Friday, December 15, 2006

Bavasi agrees (!!!)

"And you feel so alive/You could stand up and take this all night...."

Ahh, Ritchie Blackmore. Good times. Well, it appears that El Crapitan, Bill Bavasi, actually agreed today with our collective assessment of his capabilities as a major league general manager. I quote from today's Seattle Times piece:

Bavasi acknowledged that the exploding free-agent salaries this winter changed the Mariners' initial expectations that they could obtain two starting pitchers and two position players via free agency. He said the entire industry badly misjudged the market place.

"We're always wrong," he said. "But we've never been this wrong. That was frustrating. There were a lot of clubs flush with money, and they've used it."

Umm, Mr. Bavasi? Would you say that someone in charge of an important part of the operation of a multi-million dollar corporation should be expected to improve his expertise over time? Like, say, learning from his own mistakes? Planning better for the future based on past experiences?

"We're always wrong,"

I see. By the way, how is it that the ENTIRE INDUSTRY could misjudge the free agent marketplace? The entire industry IS the free agent marketplace! Wait for it...

Asked if he was concerned about negative fan reaction, general manager Bill Bavasi replied: "I'm the one dealing in the market. I know what the market is. I know what's available. The reaction is probably a whole lot different if I drag you with me for a month, and you see what it's like.

Lame! Lame! Lame! Lame! If your "privy to secret information that no one criticizing me knows about" point of view is to be an effective shield, then you MUST be held accountable for all those previous offseasons, trades, and other roster moves that UTTERLY FAILED TO PRODUCE RESULTS ON THE FIELD. After all, if we the stupid, benighted fans may not pose authentic critiques of current moves because "we just don't know the market," then all we have to judge you by is your past results. Let's recap...

2006: 78-84, last place.
2005: 69-93, last place.
2004: 63-99, last place.

The only conclusion I can draw is...well, let's hear it from the horse's mouth:

"We're always wrong,"

Truer words were never spoken.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Secret Tatonka Files: The GM interviews, part 3

Well, the Tatonka Think Tank just keeps spitting out messages from the future, whether we like it or not. (If you get SPAM from the future, who is the originator of the spam? And is it still a non-refrigerated, meat-like product? But I digress....)

Here is a new one, hot off the, uh, presses. Preliminary analysis suggests that this transcript happened (will happen?) chronologically after part 2, but there is no date. Indeed, we get only the middle of a conversation, with no clear beginning and no end, and what appears to be a big chunk missing from the middle. Whatever caused it, it WASN'T ME LOADING THE FAX PAPER IMPROPERLY, MAN! Ahem. On to the fragmentary transcript:

...think you can just...

Mr. L: I don't have to "think" any such thing. I know it. Now let's get down to business.

V: There will be no one to hear you scream.

Mr. L: Just the spirit! As you may have determined from the manner of your appearance here, we seek to hire you for a rather dastardly job...

V: Did you say 'dastardly?'

Mr. L: Why, yes, I did.

V: Where am I, anyway?

Mr. L: That's not important right now. In any case...

V: I insist...

[a good portion of the ensuing transcript, of indeterminate length, is, uhh, missing]

V: Am I going mad, or did the word "think" escape your lips?

Mr. L: That's hardly the way to address me, sir. Let's be civilized here...

V: I am expected to deduce from your torture that civilization is one of your dominant traits? Forgive me if I have failed to reach that utterly and in every other way inconceivable conclusion!

Mr. L: We've started badly. We simply want to put you in charge of our organization...

V: If by "in charge" you mean "under your thumb without adequate compensation," then I agree.

Mr. L: You agree to the contract?

V: No, you moron!

Mr. L: I'm no moron. I'm in charge of a multimillion-dollar, moneymaking enterprise that depends on sophisticated...

V: You ARE a moron, like many before you. Do you really think you're the FIRST to come up with or carry out such a childish scheme? I could have seen through it at the age of three.

Mr. L: You're that smart, are you?

V: Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?

Mr. L: Yes.

V: Morons.

Mr. L: Really? In that case I challenge you to a battle of wits.

V: For my freedom?

Mr. L: [Nods]

V: To the death?

Mr. L: [Nods, fingers crossed behind back]

V: I accept.

Mr. L: Excellent. Here's the challenge: answer correctly, and you are free to go. Incorrectly, and you're sworn to serve as our next General Manager.

V: That makes no sense.

Mr. L: You're trying to trick into giving away something--it won't work...

V: Ask your question; you've already supplied the answer.

