Mariners, World Champions that Weren’t

DMZ · May 9, 2005 at 10:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

“The Mariners had Junior, A-Rod, and Randy Johnson, and they didn’t win squat.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that about the Mariners. But I’ve never sat down and taken a serious look at that window, and considered what might have been, and how it could have got there.

The window’s shorter that many people realize. Griffey came up in 1989 and was here through 1999. Randy Johnson came over in 1989, but didn’t ascend to dominance until 1993 and after that was astoundingly good until he was traded in 1998. Alex Rodriguez debuted in 1994 but didn’t play full time until 1996, when he too was insanely good, and he left after 2000.

Two years with those three players: 1996 and 1997. And with Randy out for much of 1996, really 1997 is their shot at it.

In 1996, they went 85-76 and finished second in the AL West by five games.
In 1997, they won the division and the Orioles handed them their ass in the Division Series.

How can a team with those three players putting up Hall of Fame years not win the league and go to the World Series?

Offensively, it’s hard to find something to improve on. The team led the league both years in runs scored per game, and that was legit even given the Kingdome’s effect on offense. They got great production out of Buhner, Edgar and some of their stop-gaps, like Paul Sorrento, worked out pretty well. They juggled a couple of holes (1996: 3B, LF, 1997: LF) but overall, there’s not a lot to criticize here. Sure, there are some dumb what-ifs (sign Barry Bonds in 1993, for instance) we could look at, but generally, scoring runs wasn’t the issue.

The problem, as we know it, was that they had poor pitching. Could that have been fixed?

Yup.

Essentially, the team needed a couple of pitching widgets:
1996: five decent starters. That rotation (Hitchcock-Wolcott-Wagner-Mulholland-Wells) was awful. Randy only pitched in 14 games that year, too. The late-season acquisition of Moyer helped, but this team desperately needed starters.

The bullpen is okay.

1997, though, things change a lot. Jeff Fassero comes on, there’s a full season of Moyer and Randy, and only the 4-5 starters are terrible. The bullpen is awwwwwwwwwwwwwful.

What could the team have done over these two years? I looked for free agents in those years who signed with teams other than their last team. The list of players who could have changed history for the team is short.

Before the 1996 season
Kevin Brown. The deal he signed with the Marlins for 1996-1998 was a steal. His performance in 1996 alone might have swung the division between the Mariners and the Rangers.

Al Leiter. Another part of the huge Marlins rotations, Leiter would have been big in 1996 and filled in the back of the rotation in 97, and then been great again in 1998 which is, again, outside the scope of this exercise.

And that’s all I see, surveying the free agent market before the 1996 season like this.

Those two would have cost the Mariners an immense amount of money to sign. However, headed into the season they would have had an amazing Johnson-Brown-Leiter-crap-crap rotation, where crap and crap don’t make the post-season roster (then Randy drops out, they still trade for Moyer…)

1997 — hey, Albert Belle’s available! That’ll fill the left-field… oooooh.

I like Roger Clemens here. He and Randy instead of Randy and Fassero… man, that’d have been awesome. And Clemens was brilliant in 1997 — that contract worked out really well for Toronto.

But for super-ace relievers, what am I going to say? Picking the crop of these guys even with hindsight is terrible. I mean, there were smart people who thought Mike Henneman was going to be a star for years after 1995. Didn’t happen.

(mmm.. Piazza in 1997, too…)

Here’s what If ound particularly interesting: it wouldn’t have cost them all that much. Leiter and Brown’s salaries for Florida in 1996 added up to $6m.

$6m, and I think they win the division and pound the tar out of every team they face in the playoffs. They spent $4m on Chris Bosio that year and $2.85 on Hibbard.

A little more in there (put Buhner in left, sigh Sheffield, who goes on a tremendous run for another chunk, that’s probably eight games right there over the left field tilt-a-whirl) and it starts to get sick.

The lasting lesson I see is that the great failure of the 90s Mariner teams wasn’t in a failure to develop players, or anything like it. It was the steady adherence to the old M’s Bosio/Hibbard philosophy: attempt to find undervalued modest free agents coming from bad teams.

By itself, this isn’t such a bad philosophy. You want to look for value wherever you can get it. But what it meant to those two teams with the greatest home-grown core was that they were saddled with modestly-priced modest players that then failed to live up to even that expectation. For every success the team had in finding a guy like Paul Sorrento, it failed at another position and sometimes an entire unit.

Which brings me to the failure of strategy. The Mariners of the late 90s were a lot like the Mariners 0f 2004 in that there was not a lot of deep thinking about how to construct a team. There were players they had, holes they wanted to fill, and Lou screaming about needing pitches who could throw strikes.

Bullpens are junk. You can assemble a rag-tag collection of servicable relievers out of organizational floatsam, minor league free agents, and waiver claims. Look at the bullpen today: Putz and Thornton are random dudes, and Sherill could outpitch Nelson. Plus, the risk on investment in the bullpen is so huge (for a number of reasons). I’d much rather put that kind of money in a hitter or a starter.

But back to my point — if you’re the Mariners in 1996, you’re confronted with a rotation that any rational evaluation will tell you is going to be a problem, and a couple position holes. At the same time, the clock’s ticking. While you’re not in Safeco Field yet, even if you figure that Randy will stay through his contract year, you have three seasons. After that, it’s pointless to forecast.

So the miracle season is over.

You face the off-season, and you have:
Randy and then question marks and gaps in the rotation (Benes, Belcher filing for free agency)

A bullpen with some issues.

Some hard choices to make with players like Tino Martinez and Mike Blowers, with teams expressing interest in making trades.

That stupid three-year clock ticking.

This was the great failure of the Mariners, and one we would see again in 2001: with great success and acclaim, the team didn’t look to make massive improvements and try and make choices that would allow them to compete for and win a World Series title for the next few years, or even a year. They shuffled the deck. Blowers to LA for junk. Tino to NY for Russ Davis and junk.

The way that great teams are great is not because of luck and circumstances, though both of those play an important role. It’s that those teams both believe they can be great and are realistic about the challenges they face and so can find solutions to those problems. While I may disagree with some of the choices the Red Sox made last year, they were a great example of this. Every day: “Is this the day I have to make a deal to improve our defense? Do I have to go get a better platoon partner for Trot Nixon? Is it worth it to upgrade defense at first base?”

This is why people screamed about the team’s “ennnhhh, get into the playoffs and luck out” philosophy. If you want to have people walk around on the moon, your goal has to be putting people on the moon so they can walk around. You can’t say “we’re going to put people in orbit and maybe they’ll luck into landing on, walking around on, and returning from the moon”. If your vision and belief in your ability to achieve your goal waver, you may get there, but your chances are greatly diminished.

That’s your 1996-7 Mariners, the World Champions that weren’t. “Will this move make us great?” “I don’t know, but Lou will stop yelling at me about the bullpen for a week.”

