Thursday, August 31, 2006

A LOOGY Challenge

The last line in this morning's article on Rafael Soriano in The News Tribune from Hargrove says a lot:
"Everybody in the bullpen just moved up a step," Hargrove said. "Everyone will be asked to do a little bit more."
I'm still very saddened by the injury to Soriano -- both from the scariness of it, and from the loss of Soriano in the 'pen. I really don't want to come across as revelling in this near-tragedy. But at the same time, Hargrove's comment above does indeed shed a positive light on the situation for me. I cannot ignore the opportunity that it presents for GS52.

Maybe, just maybe, Hargrove will let George stay in there a bit longer now, and show Hargrove (or next season's manager who may be watching the games) that he can be depended on for more than just getting lefties out. I recognize that George's splits are pretty wide. That doesn't make him a completely ineffective pitcher vs. righties that should avoid being in there vs. righties. When given a consistent chance, he can be very effective, and he likely would tip the scales of the splits back in the right direction.

It would give George a little extra motivation for making it through the season (not that he's going to pack it in -- he's definitely not that type). His recent health concerns don't currently appear to be a problem. He should be able to handle the extra load. Heck, it'd probably be easier on him than coming in and throwing 1-2 pitches in a game.

Get better, Raffey! And, George -- in the meanwhile, carpe diem! Do what you do.

Here's to hoping Hargrove gives you the chance.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Surprise Visit to Safeco!

Thanks to my brother-in-law scoring some free tickets, I went to the M's game tonight. It was definitely a beautiful day out for baseball:

Inside the stadium, too, it looked pretty good. Probably the best battle I've seen in person yet. Well, wait. In 2001, I recall taking my best friend to their first trip ever to Safeco. My wife was rather pregnant with Joey at the time, and IIRC, the M's won it in the bottom of the 9th. Still, this game was really, really exciting. Especially sitting amongst the Red Sox Sea...

I got a chance to speak with George again -- I went down to the bullpen at the top of the third inning (figuring it'd be OK since it didn't appear like Meche was going to implode, and it was too early for guys to be warming up) and asked Woody to tell George that "the Free George Sherrill Guy" was here. Expecting George to merely turn around and wave, I was a bit surprised he headed my direction to chat for a few minutes. His health is back on track, and while he's probably ready for the season to end, he seemed to be in great spirits. I've definitely picked the right guy to be a huge fan of! I teased him a bit about his girlfriend, but things seem to be going well there. I've yet to meet her (and, heck, why would I have -- I technically haven't even 'met' elsid yet...), but from what I hear, she sounds like a good fit. He's pretty smitten, I gathered. I verified that George gave her one of the copies of the picture I took of George at my last visit to Safeco.

While talking on the phone with elsid (figuring it's been a good luck charm -- whenever I'm on the phone with elsid and George comes in, he usually dominates), I tried to also snap a few pix of George on the mound. Considering I had one hand holding the camera and the other holding the phone, I'd say they turned out OK:

Elsid and I knew that once Meche got through the 7th, with "Big Papi" coming up, there'd be a good chance that George would make an appearance. Indeed that was the case. Of course, that was a pretty weird at-bat. It took Hargrove forever to bring George in -- the umpire actually made the signal to the bullpen. Unfortunately talking to elsid didn't work this time. Leave it to fate that the first game I see George pitch in this year (actually, like, ever) a guy gets on and Putz allows him to score -- and the last game I'll likely see at Safeco, the same thing happens. Nevermind that it wouldn't've happened had the shift not been on. The ball that Ortiz lined down the third base line would've easily been caught by Beltre (and/or limited to a single by Ibanez, who was playing in left center and probably is STILL running after that ball). You knew that when Ortiz bunted the first pitch that direction there was a good shot he was trying to negate the shift. He got George this time -- actually, in this case, I blame Hargrove.

I'll post a few more pictures later today (it's really, really late, and I don't want to sleep all day tomorrow since my wife already was kind enough to let me have most of the day to go up to Seattle). It's not like anyone else is up right now anyway. Except, perhaps, for Deanna. We coaxed her into buying her first M's jersey. She wanted Ichiro, but we talked her into Johjima. I'm sure she's uploading her pictures, too...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Southpaw Showdown!

I wasn't surprised that a lefty had 9 strikeouts in his start at Safeco tonight. I'm completely stunned, however, that the lefty wasn't Randy Johnson. With the M's being a hugely aggressive team, I sorta expected another domination from RJ. Nine strikeouts seemed about right out of him.

Well, the teams had other plans.

The M's only struck out 3 times vs. RJ, and the Yankees tripled that vs. Washburn. A certain gal I know who was at the game tonight probably is just getting home, and is still swooning. I can practically read her mind:


(Photo pilfered from Deanna, too!)