Mr. L: Alright, here it is. We spent several hours earlier going over the rules of baseball and the roster and financial situation of our club; with your prodigious intellect, surely you can deal with a specific, but hypothetical, question?

V: It's your challenge.

Mr. L: Fine, fine. Here it is: how do you convince the fans of the merit of a trade of two young players for an aging player who can't really play the field anymore, is expensive enough to prevent us from making other desirable moves, and would not be a suitable candidate to DH even if he were health--particularly because the DH position is the single easiest batting position to fill, and many other options continue to present themselves that are cheaper in both talent and money to acquire?

V: What are the names? I have already mastered your quaint little game.

Mr. L: Uhh, hypothetically, say, Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto for Jose Vidro.

V: [guffaw] Inconceivable!

Mr. L: Keep in mind that this is merely a test. We would, uhh, NEVER do such a ridiculous thing. [Sweats more profusely]

V: This is a trick question. Therefore, the right answer is as clear as day...

Sadly, the transcript ends abruptly, right here. One of the crack Tatonka technicians thought that a later scrap of paper shooting out of the now violently ill fax machine contained something meaningful, but it is not really clear what "pse dragged out of ro" is supposed to mean.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What the #@$!%#

Word is that Bavasi has done it again.

I almost hate to share this news, but the Washington Post reports that the M's have traded Chris Snelling (victim of the Gorokan Horror) and Emiliano Fruto to the Nationals for...wait for it...Jose Vidro.


Jose Vidro was once an excellent second baseman. (Yeah, 'cause we don't have, say, an All-Star young guy manning that position.) That "once," though, was before repeated leg, knee, and ankle injuries, and he hasn't had a standout season since...maybe 2003 if we're generous. Now, the man will turn 32 in 2007, he earns about $8M per year on a contract through 2008 (and according to the Post article, the M's are paying $12M of that).... Frak!!!!!!

If this is Tatonka 2007, we're more screwed today than we were yesterday. This is the second good trade by Jim Bowden in less than a year, so he's rocketing up the GM rankings as we speak.

Bill Bavasi, you suck.

Edit: Hey, guess what? We're giving Vidro a 3rd year guaranteed to convince him to accept the trade. Whoopee!!!

So far, reaction in the ol' blogosphere has the BEST CASE SCENARIO from this bonehead trade being flipping Jose Lopez (to make room for the inferior Vidro at second) for a top-of-rotation starting pitcher.

Two problems with that:
1) Marcus Giles was just non-tendered by Atlanta. You can't convince me that picking up Giles as a FA (he's younger, better, and probably no more expensive compared to Vidro, without having to give up talent) wouldn't also fill the "hole" left by trading Lopez
2) We're trusting Bavasi to negotiate a winning deal sending Lopez + ??? for a good pitcher?? Muwahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Secret Tatonka Files: The GM interviews, part 2

More exciting messages-from-the-near future, spit out of our Tatonka Think Tank multipurpose fax/shredder/Pong console/hot plate with no originating phone number, and dated 2 February 2007....

Mr. L: Congratulations for making it to the final round of interviews. We have intentionally made this a grueling process in order to prepare the new General Manager for his job.

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: We've already gone over your qualifications, so today I just have one last test of your loyalty and business acumen. Ready?

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: Very good. Imagine this scenario: you have been GM for three offseasons wrapped around two baseball seasons. The team has, under your careful guidance (following our secret coded directions to the letter, of course) improved from a 63-win disaster, to a 69-win disaster, to a nearly-respectable 78-win (but still last place) season. During that steady improvement, you have managed to assemble a solid core of young players oozing with the ability to separate fans from their money (quick, how many Bloomquist jerseys did we sell last year, Chuck? Hahahahaha!).

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: Now we get to my question. Given the mysterious (terribly mysterious) belief of some of those militant fans that we mentioned earlier that the team owes them a winner on the field (the nerve!), how would you propose to spend, say, $15M and a star relief pitcher?

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: Good instinct. Alright, we secretly signal to you that what we need are pitchers to replace the outgoing members of the rotation, and what we want are players who can inspire some hope of contention amongst the majority of the temporary holders of our money.

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: Wonderful! We instruct you to trade the star reliever for Horacio Ramirez...

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: and then spend the money on free agents Jose Guillen and Miguel Batista.

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: Exactly right! We're going after players with SEVEN-LETTER LAST NAMES!!! We feel that there's a market inefficiency here, and we intend to exploit it. Nothing sells replica jerseys so quickly as an aesthetically-pleasing name on the back, and seven letters makes for a perfectly symmetrical presentation. It's genius!

