USSM Q&A for January 3rd
If Hargroveâ€™s head is indeed on the block, are the Mâ€™s more likely to look inward or outward for his replacement? Does the answer to that question depend on whether heâ€™s canned mid-season or after the season? –pdb
This will depend entirely on who the GM is. Assuming there’s a new GM for a second – if they bring in someone from another organization, they’re going to want their own guy as the manager, someone with a philosophy and approach they’re comfortable with, who can be trusted.
Generally speaking, I don’t think it’ll be an internal candidate. The M’s minor league system has undergone dramatic changes in the last few years, to the point that there aren’t a series of obvious internal candidates you can look to in the way we’d talk about Rohn and Brundage a year ago.
Q. How does Jeff feel about â€œchange-the-storyâ€ books? –msb
“Like the jailer leading the prisoner from his cell somewhere,” Jeff says. “Is it release? Parole? Execution? Only the jailer truly knows and controls the outcome.”
who exactly is it that would hold the proverbial â€˜axeâ€™ at Howard Lincolnâ€™s throat if he were to be fired, since he himself stated he was on the hotseat. Also, theoretically, if USSM purchased the team, how would you set up your organization and why would you replace the people currently there? (e.g. president, gm, manager, director of scouting, etc) –mikelb420
Nintendo of America, as the majority owner, is presumably the axe-holder. But we don’t know what would cause a change. What their criteria for Lincoln’s performance, though, how willing they are to fire a guy who once led their company, how satisfied they are now… all of these things are unknown.
Now, say we purchased the team because someone donated $1bn to the site and we didn’t run off with it (also, that we could buy it and Selig would let us, and so on). I wouldn’t make any changes to the way the organization’s run immediately, but I’d start putting a lot of money into — well, I’ll get to that in a second.
As for personnel changes – I think a lot of people would quit before we had to make any cuts.
What are the chances that in the near future Nintendo will sell the Mâ€™s to somebody who actually gives a rats behind about baseball? –bigpoppa01
It seems unlikely. There doesn’t seem to be any pressing reason for them to sell. The team’s profitable and even if Nintendo isn’t able to milk money out of it like a media conglomerate would, they’re locally based and in good financial shape.
The Cardinals only won five more games than the Mariners did last season, yet they won the World Series. What is your take on the World Champs?
I’m of two minds. I didn’t think much of them all year, and I didn’t see a really good team in the playoffs, either. If you were around USSM for the playoff game threads, you saw how totally boring I found the NL games they played in.
But they really did whup up on the Tigers. There’s no getting around it. You’ve got to tip your cap to them. I don’t think it means you go searching through the season looking for a hot eight-game stretch to point as evidence of their true strength, but it turns out they matched up well against the AL Champs and took them down. Good work.
More than anything, though, there are important lessons for the Mariners in the way the Cardinals operate. The Mariners like to say their goal is to be competitive every year, and what they mean by that’s been analyzed up down and sideways, but it seems like it means “we’d like to be over .500 and compete for the division title”. They’ve said they don’t want to make a one-shot run at the World Series if it would be long-term costly which I think drives many of us crazy, because it’s crappy goal setting.
The Cardinals provide a really good example of how that philosophy can be applied productively, though. They intentionally built a team that was good but not great this year: they ran the projections, did a lot of arguing, and figured they were good for 90 wins and they’d get into the playoffs. They didn’t do what the Yankees might, and spend another $40m trying to lock up a World Series win, or make trades that would hurt the team long-term, or anything: they stuck to their guns, made moves during the season they thought were good, and it worked. They won a playoff berth, and from there, won the World Series. This year, they’re in good shape to go after 90 wins again.
The question this raises, obviously, is “why can’t the M’s do that?” They would have us believe they’re in a much similar situation, with the ability to spend – but not too much – and the need to always keep the eye on the long-term. The Cardinals are able to do this, but the M’s suck at it. Why? Are they smarter? What are they doing differently? Sure, they have Pujols, but beyond that, how are they solving this problem? Why are the Cardinals doing interesting, innovative things while the M’s don’t? How can that change?
Who is (was) the most important Mariner of all time? –waldo rojas
Ken Griffey Jr. He was the first superstar to play on the team, he was young, amazingly talented, exciting and charismatic, and people loved coming to see him in a way that – as much as I love Alvin Davis – we’d never seen before. He played on the first winning Mariner team, the first team to go to the playoffs. Griffey brought baseball in Seattle to life.
Bavasi hires USS Mariner Consulting to review the baseball operations under his control and make up to three realistic recommendations on how to improve them (e.g., Bavasi is not going to get $100 million from ownership to build baseball academies around the world, he cannot replace Rick Rizzs with Mike Curto, he is not going to fire Hargrove or himself, he cannot bend time and undo the Snelling and Soriano deals, etc.). What are your three recommendations? -Grizz
1. Spend whatever it takes to catch and surpass Cleveland’s technology lead, and commit to using those resources. There is no reason a baseball team in Seattle shouldn’t have the best information systems in the baseball, and be able to apply them to better decision making. This project will be long and expensive, and absolutely worth it.
