USSM Goes To Safeco Recap

Dave · August 10, 2009 at 9:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It was awesome.

Okay, you probably wanted more details than that. So, let’s see what I can remember off the top of my head before I hand the comments over to those of you who made it to Saturday night’s shindig to fill in the blanks.

We packed out the Ellis Pavilion. I don’t think we could have fit another soul in there. The M’s event staff did a a great job with setup, though – I would have never believed that we could get 300 people into that room and have everyone be able to see/hear without any problems. The M’s, as a whole, were tremendous in helping put the whole thing together.

I think Jack and Tony better get used to long standing ovations when they come to these things.

You guys did a really good job with the questions. They were great.

Stuff you guys care about that Jack/Tony said at the event, as best as I can remember and paraphrase:

Settle in for the Jack Wilson era – he’s here for the next two or three years. This was not a stop-gap move, and Jack is a huge fan of what he brings to the team. There just isn’t much out there in the way of talent at SS to be had, and they thought Wilson could help them now and going forward.

Blengino’s been on Zduriencik to acquire Ian Snell for a couple of years now. They think that, while he’s a risk, he fits into the pattern of players they’ve been targeting in other deals – young, able to help immediately, and under club control for 3+ years.

The massive importation of left-handers isn’t an accident. They realize the park is really friendly to lefties and much less so than righties. When they were looking at the roster they inherited, they couldn’t believe how badly it was suited to Safeco Field. They’re setting out to fix that, obviously.

They believe in the value of defense, especially in premium spots, but also saw that as the best path to success in 2009. They realized that there was just no way they were going to be able to fix the problems with the offense and pitching staff in one off-season, but due to defense being cheap, they thought they could make the defense a strength of the team very quickly. The strong emphasis on defense is partially about the availability of wins. As Blengino said “we’ll take wins wherever we can get them”. If the market shifts and defense becomes more highly valued, or better hitters become available, expect to see the M’s be more willing to bring in less proficient glove guys.

Yuniesky Betancourt wasn’t their favorite guy ever.

Blengino thinks Mike Cameron is massively underrated. We obviously agree – we’ve been raving about Cameron for something like 10 years now.

Langerhans was the fruit of a suggestion from Tom Tango. Thanks, Tom – he’s awesome.

The timing of Saunders call-up; they reached a point where everyone who saw him play felt he was ready, and so even with four LHPs and Roy Halladay on the schedule, they brought him up because they thought he was able to help the club. Jack’s been extremely impressed so far, and you get the feeling that Saunders’ early play has helped him cement his spot as the team’s 2010 left fielder.

Brandon Morrow – the yo-yo situation with the way his season has gone was as frustrating for them as it was for us. You could tell that Jack wanted to get his side of the Morrow thing out there, as he explained his view of the back-and-forth without anyone even asking about him specifically. They see him as a big part of their 2010 rotation.

Phillippe Aumont – Blengino had seen him extensively pre-draft and always felt he was a reliever. Everyone in the organization felt that his future was in the bullpen, so while they agreed that it was weird to limit a 20-year-old to relief work, they felt like he was a unique situation and that he’s got a chance to be a shut down, end of game closer very soon. They reserve the right to change their minds in the future, but they certainly didn’t talk like guys who saw him as a major league quality starting pitcher.

Jack is 100% dead set on winning a World Series in Seattle. If you didn’t like anything else he said (well, first off, you’re crazy), you had to be thrilled to see the remarkable dedication he has to that singular goal. The M’s are in very, very good hands.

DMZ: I’ll quickly add a couple of things. One, they’re a great comedy team, and you can see how easily they work together and trust each other. And you also see one of the fundamental differences in that and in Bavasi’s approach. Bavasi talked about wanting all the information, and took a step with hiring a stats guy to consult. Zduriencik doesn’t just want someone to run some historical minor-league valuations, or look at list of players they can pick as part of a larger, horrible trade — they brought in Langerhans on the recommendation of their analysis people, validated by their scouts, and the guy who’s in charge of the baseball analysis is one of Zduriencik’s hands, and has been working closely with him for ages.

Which reminds me — Tony’s been pushing Gutierrez on Jack for years. Every time Gutierrez makes a great play, give a small thanks to Tony. And to Jack for listening.

Also, on Wakamatsu, they’re big fans of what he and the staff are doing in creating a winning atmosphere which, in turn, allows them to be confident about bringing on players (like Snell, say) where they think a change of organization might do them good. Obviously, I’ve been a continual skeptic of chemistry as a valuation metric (see my howl about Shelton/Sweeney) but if there’s a way to make it into something that allows them to attract and retain the kind of player they want, I’m entirely willing to give it a chance.

