“Better in a Tigers kind of way.”

Jeff · February 18, 2005 at 10:54 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Jayson Stark names the Mariners the AL’s most improved team. Don’t get too comfortable, though, folks: it’s just to set you up for this zinger.

Of course, all that just makes these Mariners better in a Tigers kind of way, as opposed to a win-the-World Series kind of way. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

Does anyone else feel a chill? Because that seems cold. At first, anyway.

As miserable as last year was for M’s fans, Detroit was historically bad two seasons ago, a forehead-slapping 20 games worse than the 99-loss 2004 Mariners. Since hope is like a tulip bulb — you can’t stop it from blossoming in the spring — I should mention that the Tigers did improve by 29 games between 2003 and 2004.

That probably won’t happen, of course. That type of improvement has only happened twice in the AL since the 1961 expansion. But improbable does not mean impossible.

Pursuing the path of irrational exuberance a bit further, consider that Detroit’s centerpiece free agent acquisition, Pudge Rodriguez, was a veteran right-handed bat who had an injury history and was entering a spacious pitcher’s ballpark. Red flags? If you were a bull, that signing would’ve looked like a matador. To a Mariner fan, maybe it compares to the deal given to a certain slugging first baseman. Richie Sexson is a different type of player, but it’s nice for those of us that just hit 30 to remember that players north of that number can still perform at an elite level.

That probably won’t happen, of course, since career arcs generally follow similar patterns of descent.

A lot of other cosmic tumblers fell into place for the Tigers, too, most notably Carlos Guillen’s agreement with Mr. Applegate. For all Bill Bavasi has done right this offseason, trading Guillen ranks as his biggest gaffe. To be fair, no one foresaw the Venezuelan shortstop making such a leap. If your team is going to improve nearly 30 games from one year to the next, though, a few serendipitous events have to occur.

Enough serendipity probably won’t come the Mariners’ way to equal the Tigers’ improvement. But if they did pull off such a match, they’d finish 92-70.

However improbable, would anyone not take “better in a Tigers kind of way”? I’m certainly warming to the idea.


48 Responses to ““Better in a Tigers kind of way.””

  1. JC on February 19th, 2005 11:14 am

    I still think giving melvin a extension and basically giving away 500 k was a huge mistake everyone has forgotten.We all new this guy couldnt manage but bavasai gave him 500 k anyway know that was stupid…..

  2. Tim on February 19th, 2005 11:14 am

    When discussing the M’s chances, writers continue to cite last seasons record as being the benchmark. While that has some merit, I think it should be limited. For example, after the M’s 116 game season, did people say, “well, I think they have about the same talent, so I expect another 112-116 wins.” No, that would be stupid because we all know the M’s played better than their talent level. The same holds for the flip side. Were the M’s really a

  3. Tim on February 19th, 2005 11:19 am

    Sorry, somehow I posted before I wanted to…that pretty much makes me look stupid.

    Anyway, my point was that last year the team was not as bad as a 63 win team. So to say they can’t expect to compete for the division surely from the perspective that they had 99 losses last isn’t always valid. Is there some metric to assign an average win/loss prediction for a team with a measure of their standard deviation? Basing predictions soley on a loss number from last year seems to be a very misleading benchmark.

  4. Steve on February 19th, 2005 11:28 am

    One of the encouraging aspects of the Mariners now – as compared with this time last year – is that there are many more opportunties for serenedipity. The old Gillick philosophy (spread the money around, value the “proven performance” of veteran players more highly than the uncertain performance of younger players), guaranteed a team with limited upside and large downside – i.e, a team with little opportunity for serendipity. This year, there is much more upside upside.

    IMHO – that is the most significant change in the team’s operating philosophy. Frankly, it is also a change that I did not see the Mariners making when Bavasi was hired. Last year I was convinced that Bavasi was hired to “boldly follow in the path blazed by Gillick”. The changes in roster construction we see this year are one of several areas that have blunted my attitudes about the FO. I don’t believe that Bavasi is the über-GM that some fans are ready to proclaim him to be. It’s clear, though, that he is not the Gillick-redux disaster many of us believed he would be.

