Saturday, April 29, 2006

Harbinger of Doom?

I usually think the M's manager is gone when Dave Niehaus turns on him. Dave works for the team and is usually pretty loathe to openly criticize mangerial decisions.

In the top of the seventh last night though, I think "Digital Dave" finally snapped. With one out, down 2 runs, Beltre reaches on a dropped third strike. Reed bunts. To move the runner into scoring position with two outs. With Betancourt coming up. Yep.

"Nooooooo!" Dave screams. "You need baserunners there!"

Two pitches later, you can hear the audible disbelief in his voice when: Beltre. Steals. Third. With two outs. Down two runs.

"And now, Beltre steals third. The throw is...not in time." Again, Dave's voice just drips with judgement. He's flabbergasted by it all. Especially when Yuni grounds out to end the inning.

In the fire Hargrove pool, I am now taking May 15th. When Dave turns on you, you are gone.

Monday, April 24, 2006

M's week in review: April 17-23

Well, that was ugly. 1-6 for the week, dropping the Patriot’s Day game to Boston in the bottom of the ninth, then 2 out of 3 to Texas and a sweep at the hands of the Tigers. If you are glass half full kind of fan, then 3 of the losses were by only one run and 2 more were by just two. On the half empty side, they were a ninth inning rally away from 0-7 for the week and scored a meager 18 runs in the 6 losses.

Their 88 runs are 11th in the AL (down 3 slots). Actually 11th in runs isn’t bad considering that they are 11th in OBP (.315) and only 13th in SLG (.382). Our boys do lead the AL in steals at 18 and are 5th in SB percentage at 75%. It only seems like they are getting thrown out half the time.

Betancourt was hot this week, hitting .438 for the week while slugging .625. Ichiro heated up also, posting a nifty OBP of .455. Jurassic Carl had a nice week (boo!) at 350/480/750, hitting the walk off homer in the Mariners only win. Bloomquist had 3 singles in 10 AB, delighting his fans. However his OBP of .273 and SLG of .300 for the week continue to prove just how inept he is at plate. Beltre also put up a nice avg of .333 for the week, but only slugged .375. So don’t call it a comeback. Sexson and Reed were terrible, Johjima and Lopez cooled off. All in all a terrible week.

On the pitching side, Washburn had a nice near complete game loss (albeit with only 2 strikeouts), Meche had a mediocre start against Boston where he gave up two taters in 6 innings and one Safeco start where he pitched just as bad, but kept the ball in the park against the Tigers. Joel and Jamie had a couple of unspectacular starts, but the big news is that the real King showed up this week. Other than his first two innings against Texas, Hernandez was brilliant, striking out 16 in his next 10 innings of work. Of course he did give up 7 runs total across the two starts, which with the M’s offense, was enough to earn two losses.

Soriano continues to dazzle in the pen, throwing 3 scoreless with 5 strikeouts. Sherril was good this week also, 3 scoreless with 4 strikeouts and Putz was pretty good too, 3 strikouts and one ER in his 3 innings. I’ve written about Eddie elsewhere, but the line is 1.2 IP, 4 runs, 4 K’s and 4 walks. Ugh. Woods and Mateo struggled also.

Finally the M’s made a curious move, designating Borchard for assignment to bring up Nageotte, who promptly gave up a 3 run bomb in his first inning of work. Why? Only one Mariner reliever pitched more than 3 innings last week, and he (Mateo) only pitched 4. Are you telling me that 3 innings is too heavy a workload?!? Hoyt Wilhelm is rolling over in his grave. I know that M’s are hoping that Borchard slips thru waivers and can play everyday in Tacoma, but bringing back the 12th pitcher is just silly, it really is. Borchard could have helped if they had played him, but instead we bring up a kid who walked 9 guys in 16 innings in AAA (while striking out only 8!), to rot in the end of the bullpen. Brilliant!

Next Week: 3 against the red hot White Sox, off day on Thursday, then 3 in Baltimore. And possibly they will trade Ichiro to make room for a 13th pitcher.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Its just two appearances, but...

Look every closer struggles from time to time. Except for Rivera maybe, but he's a freak. You can't get everybody out. It just doesn't happen. We just remember when closers struggle, because we usually lose the game.

So if Eddie rips of 10 saves in a row here, don't be surprised. Its really just two bad innings.

On the other hand, we are pretty sure that Eddie's shoulder is held together with safety pins and duct tape. Remember that he eschewed surgery on his rotator cuff and elected to just rest and rehab it. I can't remember anyone every successfully doing that with rotator cuff injury.

Eddie is lucky to get to 89 on the gun, this year his fastball has been in the 86-87 range. If he doesn't have pinpoint control, he's in trouble.

If this is the beginning of the end for Eddie, it'll be interesting to see how Hargrove handles it. It's not like he doesn't have options. Putz has been great so far and of course the people's choice would be Soriano. I'd rather see Soriano pitching multiple inning stints with the game on the line, than protecting 3 run leads in the ninth, but that's another topic. My guess is that Guardado's is going to have to pitch badly for a good long stretch before Grover makes a change.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A tale of two Felixes

I joined a reported 17,927 of my closest friends to watch the third start of our Chosen One, or as Fairly likes to call him, Young Felix Hernandez. I say "reported 17,927" because I would bet that there weren't 12 thousand there. Smallest crowd I've ever seen at the Safe, smallest crowd I've seen in 15 years.

Felix struggled with his control early. Even the outs he got were laborious. He was missing with breaking stuff and gave up 2 homers in the first two innings, to get down 4-0. Top of the third started the same way, 8 pitches to Teixeira for a double, 4 pitches to Nevin, single, 6 pitches to strike out Blalock, 7 pitch walk to Jimenez where he never thought about swinging.

Then suddenly he found it. Two breaking balls that just froze Wilkerson, a fastball out of the zone, a foul ball, and then pure 97 mph gas that Wilkerson couldn't catch up with. After that he was lights out, retiring the next six in order, three by strikeout. He had one two ball count in the last 7 batters, no three ball counts.