Comments

77 Responses to “Mariners, World Champions that Weren’t”

  1. TypicalIdiotFan on May 9th, 2005 11:49 pm

    Pretty damned good post there, DMZ. I think we’ve harped on the Mariners FO of the past quite a few times, and I know a lot of us look back in hindsight to see what could have been with FAs and whatnot. But the lessons aren’t what could have been, but what COULD be. The essential need to balance youthful talent (your AAA farm players, which can easily fill the bullpen duties), Marque pickups to the positions you need (Al Leither and Brown instead of Bosio and whatever), and still finding that rumage sale talent that’ll just go ballisticly hot after you acquire them to help you win it all (Sorrento, Mark Whiten, etc). And still having the forsight to recognize the implications on future possibilities, not just the current ones.

    That’s a great analysis of what it should mean to be a GM. Analyze the present, point out the flaws, fill the holes, look to the future.

  2. Shoeless Jose on May 9th, 2005 11:54 pm

    And isn’t that “ennnhhh, get into the playoffs and luck out” philosophy precisely what Beane has said about the A’s, and perhaps that’s why they never go all the way either?

  3. LB on May 9th, 2005 11:55 pm

    Outstanding post. (Shoot, I wanted to be the first to say that.)

    Last season, once Pedro Martinez decided to shut down contract negotiations with the Red Sox, he got into something of a p*ssing match with the Red Sox in the pages of the Boston Herald. Theo Epstein released a statement in reply. There are two sentences in it that would make a fine mission statement for the M’s, or any competitive team in MLB: “The goal of [your team name here] is to build a team every year [emphasis added] that can compete for, and win, a World Series. These are our core values: team over individual, a World Series over everything else.”

    Sure, it takes some luck to win it all. But if your goal is to get into October and then see how much luck you can stumble into, you shouldn’t expect to win many World Series titles.

    Again, DMZ, an outstanding post.

  4. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 12:24 am

    “The goal of [your team name here] is to build a team every year [emphasis added] that can compete for, and win, a World Series. These are our core values: team over individual, a World Series over everything else.”

    I knew Theo was a smart man. However, he needs to clarify himself.

    “The goal of [your team name here] is to build a team every year [emphasis added] that can compete for, and win, a World Series and not sacrifice your chances of winning three years down the road. These are our core values: team over individual, a World Series over everything else.”

    The reason I make that little addendum is that Boston, unlike New York, seems to be good at signing people without sacrificing their minor league talent. I don’t know the status of the Boston farm system, but I never hear about Boston trading for soandso big name and giving up a schlock of young guys for him. Their moves, since Theo has taken over, I don’t think have involved very many minor leaguers at all. I could be wrong on that, since I generally don’t pay attention to most other teams minor league systems.

    Boston made the right moves last year and won a World Series. But it also doesn’t look like Boston is going to be out of contending for another ring for some time to come.

  5. Noel on May 10th, 2005 12:26 am

    Quote: ‘Bullpens are junk. You can assemble a rag-tag collection of servicable relievers out of organizational floatsam, minor league free agents, and waiver claims.’

    Yes… but is that a bullpen you’d want in the postseason, or in the stretch run? Sherrill, Putz, et al?

    Which bullpen would the M’s rather have: the one we have now (including Sherrill and other AAA candidates), or the one the Angels have now? – Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly, K-Rod, etc.? (OK, forget about Kevin Gregg for a moment.)

    No contest. I’d rather have a dominant bullpen than good 4th/5th starters. I’d dredge up the 4th/5th starters from the ‘organizational flotsam’. You can get into the playoffs with three good starters and two Ryan Franklins (and then ditch the Franklins in the playoffs), but you won’t even get into the playoffs at all with a rag-tag bullpen.

    A rag-tag bullpen would be as disastrous as a rag-tag infield… four Willie Bloomquists, for instance. Perish the thought.

  6. ChrisK on May 10th, 2005 12:27 am

    As far as the “taking people to the moon” analogy, this franchise’s goal has typically been “take the passengers’ money and say ‘we tried but couldn’t find the right fit’ when the shuttle runs out of fuel 2/3 of the way to the moon. but it doesn’t matter since they’ve already paid for their tickets and are happy enough with our really nice flight attendants, esp. our local boys like that one from Port Orchard!”

  7. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 12:36 am

    “Which bullpen would the M’s rather have: the one we have now (including Sherrill and other AAA candidates), or the one the Angels have now? – Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly, K-Rod, etc.? (OK, forget about Kevin Gregg for a moment.)”

    Odd that you mention that. Where do you think that dominant Angels bullpen came from? Saturn? Except for Yan and Prinz, that’s all Angels former AAA talent right there.

  8. Paul Covert on May 10th, 2005 12:38 am

    “Russ Davis and junk”? Hmmm….

    But as for the real topic: I moved back to Seattle after college in the fall of 1996. I remember being somewhat annoyed by John Ellis’ one last manipulative threat to move at some point in the ballpark negotiations. But as for the team itself, the developments seemed exciting, especially the Fassero deal– imagine! Seattle actually receiving someone else’s salary dump for once, instead of the other way around!

    The sense coming into 1997 was that this could actually be The Year. “WORLD SERIOUS,” proclaimed the P-I’s special preseason section. The Unit was returning from his back injury (thus inducing a bunch of Safeco banners at his return, reading “RANDY’S BACK”). Fassero and Moyer were there to fill out the front of the rotation. The lineup looked awesome, coming off a 993-run performance the year and having a hot young prospect, Jose Cruz Jr., almost ready to step up to the big time. The back of the rotation and the bullpen looked more questionable, but there were guys like Scott Sanders who seemed like they ought to at least hold things together for us.

    The first game I attended that year was Saturday, April 5, with a couple of guys from work. It was Johnson’s first game back from the injury, and he struck out eight guys in six innings. Blowers played longball in the sixth, and Griffey (his 4th of the year already) in the seventh, and the M’s entrusted a 6-4 lead to Norm Norm Charlton in the ninth. And then Boston rookie Nomar Garciaparra sent three runs sailing over our heads into the second deck in right… and it was at that point that I began to sense that the dream season was beginning to go Very Wrong.

    Not totally wrong, mind you. Lou’s Crew hung around .500 into June, and then blasted out a 20-7 month to take a 5.5-game lead into July. Even so, the bullpen seemed to be coughing up one blown save after another. Charlton couldn’t hold a lead. Ayala put up a decent ERA, but his 14 HR allowed made no lead feel safe. Scott Sanders watched his career fall apart. Bob Wells lost his 1996 magic fairly dust. Josias Manzanillo– ooh, that must have been painful.

    Last in July, Seattle swept the Yankees, giving themselves a 5-game winning streak and a three-and-a-half game lead over Anaheim as of the 27th. If they could have kept it going for two more games, the franchise history might have turned out differently.

    They couldn’t. After a 4-0 loss to Boston on the 29th, the M’s took a 7-2 lead in the top of the 8th on Wednesday the 30th. And then Ayala gave up two runs in bottom half of the inning. And then Charlton gave up three runs in the ninth. And then bullpen filler Edwin Hurtado gave up the winning run in the bottom of the tenth; and with that straw, the camel’s back was broken.

    The next day in Milwaukee, in the fifth inning, Rob Ducey came up to pinch hit for Jose Cruz Jr. Cruz had been traded to Toronto for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. “Noooo!!!!” I thought from behind the wheel of my car, driving home from work. But yes, it was. We had traded a solid young hitter for bullpen Band-Aids. Later that evening, in what ironically turned out to be a much more damaging deal, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek were sent to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb.

