Postgame Spread
You guys hangin' out? I'll hang out.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Deadline Update    

Nothing's happening.  Argh.

Does anyone else think that the age of blog leaks has made trades nearly impossible to develop in any kind of back-and-forth manner?  As soon as something hits the internet (e.g. the Andruw Jones rumor below, or the Tejada-to-Houston-or-Anaheim rumors), whoever is perceived to be getting the butt end of the deal looks pretty stupid.  Further, the GM probably feels pretty stupid, and would not be out of line to kill the talks out of spite.  Or how about the reverse... a possible snow job goes public, the GM realizes he's being snowed, and kills what would have been a steal for the other team.  Makes you wonder if the public vetting of trades preventing bad ones as often as it kills interesting ones.

Andruw Jones for Coco Crisp, Craig Hansen, and Jon Lester
Thank you, no, which seems to be Theo's reaction.  The Braves won't budge on including Lester, so the deal's dead.  Oh well... more fuel for the "I Hate The Braves" fire.  Didn't they get friggin eliminated last weekend?  Isn't Jones leaving Atlanta for sure?  Did I miss something?  What are they holding onto him for???  Sell low, you cheap bastards!  Doesn't matter; this is not happening.

Lowell and crappy prospects for Julio Lugo and Scott Linebrink
I parrot my disdain for Lugo.  To give up Lowell for the guy is lunacy.  I wouldn't mind grabbing Linebrink (he's gotta be better than Tavarez) but the fascination with Lugo is mind-boggling.  They're now, apparently, talking to Lugo about a contract extension.  If you ditch a good shortstop for committing 30 errors, what will you do when a bad shortstop commits 30 errors?  The fans on the first-base line would get plenty of souvenirs, but that's a wasted public relations effort.  Now that Alex Gonzalez has been around for the season, I've become somewhat accustomed to having a shortstop that fields the ball... especially when he fields it so affordably.  What's the hurry to get rid of the guy?

Lowell and crappy prospects for Ryan Shealy and Padres starter X
This seems a little more realistic, since Shealy indirectly fills the position (Youk returns to 3B).  But you can't take away the only productive guy in that 5-6-7-8 area of the lineup without replacing him; Shealy doesn't cut it.  I'm mystified as to why Lowell is on the trading block at all.

Roger Clemens
Please, God Shammgod in heaven, no.  He's looking for another playoff payday.  Fuck him.  (Unless Houston takes Matt Clement.)

Kip Wells
You know, he's not a bad pitcher.  And he'd come cheap.  But this looks more like a Jeff Suppan move than anything: they'll trade for him because the price is too low to turn down, but he'll suck.  Which frightens me.  But I'd rather have Kip Wells than Cory Lidle.

If they end up with Kip Wells and nothing else, I'll be fine.  Relievers make it across waivers all the time, so it won't mean they're stuck with Seanez and Tavarez until October.

I don't think the Sox need to "counterpunch" the Yankees.  They don't have a significant number of problems.  They do have one edge on the Yankees, which is a stable of waiver-trade-quality pitchers coming back from injury (David Wells, Matt Clement, Keith Foulke) who will cost the Sox nothing in trade value over the next month, and are approximately equivalent in value as the guys who'd come in.  Despite having, in the past, called for Matt Clement's evisceration, I do think Clement has "late-season X-factor" potential.  Meanwhile, who would the Yankees exhume if Cory Lidle falters?  He's their last hope, besides the Pontoon Queen.  And we're worried about them?

Phillies management to fans: the killings will continue until morale improves    

So.... the Yankees just coup d'Abreued Philadelphia out of their best player, in return for a few marginal prospects and a bag of potato knishes. Oh, that and ensured that El Gigante Sid will not make another start for the Yanks this year. Lidle v. Pontoon Boat = Tyson v. Spinks.

What exactly are Philly fans supposed to think about this one? I mean, they landed Abreu back in the day in one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history, and they turn around and send him out of town for 8 cents on the dollar. I refuse to believe that this is the best offer they got. I suppose it's possible that NY was the only team to offer to take on Abreu/Lidle's salary.

Anyway, HUGE steal for NY. If Lidle can go 6 innings and 3 runs, we're gonna be hard to keep out of the playoffs.

Sad day for Philly... they've now seen their best 4 players run out of town. Schilling/Rolen/Thome/Abreu. That's a championship core if I've ever seen one. And only Thome left for reason other than the fans/management turning on him (see: Ryan Howard). Disgraceful. I don't care how insane your media and fanbase are (Hi Boston), if management is remotely responsible, they figure out a way to make it work (Theo/Manny, e.g.)

I still have two games left on my Philly ticket package, and I get the feeling the stadium is gonna be on suicide watch. Sad sad sad.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Trading Soriano    

Some interesting quotes:

"Some of us were talking. Soriano may be the only player in baseball that pitchers are afraid to pitch to and afraid to pitch around," Ryan Zimmerman said. "He hits it out of the park or he walks and then steals second base and maybe third, too."


By the time Soriano prepared to leave RFK yesterday, he said: "I don't want to think of today as my last day [at RFK]. If something happens, I will miss my friends. I'm going to be very sad if I have to leave. I love the fans. I love the town. If it's my last game, they know how I feel. Thank God that I did the switch" to left field.

