How much of a bargain does Griffey have to be?

October 31, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 103 Comments 

Condensed Hickey: the M’s

could do a lot worse than bring Griffey back to Seattle with a low-cost, potentially high-reward contract for 2009.

It’s hard for me to grasp this, but Griffey will be 39 next season. Over the last three years, he’s played 132 games/year, averaged 482 at-bats, and hit about .260/.350/.470. If he’d agree to give up the field (and since his preference seems to be that he play center, then right grudgingly, that isn’t a given), that beats an average AL DH’s line of .256/.339/.435, but not by a lot. If we factor in a tiny bit of aging, Griffey would probably be worth 10-20 runs over picking some lumbering no-glove type off the transaction driftwood pile and stuffing them into the slot.

That’s worth $5-10m on a one-year deal if you get 162 games out of him. But considering that you still need to find some way to get another 30 DH games out of there, there’s another discount you need to get to make this a break-even proposition, and now you’re at $4m-$8m.

Anything beyond that has to be the M’s getting money back in non-baseball reasons from Griffey love, and we’ve touched on this before — this kind of thing might get them a brief spike, but it’s not as if there’ll be a massive swell of season-ticket buyers renewing over this news. Otherwise it’s faith in a year-39 career resurgence for Griffey based on things like “Safeco Field was designed for him” (though he didn’t like hitting here) and feel-good wishing.

I don’t think Griffey will sign anywhere for a contract low enough to make it what Hickey wants here. A bargain contract based on his likely contributions as a DH, say a 50% discount to the value he’d contribute on the field would mean he signs a one-year, $2-$4m deal. That seems unlikely on its face. That the M’s have done much worse, as Hickey notes, doesn’t mean that they can’t do much better.

The 2010 Mariners Outfield

October 30, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 57 Comments 

Continuing the series from yesterday, but looking at the outfield this time.

Left Field: Wladimir Balentien, Michael Saunders, Gregory Halman

It’s a veritable tools fest, but lots of questions remain. Balentien can hit a fastball, has no idea what to do with a breaking ball, and didn’t make the necessary adjustments as the season went on. Of course, his real talent level is way better than his ’08 performance, and his numbers will get better even if he doesn’t improve all that much. But as a right-handed pull power guy, Safeco’s going to be rough on him, and he’s not going to add a lot of defensive value. He has to hit to be a regular, and whether the bat is a good enough fit for the park, and whether he can learn how to hit breaking balls, make him a question mark.

Thankfully, there’s a couple of talented outfielders on the way. Saunders is a much more rounded player than Balentien, not having a standout tool but adding defensive value and baserunning value as well as his offensive potential. He also bats left-handed, which is a plus, and has shown some willingness to take a walk in the minors. I’ve referred to him as Shin-Soo Choo without the accent several times, and that’s a pretty decent comparison in terms of skills, but the more I look at him, the more I see Randy Winn. He’s something of a tweener, with a bat that could be very good in CF and a glove that would be very good in a corner. For 2010, he’s probably a better fit than Balentien for what the club needs, and should probably be considered the front runner.

If both of those guys fail to develop, there’s one more option – Gregory Halman, a fascinating kid with remarkable power and a hilariously horrible concept of the strike zone. He regularly runs strikeout rates about five times higher than his walk rates, as he chases pitches out of the zone and gets himself out by swinging at pitches he can’t hit. But oh, the power/speed combination is just so enticing, and Halman was able to hold his own while getting pushed aggressively to Double-A as a 20-year-old this year. In a perfect world, he becomes Alfonso Soriano, but Juan Encarnacion is more likely. Whether he can make enough strides to be ready by 2010 is questionable, but the possibility is there. As a fallback option, he’s not a bad one.

Center Field: Jeremy Reed, Ichiro, Michael Saunders, Gregory Halman

The lack of development of Reed’s bat has been a big blow to the club – instead of having a high on base guy who can cover some ground, he’s evolved into a fourth outfielder, a guy who shouldn’t be more than a defensive replacement or pinch runner on a good team. At 27, he’s running out of shots to earn a full time job, and if he doesn’t hit .320 or something next year, he’s probably out of the picture. 2009 represents his last chance.