    To make matters worse, the Band-Aid Boys weren’t even particularly good, although their 4-point-something ERA’s (Timlin’s was actually 3.86) were enough to stabilize things a little. On September 23, in the living room of some friends from church, I nervously counted off the final strikes as Slocumb saved the division clincher against second-place Anaheim.

    And that was all. Baltimore’s patient approach at the plate seemed to work against Johnson in the playoffs, and the Moose (Baltimore’s Mussina, that is; not our goofy mascot) outdueled him twice in a four-game Baltimore series win. And the next year it all fell apart, as Johnson let his grievances against Woodward get to him, Russ Davis’ glove fell apart (figuratively speaking, although it might as well have been literal), and the combined screams of Lou Piniella and Stan Williams couldn’t get anyone to throw strikes. Griffey hung around for another year after that, but then got frustrated and manipulated his way out of town too; and then after another year A-Rod took the money and ran, as ownership (willingly?) let itself get out-maneuvered by Tom Hicks. And thus did Seattle’s Era of Potential Greatness come to its ignominious end.

  9. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 12:39 am

    In fact, just to ram the point home, except for Colon, Byrd, Yan, Prinz, and Escobar, every single pitcher on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, and Everything are home grown AAA Talent prospects brought up and given a chance to prove themselves.

    So to answer your question? I’ll take our hodgepodge of FA’s and AAA prospects. It seems to work fine.

  10. Jon Wells on May 10th, 2005 12:41 am

    Good points there Derek, especially the part about there really only being one season where the M’s had the three superstars playing together. I’ve heard that line about a million times myself.

    The biggest mistake this organization made was after the miracle season and getting a new stadium deal when they not only decided they “had” to trade Tino, but they had to announce it loudly so as to ruin any leverage Woody Woodward might have had in finding a trading partner for a Tino deal.

    Worse, they had to throw in one of their best relievers, Jeff Nelson in his prime, because he was arbitration eligible and ownership decided that they weren’t going to pay $800,000(!!) for a set-up man (this is a rough approximation of what I thought at the time that Nelson would have made if he’d stayed in Seatle — he actually made $860K in 1996 for NY). They also traded set-up man Bill Risley that winter — he ended up getting injured, but he was every bit as important to the ’95 M’s as Nelson.

    They did a decent job replacing Nelson in ’96, signing Mike Jackson late in the off-season but lots of good things might have happened if they had kept Nelson and also signed Jackson, one of them being they might well have non-tendered Bobby Ayala after the ’95 or ’96 seasons. Instead they kept him and later paid him closer money when he wasn’t a closer, just an awful reliever (the ill-advised $3.3 mil, two year contract after the ’97 season was especially insane. He went 1-10, 7.29 in ’98 and was given away to Montreal in April ’99 with Seattle paying his salary).

    Management exacerbated their bulpen problems by not retaining Mike Jackson after the ’96 season (he wanted a raise from $1.2 mil to $2 mil) and he signed with Cleveland for $2 mil a year (and saved 94 games in 2 1/3 seasons as the closer there).

    Maybe you see where I’m headed here — while the M’s “might” have been able to piece together a bullpen with spare parts as you (Derek) say, the Lou Piniella era M’s that played in the Kingdome never had any success doing that. They had successful bullpen guys who wanted to stay in Seattle (Nelson especially, being local), guys that were not at all expensive in the grand scheme of things (the ’97 M’s wasted $1.3 mil on Scott Sanders — 3-6, 6.47 and $1.1 mil on Omar Olivares — 1-4, 5.49. If they hadn’t traded Nelson to save $800K in ’96 and let Jackson walk after ’96 over an extra $800K they would not have been so desperate in mid-’97 that they traded for Heathcliff Slocumb, Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric.

    At the time the Cruz trade was considered the worse of the two, perhaps because he was already in the big leagues and producing. Obviously the next 8 years tell us that the Varitek/Lowe for Slocumb deal was much worse because a) Cruz didn’t become a big star and b) Jason Varitek became one of the top catchers in baseball and a team leader on a World Championship club c) Derek Lowe was both a solid #2-3 starter and a closer during his time in Boston (and won some key post-season games).

    Put Nelson and Jackson in that ’97 pen and you not only don’t trade Varitek, Lowe and Cruz to get relievers that weren’t nearly as good and wouldn’t last as long with the club (Timlin’s still around but Slocumb was done at age 34 and Spoljaric washed out at age 29), but you also have Varitek, et al. As a bonus, maybe Dan Wilson would have been gone long ago (and there’d have been some trade value for him back then) once Varitek had established himself as a top notch catcher. Or perhaps if they felt they just had to keep Wilson to appease the fan base Varitek himself would have been traded instead, this time for value, some top flight pitching or a big time third baseman or LF, instead of getting a year and a half of crappy pitching out of Slocumb…

  11. Jon Wells on May 10th, 2005 12:56 am

    #8 Paul,

    RJ’s grievances were a lot more with Chuck Armstrong than with Woody Woodward. The Johnson/Armstrong feud continues to this day. It started with Armstrong not sending condolences when Randy’s dad died (Armstrong claims he wasn’t aware) and continued, with Armstrong the one who was out front saying on the day Jr. won the MVP Award — “We will not offer Randy Johnson a contract extension past the 1998 season” (he allegedly wanted “Maddux Money”. Armstrong was also very vocal when it came to claiming that “we just don’t know about Randy’s’ back”

    True story — after Game 5 of the 2001 ALCS I was in the bowels of Yankee Stadium about 5 minutes after the game (I was working the game as a photographer) when I saw Chuck Armstrong with the biggest smile on his face, chatting up a security guard. Considering how pissed I was that the M’s weren’t going to the World Series after winning 116 games (thank you Arthur Rhodes!) I wanted to know why the team president was so happy minutes after the team’s loss. After Armstrong wes done talking to the guard, I went up to the guard and asked him, “what’s he so happy about?” He said “he told me to make sure the Yankees beat up on Randy Johnson in the World Series”

    Thanks to this petty excuse for a man and his big ego (Armstrong) we lost one of the top pitchers in baseball in what turned out to be his prime (he’s won 4 of his 5 Cy Young Award’s since leaving Seattle). People think that Johnson tanked it in his last season with the M’s and that might even be true, but the record should reflect that of the three superstars Johnson is the one that actually wanted to stay with Seattle…

  12. PositivePaul on May 10th, 2005 1:07 am

    Didn’t I just re-read Thiel’s suggestion that the M’s were pursuing Shiggy the first time in 1996/97? Imagine if we’d've had him, and would’ve kept Lowe and ‘Tek instead of scrambling for a reliever in Slocumb (and Cruz Jr. instead of Timlin/Spoljaric).

  13. LB on May 10th, 2005 1:20 am

    #4: I think “every year” in Theo’s statement says all that needs to be said. If in any year you’re conceding the future in order to take a shot in this “Win It All” year, you aren’t building a team every year that can compete for a title.

  14. Paul Covert on May 10th, 2005 1:23 am

    Thanks for the correction, Jon; apparently my memory got them backwards.

