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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Rest in Peace, Grandpa 

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that Mr. Ed Meyers, who was known to us all as Grandpa Mariner, has passed away at the age of 80.

Grandpa brought us all a little closer to the Mariners with his Spring Training Camp Notes and later his April clubhouse reports. He a fantastic ambassador for the excellent Sportspot fan forums. But more than that, he was a shining example of how to live life. He is survived by 8 children, 31 grandchildren, and 88 great-grandchildren, and last I heard should have had his first great-great grandchild in March. He was a U.S. Army veteran and had retired from teaching and coaching high school in 1988 to spend his time pursuing his passions of Seattle sports, golf, and RV'ing with his wife of 62 years.

Unbeknownst to many of us, his wife passed away just weeks before he went to his final Spring Training and brought so many of us along for the ride.

I will miss his passion, warmth and humor, as well as we will all miss his inside information on the Mariners. I am hoping that the Mariners will take some time to acknowledge the passing of one of their greatest fans.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. We look forward to any Inside Information you get a chance to send from up there.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Rediscovering the Swagger 

Its early, I know, but it sure is nice to see the Mariners get back some of the swagger they lost in the disaster of 2004. From today's PI...
"It's back to normal here now," Boone said. "It's back to the way it used to be, before last year. We used to feel that we were going to win every time we went out there, and that feeling has come back.

"Last year, it slipped away, and I don't know why. But it's back now, and it feels good."


The first few games, the 2004 Mariners were anemic (save Ichiro!), but Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre stepped in to carry the offense. Now, the rest of the team is starting to pick things up, and the vibe is completely different from 2004. Each game, you think the M's are going to find a way to win.

The swagger is back, and the good times are gonna follow. Its not too late to join me in hopping back on the Mariners bandwagon. Be the first to tell your friends that you too picked the M's to win the AL West!

Tonight - Joel Pineiro returns against the White Sox. Can't wait!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another Darned Good Start 

Aaron Sele follows up Ryan Franklin's gem with one of his own, Shiggy makes it stick, and Guardado about gives us all another heart attack before saving a 2-1 Mariners win over the Royals.

Recently, several sabermatricians have been promoting the concept of a "Quality Start", defined by sportswriter John Lowe as the pitcher going at least 6 innings, and giving up 3 or fewer earned runs. I think this is too specific a criteria, and does not take into account ineffecive bullpens or game situations that allow a pitcher to be pulled in the sixth, or groove a few more pitches. If a pitcher is up 9-0, and gives up 4 runs, that is a darned good start in my book. If a pitcher leaves after 5 innings up 3-0, that is also a darned good start.

So, I'm going to track the Mariners "darned good starts" (DGS) vs. "ugly starts" (US). This is a somewhat subjective statistic whose definition I'll try to refine over the course of the year. Essentially, it will reward any quality start plus any start where the pitcher leaves with a lead, handles some sort of duress, or maybe was the victim of a bullpen blowup allowing extra runs to score.

Here's a record of the Mariners DGS up to now, and how the team has fared in each.

Pitcher (DGS/QS/US, M's record in DGS, M's record in US)
Jamie Moyer (2/0/0, 1-1, 0-0) - Guardado blew up Jamie's second DGS.
Gil Meche (0/0/2, 0-0, 0-2) - bullpen has hurt him, but still unable to make it out of fifth in either start.
Bobby Madritsch (0/0/1, 0-0, 0-1) - Injury pulled Mad Dog out early and perhaps for a long time.
Aaron Sele (2/1/0, 2-0, 0-0) - his first start is a perfect example of the Darned Good Start that does not qualify as a quality start.
Ryan Franklin (1/1/0, 1-0, 0-0)
Mariner Total (5/3, 4-1, 0-3)

I'll work on getting this into a more readable summary form on the sidebar soon.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Just What the Doctor Ordered 

Ryan Franklin... wow! He was absolutely dealing today. 18 strikes in first 18 pitches, and was just sitting em down quickly. A pleasure to watch, as Ryan mixed speeds early. In the first inning, Mike Sweeney got ahold of one, and it just missed going out. After that, it was fairly smooth sailing for Ryan, until the ninth, when his second walk of the game eventually cost him the shutout and the complete game.

