Welcome Back, Annoying Mariners

Jeff Sullivan · October 10, 2014 at 5:52 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Well this is a hell of a lot more like it. The Mariners missed the playoffs by one game. The ALCS currently features the Orioles and the Royals, and I think it’s going to keep on featuring the Orioles and the Royals, and, man, it feels like the Mariners could’ve been there. Somehow, despite coming up just short, we all got to end the season feeling good. I felt good talking about the Mariners last night with Matthew on the podcast. Relative to the rest of the division, we get to feel great! The Mariners missed the playoffs, but they finished all right. The Rangers sucked. The Astros sucked. The A’s lasted two more days and lost in devastating fashion. The Angels got swept by a worse baseball team. We got to feel the best about our favorite team, and now, not two weeks after the last day, well I hope you got to enjoy that little vacation from regular Mariners. Now we’re back to regular Mariners.

Probably, you already know what I’m getting at. We’ve got two separate things that make us all feel quite a bit worse. For one, Jack Zduriencik and Lloyd McClendon were openly critical of Michael Saunders’ preparation in their year-end media session. Which might’ve been okay, if Saunders knew anything about it beforehand, which he did not. So, he heard that stuff for the first time when we heard that stuff for the first time, and that says bad things about organizational communication.

And also, hello there! It’s Bob Dutton! Wrote Dutton:

The Mariners had a deal in place last winter with Cruz, then a free agent, for roughly $7.5 million in 2014 with a club option of about $9 million for 2015…before ownership backed away.

Many of us spent all offseason dreading the inevitable big contract the Mariners would give Cruz. When Cruz finally signed for his modest terms in Baltimore, the consensus reaction was, actually, that’s not bad at all. The Mariners had Cruz for similar terms, despite all the rumors that Cruz didn’t want to play in Seattle, and then nevermind what Cruz actually went on to do in 2014 as an Oriole — the Mariners’ baseball people made a roster decision, and they were overruled on that decision by the Mariners’ non-baseball people. That happens sometimes, but you don’t expect to see it happen on a seven-figure, one-year contract for the exact kind of player the Mariners were in the market for.

So we get to be frustrated with the front office, and we get to be frustrated with the people above the front office. Everything that happened last season happened last season, and everything that made us feel pretty great about the Mariners is still perfectly valid, but it’s a little like eating a doughnut and then researching the nutritional content of a doughnut. In the end, you still enjoyed the doughnut, but you feel worse about the experience in the aftermath because the doughnut is basically trying to kill you.

It’s totally reasonable for the Mariners to be frustrated with Saunders’ fragility. Saunders is more frustrated than anyone with his own injury record. I mean, he wants to be playing all the time, and McClendon said some good things about his talent level. But the problem with what happened is obvious — you express these concerns via private communication. The Mariners employ Saunders, and they have every right to tell him what they think he should do in order to remain on the field, but as much as the media is a part of the business, it’s not a part of that side of the business. Feelings now are hurt for no reason. Don’t give me any of that motivational bullshit. Saunders isn’t Jesus Montero. Having this aired to the press serves nobody’s benefit but the media’s, where people now get to write about a minor organizational scandal that came out of nowhere.

Maybe the Mariners just didn’t realize what they were saying. Maybe they spoke without thinking, or maybe they thought Saunders wouldn’t be hurt by the comments. But given how guarded Zduriencik has always been with his thoughts, it’s odd that he might just blurt something out, and if he simply didn’t realize the effect this would have on Saunders, then I’m not sure Zduriencik is much of a people person. Which would go along with a lot of what we’ve heard previously. Saunders should be able to put this behind him, and if he’s a starter for the Mariners in 2015 that would be super, but I’m not a fan of where this could be heading. I don’t want to lose Saunders for nothing, and I don’t want a front office that doesn’t understand how human emotions work. This is one of those situations where the process behind what happened is of greater significance than what actually happened.

