Friday, May 27, 2005

Pee-yew!

A sweep at the hands of the Orioles. Yes, I know that they are the first place Orioles, but still.

5 runs in 3 games. Not going to get it done. Really not.

The Mariners are 12th in the AL in OPS. They are also 12th in runs scored. The hometown nine have scored 3 runs or less 22 times thi year! Not surprisingly they are 1-21 in those games.

Now that Reed is heating up, Randy is going cold. The eight and nine spots are vast black holes of outs. Beltre and Boone continue to struggle.

The M's are 10 games under 500. How long before the kids come up?


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ya Putz!

I don't mean to pick on Putz, who has done a generally okay job this year, but 4 homers in 6 appearances is a bit much.

Presently, you would be better off bringing Norm Charlton out of retirement than letting JJ face a lefty. They're slugging 681 (in a pretty small sample size). Its like he turns every lefty into Reds slugger Adam Dunn, only without the walks. Thats not so good. Last year it wasn't quite so bad, although he did give up 8 homers to lefties and only 2 to righties.

I don't know if that means that you make a him a right-handed specialist (or ROOGY, Right-handed One Out GuY) but I think it does mean you can't let him face a lefty in a spot where a homer can beat you or tie the game.


Monday, May 23, 2005

Little League Day

Yesterday was Little League Day at the Safe, which I attended with the boy and some other members of his coach-pitch little league team. The cynic in me was expecting to have many opportunities to compare the boys seated around me to those in the home jerseys a considerable distance below me, but it turned out that the Padres resembled the little-leaguers Sunday. Well, they hit like them, anyway.

In between settling arguments about Gobstoppers, dodging flying popcorn, and intervening in battles where the combatants wielded swords improvised from rolled-up little-league day posters, I'll admit that I might have missed a few plays -- even a stray inning here and there.

But I'm pretty sure that was Aaron Sele (he-who-has-not-made-it-out-of-the-seventh-inning) who chalked up a CGSO. I don't recall anyone even making it to second. The man was in charge, and kept the hitters off-balance with a Moyer-like mix of pitches ranging in speeds from about 68 to 86.

"Hey -- those numbers are the same except for backwards!"

"Yeah. I know. Watch the game."

There was not even a moment where Sele looked like he was in any particular trouble. Twice in the first couple of innings the Pads (the "bad guys") had a runner on with one out. Both times they grounded into a double play. The second (3-4-3) was very nicely turned indeed.

This was not, unfortunately, a game that had any chance of holding the attention of first graders. I think I was asked an average of 7 times per inning what the score was. That number is pretty high considering how quickly the Pads came and went every inning, and that there were no trips to the mound to calm Sele down, pinch him, or otherwise remind him that he was pitching like very much unlike somebody who managed to win the 5th starter spot at the END of March.

Even so, somehow all the kids seemed to notice when Ichiro! came up to the plate. That's when they all lowered their weapons, held on to the popcorn, and began to chant. I-chi-ro! That is, until he got out, which he did all five trips to the plate. The kids were astonished. Ichiro! struck out. He ran as fast as he could and he got still out. Yet, from way up in the $10 section, Ichiro! didn't look all that angry. This was tough to accept for kids whose eyes well up when they get forced out at third on a ground ball to the left.

But we won. So the kids went home happy, tired, full of sugar, and only a few bruises worse for the wear. Let's just hope the M's can keep pounding the wall with those deep line-drives. There were many. Of course, it would have been nice to see a few sneak over the wall, but us beggars...we shouldn't be choosers.


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ms beat Pads 5-3.

Quick Post on a Sunday AM. Back to back from Beltre and Big Sexxxy in the 6th inning last night. Who would have thought we'd have to wait until May 21st to see that? Other than the people who thought Sexy would be hurt all season. Like, say, me. Of course I also said yesterday that I thought Beltre was hurt and needed to go on the DL, so I'm not exactly Will Carroll over here.

On the other hand, Chris Snelling did get hurt in the Rainiers game last night. The severity is unpublished right now, but it looks like another bad break for the former M's top prospect. He was only hitting .404 while getting on base in a shade under half of his plate appearances (OBP: 484). So no big loss. Sigh....

