July 21, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

He’s human.

Felix Hernandez’s line for the night: 4 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, 3 WP.

Not a big deal, really. This stuff happens.

July 21, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Lets review the nights events:

1. Edgar Martinez left the game with tightness in his calf.

2. The M’s lost to Minnesota, have now dropped four out of five, and are limping towards the deadline.

3. The A’s won, and Rich Harden had a tremendous professional debut.

4. Felix Hernandez allowed two runs in a game for the first time all year and met with the trainers twice during his start.

Short of instituting “Who Let the Dogs Out” as the National Anthem, I can’t see too many other things that could have gone wrong.

The M’s can use injuries as an excuse all they want, but no first place team should ever send McLemore and Bloomquist up to lead off the 9th inning of a one-run game. The fact that no one on the bench is any better than these two is an indictment of the roster management by the M’s so far this year.

July 21, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Dave’s Trading Deadline Preview

Few things generate as much interest among fans as the trading deadline. The rumors fly, speculation swirls, and Billy Beane acquires half of his postseason roster. It’s an annual tradition, right there with apple pie, the three days of sunshine in Seattle, and Keanu Reeves making a horrible movie.

Nothing reminds us that it is August 1st, however, like The Stand Pat Quotes. You’ve seen them before.

“We are comfortable with the 25 men we have now.”

“There wasn’t anything out there that made sense for us.”

“We aren’t going to sacrifice the future for a short fix.”

And we can’t forget my personal favorite; “Sometimes the best trades are the ones you never make.”

After years of stagnation, I’d be surprised if Gillick even had to issue new comments. Just tell the secretary to open the template, change a few dates, and issue the statement on why the Mariners didn’t make a move at the deadline.

What is baseball, though, if not an avenue for illogical hope? We want to believe that this is the year that the M’s make a move and get over the hump. We want 2003 to be different. We look for signs, glimpses, and innuendo that my lead us to believe that there is reason to believe. If we can’t find it in the players on the field (and honestly, right now, you can’t), we start dreaming about the ones we wish were on the field. And that is why we love the trade deadline, even if the end is as predictable as a Jose Mesa save opportunity.

By now, we’ve identified the areas where the Mariners can improve. It isn’t like we need an entirely new starting line-up like the Oakland A’s (good luck with that one, Billy), and neither are we in as bad shape as the Angels, who are looking for a bulk supply of Rally Monkey pixie dust. The M’s could live without a trade and probably win the division. But, there are holes to be filled, and we won’t be breaking any new ground by identifying them, in order of need, as:

1. Left-handed power bat, preferably to play left field.

2. Third baseman who can hit at Safeco Field

3. Competent backup shortstop

4. Left handed middle reliever

It is unlikely the M’s will fill all of these holes. Okay, let’s be honest. With Pat Gillick’s track record, it is unlikely the M’s even view any of these as holes. But, illogical hope drives us on, so lets look at our options.

Left Field

Brian Giles, Pittsburgh, signed through 2005 at $8 million per season

Giles is a truly great player, and would instantly become the centerpiece of the M’s lineup. However, Pittsburgh will ask for a king’s ransom in return, as right they should. He’s an all-star signed at below market value through the rest of his peak years. He’s a solid fielder who won’t hurt the Mariners pitching-and-defense philosophy, but carries a gigantic stick to the plate as well. Did we mention he was left-handed? However, Giles would cost both arms and a leg in talent. How anxious are we to give up a package that would include the names Soriano, Snelling, and Lopez, and potentially a fourth player? How likely is it that the Mariners take on a long-term contract? Giles is a prayer, a long shot, and an unrealistic expectation. I’ll be stunned if he ends up in Seattle.

Jeff Conine, Baltimore, free agent at end of 2003 season

Call it a gut feeling (mixed with a little bit of inside information), but I think Conine is going to end up in Seattle. And frankly, I couldn’t be less excited about it. Conine is everything the Mariners don’t need; a stoneglove in the outfield who could sink the pitching staff, a right-handed bat who thrives against lefties, and a player who is likely to hit .200 in Safeco Field. His home/road splits aren’t favorable the past three years to him continuing at his current level of mediocre production, and nearly all of his offense comes against southpaws. The Mariners need a bat who can hit right-handed pitching, but Conine provides a lot of things the M’s look for in a player. He’s old, relatively inexpensive, and a nice guy who gets along well with everyone. If acquired, he’ll likely just take at-bats away from Greg Colbrunn and won’t actually improve the team. Yet, he’s the likely addition. Hooray.

Rondell White, San Diego, free agent at end of 2003 season

If the Mariners can’t get Conine, White is a potential fallback plan. The M’s made a run at him during the 2001 offseason, only to see him sign with the Yankees. He certainly made an impression on Jeff Nelson during interleague play, and is having a solid enough season. However, like Conine, he offers nothing defensively and swings a right-handed bat. He could help, but the Padres don’t seem too interested in unloading players without lumping a bad contract into the deal. If taking Kevin Jarvis and his contract is the cost of acquiring White is, than you look elsewhere.

