Monday, January 31, 2005

Whoa Nellie! 

The Mariners website is announcing that Jeff Nelson is close to a return to the Seattle Mariners.

Jeff Nelson may not be close to as good as he was when he was last a Mariner. He is signed to a low risk minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training. And we have as much expectation of him making the team as we do of his workout-mate, Aaron Sele. Still, the return of this prodigal son strikes a chord in the heart of this Mariner fan.

Jeff Nelson was the most vocal Mariner in criticizing M's management for not swinging the trade deadline deals that everyone felt were necessary to put this team over the top in 2002 and 2003. Ironically, his outburst was followed the next day by what could have been an excellent deal for the M's, sending Nelson packing to the Yankees, and bringing in flamethrower Armando Benitez.

What is important about this deal, is not whether or not Jeff may ever be effective in the bullpen for the M's. To me, Nellie's return sybolizes the end of the "Mariners who cry poor" and cements in stone that the M's will now do what it takes to win a World Series. If Nellie believes in M's ownership enough to smooth things out and return, then that's good enough for me.

"Even though I have pitched for New York and Texas since leaving here, I have always been a Mariner at heart." Nelson said. A tear forms in the Mariner Optimist's eyes. Jeff truly is a Mariner at heart, and I think its great that Lincoln and Nelson can kiss and make up.

Welcome back Jeff! Now get to work on cutting down those walks and earn a spot on this team!

Sele's back. Nellie's back. Mike Cameron rumors have surfaced. Can Ken Griffey to Seattle rumors be far behind? Cue Bob Finnigan...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Start Felix in the Majors 

Blaine Newhan pushes the agenda of starting Felix Hernandez in the majors this year. Not only is this piece a worthwhile read, but the ad that runs on the website is also a fine attention grabber. Seattle truly appears to be the land of plenty! But I digress.

Newhan suggests that the M's are being timid by not starting King Felix in the majors. He boils it down to either he is ready for the bigs, or he isn't. If he isn't, don't have him trying to impress coaches in Spring Training where he might overthrow.

The best quote in the article comes from GM Bill Bavasi. "I think most of us want to be protective of Felix, but we've also asked ourselves, 'What if he comes in and lights up spring training ... what are we going to do?' "

Hopefully, the answer is that the M's will keep an open mind. If Felix proves himself deserving of a rotation spot coming out of Spring, I think they should give it to him. Keep him on a strict pitch count if you must to protect his young arm. We certainly would not want to see him throwing 200+ innings or any Madritsch-like pitch counts.

A part of me is hoping that he is not dominating in the Spring so that he does not force the Mariners' hand yet. I'd like to see how our current five start out, and let Felix get some more work in AAA Tacoma. Then, once we see who needs to be out of the rotation due to injury or ineffectiveness. And if the rotation bounces back and is solid 1 through 5, perhaps we ease Felix in through the bullpen.

But the other part of me wants to see Felix not give up a hit or walk all Spring, and earn the fifth starters spot. That would certainly create a buzz right out of the gate.

Its unlikely that King Felix will dominate completely out of Spring, so I think he will start the year in Tacoma. M's brass will then have an ace up its sleeve no matter how the season goes. If the M's are in contention, they bring Felix up to bolster the rotation or bullpen for a title chase. And if the M's falter, bringing Felix up generates buzz for the team and puts fans in the seat. As long as Hernandez stays healthy, the M's will be in great shape. And that's why I'm sure the M's will take good care of this young arm.

Santana in 2006 

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has already named the Twins Opening Day starter. Of course, its 2005 Cy Young winner Johan Santana, right? Wrong. It will be longtime Twin ace Brad Radke.

Radke summed up everybody's thought on this move nicely. "You're darn right I am (surprised)," Radke said. "I don't know what they (the coaching staff) are thinking. I pretty much thought Johan was going to start it up."

Johan, to his credit, is saying all the right things. "He deserves it," Santana said of Radke. "He's the man. He's been doing that for a long time, so I don't see why he shouldn't keep doing it. I have no complaints."

While Santana is saying the right things now, this has got to feel like just another in a long line of slaps in the face that Johan has taken from the Twins (starting 2002 in the minors, Kenny Rogers sending him to bullpen in 2003), and that at the end of 2006 when he is eligible for free agency, he will bolt to greener pastures.

The Twins are already trying to sign Santana to a contract extension but their opening offer of 3 years, $19.5 million is a joke. An article in the Minnesota Star-Tribune on the negotiations highlights Santana's viewpoint.
And there is this problem that looms over the negotiations: Several people close to Santana say he has not been happy with several decisions made by the Twins, including starting him in the minors in 2002 and having him begin the 2003 season in the bullpen. Those decisions already have affected him financially, because career starts is a key factor in arbitration.
So it appears to me that the Twins will be looking to get big time value for Johan Santana at some point before the 2006 trade deadline. Since the Twins will likely be competitive in the uber-weak AL Central, the best time for the Twins to make a move might be before the 2006 season, so that the trade can be spun as a building block, and not a "giving up on 2006" trade deadline deal.

The M's should spend 2005 finding out what Mariner prospects and players interest the Twins and plan on dealing them to the Twins for Johan Santana after the 2005 season. Would you trade King Felix for Johan Santana? How about Jeremy Reed, Clint Nageotte and Rafael Soriano? While you ponder what you would be willing to spend, and what it will take to land Santana, its never too late to start rooting against the Twins in 2005. If they fail to make the playoffs in 2005, it will make it that much easier for them to cry "Rebuild!" in the offseason and start that process by dealing Santana for MLB ready youngsters like Reed, Lopez, Nageotte, Blackley, etc...

I know that you'll agree with me that Johan Santana would look awfully good taking the mound for your Seattle Mariners on Opening Day 2006.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sosa to the Orioles 

According to the Associated Press, a trade that will send Sammy Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston Jr and prospects has been worked out, and as long as no one fails a physical, should be finalized soon. The Cubs will pay $10 million of the $17 million that Sammy is owed this year, and Sosa will waive a clause in his contract that would have guaranteed him $18 million in 2006 for being traded.

While Sosa is no longer the force he used to be, getting him for a one-year, $7 million contract may seem like a nice deal for the Orioles, but its not. The only value Sosa seems to have these days is name recognition. Otherwise, he is a bad clubhouse presence with similar pop to Raul Ibanez.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Pitching Update 

Bob Finnigan moves away from rumor mongering about Mike Cameron (the most substantive statement was "baseball sources say the Mariners might get involved in a bid"), to an actual job of reporting news, as he updates the state of the Seattle pitching staff. More importantly, he quotes actual Mariner sources like Bill Bavasi, Benny Looper, and Lee Pelekoudas. Way to go, Bob! Here's a smattering of Mariner news and links from the past two days.