2. Hire contrary voices. Even if you don’t want to give out veto power or dilute decision-making responsibility, put smart people with opposing viewpoints into discussions, listen to them, and if they’re right consistently, re-consider not giving them veto power or decision-making authority.
3. Stop the aggressive promotion of offensive prospects. It’s building a generation of ineffectual hackers in the minors. I know they want them to struggle before they hit the majors, but there are better ways to do it.
Who would be the best manager to complement Chis Antonetti? Would it be in the teams best interest to keep Bob Fontaine as scouting director? Or would Mr Fontaine be looking to try the GM position much like his Father did (SF Giants)? — pensive
I’d have to ask Antonetti. Presumably, someone open to input from the front office, able to work with young players, a decent talent evaluator who isn’t going to decide after a game that they hate Adam Jones and refuse to play him. Glad-handing the press will be important coming in after five years of stagnation: they’ll need to get good coverage to try and change the discussions around the team.
I don’t see Fontaine staying if Bavasi leaves. I don’t know where he’d go, but the job he’s in allows him to do what he excels at with none of the BS a general manager has to cope with, and I can’t see that he’d want that. The hours would be worse, the pay probably not all that much better, and the work wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.
That said, I don’t know what jobs he’d consider. There may well be GM jobs where he could be comfortable, though I don’t know how you’d make that possible for him.
How much do you guys know about non-traditional performance data that some teams collect? Iâ€™m talking about things like assigning landing zones and trajectory levels to balls struck. Iâ€™d love to hear a little about what the smart organizations are measuring and keeping track of. — Manzanillos Cup
Beyond subscribing to Baseball Information Solutions and their ilk, I know good teams are working on this stuff. One of the interesting advances has been computerizing defensive video, so you can go through and say “show me every play where Jeter has to go to his left” and watch them all. I don’t think anyone’s to the point yet where they can do a Bohr model of a player’s defense and say “on a ball hit at 80 miles an hour that will come within ten feet there’s a 80% chance he gets there and makes the stop”… but just the ability to easily reference and watch that much video of a player is a huge step up from editing tapes.
Is Bavasi aware that he is getting universally ripped by the mainstream press (forget the blogosphere) for his deals this offseason? If so, do you think such negative reaction will have any impact (direct or indirect) on his subsequent moves this offseason? — ChrisK
Yes. No (no and no). He’s going to do what he thinks is the right move. Unless ownership gives him some overarching direction, like “the fans are really mad about trading kids away, try to avoid that if you can” (which is unlikely) it’s not going to affect his decisions at all.
If Hargrove and Bavasi are indeed â€œallowed to pursue other interestsâ€, sometime during the season, who will likely inherit the reins? –ira
They’ll hire the GM first. Given their history and what we know about them, it’s almost certain to be a long-time baseball guy with a familiar name and long resume who carries some kind of weight. Dallas Green, say. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But there’s going to have to be some serious arm-twisting to get someone risky in that job. The organization’s not about taking risks, and if they make a change they’re going to want someone who oozes stability and confidence, because it’ll mean they’ve gone through another unsuccessful season.’
There has been a lot of informative disscusion about Replacement Level Players. I donâ€™t know a lot about players on other teams and I donâ€™t have a good idea of who a RLP would be on the Mariners. It would help me understand the concept better if I had a player that Iâ€™m familiar with, so I can more easily follow the discussions about roster management (especially the Sexson talks). Can you write a little about the Mâ€™s current roster and how they relate to RLPâ€™s? — Jed C
This is probably a longer and tougher question than I can handle here. First: there are many ways to define how you set replacement level. It’s often described as “who can I get for very little cost?” (I need a backup catcher right now, who’s out there I can buy for a chunk of cash, like when they brought Pat Borders back mid-season) or “who’s hanging around the Pacific Coast League?” (if your second baseman goes down with a hamstring injury, you call up the 35-year old guy from Tacoma). I’ve heard it described as “the worst regular player in the majors” but that’s not particularly useful, for reasons that probably already occur to you.
I generally think about it like this: if before the season I had to put together a team while paying no one more than $500,000 on a one-year contract, what would those players look like? No draftees, nothing: it’s minor league free agents, declining veterans no one else wants to give $1m to but don’t want to retire, injury rehab gambles, those guys.
Yeah, it’s pretty ugly, and field the worst team in the league. But you should never pay more than that for someone who’s that bad. So if you have a DH who is a horrible hitter, well, there are a ton of guys you could find who can only hit horribly, and you wouldn’t have to pay them anything. The extra money you’re paying is wasted. So if Jose Vidro can’t hit at all, that’s millions (and two good players) wasted.
Or a utility guy – there are many guys who can steal a base and play infield defense while not hitting. There’s no point in paying Bloomquist $1m.
I hope that helps.
Does the career of Willie P. Bloomquist mirror a post-modernist rejection of absolutist hierarchical thinking, or does he objectively suck? — bergamot
I have often wondered if Bloomquist is some kind of Dada prank myself.
In the last few years, what were percevied or projected to be the 5 worst trades or Free Agent Acquisitions that actually turned out OK.
