And So It Ends

Dave · September 30, 2013 at 10:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The 2013 season is over. It was, in my personal opinion, the least enjoyable season to follow since I started paying attention to the team back in the mid-80s. There have been worse Mariners teams, certainly, but this particular roster represented just such a huge step in the wrong direction for the entire organization. And, of course, it didn’t have to be this way. That this was an intentional construction in an effort to build a winning team would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so sad.

The organization continues to sell hope, even as it looks more and more dysfunctional by the day. You’ve probably noticed that I stopped buying what they were selling a while ago, and 2013 didn’t do anything to restore my hope that the team was right and I was wrong. So, now, I’ve basically adopted a new hope; that this team was so awful, so unwatchable, so embarrassing that there’s a reevaluation of internal beliefs.

We’ve already seen this front office pivot after failure before. They went for pitching-and-defense, and when that didn’t work out, we got this abomination of a dingers-and-leadership roster. That it didn’t work either might — might — make a case for just focusing on good all around players. Guys who can hit, and field, and run, and pitch, and if they’re good in the clubhouse, then that’s a nice bonus. That’s what this team needs – good players, of all shapes and sizes.

The defense was atrocious, but it isn’t so simple as getting better defenders. The pitching was bad, but this team isn’t a couple of new pitchers away from being good. The Mariners need a lot of new players, most of them better than the ones that got a lot of playing time in 2013. My hope is not in these players magically improving, but in the 2013 season being a wake-up call that there is no championship core in place, and that the team needs to change course and go get some better players to open 2014.

They have two good pitchers in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. They have a good third baseman in Kyle Seager, and a shortstop who looks like he might be pretty good in Brad Miller. Those four should enter spring training next year as the entrenched starters at their positions. The other 21 spots on the roster should be sources of potential upgrade. That doesn’t mean I think Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, et al are totally useless. A couple of them might actually help the team next year. They just shouldn’t be counted on. Their contributions in 2014 should be bonuses, not a prerequisite for the team to succeed.

It’s time to move on from Justin Smoak as the team’s starting first baseman. The team needs at least two new outfielders, and if Kendrys Morales keeps asking for crazy money, they need a new DH too. They should acquire a stopgap catcher who can play everyday to start the year, allowing Mike Zunino to learn how to hit in the minor leagues like he should have done this year. They need at least one starting pitcher, maybe two. And the bullpen and bench both need work.

It’s a pretty long list. It’s a lot to accomplish in one winter. Maybe too much. Maybe there are just too many holes to put together a winning team next year. But, there are useful role players to be had, quality additions to be made, and the possibility for the team to go from utterly useless to at least acceptably okay. These upgrades are easier than going from good to great. It shouldn’t be that hard to find reasonable Major League players to fill the spots that were given to totally useless scrubs this season.

The organization just first has to realize that that’s actually what they did. They have to stop blaming the kids for this team’s failures and realize that it was the cavalcade of horrible veterans that dragged this team into the depths of despair. They need better veterans, and to get those, they need to realize that last year’s ideas about roster construction were entirely wrong.

That’s the hope I have. Jack Z and his team have changed course before, following an attempt to win that didn’t work. Maybe they’ll do it again. I have my doubts, but if you’re looking for hope in 2014, that’s probably a better spot to look than hoping that all the young kids magically become good overnight.


67 Responses to “And So It Ends”

  1. Dobbs on September 30th, 2013 2:59 pm

    “Looking at career performance without weighting more recent performances more heavily is a big part of how we ended up with Raul, Morse, and Bay in the outfield this year.
    Saunders, 2012: wRC+ 108
    Saunders, 2013: wRC+ 98”

    Ignoring defensive metrics is as well.

  2. MrZDevotee on September 30th, 2013 3:46 pm

    I like the Valium idea even more. I think being an M’s fan should automatically qualify you for anti-depressants and anxiety meds.

  3. jsa on September 30th, 2013 3:47 pm

    I suggest nothing gets fixed till we bring the ownership back to Seattle. He’s Dead Jim. Time to find an interested owner.

    I wish half the expense and effort that is being pissed away trying to get a basketball team were spent fixing the Mariners Entire Organization.

    If Nintendo decides to sell, there is no guarantee the franchise remains here.

  4. Will on September 30th, 2013 3:54 pm

    Time to give up on Smoak – He has 2,000 career PA’s and has been a replacement level player. He was essentially no better than replacement level this year. A first basemen with no power and below-average defense doesn’t have a place on the roster.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we looked to try and get Corey Hart to play first this year. Having missed the whole season, I imagine he’ll have to settle for a cheap, incentive-laden one-year deal; not to mention, he has ties to Jack from his Milwaukee days. Getting a solid +2 to 3 win player at a relatively cheap price makes quite a bit of sense especially since we have so many holes to fill.

  5. marcus_andrews on September 30th, 2013 4:36 pm

    “Ignoring defensive metrics is as well.”

    You’re ignoring his initial response where he states that Saunders is below average in center and above average in the corners which is exactly what defensive metrics say.

    I feel like there’s a delusion that good teams don’t have any players that are between 1-2 WAR and the only way to succeed is having 9 players who are at or above average. While yes, that would be great, it’s just not easy and not something the Mariners outfield is going to get rapidly.

    Look at all of the playoff teams in the AL for example, every team except Texas has exactly 6 position players that were worth 2 or more WAR (Texas had 5). That means that they’re starting three players below that. Michael Saunders won’t solve all our problems, and him as our best outfielder is obviously not a good thing. But he could be the 6th or 7th best starter on a playoff team and nobody would bat an eye.