The team could consider moving Ichiro back to center field, but while I know that there’s a lot of sentiment in favor of that because his skillset looks more like that of a CF, I don’t think it really matters one way or another. His defense isn’t somehow exponentially more valuable in CF than in RF – the difference in opportunities equates to a couple of runs per season. And while it’s true that it’s easier to find a power hitting corner OF than a power hitting CF, the focus on needing specific player types is just wrong – the M’s don’t need to make room for a slugger, they need to get more good players. Good players come in all shapes and sizes, and the team shouldn’t avoid a terrific defensive CF just because they’re trying to put Ichiro where most players who look like him play.

Halman is more likely to get the nod in CF than Saunders, of the two kids we’ve already talked about, as he’s just a better athlete. He still needs to get better reads and jumps to be an asset in CF with the glove, but he’s got a shot to stick there. Saunders is more of a stretch.

Right Field: Ichiro

He’s not getting traded unless he asks for one, and really, a 2010 Mariners team that doensn’t have Ichiro on it is pretty unlikely to be a winner. He’s still better than everyone realizes, and the people who think he’s what’s wrong with the team don’t really know how to build a baseball team.

Moyer gets his first ring

October 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 44 Comments 

Congrats. Well-deserved.

For us Mariner fans, I think we can all agree that it’s a shame it didn’t come with one of our great teams, but also that we can take some joy in seeing a pitcher we learned to appreciate here be a part of a World Series-winning club.

And another ring for Gillick, too, building his Hall of Fame case, and Greg Dobbs, so congrats to three Mariner alumni today.

Front Office Moves Continue…

October 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

The M’s recently announced that Benny Looper is stepping away from the team, rather than taking the demotion to pro scouting that was offered. From the release…

Looper spent 23 seasons with Seattle, beginning his Mariners career in 1987 as a part time scout. He served variously as a fulltime scout (1988), scouting supervisor (1989-91), national cross checker (1992) and national supervisor and special assignment scout (1993-97). He was promoted to Director of Player Development at the end of 1997 and to VP of Player Development in 2002. He took on additional responsibilities as Vice President, Player Development & Scouting at the end of 2003, and was promoted to Vice President, Player Personnel following the 2006 season.

This comes on the heels of the announcement that Bob Engle and Lee Pelekoudas will be staying with the team and that Tom McNamara and Tony Blengino will be following Zduriencik from Milwaukee to Seattle. The news about Engle is fantastic—he’s one of the best international scouting directors in the business.

This also gives me an opportunity to clarify my thoughts a bit about Fontaine leaving. I said that I was disappointed in Fontaine leaving and, while that’s true, it doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily against whoever Zduriencik decides to hire or appoint. I was sad when Griffey was traded, but Mike Cameron soon became my favorite player of all time. Zduriencik has obviously been one of the best scouting directors in the game, with an excellent track record, and deserves to hire his own guy. It could very well be McNamara or Blengino.

Here’s some information on McNamara from the release…

McNamara, 43, is rejoining the Mariners’ scouting department. He was previously an area scout for the Mariners from 1994-2000, covering the Northeast. McNamara also played one season in the Seattle organization, appearing in 50 games for the Bellingham Mariners in 1988.

McNamara has 15 years of experience as a full-time scout. He spent the 2008 season as the Milwaukee Brewers’ East Coast crosschecker. Prior to that he was a pro scout with the San Diego Padres for five seasons (2003-07). As an area scout for the Brewers during the 2001-02 seasons, McNamara scouted and signed All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder.