Or something like that.

But you know what -- In spite of the win/loss record (which we all know by now is NOT something to judge a pitcher on, right?) and the "meh" periphs, Jarrod Washburn is putting together a very solid season. With the recent trade of Jamie Moyer, J-Rod the Washburnator now leads all SPs in VORP (with JJ and Raffy above him). I could make several arguments as to why he indeed has been the best starter the M's have had this season. Not a distinct honor, of course, considering how "meh" the starters have been. But, he's been very solid.

Nice to see RJ pitch in Safeco again -- and finally get a loss. Indeed he was outpitched, not that RJ was all that bad. But, yeah, before the game I would've bet against Jarrod. Fortunately Hendu's law of averages came back around, and the M's got the victory. In spite of the horrid outing by Felix (and subsequent loss), they took the series, too.

I won't complain.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blackley's back, Bohn's gone

Crap, so blogger just ate my long post recapping the day's moves.... let's see, where were we?

PositivePaul's edit...
Well, I have been spending more time on the new blogging digs lately. I'm currently working on the anti-spambot module and things are actually progressing.

I'm also going to add a picture. Or two. I'll keep Marc's post here, and writeup my photography-laden comments over at my neglected "SportsPhotosByPaulM" blog...

TJ Bohn was called up this afternoon, which unfortunately necessitated the Rainiers playing Jose Morban (2B, LF) in CF this afternoon against the Las Vegas 51s. Morban proceeded to make three errors on four chances - and he struck out 3 times and went 0-4. All in all, a day to forget for Morban AND for Clint Nageotte, who looked OK through a couple of innings, then suffered a meltdown in the fourth. Clint gave up 5 runs in the inning on 5 hits, a big Morban error, and three walks. Still sitting at 87-89 with his FB, Nageotte relied more on his slider, which occasionally induced some ugly swings. But if a LV batter guessed what was coming, he hit it hard. Even so, Nageotte was undone by a battery of GB singles and walks - he was close to getting out of the inning a few times, but such is life for a 'pitch to contact' pitcher. You're going to have games where the fielders never seem to be around the ball.

I asked Benny Looper who'd be replacing Bohn (by the 5th inning, I'd be surprised if they hadn't tried to get a hold of Bohn to tell him to get the hell back to T-town), and he was cagey about it. 'That's Frank Mattox's call' he said, but he did say that it was unlikely that a San Antonio guy would be promoted. That leaves the obvious move: Jones returns to Tacoma in time for the final ten games or so. All in all, it's better than having Jones rotting away in Seattle, shagging flies with Mike Goff and seeing Willie Bloomquist take his chances in CF. It also means that Ichiro will play less CF, and that might mean more bench time for Chris Snelling. If this is true, it's a defensible move that has its share of suboptimal side effects. But again, what is Bavasi to do when his manager abjectly refuses to play Jones? Ichiro doesn't want to play CF long term, so Bavasi is staring a Bloomquist or Bohn decision in the face, and wondering how the hell he ended up in this position.

I've been hard on Bavasi, and wouldn't really mind if he didn't come back, but even his detractors have to admit that the man's been dealt a poor hand. He's constrained from above by Lincoln, and constrained from below by Hargrove. We'd all love it if he was able to muscle his way out of it by firing Grover and replacing him with Rohn, but we don't know that he's able to do that. He's either incompetent or he's impotent. And watching the M's try to rebuild while this power struggle goes on is just painful; it's like watching a doctor try to operate on a patient who's busy stabbing himself. Mariners Baseball: we're playin' Hardball!

In better news, Travis Blackley was at the game and, despite having his number stolen by Terry Pollreisz, seems to be in good spirits. Welcome back Travis.

1: Do you demote Jones or DFA Pineiro or something else? [updated to add: Dave Cameron confirms it's Jones]

2: Do you give Blackley a look during the september call-ups, or do you shut him down to save his shoulder?

3: Jon Nelson is still on fire. Yes, Dave Cameron hates his approach (with goooood reason), but at this point, he's the most dangerous hitter on the Rainiers, and it's not even close.

4: Hong Chih Kuo, the Vegas starter, was effective, but is sitting at 90-91 with his FB. What's going on here? He was in the mid 90s in the spring - hidden injury, or just coasting against the likes of Morban, Navarro and Morse?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Moyer No More...


If a move like this can be made then a move like canning Hargrove HAS to be next. Moyer was one of the reasons why a lot of fans would go to a game. Now what are they going to do?


We don't even get to say good bye. Hard to believe. I doubt he's back next year.


We already have a hole in the starting rotation. Now we have another one?



Okay. Now that I've had a chance to recover from the gut punch...