    I also recall that RJ took out a full-page ad after the trade, thanking the Seattle fans for their support and letting them know that his problem wasn’t with them.

  15. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 1:28 am

    #13:

    Like I said, Theo’s a smart man, and I’m not arguing with the philosophy. But there have been teams that have tried to build a contender every year, but find that their moves have eventually dried up their farm system and, without the money to afford good Free Agents, they have no where to go.

    I agree that Theo is keeping that philosophy in mind when saying “every year”, but I wanted to clarify that it is just as important not to have to rely on doing only FA pickups every year to field a competitive team (ala the Yankees) as it is to contend for a world series victory every year.

  16. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 1:30 am

    #13 and my own #15:

    So to clarify, I’m not arguing. I’m agreeing that Theo’s philosophy is right. The clarification that keeping your future prospects alive with a healthy farm system and not constant overspending on FA’s is more for everybody else who might actually read these comments.

  17. LB on May 10th, 2005 1:35 am

    #4: For what it’s worth, the Boston minor league system is not in really great shape (it was almost barren when new ownership and Theo took over), and Theo has been willing to deal some prospects in order to improve the team through trades. Matt Murton was a prospect who got dealt in the Nomar trade. He is now hitting .413/.496/.569 for the Cubs in AA ball. I think that qualifies as tearing the cover off the ball, but it’s early. They gave up Freddy Sanchez to get Jeff Suppan in 2003 when they thought Suppan could shore up the rotation (replacing John Burkett, but Burkett made the postseason roster and Suppan didn’t).

    But Theo is the proud owner of a handful of high draft picks as a result of saying goodbye to free agents Pedro, Derek Lowe and Orlando Cabrera. He got high marks for last year’s draft and has made comments to the effect that the Sox must be a $100m player development machine.

    #16: I think we find ourselves in vigorous agreement.

  18. Noel on May 10th, 2005 1:49 am

    Re #7 and #9: my point is not that a bullpen ought to be home-grown or ought to be acquired from outside… all I’m saying is, I believe that a dominant bullpen is essential. In my mind, ‘rag-tag’ is the wrong way to approach the task of constructing any part of a team that wants to win a World Series.

    I also don’t believe that any of our current crop of relievers will ever become more than merely ordinary, regardless of how much time they’re given to develop.

    Anaheim’s relievers that I named (Shields, Donnelly, Rodriguez) didn’t come up and struggle and then slowly get better over several seasons. They were excellent right from the beginning.

    Perhaps Anaheim got lucky, or perhaps they have better coaching, or whatever. But they did something right. The M’s, on the other hand, have clearly done something wrong. So we’ll have to figure out a Plan B with our bullpen.

  19. Noel on May 10th, 2005 2:17 am

    Re #18, of course I’m referring to our current crop of ‘newbie’ relievers (Putz, Sherrill, Atchison, etc.) and contrasting them with Anaheim’s relievers who were ‘newbies’ when Anaheim won the World Series.

    Our ‘newbie’ relievers may be doing okay right now, but I wouldn’t be thrilled about entrusting a slim lead to them in the World Series.

  20. nathaniel on May 10th, 2005 2:21 am

    Maybe I understood something different in his comment about a “rag-tag” bullpen, I think his meaning was that you don’t have to sign a bunch of higher-priced relievers in order to assemble a quality bullpen. There are a lot of very good relievers that don’t command a huge salary, and putting a bullpen together with these pitchers can be easily done if you’re a shrewd judge of talent. Especially if you have a good farm system that can provide you with a few of those guys that can give you good production while making peanuts.

    In particular, paying top dollar for a closer seems to be the least cost-effective way of using your salary budget. Their impact on the game does not seem to warrant the kind of money they receive. If I were a GM, i don’t think I’d ever sign a “closer”. Too high priced for their real value to a team.

  21. eponymous coward on May 10th, 2005 2:23 am

    Well, here’s the thing. It’s not just Griffey, A-Rod and RJ. The Mariners also had Edgar (marginal HOF’er, and a dominat hitter through the late 90′s), Buhner (not a HOF’er, but not outrageously far from it either, All-Star talent), Tino (also in a class with Buhner in the “really good player who falls short of the Hall of Fame” category).

    I’ve said this before, but look at the top players on the early 60′s Yankees and the late 1990′s M’s:

    Yankees Mariners
    Mantle A-Rod
    Maris Griffey
    Ford Johnson
    Howard E. Martinez
    Berra (past prime) T. Martinez
    Boyer Buhner
    Kubek Cora

    Think about that, guys. Pure talent-wise, this M’s team stacks up against a team regularly considered “all-time great”. (I’d argue the 60′s Yankees aren’t one of the better all-time teams, mind you, but still…)

    I agree that it’s the supporting talent that killed us in the 1990′s. This team has ALWAYS been willing to overpay for “proven veterans” and had a poor grasp of what replacement level talent really is.

  22. JK on May 10th, 2005 2:34 am

    Woody didn’t do that bad a job constructing the rotation in 1997: Johnson, Fassero, Moyer and Scott Sanders, who looked like he would be pretty good (gotten for Sterling Hitchcock, apparently the “junk” you refer to in the Tino Martinez trade). While none of them after Johnson were dominant, they were all good enough to win a lot of games and give the offense the opportunity to win in the post-season. The fifth spot was left up to Dennis Martinez/Bob Wolcott/Derek Lowe, thinking surely someone would work out. Of course, they were all terrible and Sanders was as well, blowing the whole thing apart. The bullpen was crap from the start, I’m not sure what they were thinking there.

    Anyway, despite the problems the 4th and 5th spots gave the team during the playoffs, it makes no sense to blame this for their loss in the first round, they didn’t even get past the first three. And the bullpen, as bad as it was, didn’t blow any of the games either. What happened is simple, Johnson was hurt going into the playoffs (remember his blister from catching the ball with his bare hand) and Moyer got injured in game two. And the offense was not quite as good as the Orioles rotation that year (Mussina and Scott Erickson anyway). With a little more luck on their side, the M’s would have beat Baltimore that year, and they were certainly a better team than Cleveland–though the mediocre Cleveland beat a better Baltimore team and almost won the World Series, so it goes to show you that it is really a craps shoot sometimes.

  23. JK on May 10th, 2005 2:36 am

    The second paragraph of the above post should start: “despite the problems the 4th and 5th spots gave the team during the season

  24. JK on May 10th, 2005 3:00 am

    If the Front Office should be blamed for anything during the mid-90′s, it should be the trading away of the farm system for mostly crappy players. David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Bret Boone, Derek Lowe, Jose Cruz Jr., Mike Hampton, Shawn Estes, Joe Mays, Desi Relaford, Ron Villone. If they had kept a few of these players, they wouldn’t have gotten so old so fast.

    The list of prospects they held onto who went on to have major league careers begins and ends with…Raul Ibanez.

  25. ahaha on May 10th, 2005 3:29 am

    What are you doin? What are you tryin to do? Make us cry?

  26. TypicalIdiotFan on May 10th, 2005 4:11 am

    And even Raul went to KC.