Blengino is very interesting in that he doesn’t have a prototypical front-office pedigree. His playing career ended when he graduated from high school. Upon graduating from St. Joseph’s University in 1985, he worked as a CPA for a little while before becoming the CFO for the National Kidney Foundation of Delaware Valley in Philadelphia. During that time, he also worked with John Benson on the “Future Stars” series of books marketed toward die-hard fantasy baseball players. He also covered the minor leagues for and played in the prestigious fantasy baseball league, Tout Wars. He got hired by the Brewers on Dec. 2, 2002 and worked as their New England area scout before being promoted to assistant director of amateur scouting after the 2005 season.

The 2010 Mariners

October 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 61 Comments 

While I’m sure Zduriencik and company don’t want to get off to a bad start and lose 100 games next year, it seems clear that the direction this team is looking to build beyond 2009, and it’s unlikely the M’s will be contenders next year. So, if we write off 2009, what about 2010? Is there enough talent in the organization to support the idea that this team could win 90+ games in two years?

Let’s take a look at what’s here now, what it might it look like in two years, and what’s missing. Today, we’ll do the infield.

Catcher: Kenji Johjima, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Adam Moore

While I think there’s a decent chance Kenji bounces back a bit next year, by 2010 he’ll be on his way to his 34th birthday, and the list of catchers who perform well at that age and beyond is very, very short. If we consider his 2006 and 2007 performances to be something close to his true talent, then even a normal aging curve from there (where his horrible 2008 is ignored) would have him lose a pretty good chunk of his value by the time 2010 rolls around. He might have enough juice in his bat to be a decent backup, but that’s probably the best case scenario.

As for the three kids, I’ve expressed my reservations about Clement’s future behind the plate, and I still feel like he’ll end up at first base sooner or later. They can afford to give him 2009 to prove his skeptics wrong, but I’m not counting on him as a long term option as a backstop. Rob Johnson just doesn’t have adequate major league offensive skills, but should stick as a backup thanks to his throwing ability. That leaves Adam Moore, who hasn’t played a game above Double-A yet, but has hit very well the last two years and is a bit better than Clement behind the plate.

In 2010, Moore will be 26, and right now, he looks like the best internal candidate for the everyday catcher role. He has to conquer Triple-A, prove that he can get around on good fastballs, and continue to improve behind the plate, but there’s some potential there for him to be a .270/.320/.400 hitter by 2010, and that’s a pretty valuable player behind the plate. With Johjima and Johnson around to fight for the backup role, the team should have a reasonably productive catcher tandem.

First Base: Jeff Clement, Dennis Raben

There isn’t exactly a great crop here – Clement’s never played an inning of first base in his life and has been extremely resistant to spending any time there, while Raben played the outfield in Everett this summer. There’s real questions about whether Clement would or could adjust to first base, and Raben would have to develop very quickly in order to be a quality major league first baseman in 18 months. In reality, the M’s need to find a stop gap here (Brad Nelson, anyone?) who can give them time to figure out where Clement fits and allow Raben to develop naturally and get to the big leagues when he’s ready rather than when the organization needs him.

Second Base: Jose Lopez, Luis Valbuena, Yuniesky Betancourt, Tug Hulett

Lopez had his best offensive season of his career, and at age 24, showed signs of what is hopefully real improvement that can be carried forward. He’s under contract through 2011 for minimal amounts of money, so the question is more whether the organization is comfortable enough with his defense going forward. It’s a real question, honestly – he’s already in mediocre physical shape and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. The bat is probably good enough to allow for some defensive flaws, but is having him play an up the middle position optimal?

If Luis Valbuena’s bat develops, the answer is probably not. Valbuena flashed some serious range during his time in Seattle, and comes with the added bonuses of actually taking pitches and hitting left-handed, both of which the Mariners have something of a shortage of. He doesn’t have Lopez’s long ball ability, but there’s gap power in his bat, and by 2010, he should be a bit stronger than he is now. Even if he’s not as good offensively, the defensive difference and the LH stick probably make him the preferable internal choice for manning the second sack in 2010.