    In addition to your position roundtables, I think it would be interesting for USSM to do a roundtable on Bavasi. I’ve previously highlighted comments here at USSM and in Derek’s “Off the Wall” pieces that indicate some changes in attitude about Bavasi, but USSM has not done a more formal assessment of Bavasi after one year of time on the job. That would be an interesting topic.

  5. David J Corcoran on February 19th, 2005 12:20 pm

    Throwing a half million at a manager is basically throwing pennies in the fountain in the big scheme of things. It was just a PR move.

  6. Digger on February 19th, 2005 12:21 pm

    If everything goes right this year, then the Ms could be close to the Tigers +29–and that would put them in contention. But even if that happens, let’s hope that Bavasi does not rest on his laurels next year like Dombrowski did this year. A good GM ought to be getting the team better every year, even if he was +29 the previous year.

  7. Paul Covert on February 19th, 2005 12:32 pm

    Tim (#3)– if I’m understanding your question correctly, you might take a look at Clay Davenport’s Expected Standings report at BP. He gives three rounds of adjustments, first based on runs scored and allowed, then based on raw offensive stats for and against, and thirdly with a further adjustment for strength of schedule (which, IIRC, accounts for whether you faced a lot of other teams’ best pitchers and strongest lineups, not just whether your opponents had good records).

    All three of those adjustments show the ’04 M’s has having gotten worse results than would be expected from their raw performance: they get fewer wins than would normally be expected from their RS/RA; they scored fewer runs than would be expected from their raw stats; and, apparently, they also faced an above-average quality of opponent. These deviations from normal don’t usually tend to carry over from one year to the next. So what Davenport is telling us is that last year’s Mariners had the raw performance of about a 75-87 team.

    So, with the improvements made to the team over the offseason, I expect about ten games of improvement (indeed, if Beltre repeats last year’s performance, he could be worth that much by himself), which would give us a good shot for about an 85-77 team.

    This isn’t World Series-quality, of course, but it’s good enough that if some things break right (e.g. Felix making the jump in midseason, Soriano recovering from his injury, and both getting hot at the end of the season), a good postseason run isn’t unthinkable. Even with only 85, though, it will put the team in a position to go after a good starter next offseason and be ready for some serious action in Felix’s first full year (concerning whom keep those candles lit, folks).

    “In a Tigers kind of way,” though? Well… the same “Plexiglass principle” is certainly valid in both cases; so I can see what Stark means well enough. But given the choice between improving from 43 wins to 72, or from 63 to about 85, I know which I prefer. 🙂

  8. Matt Williams on February 19th, 2005 12:44 pm

    Tim the pythagorean formula method compares runs scored and runs given up to give an “expected” win total, if I remember correctly Bill James came up with the idea. If the calculator for it I just found is correct the M’s would have been expected to lose 93 games last year (it really doesn’t surprise me they were on the “unlucky” side).

  9. Shoeless Jose on February 19th, 2005 12:53 pm

    Except that not everything that broke against the M’s in 2004 will break for them in 2005 (as presumably it did in 2001). And there will be some injuries and not everybody will get hot when we need them to, and yada yada yada. We may hope for a .500 team, perhaps even expect it. You can go beyond that in your dreams, which is what dreams are for. Personally, given last season, an 81 win team setting up for a 2006 run would be fine with me.

  10. Mark O on February 19th, 2005 12:54 pm

    The 99 losses really isn’t representative of what the M’s could have done last year. From about the all-star break they had packed it in and began bringing up career minor leaguers to see if they could stick. With a rotating door of minor leaguers in the staff and on the field you can expect to loss some games due to lack of chemistry and obviously lack of experience. For arguments sake say the M’s kept Olerud and the rest of the underperformers. Would they still have 99 losses? Would they have more? Would they have less? I would imagine that being professionals they would turn it around for a stretch and would be better by around 5-8 games. Which isn’t much in the grand shceme of things but in regards to improvement it makes the task less daunting. With that said I think the M’s are really primed for a big turnaround.