Good News
Joel Pineiro and Eddie Guardado are working out and throwing and seem to be coming back fine from injury.

Bucky Jacobsen's knee injury was more serious than at first thought. Trainer Rick Griffin says "the doctor went inside the knee and found the divot to be twice as big as the MRI showed". But he is now in a full rehab program and back in the batting cages.

Rafael Soriano "could pitch in the majors in July, if [his rehab] continues to go smoothly", according to Griffin. "It's usually 12 to 15 months to come back, but he might be able to do it in 11."

Pat Gillick chimed in with praise for the signing of Cuban shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. "He's a good one... Our guys did a good job to get him for us." Notably, this is only the second major league contract the Mariners have ever given to a player with no pro experience. The first was Alex Rodriguez.

Nice little interview with Matt Thornton on bigleaguers.com. When asked what his next baseball goal was, Thornton replied "To stay put. I want to get acclimated to the bullpen as a left-handed reliever and set-up guy. My other goal is to help this team win in 2005."

Mike Cameron thinks that Don Baylor can work wonders with Pokey Reese. "I'm telling you: When he gets with Don Baylor, that's going to be a blessing in itself."

One of the few free things left at ESPN is Jayson Stark and he says that the Mariners are the third most improved team this offseason, following the Mets and Marlins. "Now, if anybody can pitch, this team could boomerang from 99 losses right back to contention." No question about it. When the M's pitching bounces back in 2005, the M's will be right back in contention.

Jeremy Reed doesn't expect to be handed the starting job in centerfield. The Everett Herald article reminds us that Jeremy Reed was supposed to be the White Sox starting centerfielder on Opening Day last year, too. "Last year, everybody was saying it was my big opportunity to make the team, but I had a bad spring," Reed said. "Now I'm in the same situation, and hopefully I can learn from that." Reed thinks that he showed what he can do with a .392 average in Septmeber while the M's went 9-3 in his 12 starts. But for now, he is saying all the right things, like "I have to go into spring training with the approach that I've got a job to win."

Bad News
Rett Johnson, Aaron Looper, Clint Nageotte, and Travis Blackley are coming off injuries and are expected to be brought along slowly.

The Mets are looking to deal Mike Cameron, and Bob Finnigan has made this a discussion point for Seattle fans. If we can turn Scott Spiezio and Randy Winn into Mike Cameron, should we do it? I love Mike Cameron, but I still have to say "No." We are unlikely to find a better bench hitter than Spiezio, and the deal takes away a tradeable commodity in Winn without dramatically improving anything other than centerfield defense. Throw in Cameron's injured hand, and it seems too risky to me. Leone For Third reminds us not to be worried about Cammie's or anyone's strikeouts.

Pedro Astacio is apparently seeking a major league contract for $2 million dollars and the M's will not go there. I still hope we can bring him in with an incentive-laden minor league contract, but won't be holding my breath. The Rangers still seem like a likely destination as a team with money to spend (so long Carlos Delgado), and lots of opportunity in their rotation.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Yuniesky Betancourt 

The Mariners yesterday announced the signing (which was actually done back on December 16th) of Cuban shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt to a four-year, $2.8 million contract plus incentives. John Hickey at the PI has a nice summary on the signing. Mariner Minors gives a good synopsis of what we know about him as a ballplayer.

According to the AP, "Seattle is giving him a $1.31 million signing bonus and salaries of $316,000 this year, $350,000 in 2006, $400,000 in 2007 and $450,000 in 2008. In addition, his 2008 salary could rise by as much as an additional $700,000 if he has 1,000 plate appearances in the previous three years... If Betancourt accumulates enough service time by the end of the 2007 season to become eligible for salary arbitration. 2008 would be voided."

What does this mean to the Mariners? Well, for one, it means we have found an excellent replacement for the second and third round picks we will lose in this year's draft for signing free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson. Essentially, the contract is similar to one that you might give a mid to late first round pick. Think of the 22-year-old Betancourt as a hot prospect just out of college, and you'll have the right level of excitement.

Betancourt was somewhat of a hot commodity with his suitors including the Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Braves, and Rangers. He played shortstop as a 17-18 year old on the Cuban National Team in 2000, and moved to second base to accomodate a veteran. He is expected to start the year at AA San Antonio, but whether it will be at shortstop, second base or somewhere else is up in the air.

There is little knowledge of how his stats will translate into the big leagues, so we are left to hope that the same scouting department that has found us Ichiro, Chris Snelling, and Shin-Soo Choo has struck gold again. Essentially, this deal has nothing but upside.

As part of the deal, Betancourt was given a major league contract and has been placed on the 40 man roster. This means that Benny Looper's son Aaron finally gets designated for assignment. Aaron is currently recovering from ligament replacement surgery from last May and is expected to clear waivers and sign a minor league deal with the M's.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Updates from Winter Leagues 

John Hickey has a new article at the PI that sums of the Mariners winter happenings. Here is my summary of that summary:

Matt Thornton showed up strong with 14 K's, 3 walks, and a 1.54 ERA in 10 games as reliever. Look for him to battle for a bullpen spot this spring.
Felix Hernandez did not pitch over the Winter as the M's are being very careful with him. The M's would like him to get more work in the minors, but a mid-season callup is quite possible.
Rick Guttormson is another indy-league pickup (see George Sherrill, Bobby Madritsch) who may be pitching for the M's next year. He went 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA and 4 saves in 21 games, with an awesome 38 strikeouts and 11 walks in 31 1/3 innings with Lara. Whoever is in charge of scouting the Independent Leagues deserves a raise.
Julio Mateo looks to be coming back strong with a 2.84 ERA in six games.

Jose Lopez struggled defensively (15 errors in 56 games) and that probably guarantees him to start the year in the minors to work on that part of his game, rather than being on the bench in the majors.
Justin Leone saw his bad luck continue with a .224 average and 2 home runs in 19 games before leaving due to a food-related illness. Meanwhile, he saw Adrian Beltre signed at third, and Willie Bloomquist stay with the team.
Greg Dobbs also suffered from the signing of Beltre, but may have the edge over Leone in the race back to the big leagues, as Dobbs started his career in the outfield.