Meche threw 117 pitches in 6 innings. Yowsa! He's over a hundred in his last 5 starts. He's not exactly what you'd call efficient is he?


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Another Loss, Bleah.

Ms go down to the Pads 6 to 1.

The positives: Um, well. Lessee. Okay Olivo hit his second bomb of the year. Over the last 7 days he's hitting .278 with the two homers. We could sure use him offensively. By the way, the M's did buy Pat Borders from the Crew of Brew. Here's hoping he doesn't play much.

Boonie went 2 for 4 to bring his average to 271. He's 14 for his last 34. He's only slugging .413 though, which would be his lowest since 1997. Ugh.

Putz pitched without giving up a granny.

And that's really it.

Tonight, Meche against Lawrence. Look for a high scoring affair.

Beltre hit the ball hard a couple of times, but he looks hurt to me. I'm officially predicting a DL stint here in the near future, to try and get his hammy happy. Happy Hammy, Happy Hammy. Say it with me!

Next week I'll have a two-part 1/4 season report card. Expect some bad grades.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Revenge in the Sixth

A long time ago in a baseball galaxy far, far away ...

Back in 2001, the Mariners' unofficial slogan was "two outs ... so what?" due to their penchant for comeback victories regardless of inning, situation or score. The joyride ended in the A.L. Championship Series, but the memories of that magical season are something Mariner fans will always cherish. Expectations were ultimately unrequited, but they were higher than this franchise had ever seen, by a longshot.

What a difference four years makes. Venturing to the Safe tonight, my personal expectations were discouragingly low. The M's had just lost two in a row to the Yankees, the second game a dispiriting 6-0 whitewash in which our greatest amusement came from the stunned look on a New York fan's face (along with a "that's just wrong" quip) when we repeatedly shouted the Big ... Sexy! chant. Saddled with the third worst record in the American League, the M's faced a brooming by the surging Yankees. A look at the Mariners' lineup for tonight's game seemed to confirm the inevitability of the sweep:

Ichiro
Winn
Ibanez
Big Sexy
Boone
Reed
Dobbs
Olivo
Valdez

Ugh. After the first five hitters, you have a no-power rookie hitting sixth, followed by three baseball equivalents of the conventionally-theorized galactic black hole (instead of no light escaping the densely-packed mass, it's no base hits) hitting 7-9. Meanwhile, the evil empire Yankees arrogantly boast a $200 million payroll with arguably four potential cleanup hitters interspersed throughout the lineup -- and that's without their second-best home run hitter (Tino Martinez), who had the night off. One could almost hear the booming Darth Vader theme as New York sent its stormtroopers to the plate.

Da da da, da da-dah, da da-dah ... one-half inning in and it's already 4-0, Empire. I start making mental notes about the drive home and imagining with guilty pleasure Moyer retiring. Aside from my bellicose "BOOOOOOOOOOO!" upon A-Rod's arrival to the plate in the first (making two teenage girls in front of me jump and cover their ears), this has been a joyless beginning to yet another dreary and seemingly inevitable M's loss. Where did that magical 2001 team go, the one that epitomized "two outs ... so what?" A long time ago, in a baseball galaxy far, far away ...

The gloom diminishes in the bottom of the first as Ibanez and Boone plate a run apiece, narrowing the lead to 4-2. My wife turns to me and astutely says, "At least it's a game now." I nod my head, saving my pipes for another salvo at A-Rod in an inning or two. In the third, hopes diminish again as the Yankees score twice. Now the game seems out of reach. I'm thinking about changing my 401k contributions while simultaneously annoyed that I'm not getting my money's worth out of the free tickets I received.

In the fifth, Olivo and Valdez ground out quickly. If some doltish fan had stood up and shrieked, "Two outs ... so what?" I might have turned around and taken a swing. This is the 2005 Mariners, not that historic 2001 club. Two outs ... so what else is new? is more like it.

But the M's rise off of the mat in the fifth inning and score twice on three straight hits (Ibanez's double scoring Ichiro and Winn) to trim the lead to 6-4. My mind momentarily drifts away from my daydream about dumas as I watch with renewed interest. Big Sexy skies out to center to end the inning (evidently uninspired by our Big ... Sexy! chants), but at least there's a pulse.