He took 22 pitches to go the last two innings after throwing 78 in the first 3. Suddenly he had command, movement and was getting his offspeed stuff over for strikes. He was the unhittable Felix of last season.

Hargrove handed the rest of the game away by watching Woods walk 5 guys in an inning and a third, then replacing him with ANOTHER lefty in Sherrill. He also let Bloomquist and Betancourt bat in the 8th down by three with Reed, Lawton, Petagine, and Borchard all sitting on the bench. Why even have a bench? Why not carry 15 pitchers and Bloomquist and just call someone up from AAA if a regular gets hurt?

Anyway here's hoping Felix figured something out and turned a corner last night or there are going to be a lot more tiny crowds from here on out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Mariners Week in Review: April 10-16

The Mariners ended the week 6-7. They've scored 63 runs, 8th in the AL and given up 61, 5th in the AL. It sure doesn't feel like the pitching is better than the hitting does it?

For the week they were 3-3 winning 2 out of 3 in Cleveland and losing 2 of 3 in Boston with one weird Monday game left to go (which they lost, but that's next week!). I would have to say that .500 in 6 days on the road is almost always a good thing for this team, especially in Cleveland and Boston, definite upper division foes.

For the week they hit .240 with just 4 homers. OPS for the week was .724 (.303/421). Fairly mediocre all the way around. They were led by Kenji Johjima who hit .368 and slugged .526 for the week and Raul Ibanez who hit .360 and slugged .600 (a pretty mean feat without a homerun). Jose Lopez slugged a sweet .629 for the week, belting a couple of homeruns. Jurassic Carl hit only .167 for the week but walked 4 times to post a respectable .333 OBP. Beltre continues to look lost out there (1 single in 22 ABs, yowch!) and Ichiro has started off slowly, hitting .167 for the week and only .185 for the year. I don't know about Beltre, he just looks awful, like he's a serious guess/mistake hitter at this point. I don't know what they were throwing him in the WBC, but I wish we could bottle it.

The pitching staff as a whole had a 4.53 ERA for the week, striking out 43 while walking 23. The starters got just one win on Joel's 6 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball, Mateo and Woods picked up the other 2 in relief. Putz was unconscious this week, 4 and 1/3 scoreless with 8 strikeouts. 8! Soriano and Mateo also had good weeks in the pen. Jamie lost a good start, and Meche and Hernandez both pitched poorly. Washburn got hammered by the Indians, then lost a duel to Josh Beckett, where he only gave up 3 runs despite walking 4 guys in 6 innings.

It is only two starts but you have to be a little bit worried about King Felix. He has really struggled with his control, walking 4 in each of his starts and throwing a lot of pitches to the guys he doesn't walk. He's still got a nice 3-1 groundball ratio but nothing like 4.5 to 1 he threw up last year. He showed better control in the majors last year (2.5 walks per nine) then he ever did in the minors (Minor league composite of 3.58 per nine), so I am mildly concerned. I retract my worried from above. Lets stick with concerned.

So overall a pretty decent week. On Deck: the one against Boston, then home against Texas and Detroit. 5 and 2 would be nice!

More Than a Feeling

Wow! What a great series, and yet what a disappointing note to end on.

Could it be more appropriate than that Mike Timlin (the oldest Red Sock) wins the final game?

The M's got up early this morning and were in the game, including a couple of signs that Beltre is still alive, and decent pitching from Gil Meche, given the bandbox park and the powerful opposing lineup.

Where does that leave us? We come home for a nine-game homestand against Texas, Detroit, and the World Champs before closing out April in Baltimore. The Mariners record stands at 6-9, having coughed up three of four to Boston by one-run margins in every loss, sandwiched around a nice 3-0 shutout victory.

Happily, the entire AL West is struggling to keep their collective heads above water; entering this morning's game, Seattle's 6-8 mark was only 1 game back of the 6-6 Angels. Oakland and Texas have today off, while the Angels square off against the Orioles tonight.

On the whole, I think that this road trip was as encouraging as it could be. Sure, we went 3-4, but you'll take that against Cleveland and Boston, I think, and 3 of the 4 losses saw the M's genuinely IN the games. Meanwhile, the A's (Loaiza, Dan Johnson, Ken Macha's stupidity), Angels (K-Rod injury scare, Garret Anderson...Mike Scioscia's odd moves), and the Rangers (Kinsler's injury, the disaster in CF so far, and Brad Wilkerson's lingering shoulder issues) all have just as many "issues" as we do.

Don't look now, but I'm beginning to become just the tiniest bit optimistic that my projections of the Mariners' season are horribly, horribly wrong. And that's a good thing.

Tomorrow we get to open the homestand with the King facing the weakest link in the Rangers' rotation, young John Koronka. This one-time Cubs prospect fared quite well in his AL debut against the Angels last week, but he'll turn 26 this season and is really at best a swingman/long relief type in the majors. If he keeps the ball on the ground, he can strike out enough and earn enough DPs to counteract his hits and walks. If the ball is in the air, look out.

Here's hoping that the M's can be patient, that Koronka fails to keep his pitches down, and that Seattle's hitters take advantage. A nice, blowout victory would lift our spirits, eh?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Tatonka List: 1992

Welcome back, after a very long absence, to our list of Tatonkas. To refresh your memory, Tatonka "honors" the spirit of Mariners baseball, in the form of identifying players who were added to the team each offseason (usually the offseason) who were SUPPOSED to inspire hope, a better tomorrow, and to teach the world to sing about Coca Cola. Or something.

In practice, the REAL Tatonka's vision of hope lasted all of Spring Training, and then he fizzled out in the heat of the tough media market that is Seattle...uh, no. He wilted in the miserably bad hitters park that was the Kingdome. Sorry, wrong again. He...ate his way to ineffectiveness, and was exposed against the better pitchers in the AL? Possible.

Not all of the Tatonkas have been busts, although the more that the 2005 version plays, the more I wonder. Way to start off 2006 with a 5-for-42 start, Mr. Beltre. It's not like you needed to inspire any hope at all in the fans so they could get behind you.