M's may be looking to sign Pedro Astacio, who has also gotten interest from the Rangers and Rockies. Astacio certainly has significant upside, and looks to be a much better idea than the NRI given to former Mariner Aaron Sele. According to the Denver Post, the Rockies are a longshot with the Rangers and Mariners having already submitted offers. Astacio had a strong 6-inning, 2-run outing on Friday in Winter League play and is pitching today for Estrellas in the playoffs.

Astacio underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder in June 2003 and has appeared in only five games since, all for the Boston Red Sox last September. He pitched 8 2/3 innings, allowing 10 runs on 13 hits with five walks. He has a career record of 118-109 with a 4.61 ERA, most of that with the Colorado Rockies. He won a career-high 17 games for the Colorado Rockies in 1999. He was 12-11 with a 4.79 ERA in 31 starts for the Mets in 2002.

Hot Stove Recap
Elsewhere in the Seattle media, Larry Stone's bravely picks the Hot Stove winners and losers. His basis seems to be purely a comparison of the previous year's roster to the current year, with value for the dollar not at all taken into account. His inclusion of the Reds as a "winner" seems questionable. The Reds may be a winner by increasing their payroll by $22 million, but when most of that goes to signing Joe Randa and Eric Milton, then you have to feel sorry for Reds fans. And to list the Red Sox as simply treading water due to fears about losing "chemistry" by replacing Pedro, Lowe and Cabrera with Clement, Miller, Wells, and Renteria seems a bit of a reach.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Quick News and Links 

Rich Aurilia has signed a minor league deal with the Cincinatti Reds. This is actually a good signing for the Reds as even the corpse of Rich Aurilia looks good when your young shortstops, Felipe Lopez and Anderson Machado, are both battling knee injuries. Still, you'd hate to see Aurilia actually block a youngster...

Also of note is that Tadahito Iguchi has signed a 2-year, $4.6 million + incentive contract with the Chicago White Sox. Too bad that Iguchi didn't wait another year to come onto the market.

Finally, there is a disturbance in the blogosphere. Time for another new blog! David Corcoran's creation is the cleverly titled, Mariners Blog, which should be a good read, if his comments on other blogs are any indication. Give it a read.

I, The Jury 

Sorry for the lack of posting. I spent last week on a jury for what seemed like a simple enough crime, Failure to Register as a Sex Offender. It turned into several days of defense objections before we reached the obvious guilty verdict (he obviously HADN'T registered). Then, the fun began as the jury got to sentence this repeat offender, and hear details of his prior convictions. We eventually sentenced the defendant to 45 years in prison! I would never have thought that would happen at the beginning of the case. Suffice to say, I have had more enjoyable weeks. I wrote a full post on this on Friday, only to have blogger eat it. Sigh. So lets get back to baseball.

In trying to catch up, I went to my favorite discussion forum, Sportspot.net, and found this interesting link to the history of Mario Mendoza and the "Mendoza Line". Interesting to learn that Bruce Bochte coined the phrase, Tom Paciorek repeated it, and George Brett first made it famous before Chris Berman made it part of our everyday language.

Next, I went looking for some information on our prospects, and found Wait Til Next Year's Top 75 minor leaguers, and settled in at 45-31 are Jeremy Reed (#43) and Shin-Soo Choo (#38). Bryan is down on Jeremy's step back statistically in 2004, but loves Choo as a consummate six-tool player with selectivity as the sixth tool (sixth tool like sixth sense? "I see bad pitches...") Of course, King Felix slides in at #2 on the list, and everyone can't wait to see this guy in the majors. Noticeably absent from the list are Clint Nageotte and Travis Blackley, who last year were pegged at #21 and #37 respectively. Look for a strong year from Nageotte and Blackley to put themselves back in the big leagues by season's end.

Finally, I'd like to put in my annual plea to acquire Byung-Hyun Kim. According to the Boston Globe, the Red Sox are willing to pay all but $1 million of his $6 million salary in return for a solid prospect. And some "mystery team" has offered to pay up to $2.5 million of Kim's salary with two lesser prospects. When healthy, and not playing in the World Series, Kim is as nasty as they come. He's just 26 years old, sports a career K/BB ratio of over 3.0 and may just need a change of environment in which to thrive. For the 2005 M's, he starts as the righty setup guy and acts as a backup to Guardado for the closer role. He may even move into a 5th starter role (and should before we let Ron Villone sniff it).

Kim's fastball tailed off from its previous 91-93 MPH to a scary 82-85 before missing time last year. By the time of his return in September, he had the velocity back up to 89, so it looks like he should be able to return to his former dominating self. Seems to me that Seattle would provide a good place for Kim to grow up and become the pitcher that his early statistics show he could be.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Many people think that we should not trade Randy Winn, or at least we should wait, because he provides outfield depth, and insurance against injury or failure of Randy Winn. To this I say, insurance is for the timid, or teams with a LOT to insure. For us to make the playoffs in 2005 will require a lot of things going right, and that list has to include the continued good hitting of Raul Ibanez and the emergence of Jeremy Reed.

But it may be too much to ask that everything go right in our pitching staff. We are returning the exact same players that failed so miserably in 2004. While a turnaround for each pitcher is not out of the question, it certainly can't be treated as a given. We have too many question marks. Trading Randy Winn for pitching deepens our pitching staff.

More importantly, it guarantees more playing time for the hero of 2004, Bucky Jacobsen.

Two repeating images of 2004 are etched firmly in my mind. Randy Winn feeble throws to third base as yet another runner tags from 2nd on a short single. These embarassing efforts are my mental picture of the M's first half of 2004. But I also have the massive home runs of Bucky Jacobsen that made me interested in the 2004 season again.

Now a few months later, Bucky has been relegated to the bench and that's just not right. After three years in a Seattle Mariner uniform, I can relate very few times when I got excited about Randy Winn. He is a nice player, don't get me wrong. He's just not very exciting to watch hit, run, or field.

But every time Bucky came up to bat in July, I watched on the edge of my seats. Bucky has his own fan club. So let me join the Bucky Backers and the PI's Go2Guy as a leader in the Bucky for DH campaign. I will go into the stats that support why Bucky Jacobsen should get playing time at the expense of Randy Winn. For now, I just want to say:


As the Mariner Winter Caravan Tour makes its rounds this month, be sure to take advantage of the chance to meet this future legend. This year, his knee is healthy. He's back in full health and thinks anything less than 40 home runs will be an off year. He thinks he'll hit .300. And there is no reason NOT to let him prove it. Even without a trade of Winn, he's gonna take this team by storm in Spring Training. Bavasi may be closing the door on his opportunity, but Bucky is gonna kick the door in!


