AOL commenting

October 26, 2004 · Filed Under Site information · 4 Comments 

Real quick — because of the way AOL routes its traffic, getting rid of some particularly heinous trollers has meant that other AOL users have seen their comments delayed, so they get seen by a USSM person before they go live. So if you’re cool, and post a comment that doesn’t immediately appear, don’t sweat it, it’ll show up soon enough. I’m working on trying to figure out how to more specifically target offenders, but in the meantime, sorry for the inconvenience.

USSMariner Feed #2

October 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 46 Comments 

Last winter, we held the first ever U.S.S. Mariner pizza feed, with about 50 of you showing up to hang out for several hours and talk about the M’s. So, back by popular demand, we’re going to host another pizza feed this year. Thanks to the pretty dramatic increase in readership we’ve experienced in the past twelve months, Piecora’s isn’t going to be large enough to handle us this time around. We’re looking into renting meeting halls capable of holding a couple hundred people. This feed may be a bit more like a conference than last years gathering, so before we get too far into the planning, I’d like to get some feedback from you guys on a few topics.

1. Tentative date is Saturday, December 18th. No real feedback on this necessary, as I doubt this date changes.

2. There is a moderate chance that we could get Bill Bavasi to attend, at least for a portion of the time, depending on his schedule. This is going to be the weekend after the winter meetings, so the big transactions of the offseason will likely be done by the feed. Obviously, having him (or any member of the front office) there presents a completely different dynamic than if he’s not. We had Chris Antonetti and Neil Huntington, assistant GMs for the Indians, come and speak to the 30 or so fans that attended the BP Cleveland feed last year, and they were remarkably candid and added a great deal to the feed. However, the entire atmosphere of the crowd changed when they arrived, and I’m not sure which you guys would prefer; a chance to have a Q&A with our GM or a chance to hang out with a few hundred fans and say whatever you want about the offseason moves. If Bavasi or another member of the front office does come, we’re going to demand that you treat them with respect and realize they’re giving up some valuable time to be there, and this would not be your opportunity to call Bill all the names in person that you’ve yelled at home for the past year. So, yay or nay to inviting a front office type to the feed?

3. Odds are we won’t be serving alcohol this year, so my theory was to hold the feed in the early afternoon (say, 2-6), which gives time for those of you that want to visit a nearby watering hole and drink the night away with fellow readers a chance to do so. Depending on how many special guests we get (right now, I’ve got two lined up, and am aiming for five), we might make the feed a bit longer, as well. So, what I’m wondering is what ratio of people talking at you vs you mingling with other readers you’d be happiest with. Should we cap the Q&A/us talking time to a couple hours so that you all can hang out with each other, or would you prefer more scheduled time given to people addressing the whole group?

4. On a similar vein, there’s a good chance that a friend of mine who is an area scout for a National League team is going to attend. I realize that not everyone is as big of a minor league geek as I am, and might not be as interested in talking scouting theory/mechanics breakdowns with a pro scout. Since his opinion on current minor leaguers is proprietary information to his club, he probably won’t be real forthcoming in his evaluation of guys in the M’s farm system, so the topic would center more on the role of scouting and what he looks for in general. Would you guys enjoy something like that?

5. Also, if you have any connections with meeting hall/conference centers that would give us a good deal and allow us to bring our own food, feel free to email us. One of our readers was willing to do a lot of the legwork for this feed (you rock, Conor), but if we have any inside connections, might as well use them. In a similar vein, if you’d like to help with the administrative side of planning this thing, let me know, and I’ll gladly put you to work.

M’s and rumor mongers, Alex’s a jerk

October 25, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 97 Comments 

I’m back again, again — I spent the weekend hanging out with my brother, which included being hit by The Worst Beat Ever in my poker-playing life (but nobody likes bad beat stories, so I’ll spare everyone). And there was no Mariner news to write about. I was a little disappointed.

So I have two things, then:

If you’re following the free agent speculation, you’ll note that Carlos Beltran is frequently mentioned as a future Yankee. Possibly a Cub, or a Met, or an Astros. Sometimes the Red Sox, Angels, even the Dodgers. Not, though, a Mariner.

I think this reflects two things: first, in general, sports media (like all mass media) often fixates on the easy story. Every outlet has individual people who look at all the stuff they could fill their column-inch quota or word count with, and those people often look at possible topics and think “which of these is easiest to write something that my readers will look at and, possibly, react to?” I know: writing columns at BP I often sat down at keyboard with two or three topics, tried to work on the most interesting ones, ran up on the deadline, and ended up having to do the easy-to-write one and after that got back to the other topic.

