Bad News, Meet More Bad News
Baker and others have the news of the day, and it ain’t great. Cliff Lee is going to take five days off before throwing again, so realistically, his entire spring training is gone. He’s definitely going to need a DL stint, and by the time he gets stretched out enough to pitch in a big league game, it’s going to be the end of April or early May.
Beyond that, Wak comes pretty close to confirming the growing suspicion that the Mariners are going to make room on the team for Mike Sweeney because of how he’s hit this spring. Sweeney will displace Ryan Garko on the 25 man roster and serve as a part-time DH against lefties and play first base sparingly, as Kotchman will not be platooned.
Put chemistry and feeling goodness aside for a minute – this creates all kinds roster problems for the M’s. Now, against LHPs, you’ve got Sweeney, Bradley, and Byrnes for two spots – DH/LF. Bradley kills lefties, so you don’t want to take him out of the line-up against southpaws, but Byrnes’ role on the team is lefty mashing outfielder, and pushing Bradley to LF against LHPs takes away his playing time.
So, not only is Sweeney going to remove Garko from the roster, he also is going to take playing time away from Eric Byrnes and force Milton Bradley to play the field more often. Neither of those are positives. Plain and simple, Mike Sweeney makes this team worse.
Now, if you want to argue that the pies in the face and the jokes and all that stuff make up for it, fine, make that argument. But remember, Mike Sweeney’s been the best guy in baseball forever, and teams he’s been on have finished over .500 twice in his 15 year career. Last year’s 85 win Mariner team posted the best record of any team that Sweeney has ever played for. If his personality was vital to a winning team, don’t you think he may have actually played on one or two of them?
Of course, it’s not fair to blame Sweeney for having lousy teammates in Kansas City, but I’ll still suggest that you can’t make an argument that having Sweeney on the roster leads to lots of wins that we can’t measure when there’s no history of teams he’s been on playing better than you’d expect. He might be a lot of fun to be around and great for the clubhouse, but in the end, good teams win and bad teams lose. Mike Sweeney hasn’t made any bad teams good by hitting his teammates in the face with pies.
The Mariners have already wasted one roster spot on Griffey in the name of clubhouse chemistry. Now, it sounds like they’re going to waste two roster spots on clubhouse chemistry. When Kotchman is facing a tough lefty in a high leverage situation or the team can’t pinch hit for Jack Wilson with the bases loaded, you can thank the team’s desire to have both Griffey and Sweeney around. There are consequences to carrying these guys, and you’ll see them play out on the field.
Let’s hope the M’s can win a lot of games in spite of Sweeney’s presence, because otherwise, we may look back at the way the end of this roster was put together with an awful lot of regret.