  27. Adam M on May 10th, 2005 7:26 am

    Didn’t they lose in ’97 because Johnson lost 2 games? Do we need to analyze what went wrong everywhere else? If your best pitcher can’t step up, what shot do you have, especially in a 5-game series? People seem to have forgotten RJ’s lousy playoff rep – between the M’s, Houston and Arizona, he’d lost 7-8 consecutive postseason starts at one point.

  28. Troy on May 10th, 2005 9:02 am

    DMZ, great post, as usual. Very nice shot of perspective.

    ChrisK’s comment in #6 about the “really nice flight attendants, especially the local boy from Port Orchard” reminded me of an analogy I’ve been thinking for some time. You remember the annointing waiter in “Office Space,” the one Jennifer Anniston hated because he was a suck up and wore all the flair?

    That’s who I think of when I hear Willie’s name.

  29. Ivan on May 10th, 2005 9:14 am

    How about this lineup?

    C-Jason Varitek
    1B-Tino Martinez, David Ortiz
    2B-Omar Vizquel
    SS-Alex Rodriguez
    3B-whoever
    OF-Jose Cruz
    OF-Ken Griffey Jr
    OF-Ichiro
    DH-Edgar Martinez

    SP-Randy Johnson
    SP-Derek Lowe
    SP-Jamie Moyer
    SP-Joel Pineiro
    SP-Gil Meche

    Bullpen-whoever
    Bench-whoever

    Think that nucleus would have ruled all those years? I’m guessing it would have.

  30. Aaron on May 10th, 2005 9:25 am

    Sorry, I don’t buy it.

    A wild card team has won the WS the last three years. Once you get into 7 game series, and especially the 5 game shootout to kick-off the postseason, the best team doesn’t always win. The M’s decision to ‘be competetive every year’ is absolutely the right position to take. Aim to get to the playoffs every year, and then throw the dice once you’re there, since that’s just as good a strategy as spending $200 million.

    Going back and looking for free agents that got away might be a fun excercise, but it’s no more meaningful that looking back at draft picks or international signings that got away. Gosh, it would have been great if we picked up Albert Pujols and Johan Santana…..

    If the team makes the playoffs, that’s a sucessful year. Get there consistently, and the championships will follow.

  31. paul on May 10th, 2005 10:25 am

    #30 –

    The M’s decision to ‘be competetive (sic) every year is absolutely the right position to take’

    Which would be true, if the M’s had actually made that decision. The M’s decided to be profitable every year, and that’s hurting their competitiveness – this was addressed somewhat this past offseason, but one swallow does not a summer make.

    Get there consistently, and the championships will follow.

    Unless you’re the Atlanta Braves, who have been to the playoffs every year since 1736 and have only one world series championship in modern times (1995) to show for it.

    I’m not saying that I don’t envy the Braves like crazy – I’d love to see the M’s in the playoffs every single year – just that it doesn’t automatically follow that if you’re in the playoffs long enough you’ll have fistfuls of rings to show for it.

  32. paul on May 10th, 2005 10:51 am

    Great article – that lineup of grif, arod, edgar, buhner, sorrento could have iced any pitcher. There’s a lack of focus there in scouting pitching that hasn’t changed a bit.

  33. paulg on May 10th, 2005 10:52 am

    That last comment was a different paul, me, he he.

  34. DMZ on May 10th, 2005 10:59 am

    There’s another issue about those WC teams that win the Series, too — they’re well-suited to win short playoff series, for reasons that are too annoying and off-topic to get into here.

  35. Cliff on May 10th, 2005 11:01 am

    As I recall the ’97 season “everybody” was very unhappy with the bullpen, but the trades seemed to satisfy absolutely “nobody”. I was at the Kingdome for Cruz’s first homer (it landed about 6 rows down from us if memory serves..)and the ecstasy of the crowd at thinking that we might finally have a left fielder to go with Griffey and Buhner was simply overwhelming. In this case, the average fans feeling that the Cruz and Varitek/Lowe trades were not very good turned out to be right. As I recall Varitek was considered a hot commodity, the up and coming catcher who actually had a bit of power. Panic trades?

  36. Paul Marrott Weaver on May 10th, 2005 11:32 am

    I remember eyeing the blue jays bull pen that year. They had two solid relievers I wanted in Paul Quantrill and Kelvim Escobar. I felt that the M’s could have traded Cruz for those two, but Woody kept up the facade that Cruz was not going to be traded. He was lying and we got crap for it.

    I think there were two general mistakes we can see from the FO in this situation: one, they made desperation trades – stand pat at least avoided those – and, two, they got into a desperate situation by having a crappy bullpen.

    Bullpen performances are harder to predict because those pitchers are prone to having fluke years with fewer innings pitched per season than a starter. But I don’t think that simply throwing a bunch of your AAA guys together is going to necessarily result in a good bull pen – certainly there will be a few bright spots, but steady, reliable contributors are not nonexistent in the majors.

  37. wabbles on May 10th, 2005 11:54 am

    Great post, DMZ. A few thoughts. The biggest problem with the 1996 team, in my view, was the front office dismantling Refuse To Lose almost immediately after the 1995 season ended. Trading Tino and Nellie for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock was just stupid, although probably salary-driven. Trading Bill Risley for the legendary duo of Edwin Hurtado and Paul Menhart also was stupid. I don’t even think we kept Alex Diaz, although I think we still had the second-baseman-turned-outfielder, what’s his name. Despite that, the 1996 could put up runs! The 1998 team hit more homers but no Mariner team ever scored more runs, before or since. (And that was with Griffey, Buhner and Martinez all injured at one time or another.)
    But it was necessary, because we used 28 pitchers and they also put up a lot of runs, for the other team. Not resigning Benes or Belcher was a problem. It meant that going into the season, we only had Randy and Bosio, plus Wolcott the Wunderkid and Bobby Wells and Hitchcock. When BOTH Randy and Bosio got hurt, Hitchcock rose to be our No. 1 starter (please don’t call him an ace). As one who was living in the Seattle area at that time, I remember a lot of people said that Lou was more deserving of Manager of the Year in 1996 than in 1995.

  38. Baltimore M's Fan on May 10th, 2005 12:12 pm

    Thank you #27, why is that so often overlooked? Randy’s lines against the O’s
    Game 1:
    5 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 5 ER, 3 K
    Outside of Timlin in that game, the bullpen was pretty good.

    Game 4 was dominant, but he was outpitched by Mussina. He put up a 2-spot in the first inning when Jeff Reboulet homered:
    8 IP, 13 K, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 ER

    For some reason, the 1997 postseason is a blur to me (probably because it was over so fast), but the one thing that sticks out is Randy losing twice.
    Granted, the Varitek/Lowe and Cruz trades were awful, but the big boys didn’t step up in that series. On top of the 2 Randy losses, Griff hit .133 and Edgar .188.

  39. Tim K. on May 10th, 2005 12:12 pm

    I can’t really disagree that the front office was ineffective, but I do remember the key to the Orioles series in 1997 seemed to be that Randy couldn’t quite get it done, losing games 1 and 4. I was at Game 4 in Camden Yards and he pitched pretty well, but he didn’t seem as dominant in that game as he had been during the season (the box shows 8 IP, 7H, 2HR, 3R, 3ER, 2BB and 13K). I suppose that’s a pretty good line for most humans, but it wasn’t enough that day.

