Friday, June 30, 2006

What the $^%#?

I leave for 3 weeks, I'm still processing the fact that the M's are now in the thick of the division race and are 2 games over .500, and then I get this. Well thanks a lot, Bavasi.
Seriously, I'm trying to think of a worse trade the M's could've made. We gave up a brilliant fielding SS who's holding his own with the stick in AAA at age 20, and in return we get a 36 year old 1B/DH, because obviously, what this team needs is an older, less useful Richie Sexson.
Yes, Everett can't hit lefties, and should probably face righties exclusively. Yes, power is nice and we should add more if the opportunity presents itself. But isn't a right handed power with limited/zero defensive ability basically the definition of a freely available talent? Or at the very least, do you have to give up a phenomenal middle infield prospect to get it?
Perez is having a fabulous season, and if he keeps up his torrid pace, he'll add something to the M's, despite the obvious fact that he won't play a whole heck of a lot. But even so, was it worth it? Even if you believe (as I do), that Cabrera was a bargaining chip and would've been traded eventually, was this the return you expected? A RH DH? who'll turn 37 this year? I just threw up on my keyboard.

For all those who've continually demanded that the front office 'do something' or 'show that they're interested in winning' or any number of ridiculous cliches that seem dangerously close to 'make a move for the sake of making a move,' congratulations. You got what you wanted.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Book Review: "The Last Nine Innings" by Charles Euchner

With the M's taking the series from, and having the opportunity to sweep the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, it's definitely good timing for this post. I just finished reading the book, too, so I'd like to write down my thoughts while the book is still fresh in my mind.

Way back in March, I received a request from a publicist at a publishing company who thought I might be interested in reading and discussing a book on this blog. I was very humbled by this request, and responded more than willingly. I mean, heck, how often do you get requests for your thoughts on a book that isn't even out to the general public yet? The book is titled "The Last Nine Innings" and was written by Charles Euchner. When you go to Barnes & Noble or surf on Amazon, you'll see this cover (as was sent to me by the publicist):

After reading the quote from Andrew Zimbalist at the top of the cover, as well as the press release, I realized even before getting my copy that it had the potential of being the type of book that would really patch some holes in my knowledge of baseball, and indeed could change the way I watch a baseball game.

In spite of my reading skills being somewhat diminished (the less-polished stuff in blogs excepted), I looked forward to finding out what Charles Euchner brought to the table. Now, I drive myself to work, I rarely travel, and most of my non-family free time is spent blogging, taking and manipulating pictures, and playing music. Non-blogging reading time is unfortunately rather limited. I really, really enjoy reading, but it's taken a back burner to a lot of different things. Due to those facts, not to the quality of the book, it took me a little longer than I'd hoped to read.

But when I did get the chance to read, I was very, very engaged.

I'm a little rusty in writing book reviews, so please forgive me if this is incomplete or incomprehensive. After all, the last book review I wrote was in German -- for a German Lit class required for my German major. Yeah. That was tough.

To summarize in a nutshell what the book is about, I'll quote from the press release:
Charles Euchner, author of the new book The Last Nine Innings, says that pro baseball’s Triple Revolution has changed the game for good.

The Triple Revolution:

  • Globalization of Recruiting and Business
  • Scientific Analysis & Reduction of Physical Baseball Movements
  • Evolution Effect of Modernized Stat-Crunching
However, since Baseball is so bound to the history and culture of the nation, will fans accept the “new” game with the same love and respect that they did just decades ago? Will the post-9/11 World Series of ’01 (Yankees-Diamondbacks) be immortalized in the same way as the Series of ’52 (Yankees-Dodgers)? Will we ever have a “Gehrig-Luckiest-Man Moment” again?

These are some of the many compelling discussion/debate points stirred up by Euchner and The Last Nine Innings, which ingeniously uses the dramatic “insider” narrative of the 2001 World Series Game 7 between the Yankees and Diamondbacks to display all the aspects of pro baseball’s Triple Revolution.
Euchner uses vignettes from Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to dig a lot deeper into the modern game, as baseball rides the waves of change into the new high-tech millenium. He lets us in behind the scenes not only to Game 7, but to the intricate details behind the game in general. Euchner's approach is definitely all-encompassing and rather unique. Statheads will accept this book -- Euchner seems to have a good enough handle on the modern-day statistical analysis tools in baseball to discuss things from that perspective. He also understands the baseball mechanics side of things -- things that scout-types would relate to -- and discusses how modern-age technological advancements add to the kinesthetic knowledge arsenal of the baseball player and his coaching staff.

There are several things in the book that really spark discussion and debate. With grace and poise, Euchner enters the discussion around folks' love-hate relationship for Derek Jeter and his defense. It's the best discussion I've read on this debate yet. He really captures both sides of the debate well. I'll let you read the book to see his conclusions. ;-)

What caught my eye in particular, and kept me reading to find out if Euchner addressed, was a very important question:
At a time when so much of the game is reduced to scientific examination and action, I also wondered why the best players seemed to come from Latin America. If we have become a nation of superkids with superparents who hire supercoaches and use videos and stats and scientific research to teach throwing, hitting, running, and sliding to the privileged scions of the American Dream, why do so many great and innovative players come from places where bats need to be carved out of tree trunks? (Pregame, page XV)
Again, I don't want to play the role of spoiler, but Euchner does discuss this towards the end of the book. My initial response to the question was somewhat aligned with the conclusion Euchner reaches. Different cultures view success much differently. They approach things much differently than we do here in the U.S. The pages Euchner devotes to this discussion are very valuable lessons for all of us.