And then the pivotal sixth inning rolls around. Boonie flies out to right to start the inning. Reed works Tanyan Sturtze for a walk, and then Greg Dobbs predictably pops out. Hey, it's two outs. They've already used up about a month's worth of two-out rallies just one inning ago. No way they're doing it again. If Tad's around, I'm betting a buck at 10-1 odds against it. Maybe 100-1. Heck, I might even think about 1,000-1. It ain't happening. Maybe I should head toward the bathroom now and avoid the rush. Two-thirds of the black hole troika are due up in Olivo and Valdez. Two outs ... so what else is new? The evil empire is about to crush the rebellion.

Only this time, the empire hands the blueprints to the Death Star to the rebels themselves. Olivo strikes out but the ball gets past Posada and he reaches first base. Valdez then strokes a single to right that scores Reed and when Sheffield's throw hits Olivo, he scores. We're tied! Down by four runs twice to the hated Yankees and now it's anybody's ball game. Mariner pitchers hold the Yankees in check for the next two innings and, completing the remarkable comeback, the M's score in the eighth on a Reed double and an Olivo single. 7-6, Seattle! The crowd goes wild.

Sans Eddie Guardado, Jeff Nelson and Ron Villone do their best collective Jose Mesa impressions (two hits and two walks, combined, in two innings of work) but do not give up a run, preserving the improbable Mariners' victory. With the win, the M's split the six games against the A.L. East's two preseason powerhouses. Let's see ... 37,000 plus at the Safe, a thrilling 7-6 win over a stud Yankee team, improbable heroes and two-out rallies. When was the last time we saw that?

A long time ago, in a baseball galaxy far, far away ...


M's Win!

A win! A come from behind one at that! Stankees go down 7-6. A few thoughts:

1. That was a great slide by Reed in the 8th. He shows Pay-Rod the right hand then sneaks around with the left. Alex then clearly pushes him off of the bag while keeping the glove on him, which the umpire ignores. Its much too late for me to check the official rules tonight, but I will.

2. Olivo was so pumped after his game winning single in the 8th. That was a serious fist bump he gave first base coach Carlos Garcia.

3. As bad as it has seemed the last couple of nights, the M's are 3-3 on the homestand so far. If they can get 2 out of 3 from the Pads this weekend you would have to call it an unqualfied success.

4. Congrats to Eddie on offspring number 3, but if that means Nellie and Villone are closing games, then hurry back soon! Scary, scary.

5. Favorite random Fairly line of the night. Jamie throws a ball a foot outside to Tony Womack. Red says, "The Yankees have home run hitters up and down the order, if you miss, you want to miss off the plate." Womack has no home runs this year. For his career, he hits a home run every 134 at-bats. I think it'd be safe to get a little of the plate.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

May 17 Live Game Report

Another day, another loss to the the Crankees. Bleah.

What was up with the umpire not giving Ichiro time? Hargrove, despite not being thrown out, showed more emotion there than Bob Melvin did in two years.

Fun exchange with some non-drunk Yankee fans.
Tad: Lets go Big Sexxxxxy!
YF: Wait a minute guys...
Tad and Walt: Big. Sexy! Big. Sexy!
YF: That's not his nickame.
Other Yankee Fan: Actually it is.
YF: He can't be happy about you guys calling him that though.


Viva Mexico!

I'm off to Mexico, where I'll catch at least one game involving the newest farm club for MLB, the Diablos Rojos.

That also means a couple of weeks without feeling the compulsion to listen to Rick Rizzs, Dave Valle, Dave Henderson, or Ron Fairly.

Good times.

As I fly away, did anyone notice that Olivo credited Kevin Millar (and not Tad) for his hitting renaissance? We should have the Red Sox in town more often!


Ominous moves

Ignoring for the moment the M's 6-3 loss to the Spankees last night, every single note in the PI's notebook bodes poorly for the future, in my humble opinion.

