July 12, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

A couple of random thoughts before I shut it down for the night:

Credit where it’s due: Randy Winn’s continued hot streak has put him into positive territory for offensive contributions by a center fielder. His defense is still bad, but it’s not like he’s bad on both sides of an inning right now. I’ll take high points where I can get them.

Raul Ibanez is back and boy, did this team miss him. He hit the DL on June 3rd with 11 home runs. When Ibanez went down, Boone had 8 home runs.. he now has 11. Ibanez was on the DL for over a month and was still the team’s best power source.

Timelines, a testament to Mariner planning and deliberation. Excluding the team’s comments on wanting to contend (which is a whole other topic) and injury-related roster moves:

4/26: Kevin Jarvis put out with the day’s trash

5/6 Ben Davis demoted

5/14: Garcia rumored to Boston

6/2: Gil Meche demoted

6/mid: Aurilia first rumored in a trades in normal team leak outlets

6/23: Bavasi says two deals cooking, both a lot of work

6/27: Garcia traded

7/11: Aurilia designated for assignment

This is more important than it initially seems.

Kevin Jarvis was a terrible pitcher. Everyone knew it. Even the M’s knew it, and were hoping he’d show something that they could pawn off on someone. He was in only eight games, but his awful performances to take the Mariners out of games that might have been close prompted the Mariners to cut their losses. As long as he was going to be awful, they weren’t going to get anything out of them, so there was no point to continuing. Especially while he was super unpopular, and tossing him demonstrated the team was responsive to needs (“See? We’ll spend millions of dollars on a move like this…”)

Ben Davis was an awful catcher for fourteen games. It didn’t help that he wasn’t popular with the pitchers (a topic for a whole other post). Davis as recently as last year was leading people like me to push for a more equal job-sharing arrangement, which he then demonstrated was a bad, bad idea. Davis got only 33 at-bats to not-hit his way to Tacoma before he was dispatched. This is partly because the team had Pat Borders, Pat Gillick’s personal catcher, hanging around for just such an emergency, so to them the worst case was they’d get no more offense, better defense, and veteran leadership (I make no argument here if that’s true or not).

No huge moves here. A 12th pitcher, a backup catcher. It took nearly a month before the team made their next big move, demoting Gil Meche.

Gil Meche had run down badly the season before: after getting off to a hot start, he struggled through most of the season, his stuff increasingly ineffective, and he picked up this year right where he’d left off… sort of. He got a ton of strikeouts, it seems… except that he faced a ton of batters, and those batters got a ton of hits off him (.383 BA on balls in play) as his defense completely failed to do their job behind him. Ten starts into the season, the team sends him down to Tacoma and moves Clint Nageotte into his rotation slot.

This is notable for a couple of reasons: the team waited over a half-season before pulling Meche out of the rotation. They didn’t try and get him rest, instead moving him to Tacoma where he fit into the rotation there. His replacement was a guy Melvin had taken a shine to in spring training who was, appropriately, pretty much a clone of Meche. Nageotte went from a setup role Melvin was convinced Nageotte would be perfect for (and wasn’t, and wasn’t for long) into the rotation, where he did his best Meche impression to get slapped with the “not ready for the majors” label and sent down.

A month after Garcia starts to come up in specific rumors, he’s traded. His rotation spot’s taken by one of the Tacoma starters hanging around.

A month after Aurilia starts to come up in specific rumors, he’s traded. He’s replaced by… Willie Bloomquist, organizational favorite (?)

This is the glacial pace the Mariners move it: it’s about one month from *the leak* of discussions, an almost formal step in the negotiation process: exchange business cards, compliment each other on business cards, discuss general topics, move to specific topics, specific players. Break for tea, during which both teams call local media to leak player names to soften blow for public. Return to negotiation.

We can assume that discussions started even before that. It’s almost crazy to contemplate how much time this takes.

So the team has about two weeks before the trade deadline and much work to do. But as Steve at the Wheelhouse will tell you, this is an organization that would rather do nothing than risk a bad move. While I would likely have already burned this team to the foundation, and even at this point would be on the phone all day and most of the night trying to move Winn/Franklin/everyone else, the Mariners aren’t considering it this way.

Winn sucks in center field, but they don’t see that they have an option yet. They’ll start looking to move him when Jeremy Reed seizes center field (if he does) and forces them to make a move, like Winn -> LF, Ibanez -> 1B.

Franklin’s not doing well, certainly not as well as many expected (“Franklin likely to get many more wins in 2004” — amalgam headline from pre-season)… but he’s not forcing a decision the way, say, Meche seemed to: Franklin’s getting past the sixth inning, where Meche was struggling to get out of four regularly. So as long as the team is sorting through their options for the other two slots in the rotation, they’re not going to be too concerned.

And here’s another big difference between me and the Mariners, and it’s going to go against the grain of much of what I spout off about the team as profit-mongering bourgeois running dogs.

If I was the GM of the Mariners, I would lie awake at night thinking of ways to get Spiezio off the roster. I would watch the transaction wire all day, hoping some team suffered an injury I could patch with Spiezio. I would look at the roster every day when I came into work and it would just burn me up.

The Mariners aren’t that motivated. They’re making a ton of money, we’re not abandoning the franchise in droves. They’ve already stashed that money they were going to spend on Sasaki, and no one seemed to notice that. Sure, they could purge some more salary, but if they’re not sure it’s going to improve the team, they’re going to stay the course unless there’s an overriding reason to take action. They might be tinkering with the plan, still drawn up from last year, and they might be working on some trades we haven’t heard about that have been percolating for a month.

They’re not going to raze the team, though.