Indeed with Pineiro being done and now Moyer being gone, the M's have two holes to immediately replace in the starting rotation. One could argue that Meche's performance as of late signals that they need three. They'll definitely need three starting pitchers going into 2007.

While I'm surprised by this move, I'm not angry. Obviously I have some questions. I am a little bit sad. Jamie was certainly one of the public faces of this franchise.

Here's Bavasi being interviewed on FSN. Notice his body language.

I basically assumed that Moyer was going to retire as a Mariner. I honestly think that will not happen now -- especially since, evidently, Jamie agreed to a mutual option for 2007 with Philly. While I wasn't Jamie's biggest fan, I do have a fondness for a guy who's a fan favorite, and who gives the current team some connection to the past. But a 43-year-old pitcher on his last legs, who cannot pitch well outside of Safeco, shouldn't be a part of the future plans. The M's will have a tough time competing in 2007, and likely won't have a shot at the playoffs until, perhaps, 2008. The young guys are still too green. It'll take another year or two for guys like Lopez, Betancourt, Jones, Reed (if he's still around), Felix, and even (to a certain extent) Johjima to settle into a more consistent performance. They're good players, and I expect them to develop. They still have some room to grow, though.

As far as the two players we get from Philly -- Dave Cameron seems to like Baldwin. The scouting video on him is indeed rather interesting. You never know what you get with guys like this, but, really, what else were the M's going to get for an aging veteran who pitches mostly poorly in parks not named Safeco Field.

Thanks for the memories and the faithful years of service, Jamie! You were a very valuable part of the M's past, and are an absolute pillar to the greater Seattle community. Glad to hear Seattle will always be a home for you. I'll probably come to your good-bye party, even if it's after you retire. Good luck in Philly -- and go get yourself a ring!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Corco at Cheney!

I'll be in Tacoma tonight at the Rainiers game, Section H Row 4, and...yeah. I'll post a post tomorrow with my thoughts/etc on the game.


First off, note the fine PositivePaul post before mine, since I'm bumping this one up.

So, Cheney.

After getting lost finding our way back from the Tacoma Mall, we finally arrived at Cheney just in time for the first pitch.

The stadium was incredibly empty, only about 800 people, and the lineup had to have been the least exciting fielded all season, if only because Jeff Clement was the only actual decent prospect in the lineup.

Anyway, after I figured out who the hell was playing, the game got somewhat interesting, but not really.

Nageotte reminded me of Gil Meche circa 2004, just hanging everything and serving up gopherballs. It really is nothing short of a miracle that he only gave up 1 run in those 4 innings.

Atchison looked great, and so did Huber, but its always weird having a #7 on the mound.

We did not stay for the full 14 innings because my parents were bored out of their minds, and I can't blame them. I was saddned by the atmosphere because the fans were really disinterested in the game and by the time we left there were at most 750 people in the stands. It was moderately depressing.

We left at the end of the game, hoping that Clement would do something. We were surprised when Kevin Reynolds was allowed to hit.

The game was fun for me, but boring for my family. I'll be back.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

When All Hope is Lost...

Okay, I'm posting this now. Any hope for contending this season is officially gone. Heck -- it's a massive uphill battle now just to get to .500! It's time to start looking at and planning for 2007. Following is a list of things I would do right now to get some value out of the remaining games in this season, and to take steps towards improving the team for 2007.

1) Hargrove = gone. It now appears that he's actually doing things precisely to destroy the team. He is not a part of the M's future, and everyone I've talked to with any ties to the organization believes he will be fired in the offseason. Why wait? What possible good would it do keep him until then, when he's a short timer anyway? Effective immediately, Dan Rohn takes over as manager -- as a two-week head start on his September audition. That way you have SOME knowledge of how well he can handle managing in the big leagues before you ultimately decide the direction you want to go in the offseason. Even if it's only a 6-week audition, there's a lot that can be gained from giving him his shot. If you want a bigger-name manger, then fine -- replace Rohn in the offseason.

2) Bench Ichiro for a game or two. With the way he's been playing lately, he appears not to be giving his all. I'm not going to say that he's throwing it, and purposely being lazy -- but by all appearances, there's something going on with Ichiro. He could very well be tired. I have my suspicions what the issue is (see #1 above), but that's just mere speculation. If he's tired, rest him and play Snelling or Ibanez in right for a few games. I'm curious if Ichiro is mentally checking out, tired of all the losing -- and tired of the FO not having a reliable plan for turning it around.

3) Send Pineiro packing. He's done. There's been some discussion about Pineiro formerly using something that has since been banned under the new MLB testing policy, and he's not able to bounce back. He's lost most of his velocity, and just doesn't have the stuff to pitch effectively. Since he's not a part of the M's plans next year, let him go now and use his 40- and 25-man roster spot on someone who may be. Again -- give someone a head start on a September audition. See what Blackley, Cruceta, Livingston, or Bazardo might have. Give them some experience when the games no longer count.