THE Tatonka, which is the man that we're up to in the list in the year 1992, came to Seattle in trade for valuable commodities that the fans were willing to wave goodbye to as we salivated over the possibility of a real live HR slugger starting every day for our Mariners. No more Alvin Davises (as good as he was), nor Gorman Thomases (aging sluggers who inspired little hope of genuine excitement at the ballpark). Instead, this was a bold move by Woody Woodward to add a "real #4 hitter" to the team to go along with Junior and EdGRR. The trade, consummated on 11 December 1991, sent Bill Swift, whiny Mike Jackson, and young Dave Burba to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for bulky slugger and 1989 MVP Kevin Mitchell. (Oh, and a young Mike Remlinger, who would toil in the Mariner minors for two seasons before leaving via free agency for the Mets.)

Mitchell's arrival, despite his down season in 1991 (only 27 HR), whipped the Seattle merchandising community into a frenzy. I recall vividly the larger-than-life (as if that were possible) Kevin Mitchell poster in which he posed, bat cocked to fire in anger, amidst crates marked menacingly "TNT," "explosive," and the like.

Little did we know that the crates were all filled with Twinkies.

As he arrived a good 30 pounds overweight for Mariners Spring Training, and since Kevin Costner's most recent silver screen flop (sorry, Dancing With Wolves lovers) was in the air, it just seemed right to nickname the slugger Tatonka. Hey, Cecil the Vessel could hit 50 bombs, and we were playing in the Kingdome. It's not like the guy would have to actually RUN.

Unfortunately, the extra weight on our newest buffalo was his tragic end. He would hit OK, but not in the same universe as a recent MVP winner, when healthy. But a knee injury (huh...could that have been related to his extra bulk?) kept him from ever getting going. That, and rumors that he couldn't figure out curveballs from sneaky AL pitchers.

Serious? How do you mash 47 HR in 1989 without the ability to hit a curve?

The very best part about this Tatonka's tenure was that Woody cut bait on him right away, and as we saw last time, this Tatonka led directly into a much more successful one by way of trade.

The real problem here (besides Bill Plummer as manager. Please!) was that Tatonka inspired such great hope, and consequently let us down so far. Sure, he compiled an OPS that was 17% better than the AL average in 1992 (.779), but for an "outfielder" with no range on a team already stocked at DH, and for a guy with recent MVP numbers who was only 30 years old, his NINE home runs were just not sufficient. Even freakin' Dave Valle hit 9 HR that season, which shows you just how low Tatonka sank.

To make matters worse, Swifty (the one really popular player leaving in the deal) had a season for the ages in 1992 with San Francisco, as they moved the fragile junkballer from relief to a starting role, and he managed to not hurt himself all season. That led to a 10-4, 2.08 ERA season in 164 2/3 IP on a miserable Giants team that nevertheless won 8 more games than Seattle did in 1992. Mike Jackson posted serviceable numbers as the setup guy behind Rod Beck, while that Burba character also began his big league career in SF that summer, although any potential that he had was still disguised well.

Somewhere in this story is the very essence of Mariners baseball, from a fan's point of view. We are willing to go see the games even if we're losing, but we're so thirsty for even the appearance of a plan that we jump hard onto the bandwagon of anything that smells remotely like a big move toward a good team. But after Tatonka, we're also wary that big moves bring big risks, and that they are costly in resources that could have been kept.

In certain ways, I blame Kevin Mitchell (oh, and, well, the internet) for the strength of the Mariners blogosphere. So many of us want to yell at the GM and ownership, because we've already seen the mistakes made that they could learn from, but instead, we keep signing the Scott Spiezios and Jarrod Washburns of the world to too-large contracts. Aaaargh!

OK, calm now. Rage...subsiding. Before I leave you with the retrospective Tatonkas back to THE ONE, let me just ask the following musical question: Did Scott Spiezio put something in Adrian Beltre's drinks before departing? I just can't believe that the same man who looked so good as recently as the WBC can LOOK so clueless at the plate, EVERY DAY. It's NOT know, that Speez-endorsed pizza-and-doughnuts regimen. (Note: don't get me wrong...I could live on pizza and doughnuts, as long as some caffeine got into the diet somehow as well. But then again, no GM has yet signed me and my golden arm, to throw my deceptive 42-MPH heater as a closer for their major league squad.)

I'm afraid that Tatonka has returned from the mists of time to curse Beltre, and--don't look now, but he's got a box of Krispy Kremes and the DVD of Waterworld with him.

Tatonka List
2006 Kenji Johjima
2005 Adrian Beltre
2004 Eddie Guardado
2003 Randy Winn
2002 Jeff Cirillo
2001 Ichiro!
2000 John Olerud
1999 Jose Mesa
1998 Glenallen Hill
1997 Jeff Fassero
1996 Cerberus, er, Sterling Hitchock+Russ Davis+Paul Sorrento
1995 none
1994 Alex Rodriguez
1993 Norm Charlton
1992 Tatonka! (Kevin Mitchell)
1991 up next

Too many Outfielders?

The TNT reports that Lawton and Petagine are on the trading block, although interetingly, the story has no byline and no quote from Mariner brass to confirm it. It does have a quote from Lawton where he seems to confirm that there is some trade talk, but could just be him responding to a leading question like, "Hey Matt, do you think the Mariners will trade you because they have too many outfielders?"

“I signed here and knew the situation, but yeah, I’d like to play more,” Lawton said. “I’m not asking for a trade, and I understand their situation. If something comes up where I can go somewhere and play, you bet I’d listen.”

So while I don't give any credence to the story, it probably makes some sense. Hargrove's got two good pinch hitters, but he can really only use one of them. He can hit for either Lopez or Betancourt, and then use Willie for defense and after that he's done. Without another backup infielder, he can't really hit for the other guy. He could hit Lawton for Reed of course, or he could hit Petagine for him and then play Borchard on D, but what I think he'd like to do is be able to hit for BOTH Betancourt and Lopez in the same game. Although if Lopez continues to slug .450, it may become a moo point (its what a cow thinks).

I loved that the M's sent Harris down when Lawton came back, it was absolutely the right move, but I wonder if Bavasi got it past Hargrove as a short-term move. Maybe they are looking to deal one of the pinch hitters for a prospect and then bring back a pitcher. Ugh.

