Jesus Montero, Normal-Sized Person

January 23, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

You guys know the story of Crater Lake, right? I just kind of assume so, because the story is so familiar to me, but then that’s probably not fair; other people have other interests, and for most it’s just a piece of insignificant trivia. Who cares how a lake came to be? But let me at least run through this real quick: where Crater Lake is, there once stood a majestic snowy peak, the Mount Mazama Cascade volcano. The volcano erupted, as volcanoes are wont to do, and this particular eruption was inconceivably enormous, and much of the peak was destroyed. Some matter flew away; other matter collapsed inward, as the underground magma chamber emptied itself. When the dust settled and the rains and snows came, a lake formed within the giant crater, a lake where the water has nowhere to go.

The eruption took place around 5,677 BC. That is, the estimated date is 5,677 BC, plus or minus 150 years. There’s a 300-year window within which we believe the mountain destroyed itself. This is, scientifically, a very precise estimate. Oftentimes you get calculated windows stretching thousands or hundreds of thousands of years.

Meanwhile, Jesus Montero just missed his reporting weight by one year. Last year, they wanted him to weigh 235 pounds, and he instead weighed 275 pounds. Now? Now, one year later, he weighs 235 pounds on the nose. And they want us to think his weight was some kind of big deal a season ago? He barely missed his target. In the grand scheme of things, there’s nary a blink between 2014 spring training and 2015 spring training, so, as far as I’m concerned, kudos to Jesus Montero for doing what he was supposed to do, basically. People are always in such a hurry these days. Slow down and don’t worry about expiring deadlines. If you get it done late, you’re not really late. We just have a warped perception of the passing of time.

The message from the Mariners is this: there’s reason to be encouraged about Jesus Montero. They’ll tell you they never gave up on him. And it’s true, they didn’t, at least based on his remaining on the 40-man roster. Maybe that was faith, and maybe that was stubbornness, but here we are, and Jack Zduriencik is happy to tell anyone he knew Montero could figure things out. The organization didn’t give up on Montero, even if one scout in particular did. And maybe, in some small way, that very scout helped motivate Montero to whip himself in shape.

Motivation, you can try to identify in retrospect. Montero clearly wasn’t very motivated, that one time he said he spent the whole winter eating. That was one of the dumbest athlete quotes I’d ever heard, exactly on par with that caloric nonsense from Nick Franklin. Since then, the Mariners have blasted Montero in the press. They essentially removed him from his big-league peers, and they tried to make him learn a new position. Montero had that suspension to deal with, and then he finally got sent ice cream in a dugout. What just happened was a very embarrassing year. An extraordinarily embarrassing year. Somewhere, somehow, Montero was able to search within himself and find a little nugget of pride.

What’s being suggested, what’s being sold, is that Montero might be fixed as an individual, which would be the key to fixing him as a player. That seems too quick, too hasty, too easy. Montero is just 25 years old, and he’s experienced several years of hype. You can sort of see how he was able to lose his own way, and you know you are or were a completely different person at 30 than 20. Changes do happen, based on maturity and life experiences, and Montero just experienced a hell of a year. But you still need to have a little healthy skepticism. Sufficient self-motivation is among the Earth’s less prevalent resources, and Montero had none of it at 24. It’s hard to believe he’s just a whole new person. It’s almost impossible to create whole new people. But, it’s also not possible to lose as much weight as Montero has without being committed. So there’s at least evidence of Montero doing something hard, where he didn’t just rely on his god-given talent. Talent makes you a professional; drive lets you stick.

Understand what we’re talking about here. Jesus Montero now weighs about 40 pounds less than the previous version of Jesus Montero. That would be fantastic, if the Mariners were competing for the Team Weight Loss World Series. Instead, they’ll be competing for the regular old baseball World Series. Ultimately, what we want is for Montero to be a better baseball player. His defense wasn’t just about his weight. His swing wasn’t just about his weight. His discipline wasn’t just about his weight. Jesus Montero wasn’t bad because he was heavy. A lighter version of Jesus Montero, with the previous Jesus Montero’s approach, will just suck a little more per pound.

