The Mariners Did Some Things Last Week

I am spending this very Seattle day indoors watching the last bits of the Packers/ Panthers game.* Might give other games some thought, but after the week I’ve had, I think I’d prefer to just shut down and watch the South Park marathon currently happening on another channel. I’ve spent my week sick, and overtaxed. My cat JJ (yes, named after that JJ) was in the ER for two days with bladder problems, and that ultimately means that I can no longer fork out a downpayment to keep my season tickets with the Ms; there simply isn’t enough money left after the debt I am now in over his medical bill. This is fine, as we have to do what we have to do as responsible pet owners, but it completely takes the wind out of my sails for heading to a pub for lunch to watch football. Home is cheaper and less noisy.

The Mariners, meanwhile, were busy while I was trying to avert crisis. We have sent Logan Morrison back to Florida, and he is taking Danny Farquhar and Brad Miller with him. My initial reaction was to be disapponted in the move, because Morrison was a player I started out not liking as a personality. He was a fair to middling player acquired during a time where we needed one that was much better, and his online antics made me wonder if Seattle was really the right fit for him. But he grew on me after a bit, and when he had his moments, they were great and a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, those moments were not frequent enough for Jerry Dipoto to keep him around (or for us as fans wanting to see some more runs put up to want that to happen), and after my initial shock, I warmed up to the idea. I like the concept of an everyday first baseman. It seems like forever since the team has had someone at first who was truly worth keeping there. Since 2008, our first basemen have been:

  • Miguel Cairo
  • Tug Hulett
  • Richie Sexson
  • Mike Carp
  • Mike Sweeney
  • Russell Branyan
  • Justin Smoak
  • Alex Liddi
  • Nick Franklin
  • Kendrys Morales
  • Jesus Montero

There are other bench players I am sure I am missing, but that’s not really an all-star list, is it? In return for these three, we got back RHP Nate Karns, reliever CJ Riefenhauser, and some kid named Boog Powell who has nothing to do with the ex-Oriole Boog Powell, but who is apparently ranked 13 in the list of Tampa Rays prospects, so we have that going for us. Powell spent 56 games at the triple A level last year, after playing 61 games in double A. He is 22 years old and Steamer projects him to improve next year, so he might be fun to watch come up, though I really hope they don’t rush him (which will also be a point of interest as far as how Dipoto handles our minors). I should probably get down to Tacoma at least once in 2016, unless of course the team sticks him at double A. He will be getting an inviation to Spring Training, though, so at the very least I might be able to check him out on TV or radio.

The general consensus seems to be that this move was a good one, and I can’t say I disagree. I feel awful about Brad Miller; he was one of the guys I really liked here, and I had hoped he would improve and thrive here, and he may do well with the Rays, but he’s 26 now, and probably should have spent more time in triple A before being moved up here; I don’t think his short stint with the Rainiers was really long enough to get a full idea of who he is as a player. I am hoping he makes a nice utility guy with the Rays; he’s a likeable guy and I wish him luck. As for CJ Riefenhauser, I’m going to leave that to the upcoming season. He’ll be 26 years old by the time the season starts, and he has spent just about his entire baseball career in the Rays minor leagues. His numbers are difficult for me to gauge, because my understanding of pitching metrics is light, and the fact that he’s a reliever makes it even more difficult. I’m guessing he’ll spend time between here and Tacoma next year, but I’m not sure I see a 26 year old reliever with a 6.27 FIP being a regular in our bullpen. Stranger things have happened, though.

I feel like Nate Karns is the gem in the bunch. He’ll be 27 by April, and while he hasn’t spent much time in the majors, he is being looked at as a back-of-the-rotation starter, probably anywhere from 3-5 depending on injuries and whatever else. Per Nathan from Lookout Landing, he is under team control for the next five years, so if this doesn’t work out, it’s not like we have a bunch of red tape to wade through to get ourselves out of it. He is fresh out of his rookie season, and I am keen to see what he can do.