And the Cruz thing is bothersome, because it’s another indicator of ownership meddling. The actual contract terms would’ve been neither great nor terrible — that was a fair deal for the player in question. The Mariners would’ve lost a draft pick that wasn’t their first. For a while, Ken Rosenthal was reporting that, after the Robinson Cano contract, the Mariners were short on cash. He said they’d need to persuade the owners to spend more on the roster. Pretty much anything and everything of significance gets crossed with team ownership, but you usually don’t see them nix short, small deals. And keep in mind the owners still OK’d the Fernando Rodney deal. That happened in February. I assume that happened after the Cruz deal was agreed to and backed off of. So it wasn’t that the Mariners were out of space.

It seems the Mariners backed off because of steroid concerns. Absolutely, that was a valid question, and every team had it, and Cruz paid the price in the contract he ultimately received. But the Mariners’ supposed baseball experts, the people hired to fill the roles of baseball experts, determined Cruz was worth the gamble. The owners were like, nah, he’s not. The owners don’t know more about baseball than the Mariners’ front office does. And if the owners were wary of bringing a suspended PED user to Seattle, they should understand that fans don’t actually care about steroid users, in that despite all the outrage previously suspended players are supported and fans haven’t been driven away from the game. Cruz made a baseball mistake a lot of players make. The Mariners have paid money to worse people than that. Whatever number of fans would stay away because of the PED user, at least that many people would show up to the park to see some dingers. Nothing drives popularity like winning. Winning means revenue! The baseball people thought Cruz would help the team win. The owners turned them down.

I’d get it if we were talking about something for four or five years, or even like $20 million. But a year and $7.5 million, with a club option? For a player many thought was an obvious fit? In a season that needed to be successful, after the whole Cano splash? Forget Cruz’s 40 home runs. Maybe as a Mariner he hits 20 home runs. Who the hell knows? What I don’t like is this evidence of incomplete trust. You either trust your general manager or you don’t. If you don’t, you get rid of him. Members of ownership are very smart people, because they’ve made a lot of money and that’s hard unless you find it, but not a single one of them is a baseball expert. That’s why, thankfully, there are baseball experts to whom you give jobs. Owners should worry about making money. Front-office people should be in charge of building a roster. They have to have communication, but if there are disagreements, what does that tell you about organizational health?

The Cruz thing, I guess, was a year ago. Maybe that’ll never happen again. And the Saunders thing is stupid, but it seems somewhat less problematic, since sometimes people just say stupid things. If the Mariners keep Saunders and commit to him, this’ll all blow over. It’s not like the Mariners are a massive volcano about to erupt, collapsing then in on themselves and leaving a scar on the earth. But we just got readouts from some of the monitoring equipment, and the plumbing is active. There are rumblings underneath, and most of the time rumblings are nothing, and some of the time they’re not nothing at all.

There’s a certain way we’ve often felt about the Mariners, that we didn’t get to feel for a number of weeks. That feeling is back, in all its itchy warmth. We love this old blanket. It’s ratty as all hell, but we’ve had it forever.


38 Responses to “Welcome Back, Annoying Mariners”

  1. Paul B on October 10th, 2014 7:24 pm

    Wait until they trade Miller, who goes on go be an all star, while Taylor turns in a puff of BABIP into Felix Fermin.

  2. Eastside Crank on October 10th, 2014 8:49 pm

    The Saunders situation is beginning to look very bad for the FO. Saunders could have played in 28 more games. He was not chronically injured and is not the second coming of Gutierrez. Not playing Saunders clearly cost the Mariners at least one game and probably more. Uncle Fester has a lot to answer for.

  3. bongo on October 10th, 2014 9:08 pm

    Saunders sat on the bench when he could have played and spent more time in Tacoma rehabbing than was necessary. Now they blame him for their decision not to play him. Yuck.

  4. Westside guy on October 10th, 2014 9:14 pm

    Yeah, the thing about Saunders and injury concerns really only works if you ignore the first five weeks of the season or so.

    I’m not a huge Jason Churchill fan, but I thought his article pretty much nailed it.

  5. roosevelt on October 10th, 2014 9:16 pm

    Clearly, the M’s are run by dopes and knuckleheads. Clueless about public and employee relations. When will they turn management over to a new group????

  6. Longgeorge1 on October 10th, 2014 9:30 pm

    Listening to the O’s and Royals. Couple of old M’s that we gave for Bedard starting tonight. Oh well!

