Wait, wait, what just happened?

DMZ · August 18, 2008 at 11:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I see as if in a fog. My head is… it’s swimming. I… I’m disoriented. I thought he had turned a corner. Didn’t he? I saw it, I became a believer. He’d made improvements… hadn’t he? He had this new pitch, and had made adjustments that stuck, he’d put it all together and turned a corner, the evidence was incontrovertible by any weight of evidence or argumentation.

And then the game… I’ve been staring at the box score hoping that my memory was false, that I’d seen something besides another terrifying meltdown by Washburn, the improved Washburn no less. But no, there it waited until I was ready to accept it.

Washburn (L, 5-13), 4.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2 HR.

Woe! Woe is me! Woe is all of fandom! Stolen from us is Washburn the valuable commodity, so precious the M’s were right to hold onto, and now he is gone, replaced by another one of the endless prancing talentless fools that come streaming out of the clown car of the rotation — how did this happen? He was so good since May! Since May!

And then, reaching out for some kind of sanity, I find out that he’s sucked in August. How did we not see this? Why weren’t we informed? Once we sliced the season into the first ten starts and the rest, were we all so blind that the last few were so worthless? Was his splitter so split, his new changeup grip so gripping that it entranced us even as we had crossed another boundary zone, the nebulous post-trade-deadline wasteland where no hope resides?

August: 0-4, 22 IP, 28 H, 22 R, 18 ER, 9 BB, 11 K, 4 HR. 104 batters faced.

That’s a 7.38 ERA! O cruel Fates! Why do you torture us so?

I am lashed, lashed from side to side by the gusting monthly vagaries of Washburn’s successes and failures, I twist in pain as he struggles and exalt in his success, and now — how long will this new, retroactively bad Washburn last? A month? And then what, another roll of the dice to see how he’ll perform for the next thirty days? What kind of sadistic god metes out such punishment?

Is this our penance for some unknown offense to the baseball deities, to watch this month-by-month horror unfold before us, each lash of the whip spaced by four games to nearly heal, powerless to change the outcome, forced to watch other teams pay less and get so, so much more? Is this cruel fleeting talent of Jarrod only intended to torment us more, to give us hope, and let us savor and nurture it long enough that when it is taken from us our hearts are rent anew, and the pain returns to us fresh?

What is it? What did we do?


91 Responses to “Wait, wait, what just happened?”

  1. Dobbs on August 19th, 2008 10:29 am

    Last night I had a dream that DMZ had posted Washburn somehow had been traded yesterday. It seemed so real that I thought perhaps it was something I read before going to bed.

    Then I wake up, only to find out Washburn is still sucking for the M’s. This brings me to a whole new level of disappointment when I believed in my mind that Washburn was actually, finally, gone.

  2. pygmalion on August 19th, 2008 10:35 am

    scraps said, “Baker can’t admit when he’s wrong. His faults as an analyst are trivial in comparison to that flaw.”

    I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head. I know exactly where Baker is coming from when he does this because if I ran a blog the temptation for me to do exactly the same thing would be nearly overwhelming. The thing is, a little “mea culpa” really is liberating. It allows you to let go of the past.

    I know that we’ve had a thousand discussions about why his writing has degraded, but this would seriously explain it: When he arrived here, he didn’t have to defend and live up to his past failed predictions. At this point he has a long list of them. Trying to maintain his own image and defend himself on all of them is, quite naturally, making him quite snarky.

    Maybe the day that Baker recognizes and admits that he can’t evaluate pitching will be the day that he gets his composure back.

  3. eponymous coward on August 19th, 2008 10:38 am

    Wow, a full-on blog post retraction.

    Seriously, is it part of the job description of a MLB beat writer to get into a pissing match with other writers writing about his team- even if they aren’t pros?

    Here’s the thing: Baker’s supposedly a trained professional being PAID to write. DMZ, Dave, the authors at Lookout Landing, commenters over at the Times? Not so much.

    Now, granted, professional detachment is maybe going out of fashion, but still… geez.

  4. Tek Jansen on August 19th, 2008 10:39 am

    Just one quibble with your post, DMZ. Do you honestly believe that Silva, as one of the “prancing talentless fools,” could fit in a clown car?

  5. zackr on August 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    43 –

    “Deserves got nothin’ to do with it.” The Unforgiven

    I’ve been wanting to use that for years.