    Given that, it seems to add to the conclusion that luck is a big factor in the postseason, particularly in a short series like that one (best of 5). It may be worth pointing out, as someone who lived in the mid-Atlantic region at the time, that many felt it was the Orioles’ year. After seeing them beat the Big Unit twice, I couldn’t help but believe it, either. Then came Jeffrey Maier.

  40. Tim K. on May 10th, 2005 12:14 pm

    Hey, Baltimore – you beat me to it! Were you there in 97?

  41. Milorad V on May 10th, 2005 12:14 pm

    My God…aren’t we talking about the Ayala years? I had hoped to forget that time and everyone associated with it, banish them to an inaccessible part of my brain along with root-canals, stomach flus, and a couple of crazy girlfriends.

    #31: “The M’s decided to be ‘profitable’ every year…”
    Am I naive to hope that 99 loses and the dent in their portfolios it caused might finally make the point to the Mariners FO that Winning IS good business?

    Another nice piece, DMZ.

  42. wabbles on May 10th, 2005 12:18 pm

    We had Bobby Ayala since we received him in the post-1993 trade of Erik Hanson and Bret Boone for Ayala and…Dan Wilson. The reason I’ve heard for the Orioles thrashing us in the 1997 post-season was excellent scouting. They knew not only what our pitchers were going to do but our hitters too.

  43. Baltimore M's Fan on May 10th, 2005 12:19 pm

    No I was a senior in high school then, still in Seattle.

  44. LB on May 10th, 2005 12:31 pm

    #42: Outscouted, yes! I am convince that is why NY shut the M’s down in the 2001 ALCS and why the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series last year. Of course, you have to have pitchers who can hit their spots in order to make this happen.

  45. Baltimore M's Fan on May 10th, 2005 12:34 pm

    Scouting in 97? I don’t buy that. Best pitcher in the game, best player in the game, best hitter (Gar) in the game getting beat because of SCOUTING? Please…

  46. Ed on May 10th, 2005 12:38 pm

    Of course, there’s a “get in, and then get hot” element to the MLB post-realignment playoff system, but keep in mind that none of the last three wild-card WS winners were exactly sleepers. The Red Sox came within mere outs of the Series the year before and won 98 games in 2004; the Marlins were the team everyone was talking about throughout September of 2003; the Angels won 99 games in MLB’s best division in 2002. (I’d argue that by far the iffiest WS-winner of the last five years was the 2000 Yankees. That was the year the M’s should have been there instead.)

    So you still have to have a great team to win it all.

    That said, the M’s, and in particular the Woodward/Piniella junta, really had to build in some gaping holes to keep the team from succeeding. Like Piniella does on the field, Woodward seemed to stress “the little things” in his job, like being out of touch with the organization, not returning phone calls of decent players wanting to ask about returning the next season, etc.

    Yes, Woodward could have worked a little harder and made the team a little better where it was so weak. But why? He was richly rewarded by Ellis, Lincoln, et. al. for taking golf vacations during the season and refusing to talk to agents. And when the M’s did make it to the ALCS, who was in the clubhouse chomping a cigar and telling the TV cameras “that’s what I’m talking about,” as if it was everyone else’s responsibility?

    The only good thing I can say about Woody Woodward is that he probably wouldn’t have stuck with Willie Bloomquist.

  47. Nintendo Marios on May 10th, 2005 12:55 pm

    #31

    The M’s decided to be profitable every year, and that’s hurting their competitiveness

    The truth of this statement cannot be over estimated.

    Seattle’s FO is in the entertainment business and they are, objectively, quite good at it. Their productions just happen to involve baseball.

    Until they are forced, via withheld consumer spending, to enter the riskier business of competitive baseball, they will remain in the entertainment business.

    As Chuck reads DMZ’ post, all he’s thinking is “why would I want to pay more for the same cashflow from entertainment?” Chuck knows he hasn’t got the infrastructure in place to actually capture incremental cashflows from post-season success. Until he does, if he ever does, there is no point to post-season success.

  48. LB on May 10th, 2005 1:04 pm

    #45: Absolutely. MLB teams employed scouts in 1997. I’m pretty sure they employed them in 1947.

    If you have any doubt about what scouting can do to great hitters in a short series, consider what happened the run producers on last years Cardinals in the World Series.

    Jim Edmonds: 1 for 15, 0 RBI
    Scott Rolen: 0 for 15, 1 RBI
    Larry Walker: 5 for 14, 3 RBI (one hit was a bunt single and one a solo HR in the 9th with St Louis down by 4: “Here it is, hit it.”)
    Albert Pujols: 5 for 15, 0 RBI (one hit was a bases-empty single in the 9th of game 4 with St Louis down by 3: “Here is is, hit it.”)

    The Cardinals won 105 regular season games last year and were considered by many to have the scariest lineup in the game. But in a short series, players often just don’t have time to make adjustments.

  49. LB on May 10th, 2005 1:16 pm

    #34: That would be an interesting post if you ever want to make it, DMZ.

  50. Troy on May 10th, 2005 1:19 pm

    LB, I have a hard time buying that any of that has to do with scouting. In a short series anything can happen. And when two of your arguments are about players who hit over .300 (and you try to belittle certain hits as if there aren’t lucky hits throughout the year)? Please.

  51. Todd on May 10th, 2005 1:41 pm

    If scouting is the reason for hot and cold bursts by players, then the M’s should ride the Wiki wave until the scouts catch up with him.

  52. ChrisK on May 10th, 2005 2:05 pm

    #47 – well put. I’m convinced that the bulk of revenue-generating customers at Safeco are happy enough with a team that is “in the hunt” for most of the season, so long as they have some fan favorites they can cheer on (you can guess who those players are). The fans will happily drink the Finnigan Kool-Aid so long as the team is within shouting distance of a wild card. The M’s HAD to make a big splash this offseason because the team was nowhere near a .500 club. But if they’re around .500 by the trade deadline, I bet we’ll see the same conservative moves by management. Then we’ll be subjected to the Dan Wilson Farewell propoganda in Aug & Sept to bring in fans and get them nostalgic about ’95.

    If fans are happy enough with a ‘competitive’ team of nice guys, why would the owners go the extra mile to get an impact player for the stretch drive or playoffs?

  53. murton on May 10th, 2005 2:10 pm

    #48, how do you explain the phenomena in the Red Sox-Yankees series last year? I think after three games, the Yankees were batting around .400 as a club and certain hitters like Matsui and Sheffield were clubbing over .600. And then after 22 games between them that season, was it some scouting epiphany that allowed the Red Sox to shut the Yankees down over four games to the level they did the Cardinals?

  54. jason on May 10th, 2005 2:12 pm

    isn’t it amazing how much that hurts, even now?

    sucks.

  55. Baltimore M's Fan on May 10th, 2005 3:15 pm

    #48 that would be superior pitching that players can’t adjust to. If you are going up against schilling, pedro, lowe back-to-back-to-back then you’re going to be made to look silly. Not buying the scouting thing at all. Haven’t seen any good evidence to support it yet.

