Happy Festivus!

December 23, 2005 · Filed Under Off-topic ranting · Comments Off on Happy Festivus! 

I can’t believe I almost let this go by! I hope everyone had a great Festivus, your Airing of Grievances was cathartic (and if it involved sending angry email to the Mariners, so much the better), and you amazed all with your Feats of Strength.

Registration’s up

December 23, 2005 · Filed Under Site information · 52 Comments 

You can register here. Once you’re registered, you can change your password and user info here. The site attempts to set a cookie so that you stay logged in. If you’re blocking cookies, you may find yourself in trouble.

On naming — we will be, as much as we are able, harshly enforcing naming conventions as outlined in the guidelines. You can’t register as someone famous, or a name which is close to someone famous or easily confused with someone famous, unless you are that famous person.

On tech support — we cannot offer tech support on user logins right now. If you’re having problems, let us know, of course, but there’s no 24-hour service level agreement with this any more than if you found yourself in the moderation queue because you’re out of AOL.

Comments up/down, new search

December 23, 2005 · Filed Under Site information · 49 Comments 

Commenting availability’s going to be erratic while I’m tinkering behind the scenes. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Update: tinkering continues

In other news, the old site search bar in the upper right’s been removed in favor of a Google search box, which you’ll see on the left-hand column. Among other problems, the site’s search was fairly good at finding posts, but if you wanted to dig up an old comment you vaguely remember as really interesting, you were SOL. So this tweak is dedicated to Rusty and Jim Osmer.

USSM Labs — we’re like a less-innovative 3M, if 3M only had four people and they were all Mariner fans.

Purpura’s big break

December 22, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on Purpura’s big break 

From Baseball America’s General Manager Roundtable, this anecdote from Astros GM Tim Purpura may tickle M’s fans:

SCHWARZ: What’s the worst task you were given starting out, Tim–the hazing process when you were low man on the totem pole?

PURPURA: This is a matter of some dispute. But the truth is that my first job as an intern was to go rent a baby crib for Bill Bavasi’s daughter. He disputes it, he denies it, but it’s absolutely the truth–and I’m going to find the receipt one of these days to prove it to him. That’s as bad as it got. I don’t think people realize–it’s not hazing, it’s do-what-you-have-to-do, and I was happy to do it. I was happy to pick up the meal money, I was happy to go get the sandwiches for Mike Port and Bill Bavasi.

Hee hee hee!

PI:Mariners sign Matt Lawton

December 22, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 110 Comments 


Matt Lawton, who admitted in a story in USA Today Sports Weekly Thursday morning that he’d used steroids, struck a deal with the Seattle Mariners Thursday afternoon, the Seattle P-I has learned.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s:
– 2 guys who failed a steroid test last year (Franklin, Strong)
+ 1 guy who failed a steroid test last year (Lawton)
= -1 net guy who failed a steroid test last year.

Fortunately, it’s on the cheap:

The 34-year-old will make only barely more than the minimum, $400,000, as a base salary. But he has incentives in the deal that could bring him $1.65 million if he maximizes his at-bats.

Still, it wasn’t that long ago Lawton was a useful player, putting up solid on-base numbers, though it’s been a long, long time since he hit for good power. Maybe he’s done, maybe he’s not. If he outhits Everett, who’s getting almost 10x his salary, it’d be amusing.

And this gives me an excuse to quote my player comment on him in the 2003 Baseball Prospectus:

Lawton’s headed into the second year of a four-year, $27 million deal. For an outfielder whose major attribute is his batting eye, that’s a little pricey. He’s coming off of an especially frustrating season that ended with surgery to remove a cyst in his shoulder that may push his return into the second half of the 2003 season. What they found in his shoulder was reportedly as gruesome as anything outside of Peter Jackson’s horror classic Bad Taste. It took a team of medical specialists to revive the medical specialists who passed out after taking the first look into that abyss, unprepared for what would be staring back at them. Lawton’s expected to be back and healthy eventually, but how many horror movies don’t have sequels?

#7 on Lawton’s comparable players list, as selected by PECOTA?

Ron Fairly.

Comment registration or something like it

December 22, 2005 · Filed Under Site information · 3 Comments 

When we allowed comments, people told me that leaving them open for anyone was a recipe for disaster, that eventually the level of noise would drown out intelligent discussion. I disagreed.

At first, I was right. Comments rocked.
Then for a long time comments were okay. In general, the first batch was okay and then the quality declined quickly. Some comment threads ran long and excellent, others short and brutally bad.
Today, I grant those who cautioned me against this that they were eventually right. Our growth has outpaced our ability to police the comments and try and keep them worth reading. We simply don’t have time or people.

In addition, the strain that comments and many people hitting reload over and over puts on our little server, compared to the value they add, makes this choice a lot easier: would the 90% of users who come to USSM and read the articles prefer to see a database error during peak hours but get the comments, or more consistently get a page served to them without comments?