  11. Tim on February 19th, 2005 1:14 pm

    Paul and Matt,

    This is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks to both of you for pointing this out. This is the reason I like to come here, you really get some great information from both the writers and the posters. This is a great metric for explaining what we should have seen last year.

    I’m new to all of these sabermetrics (just read Moneyball), but I’m sure someone takes the PECOTA projections of each player before the season and predicts a final finish for the team. My question is, does this take into consideration a variance for performance? Meaning, there are some players who are more or less risky, which could lead to different team finishes. You make some good observations about what we can expect if Belre does really well, but does someone do this systematically? For example, does someone take the predicted standings from these PECOTA rankings and give a plus or minus finish for the team.

    It would be interesting to try and predict those teams that could do really well if they “get a few breaks” or if players have career years. Sorry if this is common USS Mariner knowledge and I’m just taking up space. Thanks.

  12. Jeff on February 19th, 2005 1:14 pm

    I particularly enjoyed Jayson Stark’s perspective on the signing of Ordonez by the Tigers.

  13. Matt Williams on February 19th, 2005 1:23 pm

    I didn’t know Davenport was doing that sort of analysis, very interesting, and much more useful than the simple pythagorean method (although I’m sure nowhere near as quick and easy to do yourself).

  14. eponymous coward on February 19th, 2005 3:07 pm

    Something else Bill James talked about along with the Pythagorean Method was the Plexiglass effect- which was a fancy way of saying “regression to the mean” (bad teams get better, good teams decline).

    Given that and Davenport’s numbers, and the fact that almost nothing broke the M’s way last year, it’s not unreasonable to assume improvement. How much? 75-85 wins seems about right, with a “if enough things go right” outside shot at 90.

  15. JC on February 19th, 2005 3:09 pm

    Hey do you know where a working stiff can get some peanuts mr cocran?

  16. David J Corcoran on February 19th, 2005 3:12 pm

    You know what I mean. The Mariners make hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. A half million at a manager is nothing.

  17. David J Corcoran on February 19th, 2005 3:15 pm


    On the individual PECOTA standings there is a list for Breakout %, Collapse %, and Improve %. Those go into the PECOTA calculations and then are thusly factored into the Pythagorean records. There will obviously be some kind of margin of error, however. I think that’s what you wanted, maybe I’m wrong.

  18. 51 Rules! on February 19th, 2005 3:45 pm

    If the Mariners shape up the way we hope, there should be the following improvements: significant improvement in infield defense, and slight improvement in outfield. Hopefully this will also feed back positively to pitching to create a virtuous cycle. And they are supposed to be better offensively, so if they all play up to expectations, it should be a better-than .500 team. The M’s are also just one season removed from being a winning team. Others have mentioned that their 63 wins were less than the “pythagorean” formula predicts. I predict something in the 85-90 wins range.

  19. Matt Staples on February 19th, 2005 4:56 pm

    $500k is the difference between being able to rent a $12m pitcher and a $9m pitcher in September, should it come down to that (which it likely won’t, but hopefully will in 2006). Assuming 10% interest from 2004-06, which probably won’t happen either, but which is a nice round number, the $500k they wasted on Melvin in 2004 becomes the difference, roughly, between a $12.5m pitcher and a $9m pitcher in September of 2006. $500k also accords flexibility in other areas and, while not the most significant amount in the world, certainly could be spent better than on a manager everyone knew would be tossed out anyway. I’m open to the argument that giving Melvin an extension brought out $500k more revenue to the ballpark in 2004 (in the sense that it made it appear the M’s hadn’t packed it in), but I find that unlikely.

