Tealeaf-reading: first base

DMZ · March 22, 2009 at 1:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Sweeney: MLB.com and Baker, who thinks it’ll be Sweeney. Why?

[…] Mike Sweeney has done everything asked of him since getting here. Sweeney has also become a harmonizing focal point in the clubhouse. He’s provided that vocal leadership the Mariners had been seeking out the past few years. And he’s producing with the bat now that he’s playing more regularly


Unless Sweeney’s knees blow out on him these final two weeks, it’s going to be very difficult for Shelton to make the squad.

This stuff about how he’s a great leader and whatnot isn’t coming out of nowhere. We can safely assume that our manager and staff have been offering good reviews of his play. And Mike Sweeney’s gotten great character reviews through his career, so sure, I’m sure he’s doing fine on that score.

But you’re hoping he hits .260/.320/.410. Shelton’s going to be a much better hitter. And if you’re small sample-sizing, Shelton’s been destroying the ball this spring.

The team’s said again and again that they’re looking for talent first, that they want to build a winning team by winning games. This minor roster decision may end up offering us some welcome insight into how they actually value these different qualities. Because if they want to win games, it’ll be Shelton if only one of them makes the team.


35 Responses to “Tealeaf-reading: first base”

  1. gwangung on March 22nd, 2009 1:12 pm


    That’s the chatter among other fans….Sweeney’s the one because of his veteran presence….

  2. Jake N. on March 22nd, 2009 1:22 pm

    Dam, that vetty grit rears its ugly head again. I hoped we had moved off of that to developing young talent. We will see… Give the younger man with some future the job.

  3. ThundaPC on March 22nd, 2009 2:08 pm

    I’ve been rooting for both Shelton and Sweeney, but if Sweeney is chosen I hope his presence in the clubhouse isn’t the deciding factor, especially since we already have Ken Griffey Jr. for that.

    If Mike Sweeney can contribute offensively (and defensively) great. But I’d hate for us to let go of Chris Shelton before he gets a chance.

  4. irish on March 22nd, 2009 2:38 pm

    To look at it another way, the team’s saying everything they need to say to set Sweeney up to be picked up by another team after he gets cut. Plenty of contending teams out there could use a veteran presence like that in the clubhouse, right?

  5. bseblfevr on March 22nd, 2009 2:53 pm

    Shelton has had a great Spring….he also had a great month a few years ago with Detroit hit 9 HRs…but is he a Mike Sweeney? NFW. For those who followed Sweeney over the years, he is like Griffey to KC fans. When healthy, this guy is awesome. Shelton, well, what has he proven at the ML level? Give Sweeney a chance to be healthy and we will thankful we kept him.
    Shelton is still young and in AAA if someone falters.

  6. DMZ on March 22nd, 2009 2:58 pm


  7. Mr. Egaas on March 22nd, 2009 3:03 pm

    Wouldn’t Shelton have to clear waivers, and given the Babe Ruth-like spring, probably not clear?

    Surely somebody could use a lefty masher.

  8. That Bootleg Guy on March 22nd, 2009 3:29 pm

    My personal awesome-ter shows that Sweeney hasn’t been “awesome” since 2002 or relatively healthy since 2005. Keep hope alive.

  9. tgf on March 22nd, 2009 3:29 pm

    I’ll hold off any real criticism until it happens, but if the tea leaves are being read correctly and it’s all about the ethereal clubhouse factor, then damn. Come on new boss! Don’t be like the old boss!

  10. vj on March 22nd, 2009 3:37 pm

    Come on new boss! Don’t be like the old boss!

    Let’s hope we won’t get fooled again!

  11. Jake N. on March 22nd, 2009 4:41 pm

    Ok, Baker on his blog has mentioned that Shelton is on a minor league deal with the Mariners. So Shelton doesn’t have to clear wavers. He would go directly to Tacoma. Not a bad insurance policy, incase Sweeney breaks Shelton will be waiting. I am good with that. We get the best of both.

  12. Paul B on March 22nd, 2009 5:28 pm

    I had a vain hope that, if Sweeney is healthy and if he continues hitting, that they would be able to keep both Sweeney and Shelton, and use them at first and DH when facing a lefty.

    But if they go with 12 pitchers, they probably won’t be able to have that luxury of platooning both DH and First. Unless Junior does end up playing frequently in left (ugh) and Clement ends up in Tacoma, in which case either Sweeney or Shelton would need to be in the lineup against righties as well.

  13. DMZ on March 22nd, 2009 5:35 pm

    Why send Shelton to the minors if he’s the better option, going with the inferior one? That doesn’t make sense.

  14. Mr. Egaas on March 22nd, 2009 6:13 pm

    Especially when the RH bat of the platoon split is going to play 2-3 times a week and pinch hit regularly?