The name Byung-ho Park has also been floating around. Park is a player in the Korean League, on a team called Nexen Heroes. I am going to be the first to admit that the amount of knowledge I have about the KBO could fit in maybe half a thimble. In fact, I know more about British baseball than I do about Korean baseball, and Korean players are actually sought after by MLB teams. The Heroes accepted a bid for MLB teams to even start to speak with Park about a deal; the bid winner is still a mystery, but the Mariners have not been ruled out. The winning team has 30 days to nail down a deal with Park, and if they don’t, then the Heroes lose the money and the bidding team goes back to square one. Park is, of course, a first baseman. There have been a number of Korean players in MLB, but there are issues with how stats in Korea equate to professional baseball here. I got into a discussion earlier today on Twitter with Alex from Seattle Sportsnet regarding the hype around Park and how it’s not as easy to measure the Korean metrics as it is Japanese metrics, since we deal with Japan more frequently in trades. Park’s statistics are at , and while I am in no way taking those numbers at face value, I feel I need to point it out that a lot of people doubted Yu Darvish when he came over here as well, and yet he has shown up as advertised. Does that mean Park will as well? Of course not; but the basic (very basic, yes) numbers in KBO look good, and if he is obtained at a sensible price, why not check him out?

All of this might be moot anyway, because nobody knows who is talking to whom. But I have to say, Jerry Dipoto has started the offseason with a bang. I am looking forward to seeing what else he is able and willing to do.

*Game is very over and was very terrible as this is actually posted.

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The World Series, And The Future

I feel like I need to put something in this space, so while I have a little bit of time on an early lunch due to a trip I am taking later today, a few feelings about the muted remaining whispers of baseball. I have been sick for the past week, and while I certainly feel better than I did last weekend, I am still feeling fairly run down. The sneezing is out of control. Be that as it may, I have been trying to maintain interest in a baseball season that is slowly losing its appeal as the playoffs wear on.

The Cubs got absolutely hammered by the Mets, which, frankly, really bummed me out. I had a lot of hope that I was going to get to see something special this year, after a lackluster Mariners season, and I spent about a week fairly excited that that was going to be the case. Alas, the Mets were the better team, and took Chicago down in a mere four games, the final one on their home turf, which had to be the worst for the fans in attendance at Wrigley. I have heard stories about sad Mariners fans wandering the streets of Seattle back in 2001, and while I know that also might be in my future, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have so much faith in your team, to know that they’re the real deal, and have that yanked out from underneath you, in front of you, by an immediate rival. But the Cubbies are still young, and there is still hope over the next few years that they will be able to repeat this year’s performance. As with everything baseball, there is always next year.

So now we have a Mets/Royals World Series, a series that has started off with two Mets losses. And I am on the Mets side here. But they have not been on mine; after the two losses they were just handed by Kansas City, my interest in the World Series and last scraps of the 2015 season are really starting to wane. Usually I can buck up and hang on until the end, but I think that if tomorrow night’s game (that I may or may not be able to watch due to location) doesn’t feature some sort of turnaround in New York, my interest may be lost for good for this year, and I will have to start recovering, taking a bit of a break, and getting ready to do other things, getting back to the Mariners and what they’ve been up to lately.

I will have a post about the Everett Aquasox and their Star Wars Night that Daniel and I went to this summer, complete with a boatload of pictures, and some other baseball shenanigans, stories that I have been saving up in email over the season for when the mood to write strikes me. The Winter Meetings are also coming up, and I am hoping that Jerry Dipoto and new manager Scott Servais have some things in store for us in time for Christmas. It appears that we have officially revamped all or most of the managerial and coaching staff at this point (I’m really happy about the fact that they’re keeping Edgar Martinez on as our hitting coach), and now the biggest step is just to try and build 2016’s team, and look forward to what that might have to offer us as fans.