  20. jim on February 19th, 2005 5:04 pm

    Extending Melvin’s contract was extreme but the M’s showed class in keeping him through the season. That said, most of us feel we could lean on the dugout rail with a thousand yard stare like Melvin and compile the same or better record while collecting 500K. Melvin’s hands-off “let the veterans work out their problems” managing strategy blew up in his face but it’s debatable whether managing in the regular season adds much value to a team — look at Joe Torre’s record before managing the Yankees — it’s fun to pencil in a half dozen all-stars into the lineup every game. Hargrove is 996-963 in 13 years of managing.

    Besides swapping out aging non-producers for a shinier new offense I expect the most improvement in our pitching staff. Franklin and Moyer combined to lose a staggering 29 games in 65 starts in 2004 while winning only 11. USS Mariner favorite Ron Villone was the team leader with 8 wins. Franklin is destined for the bullpen, at best, and Moyer for the DL or release in the final year of his contract — his changeup isn’t fooling anyone anymore. If Madritsch can build on 2004 and Meche and Pineiro can pitch .500 ball we may have a winning season.

  21. David J Corcoran on February 19th, 2005 5:19 pm

    But Managers and Coaches are in an entirely separate fund than player payroll, so it wouldn’t make a difference.

  22. The Ancient Mariner on February 19th, 2005 5:27 pm

    Re #19: The $500K didn’t come out of the player-payroll budget, so it’s irrelevant to any future payroll decisions.

  23. The Ancient Mariner on February 19th, 2005 5:30 pm

    That’s why I hate being distracted when I’m trying to post–I wind up duplicating someone else . . .

  24. JC on February 19th, 2005 5:33 pm

    I unerstand its a diffrent fund but they where stinking up the joint when they gave him a extension.I know 500 k isnt much in the baseball world but i truly believe by this time he had allready lost his players and they new he wasnt the guy for the job.I just think bavasi hasnt made many good moves since he has been here winn 3 years.spazzio 3 years,sexson 50 million ouch.I think his best move was getting jolbert last year.Yes beltre is a good move but he is a allstar that was a easy decision to make.Does anyone no his carear record as a gm?

  25. David J Corcoran on February 19th, 2005 5:39 pm

    He is showing a truly different philosophy from his angel days.

    You must be forgetting the Freddy trade, the willingness to DFA crummy players, the group of NRIs he brought in, the Reese signing, etc.

    Like I said, it’s a PR move. A team looks better to the fans when it isn’t firing its manager in the middle of the season. It probably wasn’t even Bavasi’s choosing, but rather an order from Lincoln and Armstrong.

  26. Graham on February 19th, 2005 5:50 pm

    Winn is a bad deal how? His VORP last year was something like 34.6, good for 9th in the majors. He’s being paid $3.75 million this year. That’s about 9.2 VORP/M. A comparison of the average, compiled at Lookout landing, gives the average of contracts signed that year as slightly less than 7. Winn is a good player on a good contrct- just because the M’s now have one outfielder surplus to requirements does not alter that fact. If you’re going to criticize Bavasi, rip him on the Guillen trade, not on a deal like Winn’s.

    And Beltre’s never been an All-Star, either.

  27. Graham on February 19th, 2005 5:51 pm

    That should say, 9th in the majors at center field. Sorry for any confusion…

  28. JC on February 19th, 2005 5:53 pm

    all that money he spent on a overweight mo vaughn with injurys?I love the garcia trade yes i forgot that .No one said you had to fire bormel until the season was over.I think you read bavasi wrong he is a guy who wants the spotlight where gillick let the players have it .The last time i checked no one buys a ticket to see the GM work just the players play.Im not a fan of this guy obviusly but i keep hearing all of this praise and everyone ripping gillick who really turned this franchise into a winner not the loveable losers from the northwest.Check gillicks record he is a great not good great GM that everyone is ripping no one was when we won 116 games are where in the playoffs under his guidence .Leyts just see if bavasai can get us there once before we declare him great ok im done…..

  29. JC on February 19th, 2005 5:56 pm

    Graham did you ever see winn play CF he was one of the worst ive evr seen in my 52 years of life .He couldnt read the ball off the bat to save his life .