But this lets you have a little hope about the other stuff. Montero has been committed enough for long enough to get into playing shape. That suggests he might also be committed enough for long enough to get better at the game he plays for a job. His body should also no longer hold him back as much, not that he’s suddenly going to not run like a refrigerator rolling down a hill. It seemed like, before, when Montero would receive instruction, it just bounced off of him, like hail on a windshield. Now, perhaps, the instruction will be more likely to stick, like mosquitoes on a windshield. That’s the dream, anyway. Again, one generally doesn’t become a good student overnight, but Montero didn’t do this overnight. He did it over dozens of nights, hundreds of nights, after having been reduced to a punchline.

Think about it this way: if Montero were to come all the way back, and turn himself into a legitimate big-leaguer, this would be the first step, if you were to start a few months ago. This first step could lead down any number of paths, but it’s tough to envision Montero headed down the right path without doing this first. Let’s say, he just got himself to the proper trailhead. He still has to go practically the whole rest of the way, but at least he’s not badly lost.

The Jesus Montero career resurrection. That’s what we want to believe in, because at this point anything from Montero would be like free money. This guy here, who lost weight? We already wrote him off. He’s a seed that didn’t sprout, and we planted a whole other garden. Now there’s a shoot emerging from the soil. And, conveniently, if Montero did work out to some extent, this very team has a place for him, as a partner at first with Logan Morrison. The bench kind of needs a righty-hitting pseudo-slugger, and maybe that’s Montero’s job. Maybe he can be the last piece.

Take it as far as you want to. Stretch it out. It’s Friday evening — no one’s going to mind. These Mariners, they look like a pretty good baseball team. A team that could win its division. A team that could win the whole thing. Now imagine Montero on the team. Imagine him on the playoff bench. Imagine him in the playoff lineup, against a lefty like, I don’t know, Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner or Aroldis Chapman or who knows who. Imagine Montero as a contributor. Imagine Montero as a postseason hero. Imagine him delivering one hit you’ll never forget as long as you live. One swing of the bat can earn a guy a ballpark statue. What if it’s October, and in the moment we love Jesus Montero like we love no one else?

It’s easy to dream, and dreams are pleasing, as long as you know that they’re dreams. Dreams usually don’t come true. But, Jesus Montero usually doesn’t lose 40 pounds. Why wouldn’t he be exactly the player to deliver the Mariners’ first-ever championship? I mean, it’s kind of obvious. You’d be a fool not to see it.

How Not To React To The Mariners Getting Mike Kickham

January 14, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 19 Comments 

Hello friends. You might’ve noticed that, earlier today, the Mariners swung a trade with the Cubs, picking up left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham. So now you’ve thought to visit the incredibly popular and consistently updated USS Mariner blog to see how you’re supposed to feel about this. Which is kind of one of the main purposes of blogs, right? To tell people how to feel about things? I appreciate your visit, and I’ll do you one better, or one worse, or one lateral — I’ll tell you how not to feel about this. Here is a variety of ways not to react to the Mariners trading for Mike Kickham today.

“Oh, great, that’ll really lock up the World Series title. Nice going, Mariners. Ugh.”

Why be sarcastic? Why be sarcastic and upset about something so trivial? Is this how you reacted to the Mariners dealing Matt Brazis for Justin Ruggiano? Is this how you reacted to the Mariners bringing back Mark Lowe on a minor-league contract, which is a thing that they recently did? For one thing, not every move is made with the World Series in mind. For another thing, in the event that a team does win the World Series, you can always point to contributing moves no one really expected to be contributing moves at the time. Remember when the Mariners had Yusmeiro Petit in the system? No one cared when he went to the Giants. Turned into a popular guy.