4) Play Adam Jones regularly so he can continue to develop as a center fielder. Hickey speculates in the P-I that the M's may not be done making roster moves in discussing the lack of playing time for Jones. If he's not going to play in Seattle (he's still probably a bit green even for my liking), then don't further damage his development by keeping him on the bench. By all means, send him back down to Tacoma. But don't keep him out of the lineup.

Edit: 7:30 a.m. - I forgot one very important one, and remembered it in the shower this morning...

5) Place Rafael Soriano on the 60-day DL to clear up a roster spot for a September callup. Cruceta again comes to mind here. As does Hunter Brown. With Hargrove gone, there might actually be use for an 11-man pitching staff and a 5-man bench. I'd give a lot more of the regulars a lot more rest. Including George. He's had WAAAAAY too many appearances so far this year, and been warmed up even more. He may not have thrown a ton of innings, but he's thrown a lot of pitches warming up, just to leave the game after a 1-2 pitch LOOGY performance.

There are many, many more things that I could think of to gain some positivity on a now hopeless season. What are your ideas?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Roster Chaos!

As you undoubtedly know by now (hat tip USSM), the M's have purchased the contract of lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty from Tacoma. The Walla Walla native takes the last open 40 man spot, and Greg Dobbs has been sent back to Tacoma to make room on the 25 man roster. Another move will be needed in a few days when Richie Sexson comes back from bereavement leave - sorry Mr. Morse, but you're quite used to this by now.

That means the M's have a 13 man pitching staff for a day. Tomorrow, the M's are expected to welcome Chris Snelling back to the team, a move which will necessitate dropping one of the pitchers. What do you think? Pineiro DFAd- which is probably the correct call, but it takes some balls, esp. when Hargrove and Chaves may want to tinker with Pineiro a bit more - or Sean Green demoted? I've been a big Sean Green guy, and he's done yeoman's work as the righty long reliever, and he hasn't really done anything to deserve heading south, but I can see Bavasi making this low-risk, 'safe' move.

All the moves at the MLB level of late have played havoc with the Rainiers roster too. They had a 13 man staff for a while a week or so ago when Emiliano Fruto returned to the team in Omaha. At present, their new left fielder is Kevin Reynolds, a guy they drafted in the 42nd round last year. Reynolds seems to be a designated roster filler for just these situations, as he has played in AA, high A, low A and short season leagues this year. You may remember him from his 2/5 night for Everett versus Boise on Monday. With this move, he's played at every level except rookie league and the majors. He's 1 for 1, incidentally... He got off the bench when 1B Roberto Petagine (remember him?) was taken out, leading to even more speculation at USSM.

The Rainiers split a double-header this afternoon, winning the first game 4-2 thanks to a nice start from Bobby Livingston who went 6IP giving up 2R (1 earned, on a HR to lead off the 7th). The hitting star was either Jon Nelson, who continued his hot streak by going 2/3 with a HR, or Jose Morban who was 3/3 with a 2B and 3B. Sadly, Nelson went 0-3 and left 5 runners stranded (and hit into a killer DP) in the nightcap, and the Rainiers lost 6-3. Morban kept going, though, hitting a HR and going 2/3. Jose's been hot since returning from rehab, which helps the offense, as Jeff Clement is still cold.
The Rainiers were undone by a 4 run sixth, which featured the 'relief' efforts of Justin Huisman and Mike Flannery. Huisman gave up three hits and a walk in the inning, and was replaced by Flannery who promptly walked the first three batters he saw, allowing 2 inherited runners to score. One of his few strikes was a foul ball that hit Rob Johnson's wrist, forcing him to leave the game. Good times.

Anyway, we now have a reason to watch tonight's M's game besides morbid amusement.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Take 2

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to catch lightning in a bottle and see the freshly-drafted pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx make his first (and, to this day, only) appearance at Cheney Stadium. I didn't write much of a recap, because I took a lot of pictures (and you know about how many words a picture says), but I remember being intrigued by his pitching style, and how he was able to fill in for two innings and strike 5 Portland Beavers out in those two innings, having just arrived from the draft.

Now that he's had a few months to begin to settle into a professional career, people are starting to notice the numbers he's putting up. While I have yet to watch him in a game again, I have kept a bit of an eye on him myself (mostly through J's game recaps and through his game log on the site). Recognizing that these types of pitchers often fall of the larger top-40 prospect radar (generally reserved for flamethrowing starters), I've adopted Austin as one of my SportSpot Adopt-a-Players, and continue to cheer for him even if it's behind the scenes a bit.