If you trade him, you have a chance at 2 or 3 prospects that could change the franchise the way Cliff Lee, Sizemore and Phillips (um..) changed Cleveland. Plus, you could always re-sign Soriano during the offseason. And if you couldn't, you'd have financial flexibility in an amount larger than the Marlins' team payroll. Then again, who's to say Bowden would choose good prospects, would make good choices with the money saved (see Christian Guzman), that Soriano would want to come back to a team that he felt betrayed him, or that the team (or city) wouldn't feel betrayed by a team that traded their centerpiece? Do you actually want to trade a player that genuinely seems to want to play in DC?

If you don't trade him, you have a much better shot to re-sign him, and if you can't, you get 2 first round compensation picks. Also, you send a message to your fans and team that you're committed to winning. On the other hand, he's demanding a no-trade clause in his next contract. Do you still want to re-sign him, pay him $16M a year, and get stuck like the Phillies are with Abreu? Soriano's 30 and has never really played like this before -- who's to say he'll play like this (or anything close to it) for the bulk of the deal (see Pavano, Beltre, etc. Sorry Jesse). If you don't sign him, are those two draft picks going to be better options than a couple of hot-shot, nearly-ready minor leaguers? And what's the point of the "committed to winning" message if you don't actually win (the, "we have Soriano but no one else" and "Soriano is underperforming in relation to his contract" scenarios)?

Aside from the fact that it's got to be against the rules, I'd sit down with Soriano and tell him I'd give him that no-trade and sign him to a big contract in the offseason if he'd agree to get traded for some great prospects that could help him and the Nats out in the long run. But assuming I can't do that, I think I'd still trade him if demanded more than a limited no-trade. Something like Lester, Ellsbury and another minor-leaguer (maybe Abe Alvarez) would do it (I wouldn't want the Sox to actually make this trade, but that's the type of package I'd take, swapping in something like Humberto Sanchez for Lester and other Tigers prospects that I don't know anything about).

So, should Soriano be traded? If so, for how much? If not, what should DC offer him during the offseason?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sally Baby!!!    

Sal Fasano. Yankee.
Note that they made him discard the Fu in his Manchu.
This is the best photo I've ever seen, by the way.

I Shoulda Yelled "Two!!!"    

Hooray for TrueHoop!  Ballsiest story of the... well, yesterday, but it's still a great story.

Sox Trades    

From Buster Olney's blog:
Anybody who has struck rock while using a shovel could relate to the next trade tidbit. Heard from two talent evaluators yesterday that Boston is very active in trying to come up with a large and creative deal, involving more than two teams. Smart thinking, one of them said, if it all works. Crazy stuff you wouldn't normally think of, said another. An executive with an AL team reports that he's heard that a scout was rushed off his area coverage to go scout Boston minor leaguers.

But here's where the rock-striking part comes into play. I don't know if this is just a pebble of thought on the part of the Red Sox, or if this is a larger trade boulder, like the huge Nomar Garciaparra trade Boston hit on a couple of years ago, with all those moving parts. The Red Sox are looking for pitching, and they've talked about Julio Lugo in the past.

Red Sox executives are mum; execs from other teams say they are very active.

Take it for what it's worth.
It's not worth much without a name or two.  But because it's fun to speculate, my guess is that Dontrelle is involved.  Nobody else on the market is worth that kind of trouble, and Theo might be thinking that the best way to lower the price is to confuse the shit out of Florida.  Maybe Dontrelle, Carlos Lee/The Fonso, Boston's pitching prospects and Anaheim's positional prospects are going to play a big round of Musical Uniforms.  That'd be interesting.  Maybe he just wants those teams to spend a lot of time thinking about that trade, so as to distract them from talking to other teams.

(Remember the proposed "Manny/Huff/Milledge" three-way from last summer?  It was never gonna happen, but everyone else waited to see if it went down before making their own trades.  When it fell through, everyone had wasted so much time that the deadline was useless for pretty much everyone in the American League.  Brilliant maneuver.  Theo Pimpstein is truly a man among boys in the world of general management.)

Anyway, the one thing the Red Sox have to have is another starter.  Schilling/Beckett/Wakefield/Lester is good enough for the regular season, but we can't have Wakie or Lester starting a short-series Game 3.  So what are our options?

* Matt Clement excused himself from consideration with last October's performance in Chicago (to say nothing of this season's utter meltdown).
* David Wells is a non-factor until Boeing develops an airplane capable of takeoff while Wells is on board. 
* Jon Lieber has succeeded in the past (against Boston) but I'll pass, unless the Phillies send cash or sweeten the deal somehow.
* Jason Jennings has been mentioned.  I don't like him much, but as a Colorado escapee he could be the 2006 version of Shawn Chacon.  Maybe?
* The Jake Peavy deal fell through, and for good reason.  But still, you don't turn down someone of his talent, no matter how bad a year he's having.  He's almost... almost... worth punting 2006 for, especially if the Pads would actually accept some variation on Lowell + a middling prospect.  That's just an insane proposition.
* Dontrelle is clearly the thoroughbred in the race.  Dunno how he'd like the fishbowl effect of Boston, but if he's truly as happy-go-lucky as he looks, then he might go nicely.  They have to make a run at him no matter what, just so the Yankees don't get him.