Further, from our emails and talking to readers in person, there seem to be many people besides us who have been dismayed with the decline in comment quality. And at USSM, we’re all about customer service. Well, not really, but you know what we mean.

It’s a testament to the quality of our readership that comments were able to hold out this long: as you’re well-aware, other sites have seen their discussions descend into nightmarish pits of insults and ignorance and never recovered. This won’t happen here.

I hope (and believe) that this won’t be the destruction of the user community and, if anything, should strengthen it even as it makes it slightly harder to stop by and post: it will stop entirely impersonation posts, for instance, which you probably haven’t seen because that’s pretty much an instant site ban once I figure them out. But I’m getting off the point.

Right now, registration’s required to comment, and registration’s closed until we can figure out the best way to proceed with that. The outage should be pretty short.

We may not end up going to registration, I should note. I don’t know what happens yet. We’re acknowledging that the current state of things is not sustainable, and something’s going to change.

Comments, questions, requests for articles, as always, are welcome.

Gil Meche to the Cubs for Patterson?

December 22, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 81 Comments 

Caution, Gil Meche fans. Just because your epic Babylonian hero is being tendered a contract does not mean he will be a Mariner this season.
Jon Paul Morosi of the P-I reports on a rumor that the team may ship the right-hander to the Cubs in exchange for Corey Patterson.

I’m certainly not averse to jettisoning Meche if the team can something useful in return, but this is not that scenario. Acquiring Patterson as a reclamation project might be worthwhile on its own merits, but that doesn’t appear to be what would go down.

A Meche-for-Patterson deal would make Seattle more willing to part with center fielder Jeremy Reed, given Reed’s market value in the wake of Johnny Damon’s defection from Boston. …That shift could help the Mariners have their pick of a pitcher in return — Bronson Arroyo or Matt Clement — and ensure that the Red Sox assume some of Clement’s remaining salary if that’s who is dealt.

Trading Jeremy Reed to install Corey Patterson as the starting center fielder is like selling off a young thoroughbred so you can concentrate on racing your adopted greyhound. Simply put, Reed is more valuable than Patterson in just about every way you can imagine.

Were you disappointed with Reed’s offensive performance last year? Well, as a rookie in a pitcher’s ballpark, he outpaced the career numbers Patterson has amassed playing half his games in Wrigley Field. Reed’s plate discipline is dramatically better than Patterson’s; he’s also two years younger and makes less money.

The past two seasons, Patterson has struck out 286 times and walked 78 times, posting a robust OBP of .254 last year. .254! That was Reed’s 2005 batting average. Lest you think I’m cherry-picking stats, Patterson has had 2,200 major league at-bats — and his career OBP is still less than .300.

I doubt a Clement deal is in the works because of the salary involved. It strikes me as unlikely that the team could get Boston to pick up enough of his paycheck to make the deal work, and even if that were the case, I still would be loath to give up Reed.

As for Arroyo, well, that would be even worse. Dave already did an admirable job of explaining why Reed-for-Arroyo doesn’t make sense for the M’s. Arroyo isn’t that hot a commodity, and to give up a guy with his career arc pointing in the right direction would be folly.

Essentially, the question is this: would you rather have Jeremy Reed and Gil Meche or Corey Patterson and Bronson Arroyo?

For me, the answer is easy.

Seanez signs with Sox

December 21, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 39 Comments 

Rudy Seanez, who Dave pointed to as a desired off-season acquisition, signed a deal with the Red Sox yesterday worth $2.1M guaranteed next season and a possible $5.3M over two years with incentives.

What’s amusing, however, is this line from the AP story: “The 37-year-old right-hander, who passed a physical Tuesday, went 7-1 with a 2.69 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings with San Diego last season and was second among NL relievers with 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He was more effective against lefties with a 2.45 ERA compared with 2.90 against righties.”

That’s right, folks, lefty-righty ERA splits! What will they think of next?

Another bullet dodged

December 21, 2005 · Filed Under Mariners · 77 Comments 

Sir Sidney Ponson got out of jail and back into the major leagues in the same 24-hour period. Fortunately, it wasn’t the Mariners who took a flyer on him, but the Cardinals.

Besides getting into numerous scrapes off the field, Sir Sid has been wretched on the mound the last couple of years. This is a signing the M’s were wise not to make.

Another item of, uh, interest:

Ponson will be a different looking pitcher. Since reaching the major leagues in 1998, he has pitched with his head shaved. Photographed leaving the central booking center following his arrest Monday, Ponson sported a full head of dark hair.

That’s just the type of detail you expect from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Between this and ESPN’s coverage of the pressing “Johnny-Damon-will-have-to-shave” issue, it’s barber day in baseball.

List of new free agents

December 21, 2005 · Filed Under General baseball · 51 Comments 

From mlb.com.

Not much getting worked up over.

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