The Discreet Charm of the Cactus League: Cubs at Mariners

marc w · March 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Garland vs. Samardzija, 7:05pm

I’m a hypocrite. I complained about the lack of baseball during the off-season, and now that it’s back, I complain that it’s a sort of weird hybrid of baseball and practice. But part of what we miss (or at least I miss) in the offseason isn’t the regular season – we’ll all be bored by a random Tuesday night 7-2 loss in June – it’s the discussion of how the team and players are evolving. It’s, to borrow an over-used, under-defined word, the narratives that I miss. All of the players are working on something, tweaking a delivery, messing around with a grip, learning a new pitch. The optimism, the sense of possibility, extends even to ex-players who find that the everyday aches and pains have vanished and that their arm feels the way it did when they were 20 and their sense of possibility was lauded and not mocked as wishcasting.

What has this Cactus League done but throw us more interesting stories than Hollywood cranks out in a decade, and what have I done but worry about how the stories end? Dave’s even told us, in no uncertain terms, that the ending doesn’t matter, but I’m so caught up with keeping up with the Angels that I lost sight of the multifaceted richness that the Cactus League offers. Jon Garland hasn’t pitched in years, but he’s suddenly the favorite for the #5 job. Jeremy Bonderman pitched in a minor-league game after his career appeared to end in 2011. That’s fascinating! Scott Kazmir looks likely to make the Indians rotation and my mind’s blown by that, but we have a very similar situation here (X2), and I’m worried about getting more upside, in April, from the fifth freaking rotation spot. Their career was over, because their arms didn’t work anymore, and now they do! Maybe only for a little while, but who cares?

Meanwhile, the baseball decisions are harder because Brandon Maurer is suddenly an elite prospect who is making it damned difficult for the Mariners to send him down. What do we watch the Cactus League *for* if not to see difficult situations develop? If they’re not resolved the way we want, well, it sure beats easy decisions (or those dreadful “flip a coin and hold your nose” decisions). Spring training is all about seeing Carter Capps, the intriguing starter/reliever drafted out of Division II, is not a guy who racked up Ks by throwing 90 with a decent change-up, he’s throwing 99 from a freakish arm angle. It’s about seeing Taijuan Walker throw a cutter, because he’s Taijuan Walker, that’s why. It’s seeing Brandon Maurer command four pitches, react to what’s working and what isn’t, and pitch intelligently and successfully through a (sort of) major league line-up. In the Cactus League, the Mariners – the Seattle Mariners – cannot stop hitting home runs.

It’s not a kids’ movie. Not all of the stories are happy ones. Stefen Romero’s oblique injury was a tough break, especially given its timing. Whatever Hector Noesi did in the off-season should be systematically studied by the Mariners player development staff and then banned organization wide. Erasmo Ramirez has exceeded all expectations and finds himself “in a battle” for a rotation spot anyway. There are inconveniences, obstacles, seeming injustices, etc., but in the end, these have made the story more interesting, and in the end, the wicked received their just desserts. Then there’s the tension that these roster battles create: Jon Garland can opt of his contract tomorrow, and as Geoff Baker says, is essentially pitching for his job tonight. So to you, Cactus League, Today’s line-up – whoa, hey, I’m writing a post 1: Saunders, RF here, we’ll get to the 2: Andino, 3B line-up in a minute 3: Ibanez, DH

1: Saunders, RF
2: Andino, 3B
3: Ibanez, DH
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Montero, C
6: Bay, “CF”
7: Wells, LF
8: Ackley, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Garland


30 Responses to “The Discreet Charm of the Cactus League: Cubs at Mariners”

  1. marc w on March 21st, 2013 5:02 pm

    Luis Bunuel gamethread. I’m so sorry.

  2. stevemotivateir on March 21st, 2013 5:13 pm

    Nice to see Bay in center with two center fielders at the corners. Brilliant strategy. Hide the weak guy in the middle. How come none of us thought of this? Maybe we could do the same with Ibañez? This could be a model concept for other clubs to follow.

    I now expect to See Guti and Saunders at the corners on opening day, as they cleverly squeeze Morse in the middle of them.

  3. Kazinski on March 21st, 2013 5:28 pm

    I’m not nearly as concerned with Bay playing 1 or 2 games as an emergency CF, as I am with the idea that he and his career -7.7 LF UZR150 would be the late game defensive replacement for Michael Morse and his career -21 LF UZR150.

  4. MrZDevotee on March 21st, 2013 5:32 pm

    “I now expect to See Guti and Saunders at the corners on opening day, as they cleverly squeeze Morse in the middle of them.”

    Or Guti and Saunders both get knocked unconscious as they collide trying to catch a ball 20 feet directly in front of Morse, in dead center? Sort of a coin flip on the results. Guty could explode into tiny pieces and never be heard from again.

    As for Ramirez, Maurer, Garland, Bonderman and others still knee deep in competition– I think that’s great. I’m way more concerned about how they perform in the next week, than how they’ve performed the past 3-4 weeks.

    It starts counting soon enough, so let’s ride the hot guys at that point. Maurer still needs to do it one more time before even being in the REAL conversation of making the team. And Garland needs to keep expanding what he’s doing, Bonderman has probably one more change to force the issue– and Erasmo probably just needs to not have a bad outing.

    Compete, compete, compete… I love it. We just need to learn how to hold onto that attitude for a six month run without letting up. That’s the hard part.

    Go M’s.