July 12, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Matt Thornton back to AAA; doesn’t appear they called anyone up yet, but seeing as it’s the All-Star break (i.e., they don’t need anyone) and Miguel Olivo will be eligible to come off the DL in a few days, I think we have our answer right there.

July 12, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

Reader and Expatriate Jeffrey Wood writes to add to the “in Barry’s defense” side:

There is ample evidence that steroids and mucoactive drugs available when Barrry started to bulk tend to peak and then shorten careers, sometimes precipitously. Florence Joyner is the best-known example of this. Barry has continued to advance far beyond what drugs should have bought him over time in terms of speed, visual accuity, strength and agility. He may have better drug counselors than his competitors do, but his competitors fall so far short of his accomplishments that this is not even close to being a reasonable assumption.

Look at Bobby Bonds at around the same age as Barry is now (sorry I don’t have link as the photos I saw were published 2 years ago). Barry’s father bulked up in about the same way at the same age.

This is a case of “like father, like son”, just 10 degrees better.

All excellent points.

July 12, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

To Bonds and steroids:

What do we really know?

  • In 2001, at the age of 36, Bonds went from great to amazingly super-great
  • Bonds credits this to committing to weight training and nutrition (many cites, Muscle and Fitness June 1, 2003 is one that popped up immediately)
  • Bonds is alleged to have used anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and the scandal-causing THG, depending on who’s doing the accusing. Most accusations are that he started in 2001 (many links)
  • Agents allege that Greg Anderson, Bonds’ weight trainer, admitted to providing illegal steroids to pro atheletes when they were doing a search
  • Anderson’s attorney said Bonds declined to take illegal steroids, and to take THG
  • Conte’s attorney said Bonds has done nothing illegal (though Conte’s also maintained that THG is legal (or, at least, was legal) so this isn’t exactly the kind of denial you’d want if you were Bonds
  • The SF Chronicle ran a piece that Bonds received steroids (with Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Marvin Bernard, Benito Santiago), but named no sources (in a story that read weirdly to me)
  • In what is probably the least-credible piece of evidence so far, sprinter Tim Montgomery supposedly told a grand jury (this is supposed to be secret, by the way) that Conte had told him Bonds took illegal steroids. I’m not sure why this even generated news coverage for a week. If someone came forward to say that I’d told my lawyer that I had heard that some other blogger found out from a hairdresser that Dan Wilson uses Just for Men hair color, who would care?

    Anecdotally, here’s what people cite:

  • Bonds gained a lot of weight late in his career, to the point of changing body type from slender whip to bulky slugger
  • Bonds went supernova at 36 when most players decline
  • Bonds looks puffier, especially around the head and neck

    I don’t know if Bonds took steroids. Until I can say, with reasonable assurance, that Bonds took steroids, I refuse to make a judgement.

    In Bonds’s defense, I’ll say this: people put on weight as they age. I did. Almost everyone does. Comparing Bonds at 24 with Bonds at 36 is unfair because of course it’s shocking.

    It’s entirely possible that Bonds decided to become a different kind of hitter, to swing for the fences and adjust his training and everything else he did around that goal.

    And this year, with steroid testing, Bonds is as great as he’s been for years. If he was on steroids, wouldn’t this year be a huge crash season as he lost strength etc?

    To take the opposite view: If, as Conte/Anderson’s attorneys seem to be indicating, Bonds was offered illegal/wacky drugs and declined, why would he continue to employ them? I don’t know the elite world of training – maybe every trainer might bring it up – but it seems strange to me. If I went to best tax accountant I could find and while doing my taxes he mentioned a wacky way to conceal income using souvenier kachinas, I’d take my business elsewhere. Wouldn’t a star athlete, knowing the public relations disaster that could ensue, avoid doing business with someone they knew to be involved with illegal drugs?

    I’ve followed Bonds career for years, and I don’t know. You don’t know. It’s possible that no one but Barry himself knows.

    I weigh what little I know on each side and refuse to make a judgement, and I think that’s the reasonable course of action. This whole thing stinks of the worst kind of witch hunting. What if Barry’s innocent? Will all of those who have rushed to judgement, who taunt him from the stands or write hysterical articles, look at themselves and wonder why they went so crazy?

    Or like the people who drowned innocent women out of fear or petty desires, will they blame the victim? Will it be Barry’s fault for being so good, so late in his life? For being arrogant, for putting on weight? For being so suspicious that he was practically begging for someone to throw the first stone at him?

    We don’t know if Barry Bonds is, or was, on steroids. Everything else is speculation.

    In other news: the home run derby is tedious, and Bonds is far, far better than Rolen.

    July 12, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

    Obviously hanging out with John Kruk recently, Jayson Stark believes that Scott Rolen is the most valuable player in the National League. I won’t even bother discussing this. Here are their lines from this year:

    Bonds: .365/.628/.794

    Rolen: .339/.415/.599

    Okay, I lied, I need to say something. Bonds is going to shatter his own single season record for on base percentage with a mark that will almost certainly stand for eternity (that SLG would rank 5th ever, behind himself twice and Ruth twice). No one is ever going to post a .600+ on base percentage again. Ever. Or likely even come close. The difference between how often Bonds and Rolen make outs is greater than that of the difference between Rolen and his teammate Woody Williams. Woody Williams is a pitcher. Woody Williams is closer in hitting ability to Scott Rolen than Barry Bonds is.

    At some point, shouldn’t someone step in and save ESPN.com from their own stupidity? How do they continue to print this “analysis” and pass it off as anything other than incompetant drivel? I don’t care how much you hate statistics, or how evil you think Bonds is, or even if you think Rolen is the best defensive player of all time; you cannot form any kind of rational argument that anyone has been more valuable to their team this year, and possibly ever, than Barry Bonds has been to the Giants.