As for the bullpen, you can always use more relievers.  However, the primary goal of acquiring relievers would be to keep said relievers away from Toronto, Chicago and New York, who are all in dire need of setup men.  Our guys are actually doing pretty well... Timlin's a rock, Hansen and Delcarmen are performing admirably (if adventurously) and Paps is Paps.  Furthermore, Keith Foulke is on his way back; if he's actually healthy (and not cooked) then maybe he returns to that "tight spot wild-card" role he assumed earlier in the year.

A pinch-hitting bench bat would be helpful, too, if only because they can be leased for the low-low price of a PTBNL.  I think the Sox are actually pretty well set in the bench department, between Wily Mo, Gabe Kapler, Willie Harris, Dougie "Chicken Parm" Mirabelli and Alex Cora, with Hee Seop Choi languishing in the minors as a likely September call-up.  Still, there's always room for improvement.

So, here's a breakdown of potential ins and outs.  Hopefully I haven't missed anything...

Craig Hansen
Jon Lester
Manny Delcarmen
Julian Tavarez (NL teams are actually asking about him.  SIGN THE DEAL!!!)
Keith Foulke (Him too!  What's next, a Godfather offer for Clement?)
Matt Clement (ahem)
Mike Lowell
Wily Mo Peña
Trot Nixon
Various also-ran pitching prospects (Kason Gabbard, David Pauley, Clay Buchholz, Abe Alvarez, et al)
Various not-yet-ran positional prospects (Brandon Moss, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, et al)

End-of-the-rotation starter
Middle/long reliever
Bench bat

Known Targets
Jake Peavy
Dontrelle Willis
Jon Lieber
Tom Gordon
Rheal Cormier
Julio Lugo (please... no...)
Jamey Wright
Jason Jennings

Also Out There (Among Others)
Carlos Lee
Alfonso Soriano
Aramis Ramirez
Livan Hernandez
Pat Burrell
Bobby Abreu
Gil Meche (I'm no fan, but if he's cheaper than Clement he's better than Clement)
Barry Zito

Looking at this group, it looks like a deal with Philadelphia for Gordon and Lieber will yield the most quality per prospect.  Philly does seem anxious to clean house, come hell or high water, so the Sox can probably get those guys cheap.  Further, a Gordon-based deal keeps Flash out of the Bronx, which will only expedite the inevitable placement of a fork in Scott Proctor's back.  Anyway, all the other quality arms on the market will come at a higher price, or lock us into that pitcher well beyond 2006, and Lieber isn't that bad an addition (by deadline standards, anyway) so who knows.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Jurassic Carl no more...    

Sorry to clog this space up so much lately, but I had to get this out here. They finally managed it, Carl Everett DFA'd and Chris Snelling up to take his place. It's well past time, but we've managed to hang in there in the division, more or less. So, whether they were searching for some return on him or trying to manage the PR fallout by waiting for his batting average to become the lowest on the team (Sexson passed him last night), well, I guess I can see why that might have been attractive. Make no mistake, though, it cost us games. This race could be a virtual four-way tie right now, instead of the Mariners looking up from the bottom.

But enough of that. It was a horrible signing, but it's over now, and Bavasi is slowly inching the Mariners closer to a roster that's impossible for Hargrove to mismanage too terribly. If we could replace Mateo and Piñeiro with decent players, we would actually be a good team (assuming last night wasn't a sign of things to come for Gil Meche). As for Snelling, he's in a bit of a slump right now, but I'm not worried about his hitting. He eviscerated AAA pitching in 2005 before going on to put up good numbers (.276/.382/.448, 1 HR) for his brief time in the bigs (29 at-bats) before his knee gave out again. He had a great June, and every indication is that if he can stay healthy he will hit very well majors. Of course, that's a bit like saying Kerry Wood would be a useful part of the Cubs rotation if he could stay healthy, but it's always possible.

The injury concerns could lead the Mariners to pick up an insurance policy at DH. The two names most linked to Mariners in this regard are David Delucci and Todd Walker. Either would platoon at DH with Eduardo Pérez, and Delucci might play more left with Ibañez as the DH, it's hard to say. I wouldn't be upset with either of these, but I'd rather see the team focus on pitching. If Snelling can't stay healthy this year, either Petagine or Shin-Soo Choo would make a decent platoon partner with Pèrez. On the other hand, Piñeiro is a complete disaster right now, Mateo should never see another high-leverage at-bat, and the state of team is such that if Meche reverts to form, we're completely sunk.

The Mariners may have internal options there as well, but they're not as attractive. Francisco Cruceta looked for some time like an obvious choice to replace Piñeiro in the rotation, but he's really stunk of late, and no one else is really presenting themselves. So, a starter is the key, but the market is thin and they will be expensive. I might just give Cruceta the shot anyway. But whatever happens, either Mateo or Piñeiro has to go if we want a chance at this thing. The most important thing has happened, though. The Mariners will now begin to get some production out of their DH, which you know, is kind of important in the American League.


OK, the media frenzy has finally reached the point that even given my deep distaste for A-Rod, my irritation with the undervaluing of his ability has exceeded my irritation with him. It doesn't make him a sympathetic figure for me or anything, but it is getting confusing. I know I hate dumbass Yankee fans more than I hate A-Rod, and I know that while I still think he's a little mentally fragile, the public perception of him as a choker is so overblown that it's getting ridiculous. But the rest gets a fuzzy. I know he wouldn't be a top choice for me to bat with the game on the line, but I'd probably have to take him over any current Mariner. So where does that leave you?