And, of course, if Betancourt is displaced at shortstop (as we’ll talk about in a second), shifting him to second base is an option as well. Hulett’s probably a utility player in the majors, but he could be better than people expect. Regardless of what ends up happening, it seems like the M’s have enough internal choices to where this isn’t a position they necessarily need to pursue outside players.

Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt

And here, we see a glaring hole in the organization. Betancourt’s got problems, as we’ve noted all year, and there aren’t any other internal options. If he got hurt, I really don’t know what they’d do next year – sliding Beltre over from third might be their best option, and that’s kinda sad. This is certainly a position that needs to be addressed from a depth perspective, and potentially from a finding-a-new-starter option. Yuni’s regression with the glove has left him as a +1 win player rather than the +2 to +3 win player we thought he might be, and that makes him more of a good back-up/part-time player than a franchise cornerstone.

With Grant Green one of the main options for the second pick in the draft, as well as guys like J.J. Hardy available in trade this winter, the M’s will have to seriously consider whether they want to go forward with Betancourt at shortstop. At the least, they need to get a realistic alternative into the organization this year.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Matt Tuiasosopo, Jose Lopez

If Zduriencik realizes how good Beltre is, and they can talk him into signing a new contract, keeping him around isn’t a bad plan. He’s the team’s best position player and extremely underrated around the game, as we’ve noted many times – his combination of average bat and great glove are not easily replaced.

If he’s traded, Tui seems to be the heir apparent. He made significant strides with his bat this year, and could be a pretty solid high average/gap power hitter by 2010, potentially developing more long ball power later in his career. However, the defense… it’s not good. His footwork needs a lot of work, and for a former football player, he doesn’t move all that well. Right now, he’s a real stretch there, but he’s young enough that we shouldn’t condemn him to first base just yet. He’s going to have to make some pretty big strides to be a solid defender at the hot corner, though, and if he doesn’t, the average bat/bad defense combination makes for a pretty marginal player.

The other internal option would be shifting Lopez to third. This would probably be the way to go if his bat continues to take a step forward and Valbuena develops a lot faster than Tui. In that case, moving Lopez to the hot corner would hide some of his range issues and still allow the team to benefit from a low cost, league average (or slightly better) hitter. He’s never going to be Beltre defensively, but he’d be okay at third.

Based on the individual positions and their respective depths, here’s how I’d peg the likely infield for 2010:

Optimistic: Moore-Clement-Valbuena-New Guy-Lopez
Most Likely: Johjima-New Guy-Valbuena-Betancourt-Lopez
Pessimistic: Johnson-Raben-Lopez-Betancourt-Tui

Moderation PSA

October 29, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners, Site information · 23 Comments 

I always recommend a glance at the comment guidelines if you want to chime in. I’m sure plenty of people haven’t, and still do just fine because they know how to behave themselves anyway. But should you run afoul of the moderators, give it a read, and if you have questions, email. We do believe civility is compatible with healthy debate. Make arguments, not insults.

One of the things that occasionally trips people up is spelling. Look, we make occasional mistakes and will happily tolerate yours, but there has to be at least a modicum of effort to follow conventions of spelling and punctuation. Comments should be readable, and if we can’t read them, they’ll get moderated.

The spelling thing goes for names too, including the mildly challenging ones. If you’ve got something to say about Rizzs, for example, but can’t be bothered to spell his name right, no thanks. Most of the roster’s pretty easy to spell right now anyway, or has handy nicknames like Yuni or Tui, but historically this has included getting it right on Piniella or Pineiro.

So practice along with me – Zduriencik. Z-d-u-r-i-e-n-c-i-k. Along about the winter meetings at the latest, we’re going to expect people to get it right. If all else fails, you can always go with Jack instead (this assumes he doesn’t hire McKeon as his manager, or trade for the likes of Cust or Wilson).

As a shorthand, Z works fine, one letter shouldn’t be hard to remember. I’d stay away from initials, just because we already have an author who uses initials and has an unusual last name starting with Z. Witty variations are okay, but often they’re not nearly as clever or original as you think they are (I don’t know how many forms of “Richie Sux” we’ve seen). And just so we’re clear, Jay-Z is a rapper, end of story.