Trade Winn Blowing 

I like trade rumors. They are fun to contemplate and discuss whether they are realistic or not. The key is not to get one's hopes up for the trade rumors that sound good, and just enjoy them for what they are. Two trade rumors that I saw yesterday in Seattle Mariners discussion forums (SportSpot and PI Forum) are very interesting to contemplate. I'll try to list the rumor, the source, and why both teams might or might not do such a trade.

Randy Winn and Scott Spiezio to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Javier Vazquez.
Origin: PI Forum Member "INSIDER TRADING".
What's In it for Us: The Mariners get a true top of the rotation starter in Javier Vazquez, AND get to dump Scott Spiezio's contract. The original post also indicates that the Mariners would receive cash in this deal. So we give up two players who we have adequate replacements for, dump an average of $7.5 million in salary for the next two years and acquire a $11.5 million salary for the next three years. So, for less than $4 million a year, we add a potential #1 or #2 starter. This one seems like a no-brainer for the Mariners.
What's In It for Them: This is the tricky part. The Diamondbacks DO need a centerfielder to go in their outfield with two health risks in Shawn Green and Luis Gonzalez. They have been talking to the A's about Eric Byrne, and have been looking closely at Jeromy Burnitz. Acquiring Spiezio would potentially block Chad Tracy from playing 1B or LF, but would provide a significant defensive upgrade at 1B. It would also further save the DBacks some money, which going into this Hot Stove season most would've thought a priority. That perception has changed somewhat with the acquisition of Troy Glaus and Shawn Green. Javier Vazquez had a poor second half, so the DBacks may be afraid of him, and Vazquez has indicated a preference for the East Coast that possibly nixed the original 3-way deal with the Dodgers. This would make that the Mariners problem.

Some might say this is a no-brainer for the M's and a terrible trade for the Diamondbacks. That is certainly my inclination, as I feel Vazquez is a 28-year-old stud who is a lock as a #2 and could easily be a #1 starter for the Mariners. Essentially, he looks like another Joel Pineiro, except he is 2 years older, has 3 more years of experience and has never missed time due to injury. But if you look at his second half dropoff with the Yankees, red flags could be thrown up. Is/was Vazquez hiding an injury? Can he not handle pressure? What happened?

Before the All-Star Break, Vazquez' numbers were right in line with the growth you would have expected on top of an excellent career. K/9 rate had dropped to 7 from the 9 rate of 2003 and K/BB rate had dropped from 4 to 3, and his BAA was a nice .233. A slight slip from the elite numbers he put up in 2003 but still excellent numbers that showed up as a 10-5 record with a 3.56 ERA. But the wheels came off Vazquez in the second half. K/9 rate dropped to around 6, K/BB dropped to 2, and BAA rose to .286. The bottom line was a disastrous 4-5 second half with an ERA of 6.92.

So depending on your opinion on Vazquez future, you could either see a staff ace, or a $34.5 million albatross. If the Diamondbacks see him as a tradeable commodity, then this deal or something similar could certainly happen. I think it would be a fantastic use of resources by the M's. We could then pickup an inexpensive 4th outfielder off the remaining free agents (Danny Bautista, Doug Glanville, Ben Grieve, Brian Jordan, Ray Lankford) or use Jamal Strong, Chris Snelling, or eventually Shin-Soo Choo. Scott Spiezio is not needed as we have Bucky and Ibanez to backup first base and Justin Leone to backup third. We would lose defensive depth, but gain a top of the rotation starter.

Randy Winn and Clint Nageotte to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kip Wells
Origin: Sportspot user "Dr. Detecto".
What's In it for Us: The Mariners get a top of the rotation starter in Kip Wells. Where Vazquez compares to Joel Pineiro, Wells is probably comparable to Gil Meche, as a pitcher with high upside, who has not completely filled it yet.
What's In It for Them: Wells just signed a one-year deal with the Pirates for $2.5 million. This is a $2 million raise from last year, and next year Wells is eligible for free agency, so the Pirates are unlikely to keep him past this year. The Pirates have a number of inexpensive starters ready to break through and Clint Nageotte would join Oliver Perez, Sean Burnett, Ryan Vogelsong and John VanBenschoten to form a strong, inexpensive pitching staff which the Pirates can build around. And Randy Winn fills a need the Pirates have for a centerfielder and a leadoff hitter, as Tike Redman (310 OBP in 2004) should not be starting for ANY team right now, and neither Jason Bay or Craig Wilson field the corners very well. Winn may be a one-year fix, or the Pirates could have him for two with Winn's mutual option.

Kip Wells has similar upside to any of the free agents signed this offseason (Pavano, Wright, Clement, Perez) at one-third the cost. So this looks like an excellent trade idea for the Mariners. It strengthens the front end of the rotation at the cost of Winn and a pitching prospect whom many think is headed for a career in the bullpen.

There may be no truth behind either of these rumors, but they are certainly the kind of deals that you would like to see Mr. Bavasi pursuing. Randy Winn's trade value will likely never be higher and it may go down if he ends up in some sort of odd platoon with Ibanez, Reed and Bucky. If we believe Jeremy Reed is the answer in centerfield and #2 hitter, then we have little need of Winn's skills and are best advised to maximize what we can get for him by trading him before the season starts. And if we can get a top of the rotation pitcher like Kip Wells or Javier Vazquez, lets do it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

M's Pondering Next Move 

Two articles of interest in the local press today. At the PI, Mike Hargrove considers how best to use his assets in the lineup. Over at the Times, Bob Finnigan has quotes from GM Bill Bavasi speculating on the M's next moves.

The funny thing about the Finnigan article is the opening paragraph.
While the Mariners' search for additional pitching might require a trade, especially during training camp, it will not be the hotly rumored deal involving outfielder Randy Winn.
What is funny about this is that no details of this "hotly rumored deal" are mentioned in the article. I have searched far and wide for a hotly rumored deal, only to find blogosphere and forum speculation or guesswork, but nothing that would think Bill Bavasi or Tim Purpura were involved.

But so far, there have not been talks with the Astros. That's not to say that things won't change. Obviously it does mean that neither team is dying to talk with the other... yet.