The M's are looking for a backup catcher, which is fine, Rivera should be playing somewhere everyday. The candidates are Benito Santiago, which would be okay for the minimum, or Pat Borders. Borders! Are you kidding me? The guy is 42. Gillick is gone right? I don't see the fascination with Pat Borders.

They mention three other candidates, Greg Myers, Jamie Burke and Ben Davis. I think we've played the Ben Davis game before right?

Other notebook notes were that Sherrill went back to T-town after only one game and Campillo was brought up to pitch in long relief. So much for the hopes that Sherrill would be the lefty specialist and Villone and Thornton would pitch in long relief. I am guessing that Campillo is around as Sele/Mateo insurance also though. Didn't Bavasi say on TV that Sherril didn't belong in Tacoma?

Finally, Spiezio is on the way back and Hargrove is "not sure" about whether Bloomquist is being considered as a full-time shortstop. Bad and bad.

Maybe I'm just crabby after JJ gave up his second slam in 3 days. Again, he didn't load the bases but jeez.


Monday, May 16, 2005

May 15 Live Game Report

Lucky enough to be there for the M's taking the rubber game of the 3 game series with Boston. Fun game, some good hitting by the M's, Meche pitched okay, not great. The Ortiz-ManRam tag team has to be the toughest twosome in the AL doesn't it? Its hard to pitch to those two with runners on without them doing some damage.

Couple of random comments from the game:

Olivo's back! After dogging him in his first two at-bats (not heckling him mind you, just quietly remarking to my brother-in-law, "This guy hasn't had a hit in May!"), Olivo responded with an infield single and a home run. I will continue to dog him before every at-bat the rest of the way, as he later doubled.

Lots of Sox fans but it wasn't overpowering, like say, attending a game against the Blue Jays in the late eighties. Sundays used to be half price seniors day, and I swear I went to some games in Augusts and Septembers past, that were attended by my wife and I and about 4,500 Canadian senior citizens. Good times! Anyway, the Sox folks started about three "Let's Go, Red Sox!" chants, but they were all pretty quickly drowned out.

With a one-run lead, we saw Shiggy, Putz and Guardado. Yay! No sign of Villone or Nellie, not a whiff of Thornton. I'm not going to get too excited and assume it signals a sea change in reliever usage for Grover. Let's just say I've been burned before. But I will let myself get a little hopeful.

Finally, if you are the Dad of the little boy sitting next to us in section 127, I've got Josh's glove. Let me know where I can send it.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Pineiro for your thoughts?

Going into the season, the M's starting pitching certainly had its share of major question marks. Would Gil Meche take a step or two forward after an uneven previous two years of promise mostly unfulfilled? Could Jamie Moyer, at the Methuselah-esque age of 42, bounce back from arguably the worst season of his professional career? Was Ryan Franklin's 2003 season an aberration in an otherwise mediocre career? Could Aaron Sele use his veteran guile to fend off Father Time and post serviceable fifth starter numbers?

The only relatively sure thing, seemingly, was the powerful right arm of Joel Pineiro. Sure, he tanked with the rest of the team in 2004 and experienced arm troubles that shelved him in July for the remainder of the year. It wouldn't be correct to say that he was absolutely a lock to return to his form of 2002 and 2003 where he notched a combined 30-18 record with successive ERA's of 3.24 and 3.78, struck out about 6.5 batters per nine innings pitched (walking about 2.5 per nine innings) and held down opposing batting averages to right around .250. However, after nine months of rest and rehab and despite tightness in his shoulder during March and early April, there was no reason to believe that Joel couldn't resume his rise toward stardom. Just 26, Pineiro was a solid number two starter that was expected to develop into a staff ace over the next couple of years. If the baseball world wasn't his oyster, it was at least his Alaskan King Crab.

Pineiro displayed a more surly form of crabbiness yesterday after learning that he'd been sent down to Tacoma to work on his mechanics after yet another inauspicious start on Saturday. When asked to comment about the move, Pineiro pointed in the direction of Grover's office and said, "Go talk to them. I've got nothing to say."

Nothing is the operative word in that terse statement, as Joel has shown just that so far. His stat line borders on the horrific: 38 2/3 innings pitched, 48 hits (opponents' batting average: .306), 4.89 K/9, 1.62 K/BB and a 2-3 record. Hitters are slugging at an unbelievable .516 clip against him. Their OPS? A staggering .878.