Pitch F/x and the Mariners

October 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 3 Comments 

Eric Siedman, my colleague over at FanGraphs, has a piece at his blog today looking at the Mariners pitching staff through the Pitch F/x data.

It’s more fun to read than the thread below this, I’ll tell you that.

Fontaine shown the door

October 28, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 140 Comments 

This is a bummer. Larry Stone reports that Zduriencik fired Mariners scouting director Bob Fontaine yesterday. Looks like a case of having too many cooks in the kitchen and it sounds heavy handed…

One source said that Fontaine was called into a meeting with Zduriencik on Monday and informed that he was being dismissed. According to the source, “He didn’t even have a chance to fight for his job.”

Fontaine reportedly informed his Mariners scouting staff of his dismissal in a voice mail.

In what could be related news, Zduriencik is reportedly brining in two of his scouts from Milwaukee—Tony Blengino (whom Dave linked to the other day) and Tom McNamara.

According to industry sources, the Brewers have agreed to let Zduriencik, who was named Seattle’s GM last Wednesday, hire two members of his Milwaukee scouting staff.

Those are expected to be Blengino and Tom McNamara, Milwaukee’s East Coast crosschecker and the man credited with scouting and signing Prince Fielder. It is not known yet what positions they will hold in Seattle.

Blengino, 44, just finished his third season as assistant scouting director in Milwaukee under Zduriencik. A former certified public accountant, Blengino is a member of the Society of American Baseball Research and has a strong background in statistical analysis.

I understand wanting to have “your guys” underneath you, but I’m not a fan of this move. I know we don’t know who will replace Fontaine, but we do know that he was good at his job. I wish the best of luck to Fontaine in his future endeavors and sincerely hope that Bob Engle doesn’t suffer the same fate.

Bob Fontaine’s drafts with the Mariners brought us…
2004: Matt Tuiasosopo, Rob Johnson, Mark Lowe & Michael Saunders
2005: Jeff Clement & Justin Thomas
2006: Brandon Morrow, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, Nathan Adcock, Adam Moore & Kam Mickolio
2007: Phillippe Aumont
2008: Dennis Raben, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin, Luke Burnett

And we’ll know Zduriencik from his off-season

October 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 35 Comments 

This will consume a huge portion of press attention until it’s resolved, but it’s not that important. While the manager’s the public face of the team in some ways, and I’m sure we’ll hear about the importance of their ability to run a harmonious or winning clubhouse, there are really three kinds of managers:
– the good
– almost everyone
– the really bad

Almost every manager uses the same in-game tactics, more or less: it’s a matter of where they fall on the spectrum. Most managers follow the traditional book: they try to steal a little more often than is productive, sacrifice too often, and so on. The difference between the best and the worst managerial tactician is maybe twenty runs a year, and I mean utter incompetence against devious genius. And Earl’s not managing these days. They can be important decisions that backfire, but even then, bringing in one reliever over another might mean the chance of a game-losing hit goes from 30% to 20%.

The big difference a manager makes is in filling out a lineup card every day, putting the best team on the field, resting players, balancing offense and defense according to the needs of the day, and bullpen management.

I’ve always favored hiring someone with a lot of managerial experience, even if that’s in the minors. The failure rate of coach conversions is remarkably high. There’s no reason to risk it: there are tons of qualified candidates in the minors who’ve been grinding it out, and they’ve already dealt with more clubhouse madness than they could talk about.

Good sign: Anyone with more than a couple seasons under their belt. Bonus points for smarts, reputation, good player relationships, and so on.
Bad sign: Ned Yost.

Raul’s been the public face of the franchise and also one of the lesser problems. His defense in left is so bad it negates much of the value of his bat. He really should be a DH. As much as Ibanez’s swing is well-suited to Safeco, left-fielders and designated hitters, can be had on the cheap. The team’s really better off taking the draft pick. But the temptation to bring back one of the only productive and popular players of the last few years will be there.

