Steve Kelley, Awful Sportswriter

Dave · September 20, 2006 at 1:56 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Against my better judgment, I’m going to link to a Steve Kelley article. He’s been so bad at his job for so long that I barely even knew he was still employed by the Times. While they’ve had Larry Stone doing yeoman’s work and covering the game in amazing detail, they’ve allowed this guy to continue butchering columns for no apparent reason.

Today, he tackles the Mariners. Sort of. We’ll do a Pocket-Lint style breakdown, since this column is worthy of that special kind of scorn.

Soon the propaganda will begin to flow from the Mariners’ clubhouse and front office as relentless as political ads.

The season will be spun as if the good ship Mariner is back on course. As if serious holes have been filled. As if significant progress has been made. As if the future is as bright as the center-field glare on a sunny Sunday at Safeco.

The M’s will be spinning like those contestants in the bat races at minor-league ballparks.

Classic Kelley writing, right here. One sentence paragraphs, no value added.

We’ll hear about all of the improvements they have made. The double-play combination of Yuniesky Betancourt and Jose Lopez is set for the rest of the decade. J.J. Putz accepted the challenge and has become the undisputed closer for 2007.

You’ll hear about improvements like — yippee — the fact they didn’t lose 90 games this season. That they have made progress the past three seasons, from 63 wins two seasons ago, to 69 last year, to — hold on to your M’s cap — more than 70 this season.

The front office will tell you the bullpen is one of the deepest in baseball. It will mention that Ichiro had another 200-plus-hit season. And Richie Sexson had another 100-plus-RBI year. And Raul Ibanez was as steady as a sextant.

Of course, all those things are true. The M’s have answered many of the questions they had last year. 12 months ago, we didn’t have a guy we could count on in any of the up-the-middle positions and the team lacked a dominant relief ace. This year, we’ve found out that we have many of the players a championship club needs. We don’t have enough, but we have more than we had a year ago.

The Mariners only are better in comparison to their recent past. They aren’t better in the standings, familiarly lodged in last place in the American League West, 4 ½ games behind third-place Texas.

So what if last year they finished 26 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Angels and are only 15games behind first-place Oakland this season.

That shouldn’t be anybody’s definition of true improvement.

Praising that as a positive step is like a golfer bragging about lowering his handicap by six strokes, then admitting it’s still 35.

Welcome to the world of Steve Kelly, where going from awful to average is not improvement. Apparently, you can’t improve until you reach “good” status, and anything short of good is all the same.

Their offense has scored the second-fewest runs in the American League. They spent the whole season without finding a No. 2 hitter behind Ichiro, who despite all of his hits, is not a good leadoff hitter. How could someone with his speed have only 33 extra-base hits in 648 at-bats?

I’d say Chris Snelling and his .286/.385/.506 line have made a solid case as a #2 hitter, wouldn’t you? Or do you not like 24-year-olds who have Edgar Martinez’s skillset? And then he evaluates Ichiro as “not a good leadoff hitter” by disparaging his lack of extra base hits? Really, that’s our criteria for a good leadoff hitter now? Who, exactly, would he consider a good leadoff hitter, Ryan Howard?

What front-office guy is listening to the fans?

Bill Bavasi, for one.

In 2001 and 2002 the Mariners drew more than 3.5 million fans. This year, they will draw about 2.3 million, some 400,000 fewer than last season. Shouldn’t that be a sign the fans are angry?

Who speaks for them?

We speak for ourselves, Steve. And one of the nifty things about this whole interweb thingy that all the kids are playing with now is that the fans actually have some legitimate avenues of communicating with the team. And if you don’t think the Mariners read this blog, you’re kidding yourselves. We don’t need anyone in the front office to speak for us. We’re speaking for us.

Who will ask, “Exactly what has general manager Bill Bavasi done to make the franchise better?”

He’s taken the burning ashes of an old, washed-up team that Pat Gillick left him and turned it into one of the most loaded organizations in baseball in under-25 talent.

The Mariners need to be bold this off-season. They need to sign two top-of-the-rotation starters, preferably Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, and San Francisco’s Jason Schmidt.

Everyone wants Matsuzaka. But here’s a cautionary tale for all those Jason Schmidt fans – you now have Steve Kelly on your side, and that’s never a winning proposition.

They need to find another power hitter like Carlos Lee, so that, once again, the Mariners’ offense isn’t at the bottom of the American League.

Carlos Lee: .300/.358/.535 as a bad defensive corner outfielder.
Raul Ibanez: .280/.347/.493 as a bad defensive corner outfielder.