  15. jeffs98119 on March 22nd, 2009 6:24 pm

    Maybe the fact that Shelton has caught in 6 big league games, and could thus serve as emergency third catcher, will get him a roster spot.

  16. Dave on March 22nd, 2009 6:46 pm

    This is probably worth a longer post, but let me throw this out there. We expect that whoever gets the RH 1B/DH job will get something like 250 plate appearances. The difference between Sweeney’s projected offense and Shelton’s projected offense over 250 PA is three runs.

    Three runs. Adding in defense, it might be four or five runs. For as much as we argue that teams should value talent over intangibles, at some point, we have to acknowledge that it’s possible that Sweeney’s leadership/veteranocity/chemistry/stuff is enough to make a five run projected difference not a slam dunk.

    In other words, this isn’t Felix vs Silva in a must win game. Maybe Sweeney’s clubhouse presence isn’t worth giving up five runs… I’d probably argue that it’s not. But when the difference is so small, and the intangible stuff leans so far to one side, it’s hard to suggest that there’s a clear right or wrong, or that this decision should be used as some kind of litmus test to judge the organization by.

    The Shelton/Sweeney decision can be described as something of a coin toss, honestly. There’s a case for both sides. I’m not going to praise or crucify them for either choice.

  17. bakomariner on March 22nd, 2009 7:07 pm

    I don’t know why they both don’t make it…

    Griff and Sweeney platoon at DH and Branyan and Shelton platoon at 1B…

  18. jjracoon on March 22nd, 2009 7:10 pm

    Even if Clement doesnt stay in Majors the Mariners have to fill his spot with say Johnson or Burke so that doesnt open anything up to keep both of them. It has been pretty much stated that a 12 man pitching staff is necessary with Bedard still a bit iffy, Morrow very iffy, and no clear bullpen choices. To keep them both means either Cedeno or Balentien would not make the team (I already eliminated Morse). The pitching staff needs to get their stuff together so they only need 11!!!!I want them both. Oh and I think .260 is not going to be close for Sweeney. I’m looking at .280-.290 with those new legs!!!!!!

  19. unholycow on March 22nd, 2009 8:23 pm

    I’m not convinced that it’s a 5 run difference. Vs. lefties, Shelton’s 3 yr. split shows a .710 OPS. Sweeney’s: .782
    Yes, Sweeney’s trends are bad, and Shelton’s P/PA are much, much better, but is it really a 5 run difference?
    If it’s more of a coin toss, perhaps going with the clubhouse chemistry is okay. Or, perhaps you go with potential upside. I mean, if it’s a coin toss, why not? Who’s a better bet to maybe exceed expectations?
    Personally, I have no idea of the real value of “the clubhouse presence”

  20. CMC_Stags on March 22nd, 2009 8:29 pm

    I don’t know why they both don’t make it…

    Griff and Sweeney platoon at DH and Branyan and Shelton platoon at 1B…

    I’d love to see the same, but I’m not sure how you fill out the roster. Going with your assumption:

    4 DH/1B in Branyan, Shelton, Griffey, and Sweeney

    12 pitchers (with injuries, this is probably a given unless you’re shuttling guys back and forth to Tacoma and burning through options)

    2 catchers

    6 players for the rest of your starting spots (let’s ignore who will fill them all for now) – 2B, SS, 3B, RF, LF, CF

    That puts you at 24 players… Assuming that Branyan can back up 3B and LF/RF and that Griffey can also back up LF/RF, you still need a backup middle infielder. If you take whoever doesn’t start between Yuni and Cedano for that role, the other player becomes your other back up.

    This gives you no pinch runner, defensive replacements, etc. If the team carries 11 pitchers you can probably keep both Sweeney and Shelton as you then can have Wlad on the roster still as your 4th OF.

  21. DMZ on March 22nd, 2009 8:48 pm

    To some extent, I’ve had this discussion before: I don’t think it’s ever okay to punt any advantage. Three runs per back-roster decision makes for a couple-game swing. Here, Shelton’s a better offensive player on a club that at least now looks like it’ll really need offense off the bench and preferably a right-handed bat to complement the lefties with extreme platoon splits. They don’t need right-handed leadership nearly as badly as they’ll need right-handed power that can draw a walk.

  22. msb on March 22nd, 2009 8:49 pm

    FWIW, Larue was also slotting Sweeney into 1B in a blog entry last week …

  23. Dave on March 22nd, 2009 8:59 pm

    If the team was making a bunch of -3 decisions at the back roster, I’d agree, it’s a problem. But they aren’t – the bench isn’t Miguel Cairo, Willie Bloomquist, and Jamie Burke anymore.

    Shelton projects out to a .250/.340/.420 hitter, while Sweeney projects out to a .250/.320/.410 hitter. To say that we’re certain that 20 points of OBP and 10 points of SLG over 250 PA definitively outweigh the chemistry stuff is to overstate our position, I think.