  7. TherzAlwaysHope on October 10th, 2014 10:08 pm

    Seems to me McClendon made a comment indicating they weren’t anxious for Saunders to return. After all, they had Chavez. You always have to go with the veteran grittiness.


  8. rightwingrick on October 10th, 2014 11:57 pm

    NOT signing Cruz was the right call. He had bad career numbers at SAFECO, he was coming off a PED suspension, he can’t play much defense, and we had a guy in Saunders who should have been playing every day. What Cruz did in Baltimore (a hitter’s park) would not equate at all to hitting in SAFECO. We’ll see that again, maybe, when Smoak signs on (with Houston?) and knocks the ball out of much smaller parks. Yeah, Cruz had a great season in Baltimore. But would he have had the same season in Safeco? Doubtful. Very doubtful.

  9. maqman on October 11th, 2014 2:54 am

    Blaming Saunders for their folly is two-faced buck passing.

  10. Westside guy on October 11th, 2014 3:51 am

    On the plus side – at least the Mariners off-season hasn’t been boring so far! 😀

  11. bongo on October 11th, 2014 8:12 am

    In addition to being wrong about Saunders, Z has also harmed the value he might get back in a trade. Not only could Saunders have the best year of his career next year in Safeco if played regularly, there are other clubs with which he might have a *monster* year. The Jaso deal was only modestly stupid; dumping Saunders could turn out to be Adam Jones-level idiocy.

  12. bongo on October 11th, 2014 8:43 am

    And, by the way. sarcasm-on: That bug Saunders caught from his newborn child that kept him out for a few weeks? No way that would have happened had he been hitting the weight room. sarcasm-off.

  13. _Hutch_ on October 11th, 2014 10:41 am


    It’s not just Monday morning quarterbacking. Cruz could have had a 2011-2012 type of year (wRC+ of 106 and 1.2 WAR) and been worth that contract. Tons of us were saying it at the time.

  14. eponymous coward on October 11th, 2014 11:02 am

    Wait until they trade Miller, who goes on go be an all star, while Taylor turns in a puff of BABIP into Felix Fermin.

    I don’t think Taylor’s minor league numbers are an illusion. He’s hit for average outside of the Cal League, and raced through the minors in just over 250 games, two of the signifiers for “this guy might be able to play”.

    I don’t think you should expect a lot of power out of him, but a .270/.340/.400 line out of him doesn’t strike me as really silly, knocking off quite a bit from his minor league stats. That’s an good SS in the Third Dead Ball Era.

    It’s nice that the team actually has more decent infield prospects/young players than places to play them for a change.

  15. PackBob on October 11th, 2014 11:29 am

    The question Jack was answering is important, but only Divish included it in his story:

    “Jack, Michael Saunders showed flashes of playing really well, but couldn’t kick the injury bug. Where do you see him fitting in with this club’s future?”

    In this context, it’s presented as Saunders having an injury problem that needs to be addressed by the club. There is no question in the question as to whether Saunders has a problem, the question is what are the M’s going to do about it.

    I don’t think Jack was singling out Michael as a player or questioning his dedication, attempting a sideways motivational tactic, or to influence arbitration. He mistakenly tried to use Saunders as a generic answer.

    All players are assessed after a season and a result is what can this player do to be better? Sunders’ injury problems are a no brainer. He plays well but needs to keep from being injured. How does he do that? Well, maybe better preparation would help.

    It’s all kind of silly. Prior to this if you asked anyone if it would be better if Michael could keep from being injured and stay on the field, they would have said yes. Jack said what everyone else has been saying.

    Jack and McClendon know not to dis a player without talking to him first. It’s player relations 101. An unfortunate choice of wording and an agent looking out for his client, and here we are….

  16. ck on October 11th, 2014 11:29 am

    More Saunders in 2014, and Less Almonte, Hart, Romero, Denorfia etc, would probably have meant the Mariners made a Wild Card spot. Since they can’t blame Wedge, it must have been Saunders fault, for not “…being ready..”
    Other teams identify, evaluate, and develop talent better than the M’s. Smoak, Jack Z’s guy, was given more PA than any similarly horrible performer in baseball history.