My photography, too, has progressed because of the sections Euchner devotes to pitching and hitting mechanics. I'm nowhere near an expert in this arena, having spent very little of my life playing baseball. I'm just now starting to grasp the stuff that is second-nature to scout types and bloggers like Jeff Sullivan and Jeff "Dr. Detecto" Clarke. But I'm a devoted fan, and more than willing to learn more about this kind of stuff. The Clement-Thome Flash Morph I created after reading Dr. Detecto's comparison definitely was aided by knowledge I gained by reading "The Last Nine Innings." Euchner's book has definitely opened my eyes wider to this aspect of baseball.

In short, this book has definitely delivered as Zimbalist suggests along the top of the cover: "You'll never watch a baseball game the same way." I'm still not sure how this opportunity fell into my lap, but I'm very, very thankful it did. I know that I'll read through this book again and have several other things to discuss. I'm not sure if I can attend any meetings, but I do believe it would be a good book for a future gathering of Deanna's Book Club (the next one being next weekend -- July 8th).

I don't have an affiliate account set up from Amazon, but you can get the book there. I also saw it at my local Barnes & Noble. Don't let the fact that it discusses the Yankees scare you. It's a very good book!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Diagnostics, June 2006

Since June is almost through, and it's been awhile, I'd like to take a moment to run this team through the diagnostics.

1) George Sherrill > 50 IP?

After some indecision as to his role, it seems that Hargrove has settled into using George as a LOOGY -- the past couple of games, of course, being an abberation moreso than a norm. He's currently on pace for 42-43 innings -- the same pace as when last we took a look at the diagnostic dipstick. Again, I'll reiterate:


Corey Brock seems to really like writing about George. Yet another article, pointing out his sheer dominance vs. lefties, appeared last week. Probably goes back to Brock's days as a Tribune reporter, in the Cheney neighborhood. It's common knowledge his lefty-righty splits are pretty dog-gone wide. But still, as the season progresses, George settles in and becomes a better pitcher. When he gets the chance, of course.

I'm getting ready to pull those "Free George Sherrill" placards and banners out from the burn barrel.

2) Where does Lopez start the season (a.k.a. how much playing time does Willie Bloomquist get)?

While he did start in favor of Lopez last week, Bloomquist has become the platoon partner for Jeremy Reed, not Lopez, as I had suspected. We can give Hargrove a mulligan for starting Bloomquist at second while Lopez recovered from injury. That's actually a good role for Bloomquist -- provided those starts are few and far between. Platooning with Reed is still not a good role for Bloomie.

As pretty much everyone in the blog-o-sphere recommended (and I did last diagnostic check-in), they moved Lopez out of the 2-hole and into the 3-hole. That's been an OK move -- in that moving Beltre to the 2-hole has helped him. Looking at Jose's splits, however, we see that his OPS has dropped over 100 points, since moving down a spot in the order. Mostly due to a 100+ point drop in SLG. His OBP is basically the same, but his BA and SLG are way down. Not exactly sure what to make of his 96 at-bats there.

But the fact that he's starting to open some eyes nationally can't be all bad. We'll keep him, thanks.

3) Will Kenji Johjima and Rafael Chaves have any measurable impact on the pitching staff?

Dr. Detecto's recent thoughts suggest that Gil Meche has most benefitted from Kenji Johjima's pitch calling ability. The other starters don't seem to be quite as comfortable. John Hickey backs this theory up, reminding the M's pitchers that they can "always, always, always just say no" to a pitch that Kenji calls for. So, while Kenji could be credited for having a positive impact on Gil, the same reasoning could allow one to say that he's caused the others to struggle. I'm still not sure what the diagnostic reads. Same on Chaves. He seems to be behind the scenes, and no one's saying anything really positive or really negative. I'd say that Kenji may have had a slight impact, but Chaves hasn't. Too hard to tell, really.

4: How far will the "Hinge" players who disappointed last season bounce back?
  • Ichiro -- what more needs to be said about Ichiro, except: He's BAAAAAAAACK!!! I'll give him his customary exclamation point back: Ichiro!
  • Adrian Beltre -- En fuego! Still smokin' hot since last we checked in. The move to the 2-hole has worked out brilliantly for Adrian. Not exactly sure why, but it's working. Not something I'd tinker with right now.
  • Jeremy Reed -- stock is still falling. Definitely isn't bouncing back. Still not sure what's happening here. Still solid defensively. Should hit better, but Hargrove's platoon plan can't be helping.
  • Joel Pineiro -- Oops. Definitely won't receive any player-of-the-month awards anytime soon.
  • Gil Meche -- Still on pace for 175+ innings (actually 189, to be exact). Has been mostly effective, and somewhat consistent as of late. Trade value couldn't be higher -- except if the M's are going to make a run for the division, who'd they replace him with?
5) Will PositivePaul actually miss having Ryan Franklin in the rotation?

Not yet. Especially since cRyan has yet to relinquish his title as Sir Home Run. Philly hasn't made him a starter yet, although we'll see what happens with Myers pulling his head out of his rump and facing his family problems head on. Doubt it'll happen, though. He's a bullpen mop-up guy now. We got plenty of those in Seattle. We need a starting pitcher who won't blow a 5-run first-inning gift from the offense.

Other than that, I'd be less-than-complete in my thoughts if I neglected to mention how Hargrove's decision making is still maddening me. Not sure if I blame him or Mateo for giving up two runs for George tonight. Definitely both. The M's are winning in spite of Hargrove. He really tried to blow it tonight, but Kenji and Richie had somethin' to say about it.