As much or more than a 30/100 season from Beltre or Big Sexy, the Mariners need their erstwhile ace-to-be to return to form and display the stuff that he showed in his first few seasons with the club. Perhaps he is still recovering from his arm troubles, although the team was quick to state that his demotion was not due to health reasons but instead problems with his mechanics. I think we all agree that the Mariner boatload of young pitching arms, at one point heralded as one of baseball's best, has been listing badly in the past few years. We can ill afford to have a sure-thing like Pineiro go down with the ship as well.


Barometer

Today's game takes us through six weeks of play, which is just shy of one quarter of the season. To be sure, there is still plenty of time left in the season, but it might be worthwhile to take stock of where our 2005 Mariners are at.

From the plate, the Mariners are second in the AL West in runs scored/game, trailing Texas by nearly a run per game, but leading Oakland by the same margin, and leading LAAAAAA by about 1/3 run per game. With the exception of Texas, though, the entire division is below the AL average.

We are also second in the West in preventing runs, behind only Orange County in runs allowed per game. Lest that seem too positive, the Ms, Rangers, and As are all hovering around 5 runs allowed per game, while the Angels are nearer to 4 than 5. So far this season, AL teams have allowed 4.76 runs/game.

These stats underscore that the entire division has performed extraordinarily poorly through nearly six weeks of play, which might give us some delusions that with proper planning, hard work, and some luck, our beloved Mariners are still in this race. I must admit that, between enduring "insights" offered by Hendu during last night's game (especially his illogical assertion that you cannot beat the Red Sox by putting up 8-run innings), I was impressed with Franklin's work. I'm sticking to the guarded optimism of this week's posts.

The starting rotation is currently a mess, with Aaron Sele demonstrating the folly of relying on replacement-level talent in the rotation, Pineiro mysteriously looking for his lost velocity and talent in Tacoma (it's not there, Joel), and Jamie Moyer enduring a miserable stretch that once again has us questioning whether he's aged beyond his expiration date. Meanwhile, all we need say about the state of the offense is that we're lamenting the injury to Wiki Gonzalez.

Given the state of the roster, I'm not particularly confident that any Mariners are currently underperforming in massive fashion. I suppose we have to figure that Olivo can't keep hitting as badly as he has, while Jose Lopez is back on the field in Tacoma, so perhaps there is some chance of bringing him up at some point. Beltre will likely put up more impressive numbers eventually, given how he's stinging the ball without the best of results. Still, none of the likely improvements are that substantial. Meanwhile, Big Sexy's continued health and power is wonderful, but with the potential to decline.

All told, 2005 is not up to the same level of despair as was 2004, but it is certainly challenging to remain optimistic about this club. Fear not, Mariners. We'll continue to love you even if you play like the Devil Rays. But would it kill you to play like a major league team?? Would it???


M's have a plan??

Okay first the bad: M's lose to Boston 6-3. Putz will get the goat horns for the grand slam he gave up to Trot Nixon, but Ron Villone loaded the bases to set it all up. As I have complained before, Ron Villone should not be being used to protect one run leads. Obviously his use in the blowout on Friday was just getting him work, not a move to the mop-up role.

More bad news: Wiki Gonzalez, who had single handedly rejuvenated the M's catching position, strained a muscle and will likely go on the DL. I know Wiki wasn't the answer at catcher, but it was fun to get a couple of hits here and there wasn't it? Would the M's bring up Ryan Christianson at this point? Probably not. I'm guessing Rene Rivera.

Good news/bad news: Joel Piniero gets sent down to Tacoma to work on his mechanics. Apparently there is some sort of flaw in his delivery that BP can't fix, so they are sending him down to work with the Rainiers' piching coach. Sherrill comes back up, Mateo gets a start.

Part of me is frustrated that they are picking on Joel instead of Aaron Sele. I'm also bewildered that the big league pitching coach KNOWS whats wrong with Joel but can't fix it. Remember when BP was a rising star? Seems so long ago doesn't it???