Good sign: they offer Ibanez arbitration (and if he accepts, put him at DH)
Bad sign: Ibanez re-signed to a multi-year deal for a lot of money.

Local boy and Ibanez’s public face assistant. Gets huge applause. Can’t hit. Can field decently. Can steal a base. Equivalent skills cost major league minimum. Like Ibanez, there will be organizational sentiment in his favor.

Good sign: Bloomquist signs a super-cheap deal or they let him move on.
Bad sign: Bloomquist gets a multi-year deal for too much money.

Left-field, DH
The team’s spent a lot of money these last few years for proven middle-of-the-order professional hitters. This is a poor use of resources. And in left they’ve punted defense entirely, though Ibanez was at least affordable.

Good sign: they bring in some cheap and effective players, especially if they make a break with the past and try to put together a nice platoon or pay for a glove in left field.
Bad sign: spending a ton of money on name players

First base
Like left field and DH, there’s no need to spend a ton of money on first basemen. My friend Jonah Keri, who is one of the most cheerful and even-keeled people you’ll ever meet, gets all agitated every time a team gives out one of these deals (“Free agent contracts never work! Never!” he says, though obviously he’s exaggerating a bit. But not much.) Fortunately,

Good sign: someone cheap and effective. Or Clement moving to first.
Okay: Bringing some rent-a-bat in for a one-year
Bad sign: One of those Mo Vaughn-style deals.

Center field
Wlad’s glove can’t play in center, and he’s not hitting. Reed plays but he’s not hitting either. But centerfielders who can hit don’t come cheap.

Good sign: someone who plays defense. Hitting would be nice, but cheap-and-effective fly catcher would be fine.
Bad sign: a season of Wlad, or a big contract to an immobile hitter.

Middle infield
Lopez and Betancourt have both turned into stone-gloved horror shows out there. But how do you solve this kind of a problem? Is it even a problem? They’re both cheap, and young. But then Betancourt’s defense went terrible and we’ve already seen him as good as he’s going to get, offensively. Lopez at least bounced back offensively — but his defense is so bad it makes him an overall liability. Do they dare hire a glove to play one or both positions and punt one of the two to another team?

Good sign: the team goes into next season with some kind of improvement at one or both positions
Bad sign: things get worse somehow

They’re not likely to do anything about catching this season. They’ve got Johjima under contract and a host of backup options, even if they move Clement from behind the plate. I bet this is way down on the organizational to-do list.

They’ve got some internal options to sort through, but it’d be great to pick up, say, a good fourth outfielder, and if they toss Bloomquist, they’ll need a backup middle infielder.

Good sign: nice complementary pickups
Bad sign: Cairo comes back on a two-year, $5m deal

Starting pitching
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. Cleaning this mess up would make anyone wince. Z may have the rotation declared a Superfund site. After all, it’s abandoned, hazardous waste is there… anyway.

Good sign: managing to get rid of one or more of the Washburn/Silva/Batista contracts. Signing some good reclamation or rehab projects for insurance or back of the rotation.
Bad sign: A huge contract to someone who sucks. Or, while we’re at it, a Washburn extensions.

Relief pitching
They don’t need to do much.

Good sign: if anything, small, nice pickups to supplement the current group
Bad sign: huge deals to veteran relievers

In all of these things, we’ll see some patterns emerge:
– How does he evaluate and value offense?
– How does he evaluate and value defense?
– Do things like clutch hitting, veteranosity, professional hitting, previous role experience, and the like make a difference?
– How much are they worth?
– Similarly, how are pitchers evaluated? For instance, are we going to see Silva/Washburn-style deals, or will our new GM possibly look for candidates who were unlucky in things beyond their control?
– Relatively, where’s the payroll at hand going towards?
– How good is he at evaluating and signing freely available talent: the minor league free agents, the rehab projects, the rebound candidates?
– How does he compare a free agent option to those freely available players?
– How well does he do in dealings with other teams?
… and on, and on.