  56. marc w. on May 10th, 2005 3:20 pm

    The recent WS winning teams, especially Anaheim, didn’t use the deadline. The Red Sox got rid of Nomar, but for Cabrera? Sox partisans spin that as a great clubhouse move, but if we’re at that level of analysis, we might as well point to Spiezio’s guitar stylings tipping the scales the Halos way in 2002. The Marlins changed managers, not players (or did they pick up Conine at the deadline that year?).
    That’s why I don’t think the analogy to getting into lunar orbit works at all. Yes, teams that win are structured a bit differently, but there’s no way anyone of a statistical bent would’ve pegged the Marlins or Angels to win even after they qualified for the playoffs. The luck factor is huge in any playoff series. It’s just smart to configure a team to get to the playoffs, and not ‘to win the world series.’ When the component parts of the strategy – outside of ‘get two dominant starters’ – change all the time (good OBP, wait no, NEVER take a walk, steal bases, wait no, don’t steal), it can’t be a good strategy. As many people have pointed out, the M’s problem is that they haven’t even been concerned with building a winning team – they’re content with a profitable team. That’s a different argument, I think…
    Don’t make moves just for the sake of making moves. Ten Andy Benes’s and Paul Spoljarics get dealt for every clutch player down the stretch. I’d say bringing prospects up has had just as much of an impact as trading prospects for mid-level talent that may/may not get hot.

  57. Cliff on May 10th, 2005 3:28 pm

    Lest we forget Mussina was absolutely awesome in the 97 playoffs, shutting down Seattle and giving up a whopping 1 run in two games (15 innings), even though Balt lost both of his games in extra innings. I could be wrong but it seems like Mussina flat owned the Mariners for literally years.
    If you really want to weep about things, keep in mind FLORIDA has won two World Series. Argghh. Given their pitching this year, how much would you be willing to bet against them in a short series?

  58. Cliff on May 10th, 2005 3:31 pm

    The Balt – Cleve series is the Mussina line for 1 run in 15 innings. Sorry for any confusion there.

  59. msb on May 10th, 2005 3:31 pm

    #45–Baltimore M’s Fan said:”Scouting in 97? I don’t buy that. Best pitcher in the game, best player in the game, best hitter (Gar) in the game getting beat because of SCOUTING? Please… ”

    I don’t think it was the sole reason (as noted, Moyer’s injury, Johnson’s finger & his inconsistancy) but both Seattle and Baltimore are convinced that the Baltimore scouting paid big dividends in stopping the M’s hitters:

    Seattle Times, Oct. 12, 1997– “Scouts live most of their lives in anonymity, but Don Welke entered the spotlight last week when the Orioles lavished praise upon him for the thorough report he prepared on the Mariners. Welke, a special assignment scout for the Orioles, spent the last 17 days of the season following the Mariners. He has been credited for formulating the game plan that not only allowed Baltimore to beat Randy Johnson twice in the American League Division Series, but also to hold down the potent Seattle bats.”

    NY Times, Oct 5, 1997– “Matt Slater is an assistant in the Orioles’ scouting department, and Welke is the advance scout who tracked the Seattle Mariners for the better part of the month before the Orioles played them in the American League playoffs.

    The Orioles won the first two games, leaving them one victory away from advancing to the A.L. Championship Series as they prepare for Game 3 today. On Friday, Lou Piniella, the Seattle manager, credited the Orioles’ performance to good and accurate intelligence. “The Baltimore people have done a very good job scouting our team,” he said.

    Early in September, as contenders began clinching playoff berths and the post-season matchups became more apparent, the Orioles assigned one of their top scouts to each of the potential opponents. Curt Motton was assigned to the Cleveland Indians, Deacon Jones to the Yankees and Welke to the Mariners. The Orioles also sent Fred Petersen, who normally scouts amateur players around Illinois, to join Welke.

    For more than two weeks, Welke and Petersen charted every pitch in each Seattle game, noted what pitch pitchers threw on various counts, and observed how opposing pitchers were throwing to the Mariners hitters. They looked for such tipoffs as pitchers holding their hands a little higher before throwing changeups; which players were used in bunt situations, and who would attempt a hit-and-run.

    The two scouts wrote out the information in longhand and, according to Slater, they hired a woman at the hotel where they were staying to type the report. At 2 A.M. last Wednesday, hours before the series began, Welke and Petersen took the pages to a Kinko’s in Seattle and generated about 10 copies of the report.

    At 11 A.M., Welke met with Pat Gillick, the Orioles’ general manager, other club officials, Manager Davey Johnson and his coaching staff, and reviewed the material. The first section was prepared for Johnson’s use, the others for the coaches, along with pages and pages of charts that showed where the Mariners’ batters generally hit the ball, as well as supporting statistics.”

  60. Benjamin Ramm on May 10th, 2005 3:38 pm

    I used to write a post a lot like Derek’s at least once a year back on usenet. I don’t think the Mariners needed Kevin Brown in 1996, they could have gotten by with simply signing Belcher. He was good enough for the Royals that the Mariners’ offense would have been great for him. He also wasn’t that expensive.

    And then, before 1997, there was the Mike Jackson fiasco: they didn’t even call him back, so he signed a deal with Cleveland for half what it took to get Slocumb.

    It just drove me crazy. Not signing Brown or whomever is understandable. Not returning phone calls is another problem.

    I think we have to include 1998 as a year they were all together. It was management’s problem that they didn’t keep Johnson focused.

  61. Baltimore M's Fan on May 10th, 2005 3:48 pm

    #59-OK there’s the support for the argument I’ve been looking for. Nice work.
    But the initial point made it seem that scouting was the #1 reason the O’s beat the M’s that year. That is what I was contesting. Some people missed the point on that (ie #48 telling me that MLB teams employed scouts in 1997. Really? They did? Wow I never knew that.)

  62. new guy on May 10th, 2005 3:54 pm

    One thing missing in the what ifs of these what could be fantasy line ups is the reality that the M’s have a big problem turning farm talent into reputable big league players. In order for them to flourish, it is necessary for them to go elsewhere. Also, that when we do bring in reputable players from eleswhere, they more often fail to produce. And how about when we let our players go (Ibanez) and they flourish elsewhere (KC) and return here as the player we let go? I lack the faith in the system that it would have developed Ortiz, Hampton, Lowe, Mays, Varitek into the players they are today.

  63. wabbles on May 10th, 2005 3:59 pm

    As for bullpens being “junk,” I’ve suffered through TOOOOOO many Cliffhanger Slocumb, Jose Mesa, Bobby Ayala, etc., etc., etc. bullpen corps to fully believe that, Ted Powers (surprise 1993 fill-in for an injured Norm Charlton) notwithstanding.

  64. LB on May 10th, 2005 5:06 pm

    #50: Fine, then don’t believe me. Just read Dan Shaughnessy’s book about the last season. [Reversing the Curse, p. 217 and 219] As soon as the Sox won the ALCS, Theo was telling John Henry to relax, the Sox would beat St. Louis. They knew Cardinal pitching could not shut down their offense (“Not an intimidating staff,” according to the scouting report), and they knew how to go after 3 of the 4 big guns in the St. Louis lineup.