Seriously, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a worse hitter get as much love heading into his free agent season. Carlos Lee isn’t the answer to any question the Mariners need to be asking.

Imagine a news conference next month announcing the return of Lou Piniella to manage the club. Or think how excited Seattle might get if a favorite son like Joey Cora were brought back to manage.

Right, because Lou Piniella did a great job winning in Tampa Bay. And Joey Cora now gets to manage the Mariners because, what, he cried in 1995? Really, that’s our criteria for choosing a guy to run the club?

As recently as 2002, the Mariners owned this town. The sound of Dave Niehaus’ voice wafted through open doors and screen windows every warm summer night. The M’s held this city in their webbing.

Where has that feeling gone? And, more important, where will this ownership group go to get that feeling back?

The team wins, that elusive feeling comes back. And if you can’t tell that the Mariners are in a better position to win now than they were a year ago, Steve, than there’s no reason why we should care about one more word you write.


75 Responses to “Steve Kelley, Awful Sportswriter”

  1. David J. Corcoran I on September 20th, 2006 4:43 pm

    44: Hell, you can even do that today. Back in Idaho, my MVP 2004 lineup was

    C Mauer
    1B Teixiera
    2B Garciaparra
    SS A-Rod
    3B Pujols
    LF Berkman
    CF Ichiro
    RF Vlad
    DH Ortiz

    Even with the newer trade logic, you can somehow turn Kevin Jarvis into Vlad Guerrero by continuously trading him for somebody slightly better until you get a superstar

  2. David J. Corcoran I on September 20th, 2006 4:43 pm

    ESPN has a mariners board?

  3. JI on September 20th, 2006 4:44 pm

    They are about to lose Buhner and eventually Griffey and probably Johnson and we’re expected to cough up the cash to build them a new ballpark.


    Just add Buhner’s name to the list of Mariner mistakes. Mark Langston. Mike Moore. Danny Tartabull. Dave Henderson. Spike Owen, Ivan Calderon, Bill Swift. Mike Morgan, Bret Boone. The ones who got away.


    Buhner is gone and Ken Griffey Jr. won’t be far behind. Another sad day for baseball in Seattle.


    Here is a suggestion to the Mariner brass: If you’re asking King County voters for their permission to increase taxes to build a new stadium, it might be a good idea to show them you care and give them a September pennant race.


    When the Mariners needed a solid starting pitcher last month, he drafted outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. instead of pitcher Ariel Prieto. Cruz remains unsigned. Prieto is part of the Oakland rotation.


    But it doesn’t explain why they quit on Shawn Boskie or Oakland All-Star Steve Ontiveros.


    Why are the Angels, who seemingly were selling off all players in spring training, suddenly the scourge of the West?


    Why did the Mariners sign Mac Suzuki and the Dodgers sign Hideo Nomo? Why did they sign Bobby Thigpen last season, but pass on Tim Wakefield this year?

    Comedic gold.

  4. Cohkey on September 20th, 2006 4:45 pm

    Don’t respond with 450 words of fury – he’ll just delete it. My e-mail to Cathy Henkel, the sports editor ( was short and simple:

    “Please, spare us the pain.”

    Along with a link to this article.

    By the way, I worked as a sportswriter a while and I have a secret – everyone thinks he’s a hack.

  5. Dave on September 20th, 2006 5:03 pm

    That’s not a secret.

  6. pdb on September 20th, 2006 5:18 pm

    I wonder how he’s going to react to a strongly worded email.

    His response to my strongly worded email(I didn’t yell, or rant, I just made a few points really strongly…), verbatim:

    “I honestly believe they aren’t improving in any dramatic way. Thanks for your thoughts.”

  7. msb on September 20th, 2006 5:27 pm

    maybe if they start answering his questions in iambic pentameter?

  8. mark s. on September 20th, 2006 5:28 pm

    Thank you again for reminding me why I check this site every day and never read the sport’s page anymore.

  9. bigred on September 20th, 2006 6:28 pm

    Thank you for expressing sentiments I have long felt. Steve Kelly not only is a horrible Mariner’s writer, he’s a horrible writer. It’s painful to read his column and recognize that he gets paid to write so poorly.

  10. The Ancient Mariner on September 20th, 2006 7:07 pm

    What’s truly painful is that as bad as he is, he still qualifies for nepotism — his son Mason is a columnist (or feature writer) for the sports pages down in Bakersfield. And having read Mason Kelley’s work, I can tell you that the kid’s a hack off the old block, as it were.