  5. Westside guy on March 21st, 2013 5:33 pm

    Tonight’s lineup probably cements Wells’ need, in his mind, to update his résumé.

  6. MrZDevotee on March 21st, 2013 5:38 pm

    I also smiled at your cinema verite way of capturing the mood of Spring Training in a Luis Bunuel reference.

    Nicely played.
    (golf clap)

    Although, if it gets too difficult watching all this faux Spring ball stuff you might need to swipe a slice from Un Chien Andalou (get it- “slice”… eyeball… ow.)

  7. MrZDevotee on March 21st, 2013 5:42 pm

    I’m still hopeful of a Bay sailing… There’s something very Figgins-esque about the way Bay is being moved all around trying to find him a home. Both in the lineup (a’la the last guy to be tried out at leadoff in Spring- we just heard he’s been lost at sea) and out in the field, too.

    I really hope that’s what I’m seeing– a guy without a role on the team getting his final chances to play. And the Mariners desperately try to find the good lighting that makes him look attractive to a team like the Astros/Padres/Giants.

  8. TherzAlwaysHope on March 21st, 2013 6:11 pm

    RE: Wells’ comment. Why? Not arguing, just don’t get it.

  9. stevemotivateir on March 21st, 2013 6:22 pm


    That’s not possible. You can’t seriously refer to Bay as a defensive replacement. You can only call him a ‘replacement’.

    That is a bigger fear, though.

  10. MrZDevotee on March 21st, 2013 6:28 pm

    I believe Westy was referring to the fact that Wells in in the lineup, but Bay got the start in Center, when without much argument, Wells would seem to be the better choice for the more difficult task.

  11. juneau_fan on March 21st, 2013 7:04 pm

    Rizz’s new toupee….Yes or no? Dignified gray color more suiting to his age, true, but the ‘hair’ seems a bit too plastic.

    Having TV again ROCKS!

  12. Paul B on March 21st, 2013 7:07 pm

    I expect a Mariner trade in the near future. Wells and maybe a pitcher.

  13. Longgeorge1 on March 21st, 2013 7:09 pm

    Certainly hope Garland gets it done tonight. He is gonna pitch for someone this year and he is gonna be pretty good when he gets his command. Mauer and Beavan in Tacoma are pretty good insurance. I still think that Saunders is the weak link. If he starts poorly he could be headed to the DL with a “tired arm”

  14. Paul B on March 21st, 2013 7:13 pm

    I should know who Valbuena is.

  15. Paul B on March 21st, 2013 7:14 pm

    There we go, Ryan can just cover CF.

  16. Paul B on March 21st, 2013 7:15 pm

    Boy Ryan is a good fielder.

  17. stevemotivateir on March 21st, 2013 7:19 pm

    Garland and Bonderman have been out of baseball for a significant time and are now trying to rebound from serious injuries. Beavan is trying to change his mechanics and has yet to establish himself as an effective starter.

    How is it that Saunders is the “weak link”?

  18. Paul B on March 21st, 2013 7:27 pm

    I’d rather see Erasmo and Maurer, personally.

  19. Longgeorge1 on March 21st, 2013 7:31 pm

    Let’s see. ERA = 9.45; WHIP = 2.25; AVG = .406 If he didn’t have a contract he would not make the staff.

  20. juneau_fan on March 21st, 2013 7:38 pm

    Why is the spring training commentary even more inane than the regular season’s? “Bay must be good! He was an All-Star with the Pirates!”

  21. stevemotivateir on March 21st, 2013 7:45 pm

    Saunders isn’t in a position where he has to stress making the club. It’s because of his contract, and the fact that he’s an effective, established pitcher, that he’s able to relax this spring, and work on specific pitches.

    Feel free to read into more than you should, though.

  22. juneau_fan on March 21st, 2013 7:46 pm

    Er, that’s embarrassing.

  23. Longgeorge1 on March 21st, 2013 7:57 pm

    We will see game three in Oakland. I hope you are right. I understand that there are guys that have a spot and there approach can be different then guys trying to make the club. At some level you have to allow guys to make the club based on performance. Think of what the Seahawks did with Russell Wilson even though they signed a QB. Saunders needs to show something to make me feel comfortable.

  24. Longgeorge1 on March 21st, 2013 8:03 pm

    That’s why Bay is not in left (haha)

  25. G-Man on March 21st, 2013 8:03 pm

    What I hate about spring training is watching the 11:00 news or reading the Times, and seeing the game scores and highlights like they really matter. Screw that, I want to know who’d looking better or worse tahn expected, how the drama for the undecided roster spots is going, etc.

    The aren’t going to get squat for Wells in a trade. Some lousy prospect who will be out of baseball in a year or two.

  26. kimalanus on March 21st, 2013 8:16 pm

    Egad. Are these guys (Cubbies) really this bad on defense? Air mail to first base, miserable left field play getting the ball in, tempting Bay to run for second and an entirely different guy with a bad throw to first….

  27. stevemotivateir on March 21st, 2013 8:19 pm

    Saunders looked good Tuesday in a minor league intrasquad game. Drayer wrote about it on her blog.

  28. Longgeorge1 on March 21st, 2013 8:40 pm

    Six good innings against a major league line -up.

  29. bookbook on March 21st, 2013 9:27 pm

    Ouch. Bad night for Erasmo to look mortal.

  30. The_Waco_Kid on March 21st, 2013 11:52 pm

    How did we have more errors? Their defense was so bad.

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