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: You seem to be a perfect fit for the organization. The one real question that we have is still that issue regarding public relations, as it is not clear how a fruit can possibly handle the press. Then again, you've come through this interview with flying colors! Shall we shake, ehhh, how about if I brush your leaves? Is that...a deal? Excellent! You start right away. Your first task is to fire your predecessor.

Mr. P: ...

Mr. L: We'd better watch out, or you'll have our jobs soon [nervous chuckles in the background]...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Secret Tatonka Files: The GM interviews, part 1

We at Tatonka Think Tank have just obtained transcripts from some sort of Seattle Mariners interviews for the job of General Manager...from January and February 2007!!

Don't ask me how it's possible to receive data from later in time, although if I had to guess, there would probably be some technical-sounding words like flux capacitor, dilithium crystals, tachyon waves, and Amarillo Design Bureau in the explanation. In any case, we felt obligated to share these trans-chronomenal transmissions with you, the reading public. Duty of the press and all.

Installment #1 is reproduced without editing below. It seems a bit choppy, and you might wish to don your tin foil hat before reading:

Mr. L: We have, ahh, brought you in from...well, we've brought you back from the dead in order to restore some credibility to our organization, and also to energize ticket sales. I'm not sure how it works [chuckles all around table], but our friends at Wolfram & Hart have assured me that it is perfectly safe.

Mr. S: I wanna be a rock'n'roll singer. I wanna be a rock'n'roll star.

Mr. L: You've done that already; we're asking for your help in a different field. It's still entertainment, though, and it will involve addressing the public frequently. We agreed before the ritual that you would be just the kind of individual who could help us. Now, we've gone to all the trouble [lackey whispers in Mr. L's ear]...indeed, we've gone to the great expense of bringing you back to the living, and we would appreciate it if you took this interview seriously.

Mr. S: Well you can stick your nine to five livin'. And your collar and your tie. You can stick your moral standards...

Mr. L: [laughing] Moral standards? No, no, you've got it all wrong. You don't think we would reanimate a twenty-six year-old, moldering (but mostly well-preserved) corpse of a rock legend because we sought to enforce moral standards? Here's what we're about, and you should note that it matches your own stated goals quite closely. First, we like money. Lots of money. We have an organization that separates individuals from their money through the clever use of Gramscian hegemony. That is, we convince thousands upon thousands of humans to identify with our organization, such that they will go to great lengths to give us their money. They believe that by giving us that money, they are helping themselves! If that's not effective mystification, I don't know what is!

Mr. S: What?

Mr. L: Let's take it slow. WE want YOU to be our frontman.

Mr. S: I got to get my kicks some way.

Mr. L: Great. As I was saying, we make all the important decisions, but we need a frontman, a mouthpiece as it were, to relay those decisions to the public and to other GMs.

Mr. S: What's the catch?

Mr. L: I'm sorry?

Mr. S: I said, what's the catch? What's so horrible about this gig that you have to raise a zombie from the dead to do it?

Mr. L: Well, uhhh. Yes. There's just.... The fans.

Mr. S: The man is back in town.

Mr. L: Well, hmmm. Let me put it to you this way: our scheme of mystification has worked a little too well. You see, some small, tiny little minority of our fans (not the mainstream ones, of course), they've, ahhh, they've adopted the organizational identity pretty completely. They blog, for instance...

Mr. S: They WHAT? Is that the new term for...

Mr. L: Ahem. They make use of computer technology to transmit their ideas and messages to other like-minded sources of our money.

Mr. S: I'm a wanted man. Public enemy number one.

Mr. L: Your confusion will wear off as you get used to being alive again. As I was saying, these rebels, er, individuals are ruthless. Why, our last GM...

Mr. S: Aha, here it comes...

Mr. L: ...was following our instructions, but the fans turned on him after what WE had projected to be a very safe move that would improve our profit margin 92.5% of the time.

Mr. S: So you want someone to cover your arse?

Mr. L: That's essentially the job, yes.

Mr. S: Well, I've always said it's a long way to the top...Do I get an expense account, a limo, a private jet, and secretarial staff?

Mr. L: Of course!

Mr. S: I'm your man.

Mr. L: Good then. Now the interview can begin.

Mr. S: What? You can stick your golden handshake...

Mr. L: Don't get excited, I just have a couple of questions that I need to ask you. We've cast our net very widely this time; we will NOT tolerate another failure on the scale of either of our last two attempts to fill this position. You're not the only candidate.