Of course the guy that should go is Jurassic Carl (way to get caught off first base yesterday dino-boy!) but that's just talking crazy isn't it?

Friday, April 14, 2006


Whaddyaknow? The Mariners head to Fenway Park today with the Cleveland series win in their pockets. The victories had little to do with the M's starting pitchers, even though one of those wins was on Felix's watch. These were both slugging, come-from-behind affairs in which Seattle's hitters displayed a tiny little bit of that late-2005 magic that made Doug Strange and Mike Blowers into good hitters late in crucial situations.

I honestly don't know what to think of this team at this point. We're ten games in, and sport a 5-5 record (only a half-game out of first place) having faced some pretty outstanding pitching. Sure, the Angels and A's can't hit, so their pitching is wasted a bit, but Cleveland can hit, and we outhit them on the way to consecutive 9-5 and 11-9 victories.

And this is with Adrian Beltre hitting .143, and with our regular DH hitting even worse than that. This is with Jamie Moyer leading the starters in ERA with a 4.38 mark.

From there, we head to Boston for a four-game set that opens this evening (for me)/afternoon (West Coast) with a Moyer-Schilling "aging aces" matchup. Shoot, it might as well be a Turn Back the Clock day, with retro uniforms and batting orders arranged in descending order of age. It would look like this:


1 Carl Everett-3b
2 Roberto Petagine-DH
3 Matt Lawton-RF
4 Raul Ibanez-LF
5 Ichiro Suzuki-CF
6 Richie Sexson-1b
7 Kenji Johjima-C
8 Willie Bloomquist-SS
9 Joe Borchard-2b

Everett and Borchard would have to go somewhere, and Willie Bloomquist is the only infielder other than Big Sexy old enough to play a position he might not suck at. Oldest to youngest: Everett (34) to Borchard (27). Defensive substitution to allow napping: Adrian Beltre for Everett. First relief pitcher for the Ancient Mariner: Eddie Guardado.

Boston (who are cheating by not starting their oldest player, or even their oldest pitcher)

1 J.T. Snow-1b
2 Mark Loretta-2b
3 Jason Varitek-C
4 Manny Ramirez-RF
5 Mike Lowell-3b
6 Trot Nixon-LF
7 Alex Cora-SS
8 David Ortiz-DH
9 Dustan Mohr-CF

Oldest, Snow (38) to youngest, Mohr (29). First pinch-hitter: Alex Gonzalez. First reliever: Mike Timlin, who's older than Schilling (40 to 39) by a few months.

We'll do this all again on Saturday, when we face another 39-year old in Tim Wakefield.

Get out your rocking chairs, Mariners fans!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is that a bone in your pocket...?

Birds chirp furiously outside, as Spring has arrived in full force.

Moreover, despite their tough opponents up to this point, the Mariners are hanging in there. Oh, sure, Eddie nearly gave us all heart attacks last night, but in the end, the M's used their sticks to smack the ball delivered by Paul Byrd and a cast of thousands, and Seattle prevailed over Cleveland.

All is right with the world.

Oh, yeah, and the King pitches today.

King Felix takes on Cleveland's replacement for the departed Kevin Millwood, right-hander Jason Johnson. In addition to having a cool name, Johnson is one of those players who might underscore the difference in GM IQ between a Shapiro and a Bavasi. Sure, he's a finesse pitcher whose career record and ERA are both, ahhh, pretty blase (53-86, 4.86). And he's not going to end the season with his current ERA (0.00, after a nice opening seven innings against the Twins). But for $4 million on a one-year contract plus mutual 2007 option, here's somebody who could have, oh, I don't know, replaced Gil Meche in the Seattle rotation? Grrr.

All we have to do today to erase such crazy talk is to pound Johnson like we did Byrd and Graves yesterday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cleveland Rocks

I'm a little late with today's just over an hour, Seattle vs. Cleveland part II, with the M's looking to even the series after being schooled yesterday on how to win a game definitively.

Today we roll the dice again with Gil Meche (1-0, 3.38), about whom we CAN say that so far this season he hasn't injured himself (yay!). I'll stop there.

Opposing Meche is journeyman Paul Byrd (1-0, 7.50), whose travels have landed him in Cleveland as a right-handed soft-tosser who had a pretty fabulous year by his standards last year with the Angels. He gives up more fly balls than anything else, but they do not seem to leave the park at an inordinate rate, so he is in the neighborhood of a league-average pitcher...with Cleveland's offense, that'll do.

Having predicted a pretty mediocre road trip, I can't really get worked up about Cleveland beating us, but it would sure be nice if the M's would throw us a frickin' bone tonight with a W. Byrd is the weak link in the Cleveland rotation, and if ever there was a day to come out with bats firing, it's today.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Too High?

Today we open a three-game set against Cleveland, the matchup tonight featuring lefties Jarrod Washburn (1-0, 2.57 ERA, !) and Cliff Lee (sort of the more ruggedly named martial arts counterpart of Bruce Lee? Nah...0-0, 5.06 ERA). Lee is making his home debut; he is a solid pitcher who by merit of winning 18 games last year is thought of more highly than he deserves. He is not particularly a groundball pitcher, although that didn't lead to any HR in Chicago, so there you go.

Still, he might be enough to stifle the Mariners. Tad suggested that our early batting struggles should be viewed in the context of the tough opposing pitchers that the Mariners have thus far faced. Lee isn't much of a step down, but he is in the lower echelon of that group of opposing pitchers.

Since the blossoming of "modern" Mariners baseball in 1995, Cleveland has been something of a natural comparison for our beloved Seattle franchise. Sure, the team has a far older history, but both teams had a well-developed recent history of ineptitude by the mid-1990s, and both developed playoff teams based largely on farm development. Moreover, the two clashed in that eventful '95 when the Mariners magically surpassed the Angels and the Yankees to get to the ALCS.