The Yankees are eaaaaaaaaaaasy. Will they be able to continue their huge spending as the “tax rate” on payroll increases to 40%? Will they be able to take on Beltre, and does that mean Alex moves to short and Jeter to second? Or center? And then what about Beltran — does Bernie stay there? Are they looking to dump someone?

Easy column, guaranteed to generate response, because the Yankees are always controversial.

Moreover, and this is going to sound bad no matter how I write it, sports media in general is hugely East Coast-centric. ESPN, the big networks, they’re all out east, and it shows. Great West Coast performances rarely get national play because the games air at ten in New York, and nobody’s watching. This is more subjective, but coverage of some teams often seems to be an afterthought. I find many more factual errors in team and game stories the farther west they’re filed. In general it seems that only LA, also in a media center, gets the kind of press attention that the Phillies do. They certainly don’t cover the kind of in-depth backroom dealings that those east franchises do. If you want to get rumors out of the Mariners in a mainstream publication, you’re looking to Gammons pretty much.

So the fact that the Mariners are a huge revenue-generating team — I don’t think that’s well-known. That they’re interested in spending on a top-tier free agent… I don’t think that’s well-known either, and as a story it doesn’t lend itself to an easy column as well as the Yankees do. And then when people write about “speculation is that he’ll be courted by x, y, and, z” there’s no buzz about it.

There is also the fact that these teams are known to pursue and sign big names, while the Mariners are not. We could talk about whether the perception that the Mariners have never signed a top-tier free agent is justified, but it’s absolutely true that this belief is widespread, and it’s not going to go away until the team signs someone great to a truly monster deal. No one cares that the Mariners were bidding on Tejeda, or whoever — it’s going to take a signing to change this perception, and until then people aren’t going to buzz about how they’re rumored to be after this top guy or that top guy unless the team’s actually in the running.

I expect that once the free agent season has started and the team is out bidding, we’ll know about it. I don’t think this is a case where the lack of whispering about what they’re up to means they’re not up to anything.

And in the things-that-generate-hate-mail category, I’ve always stuck up for Alex. The money, even the contract, isn’t an issue for me, because I think he was worth it, and Texas’ whining about payroll flexibility rang false to me. He’s always been sort of… personality-less to me, someone who knows what he’s supposed to say, and says it. I’ve also seen Alex flash genuine warmth before kids while doing random promo appearances at schools and stuff when he was here, so I’ve always figured

But man, seeing his hand-slap thing in the ALCS, followed by his subsequent whining to the umpires and everyone else… what a jerk. There’s a certain amount of uh… latitude I’m willing to give players in trying to do what it takes to win, but between the move itself, the argument with the umps that he was just running — which was obviously not true — and then his bleating about the call, I was thinking “dude, don’t be a jerk about this, please…”

No such luck.


October 22, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 

The always solid Jeff Sullivan lays out some good information about the Mariners payroll relative to revenue the past few years. Even as we encourage optimsm that the M’s will actually spend money this offseason, it is important that we keep pointing out just how often the Mariners have lied about their economic standing in the game. The team is a cash cow, and will still be a cash cow even if they drop $30 million on the roster this winter.

Mike Hargrove, your 2005 manager

October 21, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

“You keep getting hit on the head with a hammer, after a while you start looking for the hammer whether it’s there or not.”
–Mike Hargrove

What’s your hammer’s name? Bob Melvin? Willie Bloomquist? Scott Spiezio? The sacrifice bunt? The three-reliever inning?

We have so many choices.

So here’s what I want to toss out about Hargrove, and I’d love to hear dissenting opinions, additions, contradictions, and whatnot. This is me looking through notes and junk while I watch the Astros-Cardinals game (Rolen HR! Woooo!), so understand this isn’t intended as the definitive or even a reasonably accurate Hargrove rundown.

Hargrove has had two stints as a manager coming into this one. First, he had several years with the Indians. During this time the Indians had some great young talent, and some serious pitching problems you might have heard about. Part of Hargrove’s problem was his pitching coach was pretty terrible. The team suffered a lot of problems with pitchers not admitting they were hurt, particularly, and the pitching coach didn’t pick up on it, either.

That aside, he did work Colon hard, didn’t like Colon’s approach, and didn’t go that easy on Jaret Wright either, and Jaret Wright’s only now come back around.

Bryan Price might serve Hargrove well, at that. Especially if Price hasn’t converted to worshipping crazy old-school craven pitcher idols from rational workload management. But it’s been clear from his managerial history that he needs a good pitching coach who communicates well with his staff and can also tell Hargrove things he may not want to hear (“Lay off that guy.”)