I am still working towards two trips next year; a trip to Denver to go see the Rockies in their natural habitat in either April or May, and another trip to Chicago, where I will hopefully be able to go visit the Cubs, the White Sox, and if it can be fit in due to time and money, the Milwaukee Brewers. The trip to Denver is pretty much solid; I just need to wait until the beginning of the year to figure out plane tickets, time off from work, and further financial balancing so I can fit in season tickets for next year into the mix. Chicago is a bit of a scheduling challenge as well, as there are only two weeks in two different months where the Cubs and Sox are both in the city at the same time, and I haven’t even looked at fitting the drive to Milwaukee into the mix.

Further goals include upgrading my camera to something with maybe a better shutter speed – I am avoiding anything with interchangeable lenses, as the expense starts to mount after that. I like my current Canon, but I always feel I can do better with something more advanced. There is also some podcasting talks in the works, but nothing has been ironed out there. I’d like to do my own for this space, but barring that, I may be partnering with a person or persons in the future. Tentative plans have been made, we’ll see what comes of it. A name change for this space is being debated as well; I haven’t been sat in section 331 since 2008, and while I like honoring my inaugural year in baseball, the name of the blog is kind of misleading; but it’s how people know the space now, so I will likely keep it. Plus, I got it put on a jersey, seems kind of counterproductive to change it now. If there is a name change, it will have to really blow me away. I’m still waiting for that inspiration.

So thanks to the few of you who are still paying attention. I am hoping I can reward that with better/more content in the near future.

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Cubs Win, Mets Are Winning, I Am Lazy

Unlike a lot of people, I didn’t have today’s holiday off work; so I missed the Kansas City Royals forcing a game 5 with the Houston Astros, the Blue Jays and Rangers tying things up, and quite a bit of the Cardinals at Cubs this afternoon. I walked in the door at home just in time to see Jorge Soler go yard for two runs to create a 7-4 score in the Cubbies’ favor. The Dodgers/Mets game is also in progress as I am writing this, and it feels weird to watch one game you really want to see the outcome of, when another game you want to see the outcome of is also on. In the bottom of the 8th inning of this game, however, Dexter Fowler broke an MLB record by hitting the 6th home run in the game, the most home runs that have ever been hit in a post-season game. I don’t think I’ll be switching the channel just yet. In the top of the 9th, Hector Rondon, the Cubs’ closer, came into a non-save situation to deal to the Cards. Rondon took his time and struggled far too much, allowing a runner on, and giving up a dinger over right field to Stephen Piscotty, but ultimately got Matt Holiday to ground out, ending the game, and giving the Cubs a 2-1 advantage over St Louis. They can make this end tomorrow; I really think they can. The game, unfortunately starts at 1.37 PST, and I will still be at work. Sadly, I may wind up missing the whole thing altogether; but if all things go according to plan, you may hear the cheering as my bus crosses the West Seattle bridge tomorrow afternoon.

The broadcast moved seamlessly from the game in Chicago, to the one in New York, just in time for Matt Harvey to get his last batter out, and you’ll maybe excuse me if I can’t pull names quickly. I’ve only just started going to the gym lately, and it’s made my wrists and hands a little gimpy; typing feels a bit strange and slightly difficult to do quickly at the moment. Travis d’Arnaud sent a Brett Anderson changeup over the left field wall, scoring two more runs (score was 4-3 in the Mets’ favor prior to this). Citi Field went nuts, as would be expected. Alex Wood replaced Anderson in the bottom of the 4th for the Dodgers. With one out and one on, Curtis Granderson grounded out, but then Wood intentionally walked David Wright to get to Daniel Murphy. This plan backfired on him when Wright bopped a 91MPH 2-seamer over to the middle of left field, picking up a single RBI. Yoenis Cespedes battled Wood for a while before launching – and I mean launching – another 2-seam fastball into the upper deck over left center field. As he trotted back to the dugout, the fans began a chant that I couldn’t understand, and Cespedes  came out for a well-deserved curtain call, having just broken the game further open to 10-3.