The encouraging thing is that the M's seem to have a plan for all of this instead of just reacting. They clearly have been lengthening out Mateo for the last week or so, having him pitch a couple of multi-inning outings to get ready to make a start. Instead of just letting Piniero continue to get knocked around, they have some specific things for him to work on. All encouraging. We'll see if it works out.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hiya Grover!

Is it possible that Mark Hargrove reads this site? After criticizing his bullpen usage in my last post, there was Mateo pitching with M's down by only one run in Friday's 14 to 7 victory over Boston. An lo and behold, Julio held the Bosox down until the M's rejuvenated offense could complete the comeback! Nice managing skip!

It got even better as Villone came in for mop-up duty! The role he is most suited for. Of course he gave up a run, but that's why it should be his role.

Between the offense and the pen we are just going to ignore the face that another Mariner starter got shelled and couldn't even make it 5 innings despite a being handed a bunch of runs. Yep, we're ignoring it.

And, uh, Grover, if you're listening, Bloomquist and Dobbs are killing you off the bench and Aaron Sele is D-O-N-E.


I want to believe

I really do. I want to believe that the general difficulties of all of the AL West teams has kept the Mariners meaningfully close to first. I want to believe that last night's 14-7 destruction of the world champs is the spark that will kick off a solid streak of good baseball by our M's.

I want to believe.

If only we hadn't faced a whole series of crap minor league pitchers last night. If only the comeback hadn't followed Joel's own meltdown, requiring the bullpen to come in and pitch an outstanding game. (Yeah! Bullpen!) If only that win weren't only number 14 of 35 tries.

I want to believe.

We have one more week in the death march to interleague play, and to get back anywhere near .500 by that point, Seattle now has to reel off five consecutive wins against Boston and New York. Ryan Franklin tonight.

I want to believe.

I'm putting on my fitted trident M's cap tonight to help exorcise the ghosts of Mariners past. I see news of the misfortune of division rivals and look for a glimmer of hope. Pitchy Rich Harden, injured? Claw ahead of Oakland?? Check. Angels haunted by identity crisis that prevents them from running away from the pack?? Check. Texas sucks?? Check.

I want to believe.

At least we're not in the old 1977-1993 era of the seven-team AL West. Then the White Sox would be running away from us, and instead of being 5 1/2 games back of the leader and in last place, we'd be 12 1/2 games out, and ahead of only the Tony Penaless Royals.

I'm grasping at straws here.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bullpen Follies

Here is the M's pen by ERA going into the Yankee series. Lets include some other stats as well.


Pitcher ERA K/BB Ratio BB ARP
Mateo 0.59 8.0 1 9.3
Putz 0.96 2.25 4 3.1
Shiggy 1.29 6.0 1 8.6
Villone 2.61 2.4 5 0.5
Eddie 2.77 3.7 3 -0.5
Nellie 3.68 2.0 5 -0.5
Thornton 4.05 1.46 11(!) 2.6

ARP is Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Runs Prevented stat (and it's through the first two games of the Yankee series). Interestingly though, all the stats more or less agree! ERA, ARP, even straight walks! The whole bullpen is actually pretty good, but there are three guys who by all of these measures and quite a few more, are clearly outpitching the other 4. Throwing Eddie out, because he is clearly the proven, veteran closer (ugh), the best three M's relievers have walked 6 men. The bottom 3 guys have walked 21!

So which guys pitched when we were down by 3 Wednesday and down by 5 and 3 Tuesday? The guys at the top of the list, Mateo, Putz and Shiggy. Who pitched when the game was on the line Monday and Wednesday? The guys at the bottom, Villone, Nellie and Thornton.

Grover is using the bullpen exactly the opposite of how he should. Exactly the opposite!! The best pitchers in the pen are pitching in the blowouts and the worst guys are protecting the leads! I'm not even arguing that Nellie and Thornton should be pitching somewhere else (which they should), just that they should be the ones pitching in the blowouts. Its not even that much of a stretch, they were the last two guys on the roster after all! Nellie was an NRI who just made the club and by all accounts the last spot came down to Thornton versus Sherrill. Your last two guys are your long relief, blowout guys!