One of the things I look for in a relief pitcher is his ability to keep folks off of the bases, limit the walks, up the K's, and limit the damage done by the hits. Strikeout pitchers aren't always completely dominant -- 10K; 5BB; 10 H nights are not all together uncommon for starters. No pitcher is completely unhittable all the time, of course, so singles are obviously preferred to doubles and HRs. Austin had a rough night on August 4th, but a good majority of the time he's been a strikeout machine. Looking at his game log, you'll notice that most of the time, his K rate is at least 1 per inning, and there are several appearances where he struck out 2 an inning.

I'm by no means an expert on minor league baseball -- I defer to guys like J, G_Moneyball, and Dave Cameron -- but it appears even to me that Austin is a guy well on his way to a very decent career as a MLB reliever. There's been some discussion about Dan Quisenberry as a potential comp, and indeed that would be nice. I'm not totally surprised that it's hard to get info on a guy who was drafted as a relief pitcher later in the draft -- and therefore isn't a guy the organization is going to invest a lot in. But you do have to kinda take notice of a player like that -- who comes seemingly outta nowhere to hold his own on a professional baseball team (after all -- isn't Salem-Keizer, like, kinda nowhere -- I drove through there last week. I should know. Kidding of course -- I actually like the Salem-Keizer area quite a bit ;-) .

The M's have some serious need for effective relief pitching. They'd need to clear a spot on the 40-man of course, so it's probably out of the question for 2006. Even still it would be really nice to be able to see him in Tacoma again. With the starting pitching in Seattle wearing out the bullpen, I'm sure we'll see some room made in Tacoma and Seattle for some fresh arms. It's not entirely unprecedented for a pitcher to come out of nowhere and do well in the majors.

See Lowe, Mark...

Monday, August 14, 2006

He's BAAAaaaaack!

Howdy folks! D'ja miss me? Lookin' at the site traffic, it was pretty quiet 'round here. Thanks, Marc, for keepin' this houseboat afloat!

Well, honestly, I watched maybe parts of two or three games. My internet connectivity was pretty sparse at my family compound. I did note that the M's were swept by the A's, then swept the D-Rays, and got home late 'nough last night to hear 'em get swept by the Rangers. Honestly, it felt good to take a little break from the M's and R's. I was hoping to catch a game in Portland, but we were too busy spending money on wine and picking huckleberries in the mountains further up the Columbia (in spite of filling the tank 3-4 times this trip, having driven down to Northern CA, we actually spent MORE on wine on Saturday than we did on gas throughout the entire trip. That's a bit scary, really...)

Obviously Willie Ballgame is trying to take full command of the Carl Everett Honorary Leadership Lunchbox -- with his awe-inspiring quote ("I've been around this game long enough to know that it's not over until you're mathematically out of it.") and with his monster home run off of Barry Zito. Go Willie! You Suck, still, but hey, whatever!

So, here's to hoping that if the M's can't lock up .500 or climb a notch or two out of the cellar, that they fall flat on their faces and lock up a top-10 draft pick. Then Hargrove will be fired (as if he's really going to be here next year anyway) and we'll be able to see a little bit more light at the end of the tunnel.

I took a few metaphoric pictures (and some not-so-metaphoric). The sun is indeed setting on this baseball season...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Misc. Morsels

1: Julio Mateo's latest implosion, and Grover's bizarre comments 'defending' the decision to bring him in are getting a lot of well-earned derision from USS Mariner and Lookout Landing. Does the fact that Mark Lowe was unavailable and that Soriano'd been used the previous night constitute mitigating circumstances? Meh... bringing in Mateo was the sort of brainless, rote decision that gives rise to hundreds of arrogant statheads. It wasn't - it can't - be that Hargrove actually believes that malarkey about Mateo being a ground ball pitcher. Grover brought him in, because he went to the most veteran guy out there, end of story. Managers have cottoned on to the fact that they can't defend moves using seniority anymore (esp. when the best members of the bullpen make the league minimum), so he just gave a stream-of-consciousness answer that seemed to have done the trick: the beat writers didn't bust out laughing, I guess. It's not all that important, in the grand scheme of things - the M's have about a 1/100 shot at the playoffs, and the offense was held in check - but I'm secretly hoping that there's a good side here: Hargrove realizes that he's got to make sh*t up now; he can't sell conventional wisdom to anyone.