So yeah. I don’t know heading into this off-season if there was (or could have been) a tougher sell on the team than me, and here I am, wondering if maybe they’re figuring out a way to build a clubhouse into a recruiting advantage. I’m a happy dude, and I hope everyone understands why.


124 Responses to “USSM Goes To Safeco Recap”

  1. unkrusty on August 10th, 2009 3:50 pm

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is Z wanted to make it very clear they did NOT entertain a three-way deal at the deadline (though I can’t recall if he went into the names or teams involved, we know what he was talking about).

    And, as mentioned, I enjoyed how they kept saying “nothing against Yuni” in one breath, and slyly slam him in the next.

  2. BLYKMYK44 on August 10th, 2009 3:59 pm

    One of our bloggers (don’t recall which one) before Jack and Tony arrived said that it would be a tough decision. Since some team like the Red Sox or Yankees will offer Felix big money and a many year deal when he hits free agency, it will be a really tough decision on what to do. Long term contracts with pitchers are usually a bad idea but maybe Felix is the exception.

    – Regarding giving Felix a “market rate” contract. Maybe this bit of confusion on my part can cleared up. Are all the people saying that we can’t sign Felix saying it because we:

    A) Can’t afford giving him a “market rate” contract

    B) Don’t consider it a smart move to give him a “market rate” contract.

    I can live with B…but I guess it seems strange that so many people are willing to say that we can’t affor Felix when we are spending $20 million dollars on a RF. Sure seems like we have the dough if the player deserves it.

    Don’t know if that type of philosophical question has been addressed during any of these meet ups. But, I’d love the clarification.

  3. scraps on August 10th, 2009 4:17 pm

    On Mike Cameron: I too have had the impression that the team he joins are immediately better, and the teams he leaves are worse. This time I checked it out. And it’s absolutely true. Mike Cameron has switched teams five times; four out of five the team left got worse, and five out of five the team joined got better.

    Chicago White Sox
    80 75
    Cincinnati Reds
    77 96

    Cincinnati Reds
    96 85
    Seattle Mariners
    79 91

    Seattle Mariners
    93 63
    New York Mets
    66 71

    New York Mets
    85 97
    San Diego Padres
    82 88

    San Diego Padres
    89 63
    Milwaukee Brewers
    83 90

    teams left: 88.6 to 76.6
    teams joined: 77.4 to 87.2

  4. Mike Snow on August 10th, 2009 4:30 pm

    Mike Cameron has switched teams five times; four out of five the team left got worse, and five out of five the team joined got better.

    And the Mets only got away with it because they had brought in Carlos Beltran. Cameron was shifted over to right for his second Mets season, plus it was cut short anyway when the two of them collided on a horrific play almost exactly four years ago.

  5. JMHawkins on August 10th, 2009 4:34 pm

    Regarding giving Felix a “market rate” contract. Maybe this bit of confusion on my part can

    cleared up. Are all the people saying that we can’t sign Felix saying it because we:

    A) Can’t afford giving him a “market rate” contract

    B) Don’t consider it a smart move to give him a “market rate” contract.

    It’s B), sort of. The per-year figure isn’t really the problem so much as the years and the fact that pitchers are fragile. The vast majority of multi-year, big dollar contracts for pitchers turn out very badly for the team. And it’s not just the obviously bad moves like the M’s of prior years, but all of them.

    Think of how you feel if you see Rick Griffen sprint out to the mound and start looking at Felix’ elbow. Now image the M’s just signed him to a 8/200 deal… Or imagine he reverts back to “establishing the fastball” and getting shelled the first two innings. Carlos Silva’s contract is a boat anchor. Imagine dragging around something twice as big for twice as long. That’s the downside.

    The upside is watching a Hall of Fame pitcher work through his best years. Which is what makes it such a tough call.

  6. Carson on August 10th, 2009 4:39 pm

    Jack was actually talking about Tom McNarama (aka Mac) at that point

    D’oh. Doesn’t make the story less awesome, though. 😀

    Also, I wish I knew who you people were when I saw you. Who was it that said something to me about my jersey and my comment on a previous quote? You didn’t introduce yourself, and I forgot to ask.

  7. rick m on August 10th, 2009 4:44 pm

    Reading this on Geoff Baker’s blog reminded me of something Jack Z. went out of his way to tell us, and suggests that he is refuting Geoff’s reporting. Geoff writes:

    But we’re sticking by what we wrote a week ago about the proposed three-way deal between Boston, San Diego and Seattle that would have sent Hernandez to the Red Sox. The story has yet to be refuted by anyone in either of the three cities, mainly because it’s true. If Zduriencik wants to characterize it as close, not close, or not even remotely close, that’s his perogative as one of the GMs involved.