If that comparison still holds, then once again, the Mariners don't fare very well today, in 2006. The Indians are in the midst of their second serious run of signing young stars to long-term deals in order to build a solid core. They challenged the Luck Sox last year for the AL Central, a year ahead of GM Mark Shapiro's schedule, and they are set almost everywhere on the diamond with young, rising stars. The one shortfall WAS at third base, but they remedied that this offseason by swapping Coco Crisp to the Red Sox for the best third base prospect in the game, Andy Marte.

Virtually the only good news (for us, for this series) is that the dominance of the young Indians is still a year or two away. This year they're only going to be very good, as opposed to the awesome results that are likely in the near future. The lesson of Cleveland might well be lost on the Mariners' front office; the franchise identified their non-contending position in a timely fashion several years ago, and intentionally went through a rebuilding phase in which they traded for young talent and bided their time developing that talent, with an eye toward 2006. Voila! Not only is their team good today, but it should actually improve over the course of the next several seasons.

As much as the Mariners have been forced to look to the future, there simply is not that much in the minors to build from, and this is after two seasons of futility based mostly on aging veterans and unwise free agent signings. By comparison, it looks like the M's have no plan whatsoever. While I'm sure that's not true, playing Cleveland underscores the mistakes for our club.

To make matters worse, Hollywood has not rewarded the Mariners with the kind of immortality that the inept Indians of the 1980s received in the classic film "Major League." The M's can console themselves that this also means that there was no awful sequel involving Seattle either.

Go Ms!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Pop Psychology

So we're 3-4.

Losing the last two games to the A's hurts in the short-term, which may extend through April depending on the outcome of the upcoming road trip, but it's not really that big a disaster.

Small sample size.

The greater problems are in the weak starting rotation and the still punchless offense. On that count, it was good to see the M's putting late-inning pressure on the Athletics excellent bullpen. OK, so it was mostly pressure on one of the weak links in that pen, Kirk Saarloos, but I'm not complaining. That's one of those "chemistry" good signs, in which we get a sense that the team won't immediately give up just because they're behind.

You know that Bavasi and any apologists he has left will claim that such behavior is the result of the Everett signing. Don't fall for that one. If the team's players are incapable of staying motivated while being paid millions of dollars and while enjoying the cheers of fans who have paid to come watch them, then they're not worth having in the first place. If it takes Carl Everett to "fire up" otherwise careless players, that speaks pretty loudly about...Bavasi's ineptness at team construction. Huh.

In any case, it's still WAY too early to panic. But it's not too early to realistically ask whether the team that we see on the field is capable of contending for a winning record in 2006. I remain skeptical, but I'll admit that this first week has shown some positive signs, so as a fan, I'm willing to go along irrationally with the premise that we're still in it.

Go M's!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Win Some Lose Some

As predicted, we had a nice pitcher's duel going until Julio Mateo decided to see how many A's he could walk in one appearance. As the Guiness cartoon guys say, brilliant!

Many signs here are positive, though. We head into game three with the A's tied with them for first in the division, and although the Mariners hitters couldn't solve Joe Blanton yesterday, there is not yet reason to think that they're going to fold up their tents against Barry Zito today.

In fact, there's some hope. For whatever reason, Zito cannot conquer April. He opened the A's season earlier this week by coughing up seven runs while getting only four outs against a Yankees team that is no longer so scary as their mystique. To be sure, that will mean that he'll want to improve against the Mariners, but last April was rather a nightmare for him as well. In fact, since the beginning of the 2002 season (as far as the stats I have at hand go back; 2002 was his Cy Young campaign, while his career actually began in mid-2000), Zito has started 23 games in April, compiling a 5.46 ERA in 133 2/3 IP. That has produced a 7-12 record, for those who care about pitcher's W-L record.

That is to say, for whatever weird reason that produces this set of numbers (for his career, of course, Zito is slightly better than a 5.46 ERA pitcher), the Mariners might find him vulnerable.

Meanwhile, we send the Ancient Mariner back out to the hill. His first start was one of those about which you say "he kept us in the game," as he scattered nine hits while allowing but a single walk as he pitched into the seventh inning.

We have to win the next two games, because after tomorrow, the M's take a day off and then have a seven-day road trip to Cleveland and Boston. Those games don't promise to go very well, in large part because those stadiums and lineups are likely to expose Washburn and Moyer as extremely dependent on Safeco. The remainder of the month sees three more series at the Safe (Texas, Detroit, and the World Champs), and finally a visit to Camden Yards.

Go M's!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ugly outs

I know that we should be basking in the glow of our success, but the crazy baserunning is going to be a problem, very, very soon.

Ibanez trying to stretch a double into a leadoff triple? Crazy! Don't let the fact that the umpire blew the call fool you. That was a stupid play. Let me tell ya folks, when Hendu thinks its crazy, its crazy. I'm not sure I agree that you should NEVER make the first out at 3rd, but I certainly feel that your slowest player (by far!) should never make an out at third when the opponent starter is having troulbe hitting 86 on the gun and everyone is knocking him all over the yard.

And the squeeze? Come on. I love the squeeze, I do! But lets recap the inning: Hard single by Beltre, homerun to Everett, deep fly out to Johjima, rocket triple from Reed. Everyone is teeing off on Loaiza. That's exactly when you don't give up an out for a run. You keep hitting! Keep putting on the pressure! Again, YuBet blows the bunt and then singles, but don't let the outcome fool you. It was a terrible play.

Okay, Tad calm down. 3-1, 3-1, 3-1. FIrst place, first place, first place. Hey! I do feel better!

All Hail the Chief

He's the Chief and he needs hailing....

No, I'm not talking about Freddy Garcia. How about that decision to pull Meche after he surrendered the HR to Chavez in the sixth? That doesn't happen last season; instead, Bryan Price would have left Meche in to surrender the rest of the lead, and the game. If we're going to use AAA pitching, at least we must manage it well. I'm chalking this one up to Rafael Chaves.

The result? Sole possession of first place!! Sure, it's early April, but there's nothing wrong with inexplicable smiling.