2: Choo's off to a rip-roarin' start, isn't he? Many, many M's fans get mad when things like this are pointed out, but it's time we try and learn something from our free-agent foibles. Choo is not a perfect player, and was blocked in Seattle. All that is true, but you can't help but think he was poorly handled here. Part of it was the ill-advised 'Choo-as-CF' experiment, though I've got to acknowledge that the M's were dealt a really bad hand this year - Reed's struggles, then injury, and the nearly simultaneous injury to TJ Bohn left it down to Choo and Jones. The problem is that Choo was never a CF, and almost never played there in Tacoma.
That doesn't mean that Choo would've been a 1.000 OPS guy had the M's moved him to a corner. It doesn't mean Choo doesn't have huge holes in his game. It just means that a smart GM was able to put him in the best possible position to succeed. The question is, why does it seem so hard for M's 'spects to be put in similar positions? Part of it is the sheer futility of this franchise in 2004/05, part of it is a general unwillingness to platoon youngsters in order to let them maximize their ABs. That's great, and I think for most guys, Bavasi's philosophy is a great one. But as DOV is fond of pointing out, the track record here is less than stellar (Olivo, Choo, Livingston), and a great organization would be hard at work figuring out why.

3. They may have another shot, as 1B Bryan LaHair is in AAA, and having a half-decent, but very flawed, season. He's batting about .300, despite striking out a goodly amount, and despite general futility against southpaws (same problem Choo had). He's also hitting for less power than little SS Oswaldo Navarro, which is troubling for a 1B. But he's young - Ben Broussard was years away at age 23 - and he can do some things well.
Or take Navarro - he's another young SS prospect, who's holding his own in AAA at the tender age of 21. He lacks Asdrubal Cabrera's patience and hands, but he's still a solid player. More importantly, after half a year hitting like the second coming of Rey Ordonez in San Antonio, he's showing improved power in AAA. The difference between a .370 SLG and a .430 SLG middle infielder is huge, and though it's come at the expense of some plate discipline, it just shows that he's got more tools in his toolbox than folks may have thought. Like LaHair, he's holding his own despite getting absolutley owned by lefties. In Tacoma, he's at .293/.333/.453 vs. righties, which is fairly exciting for a 21 yo. But he's only 3 for 19 (no XBH) vs. lefties. If he continues this pace next year, he'll have some legit trade value (and yes, with Betancourt installed at short, that's pretty much what you're looking for in M's SS prospects). So it's imperative that the M's don't play him for 5 games in CF, very publicly give up on him, and THEN try and deal him. Buy low, sell high.

4: The Rainiers escaped Omaha with their sweep, despite giving up 11 runs a few days back. It was nice to see the Rs do what they should do, and beat up on the RedHawks, the PCL equivalent of parent club, Kansas City. KC especially is often blamed for their futility thanks to an owner content to milk his revenue sharing-engendered profits, and a (former) GM in Allard Baird who seriously thought that what his rebuilding team needed was a shot of Doug Mientkiewicz. A team with a much worse record than the M's in mulching prospects and whose record in the amateur draft is among the worst in baseball (despite having a slew of early picks). It's a team that, thanks to its revenue, really, really needs to look for freely available talent, and yet pisses it away like it's PBR. Last year, the Royals kept Matt Diaz down on the farm to hit .371/.408/.649 in Oklahoma. Clearly, the Royals were so loaded they just couldn't find a spot for him. (OK, they brought him up late, and he hit .281 - not good enough to keep him). They traded him to the Atlanta Braves this past off season for a newly converted lo-A pitcher. That's *acumen* ladies and gentlemen. He's posted an OPS of over .800 for the Bravos in limited duty (injuries).
This year, the Royals have wasted talented Aussie 1B Justin Huber - first by 'blocking' him with Doug M and his legion of consonants, and recently by acquiring Ryan Shealy from Colorado. The Royals, having absolutely fleeced the Mets in acquiring Huber, are determined not to allow the guy up. He hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard in limited duty in KC, and his numbers are down slightly this year (esp. in SLG), but this is a guy with essentially nothing left to prove in the minors, and a team who doesn't want him.
The M's *need* to at least inquire with KC. I'd worry that the Royals new GM wouldn't be as clueless as Baird, but this is the guy that just traded for Shealy. The team doesn't need both, and the M's would be acquiring a guy who torches lefties to the tune of a 1.097 OPS even in this, a down year. If you asked me right now who I'd take, Huber or Eduardo Perez, straight up, I take Huber and I don't think twice about it. We may have missed out on Matt Diaz; let's not miss out on Huber. Yes, yes, Perez has a club option for 2007, but at 37 I think it's time to face the facts that he's not going to do what he did in less than 100 ABs in Cleveland this year ever again. He's a good guy to have around, and I think he's meant more to this clubhouse than Carl Everett ever did, but the m's need a contingency plan.

