Mariners Send Passive-Aggressive Message to Their Exes
Post-Winter Meetings and pre-Spring Training represents a news lull where the only thing you might otherwise have to hope for are prospect lists and the ever-thrilling arbitration negotiations in which a player may or not be shit-talked about by his co-workers and superiors. Being a time of planning, recuperation, and internal inventories, you can occasionally get the landmark release of boilerplate organizational philosophy or possible rebranding as the most loyal of the base eagerly open the next door on their Fanfest advent calendar. As such, the Mariners announced a new campaign to Control the Zone as part of the new regime’s restructuring.
For anyone who has been interested in analytics, since, I don’t know, the last time the Mariners made the playoffs, the information wasn’t revelatory. Throw good strikes. Force other pitchers to throw good strikes. Profit, as success on both fronts would serve to maximize winning potential. I’m not going to pretend like this is anything new to any of the regular readers of this here blog, but going so far as to publically articulate a vision isn’t something that we should undersell. It’s a pretty big paradigm shift, even if the packaging is a lot of blue, quick cuts between people smiling and shaking hands as baseball stuff occurs, and run-of-the-mill uplifting, inspirational music.
Parsing it out a bit into discrete categories, you can see a contrast developing between the previous administration and the current one which bring to light. Immediately, there’s an emphasis on getting pitchers to be able to throw quality secondary offerings for strikes even when behind in the count. Having likewise articulated a concern about mental preparation and frame of mind, one might imagine that the new group might be less inclined to piss on Erasmo Ramirez merely for not being their platonic ideal of a pitcher. There are additional goodies from there, such as Servais talking about how the batting average on 2-1 is almost double what it is on 1-2, with a clever little B-R citation, but the major shots fired were in the realm of crafting an organizational identity.
Claiming, as DiPoto did, that “development should not stop once you’ve reached the major league level” is as cold and accurate a take as you’re going to get on the results achieved by the previous group, particularly with regard to hitting. Talking about how important it is to have a consistent terminology and communication flow from one level to the next, how playing one minor league affiliate should be representative of playing the whole organization, this all signals how divergent the communication must have been in the previous coaching and how players were getting mixed signals and messages, sometimes encountering something that worked well for them and sometimes not. It doesn’t completely serve to explain what was a complete institutional collapse last season, but filtering things through multiple personnel with some oversight in offensive and defensive coordinators as we are now should serve to achieve greater consistency in message.
One should bear in mind that change rarely comes to industries that believe that they are doing just fine on their own. Rather, it’s entirely logical to infer that the old boys network of baseball past had functioned okay while it was ubiquitous, providing little incentive to shake things up. This type of thinking never permeated the sport because there was never a need for it as long as everyone was exercising the same biases and mistakes in thinking. Changes have been occurring throughout baseball for the last decade plus. In this instance, we just get to belatedly participate in it, as opposed to self-destructively fantasizing about whether or not it would actually be worse to have Amaro as our GM as we have been. If you want some added schadenfreude, you might also consider what DiPoto is executing now as an indictment of the kind of thinking that has been guiding the Angels organization in recent years.
The reflexive response to this sort of material would be to respond to the array of clichés offered with one more: Talk is cheap. Yet, if the talk is at least attempting to guide the team into a more progressive direction, we can hope that it will eventually find its way to a proper execution. I’m still more than a little irked about trading Patrick Kivlehan to the Rangers as a PTBNL, having long anticipated crafting a sign that read “KIVVLES AND HITS” and staking out some place in the bleachers. But for all the wheeling and dealing that was done over the offseason, we’ve retained a lot of the major prospects like Alex Jackson and D.J. Peterson and Tyler O’Neill, all of whom could benefit from some on-base related instruction. Relatively little of what was dealt was near-term in contribution, or major in its prospect status. A more coherent system of instruction could go a long way in reclaiming some of the earlier value that some of these pieces formerly had. We’re in it for a bit of a haul and we’re not going to rebuild the minor league depth overnight, but we at least know that we’re now moving in a direction that cannot be simplified into “Dingers are The Truth. Hit Dingers. Never give them up. Zduriencik 2014″.