  30. The Ancient Mariner on February 19th, 2005 7:13 pm

    JC, it wasn’t Gillick who turned the M’s into winners; that happened on Woody’s watch, though imho it goes more to Roger Jongewaard’s credit than Woody’s. As for ’01, two points. One, Gillick is in no way responsible for the fact that everything broke right and the team played well over its head that season; and two, while the players Gillick added were valuable, to be sure, they were by no means primarily responsible for 116 wins. Of all the players added before that season, the ones who contributed the most to that magic-carpet ride were Boone and Ichiro; Ichiro wasn’t Gillick’s decision (though I have no reason to think he opposed that move), and on Boone, Gillick just got lucky.

    Taken all in all, I’d say Gillick was good for Seattle for the first year or two; unfortunately, he never recovered from 116 wins.

  31. Gary on February 19th, 2005 7:36 pm

    Anybody have an opinion as to why Stark doesn’t think Beltre was one of the three best signings of the off-season?

  32. JC on February 19th, 2005 7:36 pm

    who could recover from 116 wins?its never been done……….

  33. eponymous coward on February 19th, 2005 11:17 pm

    it goes more to Roger Jongewaard’s credit than Woody’s.

    Bingo. A team that has 3 slam dunk, top 10 ever at position HOF’ers (Griffey, A-Rod and RJ) SHOULD win a lot of games.

    Add in a marginal HOF’er (Edgar), three very good All Star caliber players who miss theHOF by not too much, but have good long runs of excellence (Buhner, Tino and Jamie Moyer), and you arguably have MORE talent than some Yankee teams that won back to back pennants.

    If management would have been willing to spend a bit more to put talent around them, and hadn’t made some very questionable moves…oh, well.

  34. Hit and Run on February 20th, 2005 3:19 am

    Ref #30. We may have not agreed with many Gillick moves post 2001, but to not give him credit for the 116 game win team is rediculous. Trusting my memory, the following players were brought in by Gillick.


    The following were brought in during Woody’s era (or prior to it) but some may have been signed to contract extensions during Gillicks reign or promoted from the minors with Gillick’s approval.


    If we are going to give blame to Gillick for what went wrong between 2002-2004, we have to at least give him credit for what went right in 2001.

  35. firova on February 20th, 2005 7:29 am

    #34 is absolutely correct. Gillick took a 1999 team that had suffered two losing seasons in a row, Hall of Famers notwithstanding, traded Griffey, and brought in Sele, McLemore, Javier, Olerud, Rhodes, etc. He may have gotten lucky in replacing A-Rod’s production in 2001 with Boone’s, but if so the Detroit Tigers got lucky in 2004 with Guillen too.
    #30: Gillick being “in no way responsible for the fact that everything broke right” in 2001 means that neither Woodward nor Bavasi are responsible for anything breaking either right or wrong. You make the moves, you take the credit and the blame. You may believe that signing six free agents, as Gillick did in 2000, is the wrong way to build a team, but I don’t remember hearing that complaint during two straight trips to the ALCS. 2002-03 were new stories; just don’t forget what Gillick accomplished in 2000-01.
    #33 Biggest problem with the Hall of Famers is that they didn’t win a lot of games–at least not as many as they should have–because Woodward and all the rest either couldn’t pay for or didn’t develop the kind of pitching necessary to win consistently.
    Team ERAs
    1994 5.50
    1995 4.88 ALCS
    1996 5.56
    1997 5.14 First Round, but we know how tough it was on Lou
    1998 5.31
    1999 5.59
    2000 4.81 ALCS
    2001 3.87 ALCS
    2002 4.31 winning record
    2003 3.93 winning record
    2004 5.08

  36. JPWood on February 20th, 2005 8:11 am

    Clay Davenport’s expected W-L projections are based on PECOTA ratings, which, while being the best future performance predictors available, have acknowledged problems in predicting “outlyer” and minimal service time player performance. The M’s 2004 team didn’t churn as radically in 2004 as in its 2005 version and was more easily predictable. Even so, no stat-based prediction came close to 99 losses.
    The Ms will be relying heavily on 5 outlyer and minimal service time players in 2005: Ichiro, Beltre, Moyer, Madritsch and Reed. And there is a possibility that two others could join the mix: Campillo and Jacobsen.
    I’m not predicting anything at this point and will just welcome any input I can get as the season progresses.

