Thursday, September 28, 2006

Credit, where Credit's Due

With CHowArmLinStrong's latest letter to season ticket holders, I officially rescind this post.

How was that for a reaction? I'm better than that. This post, I suppose, can be reinstated.

Man alive, does it feel good to have some time off from work. Unfortunately, it's at the expense of having to suffer through the typical transitional bout of flu that hits me annually about this time of year. Nevertheless, it's allowing me to not feel so guilty about spending time on the blogs, getting caught up on my non-animated/PG movies, shopping on eBay, reading books, and (aside from having to be very careful which direction I'm sneezing) do pretty much what I feel like at home. Sorta reminds me of my college days, which, too, this time of year sort of brings me back into waxing nostalgic. Hard to believe it's been 10 years since I started my last year of college.

But I digress...

So often, this space in the blog-o-sphere has been used to criticize and demoralize certain individuals in the M's organization. I wanted to take a few moments to give some credit to two folks in particular who I have been quite critical of during their tenure with the M's organization.

Mike Hargrove

What? Yup. That's right. Maybe this credit is misdirected, but it has to be noted that the Mariners continue fight and haven't shown a lot of signs of quitting. While his in-game strategies and managing tactics certainly are still deplorable, one other important aspect of managing is keeping your players into the game, and battling until the end of the 162nd game of the season. Even if you're out of the playoffs -- and especially while balancing the health of players so you're not jeopardizing the future of your team.

It remains to be seen whether or not Hargrove is fired at the end of the season. I still believe he will be and that he should be. But as much as I darn near equally hate the Angels and the A's, it has been really, really nice playing spoiler. We helped bring down the Red Sox, when they came to town and left with 0 wins. We helped bring down the White Sox, even if we lost a game we shouldn't have after the rain delay. And, like Derek says -- after last night, no clinching in our house, baby! You have to give some credit to Mike Hargrove for keeping his players motivated to win. Sure, Oakland still has a pretty good shot of clinching at Safeco. But nothing's guaranteed. The Mariners seem to be doing well in the role of spoiler, and I believe that some credit has to go to Hargrove for helping them do just that. There's still an outside shot of .500 and third place, too. I could regurgitate my "Take Out Texas!" post from last August, but that could risk jinxing the M's.

Willie Bloomquist

Well, what more can I say. Mr. Not-Quite-October came through in a big way last night. Sure, you could argue that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. But, seriously, how can you really not like a guy like Bloomquist. I understand that some people love him waaaay too much, and give him waaaay too much credit (Hello Mr. Rizzs!). But others react to this lovefest by showering Bloomquist with barbs and sticks and stones. Willie's a big leaguer, folks. Barely, sure, but he fills a very important role on this club. It may not be as a starter, or the equivalent of an ace reliever. But it's very important to have a guy who can make things happen on the bases, as a pinch runner late in ballgames. No, that wasn't his role last night -- Ichiro was the feared baserunner who messed with the pitcher enough to get himself in position to score. Indeed Bloomquist came through with an important base hit to win the game -- and a Bloomquist base hit is almost as rare as the unassisted triple play.

While the specifics were a little different last night, I still find room to cheer for Willie Bloomquist. People in my fantasy league read this blog occasionally, so they're probably wondering why I just picked up Boom Boom on my team (especially during the championship series). I'll tell you after I beat ML to defend my league title. The folks over at Detect-O-Vision have a basic way of evaluating players that certainly is logical, even if it is simplistic: will this player help me win my next championship? In Willie Boom-Boom Dynamite's case, I honestly believe that's true. As a consistent starter, it's less true, but in his proper role, WBBD certainly can and will help the M's win their next (first?) championship. For that reason, I'm going to give some credit to Willie.

So, disagree with me all you want. You're probably right. It's probably the Dayquil that's affecting my reasoning and logic points. Now you know exactly why I'm not going to work today...

From the Desks of Mary, Joe Bob, and 500,000 Other M's Fans

What a stir a simple letter can make (uh, read the white part, not talkin' 'bout DMZ's comments there -- he snipped it from the comment thread where I linked it at LoLa and put it there). You gotta give the M's FO credit for stirring the pot. They wanted a reaction -- they got one. Not sure it's the reaction they want, of course, but you never know. Either CHowArmLinStrong are complete idiots, or they're evil geniuses...

So, without further adieu, and since those season ticket holders who hit the "reply" button to this e-mail will definitely see their e-mail bounce, I'm writing this letter as my response and publishing it here. I'll work on seeing if I can get it published in the P-I or Times or, heck, even the Daily O


Dear Sirs:

After suffering through the fifth straight season of disappointment and frustration -- from the non-moves in 2002 and 2003 to improve a team that was still very much a playoff contender, to the utter, somewhat-yet-not-totally-expected collapse of 2004, all the way to the attempts to recover some life in 2005 and 2006 -- I have decided not to renew my Mariners fandom for 2007.