    I remember Jack stating emphatically that there were no 3 way trade discussions going on AT ALL. So I think Geoff is wrong here, that the story has not been refuted. Jack refuted it Saturday night.

  8. Mike Snow on August 10th, 2009 4:52 pm

    I wouldn’t say Baker is wrong in reporting that it was proposed, but it wasn’t proposed by the Mariners, and based on Zduriencik’s comments it would appear that the Mariners promptly turned it down. His words were “did not entertain”, which I would take to mean whatever anybody else suggested, the front office never actively contemplated making such a deal.

  9. Luc on August 10th, 2009 5:01 pm

    I remember Jack stating emphatically that there were no 3 way trade discussions going on AT ALL. So I think Geoff is wrong here, that the story has not been refuted. Jack refuted it Saturday night.

    I posted the following on Geoff’s blog this morning after reading that.

    Geoff, I attended a pre-game Q&A session with Jack Z and Tony before Saturday’s game against the Rays. Jack said that the rumors of a three way trade were absolutely untrue. And he spoke very, very firmly on that being that case. I know it’s mid-August and there’s not much to write about with the team all but out of playoff contention, but could you stop rosterbating this fantasy three way trade (that did not and will not happen anyway) and get back to reporting real, actual news? When you stick to that, your blog is definitely one of my favorite sources for information on the team. In the immortal words of Carlos Silva, “you’re trying to stir up poo”. Kidding. Sort of.

    Obviously, I don’t expect a direct response to that anytime soon.

  10. Wilder83 on August 10th, 2009 5:02 pm

    Jack is waiting for Hanley Ramirez to become a free agent to fill the shortstop position, defense be damned (wishful thinking).

    And if casual fans could see Betancourt’s defensive flaws, they certainly should recognize Wilson’s prowess. I have already been blown away by a few plays by Wilson; not because they were flashy, but because I forgot what a shortstop’s range should look like.

  11. MKT on August 10th, 2009 5:05 pm

    Lots of good comments here, so aside for many thanks to Dave and Derek and the Ms — best $25 baseball ticket I’ve ever bought — a question and a comment:

    When Tony made his Mike Cameron comment, he also noted that Cameron won’t be going to the Hall of Fame, but if there were a Hall of the Very Good, it’d have Mike and … I couldn’t hear the name of the other player he said, I think it was Dwight Evans? One of my favorite and IMO underrated players, didn’t hit a ton of homers but did hit doubles and draw walks and play defense, things which are too often underrated compared to homers and RBIs.

    The one area where I thought Jack Z could’ve handled things better: when that one questioner tried (and unfortunately succeeded) in bypassing Dave and his microphone by simply shouting out his question. Which turned out to be a really stupid “stats vs boots on the ground” question — I say stupid because Jack Z had already answered that question, repeatedly using the word “blend”. So why ask a question that’s already been answered? I thought Jack Z should’ve ignored the shouted question and asked Dave to let the legitimate questioner continue with his question.

    Thankfully that was the only example of bad behavior, and a dumb question. I think the gay question caught not just Jack Z but most of us off-guard, not much that Jack Z could’ve done much more to handle that question but it’s one of those questions which stun you momentarily (regardless of whether you’re Jack Z or just in the audience) and then make you realize: yeah, the questioner has a point there.

  12. Breadbaker on August 10th, 2009 5:29 pm

    Q13 asks the question we didn’t and gets the answer: nothing so far.

  13. peterp16 on August 10th, 2009 5:54 pm

    Great event. Thanks for organizing this. I had a couple of thoughts. (1) I went to a kinda similar event a few years back, with an MBA-type crowd rubbing elbows with Bob Melvin and HowChuck. Even though the season hadn’t even begun, I had this sinking feeling of “deer in the headlights” and that these guys really don’t have much of a plan. I got a completely different vibe with Jack and Tony, and if Wak were there I’m sure it would feel even stronger. (2) Lots of people have mentioned Jack’s “blend” comment. For me, it really hit the nail on the head when Z was describing how a scout will see maybe 5 games and develop an opinion on a player, and a stats guy will look at the numbers and see something entirely different. Jack put the 2 sides together by talking about how the different views almost by necessity requiring a blended view to make successful roster decisions. He had me sold on his philosophy with his explanation, although of course I’ve approved of his body of work to date. 🙂 (3) In talking about the Morrow situation, I felt like if you read between the lines that the team was paddling up s*** creek with the closer role, and that they were scrambling big-time to come up with a credible approach. Z obviously wanted to trade Putz at the top of his value, and last year’s team really didn’t have a healthy closer successor in place so they were basically ad-libbing it (can’t solve every problem right away). In short, I think it was a very diplomatic way of saying that they had to clean up one more mess from the end of year 2008 roster.