Our Edwin Nunez Award for the evening goes to Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, who in his debut hit THREE Nats batters, including Jose Guillen twice. And didn't face any kind of retaliation. Both benches were warned, but when Duaner Sanchez made it a four-bean game, he was not ejected. Later in the game, Washington pitcher Felix Rodriguez was ejected for being the only National to hit a Mets batter. That's some good umpiring right there. Rodriguez had just come in to start the 8th inning, down 9-5, and had already given up a hit before throwing inside twice to Paul Lo Duca. Honestly, it looked to me like he was just not sharp. Edwin would be proud.

Back to the FIRST PLACE Seattle Mariners. Tonight, when most teams would be throwing an even worse pitcher than the night before (5th game with no off day, 5th starter), we cleverly have somebody JUST a bit better than Gil Meche can ever hope to be.

Long Live the King!

At 7:05, King Felix takes the hill for his inaugural crushing of his opponents. My confidence level about the impending game goes WAY up when we have a legitimate ace starter going. King Felix should be ready. This is good, because the A's have some pretty decent pitching as well...their fifth starter is Joe Blanton. His rookie campaign last season was impressive, as he won 12 games while posting an ERA of 3.53. He is not a scary strikeout pitcher, although it is possible that he develops in that direction a bit in the next few seasons. Regardless, it doesn't look like his season last year was smoke and mirrors. All in all, a nice #5.

Seattle fans, get to the ballpark, and prepare for a pitcher's duel.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Oh yeah! Live Game Report

Got to see the FIRST PLACE M's for the first time this season yesterday. Woot! Sunshine, cold beer, and a Mariner's win. That is a good afternoon my friends.

Paid attendance was 21,000. I was guessing 15K in the stands, but I could be a little light. It was weird to see that many empty seats. Still the crowd had pretty good energy, getting on the umps for third strikes and the close play at first on Yuniesky. I certainly sat through losses last year with bigger crowds that were absolutely dead.

Washburn was awesome. 7 K's, 1 walk, very sharp. He works fast, too.

The pen was shaky again tonight. 2-run homer for Mateo, then Sherrill puts 2 guys on in the ninth. Sherril was ahead of every batter, but he ended up full on most of them. He was either nibbling or getting squeezed.

2 more hit batsmen yesterday for 5 total in the series. Everyone seemed professional about it, but 5 in 3 games is a lot. I don't think these teams like each other.

Johjima went 1 for 3 with a single. I guess that's a slump. No homer at any rate. I'm sure Hendu pointed out that he's still on pace for 106 bombs. I think that would probably be some kind of record.

Congratulations to the girl in front of us in the Rainiers sweatshirt, who got up and danced at every possible chance, trying desparately to get on the big screen. Finally in the 8th her prayers were answered and she got her 5 seconds of fame.

Jason previewed tonight's game better than I ever could. A win tonight would put them all alone in first!


Days in first place in the 2006 AL West: 2.

Home runs by Kenji Johjima: 2.

Mental and speaking gaffes by Mariners announcing team: Countless.

It all adds up, ladies and gentlemen. The opening series with the Angels was just the kind of start to the season you would like. Oh, sure, Adrian Beltre is hitting like Jeff Cirillo again, and Putz is doing his best impression of a right-handed White Flag, but on the whole, we'll take a 2-1 start.

This sets up tonight's Clash of the AL West Titans: Oakland brings their 2-1 team to Safeco, led to victory last night by the Big Hurt and Milton Bradley. I'm hoping for a pre-game tag-team wresting match between the A's, uhh, friendly duo, and the Mariners' own enforcer, Carl Everett. (Carl doesn't need a partner....)

We get Esteban Loiaza tonight, who along with Bradley and Thomas represents the big changes this year for the Athletics. He has had a career full of surprises, and it is pretty difficult to predict whether his fine year last year in a pitcher's park can carry into 2006, or whether he'll self-immolate a dozen or so times before being replaced by someone else.

Facing Loaiza will be a pitcher guaranteed to invoke flames for the Mariners' faithful this season. At this point in his career, Gil Meche is a AAA long reliever masquerading as a major-league starting pitcher. I've got zero hope that he is valuable this season. Look, the high point of his 2005 season was an 8-2, 4.80 ERA first half. High point. He's apparently never going to be the promising pitcher that we saw before the injury, and it's yet another reflection of Bavasi's poor planning that Meche has been guaranteed a rotation spot on the big club for this long.

Many miles away
Wilson Valdez crawls from the slime
At the bottom of a dark
Scottish lake.

Despite all of this, we can hope for some sort of freak, early-season paranormal phenomenon in which Meche baffles the A's hitters, while the Mariners light Esteban Loaiza on fire early, and we claim sole possession of the division lead. Hey, it could happen.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Game 2 Running Diary

Parked myself in front of the tube to watch Game 2 and I kept a running diary, Sports Guy style.

7:02 In his intro, Niehaus relates that Erstad and Reed worked out together in the off-season and that some scouts think Reed is reminds them of a young Erstad. Hendu’s response: You can kind of predict where Jeremy Reed is going to end up, A Darrin Erstad type player. I am simultaneously intrigued that Hendu is trying to predict performance in any way, amused that he is making his projection based on a single comp, and horrified that Reed might turn out like Erstad.

7:04 The Angels are wearing those new space age batting helmets. Ugh. They look like something out of Rollerball.

7:08 It’s only the second game of the season though and Vlad’s helmet is absolutely filthy. It is both amazing and gross.

7:11 Beltre makes a foul catch near the stands. The second he completes the catch, a security guy, literally tumbles out of the stands right near him. Why? Is he protecting him? There was no point really, other than to amuse me.

7:14 I like the high socks on Ichiro. I saw him wearing those in the WBC and I’m glad they stuck.

7:15. Hendu’s Wisdom: With 2 outs, you never want to make the third out at third base.
I guess its okay to make the third out with 0 or 1 outs.

7:22 Double Play! The M’s are going to be good up the middle this year. Really good.

7:33 Shiggy is doing color for Japanese TV. Possibly my favorite M’s commercial ever was the one where they are meeting with the Nickname Consultant and Nellie says, “He came up with Shiggy,” and Cameron looks stoned as he says, “Yeah, Shiggy.” Classic.