    But you don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to.

  65. DAVE MCKENNA on May 10th, 2005 8:30 pm

    [all caps = deletion]

  66. Adam M on May 10th, 2005 8:38 pm

    Good advance scouting has beaten the M’s a couple of times in the postseason. Specifically, in addition to Johnson packing the lineup against RJ, I’m thinking of how the Yankees were able to neutralize Ichiro fairly well, and, as I recall, they shut down Edgar fairly well a couple years. Advance scouting may be the untold secret of the Yanks’ WS run – it seems like they were always able to neutralize the other teams’ best players, whether it was jamming their best hitter, taking advantage of some defensive lapse, or knocking their closer out, which they seemed to do at least once in every playoff series during that run.

    I wonder if Billy Beane has looked into this – if the A’s had a crack staff of advance scouts who helped them win a playoff series, the cost-benefit would probably be off the charts. Advance scouts are usually grisly old guys with a million years in the game who don’t want to or can’t shuffle around everywhere scouting talent.
    [note: I'm sure the A's have a fine advance scout team, just being a little facetious]

  67. Adam M on May 10th, 2005 8:40 pm

    p.s. mad props for recognizing Sorrento.

  68. LB on May 10th, 2005 10:22 pm

    #66: And in the 2002 ALDS, the Angels had the benefit of a “secret weapon” that slipped under the Yankee advance scouts’ radar: Francisco Rodriguez (a.k.a. K-Rod). Of course, he was/is pretty darned good even if you have scouting data on him!

    (I read an analysis that said the other half of the Angels’ success was that they had hitters who could put the ball in play early and often against the Yankees’ sub-optimal defense.)

  69. Adam M on May 10th, 2005 11:51 pm

    68 – amen, LB. That seems to be what happened to the Yanks against Florida, too – young pitchers they weren’t familiar with (a problem M’s fans can identify with very well) and hitters who put the ball in play against their weak defense – and yes, that includes Jeter and Matsui.

    On that note, did anybody else notice on Boone’s double that Captain Playsright would have gotten Boonie at second and ended the inning if he’d covered the base? Maybe that was the right call and not a lapse in fundamentals, and it didn’t affect the outcome anyway, but it seemed pretty glaring to me.

  70. Adam Villani on May 11th, 2005 12:35 am

    I’m a Dodger fan, but reading words like “Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek were sent to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb” makes me feel not quite so bad about words like “Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields” or “$55 million for Darren Dreifort” or “Todd Hundley.”

    And man, I knew Beltre’s 2004 season was a fluke, but I had no idea how much of a fluke it turned out to be… sorry about that one, guys.

  71. TypicalIdiotFan on May 11th, 2005 3:16 am

    Re 70:

    Beltre’ll be fine. His recent games have shown a remarkable improvement in his swing and his recognition of pitches. I think he had a really bad and extended adjusting period to deal with, and hopefully it’s out of the way. If he comes close to hitting .300 by the end of the season and drives in over 100 RBI then I’ll be satisfied (for now).

    The actual enigma on the team is Olivo. Even at his worst, he’s been better then this. Right now, he’s giving Ben Davis a run for his money in terms of Seattle catching prospect notoriety.

  72. calig23 on May 11th, 2005 8:19 am

    [i]Odd that you mention that. Where do you think that dominant Angels bullpen came from? Saturn? Except for Yan and Prinz, that’s all Angels former AAA talent right there.[/i]

    Really?

    Brendan Donnelly is the very definition of organizational flotsam. He was originally drafted the White Sox and was released by 6 different teams from 1993 to 2000. He also had two separate stints with the Cubs organization(93-94, 2000) and two different stints in the Independant leagues( Ohio Valley in 1994 and Nashua in 1999). Finally, he was signed by Anaheim in 2001. By the time he was with Anaheim, he was already 30. He hardly qualifies as “former Anaheim AAA talent”, in my opinion, though he did make 81 appearances in their minor league system before finally reaching the majors.

    Kevin Gregg was drafted by Oakland in 1996 and didn’t come to the Angels until 2003. He made all of 30 appearances in their minor leagues.

  73. Adam M on May 11th, 2005 1:40 pm

    As a Mariners and Dodgers fan, allow me to apologize for #70. No trade the Mariners have done, not even the Mitchell deal, is as bad as sending Pedro for Delino DeShields. Even as a DePo defender, considering what the Dodgers paid Derek Lowe, they may not be the only organization to misestimate his talent. He also forgets that “regression to the mean” for Beltre means a lousy first half and ~24 HRs/75 RBI in the second half.

    Speaking of the Lowe trade, would anyone with a better memory care to evaluate that trade in the context of the times? Yeah it looks like a panic-ridden fleecing (jr. pressuring woody to get a closer no matter the cost, we know the backstory). As I recall that time in M’s history, Varitek was taking a long time to develop, he’d gotten a call up, looked fairly lousy, and hadn’t been able to displace Dan the Man. Lowe seemed to be similarly frustrating. In context, it seems no worse than the average Kenny Williams trade; it’s just what Varitek and Lowe did afterward (and Quittin’ Time didn’t) that make it so ridiculous.

    Someday, somebody will write a history of Dan Wilson’s career with the Mariners. How long did it seem like the three things left after nuclear winter would be cockroaches, rats and Dan Wilson behind the plate?

  74. Adam Villani on May 11th, 2005 2:55 pm

    Donnelly was even a replacement player during the strike. To this day, he’s not in the players’ union and didn’t appear on the World Champion merchandise that had everybody else’s name on it.

    Adam

  75. TypicalIdiotFan on May 11th, 2005 4:43 pm

    #72:

    I guess I generally consider “home grown” talent to be people who are given a chance to actually play MLB baseball by the first team that lets them. Donnelly may have been a “well traveled” minor leaguer, but he made his mark in Anaheim (and Los Angeles!). If he’d appeared in the Majors beforehand, I would have agreed, which is why I didn’t mention a few others on the team who played brief stints with the Expos, etc.

    Truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot of actual “home grown” talent if we go by any other meaning. Lots of prospects get drafted one way and end up in another organization before they make their MLB debuts. So I just go with my definition until someone comes up with a better one.

  76. The Ancient Mariner on May 11th, 2005 7:15 pm

    Regarding the Tino deal, everyone seems to be forgetting that not only did we give the Yanks Nelson along with Tino for Davis and Hitchcock, we threw in Jim Mecir. Arrgghh! He didn’t pitch well in ’96 or ’97, but once he escaped NY he was fine; through ’04 he’s thrown 483.7 innings with a 3.83 ERA, 122 ERA+ (including his two poor seasons with the Yanks). Bad talent judgment, Woody . . .

    Re #73–at the time, I thought Varitek was a bust, and I wouldn’t have given you any kind of odds that Lowe would ever recover from Mt. Piniella; what made the deal obnoxious at the time anyway is that it was for waiver-bait. Bottom line, we could have gotten a lot more for Cruz, Lowe and Varitek than we did.

  77. me here on October 24th, 2005 10:50 am

    The more interesting thing about the Mariners with their 3 hall of famers is that they went on to be better without them.