I’m also encouraged that even given players that could have been used to go little-ball crazy, Hargrove didn’t really do that.

In Baltimore, there are some hopeful signs. Hargrove displayed a flexibility in role management we haven’t really seen here… uh, ever. We saw a little of, say, the crazy multi-headed Leone-Spiezio-Bucky-Edgar DH machinations, but Hargrove was willing to do things like play Melvin Mora in left field and short to get him in the lineup every day, depending on who else he was subbing into short and left against who. So like instead of a regular platoon, he’d set up a platoon of two guys around Mora to get Mora playing time. He’s demonstrated releatedly that he’s willing to experiment with trying players at other positions, even if initially ugly, for long-term gains. That’s pretty cool.

What else? Despite that, he’s never been particularly aggressive about getting his bench into the game, which given the M’s historical benches, might be just fine. He also rarely pinch-hit during games, and so was okay with a short bench.

He’s shown some proclivity for the kind of role-fitting in relievers that we saw (and disliked) in Melvin, particularly in seeing lefties as situational relievers (ala Rhodes). He’s liked carrying 12 pitchers on a roster, which isn’t that bad with a short bench, but really a waste of a roster spot. Especially considering that the team’s going to have a surplus of decent long-relief candidates and not many situational guys, while in the field they could probably use some versatility.

In what may be a good sign for us, though, Hargrove also seemed to have a keen eye in Cleveland for looking out for tiring starters and pulling them before they could wreck a good start, and relying on a deep bullpen (which the Mariners could have, if they assemble things well next year).

I don’t blame Hargrove at all for the failure of the Russ Branyan Experiment. There was at the time a huge stathead contingent that belived his massive power, walks, and career-eating strikeout virus meant he was the next Rob Deer. I figured he was worth a shot, but Branyan never controlled the strikeouts and has never had the career so many thought he would, under Hargrove or anyone else.

Similarly, I don’t blame him at all for the failure of the Orioles. That team put the retch in wretched, and had all kinds of lineup problems. As much as the Indians never seemed to put together a pitching staff for him, the Orioles never provided a decent lineup for them.

The really bad thing is that in the post-season, Hargrove did not do well for a number of reasons and it got him fired in Cleveland. I’m not sure he’s going to have to worry about that for a while in Seattle.

Having written this, I’m a lot more positive about the hire than I was when I started. But as Dave said, managers do their jobs differently with different teams, and we’re not really going to know how Hargrove does here until he’s doing it.

Hope this was helpful in some way.


October 21, 2004 · Filed Under Off-topic ranting · 11 Comments 

I’m back. Got sick there, sorry. Expectations guide to Hargrove up tonight, hopefully. Also, today’s my brother’s birthday — whooo! Good job on living another year there, Craig.

In more Mariner related news, tomorrow is the birthday of one Ichiro!


October 21, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 88 Comments 

The biggest collapse in the history of professional sports.

And it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team.

Hargrove It Is

October 20, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 51 Comments 

As you’ve likely all heard by now, Mike Hargrove is the new Mariners manager. Considering that the organization resigned themselves to hiring a manager with previous experience (which pretty much limits you to retreads who have been fired recently), this is probably about as good as we could have hoped for. Hargrove has a history of success with rebuilding teams into perenniel contenders. He’s not a hard line old school or new school guy, and will do some things well and some things not as well as we’d prefer. He’s a low-risk hire who won’t cause the team to implode around him and will be as successful as the talent he is given.

All in all, we could have done a lot worse, and I’m not certain we could have done much better.

Yankee Stadium

October 19, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 107 Comments 

You know, all it would take is — just once — for an umpiring crew to have the balls to award the visiting team a win when the pathetic fans at pathetic Yankee Stadium decide to make themselves part of the game by throwing crap on the field. I mean, if there aren’t ever going to be consequences, why shouldn’t they throw baseballs, batteries and trash on the playing field?

Go Red Sox.

Grover or Grady

October 19, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · 68 Comments 

According to Finnigan, the two leading candidates for the manager spot are Mike Hargrove and Grady Little, who will be in Seattle tomorrow for final interviews.

Really, I’m just happy that Bowa, Baylor, and Collins didn’t make the cut. If I had to choose between Little and Hargrove, I’d probably go with Grover. Being part of the Indians organization for the past year cannot have been bad for him, as its pretty well known that I consider them to be the best run front office in baseball. I still don’t think we can say with any kind of certainty which one would be a better choice, but I’ll throw my weak support towards Mike Hargrove.

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