Of all the different potential responses, this is the negative one. If this is your default, you’re probably just a negative person, and no one ought to have time for negative, overly critical people. However often you’ve been told that you’re unpleasant, countless other people have kept the same feelings quiet. And, wait a second, didn’t the Mariners sign Nelson Cruz for many years and too much money? Aren’t you exactly the sort of fan that move was supposed to placate? Bathe in the warmth of the Nelson Cruz acquisition, you unhappy son of a bitch.

“I think this means the Mariners are looking to trade Taijuan Walker, probably soon. Can’t be a coincidence.”

Mike Kickham’s major-league ERA has two numbers before the decimal. His Triple-A ERA is in the mid-4s, and he doesn’t throw enough strikes, and his fastball hovers around 89 – 90, and the Cubs just recently designated Kickham for assignment to make roster room for Chris Denorfia, who last summer looked like toast. This has no more to do with Taijuan Walker than the Mariners acquiring Sam Gaviglio had to do with Taijuan Walker. This is like saying signing Mark Lowe means the Mariners are looking to trade Fernando Rodney. You almost literally can never have enough pitching depth.

“Time to turn around and flip Kickham for Mike Napoli. Red Sox need some more starters.”

Mike Napoli, the last two years, has posted an .818 OPS. Mike Kickham, the last two years, in the major leagues, has allowed a 1.062 OPS. Kickham is with his third organization in a month. The Red Sox wouldn’t trade Mike Napoli for Mike Kickham. They would trade Mike Napoli for Mike Kickham and a player to be named later, where the player to be named later is actually named immediately and his name is Kyle Seager. That would be a bad move, IMO.

“Time to turn around and flip Kickham for Ryan Howard. Phillies need some more starters.”

I listened to the radio for about five minutes today, and during those five minutes, after Jack Zduriencik hung up from an interview, the hosts debated whether the Phillies had recently offered the Mariners Ryan Howard, because Zduriencik said he’d recently declined a trade for an expensive veteran that would’ve cost a couple young players. The hosts then praised Zduriencik for not agreeing to the deal, if it was in fact Howard, which was a complete and utter guess on their part, and not even a good one. So, in case you’ve been wondering whether you should listen to sports talk radio more, please find your answer in this paragraph. It’s not laid out explicitly, but you’re sharp enough to see it.

“I can’t believe the Mariners gave up Lars Huijer for this.”

Yes you can. The hardest part of this to believe is that the Mariners had a player in the system named Lars Huijer in the first place. Don’t even pretend like you’d ever heard of him before. Try to pronounce Huijer out loud. Like right now, wherever you’re sitting. I bet you stumbled over syllables and there’s not even anyone around you to check your work and call you out. What you can’t believe is that there’s a name that has an H and a U and an I and a J and they’re all in a row. Did you see that story about the two climbers topping out on the Dawn Wall in Yosemite earlier today? It was thought to be impossible, but they pulled it off, and you’re not literally in disbelief over it. You can believe that two climbers free climbed the Dawn Wall on El Capitan. And you can believe the Mariners gave up Lars Huijer for Mike Kickham.

“I guess if he’s no good, the Mariners can Kickham to the curb!”

I’m just kidding, this is a fine response. People get way too weird about puns. Puns are the new clowns. Everyone used to say they were afraid of clowns, but almost no one actually was. And now whenever there’s a pun someone has or someones have to stage some artificial freakout. People act like a pun is the worst thing in the world, like it’s the most horrible and offensive thing they’ve read in a month. You’re not offended, you’re just putting on a show, and here’s the deep dirty secret: we all actually think puns are fun. They are fun. Everybody is wrong about puns. No, let me amend that: everybody acts wrong about puns. They don’t act like they actually feel. People who freak out about puns are liars.

“What number is Mike Kickham going to wear?”

Are you buying a personalized jersey? Don’t buy a personalized jersey.