Quickly -
Tony Butler, the 2006 draftee currently using his 91mph FB and big curve to great effect in Everett, has been the standout, so far, of the M's draft. Morrow will probably pass him next year, but for now, it's nice to see a young lefty who can throw 90+ for a change. It also helps ease the pain of seeing Tim Lincecum lay waste to high-A hitters.... what is it now, 22Ks in 10IP?
The Eric O'Flaherty era has begun in Tacoma. He threw 2 scoreless in his AAA debut in Oklahoma. Deanna/J/anyone wanna see a game in Tacoma and get some photos? What *is* this blog without Paul's awesome Rainiers photos?
Congrats to Adam Jones on his first MLB HR. It's still worrisome that he's not pulling *anything*, but as long as he's driving the ball, it's still progress. I think he's still too defensive at the plate, but then, I would be too if I'd just turned 21 and I was having to face Barry Zito/Roy Halladay/etc.
The M's have handled Mark Lowe perfectly. With all that's gone wrong this year, and with Hargrove's manifest incompetence, it's worth noting that Lowe's been given the high-leverage innings he deserves, and he's been kept out when there's been any hint of discomfort in his elbow. Here's hoping the 'be a man! No pain, no gain!' attitude the M's exhibited with Meche is a thing of the past. I would have liked to have seen him instead of Mateo last night, but then I think about Francisco Liriano....

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Aaah. Vacation!

Yep. That's right. I'm actually taking a vacation. For the first time in 4 years. With as much driving as I'll be doing in the next 3-4 days, I'm not sure how much I'll hear about the goings-on with the M's. I probably need a vacation from them, too.

I've got my camera almost packed up (batteries still charging), and will be able to revert back to my more comfortable style of scenic photography. I'm pretty sure the hotels we're staying at will have high-speed Internet, so I should be able to upload a few pictures to my photo blog. Keep an eye over there. At the very least, I'll hopefully be able to pilfer the neighbor's WiFi signal at our family property, where we'll be staying towards the end of the week.

So, Corco, if you're still around. You could ramble on about the traffic in McCall over here for a bit. We're heading down the Oregon Coast, so I'm sure we'll drive through towns that have similar traffic patterns. I'm sure marc w will keep the cobwebs off the place, too. I'm pretty sure Citizen K is away this week as well, though, so his occasional 'hello!' will not crop up.

Maybe my ignoring the M's for a few days will help them get back on track. I dunno. I'll probably be sucked in towards the end of the week.

I do know that I should have some time once we're back at the family compound to put the finishing touches on the first draft of my custom-built blog. It's actually coming along OK now. I just have to check in with the rest of my mateys here to see how comfortable they'll be using it.

Take care of the place, mkay?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Who Claimed Andruw Jones?

Big question today, thanks to ESPN, is that Andruw Jones has been claimed on waivers. It's now in Schuerholz' court whether or not to trade him to that team. Yeah, it's ESPN spouting off trying to scratch out a news story -- Atlanta isn't going to just dump him, and will likely just pull him back from the waiver wire. But, hey, ESPN has done their job -- they got folks talking.

So, I thought I'd throw my little voice into the mix. It may be delusional to believe that the M's would be that team, and that they have any chance of swinging a deal. Especially since we don't have a pot of players in the system that come anywhere close to the package reportedly asked from Boston. I do believe the chat went something like this:

Stein_NOT_Stien: Hello, John! Just browsing today. How much for that Andruw guy you have there?
No_SchuerHOLZ_Barred: Welcome back, Theo! How's that Marte workin' out for ya? Oh, yeah. That's right. You sold it for a box of Coco Crisp.
Stein_NOT_Stien: Yep. Worked out pretty well, I suppose. Okay, maybe not. I'm interested in looking at Jones to cover CF. How much we lookin' at?
No_SchuerHOLZ_Barred: Well, my kids used to like Coco Crisp every morning. That Geoduck you dug up from Puyallup is a pretty good pitcher, and my granddaughter heard that a new Hansen CD is in the works. That's a pretty good start.
Stein_NOT_Stien: Hmm. Well, 3 is bigger than 1. Even I know that. Sounds like spending $20 for a gallon of milk. I s'pose we'll have to think about that one.

Even though imitation is a form of flattery, these guys truly are inimitable. I'll let them corner the market on that humor genre. My mind is already on vacation -- I'm taking a scheduled week off from work for the first time in four years next week. Yeah. I need it.

But going back to this for a second (if you haven't already clicked your "Back" button). Would Andruw Jones be a good idea? I've been on record as being a HUGE Andruw Jones supporter. He's one of my top-10 favorite players, actually, and his park-adjusted 116 career OPS would probably still do OK transitioning from the NL to the AL. Being a righty slugger, though, coming into Safeco from the NL, there's certainly a chance that the power numbers would be affected. More saber-inclined folks could give their projections to help determine a risk level.

