Steve Kelley, Awful Sportswriter
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 â€” yippee â€” 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 â€” hold on to your M’s cap â€” 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 Â½ 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.