But how bad of a choker is he? How bad of a teammate? Statheads of course hate the notion of clutch players and chokers. They will quote up and down how he's been just as good close-and-late as basically anybody else (though not this year), and are well versed in the necessary argumentation to shut down any "he's a choker" argument (his overall playoff numbers are actually really good, etc.). But we all saw that series vs. the Red Sox, and we know something went wrong inside that man. And it happened again against the Angels; it's not science, but I'm still confident it wasn't just good pitching that induced that potential-rally-killing 9th inning double play. So if the image of him as a choker is real but exaggerated (and obviously not easily measured), what do you say to stathead folks who quote stat after stat at you about why he's not a choker?

Finally, I don't think A-Rod gets traded. But if he does, where do you think he goes and for what package? What do you think it would take for it to actually be a good idea for the Yankees? I was thinking to the Angels for Colon, Kendrick and Santana. Other guesses?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Park Dimensions    

Debates have been raging over at USS Mariner regarding Safeco Field's devastating impact on right-handed power. First, there was this post about how difficult it is to construct a roster that can succeed in Safeco (though it's a heck of a lot easier to get good performances out of marginal lefty starters like Jarrod Washburn and Jamie Moyer). Then, debate erupted again Sunday in reference to Adrian Beltre in particular, who that very day hit a double and an in-the-park home run off the wall in left-center. Both would have cleared the fence in most every other park in baseball.

Some interesting things have come out of that debate, though it's been unnecessarily heated and haughty at points (that's the internet for you, I guess). It's clear that from a roster construction standpoint, having a field that is favorable to some kinds of hitters and very disfavorable to others is tricky. It's also clear, at least to me, that if one were to be successful in creating a roster that is a good fit for a strange park, the team could have a significant advantage (unless that construction were to cause them problems in other stadiums). For the Mariners, clearly, Safeco is not a good fit right now (except in that it allows them to keep trotting Moyer out there to the delight of bored, aging housewives across the Pacific Northwest). So, I think some adjustment is probably necessary. But how much? How to go about it?

And more importantly, what do we like out of a ballpark, from a park effect standpoint? (I'm not interested in talking about aesthetics or here). I think it's pretty clear we all like a little distinctiveness, otherwise if would be boring. I know I prefer pitchers' parks. I know I like doubles, triples, and defense; so a spacious outfield is good for any number of reasons. I know I'm scared about moving the RF fence back at all in Safeco because I know the M's will never, ever get rid of Raul Ibañez, and I have no idea if he would be as productive without the porch. So I guess I'm in favor of small adjustments inward in left and left-center, and no more than the slightest of adjustments out in right.

But I like the idea of being able to construct a roster that will give you an advantage at home. Unfortunately, it seems to me like it doesn't turn out that well. I think it's interesting that Safeco clearly parrots Yankee stadium, strongly favoring LH power hitters and LH starters who can negate LH power. Safeco doesn't have quite the RF porch that Yankee stadium does, and Yankee stadium isn't as tough on RH power as Safeco is, but both clearly have the same basic intent. And I don't know if it was a meaningful part of the Yankees late-nineties success, but it seems to me that since then it's been trouble for both teams. All the scouring the Yankees do for lefty starters seems to be more of a pain than anything else, at least to me, and Safeco has clearly made it harder for Seattle to find quality, RH power.

So, basically, I want to hear what you all think. What kinds of park effects do you find the most interesting? Do you like the idea of parks favoring certain kinds of hitters or pitchers? From a pure park-effect standpoint, what are your favorite ballparks? Let's hear it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bravo, good sir    

Last night I attended the Phillies/Braves game. It marked Brett Myers' first start in Philly since his semi-pro bout in Boston.

Seen at the park:
a certain young gent of remarkable likeness to Joe Dirt, wearing a wifebeater w/ "Myers 39" scrawled on the back in sharpie.

I have to admit, I doubted Philly's ability to out-offensive the family of mouth-breathing Braves fans who were decked out in full feathers, face paint, hatchets and drums, but Philly came through with flying colors.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Quick Trade Rumor Roundup    

Wily Mo Pena for pitching
I'd be sad about this, mostly because I salivate at the prospect of three gargantuan Dominicans knocking out 35-40 HR annually for the Sox. Picking up a stopgap starter (this guy's just gonna hold the fort for this year; Prospect X will take his job in '07) makes little sense to me. But if it ends up happening, so be it... depending on who the Sox end up with.

Mike Lowell for Jake Peavy?!?
Huh? The Pads would be nuts to do this, and it opens a gaping hole in the Sox' lineup. This trade only makes sense in fantasy. (I'd elaborate, but we all know what Rule #1 of Postgame Spread is.)