  37. rd on February 20th, 2005 1:59 pm

    #35 — what happens when you adjust the ERA’s for park effects? Doesn’t the team ERA parallel the move from the Kingdome to Safeco? Nobody could pitch in the Kingdome (besides RJ).

  38. firova on February 20th, 2005 3:19 pm

    #37: Good point. Certainly Safeco helped, but something must be at play even in the Kingdome, because the team rpg was above 5.00 only twice from 1980 through 1993: 1985, 5.05; 1986, 5.15. My above post should have said runs per game rather than ERA. Probably the difference in offense between the 1980s and 1990s has something to do with that, right? I may be missing something else here, but it looks to me like the Griffey-ARod era Mariners just couldn’t pitch.

  39. The Ancient Mariner on February 20th, 2005 4:44 pm

    Re #35 — you need to read more carefully. I said Gillick is in no way responsible for the fact that everything broke right. In a way it’s true that “neither Woodward nor Bavasi are responsible for anything breaking either right or wrong,” because luck is definitionally that for which one cannot be responsible; but of course it’s their responsibility to manage probabilities, and thus to minimize — as much as humanly possible — the opportunity for bad luck and maximize — ditto — the opportunity for good luck.

    Put another way: no, Gillick doesn’t get credit for the 116-win team, because that wasn’t, talent-wise, a 116-win team. It was a legitimate contender, yes, and he does get credit for his additions to it; in particular, he gets credit for Olerud (forgot him), Rhodes, McLemore and Javier, and for managing to squeeze as much as he did out of Bowden after Junior put him in a vise. However, anyone who wants to argue that Gillick expected Bret to go ka-Boone! when no one else saw that coming had darn well better be able to produce evidence; Sasaki and Ichiro were Yamauchi’s calls, not Gillick’s, so he doesn’t get too much credit for them, anyway; and Nelson’s return was pretty much handed to him with a bow on top. Plus, we should also give Gillick “credit” for the fact that his big stretch-drive acquisition in ’01 was Al Martin.

    Bottom line, as it seems to me, is that as regards ’01, Gillick should get credit for the players who were significant additions whose additions were his own idea and whose subsequent performance was within the realm of reasonable prediction. That would be Olerud, Cameron, McLemore, Sele, Rhodes, Nelson, and Lampkin (finally having a capable backup catcher was no small thing). Boone was a stroke of good luck; I’m inclined to put Charlton in that category as well; and the credit for Kaz and Ichiro goes to Yamauchi. IMHO, then, Gillick certainly deserves some credit, but the fact remains that the core of that team was there before he got there, and his greatest legacy to the Mariners is the completion of the squandering of that core. Like I said, he never recovered from 116 wins; the out-of-left-field success of that team made him complacent, on my read, so that he wasn’t willing to make the moves that were needed to put Seattle over the top.

    Oh, and minor correction to #34: both Abbott and Bell predated Gillick. Martin and Sprague, meanwhile, aren’t players I would lay to his credit, but whatever suits your fancy . . .

  40. firova on February 20th, 2005 7:04 pm

    #38: I may not be reading carefully, and I don’t have a brief for Gillick, but when you say “it wasn’t Gillick who turned the M’s into winners, that happened on Woody’s watch, though it goes more to Roger Jongeward’s credit than to Woody’s” it raises questions about this matter of responsibility: to what degree are Woodward (and Jongeward whose Hall of Famers had departed by 2001)responsible for the 76-85 and 79-83 records of 1998-99, Woodward’s last two as GM (and Griffey’s last two years as well)? If we’re not going to lay ultimate responsibility at the feet of the general manager, the GM’s boss likely will. The Woodward Mariners were not always winners, certainly not to the degree that the Gillick Mariners were even in those terribly disappointing 93-win seasons of 2002-03 that happened to be the second-best totals in team history. Yes, they didn’t make the playoffs and the sinkhole happened in 2004, but whatever we think about who got what player, it is on Bavasi now–he knows its his job on the line if they don’t turn it around. I don’t think GMs have the luxury of picking and chosing which players they will claim responsibility for, good or bad luck notwithstanding, and no matter who they inherit. So it seems pointless to try to slice hairs so we can blame Gillick because the team failed last year.