Mr. S: You wanna see me do my thing? All you gotta do is plug me into high...I said high...High voltage rock'n'roll.

Mr. L: Excellent. How are you at sticking to orders confidentially?

Mr. S: I've worked in the record business, man. What kind of a question is that? You ask me 'bout the clothes I wear...

Mr. L: Fine, fine. Can you tell convincing lies? Are you a good negotiator?

Mr. S: She was holdin' a pair. But I had to try. Her Deuce was wild. But my Ace was high.

Mr. L: Ummm, OK. Alright, one last question: If you were thoroughly intoxicated, could you still follow orders through the haze?

Mr. S: Well if you're lookin' for trouble. I'm the man to see.

Mr. L: Don't call us. We'll make our decision soon. I'd shake hands, but.... We'll be in touch.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Not a good day

Jason Schmidt signs with the Dodgers for 3 and 47 and many sources are reporting that Bavasi has traded Rafael Soriano and his career 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio for Horacio Ramirez and his career 4.13 ERA. In the National League. About 4 K's per 9.

Off-season summary so far: Jose Guillen and his sparkling personality, zero free agent starters, Panzer Lehr, Rey Ordonez, trading Soriano for Jarrod Washburn's Hispanic brother, oh and we still have Sexson and Beltre.

Jason correctly points out that its time to start considering what Bavasi's next job will be. What's the over/under that move? May 1?

Bill Bavasi, stand-up comedian

It just struck me, after agonizing much of the day over the stupidity of the reported deal of Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez, that this is all just Bavasi being Bavasi. He obviously has NO SHOT at keeping his current job, and his baseball resume won't ever land him another similar gig, so he's pretty clearly trying out a sort of "reality humor" type of stand-up comedy.

Not funny, d00d.

I'd say "keep yer day job," but...ahem, let's not give out any false hope or anything.

I think the time is NOW to begin discussing the next GM of your Seattle Mariners.

(To make that task more enjoyable, it might also be worth finding out what sort of "legal" substances the bald one has been partaking of whilst at the Winter Meetings. I propose that we open an investigation immediately.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Winter meetings and The Plan

As we get into the late hours of Day 1 of the 2006 Winter Meetings, the M's have been rumored to be talking to the Red Sox about Manny (interesting), have finalized their contract with Jose Guillen (hmmm), and have now been mentioned in connection with Ted Lilly (hey, a pitcher! We need those!!). There's also a new rumor that the M's have joined the chase for...wait for it...Gil Meche. (yuck!!!)

But nothing really major has occurred just yet.

Thinking more about our offseason needs and our offense, it would be foolhardy to count on improvement or even maintenance of last year's numbers for Raul, Richie, and Adrian. Johjima could experience a sophomore slump. Even counting Broussard and Jose Guillen at their career average levels means that as of today, I expect that the offense has not improved markedly over the 2006 version, which scored 756 runs.

The lineup could still be tweaked, but indeed what the M's need most desperately is pitching. The John Thomson rumors would, in the best case scenario, give us a league average pitcher (not all bad) to add to Felix and Washburn. Let's be generous and say that despite all evidence to the contrary, Washburn might submit a 2007 in which he posts an ERA just over the 4.00 mark (inconceivable!). Thomson's more in the 4.5 range, and then the young King could conceivably begin to figure things out and turn in a nice sub-4 ERA season. Of course, that's still only three pitchers; in the best-case scenario, let's add a Schmidt who (tougher AL, but friendly park) leads the staff with about a 3.85 ERA in '07, and then Spring competition (Baek/etc.) to give us a pitcher capable of hitting about 4.60 or so in the fifth slot.

Given that we're being pretty generous, and assuming that this staff suffers no major injuries (ahh, depth is a problem as well), I still see it surrendering way too many runs for the M's to compete with the offense we've got. We allowed 792 runs in 2006; the best teams in the AL gave up 675 (Detroit) and 683 (Minnesota) last season, so if the bullpen strength holds up, let's assume that a healthy Thomson, an improving King Felix, a lucky Washburn, and a not-horrible fifth starter can approach only 690 runs allowed. (Could be better; lots of opportunities to be worse).

That's about an 88-win team, folks. That would have put us...3rd out of 4 AL West teams in 2006, but kind of in the hunt, only 5 back of the winner.

All this is to say that I'm getting pretty excited about the idea of Manny in Seattle, since that would improve our run-scoring ability significantly. The offense (as Tad rightly observed several weeks ago) simply HAS to be improved, EVEN if we land Jason Schmidt, and EVEN if John Thomson turns out to be a steal, and EVEN if everything else goes right on the mound for the M's in 2007.