Two things worth celebrating, though, at this diagnostic check-up. The M's will not be losers in June -- the first time they've had a winning month in a long, long time. Also -- they're now back to .500 late in the season. My guess of 80-85 wins isn't out of the question, which is a HUGE improvement, and would ultimately be a better measure of the direction this team is headed.

It's getting exciting again. That's all I ask, really!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Austin Bibens-Dirkx

I made yet another visit to Cheney -- twice in one week! Except this time was devoted to hanging out with my sister and her family, and my wife and our son. It was more family time than photography time. I sat in the GA section on the third base side for the first time, and it was my sister's family's first visit to Cheney. The pre-game tailgate pizza fest we had was fun, and I enjoyed some good beer before we got in the gates. That's another strike against good photo taking ;-)

But I still brought my camera.

I'll be honest with you -- it was tough to watch the game, since I was juggling my son and taking him to his many trips to the restroom. I missed the first, but I did see the other two doubles that Snelling laced between the center and right fielders. They were pretty much right in the same spot, IIRC.

In the top of the 8th inning, Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who the M's had just selected not even three weeks ago in the 2006 amateur draft, made an appearance at Cheney. I didn't know a ton about him, but I did know that it seemed odd that a 16th-round draft choice would be in AAA only weeks after the draft, and that he was a side-arm-throwing righty from University of Portland. Because a picture says 1,000 words, rather than attempt to go all Dr. D on ya (and analyze his motion), I'll throw up a photo:

I shot 6-7 sequences of his pitching motion, and converted one of them to a Flash file. I also placed a few stills of his pitching motion in the photo album from tonight's game.

He pitched pretty decently -- 50 pitches, 31 for strikes; 5 K's and 1 walk in 2 innings, with only 2 hits. I couldn't really tell from my vantage point what the ball angle looked like, and we left right after the top of the 8th. But considering he was merely a 16th-rounder, and just starting his professional career, I'll take 5 K's to 1 walk in two innings from any reliever!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Tonight marked simultaneously the return (from the DL) and debut (in AAA) of Jeff "Don't Call Me Matt!" Clement -- and I was there! Both my son and I have terrible colds, and I figured we needed some fresh air. What better way to get it than to drive up to Cheney (thank goodness the DayQuil had worn off by the time we left Oly)? I was in bad need of a Cheney fix, too, so the fresh air is just what the doctor prescribed. Besides, my wife needed a break after having spent practically the entire weekend as well as the first two days of this week taking care of everything around the house. I hope Oly Rainers Fan doesn't get sick (we joined O.R.F. after my son's 6th-inning potty break)!

I was trying to really balance paying attention to my son with taking enough pictures to satisfy my craving. So, instead of the 2000 or so I usually take, I actually didn't even fill up one card. I only shot 805. I know, I know -- I'm a slacker...

Actually, I obviously took plenty. I've been sifting through 'em for the last hour or so, and still haven't completed. I love having a better lens -- in spite of having more good pictures to sift through. I'll try and have the album up later tonight (or, how about right now). But until then, here's one picture of the return of the debutant, dusting off his bat (hey, it hasn't been used for 6 weeks!):

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Move to the NL, anyone???

With the win tonight, the M's are 7-0 vs. NL teams. That's just a weeeee better than their record vs. the A's ;-)

Good to see Adrian Beltre not miss a beat at Chavez Ravine. He did pretty well the last time he played there, too. So far, the experiment of moving him to the 2-slot has worked pretty well. I'm still curious whose idea it was.

After my mini-rant as to why I'm not totally opposed to the thought of Barry Bonds in a Mariners uniform, it wouldn't surprise me to see folks scatter away from here quite rapidly. Has it been three weeks -- is marc w back from Europe to rescue y'all from me yet??? :-)

I'm going to do my darndest to get to Tacoma on this next homestand. Hopefully this cold that I developed over the weekend (God's revenge for my thoughts on Bonds? Hmmm...) will disappear, and I'll get to see some real live baseball. Especially with Jeff Clement making his AAA debut. It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting around at the first annual Lookout Landing gathering (waiting for the rain to subside so the game could be played) and Jon Wells was handing off his camera equipment to Jeff and Devin so they could go down to Corvallis to cover the USC vs. Beavers game (and interview the newly-drafted Mariner catcher of the future).

But let's go back to today. In spite of a less-than-stellar start by Pineiro, double-whammied by him having to hit (which, really, with our DH, is that a real issue?), the Mariners bats showed that they're still awake. Against yet another hot pitcher even. Why we seem to have little problem with NL teams, I'll never really know. Is it inferior talent? I wouldn't say so. Sure the Giants are an old team. But lets not forget that the San Diego Padres came to Safeco for our first Interleague series as the hottest team in baseball. And the M's swept 'em away! The Dodgers' offense isn't something to brush aside like we do the Royals'. Again, Brad Penny is having a pretty darn good season. Making that Lo Duca trade look a whole lot better.

Am I alone in thinking that the M's would really benefit from switching leagues? Lets, say, switch with Colorado, and have more legitimate reason to stoke the Padres rivalry, right? Yeah, we'd lose out on the DH. That wouldn't bother me, really, except that it might make the "Edgar" award a bit odd for the rest of the world.

It would sure make life a whole lot more enjoyable than watching the M's get beat 10-12 times a year by the A's.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Safeco + Bonds = 2007 Good Idea!

I realize it's waaaay too early to even start thinking about the possibility of Barry Bonds wearing Mariner Blue in 2007. At this point, even discussing it could be considered rather unfruitful, since it would be mere speculation whether or not he'd actually play here, let alone get the Howard Lincoln seal of approval. So, pardon me for jumping on the hot story cliche of the week.