Prospects for Dontrelle Willis
You mean the Sox' rotation would be Schilling/Willis/Beckett/Lester/Wakefield, with Matt Clement and David Wells getting fed to Brick Top's wild pigs, and a stable of 25-y.o. fireballers in the bullpen? Any way I can donate a nut or two to make this happen?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fire Mike Hargrove    

The Mariners probably should have swept the Blue Jays this weekend. After these past two games, in which even in extra innings our best reliever did not make an appearance, the total for games lost only by Hargrove's idiocy, based on rough guesses about the likely outcome if we had been smarter, is now at least three. It could be as high as five or six, depending, but it's not like this is a great team that can be expected to perform particularly well in hypothetically superior matchups or anything. I count two completely, 100% management-blown games, and six more that there's a very good chance we would have won (not to mention several that we barely managed to win in spite of inept in-game management).

Three games would be the difference between our current record of 44-48 (last in the AL West) and 47-45--second place and one game back. We could very well be first and picking up steam right now if some of the more toss-up situations worked in our favor. I can't describe how frustrating it is to sit here on the internet and witness these horrible decisions unfold. I'm sure I don't need to point out that Carl Everett is something like the second-worst DH in the AL this year, and Guardado personally cost the team four games (four games!) this year by virtue of being completely incompetent. Both of these disasters were forseeable and preventable.

It's nice to know that by the time the Mariners have a legit shot to compete, next year, these problems should all be fixed. But it's incredibly frustrating to watch it unfold. If this team dumps Everett, Hargrove, and one of Mateo/Piñeiro (relegating the other to exclusively low-pressure situations) right now, we still have a chance at this thing. But time is running out, and the Mariners are just not the kind of organization that feels comfortable doing something like firing Hargrove mid-season. I don't think this team can make the playoffs with him managing games, so barring a miracle, I'm giving up on this season.

I am still very, very excited about 2007, but as excited as I am, I'm just as nervous about the future capacity of this organization to evaluate aging players who just don't have it anymore and the tendency to favor idiotic, good ol' boy management. And that Washburn contract is even more horrible than I thought it was at the time. I can't believe he's going to be clogging up our rotation for 3 more years. Say what you want about the Beltre and Sexson contracts, which were both pretty high-risk and can probably be classified as busts at this point, but at least they made some sense from a player-evaluation standpoint.

All this team needs to add next year is one good and one competent starting pitcher (and to extend Eduardo Pérez for another year), and the rest should take care of itself. We have the money; we have youth and talent. It's all going to waste right now.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A more contructive approach to los junkees    

Their starters usually fail to go 6 innings. As a result, their bullpen is exhausted. I expect Proctor to hit Dr. Andrews' operating table by mid-August. They need a starter to replace Chacon, yes, but unless they follow my magic scenario that nets them both Bobby Abreu and Dontrelle Willis, it's likely that whatever starter they land won't be a revelation (hi Sid). Thus, they need middle relief, in a bad bad way.

I have a solution to this that is perfectly reasonable, and has a high likelihood for success. DON'T sign some 38 year old reclamation ex-closer. DO call up the Indians, and inquire about the Mujic Man. With the big brass balls and the rat-a-tat fastball, he's pitched 32 innings in relief this year, between AA, AAA, and the majors, and HAS YET TO ALLOW A RUN. He was barely a prospect at the start of the year, and the Indians suck this year, for some unknown reason, so i figure he could be gotten relatively cheap. Like, say, for a couple million in cash for donation to the 2007 Barry Zito sweepstakes.

Yankees' "Bigger" Move    

Analysis of the Yankees Latest Acquisition: A Photo Essay

Yay. Happy happy, joy joy.


Yep. El Sid, aka Ponson the Pontoon, is heading to NY. And not for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, but to pitch for the Yankees.

This guy makes Eric "Badlands" Booker seem like a model of moderation.

Nice job by ESPN on the tongue in cheek headline, by the way.

Wait, did I say tongue? Oh no, here comes Sidney! No! Sidney! No! I don't have any beef tongue! Wait, stop chewing on my leg! AIIGH!

"Sidney eat your baby!"

What, was David Wells unavailable? Al Leiter not around?

All out of Blancmanges?

I'm making the call. Yankees miss the playoffs this year. They're done.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mariners' big moves    

Well, it appears the injury to Jeremy Reed has forced the Mariners' hand; Adam Jones is up to take Reed's spot in center field, and there has been all kinds of shuffling of the bench of late. It's an extremely aggressive move, but I think it was ultimately the best thing to do. Unfortunately, I think the whole process involved some very poor decision making that made this team worse rather than better this year. In the process, we've treated a couple of players pretty roughly, all to avoid treating the one guy who really deserves to be treated roughly, Carl Everett.

I feel bad for Roberto Petagine, cut so that we could have a backup catcher on our roster while Kenji Johjima visited his family in Japan a few days before (and during) the All-Star Break to see his newly-born third child. I feel bad for Choo, who wasn't given a real shot to stick on the roster, even though he's has been tearing up AAA this year, particularly against RHP. He shouldn't have been used in center, and he has pretty extreme platoon splits, but that's why we have Eduardo Pérez, right? The odds that Choo can't hit RHP better than Everett are pretty long as far as I'm concerned. Let's go over the timeline, shall we?