Chris Snelling, Seattle (AA), currently on 40 man roster

Snelling’s hitting the snot out of the ball in San Antonio right now, leading some to suggest that he could be the answer to our woes. For the past four years, I’ve promoted Snelling more than anyone, and I believe in time that he’ll be a quality major league hitter. People who think that time is now, however, are fooling themselves. The adjustment from the Texas League to the American League is a huge one, even for polished sluggers like Mark Teixeira. Better players than Snelling usually struggle in their first few hundred major league at-bats, and the Mariners simply can’t take the gamble that they won’t get the overmatched version that we saw in Seattle last summer before he tore his knee. He’s got a bright future, but rushing him into the middle of a pennant race won’t help him or the Mariners.

Third Base

Tony Batista, Baltimore, free agent at end of 2003 season

How miserable is the crop of available third baseman when a guy who is currently posting a .285 on base percentage is the best option? Batista is a horrible fit in Seattle, as power from the right side is his calling card, and Safeco Field would likely rob him of what little value he has. We can complain about Jeff Cirillo all we want, but the fact remains that very few teams are fielding competent third baseman right now. Even fewer are trading them.

Justin Leone, Seattle (AA), not on 40 man roster

Among the longest of long shots would be the Mariners promoting Leone from San Antonio and giving him a trial. I’m actually of the opinion that this wouldn’t be such a terrible idea. Everyone who watches him take the field raves about his defense, and he’s had a breakthrough season at the plate. He is 26-years-old, tempering expectations for his future, but making him more likely to withstand the pressures of a pennant race than his younger teammates. Leone’s more deserving of a major league roster spot than Willie Bloomquist (along with John Mabry and Mark McLemore, neither of whom can be optioned to the minors), and I’d like to see him get a chance. Realistically, it just isn’t going to happen, however.

Rather than going through the extensive lists of backup shortstops and lefty specialists that are available, let’s just say that there are a lot of them, and you should be able to get one for a song. Should being the key word in that sentence. Never underestimate Pat Gillick’s ability to acquire a lemon for the price of lemonade.

I hope the M’s make a move, because this division is as weak as its been in several years. The A’s and Angels both look like fatally flawed teams, and the Mariners aren’t getting younger. History tells me to not hold my breath, but I want to believe. Here’s to hoping that Stand Pat gives us reason to get excited about the next two months of the year.

July 21, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

If The Box has to pencil the names Bloomquist, McLemore, Mabry, and Wilson into a starting lineup in October, I’ll throw something.

If The Box has to pencil those names in for much longer, the M’s won’t be playing in October.

July 21, 2003 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

I’m back from my vacation, which included biking from Seattle to Portland (hoooo!). I note now, in reading our fine archives, that the Bloomquist-Cirillo issue had already been well dealt with (and I agree completely) before I popped my head in from Oregon to post.

Let me just add something to this debate: Willie Bloomquist is Shane Monahan.

Willie: 5’11”, 185, RH, .268/.342/.370 in 138 career ABs (dropping quickly from his crazy call-up)

Shane: 6″, 195, LH, .235/.261/.332 in 226 career ABs

Both are white, everyman, popular defensive specialists without hitting ability. Monahan was a local favorite for his hockey bloodlines, Bloomquist for his local roots.

Now, I don’t want to sound particularly evil, but if as a team you’re going to be overly sensitive about popular players and let a guy’s local reputation affect your decisions and keep you from winning games, and you can’t get around that blind spot, you need to start doing preventative measures: punting Bloomquist early before anyone gets too attached to him, for instance. Letting a Dan Wilson find free-agent money elsewhere or sign for almost nothing. This organization has two huge problems:

– wants to compete without willingness to go for a title

– wants to field a fan-friendly team rather than make improvements that risk criticism (D’Angelo Jimenez, for example)

Say someone has a weakness for, uh, brainy tall blonde women. They’re able to exert hypnotic powers on them, and it wrecks their life, breaking up relationships, causing them to spend tons of money, act like a fool. They can’t get over it — so what’s the solution? Clearly, give them a wide berth. Try to avoid situations where hypnotic powers can be used. Work out how to get out of those situations. Take friends along who have different weaknesses, and let them help you.

The Mariners never do these things. They’re vulnerable to making Wilson-like decisions, so they keep on making them. They aren’t active on the waiver wire like, say, the Reds are, trying to put cheap depth together, and when that lack of depth hurts them they don’t make improvements.

The Mariners are an organization that seems to learn only from their successes and apply those lessons wildly, often to the detriment of everyone involved and at cross-purposes to the actual lessons from the original success.

Being a fan of this team is like cheering for the world’s best tic-tac-toe player.