Could I put in few more exclamation points?!?!?!?!??! Could I?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Zombies

I have not posted in a while, due to generally being swamped with non-baseball related matters. Alas. While away, I noticed that the Mariners suffered seven losses in a row.

Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, I need to blog more often.

It is still early, and some of the Mariner hitters are only just now showing signs of life (hello, Adrian Beltre). It is not the case that we're doomed just yet, particularly because we seem to have faced really tough pitchers in the first five weeks of the season.

Still, it is pretty difficult at this point to conceive of the M's becoming serious AL West contenders if they continue to give significant playing time to players who a) have only replacement-level talent and b) are not likely to improve by merit of that playing time.

Tad earlier suggested that we need to turn to desperate measures like Michael Morse, if for no other reason than to light a fire under the guys on the major league squad. I will admit, this team now FEELS like the teams of yore--you know, the ones on which Alvin Davis was THE big draw. Teams that gave us the excitement of OCD batters-box routines by Jim Presley. (Before OCD even meant anything.)

But we refuse to be undead fans. (Actually, if we do succumb to the temptation to be undead, then since we're Mariners fans, several H.P. Lovecraft tales provide some pretty interesting ocean/alien/undead kinds of models--so at least we can be INTERESTING undead fans.)

So, how do we kill zombies? First, we need Bruce Campbell. "It's a trick. Get an axe." Next, we need some perspective. It's still only the eighth of May. I think that it is obvious that the team's management is aware of the team's problems--which was not at all obvious this time in 2004. These are both encouraging signs, since there is plenty of season left in which to develop a winning 2006 ballclub, while shooting for some positive movement this year.

So I'll back off of my earlier opposition to Morse, on this basis: IF Michael Morse is viewed as a potential part of competitive Mariners clubs in the near future, then by all means call him up, even though I contend he's not ready yet. If Jose Lopez gets healthy and ready to play, call him up too. Shoot, trade Randy Winn for pitching and bring up Shin-Soo Choo for more than three plate appearances. Give Chris Snelling the major league audition he has earned. Plan, behind the scenes, to sign actual major league caliber middle infielders for next season. Plan further, behind the scenes, to fill out a rotation and bullpen with above average pitchers. There are precious few quality starting pitchers likely to be available on the free agent market this offseason, so beyond getting Pineiro and Meche healthy and carefully developing King Felix, this is likely to be the biggest problem area for Bavasi and company.

The next nine months are perhaps the most crucial for the Mariners' chances in the near term; I believe that we have the core of the next competitive club in Seattle, but we cannot afford to waste any time that Big Sexy is healthy, or that Adrian Beltre is still entering his prime years, if that club is going to come together. No zombies in the front office. Dave Hansen is not the answer to any question worth asking. Nor is Wilson Valdez, or Pokey Reese for that matter. As stopgaps, fine, but I am curious about the long-term thinking in the front office right about now.

The other way to kill zombies, of course, involves a mob, pitchforks, and torches. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.


Where's Hobbes when you need him?

Bad News on Calvin "Pokey" Reese. After getting a second opinion from Dr Andrews, they did surgery on the his shoulder. He's out til at least the All-Star break, and I would bet longer than that.

The question now becomes what do the M's do about the shortstop postion? Valdez is pretty clrealy not the answer. Not that I'm in to making judgements after only a month, but he's never shown much in the minors either. Lopez is still hurt, so he's not a solution.

Here's your options:
1. Willie F. Bloomquist: Career OPS: 644. Um, no.
2. Ramon Santiago: Career OPS: 600. Also hitting .236 with the Rainiers.
3. Michael Morse: 286/342/448 for Tacoma. Not a lot of power so far in AAA, but good average and patience. He hit well in AA last year (in between the two suspensions). Hmmmm.
4. Make a Trade.

Morse is supposedly brutal defensively, but the M's desperately need offense right now. Why not bring him up and go with an offense/defense platoon with Valdez? What's the harm? You start Morse's arbitration clock a little early? The pitching staff revolts from the bad defense?

This team needs a shake-up. Why not give it a shot?


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sayonara Dano

Dan Wilson suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday's game and was placed on the 60 day disabled list. He is almost certainly done for the season and he might very well be done for his career.