  14. littlesongs on August 10th, 2009 6:16 pm

    It sounds like a splendid time was had by all. I am glad that more than a few very important questions were answered with honesty and good humor. I really love Mariners management and I never thought I would say that in my lifetime.

    I think that the difficult question about sexual orientation was legitimate. I think that the answer was too.

    My first Mariners game was in the Kingdome against the White Sox. Both Ken Griffey and Junior were in the lineup. Seeing two generations of African-Americans on the field was something beautiful that was and still remains hard to put into words. The game had come a long way since Jackie Robinson.

    The signings of Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki were also ground-breaking. Our nations fought a bitter conflict that left both sides scarred and led to decades of post-war bigotry in the region. Mariners baseball once again proved that it could move beyond the ugliness of the past through the beauty of the game.

    In 1942, Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Roosevelt. All around the region, Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to the desert. Leland Wakamatsu was born in the interment camp at Tule Lake. Today, his son Don is in the discussion for AL manager of the year. Once again, Mariners baseball transcends history.

    A gay player might be playing today. Or, he may have already worn the uniform in the past. This club is a good family. Good families are not going to automatically turn on a brother for his gayness or out him to the public. I think that until there is evidence of clubhouse bigotry or animosity toward a homosexual teammate, we should not assume that a problem exists.

  15. Jimmie the Geek on August 10th, 2009 7:24 pm

    I too will add my two cents to how awesome that event was last Saturday. I brought my dad (Father’s Day gift) and he was not only impressed with Zduriencik and Blengino; not only was he impressed with the USSM guys’ comments and answers pre Jack & Tony but with the quality of the audience’s questions throughout as well. I quote my dad: “Even the gay question was well put”.

    I personally walked out of there convinced that the team is in good hands. I haven’t felt that in, well, ever and it’s a pretty frakin’ cool feeling. 🙂

    For those that care, I was the guy in the Jackie Robinson jersey. I kinda felt out of place, but when choosing between my beat-up old M’s jersey or #42, Jackie wins.


  16. Patton on August 10th, 2009 7:53 pm

    Also, I wish I knew who you people were when I saw you. Who was it that said something to me about my jersey and my comment on a previous quote? You didn’t introduce yourself, and I forgot to ask.

    That was me. I really enjoyed this event, going to the game was just extra as far as I was concerned. We are in very good hands.

  17. Patton on August 10th, 2009 8:22 pm

    One other thing: Graham’s Cedeno jersey was hilarious.

  18. gwangung on August 10th, 2009 10:44 pm

    Sorry, but I’m giggling like a fool….going over some of the posts from earlier this year and how they thought the team would do.


  19. msb on August 11th, 2009 8:35 am

    For those that care, I was the guy in the Jackie Robinson jersey. I kinda felt out of place

    Ah, but it was very handsome.

  20. davepaisley on August 11th, 2009 9:18 am

    It was very awesome, I agree, but looking back, I am left feeling the LL guys were underutilized. If the plan was for them to stand around looking lost, job well done, but wasn’t there something more that could have been done?

    For the benefit of the (many) relative newcomers and/or friends of the old hands, it would have been nice to have a bit more introduction of the bloggers – esp the LL guys, who I wouldn’t know from Adam (in fact, if I didn’t know Dave and Derek from way back I wouldn’t have recognized them, either.)

  21. Graham on August 11th, 2009 11:20 am

    One other thing: Graham’s Cedeno jersey was hilarious.

    Thanks! I’m fond of it too. The Clement jersey Matthew was wearing was also mine.

  22. Oly Rainiers Fan on August 11th, 2009 1:07 pm

    Nobody answered what was said about the catcher position.

    I know full well what Tony said in May at the SABR meeting when I asked, and am just wondering if it’s still consistent…

  23. MKT on August 11th, 2009 2:08 pm

    (in fact, if I didn’t know Dave and Derek from way back I wouldn’t have recognized them, either.)

    Dave helped things by wearing a Cameron jersey. (Was it a Mike Cameron jersey? I don’t remember his number.)

  24. Mike Snow on August 11th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Yes, Mike Cameron wore #44.

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