  17. Edward Baker on October 11th, 2014 11:49 am

    If the Cruz story is accurate it makes me want to tear the few remaining hairs out of my head, but not before I throttled the imbecile who vetoed the deal. This was exactly what the M´s needed, the guy in the four slot hitting behind Cano and being followed by the kid at third base. And no, he would not have hit forty in Safeco but if he hit 20-22 he would have been an immense plus.
    Meanwhile the Saunders kerfluffle should be nothing more than that, a kerfluffle. Mac is not in love with this guy, and neither is Cheese, at least not the way he was in love with Smoak, who spent five years (or was it six? I´ve lost count.) proving that he could not hit Major League pitching. True, Saunders has had a history of injuries, but is there any evidence that he has an injury-prone body? I don´t think so. And he is a superior talent, he really is. They need this guy.

  18. The_Waco_Kid on October 11th, 2014 12:39 pm

    PackBob, good points, but in context, this org has relentlessly underappreciated and underused Saunders, except last year when reportedly they rushed him back from injury. Then this year they took too long bringing him back in a wild card race. Basically, they have no idea what to do with him and I wouldn’t blame him if he were unhappy here.

  19. Westside guy on October 11th, 2014 1:32 pm

    I will say the Taylor-Miller “problem” is a good one to have… as long as the org values them correctly and uses them properly.

    Given Lloyd’s stated preference is to run the same nine guys out there as much as possible, I think keeping both and turning one into a “super utility guy” is a significant waste of value/talent.

  20. ripperlv on October 11th, 2014 1:33 pm

    I think it’s reasonable to believe Cruz wouldn’t hit as well at Safeco. Many were against bringing him in with his poor defense. But that said the money was right. Instead the M’s invested in Hart and that was probably EOB. End of budget. So we finally get a public peak at that budget thing.

  21. Westside guy on October 11th, 2014 1:43 pm

    Dave Cameron tweeted this link out a few days back…

    Steamer shortstop projections

  22. Paul B on October 11th, 2014 1:59 pm

    don’t think you should expect a lot of power out of him, but a .270/.340/.400 line out of him doesn’t strike me as really silly, knocking off quite a bit from his minor league stats. That’s an good SS in the Third Dead Ball Era.

    That is awfully close to the full season Fermin had with the Mariners. 1994. .317-.338-.380.

    So, yeah, about what I said.

    And I totally expect the Mariners to overvalue BA.

  23. kennyb on October 11th, 2014 2:04 pm

    Saunders goes to Atlanta for BJ Upton. Upton spends the next 3 years breaking the yearly strikeout record while Saunders plays 486 consecutive games.

  24. Longgeorge1 on October 11th, 2014 2:49 pm

    With regards SS “problem” Heard Miller was getting some OF work. I like Taylor defensively at SS. Miller could be a better WFB, spell the infield + corner OF + DH as needed. The new Mark McLemore. I don’t understand the Saunders bit. We know he gets injured but what was going on this year ?????????? I can’t believe that Lloyd just doesn’t like him. I lack confidence in Ajax, he just looked terrible, other than that no reason. Trouble is I have been right ( And wrong) before. The offense could improve 5% just by the same guys playing better. Jack trades players like I trade stock. Buy high sell low. Trades bother me based on the M’s history. Just gut feeling but CF will be our weakest spot. I would let season start and see what is real before making any big moves other than a FA if we have the bucks

  25. Westside guy on October 11th, 2014 3:38 pm

    Taking a guy like Miller – who has value at a premium position – and turning him into a corner outfielder seems like a terrible waste to me.

    He’s projected to be a touch better than league average bat. His glove will play at short – he’s projected to be a little better than average defensively there. Why give that away?

  26. henryv on October 11th, 2014 4:05 pm

    I have stopped believing ANYTHING reported on contracts.

    The teams have a strong motivation to lie.
    The agents have a strong motivation to lie.
    The players have a strong motivation to lie.
    The reporters have a strong motivation to report the lies (not really the lies, just anything that kinda sounds like it might be a story).

    And not only that, but we all know that all free agents that are going to come to Seattle will immediately get worse, so there is no reason to worry about it that much.

  27. MKT on October 11th, 2014 5:43 pm

    “The Jaso deal was only modestly stupid; dumping Saunders could turn out to be Adam Jones-level idiocy.”