After further review, it appears that the fans at CitiField were chanting “We want Utley!” In response to the incident the other day in which Chase Utley slid into short stop Ruben Tejada. The resulting collision garnered a broken leg and end to the season for Tejada, and a two-game suspension currently on appeal from Utley. Utley can play right now while the appeal is being reviewed, but the Dodgers did not start him in tonight’s game, likely for good reason; revenge could be meted out in the form of a plunking, which would create a massive distraction for everyone. The fans, however, seemed to be in high spirits about the situation, likely given the score.

Honestly, at this point it’s nearly 8pm, I am exhausted and I really just want to kick back and enjoy the rest of this game without having to wrangle players names and such (curse you, National League!). I am on the Mets side here, but I technically have no horse in this race, and I am 99.9% sure the Dodgers have basically given up this evening. I’m going to put some warm socks on and maybe make some tea and spend the next hour or so watching this blowout. Cheers, Cubs and Mets fans!


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I Will Miss Lloyd McClendon

By the time I am able to post this from draft, the Mariners will have made their public announcement regarding the letting go of manager Lloyd McClendon. I never know what to say when stuff like this happens. I’d hoped that maybe new GM Jerry Dipoto would see fit to keep McClendon around, maybe see what his strategy might be with whomever Dipoto decided to trade or move around between here and Tacoma (Dipoto apparently favors trades over shiny new giant contracts), but, as expected, we’re not going to find out.

Lloyd McClendon was the 6th manager the Mariners have had since I’ve been  a fan, and my second favorite. Don Wakamatsu, of course, was my favorite. The only other manager who really made an impact on the team or me as a fan was Eric Wedge, and given his years of 2011-2013, well, I guess the impact was more or less negative. I didn’t have anything against Wedge as a person, I don’t remember being particularly annoyed by his presence here, but the team was terrible and I have the tendency to remember the good years over the bad. Don Wakamatsu gave me a good 2009 with a team that is still one of my favorites, but that quickly turned sour in 2010 when the team took a nose dive and Wak got canned mid-season. I remember Wedge having a lot of problems with the front office, and parting with some bad blood and not-too-nice words for Jack Zduriencik after the 2013 season. When McClendon came on board, I was cautious because I didn’t know him, but, as always, open to the new experience of things I had no control over.

And McClendon proved to be a pretty good manager over the past two years; he came out of this with a record of 163-161; and in baseball, that’s not terrible. Some of his bullpen use was question mark-inducing, but by and large, the boys did OK under him, and I will forever remember him as the man who not only fought against a call he didn’t like while we were in New York, but who went around to every umpire on the diamond, reading them the riot act in a manner that I hope, somewhere, made Lou Piniella proud. If you’d like to relive that memory –and you should, it was amazing – you can find video here.  McClendon gave every umpire what-for, was run out, and took Mike Zunino with him. Apparently also at that link, there is video of him doing something similar while in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. But I have never seen a manager yell at every umpire. So Lloyd is special and I will fondly remember him. I am glad to have his jersey and a framed photo of him from when I did my 5K earlier this year.

So what happens now? I don’t even know who might be available, or how much of a hurry the team might be to obtain a new manager. We don’t even know what will happen with our roster. While Dipoto has said that Nelson Cruz will be staying here (possibly the only real question in Big Contract Land, since the years on Cruz’s contract are far less than some of the other larger ones we have), what moves will he make that will both render the team better for 2016, and not make him the most hated general manager in Mariners history? I say this last bit because if Dipoto is going to clean house and prefers trades, we have some pretty big chips, and in baseball – especially in Seattle – I don’t feel like anyone is safe, regardless of how much we think they are. Hopefully Dipoto fully understands what players like Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager, and Robinson Cano mean to the fans in this town. Does Iwakuma stay? Taijuan Walker? Will Ketel Marte be around to develop further in our system? Or is everyone up for grabs? This is the part of all of this that scares me the most. Will we even recognize the 2016 Mariners team? I have some degree of concern over how much overhaul we’re really looking at here.