7:34 Johjima hits another homerun, this one a moonshot to left. No doubt about it. Hendu correctly points out that he’s on pace for 162 homeruns. And he might have meant it to be funny.

7:38 Reed tries to go from first to third on a bloop single to right. We’re testing Vlady’s arm? Really? Actually I remember hearing about him that he tended to spray throws around and COULD run on him. The throw beats Reed by a mile, but it bounces in front of Figgins and skips past him. Good scouting or lucky?

7:42 Lackey bounces a pitch and hits Ichiro. So it both bounced in front of the plate AND was a foot inside. Lackey really doesn’t have it tonight.

7:43 Two-run single by Lopez. See 7:42 above.

7:49 The M’s just got 5 runs. Who think’s Joel’s giving a few back here? Anyone?

7:56 What do I know. A two out walk to Cabrera is the only damage in the inning. Two K’s, including a zesty punchout of Vlad.

7:59 Everett pumps his fist in, I guess, frustration after taking a curve for strike one. That is veteran leadership right there.

8:03 With the long white batting gloves and his white wrist brace, Reed looks like he’s either taking some cookies out of the oven or hoping to dance with the Prince at the ball. Good look for him.

8:18 Not a big fan of the bunt of course, but it works nicely here as Lopez moves two runners over, which leads Sciosia to walk Raul to get to Richie. Sexy strikes out, but the more opportunities we can funnel to Sexson the better, I’m thinking.

8:21 Beltre catches a break when the ump absolutely whiffs on a phantom foul tip. You can see the ump clearly telling Sciosia that he heard the ball hit the bat. Replays confirm Beltre came nowhere near the ball and it should have been strike three. Beltre takes his gift and….strikes out on the very next pitch.

8:30 Hector Carrasco in. Angels owner Arte Moreno might be taking this “sign all the Hispanic players we can” thing a little too seriously when he pays 6.1 million (over two years) for Hector Carrasco to be his mop-up guy. What’s next, Ricky Martin gets 25 million to be the towel boy?

8:48 Rizzs busts out his Lou Piniella impersonation. Rizzie manages to make Sweet Lou sound perky and excited. A lot like Rick Rizzs.

8:51 ZZZZZZZZZ…Seriously, I fell asleep here. Couple o beers, dark quiet house, comfy couch, I'm out for three innings. Woke up just in time to see Guardado get the last two outs. Screw it, I'm posting it anyway.

10:06 Brad Adams tries twice to get Sexson to say that he wanted revenge or something since they intentionally walked Ibanez again in front of him (this time Sexxy hit a three run bomb). Twice Richie, says no its part of the game, it’s a good play on their part, I don’t run real well and it sets up the double play, etc. Despite this, Brad closes with, “Sexson makes the Angels pay, and I bet they think twice before doing that again! Rick?” Way to make the story fit your preconceived notions Brad! Nicely done.

M’s Win! M’s Win! M’s Win!


Despite its nail-biting finish, last night's game was pretty darn encouraging.

Johjima's second HR in two days? Check.

Big Sexy launches a homer? Check.

Joel looks REAL good for six innings? Check.

Putz and Guardado combine to allow fewer than 10 runs? Check.

I tell you, that's the formula for an exciting game. Oh, wait, I forgot one.

Beat the Angels? Check.


This afternoon, we throw newly enriched Mariner lefty Jarrod Washburn against his old team. I'm sure there's a storyline about revenge here, but I just don't see it. His quote on is "I haven't quite figured out how I feel about it yet. It's just weird." To counter, the Halos send Jeff Weaver to the hill.

Weaver is a baffling pitcher. From his early days in the Show with the Tigers, to the Yanks, and then the Dodgers, he's always enjoyed a reputation as someone with much more potential than he's been able to cash in on. This could be the year. Or not. I'm not as big a proponent of L/R splits as most, but Weaver has generally had more trouble with lefties than you'd like from a starter, so in Safeco he's a good bet to struggle against Ichiro and Raul. Petagine ought to start over Everett at DH today, as well, to take advantage of the right hander's platoon split. Shoot, even Jeremy Reed has an advantage here.

Mariners fans, we are currently tied for first place in the division, and it is NOT before Opening Day. That alone is reason for optimism. Can we make it two days in first? Not that it counts or anything, but we can remember these early days of the season in case of disaster later.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

One in a row

There is no shame in losing (even the best teams will do so dozens of times in a season), nor in losing the home opener, nor on Opening Day. Congrats to Kenji Johjima and Roberto Petagine for their auspicious beginnings with the M's.

Actually, if you're a Halos fan, you probably have to be a little concerned with the difficulty that they had in defeating the Mariners yesterday.

Today, we draw a tougher opposing pitcher than we did yesterday afternoon. John Lackey broke out in a big way in 2005, and although he doesn't pack high-90's heat, there is no reason to expect that he'll fall back to Earth just yet. (BTW, over/under on the number of times Rick Rizzs and Ron Fairly comment on Lackey's height...15.) Bartolo Colon might be the big man on the Angels' staff, but Lackey's their ace this season.

This stands to be a difficult season for the Mariners regarding Joel Pineiro, our starter for the game this evening. He's in the final year of a contract that could have been a bargain, but wasn't due to injury/ineffectiveness. He is only 27 years old, and there's always that lingering chance that he'll one day finally overcome years of shoulder woes and return to his promising earlier form. Does he turn into Dave Fleming this season, torching any chance of the Mariners achieving the greatness of Tad's .500 prediction? Or does Joel end up looking improved, both from a stuff/velocity standpoint and from a statistical standpoint?

In the latter case, what should the Mariners seek to do with the pitcher? He's actually got one more season under the Mariners' control, as he'll be eligible for arbitration after this season. If he wins a dozen games this season and posts an ERA around 4.00, does that make him someone to resign, just in case he's not really toast? Do the Mariners view non-tendering Pineiro as an option? Can we hope he gets hot and then trade him for something shiny?

We begin to find out the preliminary answers to that question today.

Go M's!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Boo! 161 and 1 will have to do.

Opening Day Bullet Points (I feel so Larry King):

**Not sure if this is sabrmetrically orthodox or not, but Vlad OWNS Jamie. Damn.

**I think the offense is better, but that is not that the last time this season that we are going to load the bases and leave 'em full.

