Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Free Dan Rohn!

If Dan Rohn were managing the Seattle Mariners in 2006, they would win the American League's Western Division. I don't mean this in any sense as a knock at Mike Hargrove, who so far as I know hasn't hurt the team any, but the Mariners in the last few years have gone through a period, such as the Tigers had in 1976-1979, the Braves had about the same time and the KC-Oakland A's had in the late sixties, of bringing up a large number of talented players. I've no way to predict how long it will take to turn the collection of talented young kids into a winning team; Dan Rohn can do it overnight, and Whitey Herzog, too has that ability. More often it takes a period of several years. How many are there . . . Reed, Betancourt, Lopez, Sherrill, Putz, Woods, Green, Soriano, Fruto, Nageotte. Some pretty fair prospects, like Greg Dobbs, and some decent ballplayers, like Raul Ibanez and possibly Willie Bloomquist, are getting pushed out of the picure. One gets the feeling that somewhere between one and three of these kids is going to turn out to be a Hall of Famer, but who can tell which ones?

Okay, aside from the italicized words, the above paragraph is directly verbatim from The Bill James 1986 Baseball Abstract -- the opening paragraph on his discussion of the Mariners' 1985 season. Perhaps the liberty I've taken here assumes some bigger things -- that James thought more highly of the players Seattle promoted in that era than the current players are thought of. For those of you who were too young (or not even born yet) to remember -- the players James mentions include: Ivan Calderon, Jim Presley, Alvin Davis, Phil Bradley, Spike Owen, Danny Tartabull, Mike Moore, Karl Best, Matt Young and Edwin Nunez. Replace "Greg Dobbs" with Darnell Coles, "Raul Ibanez" with Dave Henderson and "Willie Bloomquist" with Spike Owen in the next-to-last sentence in the above paragraph. Yeah, Bill, those guys all went on to have HOF careers.


1986 was about the year I started getting interested in baseball. I specifically remember being very disappointed that the M's traded away Spike Owen for Rey Quinones. I cared about as much about Hendu (also a part of that trade) as I do for him now. Very little. Interestingly, replace "Dan Rohn" with "Dick Williams" in the paragraph (James' was talking about Williams), and you kinda get a sense for what was going on back then. Actually, at the end of 1986, James got his wish -- Dick Williams indeed took over the Seattle Mariners. In 1987, he took the team from 7th (and last) place to a more respectable 4th (in, again, a 7-team division). In 1988, however, Dick Williams became the last Mariners' manager to be fired during the season.

I don't expect the same fate for Dan Rohn.

Unlike Dick Williams, Rohn doesn't have any managerial experience above AAA. Nor does Dan Rohn have a World Series title to his credit. But Dan Rohn does have experience managing a good number of the players on the current M's roster. And manage them he did!

You've probably heard me say this, but I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face. Dan Rohn and Mike Hargrove managed a lot of the same players in 2005. You could argue that Hargrove had a better hand dealt to him, with more talent in his clubhouse. Dan Rohn didn't have Richie Sexson blasting 39 HRs -- Abraham "Roidin'" Nunez led the club with 17. Hargrove also had Moyer, Ichiro, Beltre (okay, well, Dobbs+Leone+Brown probably > 2005 Beltre), Ibanez and (to start the season) Winn. Granted, managing big leaguers is probably a lot more challenging than manging PCL'ers. But what Rohn did with those Tacoma Boys is nothing short than miraculous.

While the 2005 Rainiers were busy getting swept in the PCL Championship (after knocking off, however, the AAA Oakland A's), the 2005 M's were rolling out their cots in the AL West cellar. Rohn could've been accused of over-managing the Rainiers, but I dare anyone to say that about Hargrove. Sure, Hargrove swapped the lineup around, and there was even a Petagine sighting! But you knew things were just not right when Raul Ibanez was tossed for rightfully disagreeing with the home plate umpire's strike zone, giving Hargrove the opportunity to place his adopted son in the clean up spot. Nepotism. Keepin' it in the family since 2005.

Yeah. That's right. Willie Bloomquist hitting cleanup. Against someone other than Jarrod Washburn. To Bloomie's credit, though, he did manage to hit a double. And, his OPS is higher than Richie Sexson's again (by 40 points, currently even)! But, alas, even with that oddity (which I hope reverses course back towards Hendu'sLaw of Averages quite quickly), the team still has a worse record with Willie Bloomquist in the lineup than with him out of it.

I'm 99% certain that 95% of the die-hard fans that Howard Lincoln is trying to cater to have absolutely no idea who Dan Rohn even is. He's certainly no Lou Piniella, but were he to take over the club tomorrow, I guarantee they'd know who he was by the All Star Break.

I'm not sure that Dan Rohn can do a whole lot about the M's hitters going 1-15 with runners in scoring position tonight (and 1/34 in the series). That's something the hitters will have to sort out. However, I can guarantee you Dan Rohn would try something different. To borrow from Bill James' 1984 Baseball Abstract (italics added again to show my tweakages to his verbiage):

Look, I'm trying very hard to make these analyses a factual and nonjudgmental look at what the manager does. But. There has got to be a point, some point, at which some decisions are clearly and objectively dumb. Mike Hargrove has had Richie Sexson batting cleanup this entire year, and I'm not talking about a few games. I mean 2 1/2, 3 months. What on earth could have been in the man's head? Richie Sexson is a .205 hitter, with a .278 on-base percentage (and a .359 SLG). This is the man that you would choose to be the cornerstone of your offense? Man, that is insane. That is a crime against your ballclub. And he has good cleanup material on the ballclub. He has Jose Lopez, he has Ibanez, he has Carl Everett. He could've had the cleanup batter on 40, 50% more often than he did (and slugging 40-50% more). Of course their offense looks terrible. Any offense would look terrible with a .205 hitter in the cleanup spot.

Yep. These are the Mariners of the 1980s.

Sad, isn't it!

Free Dan Rohn.


At 5/31/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger marc w. said...

Good stuff...
I loved those mid 80s M's teams - I was always convinced they'd break out of it and, y'know, get to .500 next year. Didn't happen for a while.

I'm still a bit shocked at how Edwin Nunez turned out. Check out his baseball cube page, and check out how flat-out Felix-like he was. A dominant pitcher in a full season league at age 17. Unbelievable.

I liked Spike Owen, but I liked David Henderson even more. I remember cheering on the Red Sox in '86 because of Hendu, and he certainly didn't disappoint. Same with those early 90s As teams that he and Mike Moore contributed to - the highest highs in those days was seeing ex-Ms in important games.

I'd be fascinated to see what James thinks of this current group of young M's players. If anything, you'd think he'd be even higher on them. I mean, Jim Presley has a career OBP of .290. He was pretty good in the minors, but nothing out of this world. Owen had OBP skills but nothing else.
Calderon was an awesome player - I was gutted when the M's traded him for Scott Bradley (although I grew to love Bradley, largely for catching a no-hitter). Tartabull was good too - 43 HRs in AAA as a 22yo - remember when players (coughEdgarcough) were left in Calgary for a full year, or 2 full years, to put up amazing stats?

Ah, thanks for the trip down memory lane and for reminding us what we sort of knew already: this franchise has hurt you before, in basically every way. There's no new injury under the sun.

At 6/01/2006 6:42 PM, Blogger Mike L said...

If I remember right, Ted Williams was really high on Rey Quinones.

Or maybe he was really high when he said he was high on Rey Quinones.

At 5/28/2007 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i remember right ted williams was a nazi sympathizer and should have been incinerated with about 30 flamethrowers


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