It may be a higher-risk move that isn't worth the potential reward (especially since he's on the bad end of the typical baseball player peak), but Andruw Jones would help win the M's their next pennant. His numbers may suffer a little, but I believe he's still a legit and proven-enough power hitter to be that outfielder with pop and gold-glove caliber defense that the M's could use.

I know it's delusional to think that it would even come close to happening. With the non-waiver deadline having passed, we couldn't trade Atlanta anything they'd want for him. But I said it before his 2005 explosion -- Andruw Jones would be a great guy to have on the M's roster. He's one of the few guys I'd strongly consider overpaying in a trade for. A lot of people disagree with me, and that's fine.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Day Baseball

Ah, the joys of day baseball. A gorgeous day in Tacoma, and I had four seats to myself. Sadly, I had four seats to myself because the people who said they were in backed out at the last minute, and the Rainiers lost a tight one to Oklahoma. But hey, I think the positives still outweighed the negatives. Maybe.

Pro: Jon Nelson continued his hot streak, with a big two run triple in the 9th that brought the R's within one. That said, he was stranded on 3rd after a remarkably ugly K from Rob Johnson and a weak chopper from Osvaldo Navarro.

Rich Dorman pitched quite effectively in long relief of Clint Nageotte, going 4 IP and giving up 1R on 1H, with 2BB and 5Ks. His big breaking ball was working well, though Juaquin Arias nearly hit one out (he got the one hit, an RBI double).

Rob Johnson threw out 2 of 3 runners trying to steal - every throw was pinpoint. The less said about his day at the plate, the better, but hey, he's quite adept at controlling the running game.

TJ Bohn went 2-4 with a double, getting the first hit off Robinson Tejeda, who started brilliantly for the JetHawks.

Clint Nageotte, one of my favorite Rainiers, is just hanging on to his pro career. Nageotte can't get Ks anymore, in large part because his FB simply isn't good enough, and because it's damned difficult to reinvent yourself on the fly. The whole Frank Tanana metamorphasis is a best-case scenario, and it's really, really hard.
Clint's FB was at 88MPH today, and although his slider was quite good at times, if hitters know what's coming, they're going to hit it. Part of the problem may be that there's no longer enough of a gap between his slider and FB. He was throwing the slider at 81 or so... Getting his FB up to 90mph consistently would really help. But beyond velocity, Nageotte still has trouble commanding that FB. In one AB, he threw 5 offspeed pitches to 1 FB. That one FB? A wild pitch. Nags was removed after four innings, having thrown 60 pitches, which isn't great, but isn't all that bad either. I keep telling myself that he's coming off of injury and they're trying to work him back. With a lot of luck, he'll gain back some velocity AND command and be a call-up candidate in September. He's got a lot of work to do before that, of course..

The entire line-up allowed OK starter Robinson Tejeda to coast through the first few innings. This looked eerily similar to the first 5 innings against Adam Loewen and Baltimore - the Rainiers kept swinging at bad pitches, and making lots and lots of quick outs. Tejeda took advantage to go 5 1/3 1R 1HBP 1BB 5Ks for the win. Osvaldo Navarro was guilty of a couple of quick, wasted ABs, but the guy who just won't take many pitches is Jon Nelson. Nelson gets a free pass from me since he hent 2-4 with a 2b and a 3B, although it must be said that both of those XBHs were sun-aided (the SS dropped a pop-up for what was *charitably* scored a 2b, and then the CF lost his deep drive in the 9th for a 3b).
Michael Garciaparra went 0-2 on a grand total of 4 pitches (1k), and then hurt his leg on a ground ball up the middle fielded by...Navarro. Not sure exactly how that happened, but he had to be taken out of the game. I know he's just coming back, so let's all head over to PI and see if JAC knows what's going on...
Finally, and most puzzling, something doesn't look right with Chris Snelling. His average is down in the .230s, and though he picked up a walk today, he also Kd twice, the last time on a steady diet of breaking balls from Kevin Walker. He seemed to have real trouble identifying the pitch, which led to three horrible swings. It's the sort of thing that happens to everyone, but, um, this is Doyle we're talking about here. I'm not used to the *Texas Rangers* org fillers making Chris freakin' Snelling look awkward. Maybe there's something to this impingement thing, and maybe there's not (the fact that he's continually in RF makes me think it's a paper move only), but it's not like this 'injury' has sapped his power: he can't make contact. Snelling has now struck out in 1/4 of his Tacoma ABs this year. Compare this year's stats to his career line. His walks are right where they should be - but his K's are definitely up. His slugging's down, but that might have something to do with injury, and a freakishly low BABIP on the road. But why is he struggling to make contact?