In the meantime, I hope that Lloyd McClendon is able to land another managerial job, if any teams out there might be in need. He stands up for his guys, he’s up front with the press, and you could do a hell of a lot worse. Good luck, Lloyd. You’ll be missed.

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Adorable Baby Bears, Murderous Pillagers Play Baseball

Daniel is faster than I thought he would be, and wrote a post about the season ticket holder event that he went to on Saturday, the day before my last post. Check that out here, or scroll down, because you are an adult capable of making adult decisions. Don’t let me tell you what to do! I was unfortunately not able to make it, due to money and previously-scheduled plans, but it sounds like Dipoto was forthcoming with his plans, occasionally fielding questions that were a little more like mini-rants, and not actually questions at all (not covered in the article, Daniel just told me some fans were using their time to vent). One of the risks you take giving a microphone to fans is having those fans say literally whatever pops into their heads. I’m sure Dipoto is used to it.

As I start this, we are in the bottom of the 4th inning in the National League Wild Card tiebreaker between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs are already up by 3 runs, and Jake Arrieta is dealing. I had to walk away from the TV a bit – we have a kitty who is sort of sickly and I had to take care of him – and by the time I got back to the game, Dexter Fowler was taking the fourth run in, after hitting a solo dinger. In the bottom of the 5th, poor Francisco Cervelli got hit by a pitch in such a manner that I thought he had been beaned; leaning back to miss what might have hit him in the face, it just caught his hands around the bat and knocked his helmet off as he fell to the ground. Cervelli got his base, of course, and with two outs faced Pedro Alvarez, who was brought in to pinch hit. Arrietta wasn’t having it, and even though Alvarez looked ready to make the game more interesting, he got caught looking on an 88 MPH slider.

Antonio Bastardo came in to relieve the Pirates’ starter, whose name I cannot track down right now because GameDay is being super wonky and I have been in and out of the cat thing and I am writing this as I go (EDIT; Gerritt Cole). Arrieta started to flail a little though, and wound up loading the bases.  Manager Joe Maddon came out to speak with him, and I don’t know what he said, but Arrietta managed to get Starling Marte to ground into a double play to end the inning. PNC Park went from a roar to silence very quickly, and after commercial came back to the top of the 7th inning, was settling into just another day at the ballpark noise. Until,  that is, Pirates pitcher Tony Watson plunked Jake Arrietta in the hip and caused a dugout-clearing scrum. Arrietta plunked two guys tonight, and while I don’t think it was intentional, the Bucs clearly did. Everyone went out, including the two bullpens, halfheartedly spilling out into the outfield, while both benches went at each other. Sean Rodriguez said or had someone say something to him that infuriated him to the extent that he had to be separated from the melee, in spite of the fact that it had little to do with him (unless he was one of the Pirates players who was hit by Arrietta, but I have been in and out of this this evening). Back in the Bucs’ dugout, Rodriguez beat up a water cooler and was ejected from the game. Jake Arrietta, meanwhile, took care of what remained of the Pirates’ batting lineup, and held the score at 4-0 Cubs.

Pitcher Joakim Soria took the hill for Pittsburg in the top of the 8th, and gave up a walk to Chris Denorfia, then got Chris Bryant to strike out swinging. The same treatment followed for Anthony Rizzo, who was called out. Arrietta came back out for the bottom of the 8th looking a little worn, but still throwing strikes. He was at nearly 100 pitches in this game and working a little slower now. Saving the bullpen. Smart. Josh Harrison was his final batter for that inning, and Harrison tipped a foul and was thrown out at first.