With the price of health care going through the roof, especially the cost of prescription medicine, I've decided that I can no longer subject myself to the physical and mental illness that your company and its products are causing me. Not only will I not renew my season tickets, I will not attend any future games in your 'family-friendly' stadium.

I am tired of the words you say and the actions you take to the contrary. I am tired of hearing the same old stuff uttered from your mouths and seeing the action (or non-action) you've taken to 'improve' the club.


I cannot continue. This is so freakin' pathetic that I refuse to even discuss it any further.

The alienation continues. From 3 million down to 2.5 million. Next year, let's make it 1.5 million.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Night and Day, the Evolution of Baek.

This time last year, Corco and I were pretty much in agreement that Cha Seung Baek should be the first guy to be removed from the 40-man roster. Our wish came true in December, only a bit later than we'd hoped, and after several guys -- to make room for Carl freakin' Everett. Okay, so someone else is buying Corco beer -- Just drink one sip in memory of that occasion for me, Corco, okay?

While some things never change, Cha Seung Baek has. The way he's masterfully handled Texas' lineup twice this season, even in the bandbox now known as Ameriquest, he's shown me that he can indeed pitch in the majors. Sample size, schmample size. He may indeed be getting lucky -- and his last outing was certainly less-than-stellar. But I've now completely changed my mind on him.

I'm totally fine giving him a spot in the rotation next year. Provided, of course, the M's front office (whoever that may be) goes out and gets, either via trade, via Japan, or via Free Agency, a top-of-the-rotation starter. Certainly Freddy, oops, I mean, Felix has the potential to become one. He's still only going to turn 21 next season, and I don't think he's ready to carry this team on his shoulders. He'll be a good one, and good for several years. But the M's need a horse to carry the rotation. I doubt Moyer will be back, but he never was the TOR horse he was made out to be anyway. The M's have desperately needed a TOR starter since RJ left.

Even with this, the M's still have several holes to fill in the rotation. Baek will be cheap, and he'll be acceptable. He won't be the TOR horse that we need, but I have absolutely no problem with him in the rotation. Sure guys like Feierabend and Lowe could turn into even better starters. I'm not sure that the organization sees Lowe returning to the rotaion. If so, both of those guys are young enough that they won't be hurt by starting the year in Tacoma. They've had a taste of the bigs now, and they both should be hungry to return. Or, they could be stashed in the 'pen, just like the M's have done with other budding starters.

Mr. Baek -- congratulations on all the hard work you've done to bring yourself back to a MLB-caliber pitcher. Instead of rooting for my prognostocating abilities (and cheering on Lorraine extra hard, knowing that you were warming up in the 'pen, ready to lose the game), I'm going to serve my penance by cheering you on and wishing you into the rotation.

Monday, September 18, 2006


So Felix didn't exactly come through for PositivePaul there, but no worries: the Inland Empire 66ers had his back. The M's Hi-A affiliate WON THE CALIFORNIA LEAGUE tonight with a tense 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay-affiliated Visalia Oaks.
Props to Mumba Rivera who, making his first start of the year in the deciding game of the Cal League, finals went 4 innings without allowing a run; to Jon Lockwood who got the win with two innings of brilliant, hitless, 3K baseball; to LF Josh Womack for hitting a solo HR to put the 66ers ahead; and to Johan Limonta for his RBI double in the bottom of the 8th to win it all.
Yes, so the M's season is lost, and yes, the M's have lost some prospects to poor trades, and yes, Felix hasn't quite clicked like we all thought he would. It's that context that makes tonight's win so sweet - in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter - there aren't really all that many prospects on the team. But SOMETHING in the M's universe went really, really right and here's hoping that continues next year.

And happy B-day to Paul - at least your birthday has the decency to be during baseball season.

Mmmm. Cake...

So, Jason got his wish. Heh. Felix is pitching on mine. Is it too much to ask a decent groundball pitcher to pitch like he's supposed to in a park that definitely prefers groundball pitchers?

Go get a win today, guys. It'd be nice to get one on my birthday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dan Rohn, Free!

With mixed emotion, I read the news today about Dan Rohn's firing. As you know, I'm a big fan of Dan Rohn. He should've been the manager of the M's this year. In signing Hargrove to a multiyear deal, the M's were not going to fire him after only one season. As the season started, the word around USSM was that Hargrove was on a short leash, and common sense could lead one to believe that Rohn (who was hired as a newly-created "Administrative Coach") was the logical successor. In spite of a multitude of evidence, for whatever reason, the M's decided not to fire Mike Hargrove, even when there were many reasons to do so.