Up next: looking forward to organizational changes.

A word in praise of Riggleman

October 27, 2008 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

Riggleman was handed a terrible job to do, and I want to give him some credit for doing it well.

None of us knew that much about Riggleman when he took over. Bench coaches are supposed to be the strategic in-game minds, but often they’re not and almost everyone in baseball manages more or less by the book anyway. They often fill a sort of liaison role with the players, or rat them out constantly to the manager, and they run the team when the manager’s been ejected.

With Riggleman, there’d also been a huge gap between his last managerial job in Chicago and taking over here: he hadn’t managed team since 1999. A lot’s changed since 1999 but, as it turns out, a lot hadn’t.

What a horrible job he was handed. The team was badly built to start and dogged by constant injuries to the starting rotation particularly, the clubhouse was dividing into factions and players were sniping at each other through proxies in the press. There was no way with 72 games down that they were going to contend. They were 25-47 when McLaren left, on their way to a 56-106 season.

61-101 isn’t that much less embarrassing than 56-106 on the surface of it, but it really is. There are about 75 teams in post-World War 2 history that have 56 or fewer wins. And that includes years shortened by labor actions. Throw out years with a labor problem and there’s about 50. As historically bad-for-the-franchise as this was, it could have been much worse.

The team wasn’t as bad as its record when Riggleman took over, but Bedard got all his starts in early in the year. After Riggleman took over for the June 20th game, Bedard got three starts in, for 13 and 2/3rds innings. The rest of the year he had to patch that whole while Batista and Silva and even Washburn came and went through injuries, and he only got four Morrow starts way at the tail end of the season.

Cesar Jimenez made two starts! And there weren’t other options! I know I did my share of second-guessing about who to pitch on how much rest, but I largely gave up. When you’re starving it feels wrong to whine about what’s on the menu that evening.

And yeah, he batted Vidro fourth for a while and said some strange things about it. But once Vidro was thrown off the team, he put together what were, on the whole, pretty reasonable lineups compared to McLaren. He played the outfield for defense, and that improved, or at least until Wlad took his turns out there. I don’t think playing Cairo was ever a solution, but later we were also watching the team test out Valbuena and Tuiasosopo to see how they’d handle playing against major league competition. And to return to Vidro as an example, we can’t really know what instructions he was working under to showcase one player or get some value out of another. I’m inclined, given that it was a lost year and the M’s would later insist on value for Washburn, to believe that there were certainly some marching orders there.

We should though recognize that Riggleman took over and refused to play clubhouse games. His responses to real and invented controversy was steady and laudable.

Remember this?

Divish: Why would someone say stuff like this?

Riggleman: Pettiness, seventh-grade mentality, just pettiness of whatever jealousy, pointing fingers, deflecting responsibility, lack of accountability, just a lack of a character. These things happen when you’re losing; you’re not seeing that happen with winning teams now. But those winning teams go out and lose a couple games and you’ll see it.

Or this spat with Silva?

I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Riggleman. Being a major league manager is a coveted job, but this was a nightmare, and he kept plugging away at it, refusing to thrash his players in the press though it would have been so, so easy, not having any part in the clubhouse issues. If we found out years later that Silva’s back problems this year were a cover for Riggleman beating him silly with a fungo bat every time he caught him badmouthing a teammate, I don’t think I’d be that surprised.

And somehow, without Bedard, without the rest of his rotation healthy, managing a terrible team that had been playing below itself and then got worse, they got a little better.

This season’s not going to be that great on his resume. It doesn’t show he can develop young players, take a modest team and squeeze one or two games out of them to squeak into the playoffs, or manage a veteran team to a championship. But when I think about where he had to take over and what happened afterwards, I wonder how many people could have kept things going as well as he did.

Whether or not he comes back next year, I tip my M’s cap to him. Thanks.

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