    This is about being big enough to cut some slack – even when you are being needled. That kind of social high ground is what I’ve seen this site aspire to for a lot of years. Whether it is achievable or not isn’t the point, it’s that USSM is doing this the right way. Numbers guys are still outsiders, and we’re not getting inside by ping-ponging rhetoric.


  6. pygmalion on August 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    Seriously: Has Baker EVER won a debate with USSM or LL over a pitching prediction or recommendation? I’ll even grant him winning on results, which is stupid, but whatever. (If I tell you that there are ten guys within ten feet of the heavyweight champion of the world and it’s true, I don’t deserve any kind of credit). Has he ever won on one of these?

    He thought we should trade for Dontrelle Willis. He thought that Carlos Silva was good. He thought that Washburn had turned a corner. He thought that Bedard was better than Felix. Why doesn’t he stop?

  7. Tek Jansen on August 19th, 2008 10:49 am

    #56, pygmalion — Don’t forget Al Reyes.

  8. gwangung on August 19th, 2008 10:57 am

    USSMariner does well on stats and analysis based on stats. They should concentrate on that.

    If other sources really misuse stats, then Derek and Dave have the perfect right to point that out, cause that’s their specialty.

  9. CC03 on August 19th, 2008 10:58 am

    Baker gives more praise to Washburn and Silva than he does Felix. Felix has an “attitude” and therefore that knocks off points for Felix in Bakers scoring book.

    Just yesterday in his “Happy Jarrod Day” post:

    “By comparison, over the same period of his last 14 starts, Felix Hernandez has thrown exactly the same number of innings as Washburn (88), while compiling an ERA of 2.86 with 10 quality starts.

    The difference? Hernandez has thrown one more quality start and allowed four fewer earned runs than Washburn over the exact same number of innings going on three months. And yet, one ballplayer is lionized and the other, villified. Interesting, to say the least.”

    Ridiculous to even put the two in the same sentence.

    I didn’t read his blog last year, but my jaw dropped when I read a week or so ago he suggested that the M’s should have traded Clement for Dotel last year, or Balentien for Reyes. Is this guy serious? I hope someone ripped him apart for that last year.

    He still can write a decent post or two, but when he gets in these back and forth matches, he just looks silly and unprofessional. I couldn’t believe what I read this morning in that post before he took it down.

  10. pygmalion on August 19th, 2008 11:05 am

    Tek Jansen said, “Don’t forget Al Reyes.”

    I’ve been trying to.

  11. Mike Snow on August 19th, 2008 11:08 am

    Seriously, is it part of the job description of a MLB beat writer to get into a pissing match with other writers writing about his team- even if they aren’t pros?

    Actually, at least for purposes of publication, most reporters will studiously ignore the efforts of other writers who cover the team, the idea being that you don’t advertise for the competition. How much have you seen Baker mention Hickey, or vice versa?

    It’s partly because they’re being pushed into blogging, and the accompanying culture of linking and dialogue (including with “non-professionals”), that you can have points of friction. Some of what they’re being asked to do runs counter to the way they’ve been trained, and most of the people they deal with aren’t bound to the conventions of journalism reporters are used to.

  12. scraps on August 19th, 2008 11:15 am

    Interesting, to say the least.

    See, he thinks that because he starts with an opinion and then cherry-picks facts to support his opinion and dismisses facts that don’t support his opinion, that’s what everyone else does. Now, the facts he’s cherry-picking are lousy facts, and that’s been explained to him in terms any open-minded intelligent person can understand; but he prefers to imply, as the sentence quoted above clearly does, that his opponents are hypocrites. It’s pretty shabby, and he does this all the time — implying or outright saying that his opponents hold to their opinions out of prejudice for and against players (never mind that an attentive reader can see opinions on this site change about players based on their performance) — when it appears that he himself holds his opinions out of prejudice, based on whether he personally likes players or not.

    When the Can’t Be Wrong types start flailing, they see their own flaws in all their opponents.

  13. terry on August 19th, 2008 11:15 am

    The two sides-the media (Baker) and the Ms saber-centered blogoshpere-are going to butt heads quite a bit given the assumptions that inform their analysis. Baker is a big proponent of chemistry and “leadership” (i.e. intangibles) and the other side comes at the issue from a quantitative stance that argues that metrics effectively inform 99% of player valuation and what’s more, overvaluing intangibles is one of the bigger mistakes that can be made when determining player worth.