June 14 Mariners lose eighth consecutive game to Oakland.
June 14 (a) Everett proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that he has no business on a major league roster.
June 20-28 Mariners go 7-2 in NL parks, without a DH.
June 30 Mariners realize that Everett's season line against LHP is .159/.243/.270. OK, that's what it is now, but it wasn't so different then and I'm too lazy to figure out how different.
June 30 (a) Mariners trade for Eduardo Pérez, who's season line against LHP is .341/.371/.692.
July 1 Leading by one in the seventh, with 2 men on facing LHP Tom Martin, Hargrove elects not to pinch hit Pérez for either Everett or Reed (who has yet to get a hit against a lefty this season). Good thing the back end of our bullpen is awesome.
July 2 A comedy of errors, including the possibly worst bullpen management ever, failure to pinch hit Pérez for Everett or Reed vs. LHP, Reed's subsequent injury, and an Ichiro home run in the bottom of the 11th that should have been a walkoff.
July 3 Reed to the DL, Choo called up, platooned with Willie Bloomquist in center.
July 9: Petagine designated for assignment, Luis Oliveros recalled to backup Rene Rivera while Johjima is in Japan.
July 13 Jones and Gregg Dobbs (!) promoted from Tacoma, Choo and Oliveros demoted.

As USS Mariner points out, all this last move really means is that the team is not ready to get rid of Everett. Dobbs will sit on the bench with no playing time instead of Choo or Chris Snelling, who are much more interesting options. Within the constraint of Everett definitely being a starter on the team, this is not so stupid--Choo and Snelling need to be playing. However, the constraint is stupid. Everett should have been dumped some time ago. I recognize that the Mariners feel they have to give him every chance, because they brought him in and they have a player-friendly (especially veteran-friendly) image to maintain. But they should have found a way to be rid of him by now. If Bavasi is working the phones like crazy, trying not to resort to DFA'ing him, well, he should have been finished with that before the All-Star Break, at the very least. The time has passed; he has no place left on this team, and neither does the manager who refuses to pinch hit for him in obvious situations.

I have to assume that Choo was always only a stopgap in center while Bavasi looked for a cheap option from some other team. Having failed to find one, they decided to give Jones a shot. I guess I'm ok with that, though since it was to be a short stint from the beginning, I would have used Choo in right and Ichiro in center. I understand that Ichiro thinks playing center would interfere with his endurance and offensive production, but I think he could and would have played center for that week without any problem. Might not have made a difference, but there was no knowing at the time. Anyway, the choice they should be making now is Petagine vs. Choo vs. Snelling for DH (or possibly some LF while Ibanez DH's, depending) alongside Pérez. Instead, it's Everett vs. Snelling. Here's hoping that Everett loses that battle soon. If he does, I'm reasonably pleased with the state of the lineup, although I can't see any good reason why we've ended up with Dobbs on the bench instead of Petagine. But Choo provides pretty good insurance in case Snelling gets hurt, as he can probably platoon with Pérez at DH as well as anybody, and spell Ibanez in LF as well.

If Everett is off the team and Snelling is on it before we lose more ground in the standings, the lineup is in good shape, even if Jones is a bit of an automatic out for a while. The big question mark is pitching, because even if Meche keeps pitching like he has (which I think is a real longshot, though there are indications he may have turned a bit of a corner), we need to add at least one more good starting pitcher to win the division. Neither Joel Piñeiro or Julio Mateo should be doing anything but mop-up duty in blowouts, so we'll have to move (or DFA) one of them. There are some interesting arms in the minors that could shore up the bullpen, and maybe Francisco Cruceta deserves a shot at the rotation. I'd feel more comfortable with a proven arm, but on the other hand, I don't see much point in sacrificing anyone who could contribute next year for another pitcher. 2007 is a much more legitimate opportunity for this team than 2006 is.

The big questions now are how to axe Everett and Hargrove without a PR disaster (and of course, how to get another quality starting pitcher into our rotation). I think they'll ditch Everett, but firing Hargrove in the middle of the season would look pretty strange to a lot of people, so we'll probably have to wait until the team falls out of contention or even the end of the season. Then, we'll have to figure out what to do about Reed. Jones is hardly a sure bet to be a good centerfielder, though at this point I'd certainly bet on him over Reed. If Jones is struggling, do you give Reed the job back once he's healthy? Do you trade him? Does he have any value at this point? He almost looks washed up.

And what kind of insurance do you need for Snelling, who has been so injury prone that it's hard to describe? If you can get a legit SP for a package involving Choo, of course you take it, but otherwise, I say hang onto him. Snelling is too much of an injury risk to be short a backup plan. Also, I think offering Pérez an extension is a good idea, because there's nothing to indicate that Snelling-backup-plan-Choo is going to improve much against lefties. And anyway, Perez is an incredible weapon off the bench, not to mention that if Ibanez's numbers continue to fall off vs. LHP, the team is going to need him whether or not Snelling can play a full season next year.

There's a lot to be concerned about here, but I'm not sweating it. I'm not convinced that this is really a dangerous thing for Jones' personal development, the threat of too much failure in the bigs. Don't 20 year olds expect to struggle at the major league level for a while? Don't they have a million people telling them that they'll be great with a little more experience? Anyway, he seems like he has a good head on his shoulders. I think if Jones hits a big bump in his development, it won't be because he was pushed along too fast. Right now, I'm just excited to get the chance to watch so many young players develop together. And after the last 2 years, being just 2 1/2 games out at the All-Star Break is a blessing all its own.