Reliever Mark Melanchon took the bump for Pittsburgh in the top of the 9th and took out Starling Castro almost immediately. Miguel Montero hit a short one to the first baseman Pedro Alvarez, and didn’t make it to the bag. Shortstop Addison Russell smacked a double over to left field, but was tagged out easily at the base, and now comes the moment of truth. Do the Pirates rally, or do they go down with a whisper? Arrietta decided to find out for himself, and took the mound once again to deal to Andrew McCutcheon. A comebacker later, McCutcheon was out. Starling Marte had no luck, either. Francisco Cervelli was the Pirates’ last hope, and he lined out to Starlin Castro while people in a bar in Chicago went nuts, and the Pirates walked quietly to their dugout, finished with a 98-win season. Jake Arrieta’s 22nd win in 2015 is now in the books, a 4-0 shutout.

I have to be sleeping soon, so I will just say this…I want the Cubs to win it all. I am not so emotionally invested that I will be too bummed out if they fall, but I’d like to see them break the curse. I want to be here to see it when it happens, and this game is so hard on these guys. A climb like this that these players make is surely difficult physically and emotionally, and you don’t get many chances. Once a year, and then you roll the rock back up the hill again. Sure, what a lot of people say might be true, that Cubbies fans and their bandwagoners will become unbearable for a while, or maybe forever…but I don’t really care about that. Ultimately, it’s the history of the game and how the game is played that has always fascinated me, and this is something, in my estimation, that falls under the category of a Really Big Deal in baseball. Will they go on to beat the St Louis Cardinals? I don’t know. I can’t watch Friday’s game, as I will be at a show that night; so this weekend might get pretty interesting.

And now, ’tis bedtime. We still have another month of baseball. Not Mariners baseball, but baseball nonetheless. I’ll take it.

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Thoughts On The Mariners GM Situation

So that’s it. The Mariners cap the season off with a win, and everyone goes home to take a break or play in Arizona or the Latin leagues, or a little bit of all of that. Yesterday’s game was bittersweet , as it is every year. I got to say hi to some folks I know from Lookout Landing (they had organized something there that I happened to wind up in the middle of, but Tom and I only stuck around for a bit because we were hungry), we had a nice brunch in the Hit It Here Café, and had some nice seats in row 9 of section 120, and I even remembered to bring my glove, though I didn’t have any occasion to use it (I’m going to be thankful for that). Chatter with the fans around us and a lack of rain topped off everything, and Tom wound up inadvertently catching a child’s Felix Hernandez cape that one of the players threw literally right at him as we were trying to leave, surrounded by fans attempting to get the shirts, baseballs, and other things being tossed at them by the players after the game.

So now what?

Well, we have a new general manager who is going to have to prove himself to everyone and seems to be happy about doing the job. I have nothing against Jerry Dipoto, as I have no experience with him. But I feel the hype around him is indicative of the short memories of sports fans. News articles I’ve been seeing lately and fan comments on Twitter are leaving me with a very distinct feeling of déjà vu. Yes. We have been here before.

When Jack Zduriencik came on board, I very distinctly remember everyone talking about him in much the same way people are talking about Dipoto now; he used statistics, he wasn’t like Bill Bavasi, he had a different approach to scouting, he was the guy we needed to turn everything around. We were really excited about it. I sat in the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library with about 200+ other people, for a Lookout Landing/USS Mariner-sponsored event. No press allowed, no information leaves the room. It was the first of several I would attend in such a group, and I even ran my post about it by Jeff Sullivan prior to posting, just to make sure I didn’t do too much talking about things I wasn’t supposed to talk about. We were there for almost over 4 hours. I could have easily done 6, had they given me a pillow to sit on and a cocktail (if you’ve never been in that room, the seats in it are horrible for someone with a bad back. Or a back). Zduriencik responded to some excellent questions, and he responded honestly and candidly, and gave us information that the papers did, could, or would not. He seemed like the right guy. He seemed like a baseball guy with an edge, and everyone was very excited.