Bavasi says about dealing with Houston, "There's nothing to it. We haven't had talks with them." He indicates a willingness to trade, but only "if we're looking to significantly upgrade our pitching."

In the meantime, talk drifts to aged veterans Aaron Sele and Pedro Astacio. Again Bavasi says exactly what we want to hear. "We've had similar conversations with a lot of guys. We'd be looking at signing guys to minor-league deals with an invited status in camp." Essentially, this means we won't do anything stupid like give a guaranteed contract to Sele, Astacio, or any veteran pitcher (Shawn Estes and Esteban Loaiza have signed elsewhere), but we do hope to bring one or two into camp with a chance to earn a spot in the rotation. We'll leave an analysis of Sele and Astacio for a future exercise, then.

While his GM is looking to upgrade pitching, manager Mike Hargrove has been pondering lineups. Most of this article is listing out the problems and saying nothing will be solved until April (as it should be). The most interesting thing from this article are the quotes from Hargrove.

"I think that given the abilities we've got, I'm going to be able to use the DH spot as a day off. I've talked to Raul, and told him he's not penciled in as the DH. He can play a little outfield, a little first base and some DH. His strength is to swing the bat." I'll miss Edgar as much as anyone. But at the same time, it will be nice not having your best hitter locked into the DH role because he can't play the field. This is a huge upgrade in flexibility for the manager and the GM.

"Based on what he did last year, Reed's competing for that job [centerfield] in spring training. He doesn't have to go out and have a great spring to win it. But it will make it tougher on me and on him and on everybody if he goes out and has a bad spring. I'm counting on him being on the club and on him playing center field for us. But it's not like Ichiro. With Ichiro, I can say right now he's the right fielder and he's the leadoff hitter. With a young kid like Reed, I can't say that. We'll have to see. I can sit and look at lineups until I'm blue in the face, but until I get to spring training I won't know. Raul could be the DH the majority of the time, but he might not. For me to come right out and say Winn is our left fielder and Raul's our DH 95 percent of the time won't work. I could say that, but come April, it could be entirely different. All I know is that they will both play." Sure sounds like Hargove wants Reed to be our center fielder on Opening Day.

Hopefully, our beat writers, in the near future, will begin asking Bavasi and Hargrove questions about our rotation and bullpen. With lefty Chris Hammond (ERAs for past three years of 0.95, 2.86, 2.68) signing for $750,000 with the Padres, there seem to be some bargains out there that would give Hargrove more flexibility in building his bullpen come March and April.

Hot Stove Insanity 

Just been looking at summaries of moves made by teams this offseason. Obviously last year's "market correction" is over.

The Yankees push their payroll over $200 million, but still have the carcass of Bernie Williams in centerfield, Tino Martinez at first, and Tony Womack at second base. They essentially gave up their only prospects in Brad Halsey and Dionner Navarro to pay an extra $7 million per season to upgrade in-his-prime Javier Vazquez to the age 41-43 seasons from Randy Johsnon. And they magically turned Jon Lieber and Orlando Hernandez into Carl Pavano and Jamey Wright for more money. And all it cost them was the money they could've used to sign Carlos Beltran.

Of course, the DBacks did well to trade the Unit for Vazquez. But with the savings there, they go out and spend big money on huge injury risks in Shawn Green and Troy Glaus to go with their other big bat unlikely to play a full season in Luis Gonzalez.

The Dodgers do a great job freeing up salary by dumping Shawn Green on the DBacks, and then spend it all on Derek Lowe, whose last good season was 2002, but who "turned it around" with three solid playoff starts last year.

The poor Tigers can't get anyone to take their money, but may again end up improving just because they are "stuck" with the likes of Magglio Ordonez. Ditto Baltimore who may end up with Carlos Delgado.

The big winners this offseason look to be the Mets, Mariners, and Red Sox. We all know about the Mariners filling their biggest holes with 2 of the best players available in Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson.

The Mets made the biggest splash by signing the biggest bat in Beltran to a reasonable $17 million per year contract. Well, reasonable by baseball standards. And they add the best free agent pitcher in Pedro Martinez. Might they regret these contracts in 2-3 years? Certainly, but in 2005, they have moved into the category of legitimate contender in the NL East, and maybe even the favorite.

The Red Sox picked and chose wisely. They may have overspent on Jason Varitek, but without Varitek who catches in Beantown. To overspend on your veteran catcher who is one of your team leaders is something Mariner fans can certainly relate to. They let Pedro Martinez go, but may have replaced him with a younger version at a cheaper price in Matt Clement. And they picked up Wade Miller for pocket change, and will control his rights for the next two years. And don't forget that they added John Halama, who is the missing piece that will guarantee a Red Sox repeat in 2005.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Juggling the Divisions 

By now, it is obvioius that having a high payroll dramatically increases your chances of making it to the playoffs.

This is not a big issue for an AL West fan. We can see that the Mariners will be near the top, the Angels and Rangers will spend the most, and the A's look to be the most creative.

But what if you were a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles or Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Too lookup up and see the Red Sox and Yankees spending well past the $100 million and $200 million marks has to be quite daunting. And then you look over at the AL Central and realize that you could easily outspend any one of those teams rather than ceding the division to Minnesota each year. Its gotta be frustrating.

Lets realign the divisions by seeding the teams based on the previous years payroll and see what that does to this financial disparity. We'll order the teams by their 2004 payroll, and then slot them into the existing divisions, using a serpentine draft model (down & back). Here's the American League, redrawn by Payroll Divisions.

American League
AL MostAL CentralAL Least
Yankees $182M (1)Boston $125M (2)Anaheim $101M (3)
Oakland $60M (6)ChiSox $65M (5)Seattle $81M (4)
Texas $55M (7)Minnesota $54M (8)Baltimore $51M (9)
Detroit $46M (12)Kansas City $48M (11)Toronto $50M (10)
Cleveland $35M (13)Tampa Bay $30M (14)

Who would complain about this realignment? Other than baseball purists and Indians fans, of course. Oakland gets the Yankees, but loses the Angels and Mariners as in-division competition. (Who knew that the A's had the 6th highest payroll in the AL?) Minnesota wouldn't like Boston in the division, but they still have the weakest division. Essentially there will never be more than one 300-pound gorilla in any division.

And wouldn't it be fun to see teams battling for payroll position to get out of the Yankees division the following year. At the trade deadline, the A's acquire Cliff Floyd from the Mets to guarantee that they jump ahead of the Chisox for 5th highest payroll and move to the AL Central... Great times, and a lucrative new Moneyball-style book on how the A's are smarter than everyone else.