    I think it’s pretty clear why the divide has appeared between Geoff and the Ms-related “saber sites” as it’s virtually impossible for such fundamental philosophical differences to be bridged given that these differences have and will continue to lead to profoundly different conclusions. Both sides are dedicated. Both sides are passionate. Both sides add a great deal to baseball discussion. But concerning issues of player valuation etc, both sides can’t be right.

  14. SpokaneMsFan on August 19th, 2008 11:16 am

    Thanks DMZ this is the best laugh I’ve had in ages.

  15. DMZ on August 19th, 2008 11:21 am

    w/r/t scraps’ argument: this is one of the things I find most infuriating. If you argue that Ichiro is good, you’re an “Ichiro defender” and if you argue that Betancourt’s bad, you’re after Betancourt. This is then used to dismiss the argument as invalid or not worth consideration. I haaaaaaaaaaaate that.

    Hey, 2+2 is 4. That doesn’t mean I have an irrational love of even numbers, or hate prime numbers.

  16. Karen on August 19th, 2008 11:21 am

    The first thing I thought of when I saw the score halfway through the game (I’ve been watching the Little League World Series) was, “Geez, Washburn must have really been p.o.’d that the Mariners didn’t trade him…” 🙂

    You have to wonder how much that has affected his performance — a guy (who isn’t Manny Ramirez) just isn’t going to come right out and say he doesn’t want to be with a certain team and wants out, ANYWHERE, but didn’t we suspect the same mental processes were working on Randy Johnson’s performance for the Mariners back in ’98?

  17. Mike Snow on August 19th, 2008 11:30 am

    Trade Betancourt! (sorry, just a reflex)

  18. smb on August 19th, 2008 11:54 am


    The Randy quitting on the M’s thing has been debunked here and elsewhere, I think.

  19. Nate on August 19th, 2008 11:59 am

    I’m with you there. the most annoying thing with this format of communication is these assumptions.
    I’ve never met JMB, but if we learn tomorrow that he’s say… 14 years old, bloggers and message board participants have a way of using something like that against any of his points or arguments they might disagree with. **irrespective of the point or argument!!**


    oh, and good post. fun to read.

    edit: I’m not saying anything about anybody’s age here. just a fictional situation that I’ve seen too many times.

  20. galaxieboi on August 19th, 2008 12:03 pm

    I stopped reading Baker and his blog some time ago. I don’t get anything out of it, other than frustration. Any blog that allows some of the horrific name-calling that goes on there isn’t worth anything. When a female poster tried to make an arguement, a couple other posters proceeded to type all kinds of awful things about her. Until Geoff gets a moderator (we have several!!) and attends one or two SABR conventions I’m out.

    Oh, thanks for the laugh, Derek. Great stuff.

  21. pygmalion on August 19th, 2008 12:15 pm

    galaxieboi: Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the Times has no interest in providing moderators for their blogs. I don’t think that there is anything that Geoff can do. He certainly doesn’t have enough time to do it himself.

  22. Breadbaker on August 19th, 2008 1:01 pm

    Love the clown car metaphor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKfPr_rfA7A&feature=related

    More seriously, we must remember that what we are looking at is evidence of probability, not certainty. Washburn is perfectly capable of getting an out, a 1-2-3 inning, indeed pitching a good game. The question is, how likely? And is it worth it to pay him what the M’s are paying him at this point in his career to get that likelihood. Yesterday’s game wasn’t “proof” one way or the other, but it was evidence. And the evidence was against Geoff’s theorem. All he had to do was be man enough to admit that.

  23. nadingo on August 19th, 2008 1:14 pm

    I think most everyone here can agree that Baker does a great job of reporting on the team (which is, after all, his primary duty), but his analysis — which he mostly confines to his blog — leaves a lot to be desired.

    That said, I think that on this issue, he’s got the basic idea right — that this team was stupid to not get rid of Washburn when they had the chance. He seems to have a bizarre desire to post a viewpoint that contradicts whatever is said here, and he makes a lot of huge mistakes while trying to support his point, but I think it’s more important to focus on the big issue — Washburn needs to go — rather than on the details — Washburn is or is not a good pitcher.