    I know, that’s not exactly high praise, but there are signs that he could be better than that, and it’s unlikely that he’d be worse than that. Replacing Michael Saunders should be priority number 22 or so on the Mariners offseason agenda.

  6. bermanator on September 30th, 2013 4:44 pm

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if we looked to try and get Corey Hart to play first this year. Having missed the whole season, I imagine he’ll have to settle for a cheap, incentive-laden one-year deal”…

    And the best-case scenario there is you have to solve the exact same problem next offseason, when Hart wants a multi-year deal.

  7. dantheman on September 30th, 2013 4:56 pm

    Was it really just two short years ago (a year in which the Mariners were 67-95!) that someone was writing such gems as:

    “Everyone can see the ground work being laid for a bright future, and it was the right call to keep the current front office in place to continue the work they’ve been doing.”

    Well, maybe not “everyone”. Some of us didn’t drink the Kool-Aid.

  8. Mariner Melee on September 30th, 2013 4:57 pm

    When will this organization learn to read USSM. Indians make off-season moves endorsed by this site, Indians achieve desired results.

    Fact is, Zduriencik is only as good as his supporting cast, and he has–year in year out–fired his best people (Fausco, Engle, and Blengino). If we can expect more front office turn over this off-season, you can bet it surely will be to weaken the ever shrinking voice of reason.

  9. stevemotivateir on September 30th, 2013 5:11 pm

    Smoak had a great second half multiple seasons, I’d rather not rely on smaller sample sizes to prove points.

    Smoak never had a great second half multiple seasons. He had great Septembers. Big difference.

    The point about small sample sizes is still fair, but those two names specifically finishing on positive notes still supports my point… they’re not in the replace-me-know category–especially with Ackley as a second baseman and Saunders as a corner outfielder.

    Ignoring defensive metrics is as well.

    You must have missed his point.

  10. stevemotivateir on September 30th, 2013 5:30 pm

    Fact is, Zduriencik is only as good as his supporting cast, and he has–year in year out–fired his best people (Fausco, Engle, and Blengino).

    To be fair, Engle wasn’t fired. But him leaving probably had something to do with Guerrero getting canned. There’s certainly an argument that the front office has inspired, if not forced, some significant names to leave of Seattle.

  11. Breadbaker on September 30th, 2013 6:47 pm

    If one could know that Franklin Gutierrez would be healthy for a complete season next year, things would look different. Of course, that’s been the same chorus since 2010. Random luck has something to do with pennants, too.

  12. Don Money on September 30th, 2013 10:29 pm

    My biggest gripe with Wedge was his treating the younger players like seasoned vets, playing several of them with few breaks. I understand what he was attempting to do but I don’t agree with it. Smoak for one needed to be spelled more often, just look at how well he came back after a day or two off. Having a M McLemore type player and regularly giving starters a break, especially against tough pitching match ups for them, would have served this team much better. Again, I get what Wedge was attempting but he could have had a better record with these same players. He may have showed too much patience for his own good!

  13. African Mariner on October 1st, 2013 12:26 am

    Personally I would go the following route.
    Sign Tanaka. I have been looking at his numbers over his NPB career and he has improved each year.
    You then have Felix, Kuma and Tanaka as your front three. Paxton, Walker, Maurer and Ramirez slug it out for the final two spots and the two losers go to Tacoma as back up for injury and poor performance. There are your “7 starters”

    For DH sign ONE of Napoli, Beltran, Morales. My favourite is Beltran but I wouldnt think he would want to come to the Mariners. As for Smoak I am not sure as I am willing to wait a year for DJ Peterson. I wouldn’t rely on Montero for anything much at the moment.

    As for catcher. Dave is right. More time in the minors would do Zunino some good. Two of Dioner Navaro, John Buck and Ramon Hernandez.

    As for the outfield I would keep Ackley and Saunders and acquire Curtis Granderson and someone like David de Jesus. Almonte would be waiting in Tacoma for injury or poor performace. I am still a big fan of Guti when he isn’t injured. I would only sign him as a bench player.

  14. djw on October 1st, 2013 6:40 am

    As for Smoak I am not sure as I am willing to wait a year for DJ Peterson.

    DJ Peterson is 21, has about 200 low level professional plate appearances, and a busted jaw. Suggesting we can just assume he’ll be ready for prime time at the beginning of 2014 is delusional optimism. Did you notice what happened when we brought up Zunino early?

  15. Westside guy on October 1st, 2013 7:56 am

    It really, REALLY bugs me that Jack has already stated Zunino is the starting catcher for 2014.

  16. African Mariner on October 1st, 2013 8:20 am

    Bad typing on my part due to annoyance about the whole thing. I should rather say I am not sure that we should rely on smoak for a year untill DJ peterson is hopefully ready in 2015 or if we should get someone else.

    See above regarding catcher.

  17. aprilbaseball on October 1st, 2013 3:16 pm

    It’s all I can do to keep myself falling into apathy for the Mariners and their endless re-tooling. Like most of us here I’m a lifelong fan, hoping against hope of meaningful baseball beyond August. I’m just enough of an idealist to maintain a shabby sense of nobility in my dedication to the M’s, but apathy would be such sweet relief. There’s always next year.

    Thanks to you and your team, Dave, for another season of insight, education and assistance. You help me refine and define my thoughts toward the M’s. USSM is always a part of my baseball season.

    Let’s get you an application for the M’s GM position, Dave.

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