But what if I told you that one of the things I'd heard over the offseason (from a couple of different people) that Bavasi was at least a little interested in seeing what the Giants would want in trade for Bonds? When I first heard that, my initial reaction went something like this: "No way! a) it would never happen - Howard Lincoln wouldn't let it happen; b) Barry Bonds would not want to come to Seattle and c) a lot of M's fans would disown the team." I filed it in the back of my mind as one of the rumors to completely ignore.

Now that I've had a few months to mull it over, however, not only am I not entirely averse to it happening -- I now believe it could be a very, very, very good thing for the M's to seriously consider this offseason. Especially after watching the game tonight.

Hear me out.

Why Barry Bonds Needs the Mariners in 2007, and why the Mariners would be completely stupid not to make him a high priority.

1) The shell of Barry Bonds, at 50-75% of the player he was a few years ago is still a better hitter than 100-120% of any Mariner under contract for 2007, and any in the M's farm system. Yes. Even Jeff Clement. Even "Doyle". Even Ichiro (although Ichiro's probably as good in his own way -- but he still cannot drive himself in, and needs a Bonds-type hitter to bring him home). Considering all the controversial stuff, too, he's still one of the best hitters of all time.

2) He's a West Coast kind of guy. He'd probably love the isolation from the east coast media spotlight that our little flannel-shirt wearing, latte-gulping corner of the US (right across the street from Alaska, right?) provides -- the same isolation that causes other potential free agent targets to avoid the M's. Without a doubt, he'd still get tons of media attention. Something tells me, though, that the extra buffer between Seattle and the rest of the country might actually attract him.

3) Again, even at 42, he'd be THE DEFINITION of Lefty Sock. Even better than a 5-years-younger Ken Griffey Junior. The M's are still in desperate need for true lefty sock. Sure -- he'd be another hitter coming from the NL, and an over-the-hill one at that. But, seriously, does anyone believe that would be a problem for him? In Safeco as a Lefty? Worst-case scenario, he'd put up numbers similar to Edgar's age 40 season. Except, being a lefty in Safeco, I'd give him about 10-15 more HRs (and 10-15 more runs scored -- bumping 'em closer to 100 in my 'worst case scenario').

4) In spite of his legs being darn near completely useless, and being one of the sure players, like Edgar, who would certainly stretch a sure-fire double into a single ;-), he'd do just fine on the bases. The Mariners could offer him the DH spot, unlike his current team, and still allow him to hide in left field during interleague play.

5) He'd fill up the stadium, darn near every night -- even during the mid-week afternoon matinees vs. Kansas City. Look at the crowd tonight. Do you honestly think that the people there showed up to see the return of Randy Winn? To boo and hiss at Omar in their unforgiven hatred for his Arthur Rhodes earring whiny-ness? To come out of their Giants-loving closet? To see "King" Felix? Well, okay, I'll grant you there were probably a lot of people there who specifically went to see the matchup between Bonds and Felix. Indeed, though, I'd be willing to gamble that a significant number of people specifically bought tickets tonight to a) Boo Barry b) hope they catch HR# 718 and/or c) see one of the best hitters ever to play the game.

6) The extra ticket sales alone would give Howard Lincoln at least half-an-ear open to considering it. It would be an absolutely brilliant business decision. You wanna see a 2/3rds empty stadium fill up to at least 2/3rds full overnight? You want to make an increasingly-apathetic fanbase start giving its attention to your team again -- overnight? About the only way the M's could do just that would be by signing Barry "Freakshow" Bonds.

Sometimes, even in the eyes of the CEO, negative attention is a good thing. It's a whole lot better, when you're trying to increase revenue, than having their attention diverted elsewhere -- especially when their loyalty is rapidly morphing into apathy. An apathetic fan is an Entertainment-Business-CEO's worse nightmare. If folks don't care, they won't buy what you're selling. If they can be entertained elsewhere, they will be. Negative attention -- the right kind of negative attention, of course -- can be a good thing (and I'll try un-confuse you about this a little later). Would there be a lot of fans that would disown the M's? Sure there would (probably people, though, who don't spend very much direct money on the team in the first place). But there'd be enough other fans more interested in buying tickets -- even if it's specifically to boo Bonds -- to fill in whatever holes those fans open up. Definitely more interest than there likely is right now. It was sure something to hear the crowd tonight -- fervantly booing when Bonds first strolled up to the plate; exuberantly cheering when he whacked the ball into the stands for #718; pumping their fists and hi-fivin' complete strangers when Putz K'd Bonds on a splitter to end the game.

It's about the only time this year that I can honestly say that each and every person in attendance at Safeco got more than their money's worth. As we saw in 1995 -- it's the allure of seeing these types of things that consistently draws fans in. Excited fans, too, help to create excited players. Positive energy from the crowd helps create positive energy for the players. But I'm starting to ramble, and go in other directions...

7) Barry Bonds probably will not reach 755 this season. I'm guessing that he wants to cross that line. He's a selfish dude, after all (or so I'm told :-) Even if he does, though, I'm sure he'd at least consider 800 to be a nice target to cross. I'm sure Sadaharu Oh's 868 is safe for awhile, but as long as Bonds is mostly healthy, I'm sure he'd strongly consider shooting for 800. As much as it pains me to believe that my all-time favorite hitter's record is about to be broken -- and indeed one of the most revered sports records anywhere -- it's inevitable that Bonds is going to be the next one to carry the torch. I can hate the guy all I want, but it'll do me absolutely no good to fret about my favorite player's record being broken.