  41. The Ancient Mariner on February 20th, 2005 7:20 pm

    If you want to argue that Gillick turned the Mariners back into winners, that’s a viable case; but to blithely say that he turned the M’s into winners is to dismiss everything that happened before 2000, which I don’t think is reasonable.

  42. eponymous coward on February 20th, 2005 9:23 pm

    The Woodward Mariners were not always winners, certainly not to the degree that the Gillick Mariners were even in those terribly disappointing 93-win seasons of 2002-03 that happened to be the second-best totals in team history.

    If you’d given Woodward the money that Gillick had, you might have had better results. Woodward got to make exactly one big FA acquisition after 1995- Jeff Fassero. Gillick had the money to sign Olerud, Sasaki, McLemore and Sele in 2000. Compare who Woody signed as our relief ace (Mesa) to who Gillick got (Sasaki). Compare Butch Henry and Butch Huskey to Aaron Sele and Bret Boone. And so on.

    The reason why the 2000-2003 teams were better was because there was an actual supporting cast, even though the core talent from 2000-2003 was considerably less talented- the only guys who’ve got shots at the HOF are Ichiro, Edgar and Freddy, as opposed to RJ, A-Rod and Griffey. The M’s spent lavishly to have that supporting cast. Gillick gets credit for some good decisions (along with poor ones), but IMO the ones that put the M’s on the map were a farm system that produced:

    Ken Griffey Jr.
    Alex Rodriguez
    Bret Boone
    Jose Cruz Jr.
    Edgar Martinez
    Tino Martinez
    Jason Varitek
    Derek Lowe
    David Ortiz
    Raul Ibanez

    …and what’s hurt the M’s is their inability to produce anything close to that since the turn of the millenium. Joel Piniero is basically it. We would be in a mess for years were it not for the players we’ve imported via free agency.

  43. firova on February 21st, 2005 4:46 am

    Again, I don’t have a brief for Pat Gillick, but speculating that handing more money to Woody Woodward would have meant more victories seems pointless. Bavasi had more money. The Mariners of the 1980s had no more money than Woodward did and perhaps less, yet they pitched better in the Kingdome.
    The point about the farm system is well taken, though, despite the fact that A-Rod and Griffey were no-brainers that any organization would have taken at the top spot. Those decent Mariner pitchers of the 1980s were largely the product of the farm system, and the cupboard has been bare for far too many years now. Perhaps this will be Bavasi’s true test: spending free agent dollars is the quick fix, but when will this system finally start producing again? There will have to be more than King Felix.

  44. The Ancient Mariner on February 21st, 2005 11:29 am

    Two points, firova:

    One, bringing in Bavasi is meaningless; he hasn’t been here long enough to establish a track record. Talk about him 2-3 years from now.

    Two, if you think Junior and A-Rod were “no-brainers,” you’ve just accused most of the M’s organization, when each was drafted, of having no brains (and to be sure, there’s a case for that), because both were Jongewaard drafts, pure and simple. To draft Junior, Jongewaard had to out-argue Argyros and Armstrong, because Argyros was dead-set on taking Mike Harkey, a “major-league-ready college pitcher”; when Argyros finally caved, he basically told Jongewaard he’d better be right or he’d be fired. To draft A-Rod, Jongewaard had to out-argue Lou Piniella and his supporters in the FO (including, at least initially, Woody), because Sweet Lou was dead-set on taking Darren Dreifort, a “major-league-ready college pitcher.” Without Jongewaard, we wouldn’t have taken either of those guys.