  11. Dobbs on September 20th, 2006 8:13 pm

    “He’s taken the burning ashes of an old, washed-up team that Pat Gillick left him and turned it into one of the most loaded organizations in baseball in under-25 talent.”

    I take it most of this talent is currently at the big league level?

  12. msb on September 20th, 2006 9:12 pm

    #60– please tell me it was asexual reproduction.

  13. HireHeyroldReynolds on September 20th, 2006 10:30 pm

    The part that irks me the most is that “Ichiro isn’t a good leadoff hitter”. Now I’m no Grover, but I thought I heard once on baseball tonight or something that the leadoff hitter’s jobs were to A. Get on Base and B. Put himself in position to score.

    Ichiro has a career .377 OBP, the 25th best OBP of all active major leaguers (through 2005). He’s the only non-middle of the lineup guy on the list besides Jason Kendall. Additionally, there isn’t a better base stealer in baseball, as he just set a new record for consecutive successes on the basepaths. Maybe if the guys hitting behind him (like, say, BELTRE and SEXSON) knew how to advance runners, work the count, hit with two strikes and have and overall better approach with RISP, he’d score more runs. But hey, what do i know?

  14. Tom on September 20th, 2006 10:56 pm

    I think it’s understandable to see why Kelley is writing a doom and gloom/jump off a cliff article, because quite honestly the last three years have not gone well for this organization and this fanbase of baseball-savy people.

    But you do have to admit Kelley is right in the sense that if this team ever wants to return to the level that it was at in 2000-2002, then a couple drastic changes will have to be made.

    You will need a new manager who is intelligent, has the leadership skills of some of the better managers to be in MLB over the years such as Lou Piniella, Earl Weaver, Joe Torre, and Bobby Cox among others, and a person who has the ability to relate to his players such as Ozzie Guillen.

    You will need at least one top of the line starter (Matsuzaka), if not two, but probably one is all we’ll need right now if Felix really does pan out to be “King Felix”.

    It shouldn’t be the #1 priority because just being more patient at the plate along with having Doyle hitting #2 for all of next year could solve the M’s plate problems, but the M’s should try and get a guy with pop if they have some extra cash for their payroll budget.

    Which should either be a guy who we only need for ’07 like a Frank Thomas to make room for T.J. Bohn or Adam Jones in ’08, or a true franchise player to compliment Ichiro, namely Alfonso Soriano (not Carlos Lee, I agree).

    And the ownership group should just at least try to be more open, they obviously can’t say under MLB rules that “we will get Player A, Player B, and Player C”, but they can at least do what Arte Moreno is doing right now in Anaheim and give the fans, season ticket holders, and potential season ticket holders, etc, a general idea of what might happen in the offseason.

    For example, Arte said CLEARLY that he backs GM Bill Stoneman and to “expect something big to happen”.

    Not only that, but at least TRY and reach out to the fans and relate to them a little.

    I remember when the Seahawks hired Todd Leiwike in 2003 to be the CEO and he brought the ideas of bringing back the 12th Man concept to Seahawks Football and bringing in new in game entertainment, such as the Blue Thunder drumline.

    Quite honestly, I thought these moves were stupid gimmicks at first, but you know what, when your team starts winning, and more and more people recognize and pay attention to your product, then more and more people will usually start to believe in you and your product.

    And now here we are in 2006, the Seahawks have never been more popular, there is a huge waiting line for season tickets, and those silly gimmicks such as the 12th Man Flag and Blue Thunder drumline have become stables of Seahawks football.

    It’s true that Mariners fans have outlets they can go to like this blog to try and feel more connected with the team, but quite honestly, the fact that a corporation owns the Mariners (Nintendo), the CEO of this team treats it like a business, and the President of Baseball Operations is someone who doesn’t know much about baseball, plus you throw in the fact that they barely even talk to the fans about the direction of the team tells you all you need to know about the connection most fans have with this ownership.

    Yes, the core of the team that will get Seattle excited about baseball once more is in place, but in order to get to the next level, then some changes, some drastic, some subtle, will need to be made.

    Otherwise, this franchise could get steamrolled by the Blue and Green Seahawks Train.

    Because like I’ve said before, the people that wore Mariners caps in 2001 are probably wearing Shaun Alexander jerseys in 2006.