    Perhaps an even better analogy than Adam Jones: I feel the ghost of Carlos Guillen lurking in the shadows. A promising young player bedeviled by injuries or illness, and undervalued by the front office.

    The Ms had a nice season and Zduriencik made the right sort of in-season moves (the players that he acquired didn’t do much, but at least he didn’t do any Lowe-Varitek giveaways). But why did they need to acquired some bats so badly in the first place? Because he’d done such an abysmal job during the off-season; getting Cano was nice, but he failed to address the gaping holes in the lineup especially at DH.

    I have low (not zero but low) confidence in the front office, and dread hearing about the trade of Saunders that they may be dreaming up.

    OTOH, last year I was sure they were going to continue their dumbfounding fascination with acquiring over-the-hill ex-Mariners (I joked that Bloomquist was available but I didn’t think they’d actually go out and get him) and I was sure that they were going to re-sign Ibanez. It was a relief when the did not do so (and Bloomquist to his credit did make some contributions to the Ms this season). They also improved the outfield defense. Maybe they’ve learned a little something? The words about Saunder however do not reassure.

  28. G-Man on October 11th, 2014 10:06 pm

    It’s easy to be mad about Cruz after the season he put up, and I, too, hate ownership meddling. However, hindsight is 20/20, and they did open their wallets wide for Cano, so I can see them being reluctant to spend a lot more. And if they’d signed Cruz, maybe there wouldn’t have been money for Rodney, and we’d have been treated to several more blown saves.

  29. CCW on October 12th, 2014 8:35 am

    Horrible ownership group, bad GM, mid-level payroll… in a league where everyone else is getting smarter, there is no logical reason to have any hope for the M’s in the near future. Of course, we’ll all hope again in the spring, because that’s what we do, but boy, poor us. Poor Felix.

  30. Longgeorge1 on October 12th, 2014 9:56 am

    WESTSIDE – I like Miller too and want to keep and play him. I just think that Taylor is a better SS. 2nd and 3rd are filled so what to do? I would rather not trade him, but I want to see him play 5-6 times a week (full- time). If you think Miller is better at SS I can see that just reverse roles and Super- sub Taylor instead. My main point is I want to keep BOTH and want to play BOTH

  31. maqman on October 12th, 2014 11:37 am

    If they give up either of Taylor or Miller they better get something good back because they are indeed both potentially quite valuable. Jackson is the weak link in the outfield, not on defense but he’s a weak bat that I doubt The Pencil can rejuvenate.

  32. Westside guy on October 12th, 2014 11:44 am

    Longgeorge1, if you want to keep both of them long term, then yup that works… If you have a manager that will actually do it.

    I’m not sure Lloyd is that manager, though.

  33. Seattleguy527 on October 12th, 2014 3:08 pm

    I posted this during the season last year when Cruz was a hot topic. Given this new story about ownership backing out of a much smaller deal, does this mean this old rumor was nothing more than just that?


  34. dp69 on October 13th, 2014 7:09 pm

    My gut instinct said something like this happened. Cruz was the type of player to take a shot at.

    As for future team….

    Don’t fill the DH. Instead rotate players into the DH spot. With Miller you can use him some at SS, some at 3B, some at 2B, and some in the OF. A day he is at 3B Seaver just DHs that day.

    The team needs to bring in a respected corner OF. He doesn’t need to be a high power hit but someone who has high average, doubles hitter, who may hit 15-25 HRs a year.

  35. mrakbaseball on October 14th, 2014 3:08 pm


  36. HighlightsAt11 on October 15th, 2014 4:54 pm

    Congrats to Jason Vargas. Sure wished the M’s could have held onto you, and Morales never came to Seattle…twice!

    I dream of the players the M’s traded away and have nightmares of getting nothing and worse in return.

    Getting nothing in return…the new theme song of the Seattle Mariners. Totally grunge.

  37. HighlightsAt11 on October 17th, 2014 5:28 am

    Congrats Mike Morse.

    Another ex-M blooming somewhere else…twice!

  38. mrakbaseball on October 17th, 2014 10:37 pm

    Charlton Jimerson is bitter about Morse’s PED use.

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