Ah, So    

Thanks, Ichiro, for giving us all insight into the Mariners' Wrinkled Fruit (and thanks to deadspin for the quote).

“If there is a problem, we need to notice what creates the problem. The problem usually isn’t just on the cover. You need to look much deeper. For example, if we’re talking about a tree and the tree has a problem, you need to look at the root. But you cannot see the root. The mistake is to keep watering the fruit. That’s not going to solve anything.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just A Thought    

I'm sitting here, poring over the contract status of everyone on the Sox' roster, when a thought crosses my mind:

If Tim Wakefield's indefinite rolling option were turned down and he retired, but then later un-retired and joined another team, I'd want to go cheer him on in B-more or DC if he came through...

Stunning as that thought was, given our checkered past together, the next thought was about a thousand times more stunning:

...but I'd want to get myself a Wakefield jersey.

This is an about-face worthy of the WWE.  If I were to go back in time to 2002 and tell my earlier self that I'd seriously considered buying a Tim Wakefield jersey, it would probably cause one of those rifts in the space-time continuum that Doc Brown was so preoccupied with.  I'd be all like "AAAAAAAAA" and then weird awful shit would start happening... I'd get shot (not fatally, just painfully) by the D.C. Sniper, the Sox would lose Game 7 in 2004, Frank Rusch would fall down a well while picking mushrooms and touch off a nationwide vigil, and so forth.

If You Disapprove Of Gay Marriage, You Won't After You Read This    

Groom: Jon Lester
Bride's Maiden Name: Wily Mo Pena
Bride's New Name: Wily Mo Lester

Theo, please... make this happen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top 10 Things Marco Materazzi Really Said To Zinedine Zidane    

1. "Nice to see the medics fixed your knee when you got hurt.  You know, because fixing injuries in the middle of the game is a difficult job that can only be done for a lot of money."
2. "Go fuck a baguette, pecker-neck."
3. "I really liked your work in Hostel."
5. "If you were a penis, and I was Lindsay Lohan's vagina, what would you do?"
6. "Psst... wanna be an internet cliche?"
7. "OK, so if all the calls Dwyane Wade got in the Finals were bullshit, what do you consider a foul?"
8. "Taytonka!  Taytonka!"
9. "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is the best band ever."
10. "So, how's your wife and my kids?"

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Classic Carl Everett    

The Seattle Times reports that Jurassic Carl is upset with his playing time! The incident in question involves being pinch hit for by Eduardo Perez late in yesterday’s blowout. That’s right, in a blowout, Eduardo Perez was used for the exact purpose he was traded for! The Mariners might still have a winning record if he’d been used in similar situations that actually matter.

This quote is particularly outstanding:

"Why am I the only player being messed with?"

Because you’re washed-up switch hitter who hasn’t been able to hit lefties in years! And what’s more, you’re not the only player. Reed, who until fairly recently appeared to have potential to improve, has been platooned with Willie Bloomquist to ensure he never gets at bats against lefties. In retrospect it looks like a smart decision, because Reed is 0-22 I think against lefties this year, but no smarter than DFA’ing your ass. I hope your outburst gets you fired, but I know better. Please just leave this team alone.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The State of Seattle Sports    

Despite disappointing recent seasons from the Mariners and Sonics (and major question marks remaining on both clubs), I think this is an exciting time to be a Seattle sports fan. The Mariners having a winning record for the first time this deep into the season since the 2003 and look to be strong offensively and defensively up the middle for years to come with Lopez, Betancourt, and soon—if Reed can’t get his act together—Adam Jones. Everyone knows that King Felix has struggled a bit this year, but he is still the youngest player in major league baseball, not to mention pretty awesome lately, so I think we can cut him some slack. Oh yeah, and the back end of the bullpen is as dominant as any in baseball. The Sonics put together a fantastic run at the end of the season after surprisingly savvy trades for Chris Wilcox and Earl Watson. Watson isn’t going to make me stop missing Antonio Daniels, but he’s a fantastic addition and Wilcox is the most exciting four we’ve had since Shawn Kemp. I think right now—if they can re-sign Wilcox—this is a better team than the one that almost beat the Spurs just over a year ago, but they need to play better defense.

So, without further ado, let’s take a quick look at Seattle’s chances in the immediate future at securing a few championships:

Seahawks: You all know I’m not much of a Seahawks fan, so I won’t spend much time here. Clearly, after a disappointing Superbowl appearance—which the team knows damn well was a winnable game—they have to be hungry. They’re as good a bet as anyone to repeat as NFC champs, but I still have trouble seeing a Superbowl champion there. Mostly, that’s because I don’t think they’ll face an AFC champ in the near future who will play them as softly as Pittsburgh did. But, if that receiving corps can cure their dropsies and the defense can keep improving, I suppose anything is possible. Good luck to them; with the improvement of the Cardinals (and probably at least to some extent the Rams and 49ers, who were historically awful last year), it's not going to be as easy securing all that home field advantage in the playoffs.