This year, we'd be looking at Yankees, Red Sox, and Seattle (okay, we'll say Angels for now, but y'all know better) likely winning their division. This leaves Minnesota and Chicago, instead of getting a free pass that the AL Central usually is, having to battle with Oakland, Texas and Seattle for the Wild Card spot.

Would make for more interesting divisions every year, but obviously it will never happen. Still, its fun to look at (for me at least). Just for grins, here's the NL.

National League
NL MostNL CentralNL Least
New York Mets $101M (1)Philadelphia $93M (2)Chicago Cubs $91M (3)
San Francisco $82M (6)Atlanta $89M (5)Los Angeles $90M (4)
St. Louis $76M (7)Houston $75M (8)Arizona $70M (9)
Montreal $43M (12)San Diego $55M (11)Colorado $65M (10)
Cincinatti $43M (13)Florida $42M (14)Pittsburgh $32M (15)
Milwaukee $28M (16)

I'm looking forward to the day when enlightened baseball fans take on this new mantle of yearly division realignment. Heck, maybe we can create a single 30-team league at that time and have 6 5-team divisions. Nah, that's too crazy.

Astros lose Beltran, and the dominoes fall... 

With the Seahawks pulling up LAME on Saturday, its all baseball all the time from the Optimist until the NCAA tournament or the Final Four. We are officially on the most painful part of the sports year - the giant abyss between the Seahawks elimination and pitchers and catchers reporting. Thank you, Sonics, for being interesting this year.

Well, it sure sounds like the Astros screwed the pooch in the Carlos Beltran negotiations. They got close enough on dollar figures, but were unwilling to give Beltran the full no-trade clause that he demanded. I can fully understand why the Astros, a team with a $75 million payroll might want an out from committing 20% of it to one player. I can also understand why Carlos Beltran, a player who has been in every trade rumor since he entered the league, would want a no-trade clause. My question is: how could the Astros not know about this little detail sooner?

Losing Beltran means that the Astros will start 2005 without their three biggest run producers of 2004. Jeff Kent went to the green pastures of Dodgertown while Lance Berkman will start the season on the DL. Their remaining studs, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, are well into their decline years (Edgar, Olerud & Boonie, anyone?) And if anyone thinks that Roger Clemens is dying to return to this team in its current condition is crazy.

The Astros look like they are heading for a collapse of 2004 Mariner proportions. Their Opening Day outfield right now looks consists of three of the following:
Jason Lane, a promising rookie (for the past three years) who the Astros have bent over backward to avoid giving an opportunity to.
Willy Taveras, a AA player with incredible speed who could at least cover the spacious and hilly center field in the field formerly known as Enron.
Craig Biggio, who plays the outfield like the second baseman that he is.
Orlando Palmeiro, whose face shows up in the dictionary under the definition of "Replacement Level Player."

The Astros are going to have to deal to improve their team. Randy Winn would be an excellent fit for this team, in that he provides speed to cover centerfield, and could bat leadoff in place of Beltran.

The Astros are currently rumored to be dealing with the Rangers for Alfonso Soriano. This would certainly mean that Craig Biggio would go to the outfield, and would block prospect Chris Burke. This deal makes little sense for the Astros, and hopefully Bill Bavasi is on the phone right now with Astros GM Tim Purpura convincing him of just that. (The Rangers would use the Soriano savings to pursue Carlos Delgado, who M's fans do NOT want to see in Arlington).

If the M's were to deal Winn to the Astros, who might they ask for in return?
First in the list would be 27 year old right-hander Brandon Backe, who almost won the NLCS for the Astros. But after losing Wade Miller, and with the fate of Roger Clemens in doubt, the Astros may not be willing to deal major league pitching. The Astros' two most intriguing pitching prospects are reliever Mike Burns, who was 11-3, 9 saves, 1.67 ERA for AA Round Rock last year, and 24-year-old Ezequiel Astacio, who was 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA for Round Rock. Both pitchers dominate opponents: Burns had 94 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings, and Astacio struck out 185 in 176 innings.
Finally, if the Astros aren't planning on playing him, the M's should certainly ask for second base prospect Chris Burke. He started out as a shortstop, but moved to second base to make room for Adam Everett at short. Last year, in AAA New Orleans, he had a 310/400/500 line with 16 HRs and 37 SBs. His defense at second base is excellent, and would allow Jose Lopez to continue to concentrate on shortstop, as each battles to place themselves somewhere in Seattle's middle infield in 2005. A pretty trade would be Winn for Burke and any of those three pitchers.

Meanwhile, the Mets find themselves with Mike Cameron wasting his defensive talent in right field. Already suitors may be lining up to get the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. Could a return to the Pacific Northwest be in the cards for Mr. Cameron? Stranger things would happen, but a Randy Winn trade would have to happen first.

Suffice to say, the ramifications of the Carlos Beltran are not limited to where Mr. Beltran will play centerfield. An opportunity exists for the M's to be affected greatly by this signing.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Pitchers That Bavasi May Target 

With the door on Odalis Perez slammed shut, it seems that the M's may look to the trade winds to find our next pitcher. It is assumed that the centerpiece of any trade will be Randy Winn, as he has been sought after. So who might be available, and who might we be able to get? Here's a list of players that might be available via trade and might plug in well to the Mariners rotation in 2005 (and beyond).

Kip Wells, Pittsburgh, RHP, 28. A sore elbow cut short a mediocre 2004 for Mr. Wells, and he is in the final year of his contract, so its a great time to buy low. The upside is his 2002-2003 numbers with a low-3 ERA. The Pirates could certainly use Winn and put Tike Redman on the bench where he belongs. And its usually not a bad thing to trade with the Pirates.

Brian Lawrence, San Diego, RHP, 29. Our favorite trading partners have a couple of pitchers in Lawrence and Adam Eaton that I would love to pry away. If they hadn't traded for Dave Roberts, Winn would have been a perfect fit for them as well. Lawrence's high (near 2.0) GB/FB ratio looks especially tasty given our improved infield defense. The M's and Padres always seem to be hatching up deals, so why not one for pitching? Klesko/Burroughs for Winn/Spiezio was a hot offseason rumor. Why not Klesko/Lawrence for Winn/Spiezio/prospects(Nageotte)? Don't answer that.