Fantastic outing that has cemented Ryan firmly in the rotation for the rest of April at least. Lets hope we get to see this version of Franklin again this year.

41,000+ Royal fans go home knowing that their team was completely owned by Ryan Franklin. Largest home opener crowd in Royals history. Sweet. Nice start of a long road trip for the Mariners.

By the way, the Rangers had a 6-5 lead late in the game today, and lost 7-6. I would say "how you like them apples," except it was the Angels...

And the defensive highlight of the day is this fantastic diving catch by Jeremy Reed on a Gotay liner up the middle in the second inning (look for it on ESPN Web Gems)


Wil Carroll Thinks Madritsch is Done 

Baseball Prospectus injury guru Wil Carroll included this opinion on Bobby Madritsch in his latest Under the Knife column (subscription).
Bobby Madritsch learned that his medicine wheel tattoo isn't enough to save him from whatever seems to attack all promising young Mariners pitchers. Madritsch has a torn shoulder capsule and will need surgery that will end his 2005. He'll have a second opinion, hoping that he'll hear a diagnosis that doesn't involve the business end of a scalpel. The M's are going to have to get serious about figuring out exactly what's going on. It's one thing for me to sit here making guesses in my column. For the M's, this is win-or-lose serious and I hope something's going on internally.
Sigh. Maybe we should just trade King Felix before we hurt him.

Pitching Update 

First, the good news. Joel Pineiro looked great in his rehab outing against Fresno, giveing up one run in seven innings. Joel gave up five hits, no walks, and struck out six. Look for Pineiro to return to the rotation later this week.

Which is good timing, because Bobby Madritsch could be gone for awhile. A long while. A second MRI revealed a tear in the shoulder ligament. His arm will be placed in a sling for three weeks in hopes that it will heal without surgery. There is no positive spin I can put on this news. Surgery looks to be the likely outcome, and while the tear may be small enough, even arthroscopic surgery would end Madritsch's 2005 season. Even if Madritsch returns this year, we will be holding our breath with each start to hope he does not turn whatever scar tissue heals the shoulder into a big tear. That scenario could result in Madritsch missing part of 2006 as well.

Ryan Franklin looks to be the beneficiary of Madritsch's downtime, beginning with today's day game at Kansas City. It is the first of three straight non-televised day games in Kansas City.

Now, in a final bit of bad news, during and after yesterday's start, Gil Meche complained of elbow stiffness. An x-ray afterwards revealed nothing, but its something to keep an eye on.

The Mariners are going to need to show some resiliency to rebound from a terrible first week. But, we are already 2 wins up on the lightning 0-6 pace we set in 2004. If we gain 2 wins over 2004 every week of the season, then we'll go 115-47.

Flabbergasted 

Two painful 7-6 losses to the Texas Rangers this weekend have knocked the wind out of me.

On Saturday, Bret Boone sparks a Rangers 4-run rally by letting a ball Buckner through his legs, and Eddie Guardado lays up two home runs to give away a 6-3 lead in the ninth. That hurt, but it was just a warmup act to the craziness of Sunday's game.

On Sunday, Willie Bloomquist got his first start in short and promptly botched a groundball to lead to two unearned runs in the fifth. Randy Winn once again blundered on the basepath when he was picked off on a pitchout just moments before the rare event of Dan Wilson and Willie Bloomquist hitting back-to-back singles. Throw in an Ichiro called third strike on a pitch about a foot outside, and you begin to get the idea that it was not the M's day.

Even the fans had to commit blunders in this game. In the fourth, Rod Barajas popped a foul ball that Ichiro was poised to catch before some idiot fan reached out with his glove and stole the out away. Given new life, Barajas promptly hit a run-scoring double to put the icing on the Rangers 5-run 4th. Just a half-inning later, another fan's attempt to get a $10 baseball with a major league scuff mark on it helps turn a Richie Sexson home run into a ground rule double.

How bizarre was this game? Matt Thornton pitched very well for 2 1/3 innings of relief for an ineffective Gil Meche. Of course, Thornton will not be allowed to enjoy the outing because he was brought out to face the Rangers in the seventh and gave up a double and the game-winning home run to David Freakin' Dellucci. Thornton gets the loss, and the calls for his ouster will get louder, even though he actually did a solid job.

