasmo was healthy that would be another story, I like our bullpen, their roles could be tweaked but those are minor, minor changes. I don’t think we need to blow a hole in the ship and start over. This team is capable of playing .500 ball and could challenge for a post season birth(at least be in the conversation), but we have to be patient, let the arms get up through he system to solidify the back end of the rotation, Zunino, Franklin, Brad Miller, supplementing developed Saunders, Montero, Ackley, and Smoak. That is the vision in management’s mind the question is do we have the patience to see it through, and do we have the personnel to carry out that vision.

What changes would you make if you were in charge of the M’s?

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Without a Villain: Optimism Reigns

Ok you win Mariners, you win, without Chone Figgins on the team I can’t revile you any more.

Mr. Happy still cashes his check

Sure I can bemoan Brendan Ryan and his abysmal contact rate. Sure I can wonder why it is Wedge continues to support Jesus Montero as the catcher of the future. For the record Mr. Wedge your catcher of the future is in Tacoma, his last names starts with a Z, and he actually throws attempted base stealers out. But the fact remains there is no villain on this team.

I’m not going to lie, Monday hurt! I wanted to be pissed at the Bartender, how do you drop that ball…. But damn that curve he threw to Cabrera … my jaw dropped more than the ball. I want to be annoyed with Smoak or Andino- could have been a better throw but I’ve seen Smoak pick that play time and again. Of course, then Smoak comes to the dish in the 10th and absolutely crushes that homer, plus Smoak is actually becoming a worthwhile baseball; player highest OBP on the team, he actually ranks 5th in the AL in that category. On an offense starved for runs getting him on base, and getting people in front of him on base for that matter,  is huge.

I want to be pissed the M’s were in 3 of 4 games in this series and lost everyone.  3 walk off losses- there are no style marks in the standings, we were one game back under .500 after the Yankee series and after the sweep we’re 5 games under. 7 games and we scored 35 runs, granted 12 came in one game, only shut out 1 game, we’re close.  Having suffered through the offensive ineptitudes of previous years this is progress, significant progress. This is a major league team, you play stupid they will hurt you.

Carter Capps is my new favorite reliever, love his moxie and poise, the fact that he throws really frickin’ hard too doesn’t hurt

I don’t know, I see the potential of this team, the bullpen could be absolutely unhittable at times. Oliver Perez channeling Luis Tiant throwing 95 mph smoke. Carter Capps started rough but ask the Yankees and Indians if that kid is legit or not? Carry it over to Willhelmson who touched 99 according to the broadcast Monday and was just plain unlucky. We have the bullpen arms, probably the best 1-2 punch this year in terms of production from starters , and a young and hopefully improving lineup. But it together and this road trips end 7-2 not 4-5.

I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, this team and it’s lack of villainy is one reason I bought the MLB.tv package. I’m hoping this is the start of something and I want to be there to see it happen. There is no one I hate here, every piece has redemption, every goat has earned his second chance. This is a team of hope and optimism still. So I watch from a far, let’s go m’s.

What are your thoughts? We headed fro good things or more of the same?

I lived the first 30 years of my life in the Pacific Northwest between Auburn, WA, McmInnville, Or, and then back to Ken, WA. I now reside in San Antonio, TX, but look longingly to return someday to the place I call home. I have been an M’s fan all my life. Still remember the historic March in ’95, have attended countless games in both the Kingdome and the Safe. Was blessed to be able to make it back up to Seattle in June of 2012 where I was witness to the M’s 6 Pitcher combined No Hitter- a game both My kids caught foul balls during BP. Currently planning to make the trip from SA to Houston in July for 2 of the 3 games of that series.

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