  24. DMZ on March 22nd, 2009 9:08 pm

    Sure, and there’s a lot to argue in the different projection systems (PECOTA haaaaaaates them both equally). But I don’t know that it overstates my position, which is that unless someone’s nutty to the point they’re getting in fights with teammates clubhouse chemistry’s worth zippo in valuation. Everything we’ve heard about Sweeney we’ve heard about all the other failed character guys the M’s ran through the clubhouse the last few years, and while I’m sure there’s an argument to be made that he’s different, there was an argument that each of those guys was different. If we think Shelton’s going to be a better contributor to the team to the tune of three runs and Sweeney’s going to make everyone feel better to the tune of three runs, I’ll take Shelton.

    That said… how awesome is it that a year after an absolutely disastrous off-season I’m concerned that the M’s aren’t going to go the direction I’d prefer with their backup 1B platoon partner?

  25. Dave on March 22nd, 2009 9:19 pm

    Okay, well, I guess we have slightly different positions then. Mine is more along the lines of “tie goes in favor of chemistry”, where I’m okay with the team making decisions due to off the field stuff when the on field stuff is basically even.

    I think the on field stuff between Shelton and Sweeney is close enough to even to not be too upset if chemistry is used as the tiebreaker. I’d pick Shelton, but I don’t think the difference is big enough to make Sweeney an obviously wrong choice. And with no obviously wrong choice, I’m okay with chemistry being a factor.

  26. gintzdog on March 22nd, 2009 9:33 pm

    A good friend of mine went to spring training earlier this week. He watched the guys hit before the games in the cages.

    On the top field were Griffey, Beltre, Branyon (Griffey’s teammate in Cincinnati), and Sweeney in a hitting rotation. Shelton was hitting on another field with guys that are in or heading towards the minors.

    You never want to read into things like that, but it seems to give a sense of the hierarchy in camp. Sweeney is part of the popular crowd.

  27. MI5 on March 22nd, 2009 9:48 pm

    My problem is I don’t want to have to decide between one or the other. I want both. Without Shelton, we’re letting Branyan play 1st against left handers and without Sweeney, we’re letting Junior DH against lefties. I don’t like either of those options. We’ve gotta go north with 11 pitchers.

  28. JI on March 22nd, 2009 10:29 pm

    My feeling is that not only is Shelton better, but in a crunch he’s going to be able to play every day. I don’t think you could say that about Sweeney.

  29. CMC_Stags on March 22nd, 2009 10:30 pm

    Without Shelton, we’re letting Branyan play 1st against left handers and without Sweeney, we’re letting Junior DH against lefties

    Why won’t Sweeney be starting at 1B against left handers?
    Why won’t Wlad/Morse/Clement be starting in the OF or DH against lefties?

    There will be a reasonable hitting RH on the bench to DH against lefties instead of Griffey. I would assume whoever stays on the roster from Shelton/Sweeney will be platooning with Branyan.

  30. Gomez on March 22nd, 2009 11:08 pm

    An idea: Could there be potential issues with sending Sweeney to Tacoma that may not exist with sending Shelton to Tacoma?

  31. ThundaPC on March 23rd, 2009 12:42 am

    Hmm…..Shelton or Sweeney? Kinda nice to have a decision that’s not cut and dry.

    If it wasn’t for the chemistry mess from last season it probably wouldn’t be as much of a factor; Particularly when some vocal members (Silva, Batista) and the target (Ichiro) are still around.

  32. jjracoon on March 23rd, 2009 1:23 am

    To have Shelton in AAA is a warm fuzzy with the oft hurt back of Branyan, oft hurt knees of Sweeney, and oft hurt body of Griffey!! He will be an insurance policy to come up for who ever blows out their body part first!!!! Or does everyone believe they will all make it through the season!!!

  33. Spanky on March 23rd, 2009 1:27 am

    I haven’t seen anybody mention age here. All else being relatively even skillwise, would I rather take veteran leadership over the same skill set with a younger player that I could have around a while? Yes, especially when you factor in that Sweeney has had trouble staying healthy the past few years. That doesn’t get better with age. Given that, Sweeney may not be available as much as Shelton so that’s another advantage I’d give to him.

  34. Paul B on March 23rd, 2009 6:05 am

    veteran leadership


    Not sure whether you are saying Sweeney or Shelton would be better, though.

    You do raise the age issue. I’m of the thought that the M’s should do everything they can right now to give themselves the best possible team in 2010. Players like Sweeney and Griffey and Batista are not going to be around in 2010 (most likely), so you punt them in 2009 if you have a good reason. But if Shelton can be parked in AAA, then there is no need to punt Sweeney right now.

  35. Tek Jansen on March 23rd, 2009 6:06 am

    Can Shelton reject a minor league assignment and become an FA in the hopes that another team will put him on a big league roster? And if he can, would he, or would he go to Tacoma knowing that he probably would not spend the entire year there?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.