Miguel Batista, Toronto, RHP, 34. 2004 free agent signing was somewhat of a bust for the Jays with a 10-13 record and 4.80 ERA. His K/9 rate dropped from 6.6 to 4.7 while his BB/9 jumped from sub-3 to over 4 and his HR/9 rate nearly doubled. Perhaps with the M's infield defense, Batista would not be so scared to throw strikes. Not sold, look at these ERAs from past 4 years - 3.36, 4.29, 3.54, 4.80. See the pattern? 3.50 ERA coming in 2004! Batista makes $4.75 million over the next two years which is eerily similar to the money Randy Winn would command. For the Blue Jays, Winn provides a substantial upgrade over Reed Johnson and Frank Catalanatto in left field. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays don't have anything that could be called depth in pitching, so we may need to send pitching back as well. Perhaps we pursue Ted Lilly and settle for Batista.

Joe Kennedy, Colorado, LHP, 25. Turned career around with a 3.66 ERA in Coors last year after a miserable 2003 with the D-Rays. If the Rockies want to treat Kennedy (who they acquired in 3-way trade for Justin Speier) as found money and spend it, they could certainly enjoy turning him into Randy Winn, who would be a great left fielder to have in Coors and an offensive upgrade over the series of rookies and never-beens that the Rockies have in the outfield.

The remaining players in this list may be hard (or in the case of Brown, stupid) to acquire, but I can't help but discuss them.

Ben Sheets, Milwaukee, RHP, 26. Power pitcher who was one of the best in baseball last year, after three average seasons to start his career. Looks to be a perennial Cy Young candidate, especially if he can get away from Milwaukee. He will be arbitration-eligible in 2006, but right now the Brewers have expressed no desire to trade him. Should be at the top of the M's trade list. The Brewers could use Winn this year, with rookie Corey Hart probably slated to start in the outfield with Carlos Lee and Geoff Jenkins. The Brewers are maybe two years away from being very good, so deals for prospects are much more likely. A lucrative offer centered around Jeremy Reed and/or Jose Lopez would be much more likely to land Sheets.

A.J. Burnett, Florida, RHP, 28. Throws hard, and has #1 potential, but just last year returned from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins were offering Burnett to the A's for Tim Hudson. Burnett is a year away from free agency, but the Marlins are beginning process of negotiating a long-term contract, expected to be at more than $10 million per year. Adding Winn would be an upgrade over Juan Encarnacion in the outfield alongside Juan Pierre and Miguel Cabrera, and provide some much-needed depth there, but the M's would have to include much more.

Kevin Brown, Yankees, RHP, 40. The Yankees have seemed willing to eat some of his $15 million contract. He has just one year remaining on his contract, so he is not someone we would build around. His first year in pinstripes saw his K rate drop by 2K/9 innings in an injury plagued year, but he is just a year removed from a 2.39 ERA in Dodger Blue. Might be worth taking a chance on for a one-year plug while we wait for King Felix and his court to come up from Tacoma.

And it never hurts to ask the Cubs about Carlos Zambrano, the Padres about Jake Peavy, the Twins about Johan Santana, or even the Indians about Jake Westbrook.

In the meantime, Mr. Bavasi, while your waiting for these GMs to return your phone calls (do GMs email?), could you find a way to sign Antonio Osuna for our bullpen?

M's Should Never HAVE to Trade 

Was reading the PI's article on the Pokey signing and the non-signing of Odalis Perez, and came across this paragraph:
Seattle would have had to make a trade if Perez had said yes, and the Mariners may have to make a trade now that Perez has said no. That's because there isn't much affordable pitching left on the free-agent market.
Its that first sentence that bothers me. The Mariners would have HAD to make a trade if Perez had said yes. The worst move of the Bill Bavasi era occurred when he HAD to make a trade to free a few million dollars in budget. After signing Rich Aurilia to be our shortstop, Bavasi acted as if he HAD to trade Carlos Guillen.

Now, most of us thought that replacing Guillen with Aurilia might be a slight offensive upgrade short term, but looked like it could be a bad decision long-term. That may be the understatement of the 2004 offseason. Personally, I think getting rid of Guillen was certainly in the best interest of the Mariners and Guillen. There had been too much saida little too much baggage in Seattle and I don't think Carlos would have taken that step up to the next level in a Mariner uniform. So the idea of trading Carlos Guillen is fine with me as well. It was a calculated risk.

But by announcing to the media for weeks (months?) that any deal for a shortstop (Tejada, Vizquel, Aurilia) would HAVE to be accompanied with a trade, the Mariners completely painted themselves into a corner. This might have been fine after signing Tejada, because the M's would have had a large number of potential trading partners to negotiate with. But by the time the M's ended up with Aurilia, the number of teams looking for a shortstop had dwindled to one, the Detroit Tigers. And since our reason for trading Guillen were financial (to stay under budget after signing Aurilia), we took what we could get which turned about to be Ramon Santiago, better known as Pokey Lite (some of the defense with even less hitting, yikes!)

We all know what happened. Aurilia was a bust, and Martinez was just as bad or worse. Well, what would have happened if we did not feel pressured to trade Guillen to stay under budget.

Carlos Guillen would have started the year as a backup, but gotten playing time as he outperformed Rich Aurilia. At this point, the M's could have decided that Carlos Guillen was their shortstop for the next few years (which they would have done if he played as well as he did for the 2004 Tigers), or (if 2003 Guillen repeated in 2004 and they decided he would be too pricy) they could have leisurely pursued the best trade offers as they did for Freddy Garcia.

The problem was, the M's had committed to trading Carlos Guillen at EXACTLY the same time as they were going to sign Rich Aurilia. Even though they had plenty of time to modify their team to keep the final numbers under budget. As it turned out, Kaz Sasaki left a $7 million plus present for the M's shortly after Guillen was dealt, and this money was never spent. It could easily have covered Guillen's salary, and we would probably be looking at Carlos Guillen at shortstop this season and liking our chances to win the AL West considerably more.

Unfortunately, the Mariners front office does not seem to have learned its lesson. Right now, they have tied any signing of or trade for a front line starting pitcher to a necessary salary dump of Randy Winn or Raul Ibanez. Why paint yourself into this corner? It makes no sense to me. You have more than three months until Opening Day during which you can make a trade! What's the rush?! Why announce to your competitors that you will deal at a discount to save money? I assume they are trying to set expectations with the fan base. Screw that. Do damage control AFTER the trade is made. Then you can negotiate from a position of strength.