I can, however, turn that negative into a positive. If it's inevitable that he's going to break that record, then I'd MUCH rather have him do it wearing the uniform of my favorite team than have him draw negative notariety to a pitcher wearing that same uniform. If you haven't read Bedir Than Average/Dave J Clarke's "Go Boldly" thoughts, go read them right now. If signing Bonds in 2007 isn't the very essence of Bedir's Boldly, then I don't know what is. The thing that Bedir writes that sticks out in my head here especially is this part:
At the end of the offseason either your team gets the guys that make a difference or one of the other teams do. This problem is made much worse when it is a division rival and/or a perrenial playoff attender gets that player.
More likely than not, the 2007 Bonds is one of those guys. The sting of missing out on getting a .900 OPS 35-40 HR guy is made much, much worse by having him do some damage to the win/loss record as a member of one of our division rivals. I seriously doubt he'd cross the bay and finish off his career in Oakland. There's a much, much better chance of him heading down to "Los Angeles" and borrowing the Angels' DH spot. Not sure about Texas, but the HR-friendly confines of Ameriquest would definitely help pad his HR totals.

8) Now about that negative attention thing... Take a specific look at the negative attention that surrounds Bonds. Like I said before -- negative attention can be better than no attention (aka apathy). There are, for good reasons of course, boundaries to the kind of negative attention, though, that should be drawn. Barry Bonds is no OJ Simpson. He's no Leonard Little (did I just see Citizen K's ears perk up a bit???). He does have the reputation for being a "Jerk" (although I cannot say for myself; I've never met him personally). Even if he's a world class "jerk", it's not like he's the only world class "jerk" in professional sports. The two biggest knocks on Barry, then, are that a) he's a roidin' cheater and b) he's the bullseye for one of the biggest scandals ever to hit MLB (steroids). Okay, well, the M's have kinda cornered the market of players who've been suspended for steroids. What's one more? That is, provided he actually tests positive.

It certainly appears that there's overwhelming evidence that he's a steroid user, but while non-prescribed steroid use is technically illegal - it's not like it's an isolated problem in MLB. If Barry Bonds was truly the only one who caused it to be a scandal, then you have to say that Bud Selig would exercise his full authority and ban him from baseball entirely. All of the 'cheaters' equally tarnish the game. Heck, Gaylord Perry was an over-the-hill milestone-coveting known cheater that at least a few M's fans, I'm sure, were able to cheer for.

Just because one who allegedly is in the 'roid' crowd has some monster numbers, doesn't mean that he wouldn't have some pretty huge numbers were he not a part of that crowd. If he is a roider, would they help him? Probably. But would they help him any more than they help the other users who were equally neurotic about and had similar habits with their usage? Probably not. His alleged "jerk-ness" and the fact that he's encroaching on one of the most coveted records in all of sports probably exacerbate the negative attention thrown his direction. There are much, much worse things that negative attention could be focused on. I'm not giving Bonds immunity by any means -- I'm just trying to keep some perspective. The evidence I have leads me to believe that more likely than not, he's a cheatin', roidin', world-class jerk.

9) One other reason it'd be good for Bonds: The M's indeed have the cash. Anyone who believes that the M's are a small-market team that can't afford to give a 1-year deal in the neighborhood of Bonds' asking price probably doesn't understand the business of baseball. If you can honestly look at the Forbes stuff, and have other evidence that might convince me that they don't have the cash, I'm willing to listen. But I believe the M's can afford Bonds, and that Bonds himself would benefit from remaining on the West Coast.

I mentioned the media isolation, and the lefty-hitting friendliness of Safeco. The fans are also quite willing to forgive and forget, as long as you're helping their cause. While there certainly would be folks that would boo, and folks that would be mean, the majority of fans here are terrific people. It's a very positive environment. Again -- I look at how the Safeco crowd applauded -- cheered madly -- Bonds' home run. Bonds himself even acknowledged that Safeco is a beautiful park, and a positive place to play. He acknowledged the fans, and the great atmosphere that Safeco provides. If there's a place that's similar both in culture and in climate to Bonds' Bay Area roots, it's Seattle. He'd be darn near right at home playing here.

I can't believe I just spent 2.5 hours of my time spelling out my thoughts on Barry Bonds. The likelihood of him wearing a Seattle uniform in 2007 is miniscule at best. Still, there are reasons why it should not only not be a definite "no" but, in fact, should be one of the things that Howard Lincoln and Co. should very strongly consider this off-season.

I'd certainly have a hard time seeing Bonds in an M's uniform. He's one of my least-favorite players. But I cannot deny that he's one of the best hitters of all time, and (even on bad 42-year-old knees) the shell of Barry Bonds would be the best hitter the M's could inject into a woefully impotent offense. The thought of him taking those hitting skills to Anaheim, Oakland, or even Texas frightens me terribly.

The dream of exciting, edge-of-your-seat, stadium-filled baseball, like we witnessed tonight, however, sweeps under the carpet most of the guilt I might feel for rooting for the M's to sign him.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

News out of Oakland...

The M's are back to their losing ways, after having taken three consecutive series. Okay, so that's really not "news" per se. Didn't surprise me. Did it surprise you? Doubt it. I'm pretty sure all of us, whether optimistic or pessimisic (or, like me, realistic) believed that the M's had very little chance of actually leaving Oakland with another series victory in their back pockets.

We can hope that our $9 million pitcher will salvage at least ONE game -- especially since our offense very possibly could get back on track against a pitcher who hasn't fared exactly how saber-dweebs and other GM-wanna-bes thought he would. Sure, I was one of the disappointed that the M's didn't give Loaiza the contract that the A's did. I didn't really care a whole ton about what pitchers the M's brought in as long as a) cRyan Franklin wasn't one of them and b) they went out and plucked two free agent starters off the vine. They got halfway there, and while I would've also liked Weaver a ton, that signing hasn't exactly panned out either.