    Of course player evaluation is important, and it’s infuriating that Baker justifies the team’s ongoing talent evaluation flaws, but I just think that there’s a risk that these kinds of arguments can needlessly exacerbate the differences between Geoff and people here. This is not to say that you don’t appreciate his strengths — you clearly do — but that it’s possible to ruin a potentially good relationship by focusing on the negatives too frequently.

  24. PostCreatedAboveAverage on August 19th, 2008 1:29 pm

    [DMZ] Yes, because if there’s one thing the Times blog has done, it’s take the high road, never condescending to those who disagree with it, never setting up opposing viewpoints as easily-mocked strawmen.

    The one thing which USSM has done over the past several years is this and thats why this is a great place to be – it has always taken the high road, never condescending to those who disagree with it, never setting up opposing viewpoints as easily-mocked strawmen.

  25. Griffey IsMySurrogateDad on August 19th, 2008 1:31 pm

    For what it’s worth, Baker just posted another entry on his blog explaining the post he retracted earlier.
    It may not be a full-blown “mea culpa” like some people are looking for, but I found it pretty thoughtful of him to say that he didn’t like the way his first post came off.
    Anyhow, y’all should check it out.

  26. Paul B on August 19th, 2008 1:31 pm

    could scream “small sample size!” but who are we kidding? We know that’s a cop-out, right? We’ll ignore, for a moment, what this means for the fates of Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ryan Feierabend. Oh no, wait, what’s that you say? The sample size rule does apply with them? Whew. That’s a good thing.

    Dear Mr. Baker:

    Please reconsider the question of whether RRS and Feierabend are likely to be as good (or as bad) as Washburn. Recall that they don’t have to be better than the Bus to be valid replacements for him, due to the difference in salaries they would only have to come close to matching his replacement level abilities.

    You can do this, it isn’t hard. Go to a web site like baseball-reference.com and look at all the stats they publish on each pitcher. It’s free, and it is actually kind of fun. Look past ERA in a career year 4 years ago (if you manage that part, you will already be way ahead of Bill B or Lee P) and look at the other stats they have that are predictors of pitching ability.

    Then consider what each of the above named pitchers will be paid next season, and the impact that has on the M’s budget.

    I believe you will end up concluding that Washburn just isn’t very good, and projects to be about a #5 starter on most teams.

    A Times Reader

  27. gwangung on August 19th, 2008 1:35 pm

    The one thing which USSM has done over the past several years is this and thats why this is a great place to be – it has always taken the high road, never condescending to those who disagree with it, never setting up opposing viewpoints as easily-mocked strawmen.

    Don’t be stupid. You’ll make yourself an irresistable target, mocking-wise….

  28. galaxieboi on August 19th, 2008 1:44 pm

    galaxieboi: Unfortunately, from what I can tell, the Times has no interest in providing moderators for their blogs. I don’t think that there is anything that Geoff can do. He certainly doesn’t have enough time to do it himself.

    I’m not entirely blaming Mr. Baker for the behavior of his readers either. Not even a little bit. It’s simply a part of what makes his blog unreadable.

  29. Mousse on August 19th, 2008 2:15 pm

    Fun stuff here from Baker’s most recent update:

    “I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can’t stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it’s too negative.”

  30. Paul B on August 19th, 2008 2:19 pm

    hmmm, 46-78.

    A writer would be hard pressed to find positive stuff to write about every day covering such a team.

    Pink ponies and interviews with gritty veterans only go so far.

    How about this:

    $100 million and 100 losses! You can do it!

    too negative?

  31. 14limes on August 19th, 2008 2:30 pm

    So, do any of you know who John C. Dvorak is? He writes articles that describe some kind of bizarro-world version of technology. His formula is simple: take the conventional wisdom, argue the exact opposite of it, and profit from a handful of people lionizing him for speaking the truth, and 10x as many of them ripping him for being an idiot. He collects ad revenue whether you like him or you hate him. It’s the same with Howard Stern: antagonize enough people that you keep your numbers up. Sounds like Baker’s shtick to me. He’s a troll.

    I don’t read Baker. I have enough trolls to deal with in my line of work. But if you ignore them for long enough, they go away. Even when they work in the media.