While reliable statistics have yet to be determined on how to measure the importance of a manager (measuring defense statistically, even in its early stages, is WAAAAY further along than this), I believe it's clearly observable that the M's are adversely affected by Mike Hargrove's managing skills. A lot of us familiar with the Tacoma Rainiers know how Dan Rohn manages a club. If you followed last season in Tacoma at all, you know what I'm talking about when I still sit here in awe thinking about the job that Dan Rohn did, given the players and the constant roster churnage he was given in 2005. I can imagine that more than once Rohn had to change the lineup card several times within the last hour of a game. He was basically tasked with organizing chaos -- and he did a damn fine job of it, too.

So, with a touch of sadness, I'm happy to say that Dan Rohn has been set free! I'm disappointed that he won't be given the chance to warm the hearts of the Seattle fans who didn't get to see him work his magic in Tacoma. I realize he has his own weaknesses (hello aggressive baserunning!), but he was still so able to keep control of his team and bring excitement into every baseball game he managed.

Don't be fooled -- with Hassey quitting as well, Hargrove's days are numbered. Those days cannot pass quick enough.

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 +5

My how quickly time passes. Hard to believe that it's been five years since the tragedy in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania brought the baseball season to an abrupt halt.

I remember that time period very, very clearly. The M's were on the road, having arrived in Anaheim on September 10th. Although I just had to look up the score, I remember the M's had just beaten the Angels 5-1, and were one win and one Oakland loss away from clinching the division. On September freakin' 11th, they were going to become AL West Champs.

I'd watched some of Monday's game from my wife's room in the hospital. I'd gotten a call at work earlier that afternoon from my wife, that our son was ready to be born. Her OB-GYN was sending her to the hospital to have the baby induced. Having spent most of the day of the 10th in the hospital under observation, my wife was pretty tired. The doctor wanted to hold off until the next day, to make sure my wife could handle the delivery. Since we weren't going to have the baby that day (the 10th), I decided to head home to round up everything I'd forgotten to pack in hastily hurring to get to the hospital that afternoon, and to get some good sleep, because I knew the 11th and the days following were going to be loooong days for us.

Little did I know the real reason...

The morning of the 11th, I woke up to my alarm clock radio. I heard some mumblings about smoke at the World Trade Center, and reports from one of the Seattle station's reporters who happened to be staying in a hotel in the vicinity of WTC. I got out of bed and turned on CNN to watch their coverage of the events, with sandman-encrusted eyelids. I immediately called my wife in the hospital, and she had been watching the news as well.

What a perfect day to have a baby! Um. Not.

While I didn't want to unglue myself from the radio and TV coverage, I had other duties much more pressing to attend to. I showered and got dressed, packed the remaining things into the car and immediately went to the hospital. Together, we watched the tragic events unfold, and were not all together thrilled of the idea of having our son's birthday reminding us of this event.

When the doctor arrived, she went over the tests and observation records from the hospital. Since there was still more than a month until the expected due date, we weren't at all anxious to pluck a fruit off a tree that could stand a few more weeks of ripening. Fortunately the doctor agreed, and sent both of us home. Since my birthday was the following week, and I wasn't about to spend it in the hospital, we agreed that Joey could incubate two weeks longer.

I obviously had other things on my mind, but the Mariners were still very strongly in the forefront. I remember wondering what kind of impact this would have on their momentum. After all, these players were all human beings. They were on the road with no way to get back to their families. As much as I hated them, I remember the Yankees, too, being in my thoughts. Surely these guys had family, friends killed.

When the baseball season resumed on my birthday, I remember just being in a total state of disarray. My brother-in-law is exactly one day younger than I am, and he had a share of a season ticket plan. He and my sister spent the evening of his birthday at Safeco Field. The M's clinched on his birthday, and I remember calling him the next day and saying: "Well, next year, they're gonna clinch on mine!"

Boy was I wrong. The M's really haven't had a meaningful September since.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Roster Moves Coming

Sorry for the delay in posting; I've been away on yet another vacation.

As many local blogs have discussed, the M's expanded roster allows a number of farmhands the opportunity to sit on an MLB bench, or perhaps play in the most glamorous of all garbage-time settings. For most, the expanded roster means no corresponding 40 man roster cuts need to be made - guys like Oswaldo Navarro, Cesar Jimenez, TJ Bohn, Emiliano Fruto, Greg Dobbs - they're already on the 40 man. But the M's are picking two pitchers who *will* force roster cuts: Francisco Cruceta and Ryan Feierabend.