If our Schmidt is really "stay out of market" or "Lilly" or...any number of awful alternatives, then there's just not enough fairy dust in the world to get the fans high enough to buy this team as a contender.

I should point out that I'm not in the camp of "must. stay. out. of. scary. free agent. market. ugh." I would be willing to give Schmidt four years at $(more money than I make). There are multiple reasons, but in the end, either we're contending in 2007, or we're not, and if not, then...ggguh. What's the point of having all the cheap starters on the roster if we're going to wait until they get arbitration/FA expensive before even trying??

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mariners adopt McLaughlin Plan

Has Walter ever been seen in the same room as Bill Bavasi?

Quick, Kenny Williams, bid $10M on Juan Gonzalez before it's too late.

(Sorry, non-authors; I offer a string of inside jokes that I would just ruin by explaining)

I've just read that the M's have agreed to an incentive-laden 1-year/$5M deal (with $9M option for 2008) with damaged goods, namely, Jose Guillen.

I can guarantee that this, too, is not the Tatonka of '07. You just can't sell the kind of selfish ass that is Guillen as if he were an important piece of a "win back the fans" PR campaign.

Still and all, that's not a bad thing. Sure, you can't buy fiery leadership (see Spiezio, Scott; also see Everett, Carl), but that's also not what the M's are buying here. Instead, they're taking a chance on a guy whose bat will come cheaper than it should BECAUSE he's damaged goods.

This move has all kinds of ways to bite us, but it's not going to make the difference between a winning and losing season, so...meh.

Just as with the rumored Thomson acquisition, what's going on here is the Mariners' front office is taking medium-sized risks with small amounts of cash in the hopes of enjoying, well, medium-sized rewards. At best. For now, I'll leave it up to Tad to fit Thomson and Guillen and Lehr into his Offseason Plan goals, but my math says that these guys aren't getting us anywhere near the ~200 runs we figure we need to improve. Thus, it remains the case that we have the worst team in our weak four-team division. But hey, there's still some cash left for ownership to pocket, so kudos to them for winning at this whole capitalism thing.

Now go get a real pitcher to bolster the staff! Grrrr.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tatonka 2007? Get in line.

Well, now it's official. We're awash in candidates for the new Tatonka this offseason. Let's stop our heads from spinning just long enough to get our bearings here:

11/14 - Signed Renee Cortez, Jesse Foppert, Rey "it means King" Ordonez, Tony Torcato, Brant Ust (I dunno, you tell me), Cibney "what the hell were my parents thinking when they named me" Bello, Josh Kite, Michael Wagner, and Jared Eichelberger to minor league contracts.
11/20 - Added Michael "the other" Garciaparra, Bryan LaHair, Mike Wilson, and Ryan Rowland-Smith to the 40-man; DFA'd Jorge Campillo and outrighed Travis Chick. Lost T.J. "throw me a frickin'" Bohn on waivers to Atlanta
11/27 - Signed Willie "25th man" Bloomquist to another freakin' contract extension
11/30 - Apparently inked Justin Lehr to a (minor league) contract
12/1 Released Jorge Campillo
12/1 "Big news" of the day turns out to be a likely Mariners' signing of Atlanta pitcher John Thomson

Wow. Honestly, wow. First the failure to fire the Human Brain Delay. Now we're getting excited about John Thomson. Look, it's a value signing, no doubt, with limited resources allocated. Whoo hoo. All those savings are gonna win so many extra games in 2007 for...who, exactly? Not the Mariners.

Don't get me wrong. I actually like Thomson, and think it's a wise move to sign him. For the Royals. We're at least still masquerading as a major-league club, however, so there's no call to go hanging the entire offseason on Justin Lehr, John Thompson, and one more guaranteed year of The Bloomquist.


As frustrated as I am, this is exactly--EXACTLY--the time when the Mariners have ALWAYS come up with a Tatonka move. Need splashy, big offseason acquisition to encourage fans? Check. Have done nothing so far? Check. Team sucks? Check.

I'm telling you right now, the M's Tatonka is not currently on the roster, nor does his name rhyme with "Lehr" or "Thomson." And I shudder to think what horrors Bill Bavasi will perpetrate on we, uh, suspecting fans. (C'mon, we can't possibly be considered UNsuspecting anymore, right? We're suspecting. We're downright suspicious! Get the pitchforks!!)