Bavasi was masterful this offseason in showing what flexibility can do for you in the free agent market. By being willing to pursue Carlos Delgado AND Richie Sexson simultaneously, he helped to land the prize he sought in Adrian Beltre. And he used the media to push how flexible the M's were (we can put Sexson in left field!) The M's need to discuss how excited they are to have outfield depth, and what a fantastic luxury it is. Then a team in need of an outfielder (and ideally with excess pitching) can approach THEM for a trade and we negotiate from a position of strength (we REALLY like having our DH be our 4th outfielder, but if we can talk about Ben Sheets, I might be willing to discuss Randy Winn...)

Here's hoping that the M's will use not try to continually harp on the budget in the media. Let it be approximated or guessed at to control expectations on free agent signings. But stop talking about players that we HAVE to trade to save payroll. I never want to see another trade like the Carlos Guillen Debacle. We want more Freddy Garcia trades.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Odalis Returns to the Dodgers 

Well, the Dodgers found a way to spend their Adrian Beltre savings. ESPNews reports that Odalis Perez will re-sign with the Dodgers for 3 years and $24 million. The M's last reported offer was 3-year, $18 million, which as you know, I was thrilled about. To top the Dodgers probably means we would have had to venture into the $9-10 million per season range. That's 1/10th of the payroll on Odalis Perez, which is too much. So, Bavasi wisely let him go.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that Mike Cameron was a major factor in influencing Pokey Reese to come to Seattle. That is one class act.

In the article, Bavasi says "We are rolling the dice a little bit. We still have to make sure we have others capable of playing shortstop behind him, but he's never begged off playing. His injuries have been real. He comes with a great reputation as a guy who works hard and plays hard and does everything the right way."

This sure sounds like there will be another potential shortstop brought in, and that we won't be relying on Willie Bloomquist to be the backup shortstop. I sure hope I'm reading that right. Barry Larkin, anyone?

And the Reese contract looks like a good bargain. He is guaranteed $1.2 million with an additional $300,000 in performance incentives this year. We have an option to sign Pokey next year for $2.25-2.75 million.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

M's to sign Pokey Reese 

According to Larry Larue, the Mariners are on the verge of creating a whole new look at shortstop, by signing Pokey Reese, and at the same time, selling Jolbert Cabrera to a Japanese team.

The details are sketchy at this time, and Larue's article sounds speculative, but it seems like the breakdown would be:

1) The Mariners are going to sign Pokey Reese to a 1-year contract for nearly 2 million dollars.

2) Japanese team planned to offer Cabrera a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, and since this is something that would be good for Cabrera, the M's agreed to sell the rights to Cabrera to this team.

3) The Mariners plan on Reese being their starting shortstop and having Jose Lopez start the season with AAA Tacoma. This is the one that seems like it may need some more thinking. Losing Cabrera frees up the bench spot for Pokey. Losing Lopez as well frees up a bench spot for Willie Bloomquist or Justin Leone, I guess.

4) Larue speculates that this will be the last move in free agency and that any move to bring in pitching will involve a trade of Randy Winn or Raul Ibanez.

5) Unmentioned in the article, but it sure would appear that Willie Bloomquist will be back.

I have mixed feelings about this deal. If the article just said that the Mariners had signed Pokey Reese, I would probably be pretty happy. But in the same breath to indicate that we are losing our most productive bench player from last year AND that we are not pursuing Odalis Perez is a bit of a blow (with the potential non-pursuit of Perez the one that really hurts).

This will definitely solidify the infield defense as Pokey is excellent with the glove. Pokey's offensive upside is limited to speed - he's been a terrible hitter whose highest OBP has been .330 and last year hit a paltry 221/271/303. In a perfect world, Lopez shows that he's ready (defensively) for the big leagues and reclaims the shortstop role midseason, and Reese slides into a utility infielder role.

Monday, January 03, 2005

2005 - Year of the Championship! 

Rams come a callin' next week in a Seahawks Home Playoff Game. You really can't ask for a better start to 2005 than that! Forget (actually wanted to insert an expletive here, but I will continue to keep it clean) 2004. Forget how the M's, Sonics and Seahawks disappointed greatly in 2004. Its a new year, and great things are afoot.

The curse that has been lain upon the heads of Seattle sports fans has been lifted. By a women's basketball team of all things.

All of a sudden, the Sonics are on top of the NBA. The Seahawks are NFC West Division Champs, and their path to the Super Bowl is wide open. The Mariners have not one, but two new bashers in their lineup.

Many of you can't fully embrace optimism after years of being beaten down by the depression of being a Seattle sports fan. So, I'm going to make predictions that will look like a HUGE leap of faith. This is what you can look forward to:

Seahawks win a playoff game!
Sonics get to Western Conference Semifinals!
Mariners in playoff hunt down to final days of season!

If you are already shaking your head, and thinking that the Optimist is insane, then stop reading right now. Its gonna get worse. If you're gonna dream, dream big I say!

I think Seattle sports is about to go on a roll of epic proportions. What is starting a trickle of optimism is soon going to produce a downpour of Championships on the Emerald City.

Down to the Rams 28-24 with a minute to play, the Seahawks drive 75 yards for the winning score on a Shaun Alexander 1-yard run as time expires. The victory brings out a brash confidence in the Seahawks, and they go on to annihilate the Eagles in Philly and the Packers in Green Bay. The AFC champs are no match for the on-fire Seahawks who bring the Lombardi Trophy to Seattle!

The city of Seattle becomes Championship hungry, and that enthusiasm is obvious at every Sonic game the rest of the year. The Sonics feed off that energy, and go on a roll all the way to the NBA Championship.

With a Super Bowl Champion and an awesome Sonic team dominating the headlines, the 2005 Mariners ride a little under the radar through June, staying a few games back of the first place Angels in the AL West. But, a week after the Sonics Championship parade, Howard Lincoln decides it is time for the Mariners to build on this Seattle sports euphoria and opens the pursestrings. King Felix is called up and dominates from day one. Bill Bavasi pulls off not one, but two deadline deals for a huge bat and another stud pitcher. The Mariners go on to win 12 in a row immediately following the trades, and never look back on their way to a 100 win season. In the playoffs, they squeak by the Red Sox in five games and then crush the Yankees in five in the ALCS, before sweeping their way to become the World Series Champions!

Enjoy the ride!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year 

I resolve to be a little more optimistic this year.

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