I went to Cruceta's last start in Tacoma's last home game, and he put together one of his better outings. 6 innings, 10Ks, 2BBs and one run on one rather fluky looking HR from Donnie Sadler (no HR's all year in Tucson, and he gets his first at Cheney? Tells you something about Cruceta's gopheritis, but his amazing K rate makes up for that flaw). While everyone who has insider info suggests the M's are still looking at Cruceta as a relief arm, his solid AAA season (and the desire to limit Felix's workload) may allow him to get a start or two for Seattle and keep hope alive that he can compete for the #5 spot next spring. He's clearly been working on keeping his splitter down, and he piled up a number of Ks on 58 foot pitches that day. It's an empirical fact that 58 foot splitters are difficult to hit homers off of, especially in comparison to those that break down to about belt high (the latter variety was Cruceta's weapon of choice early in the year).

Feierabend's probably the M's best pitching prospect that started the year in the organization (Tony Butler or Brandon Morrow might outrank him on most lists now), a lefty with a great pick-off move and a bit more pure stuff than, say, Travis Blackley - he's never had Travis's results, however, thanks to a pronounced inability to miss a lot of bats. Still, he's a promising kid who, like many in the org, is young for his league.

So: who's dropped from the M's 40 man to make room for the two new guys? Mateo and Reed are both on the 60-day DL already; does Raffy Soriano join them? What else? Get your thoughts in the comments quick; the M's announce the moves tomorrow.

My fear is that one or both of Clint Nageotte and Jesse Foppert might see the end of their tenure as M's pitchers. I think the M's would be loath to lose either, which is why the promotion of Feierabend over, say, Yorman Bazardo, is a bit puzzling. Either Bavasi is downright eager to jettison Foppert for perceived poor work habits in his rehab (the same thing that led him to DFA Bobby Madritsch and talk s*** about him when he announced the move), or they've simply given up on the two as reclamation projects.

I know Paul has mentioned the possibility of a Cha Seung Baek-like resurgence for Nageotte next year, which is certainly possible. With Baek starting for the M's tomorrow and coming off a very solid year in AAA, it's easy to forget just how atrocious he was last year. Check it out. His H/9 of 11.64 is nasty, his K rate of under 6 is putrid, and his HR/9 ratio was even worse (1.5 over 113 innings). I think most pudits had him dead and buried, but he bounced back with improvements in all categories (especially hits allowed), and put together a fine year.

Could Nageotte/Foppert do that? I think Nageotte's in line for a big drop in hits allowed; his GB tendencies should cause a lot of volatility in that stat - it's Baek's FB tendencies that made his resurgence all the more unexpected. In a number of games I've seen, Nageotte's been the victim of 5 straight GB singles. It makes the numbers look horrible, but it may not be entirely his fault. Look at his HR's allowed - just 6 in 88 innings (0.61/9) - that's some sign that his new MO of pitching to contact and using a sinker may be working.

What can't continue is his obscene walk rate. Even 'Bad' Baek kept his walks low (although after another homer, I kept hoping he'd pitch a bit more carefully), and Clint's now running a sub01:1 K/BB ratio. It's interesting that he didn't have this problem in the 2005 Arizona fall league; either everything Dave Cameron says about the worthlessness of those stats is true, or he really worked well with a particular pitching coach AND worked well on short starts. Try him in the bullpen and have Brad Holman and Raffy Chaves really work on improving his command. The time isn't yet right to just give up on him.

Foppert? Sheesh. What can we say about a guy who pitched under 11 innings this year? His K rate is still high despite his high 80s 'heat' but he walks a lot of guys too, and can't seem to stay healthy. If either's gone, it's probably Foppert; he was absolutely worth the gamble, but you can't expect to win every time.

What would YOU do? DFA Mike Morse or the Dobber instead? Put Lowe on the 60 day? DFA both Nageotte and Foppert and start coming the wire to see who else gets cut?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Well, THAT didn't work...

Sheesh. No posts here for a week. I've probably jinxed George again. I really need a censor 'round here ;-)

His last few outings have been rather rough. Two base hits, followed by a pitching change and that new pitcher allowing at least one of the runs to score. According to Win Probability Added (WPA), which is one of the fun things we like to calculate and chart over at LookoutLanding, George has increased the odds of the other team winning by at least 20% in two outings of his last three. Okay, so today the weather was more favorable towards the offense (in this case, the home team). Still, there needs to be more than excuses.

It may be my jinxing, or it may be fatigue. He's got to be tired -- 59 games through August (and, so far, 4 in September). Sure, he's been used for 1-2 batters at most. But still, that's a lot of warmup pitches. Darn near 2:1 ratio of Games:Innings-pitched.

I think Marc & I saw it coming.