** JC Romero? Seriously?

** Petagine! He's slugging 4,000! I'm sure he can keep it up. Can Jurassic Carl get eaten by a dinosaur? Or maimed by a gay biker gang? Is this too much to ask?

Is third within reach? A short preview.

Its Opening Day! Jason and Baseball Prospectus (twice!) both predict the M's for 4th. I'll go ahead and predict them for .500 and third place.

Although I think that this offseason was a bad one, I think that the previous off-season got a bad rap last year. I still think that with Beltre and Big Sexxxy as the core of your offense, it's not that hard to build a decent one.

I certainly think that they will be better than last year offensively. Catcher, Shortstop and Second Base were all giant sinkholes of offensive production. Vast sucking wounds that even if you repaired with replacement level you'd be ahead. Johjima should be above average, Lopez near league average and Betancourt somewhere between replacement-level and league average. Sounds a whole lot better than Olivo/Gonzalez/Borders, Boone/Bloomquist and Wilson Valdez, right?

Reed should improve, Beltre should improve, Ichiro could play better. The only returnees who might fall-off are Sexson and Ibanez. The only position you downgraded in the offseason is from Winn to Everett. 6 likely up, 3 possibly down. Offense should definitely be better.

As bad as the rotation is, can it be any worse than last year? A full year of Felix is a huge upgrade over the Aaron Sele Experience! I don't like the Washburn signing, but 200 innings of slightly above average pitching is a damn sight better than watching Franklin get hammered every fifth day.

I have no hope that Piniero and Meche are likely to "step it up," I think that they are what they are. But if one of them can pitch a little better than last year that would be a plus. If one of them then pitches worse than last year, then someone from Tacoma's rotation (Nageotte, Foppert, Livingston, Cruceta, Baek) oughta be able to step in a give you replacement level. Can Old Man Moyer do his thing for another year? This might be the one guy that blows up, but maybe he's got 6 more months of fooling guys with his 80 mph gas. I don't like this rotation, but it is no worse than last year.

The pen, a strength last year, is just as good this year. Guardado in the ninth, Putz and Sherill to go Lefty/Righty, Soriano for multiple inning stints when we're up, that's real good. Mateo pitches the middle innings and Harris and Woods are left for mop-up/scraps work. That's a good pen, even if Eddie's Miracle Groin gives out.

Maybe Opening Day has blinded me, but I see the M's scoring close to 750 runs, and giving up about the same, so near .500, behind Oakland and....yes, Texas. I think the Angels are about to pull a 2004 Mariners on us, i.e. get old in a hurry. They've got enough in the minors that they should be back soon, but not this year.

Of course, I could be wrong, I still have a hat to eat....

National Holiday?

Welcome one and all to REAL Opening Day.

The Mariners kick off 2006 by hosting the California Angels in an afternoon start (2:05 PT). Jamie Moyer (L, 43) faces off against Bartolo Colon (R, listed at 5-11, 250#--just keep the man away from the new Ivar's Clam Bake).

Clearly, what we have the most to worry about here is that Colon will eat several of the Mariners' smaller players. Secondarily is keeping Moyer from succumbing to the effects of age. At the first sign of him shriveling up, Grover's got to go to the pen so Jamie can rest. This would actually be quite a bit easier if the Mariners hitters could stretch out at least one inning against the Angels pitchers, in order to give the Ancient Mariner time for a power nap.

Lineups are supposed to be as follows:

Ichiro! RF
Lopez 2b
Ibanez LF
Big Sexy 1b
Beltre 3b
Everett DH
Johjima C
Reed CF
Betancourt SS

Figgins 3b
Cabrera SS
Guerrero RF
Anderson LF
Rivera DH
Erstad CF
Kotchman 1b
J Molina C
Kennedy 2b

Despite my flip comments above, and my generally pessimistic predictions for the season, today is Opening Day, and WE'RE GONNA WIN!!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fake Opening Day!!

Welcome to the annual day of extreme optimism amongst all baseball fans: tomorrow the season really starts, while today we get a made-for-TV pale reflection of the real thing. Spring Training is coming to a close with multiple DFA, DL, and other early April transactions.

Plus the powers that be stole an hour of sleep from me last night.

As Mariners' fans, we have every right to be optimistic about our team's chances. Still, it is probably better to temper our optimism, since 2006 looks like it's shaping up to be another near-100 loss season. I just can't come up with any scenario in which the Mariners escape the cellar this season, as the Angels are still good, the A's are better, and the Rangers have improved despite some odd moves by their baby GM.

My predictions for this season's AL West, as meaningless as anyone else's who cannot actually see the future, are as follows:

Nationwide Century-Spanning Athletics Currently of Oakland

90 - 72

788 Runs Scored
702 Runs Allowed

Annual Central Time Zone AL West Champion Don't-Mess-With Texas Rangers

83 - 79

897 Runs Scored
873 Runs Allowed

Pacific Rim Angels of Near San Diego, Near Los Angeles, Near Mexico, Almost Connected by Water to Asia, Practically Representing the Entire Solar System, of Anaheim

83 - 79

762 Runs Scored
746 Runs Allowed

Microsoft Anime Mariners of the Seven Seas Who Play Way Too Close to Harbor Island

68 - 94

697 Runs Scored
823 Runs Allowed

There we have it: 2006 in a nutshell. The top three teams and their fans will have an exciting, enjoyable summer of baseball in which the division title is tightly contested all year.

Then there's the hapless, directionless Mariners. All we really have to root for is that Carl Everett is kept very far away from King Felix all season, so future seasons are not put into jeopardy. It certainly SEEMS like we ought to enjoy more optimism, but the more I analyze, the more this offseason looks like a disaster for the long-term health of the club. Check that...the more that the entire Bavasi administration looks like a disaster. I'm sure that Mr. Bavasi is a nice guy who knows a lot more about baseball than I do. The competence that I presume he has is just not evident from the results.

Here's hoping that I completely suck at forecasting. (THERE it is! Fake Opening Day Optimism!)