And the 2008 season happened. It was disappointing , but we were assured that it was just the death throes of the Bavasi era, and that we just needed some more time to clean house, make some trades, and succeed. And 2009 was a fun year. The Ichiro and Ken Griffey Junior bromance gave the team character, as did John Wetteland and the gladiator bullpen. We were the little team that could. And we did; a winning season, coming out over .500. A triumphant march around the field after the last game culminated in Ichiro being picked up by Griffey, and so much smiling it was ridiculous. We were going to make it next year.

And we so were. Zduriencik pulled the Cliff Lee trade out of almost literally nowhere, and people were elated. But Griffey stayed, and there were murmurs of ‘maybe this isn’t the best idea’. We had Russell Branyan, Eric Byrnes, and Chone Figgins, who was signed to a questionable contract. Don’t even get me started on Milton Bradley’s presence. I wanted him to succeed because he was ours. I had no idea at the time that he was as terrible a human being as he is. Toxicity ran rampant in the clubhouse. Griffey left suddenly, simply packing up a trailer and starting off driving cross-country to Florida. Eric Byrnes left the team on a bicycle, riding from the locker room, through the access halls and out on his merry way to go play beer league ball with friends, and after a few years, obtaining a job as an on-air MLB analyst. Chone Figgins attacked Don Wakamatsu – still my favorite manager – in the dugout during a game over some difference of opinion that I can’t even remember now, the two having to be separated by Branyan, and a while after that, on Japanese-American heritage night, the only Japanese American major league manager was let go unceremoniously. John Wetteland was replaced after 2010 by Eric Wedge, who also left the team in 2013, after suffering a stroke. Wedge and Zduriencik also had differences of opinion on certain things, and it became clear after he left that things in the higher ranks of the Mariners organization were not as great as we initially thought they were.

Blogger meetups became more public, and press was allowed in. Questions were either avoided, or given the same answer anyone could read in the papers. Transparency vanished. By the end of 2013, the blogosphere seemed pretty much cut off from any dealings with the front office, and I think the last time I remember thinking “this is all over” was this one time we were all sat up in the 300 level watching batting practice and having a lot of questions avoided by Tom McNamara; Carmen Fusco had been gone a few years at this point, as had many other scouts and coaches.

And now of course we have had another lousy season, Jack Zduriencik has been let go, and while there is talk in the press of a future for Lloyd McClendon, I have the feeling that it will be a short future, and it would not surprise me if McClendon is let go and someone else is brought in, as is the usual drill when a new GM is hired.

Do I think any of the past few years were Zduriencik’s fault? I find some of the trades he made were not the best of ideas. Getting rid of John Jaso and Doug Fister were probably not the best moves at all. I still don’t know if I can forgive him for sending Jason Vargas away. We’ve had some successes and failures; I mean, this year could have been a lot worse, but it also could have been a lot better, and the pieces were in place for it to be. Regression aside, we tanked hard. How do you go from the best bullpen in the AL to what we wound up with in 2015? We increased our hitting capacity with the additions of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, yet having runners in scoring position was literally the worst thing that could have happened to the Mariners this year. For every Iwakuma no-hitter or Felix win record or Logan Morrison dinger, it seemed like there were ten times bad baserunning, no baserunning, no plate patience, no power (seriously, there were at least four or five hits at yesterday’s game that should have gone over the wall and weren’t hit far enough), and ultimately, another loss. It’s not an easy explanation, and I don’t feel like it was Zduriencik’s fault entirely, but it’s going to get more difficult for the Mariners to make good trades if we keep fielding bad teams; and it’s already difficult enough, without us throwing money at players to get them here. So something needs to happen.