  45. eponymous coward on February 21st, 2005 12:33 pm

    Let’s look at the talent the M’s produced from 1989-1999, shall we?

    C: Jason Varitek
    1B: Tino Martinez
    2B: Bret Boone
    SS: Alex Rodriguez
    3B: Edgar Martinez
    RF: Raul Ibanez
    CF: Ken Griffey
    LF: Jose Cruz Jr.

    That’s arguably 6 top 100 players at their positions, and 2 top 10’s (3 if you count Edgar as a DH instead), and a damn good run from your farm system. The OF’s a little weak compared to the IF, but still…

    THAT is why I primarily credit Jongewaard for putting the team on the map- because that’s a tremendous level of productivity from the farm system.

    Note that the period from 1999 to 2004 is FAR more bleak than that- basically, we’ve gotten Joel Piniero, an oft-injured Gil Meche, Ryan Franklin coming up after being in the minors for 9 years, and bit players like Ramon Vazquez and JJ Putz.

    Finally, note that the superteams of the 90’s built around a core of farm system talent and productivity- and that the Yankees have faded as that core has faded, even while supplementing with All-Universe players. The bottom line is that the way you win is you build out of your farm system- and while Gillick gets some points for creatively addressing the fact that the farm system had a flat EKG by signing Japanese players and FA’s, I have no evidence he fixed the problem of us not producing position players out of the farm system. Hopefully Bavasi will.

  46. RealRhino on February 21st, 2005 12:33 pm

    Getting back to Stark, I thought he was a little crazy and a lot all over the map in that article. And I thought his “Tigers sort of way” comment was well off the mark.

    To me, that says you’ve got a ridiculously bad team who has improved to the point of just being bad, and still not anywhere near contending for their division. I don’t think that’s us at all. As has been noted above, we fell far short of the Tigers’ ineptitude. And if we improve to an equal degree, we WILL win our division. So the comparison is not valid at all. The 2003 Tigers weren’t a team that looked solid but had a few key things go wrong; they were a team completely lacking in MLB talent. That is NOT the 2004 M’s.

    As to the rest, where to start? I’ll stick with the things that stuck in my mind from when I read it yesterday. First, his WORST FA signing is David Eckstein, by the Cards. WTF?!? Are you serious? You’ve got sluggers handed $45-50 million even though their arms might fall off, you’ve got middling pitchers getting 4-5 years and $9 million per year, and a little 3-year contract for less than $10 million is your WORST signing? He completely undervalues Eckstein (as did the Angels, I think). His production rates about as good as the most recent versions of the man who replaced him, Orlando Cabrera, except he’s getting paid $5 million per year less than O.C. I think 3 years is one year too long, but it’s not like it’s a crippling deal (a la Pedro Martinez 4 years from now). And later in the article, he cites the Rich Aurilia signing as one of the BETTER ones, writing “what do you want to bet that he’ll outproduce Eckstein?” Uhh, what do you got? I’ll be that. Has he even looked at these guys?

    The next big one: The Twins’ signing of Eric Munson as one of the best signings. Now, it’s fine if you see a team taking a chance for a small contract on a once touted prospect to see if he can turn it around with a fresh start. Great. I’m all for those deals. But to support this argument that it’s a good signing, he writes something like, “Munson has hit 37 HRs in his last 634 ABs, more than Players X, Y and Z.” Hey, Jayson, did you also notice that he dreams of someday getting on base at least 30% of the time!!!! Good grief.

  47. The Ancient Mariner on February 21st, 2005 3:20 pm

    One side comment, ec: the real divide is 1998, when the draft was taken away from Jongewaard and given to Frank Mattox. That was the point when our farm system went into decline . . .

  48. eponymous coward on February 21st, 2005 3:53 pm

    I also find the ripping of Jongewaard in Moneyball to be amusing- seeing as he’s possibly the best counter-example you could think of to the Beane/stathead approach, as the guy behind the 80’s Mets AND the 90’s M’s.