Off Day Reflection Columns
Since the Mariners didn’t play yesterday, the local dailies all wrote an end-of-season retrospective, with Geoff Baker, Larry Stone, John Hickey, and Larry LaRue all tackling different angles, some with better success than others. If you only have time to read one, read Stone’s, as it is typical of his work – smart, well written, engaging, and the best thing published on the day he submits a column.
Here’s a few highlights from the other three, with a little commentary sprinkled in just for fun.
But before the Mariners get too discouraged, there just might be at least one hidden gem out there. And not a No. 3 guy, either, but a No. 1.
How about Zito?
The Giants offered him $126 million and seven years 10 months ago compared to the six years and $99 million the Mariners offered. Yes he had a bad year. But he’s always been able to pitch in the American League West. And the Giants, who just unloaded Barry Bonds, are going to be rebuilding for a while.
To take on his contract, Seattle would be on the hook for $116 million over six years. But if the Giants can’t compete short-term, it might be worth it to cough up some money to get the Mariners’ obligation closer to the $99 million they offered just to unload Zito’s monster contract. And the Giants could get some young talent they need in exchange.
Congratulations, John – the offseason hasn’t even started yet and you win the award for Worst Idea Of The Winter. The Barry Zito contract is one of the three or four worst in baseball history. The idea that Barry Zito is a #1 starter is ridiculously laughable. You can’t even defend the idea that he’s a #3 starter anymore. He’s an innings-sponge, a back-end starter that is marginally better than Jarrod Washburn. Even if you don’t want to use all these new-fangled performance metrics like “walks” and “strikeouts”, we could point you to his 4.63 ERA – you know, the one that is 3% below league average for a guy pitching half his games in a pretty severe pitchers park.
You don’t have to be any kind of statnerd to know that Barry Zito’s not a particularly good pitcher. That John Hickey is still clinging to this myth is just remarkable.
But, not to let Hickey wallow alone in ridiculous statement land, we get Larry LaRue chipping in with this:
Four seasons into his tenure as GM, Bavasi has improved the teamâ€™s record in each of the past three seasons, taking one of the older big-league rosters and turning it into the youngest roster in the major leagues.
Uhh, what? The youngest roster in the major leagues? Where on earth did he get that idea? Baseball-Reference lists average age for each team, sorted by both batters and pitchers, and, well, this isn’t particularly hard to research.
The Mariners hitters have a weighted average age of 29.9, good for 10th in the American League. The only teams with an older offense than Seattle are Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, New York, and Detroit. The average of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hitters was four years younger than their Seattle counterparts.
Maybe LaRue meant the pitching staff?
Umm, no. The Mariners pitchers averaged 28.1 years of age, ranking 9th in the American League. The Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles all maintained their older-than-Seattle perch and were joined by the Angels and Indians. But every other AL team had a younger pitching staff.
How did this get written, or better yet, get past an editor? How do you watch the team all year, especially when they played a series against Tampa Bay so recently, and somehow come away with the impression that the Mariners have the youngest team in the majors?
LaRue continues on with these statements:
When Sexson was placed on waivers last month, 29 major league teams had the chance to claim him. Not one did.
This goes against numerous published reports stating exactly the opposite, as well as what I’ve been told personally. I’m pretty sure LaRue is wrong about this.
The outfield will bring back Raul IbaÃ±ez, Ichiro Suzuki and Adam Jones, and the team has a $9 million option on Guillen, whose strong presence on the field and off was an unexpected bonus.
And, of course, he totally whiffs on the fact that Guillen’s option is mutual, meaning he can void it and become a free agent. The Mariners can’t bring him back for $9 million next year – he’ll test the market if the Mariners don’t give him a multiyear deal.
Not a good effort by LaRue this morning.
And, remember yesterday’s veteran entitlement post? Well, Raul Ibanez offers up exhibit 8,432 in Baker’s article:
“The one thing I want to do is play every day,” he said. “I don’t get to control where, and I’ll play wherever they put me. But as a player, I want to see my name in that lineup.”
That’s right, team – don’t even think about platooning Raul Ibanez and his complete inability to hit lefties. He wants to play everyday, and preferably hit cleanup, where he can continue hitting like a middle infielder against southpaws. Don’t you dare disrespect Raul Ibanez by putting the best team on the field and giving the team the best chance to win. If it comes at the expense of his playing time, he’s not interested.
Don’t you love veterans?
One alternative is to trade Vidro while his numbers are high. Vidro is owed $6 million by the Mariners in 2008, which isn’t bad for a .300 hitter steady from both sides of the plate.
The problem is, Vidro can’t play the field often.
I find it somewhat ironic that, when the topic of trading Vidro is broached, the fact that he’s an immobile tub of goo who can’t run or field is a problem that every other team will recognize, but as long as he’s a Mariner, he’s a huge asset.
And, in a little sidebar, Baker offers up some offseason roster suggestions, including:
1. Trade for Brad Penny – giving up Brandon Morrow and unspecified other players. Penny is a solid pitcher – not nearly as good as his ERA would suggest, mind you, but still above average – but it’s unclear why the Dodgers would be looking to move him this winter, and they’d be unlikely to have any interest in the Mariners two best trade chips (Balentien and Clement), as they already have young established major leaguers at C/RF/LF. It’s something worth exploring, but I’m not sure it makes as much sense as Geoff does.
2. Sign Mark Loretta for $2.5 million. Loretta’s not a terrible player, and I’m fine with the idea of bringing in another infielder to give Jose Lopez some competition for the job, but I wonder if people realize that Loretta was disastrously bad in the second half of the year? If we’re told to believe that Jose Vidro’s second half surge was legit, why are we supposed to ignore the fact that Loretta hit .250/.301/.321 and that he’s turned into a pretty bad defensive player heading into his age 36 season.
Overall, Baker’s offseason makeover involves very minor changes – Penny replaces Weaver in the rotation, Jones takes over right field, Guillen moves to left, Ibanez goes to 1st base, and Sexson goes away.
Is that team better than this year’s version? Yea, probably. Is it good enough to beat the Angels next year? I doubt it. This isn’t a roster that is one player away from winning the world series. If the M’s are serious about building a perenniel contender, they’ll have to do more than this.