  15. Josh on September 21st, 2006 1:31 am

    I used to do the same thing in RBI Baseball 2 for NES. I’d always play as the Giants and I’d have Kevin Mitchell leading off, followed by Will Clark, Matt Williams and Robby Thompson. Good times.

    For not playing Baseball Stars, I smite thee!

    Then again, it’s still NES, and RBI 2 was pretty cool, so I take that back. 🙂

  16. Mariner Fan on September 21st, 2006 3:32 am

    I read this article and thought WTF? Ichiro a bad leadoff hitter? Ummm, isn’t a leadoff hitter supposed to get on base so the big bats can bring him in? Doesn’t Ichiro put pressure on the pitcher with his base running threat?
    This season has been much more enjoyable to watch than the last couple of years. The young guys are doing a great job and the team is on the upswing. The worse thing Bravasi could do is get despirate and buy more over the hill players to try to win it all now.
    One little pet peeve. Why is it that some folks think that you can’t root for the Seahawks and still be a Mariner fan?

  17. gwangung on September 21st, 2006 8:51 am

    One little pet peeve. Why is it that some folks think that you can’t root for the Seahawks and still be a Mariner fan?

    Because they have small brains and can’t keep their minds on more than one thing at a time, and think that you’re as limited as they are.

  18. joser on September 21st, 2006 10:24 am

    Well, I suppose someone could make the argument that dollars spent on Seahawk jerseys and facepaint and whatever are not dollars spent on Mariners junk at the Mariners store. But I don’t know that there’s any data to back that up (if a city has two winning teams, don’t people tend to buy paraphenalia for both?) And aren’t merchandise sales shared across MLB anyway?

    I don’t know, these things go in cycles. The guy who bought the Steve Largent shirt probably also bought the Gary Paton shirt and the Griffey shirt and now the Alexander shirt. The Seahawks will be in the toilet again soon enough, and whenever the M’s get a winning team he’ll pick up a Felix shirt or whatever star happens to catch his fancy.

    Which is not to say the M’s couldn’t learn a thing or two about better appealing to fans, from the Seahawks and from some other MLB teams. Yeah, it’s all smoke and mirrors and PR fluff, but they have to function as an entertainment product too, and as a summer sport their competition isn’t so much the other teams in the city as everything else there is to do in the area on a precious summer day/evening.

  19. msb on September 21st, 2006 11:51 am

    And now here we are in 2006, the Seahawks have never been more popular, there is a huge waiting line for season tickets

    didn’t the Seahawks always have a huge season ticket base and a waiting list up until the mid-90’s? So in there case it is a return, rather than starting a new phenomenon?

  20. joser on September 21st, 2006 12:52 pm

    Yeah, I remember my roommate in the 80s going crazy when he discovered he had distant relatives with Seahawks season tickets. They were a hot item for quite a while.

  21. Mark Gurwell on September 21st, 2006 1:25 pm

    Does anyone at the Times read this site? Do people there know/care just how off base he is? I was reading his stuff when I was at UW 20 years ago and it seemed bad then…

  22. gwangung on September 21st, 2006 2:44 pm

    Which is not to say the M’s couldn’t learn a thing or two about better appealing to fans, from the Seahawks and from some other MLB teams. Yeah, it’s all smoke and mirrors and PR fluff,

    It’s VITAL smoke and mirrors and PR fluff. Most hardcore fans tend to forget that, because what brings them to the team is their presence on the field/court. The profit comes from courting the marginal and fair weather fans, the ones that swell the gate from 2 million to 2.75 or 3 million, and PR fluff works with them (precisely because they aren’t as invested in the team as hardcore fans).

  23. edpellon on September 21st, 2006 2:45 pm

    Word from the press box is that mr. kelley has attended about 4 games total this year.

  24. Steve T on September 21st, 2006 6:10 pm

    Ichiro isn’t a great leadoff hitter. He’s got skills, but getting on base at a high rate isn’t one of them. You say yourself, he’s got the 25th-best OBP in baseball. That’s not that great, and it’s also career; this year, he’s not in the top 60. Which means that every team in baseball can put two guys in the lineup with better OBPs than Ichiro.

    Not to defend Kelley. He’s a fool. Joey Cora for manager? That’s just… tragic.

  25. Xteve X on September 22nd, 2006 11:38 am

    I took Kelley to task on my site both for an article he wrote earlier in September on Team USA’s loss to Greece in basketball and for his ill-informed take on the Sonics draft.

    He wrote “thanks for taking the time to write. your thoughts are extremely insightful.”

    I think he puts as much energy into responding to his mail as he does his columns.

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