But, then again, the problem so far has been the bats. Once again, the M's hitters made Joe Blanton look like a Cy Young candidate, and they've managed to score only two runs in the two games.

Here's some good news, though:
  • With two hits today, Ichiro is officially still on fire!
  • Adrian Beltre had another base hit, extending his streak to 8 games. He's boosted his OPS 15 points in the last week. That's progress!
  • Jose Lopez has a 5-game hitting streak of his own. Startin' to heat up again himself.
Sexson's starting to really, really worry me. I came across this old LeoneForThird thread, reminding me of how I was going to sit down and type up why I felt Sexson was a better signing than Delgado. The gist of it was going to discuss their BB-Ref comps, and a little analysis I tried to do that showed how Sexson was the lesser risk of the two (based on those comps). It's interesting to look at Richie's comps from age 30 on, in light of Carlos Delgado's from 33 on. Given a choice of Richie for 4-5 years or Delgado for 4-5 years, I would've probably taken Richie after looking at that info. Hopefully Richie starts proving me correct. Man, it's painful watching him whiff. Almost even worse than watching Cammy do it. At least Cammy was a joy to watch defensively, and seemed to be a bit more fan-friendly.

Let's go M's!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Writer's Block.

Wow. Hard to believe I haven't had anything to say for the last week. Actually, I've been talking a lot as per usual on places like Lookout Landing, etc. But, I've neglected this place a bit, in spite of actually wanting to write on a lot of different things. I got a new computer, which has taken up a lot of my time setting up. I still have to find a few software CDs to load important programs like Photoshop and Premier. I've also been appeasing the wife by driving all over the place loading stuff for redecorating the hot tub room. Hopefully the load of cardboard I hauled off last night is it for awhile.

A couple of things are actually swirling in my mind...

1) This series in Oakland I believe is a true gauge for the season's outlook. If the M's win the series, then I'll start to give them some credit for actually turning their season around. Sure, we can complain about Meche's FIP, and that our DH is hitting for a negative VORP or something of the sorts. But if the M's are able to take at least two of the next three games, when they don't have to face the likes of Harden or Zito, I will be a lot more willing to say that the M's are a team finding themselves and pushing their losing ways behind them.

What do I expect to happen? Well, they've disappointed me so much before, that I'm sort of conditioned to believe that they'll get swept. What's different, though, about this latest battle is that they've been able to have some success against some tough, tough pitchers. And, they've made some not-so-tough pitchers look like the not-so-tough pitchers they are. That's actually been more of a sign for me that things are starting to turn around.

I would like to hope that this recent success gives Hargrove something to build upon. A less-than-winning team, though, shows signs like this -- win 2-3 games then lose 2-3 games; win 5-6 then lose 5-6, etc. That's what .500 and below clubs do. They're hot then immediately cold. They tease you with their success then fall flat on their face.

That last-place object in the mirror is closer than it appears.

2) Speaking of Hargrove, I'm not yet willing to click on the "mute" button for "Free Dan Rohn" campaign. Sure, the M's have been winning. There are a few things I'm willing to attribute it to. I'm not convinced Hargrove has had much to do with it. I've been pondering if having Adrian Beltre batting second in the order is a move that Hargrove made on his own, or if Rohn had anything to do with it. Nevertheless, Beltre does have a 6-game hitting streak and (SAMPLE SIZE ALERT) has hit .278/.328/.481/.809 in the 12 games he's batted second. There's still the Reed/Bloomquist platoon split and the continual wilting of Petagine on the vines of the bench. He's still using George as a LOOGY (which is probably OK as long as Putz and Soriano continue to do well -- although Soriano does have a tinge of gopheritis), and really hasn't changed a whole lot. We just happened to have faced some of the league's bottom feeders. Of course, good teams beat these types of teams consistently and struggle with the good teams. This series with Oakland, again, will be a good gauge of the direction in which the M's are headed.

3) I've juuuuust this morning finished reading a totally good book. For me, that's somewhat of a major accomplishment, since reading time (away from the blogs, of course) is practically nil. I'll try and do it justice by having a review posted as soon as I can. It definitely gave me a deeper perspective on a lot of different aspects of how the game of baseball is played within MLB.

Other than that, I hope the weather and my schedule clears up so I can catch Tacoma during this current homestand. I've got to get Cruceta and Little G added to my photo database. Kinda funny how the M's are playing Oakland and the R's are playing Oakland's AAA club.

Free Dan Rohn! Go M's!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My take on Morrow

Yes, like 99.9999% of my M's blog-o-sphere mateys, I was very disappointed that the Mariners didn't take the "BAP" (Best Available Player) -- considered to be Miller in the case of this particular draft. I, too, was baffled as to why they didn't take Lincecum, although I was more prepared to deal with that decision. I'd heard rumblings that the M's weren't interested, so I was already aware that it was possible they'd pass on him. But Miller -- who darn near everyone rated as the best player in the draft? Hmmmpfffh.

If you can recall, I was hoping that the M's wouldn't draft Jeff Clement last year. So what do they go out and do? Exactly what I was hoping they wouldn't. This year, I saw very few scenarios where both Lincecum AND Miller fell to the M's, and abosolutely zero circumstances where we'd pass on both of them. What do the M's do? Exactly what I was saying they wouldn't.

Gee, you think I've developed a sense of learned helplessness from this team yet?

Moving on, I guess, past my disappointment, I'd like to try and objectively look at what Morrow brings to the table.

