Monday, January 09, 2006

I Swore I Wouldn't Do This!

I'm fairly certain the act has already been done in the M's blogosphere, but one of the things I considered doing with this blog was to take the questions asked on the weekly Mariners' Mailbag, and answer them how they REALLY should have been answered. I decided, though, that it just wouldn't be very nice. After all, this blog was founded partially to tone down some of the criticism of Bob "Pocket Lint" Finnigan, and I've really tried to shy away from the typical cynicism towards the mainstream Mariners' beat writers, columnists, and PIOs. I try to avoid being a jerk, and, as best I can, coming across as a jerk, so I really have to be careful with what I say and with what I do.

However, I just couldn't resist taking on the one question that raised an eyebrow or two on a blog author whose blog's subtitle is dedicated to a fellow southpaw (even if that fellow southpaw pitches much, much better than the particular blog author could even dream of).

Here's the question (which is a legitimate question, really, and one of the better ones that's actually slipped through the question moderator recently):

Looking into your crystal ball, will lefty Matt Thornton be in the Seattle bullpen in 2006? At times he looked solid and other times he struggled mightily.
-- Brad S., Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc.

And here's how new M's beat writer, Doug Miller, responds:

Thornton, who turns 30 in September, still has a couple of good things going for him. No. 1, he's out of options, meaning the Mariners risk losing him if they send him to the Minors. No. 2, he's still left-handed and throws very hard, which means he still has time to "figure it all out" and become a nasty big-league reliever.

Those are the reasons he'll probably make the team out of Spring Training, barring injury. The Mariners' newest two relievers, Marcos Carvajal and Luis E. Gonzalez, have options, so the team can afford to have them start the season in the Minors.

As for all of 2006, that remains to be seen. If Carvajal and/or Gonzalez, a lefty, are pitching a lot better and showing more upside than Thornton, it wouldn't be surprising to see Seattle make a change in the bullpen.

Now, I realize that Miller's new on the job, having taken over for Jim Street several weeks ago. Before you get out those scissors to cut him some slack, I'll point out that he's not a newbie to the MLB beat writing scene. I would hope he knows about Rule 5 Draft stuff, even if he think's it's called the "Rule V Draft." See, Luis E. Gonzalez was a Rule 5 Draft pick (from the major league portion of that draft) that we inherited as part of the Torrealba trade to Colorado. According to "RV" rules (as I like to abbreviate it, of course, knowing full well it should be "R5"), any player that is drafted as part of the major league portion of the draft has to be kept on that team's 25-man roster, or offered back to the team he was drafted from for $25,000. It's the little rules like that which people employed to write for (or any of its subsidiaries) should really be required to know. In stating that both Gonzalez and Carvajal "have options, so the team can afford to have them start the season in the Minors," he's showing that he completely missed this whole Rule 5 draft thing.

Oh, well. That's not the point I'm trying to make here. Heck, we all make mistakes! I have immense trouble spelling "definately" and "legitimately" without consulting a dictionary. I'm not getting paid for my writing, though, so I'm going to care a little less...

The point I'm REALLY trying to make is that I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that George Sherrill isn't mentioned along with the list of lefties fighting for a job in the 'pen. That his name is omitted could mean that George is a lock for the 'pen, barring, of course, injury (knocks very loudly on the wooden table underneath this keyboard, enough to startle the bark alarm) . Now (unless you're one of the guys Miller mentions) you know that, and I know that, but there's still that whole "J-Rod Washburn and Carl Everett are NOT signing with the M's!" white noise that snows within the PositivePaul "Pos-O-Tron" (sorry, Dr. D -- but, then again, hey, wouldn't the Detect-O-Vision benefit from a Pos-O-Tron plug-in module? Hmmmm...).

So, anyway, even though I swore I wouldn't do this, I'm breaking that vow and giving Doug Miller a mulligan for his reply to Brad from Wisconsin's question:

Indeed you have a clear picture of Thornton, Brad. Like his starting pitching counterpart, Ryan Franklin, he throws several good pitches every game. Unfortunately, it's the bad ones that hurt him -- and he throws several of those frequently, too.

The Mariners appear willing to give Matt Thornton one more shot, as they've invested a good deal of time and money into their former 1st-round draft pick. But when they acquired Marcos Carvajal and Rule 5 draft selection Luis E. Gonzalez from Colorado, and then claimed Jake Woods of the Angels' waiver wire, Matt Thorton's sweat glands have to be pumping! Look for the four of these guys to battle for one spot in the bullpen -- if manager Mike Hargrove wants to have more than two lefties in the bullpen, that is. Eddie Guardado's option was picked up to handle the closer's duties, and lefty George Sherrill is a lock for the bullpen. Carvajal might end up in Tacoma to return down his development path as a starting pitcher. So, the battle could be down to Thornton, Woods and Gonzalez, with Gonzalez and Woods having youth on their side (Thornton will turn 30 next September, while Woods will be 24 in September and Gonzalez will be 23 in Feburary).

I do realize that Miller likely has a word limit on his responses, nevermind a time limit to respond to them. Still, I feel that question deserves a better response.


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