On the Mariners? Let’s call the last few years as “5” so I get one/offseason
Signing Ibanez looked like it was crazy, worked out.
Extending Ibanez looked like it was crazy, it’s worked out so far.
Beltre’s contract is widely derided as insane, it’s really not. The gap between Beltre’s actual value and the wide perception of his contract might be the largest of any active player.
Piniella for Randy Winn? That turned out okay, rather than the end of the universe.
I’m scraping for a fifth – Villone seems like a good choice.
Given that Dusty Baker is available to be hired, how can you even mention the idea of Mike Hargrove getting canned? — Johnny Slick
I don’t see them hiring a manager who might criticize the GM/ownership in public. They don’t want controversy or finger-pointing, especially if things are bad enough that they fire Hagrove mid-season. Unless the team’s 0-20 or something and they’re desperate to demonstrate they’re serious.
What is the worst move or non-move of the Mâ€™s since 2000? –induced entropy
It’s always a tough question, because I think we operate on the outside with imperfect information. We don’t really know how close any particular rumored trade was, or how serious an offer was or even if it was on the table long enough to be snapped up. So I’m going to pass on what might have been.
And I don’t want to think about things that we couldn’t see at the time, where they made a trade that looked great at the time and then didn’t work out (like the Garcia trade, for instance).
So I’m going to have to go with Fruto-Snelling for Vidro. Older, way more expensive, worse, plus they threw in Fruto. This trade’s indefensible. Also, I can’t think of “bad move” without fixating on this for a while. Ask me again in a couple months when I’ve calmed down a little.
Will Bavasi survive the season without getting fired? Hargrove? –dw
Yup. Unless the team starts out 0-20, and then they’re gone. That could happen, too – they’re a pitching injury away from being able to go into deep funks where they give up 8 runs a game, the bullpen’s pitching tired and everyone checks out. But they’re not that bad of a team.
Which non-Mariners do you enjoy watching most? — conor
In no particular order:
What baseball web sites do you read on a regular basis? — conor, again
Besides news sources and team blogs, I’m always looking at Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, the Inside the Book Blog even though it hasn’t been updated in forever and I constantly disagree with Tango, Baseball Musings, Baseball Analysts, BTF sometimes. I’m probably forgetting a bunch.
If my vote counted, my Hall of Fame ballot would include the following players: — conor, again again
Of 2007 candidates: Bert Blyleven, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr.,
I’m actually starting to come around to the McGwire doesn’t get in on stats argument lately. I’d have to think about that.
What additional moves could the Mariners make this off-season to give them a fighting chance in their weak division? Are there any free agents left that could help? –scott47a
Okay, we can all agree that Bavasi, Hargrove et al screwed up the offseason to this point, but there are still almost three months left until the season starts. If you were at the helm of the Mariners and not just USSM, what would you do in the interim to improve the teamâ€”assuming for now that you canâ€™t just fire Bavasi and Hargrove? -# bat guano
It depends on how far you can go. If you can blow payroll out of the water, there are pitchers on the market who will be better than Ramirez and probably Batista. There are players who’ll hit better than Vidro. There are still some guys who might help the bullpen, and a lot of people you could sign to improve the team’s depth to guard against injury.
But it’s going to be really expensive, and they’re not going to spend the money. And as long as we’re constrained by the realities of ownership, you can’t trade Ibanez, so you’re trying to trade Sexson, which I’d try to do desperately, punt Mateo somewhere so Hargrove can’t use him, and other similar tweaks.
Whatâ€™s the deal with Reed and Jones? Odds that one or both become legit major league outfielders? Likelihood of them staying in the organization? Value as prospects? — sparky
I’m a huge fan of Jones, that’s no secret, since I shout about him all the time. His value’s really high right now, and if the progression he showed in Tacoma last year holds up, his bat’s ready soon, and he’ll be a minor star in a few seasons. Woo!
Reed — what are you going to say? His value’s extremely low. We can hope it was the wrist that sapped his ability to hit last year. The M’s are in a bad position to try and get him enough playing time to work his way into a trade for value, too, with Ichiro in center and Ibanez in left. I still think he gets punted somewhere before the season starts for very little in return.
My gut feeling is that the Mariner front office instinctively goes for people who subtract from joy. Would love to see some speculation about this. — Cedalus
Nah. It’s that their perception of joy is different. They think Ichiro’s an exciting, great player, and I agree, but they also think the scrappiness of Bloomquist makes him a fan favorite and that’s worth rewarding, and Ibanez being a great guy is joyful, and worth spending on. I’m a little surprised they traded Snelling in part because I know Bavasi was a fan, and liked him a lot. They’re not making these moves because they want to spite me, much as this off-season seems to suggest. They think it improves the team, which is in a way, worse, because at least the spite explanation means they’re competent.
Are there any good baseball podcasts? — Paul B
I don’t know. I haven’t found any. Jeff and I were talking about doing one, and it never came to be. That would have been good fun. Damn you Jeff!
Anyway, that’s a fair chunk o’ questions. If you thought this was at all amusing or interesting, cool, it might be something we do more of in the future. Or never again. You never know here at USSM Labs. We’re crazy.