Reasons to be excited about Morrow:
1) Pitching Motion.
I finally took a look at the scouting video on him today, and watched the stuff they put on the news. I'm not nearly the pitching analyst Jeff Sullivan or Dave Cameron are -- not even close -- but I will say that indeed Morrow looks like a pitcher who's a good one. In the clips I saw, I'd definitely agree that his pitching motion is a thing of beauty. He looks like a polished major-leaguer right now. I can't think of who he reminds me of right now, but I'm sure it'll come to me.

2) Pitching Style
He's not the soft-throwing crafty lefty that the M's have an abundance of in their minor league system. He's definitely a power pitcher. It's nice to have one of those, really. 'Specially since the M's treatment of B-Liv has me a bit worried.

3) Bob Fontaine REALLY Wanted Him
Look. The M's have been watching Morrow for years. They know what they're getting. They're very excited about it. He seems to be excited to come here. He's a good fit for the organization, and will probably sign quickly. No dinkin' around here. Bob Fontaine has a very decent track record, and I trust his judgment far, far greater than I trust my own.

Reasons to be concerned about Morrow:
1) All this talk about moving him to the bullpen...
When you draft this highly, and you need starting pitching depth, you don't draft a guy who's upside is being a relief ace. In this Morrow's case, folks are saying that that's probably his floor, and his ceiling is a MOR starter. It'd be okay by me if they ease him into the majors as they did with Pineiro -- as a regular reliever coming out of the 'pen after starting for a few seasons in the minors. But even were he to develop into a dominant closer, I still would've preferred a starting pitcher. We've got guys who are already being developed as closers. Pretty good ones, too. Need I repeat the "Free George Sherrill" mantra? Our system desperately needs ace-type rotation support. And a lot of it.

2) Doesn't have a complete aresenal of pitches or pin-point control.
Again, this is why some folks see him in the bullpen. Hard-throwing righty with 2 plus/plus-plus pitches. Soriano, anyone? Of course, I'm not sure I believe that is all that big of an issue. I'm just pointing out what others believe. Count me as one of the "Soriano for Rotation" bandwagoners. I'm fairly confident that Morrow will overcome this and develop into a nice starting pitcher.

3) Sat out the end of the 2005 season with a sore shoulder.
Great. That's all we need. Another pitcher with labrum issues. Morrow himself thought it was torn. This is actually the thing that frightens me the most. Certainly the time off should've helped. And his relatively low innings with Cal this season don't seem to be an issue. He didn't lose his velocity in 2006, and has pitched very well. But still, that frightens me faster than you can say "Gil Meche!"

I'm nowhere near qualified to really make any further judgments on any of the other players we selected. Looks like we snagged two of Jim Callis' April 20th list of Top-20 Players. That's probably a good thing, granted we sign 'em. It might take me a bit to get over passing on Miller. The thing that really yanks my chain, though, is that the M's used 2/3rds of their first-day picks on RHPs. Were there no power bats available? At all? We picked up Adam Moore, a catcher from Univ. Texas (Arlington) that seems to have some power. But so far, that seems to be it.

We definitely could use some serious offensive reinforcements. Here's to hoping we find one or two in the 32 rounds later today...

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Doomsday 6-6-06?

Lots going on today. The Twins are in town and the rematch of the Royal Rumble will take place on Royal Brougham. Felix vs. Liriano Take II.

In a couple of hours, the M's will have a new pitcher. I think it's a foregone conclusion that the M's will use their #5 overall pick for a pitcher, anyway... We don't know which one yet, but latest rumors have both Lincecum and Miller possibly falling to where the M's select (and beyond). I've read a lot about the draft, but I still can't say I'm knowledgable enough to know who the best player for the M's are. Every one of the top 5-10 pitchers discussed on the blogs seem to be at least somewhat appealing. I'd like to hope that the kid we draft today at #5 could be ready to go in a year or two and would be around for a long time. Or, like Langston, net us a decent cache of players who will help us win playoff games (if not championships).

If indeed both Lincecum and Miller fall to the M's and they select neither, I'm going to be quite disappointed. One thing's for sure, though. I seriously doubt that will happen.

Being 6/6/6, I suppose, there's all kinds of things that could happen today. Satan worshippers everywhere have probably already performed their midnight ritualistic sacrifices. Whatever's your thing, I suppose. Not something I'm interested in, that's for sure.

As a result of the extra attention on beelzebub/lucifer/the beast/whatever, I'm wondering if any of the following will happen:

1) Jeremy Reed will actually get to start tonight against the lefty. Bloomquist's been starting a lot, so he needs some rest.

2) Felix will not surrender a home run. Nor will he throw a ton of first pitch fastballs. Sure it was the Royals, but IIRC, they pointed out on the post game show that he threw a lot of off-speed stuff early.

3) Eddie Guardado will get a hot foot. With his old mateys hangin' out in the visitor's clubhouse, it'll be interesting to see what sort of pranks are played on him. Especially since the Twins had an extra day to plot and ploy, having arrived yesterday.

That's a few things. I wonder if there's any other oddities that we could attribute to someone selling their soul to satan today. Got any ideas?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Journey to Distant, Wild, Baseball-less Countries

I shall be away from baseball for the next three weeks, I'm afraid. I haven't exactly been tossing off posts every hour at home, but I'm flying to europe tomorrow for that great, mysterious sporting event of theirs, the World Cup.
If anyone here has any interest in that, I'll endeavor to write something (though it may need to wait until I get back). If people think soccer is for losers, then I won't spoil the fine-tuned, focused, analytical marvel that is Mariners Morsels.