And maybe a fresh face/new rules situation will help that, I don’t know. As many people have said, Mr Dipoto has been successful in other cities with other teams, and has an appreciation for stats and Moneyball-style scouting. I think that my opinion of what he can do will have to depend entirely on what he does in the next few months. I want to look forward to the winter meetings again, without worrying that we’re going to do nothing and then wind up with another Rickie Weeks or Casey Kotchman or, yeah, I’ll say it even though I still love him, Willie Bloomquist. Or a scramble pick before or during Spring Training that hampers the development of another player or eliminates entirely a player I might like to have seen develop or play here. Am I taking the easy way out here? You’re damn right I am. I have placed too much confidence in so many members of this organization, I have to take it on a wait and see basis, maybe for the rest of my baseball fandom. So now I wait to see what my opinion is of Mr Jerry Dipoto, and whether or not firing Jack Zduriencik, the guy who was supposed to save us, was the right thing to do.

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STH Dipoto Q&A Recap

The Seattle Mariners hosted an event prior to Saturday’s game against Oakland where Season Ticket Holders had an opportunity to ask a few questions of Jerry Dipoto, the freshly-minted Mariners General Manager. While front office guys like Dipoto aren’t known for making clear and strong statements about players or plans, hearing him talk a bit about the game and building a roster gives us a little room to try to read between the lines and see what might be going on upstairs.

One of the areas of curiosity, of course, is Dipoto’s exit from Anaheim. While he makes it clear that he’s not interested in throwing Mike Scioscia or Arte Moreno under the bus, he did make the comment that he doesn’t think much, strategically, of building a team through free agency – a strategy I think it’s fair to say that the Angels employed in the last several years when they gave contracts to Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton. Building a club through free agency can get a team in trouble, and though he didn’t expound on that, you can see where a highly-paid, poorly-performing player can mean problems.

A sore spot for the Mariners the last several years has been the development (or lack thereof) of young players. Dipoto mentioned here that he had a preference for having the young players reach the big league level in almost a tiered fashion, one after the other. Loading the lineup with a ton of young guys could exacerbate the problems they’ll face, especially if there isn’t a lot of veteran leadership on the team. There was some talk here about slowing down the game for the younger guys through the proper support of veteran players and mentorship. He cited Raul Ibanez’s time in Anaheim to support this point, which is interesting as he was Designated for Assignment in June of 2014 after his 2013 campaign with the Mariners. Suffice it to say, as a stats guy I’m a little skeptical here, but I get the sense that he’d like to balance youth with veterans rather than rely on youth almost completely like it seems the Mariners have done in the last couple years.

On the player development angle, Dipoto also raised an interesting point; the Mariners farm system is apparently the worst in baseball in strikeout rate. He inherited a similar problem in Anaheim and was able to raise their profile in this area. He spoke a bit about the importance sometimes of just getting on base and not always being focused on batting average, which could prove important. It was floated out there that this change in strategy in the minors to “control the strike zone” might help some of the prospects down there turn around their fortunes, especially if they’d been told to swing hard in case you hit it.

As far as the big league club is concerned, I’m sure you’ve heard him speak to the need for increased depth in the lineup and the starting rotation. Dipoto mentioned here that he generally prefers trades and might look into some “two for ones.” While that certainly sounds good, perhaps the Zduriencik-era trade that worked out the worst was Doug Fister for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Francisco Martinez. Volume is nice, but it strikes me that quality is more important. Here’s hoping he can identify that better than the last guy. I suppose it’s worth noting here too that he specifically commented that he has no intention of trading Nelson Cruz.

Dipoto just strikes me as a reasonable guy, overall. I don’t know if he’s going to be successful ultimately, but he seems humble and ready to work with uncertainty. “Plan A has worked exactly zero times,” he said during the meeting, going over his efforts to build a lineup that could go a dozen deep and a pitching rotation where something like ten serviceable guys could be called upon to pitch for the big club. As he mentioned a couple of times, the goal is to have that done by April. Good luck, Mr. Dipoto, and godspeed.

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