Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sources report: it's done

Adam Jones leaving winter ball in Venezuela, reportedly to take his physical, and is quoted in the referenced article that Bavasi informed him of the trade.

Media reports leaking out about a deal, including on and in The Seattle Times.

The trade has been completed. Adam Jones, the M's prized rookie right fielder, is heading to Baltimore as the centerpiece of a deal between the Mariners and Orioles which likely also includes reliever George Sherrill and prospect Chris Tillman, with perhaps one more minor leaguer as part of the exchange.

Let me say this, right off the bat: the Mariners may now have the best pitching staff, top to bottom, in the American League. Bedard, King Felix, Silva, Batista and Chris Washburn makes for one hell of a starting five. Buh-bye, Jeff Weaver and take a seat, Horacio Ramirez. Meanwhile, the bullpen (although weakened) includes Putz, Morrow, Green, O'Flaherty, Rowland-Smith, White, and baseball's most expensive long reliever, Ho-Ram. In combination, it appears to exceed the staffs of the Angels, Indians, Red Sox, and every other contender in the American League. At the very least, it's right up there with them.

That's the good news.

The bad news is this: the Mariners' oddly-constructed, ill-fitted, station-to-station offense appears to have become even weaker with the defection of steroid boy Guillen, the loss of minor league stud Jones and the trade of Ben Broussard. Sure, Jones was completely unproven at this level. Without question, Guillen was a cheater dogged with character issues. Certainly, Broussard was part of the DH/1B logjam that characterized the Mariners, circa 2007. Regardless, Seattle's middle-of-the-pack offense (7th in the A.L. in runs scored in 2007) has taken several steps backwards this winter. Whatever scrub or relic they dust off to play right field this year cannot replace what's been lost.

We hear one constant uttered in low, rumbling tones in almost every sport, so often that we almost intrinsically believe it must be true: defense wins ballgames. It's said about football, basketball - heck, even hockey - and definitely about baseball. But is it true?

Based upon empirical evidence, I think the best response is an unqualified not necessarily.

Toronto had the A.L.'s 2nd lowest ERA and 8th best fielding percentage in 2007, yet finished a distant 3rd in their division and won just 83 games. Minnesota had the league's 4th lowest ERA and 9th best fielding percentage but finished under .500. Meanwhile, the Yankees had a team ERA worse than both of them and a fielding percentage lower than the Mariners and won 94 games. Scoring 968 runs did the trick. Toronto's 753 runs scored doomed them to mediocrity, as did Minnesota's 718.

The M's are going to have to score runs this year if they hope to have any realistic chance to overtake the Angels. Period. Ichiro, Beltre and Ibanez are good starts and should outperform the averages at their respective positions once again this year. Betancourt doesn't add a ton of offense, but he's also a plus offensive player, as it Johjima. Lopez appears to be a slight minus. It's the black holes at 1B, RF and DH that are going to kill this club if Sexon cannot bounce back in a big way, a suitable replacement isn't found for Guillen-turned-into-Jones and the world's most expensive singles hitter without speed remains, well, similarly limited. Having 1/3 of your projected day-to-day offensive players qualifying as huge minuses just doesn't portend well for an offense that isn't particularly impressive anyway.

I'll reserve judgment on this deal until after the team solves the gaping hole in RF. I fear that 100-year old Luis Gonzalez is heading this way. Yippee!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Do good GMs grow on trees?

Alas, apparently they do not. However, some do spawn in the muck, and we've got one in Bill Bavasi.

There are some good ones out there: Billy Beane, Omar Minaya, Brian Cashman, Terry Ryan, Dave Dombrowski, Theo Epstein, Walt Jocketty, Kevin Towers, to name a few. Those lucky teams have seen recent, sustained success, several (Oakland, Minnesota, San Diego) with bottom-half payrolls. Contrast that to our beloved M's, who have what most ranking lists show to be one of the very worst GMs in all of baseball.

Terrible trades and free agent signings aside, the part of this rebuilding effort that has disturbed me the most is the unwillingness to do a complete tear-down. The M's have vainly tried to compete over the last four years, coming modestly close in 2007 and thus providing what I believe will prove to be utterly false hope to Seattle fans. Contrast this with the full rebuild that Cleveland did, and where the two franchises stand today. Cleveland is a true division favorite, whereas Seattle seems poised for a cratering this season and is, at best, a distant also-ran to the Angels. Cleveland has four more players under 30 on their 40-man roster and what appears to be a hell of a lot more logically constructed team. Oh yeah - they spent about $45 million less on payroll in 2007.

I miss Pat Gillick. Heck, Bavasi is making me yearn for (gulp) Woody Woodward again.

Friday, January 18, 2008



Wowza. Hey, did I miss something? Are the M's going to play in Triple-A this season? Did we REALLY just give a guy who is NEARLY a major-league pitcher a RAISE?!?!?!?!?

Thanks, Bavasi!! You r0xx0rz!!1!1!1!

PS - I'd pitch for half of that, with equally stinky results. Just sayin.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And the beat goes on....

We've been dark here at Tatonka more often than not for the last few months. I think it's safe to say that Mariners' ownership, Bill Bavasi, John McLaren, and a cast of thousands have finally succeeded at something: driving we long-time fans to genuine despair.

Yesterday, while they thought we weren't paying attention, the M's signed Miguel Cairo. Um, 33 years old, can't really play solid defense anywhere? Check. Has never demonstrated the ability to hit, either? Check. 3/4 of a million bucks down the toilet for a player we don't really need? Check. A roster spot wasted? Check. (No, I'm not describing Willie Bloomquist.)

I suppose that it's good to know that there are some constants in the universe. It kind of sucks that the Mariners being led by fools is one of them, but hey: whaddya do?

Now, to be fair, signing Miguel Cairo is an insignificant blip on the radar screen of head-scratching personnel moves carried out by the current regime. We could cut him tomorrow, and all we'd be out is cash (and, at this point, I don't trust the M's to spend their resources wisely, so...meh).

It's just the umpteenth data point to indicate that the plan, such as it is, in Seattle is to have a crappy, veteran-laden, "grit and character" team.