Danny has taken some heat in the local blog community as a guy the Mariners should have done without long ago. And while he has probably been overrated by fans and overpaid by management over his career, there are worse things a person could do than garner a few extra cheers and whole lotta dineiro for being a good guy.

At his peak (95-97) Willie was a .275 hitter, good for about 15 dingers a year (Gotta love Baseball Reference). Baseball Prospectus figures him to be worth about 5.5 wins a season over a replacement player over those 3 years, which ain't too shabby. It was often said that he wore down over the course of season but he only had one season of more than 140 games caught(1997) and only one other over 130 (1996). Over the last 3 years though, April was far and away his most productive month, with a 789 OPS (the next best month was August at 693).

I have wanted the Mariner's to supplant him as the starting catcher for the last couple of years for sure, but have been unable to call for him simply to go. As the last continous link to the 95 team (Nellie and Villone were on it as well) I will be a little sad if this is indeed the end of the line.

If it is the end, so long Danny Boy! Lets hope that by this time next year you've pushed Hendu right out of the broadcast booth.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Day in M's-ness

Another day, another loss. M's go down to the Angels again 5-2. Sele looked a lot like Franklin and Meche in the first two games, handing out walks and two run homers like it was Christmas in Anahiem. Or Los Angeles. Or Oxnard. Or whereever.

On the transaction front, Choo goes back to Tacoma after his 3 ABs in 14 days and Dave Hansen comes up. And immediately gets into the game. So just on that alone, Hansen is an improvement. At least Grover is willing to use him.

To make room for Hansen on the 40 man roster, Pokey had to go on the 60 day DL. So we won't be seeing him anytime soon. Incidentally Valdez is 98th out of 99 in OPS among guys with enough ABs to qualify for the batting title. He's narrowly beating out Aaron Boone 483 to 469. For the 10,000th time , I 'll say it: Valdez wasn't a bad pickup as far as freely available talent goes. But he shows the M's utterly misjudged the fragility of Mr. Pokey Reese and their lack of a backup plan for when he got hurt. Reese hasn't played a full season in a long time....


Argh!

Not a good day for the M's.

Lose to Angels again. Check.
Score less than 3 runs again. Check.
Madritsch still in a sling? Check.
Pokey seeing Dr. Andrews? Check.

Hey, at least Choo got his first hit.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Game Report May 2, 2005: Angels 5, M's 0

I know that the M's are better this year than last. I am grateful that they are improved. I think Beltre is going to be great. I am encouraged that Sexson's shoulder hasn't disintegrated in the first month.

All that being said, much of last night's game felt like Mariners baseball circa 1983. or 1992. The completely dead crowd, the peculiar thump of foul balls landing on empty seats, the unmistakably loud cheering of the scattered Angels fans. It was pretty bad.

The crowd did go crazy for Ichiro's catch in the seventh, giving him a prolonged standing ovation and pretty solid I-chi-ro! chant. The crowd stood again at then end of the inning to salute Ichiro as he came into the dugout. One thing about crowds of 24K, they are usually pretty solid baseball fans, who know when to cheer. As opposed to the usual Opening Day Yahoos who only clap when the screen tells them to.

The catch was amazing by the way. If you havent seen it, Ichiro climbs up the fence and hangs there with his leg and off arm, before spearing the ball a good two feet above the wall and falling to the ground. Some of Junior's wall climbing antics may have been better, becuase Ichiro did have a little time to think about this one, but basically he was Spiderman out there. Great, great, catch.

Franklin was terrible, walking 5 in 5 innings. The only other excitement was provided when one drunk Angels fan was removed by the cops and promptly pitched forward in aisle, falling pretty hard. Not a good plan to take a tumble when the cops come to get you by the way. Later another shirtless fan hopped on to the field and made a good show of it before being tackled by security. The security guy would have a shot making the Seahawks by the way, which I know isn't all that impressive.

Finally we had a Shin-soo sighting as Choo got to bat in the ninth. I was slightly befuddled by the guy behind us screaming, "Jimmy! Jimmy!" as Choo hit, but he looked, well impatient. And who wouldn't be when your last at-bat was 11 days ago?