  32. gwangung on August 19th, 2008 2:31 pm

    I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can’t stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it’s too negative

    Delusional AND…um…inteligence challenged?

    You’d think that good corporate execs would be honest enough to realize that the team’s performance this year would naturally reap the sort of things they’re getting from Baker (let alone the blogs).

    Ah. Wait. I realize my mistake…

  33. cody on August 19th, 2008 2:49 pm

    80- Agreed. What is there about this team that’s positive to write about? I guess I’ll go with the stuff we’re leading the league in-
    1. Most highly overpaid piles of crap.
    2. Highest Payroll-to-win total in baseball
    3. Most nights batting the equivalent of a pitcher clean-up.
    4. The LVFO award (least valuable front office).
    5. The MST award (most stupid trade- Bedard for Sherill/Jones/Aumont/Tillman/Butler/Mickolo, it still makes me wonder)
    6. 2nd MSFAS award(Most stupid free agent signing award- Carlos Silva, 4 yrs; 48 million. Barry Zito takes the cake here.)
    7. And, last but not least, doing a great job of showing everyone what a poorly run team with no clue on how to win looks.

  34. Jeff Nye on August 19th, 2008 2:55 pm

    So, do those of you who come here and complain about posts responding to Baker do the same on his blog?

    i.e. Do you go there and say “you know, these posts responding to USS Mariner are a HUGE WASTE OF MY PRECIOUS TIME, you should write about something I find interesting instead!”

    (incase you can’t tell, I’m getting a little tired of people trying to dictate what the authors here should write about)

  35. vj on August 19th, 2008 3:07 pm

    Last night at both the Zumsteg and Baker households:

  36. msb on August 19th, 2008 3:08 pm

    Do you honestly believe that Silva, as one of the “prancing talentless fools,” could fit in a clown car?

    but, that’s the magic of clown cars!

    I’ve never met JMB, but if we learn tomorrow that he’s say… 14 years old

    if we learned that, well, Mrs. Barker and the Little Barkerettes would be most surprised.

    I happen to know the Mariners executive branch can’t stand this blog (meaning what I write here) because they feel it’s too negative

    very likely true.

  37. Karen on August 19th, 2008 3:42 pm

    (aside to smb, following up on my comment #66 and his/hers in #68:

    Now, I didn’t come right out and say that Randy quit on the Mariners! I’ve been re-educated about that aspect of Randy’s performance. But I do think that his mental processes were all messed up in that first 4 months, thanks to the stress of his dealings with the FO and with some of the other stuff going on with him. And IMO it MAY have had something to do with his inconsistent performance.)

  38. Mike Snow on August 19th, 2008 4:19 pm

    Well, vj, I don’t know if it’s because he’s reading the comments here, but Baker has now blogged the cartoon. I’ve seen it a few times before myself, but xkcd never fails to amuse.

  39. Matt the Dragon on August 19th, 2008 4:33 pm

    [DMZ said]: Hey, 2+2 is 4. That doesn’t mean I have an irrational love of even numbers, or hate prime numbers.

    See, I thought you loved prime numbers as evidenced by you quoting the number two, not just once but twice!

  40. Breadbaker on August 19th, 2008 5:02 pm

    This is a quote from Baker in the revised blog entry:

    [blockquote]I don’t know what’s scarier, believing Carlos Silva — that some of these guys aren’t trying their best to win.

    Or to believe the opposite is true. That this team really is giving 100 percent maximum effort every night. [/blockquote]

    This is what is known as a straw man argument. There is a lot of space between “there are guys tanking it” and “maximum effort every night.” Anyone who understands baseball (and that includes Baker, despite the quote) knows that no one puts forth maximum effort every night in a 162-game season. That’s simply impossible. Guys who try it are guys like Butch Hobson or Chris Snelling who get injured all the time.

  41. avideo on August 19th, 2008 6:28 pm

    I haven’t been on this board for a least a month or more. Haven’t really followed the M’s much either – even though we have half season tickets at Field Level on the First Base Line. Have realized this season is a disaster in almost every way. The Mariners are simply the punching bag for the entire American League. The “results” speak volumes about this Club. Needless to say, we WILL NOT be buying a half season of mostly LOSING GAME TICKETS NEXT SEASON. In fact, I will simply have to think hard if we even want a 16 Game Package next year – given how shitty this team has become.

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