Sonics: You think the Celtics draft was frustrating? Everyone, and I mean everyone, is bashing the Sonics pick of Senegalese center Saer Sene. The big difference of course, is that there weren’t really any really exciting picks left on the board, so the sense having missed out isn’t nearly as palpable. Like Jeff, I can’t believe Boston (and Minnesota) passed on Roy, what a disaster. I hope everything works out for them—I like Boston’s team and I need to see Garnett in the playoffs again—but I have to agree that’s plain foolish. You’d think the recent success of the Suns (though they obviously have a “true point”) would indicate to folks that the most important thing is to put the best players on the court that you can. But maybe not, and maybe Telfair poised for a breakthrough. I’m mostly annoyed that Portland got Roy; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to root against him or root for the Blazers, so his career there is likely to be a persistent frustration for me.

As for the Sonics, well, I don’t think this draft was likely to help them that much anyway. The key to that team is the players we already have—many of them already recent picks like Ridnour, Swift, Collison, and Petro—and in re-signing Wilcox. Why not swing for the fences? In that spot, I don’t really have a problem with high-reward, astronomical-risk pick. And I saw some video of Sene; at least he’s athletic, not just tall. Supposedly they think he’ll be able to play good defense in the NBA, and if they’re right he could be an important addition. We don’t need our centers to score anyway—that part Ray, Rashard, and Chris have covered. Seems like he’s more likely to be a bust, but Swift and Petro have been a lot better than I expected, so I’ll give the Sonics the benefit of the doubt for now, since they couldn’t get Roy, Thomas, or Foye anyway, the only guys I was all that excited about in the draft.

I’m pretty bummed about all this arena nonsense, because I think the team belongs in Seattle, not Bellevue or Renton, but I’m excited about the future on the court. Since giving a starting job to Wilcox—who averaged 14 and 8 in Seattle, with some much, much bigger games—the team went 12-10, a winning percentage that would have been good for first in the division. It wouldn’t have been so great overall in the West, but it would have been playoff basketball. Granted, they faced a lot of teams that were already in or already out of the playoffs during that time, but considering that the core of the team that played so well against the Spurs is still there, with at least one obvious upgrade and increasing maturity from Swift and Petro, I think the potential of this team is real. And Ray Allen seems to just keep getting better. On the other hand, the Mavs, Spurs, and Suns (my pick for champs next year of Stoudemire stays healthy) will have a lot to say about that. Championship? Probably not in the near future, but this is going to be an exciting team to watch.

Mariners: Ah the Mariners, how you have tortured me these past few years. But honestly, I really believe now that the worst is over. This is the latest in the season the Mariners have been over .500 since 2003. Having gone 18-8 in June and 10-3 in interleague play so far, they are on a tear. After last night’s embarrassing loss to Colorado, and the losses of Texas and Oakland today, the Mariners are now tied for second place in the AL West, just two games back of Oakland. We also have the best run-differential in the division by a substantial margin—as of today, Oakland’s is actually negative. So, this is a winnable division.

It’s a little hard to believe, but then Texas is pretty consistently good for a late-season swoon, and Oakland’s injury problems are making them look pretty vulnerable. I think Oakland still has to be the favorite for the division, but Dave over at USS Mariner makes a good case that they really aren’t all that good. I think if Crosby and Bradley start hitting like they should and Harden can come back and pitch effectively, they’re still the team to beat. But I’m not sure those question marks are really that much smaller than the Mariners’ question marks. Can Beltre keep hitting like this? Probably not, but the steady diet of fastballs he’s getting while hitting behind Ichiro’s stolen base threat should help. And Sexson looks like he’s bouncing back.

As far as what to do next, how to handle this situation—the whole buyers or sellers debate—Dave strikes again with a very good description of the team’s needs. I’m not sure I really agree with him about the solutions, but then I don’t really claim expertise. And in a way it doesn’t matter too much, as the Mariners have already begun addressing those weakness. The trade of Asdrubral Cabrera, maybe my favorite minor leaguer in the Mariners system, for Eduardo Perez is tough for me, maybe wasteful. But Cabrera was never going to play for us, and overpaying like this (if it is overpaying) is fully in keeping with the way the Mariners do things, so it’s hardly a surprise. He’ll slot nicely into second in my list of former Mariners (or Mariner prospects) to root for, right after Bobby Madritsch. And as people have pointed out this should be a big help. Perez has a career OPS of .889 against southpaws, and this year he's killing them to the tune of 1.048, whereas Everett has been an absolute disaster against them. I’d still like to see Everett out (especially before his option for next year automatically vests), replaced by Chris Snelling probably, but I think that’s unlikely.

So unless the Mariners have given up on Reed, that’s probably the only major change in our position players, besides shuffling the bench. The next step is to figure out how to upgrade the rotation and the bullpen, which means deciding what the hell to do with Joel Piñeiro and Eddie Guardado. I think that’s really the key to making a real playoff push, particularly since Meche can not be expected to pitch like this all summer. It will take a lot for the Mariners to win the division, but starting in 2007 we’re going to be a dangerous team for a long time. If Adam Jones can hit major league pitching and Jeff Clement sticks at catcher, watch out. Our pitching cupboard is pretty much bare, but it’s really our only major need going into this offseason. Players like Jason Schmidt and Daisuke Matsuzaka are maybe high injury risks, but they both have incentives to come to Seattle, so who knows?

What I know is that this is the most exciting time to be a Mariner fan since 2001, and it’s about damn time. If the Mariners are still within striking distance after the Tigers come to town, I’m really going to start to believe. Here’s hoping to regain sole possession of second place tonight.