Process and Results
One of the main tenets of the blog is that, since we can’t predict the future, the best you can ask from someone is to make wise decisions based on probability and hope for the best. Good plans don’t always work, but the best path to success is to make decisions that have proven to work more often than not, and over the long haul, you will end up successful. So, we judge organizations on the process of their decisions, not on the outcomes they couldn’t have predicted to begin with.
So, let’s break the current problems the Mariners face into two categories – good process/bad outcome and bad process/bad outcome. I have no real interest in criticizing the organization for the former, as there’s nothing you can do about good decisions that don’t work. But the latter, those are the ones that we’re more than willing to lay at the feet of the people who put this team together, and those are the problems that they need to fix, because for the most part, those are decisions that can be corrected. Those are the ones to get upset about.
Good Process, Bad Outcome To Date
Signing Chone Figgins. Practically everyone was in favor of this move, because he was a good player who improved the team at a position where they needed improvement. He hasn’t hit, but he will eventually, and the investment was a sound one.
Putting Ryan Rowland-Smith in the rotation. He’s been downright terrible, but that wasn’t what anyone expected going into the season. As a strike-throwing flyball lefty, he profiled as a guy who was a good fit for the team and park. He just forgot how to throw strikes, and that’s a big problem for guys with fringe stuff.
Trading for Casey Kotchman. This one may be a little more controversial, but I’ll still put this in the good process column. He projected as an average-ish player, especially if he was platooned against lefties. Given the team’s payroll constraints, there weren’t many better options in his price range, and he offered enough upside to make the gamble worth it. You can’t predict anyone to post a .190 BABIP, which has derailed Kotchman’s season so far.
Trading for Milton Bradley. In the grand scheme of things, the M’s paid $3 million per year for two years of Milton Bradley. The risks were well known, but given the price, it was a risk worth taking. Forget the people who say Bradley has been the problem – they don’t know what they are talking about. The Mariners are 10-10 when Milton Bradley starts, yet 4-14 when he doesn’t. He has his issues, but every $3 million acquisition has warts. Bradley can still help this team, even if the first six weeks of his Mariner career haven’t gone so well.
Bad Process, Bad Outcomes
Signing Ken Griffey Jr. Self-explanatory.
Settling on Jack Wilson as your starting shortstop, then going without a capable backup. His durability problems were no secret, and the Mariners decided to screw themselves over when he ended up getting hurt.
Choosing catchers based on personality, not skill. They like Rob Johnson for his work ethic, so the fact that he has no major league skills doesn’t matter.
Screwing the bench over by carrying Mike Sweeney. Once they had committed themselves to Griffey, there was no reasonable way to have another player on this team who couldn’t play the field. They chose to keep Sweeney anyway, and in the process, completely destroyed the bench. This directly led to Eric Brynes playing LF against RHPs, an inability to pinch hit or pinch run in high leverage situations, and not being able to give struggling hitters a day off, as there was no one capable of playing their position on the bench.
Believing that Matt Tuiasosopo can play. Two years in a row, Tui has had a huge spring training, and his performances in March have convinced Wak that he’s a major league player. He’s not. He might be an okay platoon player in a year or two, but he’s a defensive zero who has the bat of a good glove shortstop. He belongs in Tacoma. He’s always belonged in Tacoma.
Not carrying a left-handed reliever. I get that some right-handed relievers don’t have big platoon splits and can get guys out from both sides of the plate. I understand the value in having relievers pitch full innings in order to save their arms and keep everyone fresh. That said, the Mariners are carrying a pair of replacement level arms in Jesus Colome and Sean White, neither of whom are good against lefties, that could easily be replaced by a generic lefty that would give the team the platoon advantage in critical situations when its called for. If they had six or seven good right-handed relievers, fine, don’t carry a lefty. But not carrying a lefty so that you can have Sean White’s useless arm on the team? That’s not good baseball.
Depending on Milton Bradley to play the outfield everyday. This is another consequence of carrying Sweeney, but instead of the original off-season plan of having Bradley split time between LF and DH, he was made the everyday LF when Sweeney made the team and Langerhans was jettisoned to get back to a 12 man pitching staff, giving the team no LH left fielder besides Bradley. The team should have known that asking him to play the outfield, and interact with fans all game long, was a recipe for disaster, and realized that everyone was best served having him spend his days at DH.