In the meantime, someone needs to get down to Tacoma and see what's wrong with Bobby Livingston. As Jeff at Lookout Landing pointed out, it's starting to get worrying. I'm sure he'll get back into the groove, but for those among us (and I'm including myself here) who've always been suspicious about how much promotions/demotions/layoffs affect a pitcher, or how something as ineffable and pop-psychology as 'confidence' matters (how can you be in AAA without confidence?), we're starting to find out the answer: these things matter *a lot*.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Brainstorming Ideas for Getting Butts Back Into Safeco

Not that it's my job, or anything. I probably shouldn't even care one bit how many fans show up to Safeco. In fact, it might be detrimental to actually have people showing up again, as a sizable dip in profits may actually force the ownership group's hand into removing Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln (the only constants in the front office blunderings).

But I digress...

With the real crowd-drawers showing up to Safeco this weekend, it's going to be very interesting to see what attendance will be like. Sure, trading card night might actually cause several baseball card store owners to hire some twelve year olds to walk through the gates 4-5 times with CF bleacher seat tickets to pad their inventories as well as the M's "attendance" totals. If that didn't happen, I'd be willing to bet that they could give every person in attendance two sets and still have left-overs. The weather's supposed to be crappy all weekend (with the exception of a few hours of Saturday sunshine, perhaps), and the team that's coming in is the only team in baseball that's arguably worse than the Mariners (although they made a change in the front office, and nearly simultaneously took two of three from Oakland).

With that in mind, and somewhat inspired by Gomez and my mateys over at Lookout Landing, I've brainstormed some ideas for boosting the attendance totals at Safeco. It'd probably take one or two of these ideas for me to actually want to spend money directly on the Mariners again. Without further adieu...

1) Randomly-selected fan dictates and delivers to the umpires tonight's starting lineup (excluding the starting pitcher).

Boy, that'd be an interesting one to see. An M's 'Net Rat would probably put together something like this:

Ichiro, RF
Reed, CF
Lopez, 2B
Ibanez, LF
Petagine, 1B
Johjima, C
Everett, DH
Beltre, 3B
Yu-Bet, SS

A non-M's 'Net Rat would throw together something like this:

Ichiro, RF
Bloomquist, CF
Sexson, 1B
Morse, DH
Ibanez, LF
Rivera, C
Beltre, 3B
Lopez, 2B
Betancourt, SS

If they could coax Dan Wilson and Bret Boone out of retirement, they'd swap 'em in in a heartbeat. But the rules would dictate that they'd have to use players currently on the 25-man (and give them no power over that 25-man roster construction). So Griffey, Edgar, Buhner and Tino are all out of the question...

2) Albertson's Junior Broadcaster becomes the Albertson's Junior Manager.

I suppose that's not all that different than #1 above, really. Imagine some 8-year-old trying to wake Hargrove out of his slumber. "Hey -- Grover, wake up! It's time for a pitching change!!!" Grover would be all like "Hubb hub hubbbb, whaaa. huh... Oh, yeah. 'Throw strikes, son!' Er, uh, wait, I'm miked up. Get it -- Mike's miked up. Huh huh... So, uh, kid. Who's your favorite manager?"

Shut up and Free Dan Rohn already...

3) NRA-sponsored gun show the first Friday night of every month.

That'd be interesting, wouldn't it...

4) Turn Ahead the Clock night, sponsored by Nintendo.

So, everyone gets a game console upon entrance to Safeco. The ultimate in virtual reality technology -- all the players are wired up and are controlled by two or three randomly-selected fan's consoles throughout each inning of the game. Try out bunting with Sexson. Keep Beltre from swinging at the low-and-away crap. Put Willie Bloomquist in CF, and have the entire team of infielders run out there and beat the crap out of him between pitches* . Have Felix actually throw an off-speed/breaking ball on his first pitch.

*Okay, that's not nice. I wouldn't advocate that. I like Bloomquist, I really do. Just not as a starting CF'er...

5) $1 hot dog and $1 garlic fries nights.

Okay maybe not the garlic fries. The place would vacate by the third inning. Still, a "Feed the family for $5" night would be an interesting option to explore. I think $1 beer nights is waaay too obvious, and would be waaaaaaaaay too radical for our family-friendly front office to ponder. Besides, there are too many drunks there as it is. That actually wouldn't help things.

6) Flood the field and have REAL hydros there.

Imagine the look on Bob Christofferson's face when he gets that inter-office memo. Make it a part of the Sea Fair festivities. Bring back the vintage hydros, too!

7) Wardrobe Malfunction night.

Of course, it would have to be a non-televised game. And they'd probably want to keep kids out.

8) Blog-'n'-Pitch, sponsored by Google.

Free admission to people who run their own M's-related blog. Wait, no. That would suck. Nevermind. Too many people would sign up for M's blogs, and the market would flood, and the faithful 35 1/2 that read this site would disappear.

9) Bulgarian Olympic Committee Mariner Ticket Night

The lucky Wooters who bought Bags O' Crap (within the 2 minutes and 45 seconds it takes for them to generally sell out) all get Mariners tickets for the next series vs. Kansas City (or the Lou-less Devil Rays). Of course, with Woot being a nationwide phenomenon, there might be a few extra local Wooters in the stadium, but the butts-in-seats problem wouldn't be solved.

10) Lou Piniella Bobblehead Series

Have one with him throwing a base. Another with him kicking his hat. Capture that Griffey "steak" moment forever, by releasing one with Lou surrounded by a bunch of cows.

I'm sure there are other promotions we could brainstorm...

We're overdue for a diagnostics check-up. Marc -- you wannna handle it this month? Or should we accept reader contributions. Yeah. Audience Participation. I like the sound of that...