So, instead of 4-2, the M's are sitting at 2-4. We have the comfort of knowing that we have the talent to win, but the mistakes are killing us in a very disappointing week one.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Rauuuuuulllll Does It Again 

Last April, the only bright spot in a dreary season were thanks to the timely home runs from Raul Ibanez. And tonight, he did it again, with an 8th inning blast to give the Mariners back the lead for good in their 9-6 win over the Rangers. A good win for the Mariners, as it should the resiliency of the team, and how wonderful it is to have bats throughout the lineup.

Everyone but Richie Sexson got a hit tonight, and a couple of key players finally got on the scoreboard as Jeremy Reed drove in two, and Miguel Olivo and Wilson Valdez also got their first hits of the season.

Of course, there was some ugly too, with defensive lapses costing the M's a lead in the sixth, and when combined with two walks from J.J. Putz, nearly cost the M's the game in the eighth.

The other hero of the game was none other than Aaron Sele. After allowing two runs in the first, Aaron settled down and pitched four scoreless innings, thanks in large part to three double play balls he induced. 11 of the 16 outs recorded by Sele were on groundouts. Of course, there is still cause for concern. None of the sixteen outs were by strikeout, and he gave three free passes, so its not all golden. But still, if Richie Sexson could have made a defensive play ruled an error, then Sele would likely have gotten the win with a 6 inning, 2 run effort, instead of his final 5.2 inning, 4 run line.

Good start to the series, and combined with losses by the A's and Angels, the Mariners are back in first place in the AL West. Moyer vs. Astacio tomorrow afternoon looks like a good matchup for the M's, so enjoy the game!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Madritsch Feeling Better 

So far, so good on Bobby Madritsch. According to the Everett Herald, the MRI on Mad Dog did not show a tear in the shoulder and the soreness in the shoulder has subsided.

Bobby is clearly not out of the woods yet, and a major problem could still be hidden, but the M's are feeling much better about Bobby's prognosis then they were on Wednesday.

Bryan Price had the following quotes from the article.

"I saw Bobby at the ballpark today and he feels worlds better than he did immediately following his departure from the game."
"If the soreness continues to subside like it did from yesterday to today, there's a possibility he wouldn't be a DL candidate. It may be that we can skip him one time through the rotation."
"Everything is pointing in the direction that there's not any extensive damage and we're hoping to avoid going through a long rehab. Over the next 48 hours, we're hoping the soreness goes away completely and that he'll start playing catch again. That will give us an idea if he's able to make a start soon or if it's going to be a more extended recovery time."

These are obviously guarded statements, but the M's have reason to hope that Madritsch won't be out long. No one will be breathing easy until Madritsch has successfully completed his next start (or two).

Tacoma Pitching Update 

Jorge Campillo started the Rainiers season with an excellent start, pitching the Rainiers to a 6-2 win. He had a stretch where he retired 18 batters in a row, and ended up pitching 6.2 innings of 3-hit ball before tiring in the seventh. He gave up a run when he left the game with the bases loaded in the 7th and Masao Kida walked one before getting out of the jam. Four strikeouts and one walk round out a nice Opening Day line for Popeye.

George Sherrill got the save. Rainiers skipper Dan Rohn decided not to call George Sherrill his closer, saying there were a number of pitchers who could fill that role. And that is wise, since Sherrill likely won't be spending much time in Tacoma before returning to the Mariners where he will return to excelling as our lefty setup man.

Today, Felix Hernandez debuts for Tacoma on his 19th birthday. Happy Birthday, El Cartelua! Sounds like a great matchup, as he goes up against the Giants uber-prospect Jesse Foppert. If you'd like to listen to the game, and you can't pick up KHHO 850-AM, you can catch it at SportsJuice.

Unfortunately, not all of the news for our Tacoma pitching prospects is good. Clint Nageotte is already on the 15-day DL for a sore forearm. Yesterday he had an MRI on the forearm/elbow and the results should be known today. Right now, its being called a strain and he might miss 4-6 weeks.

Art Thiel's column says that the Mariners miss Freddy Garcia. Thiel acknowledges that it was a good trade, but shines the spotlight on all of the bad news with the Mariners pitching, and how the M's could really use Garcia.

Call me a "glass half full," kinda guy, but even with all of the bad news so far this season, I still think the M's have enough pitching to get the job done. Campillo, Hernandez, Sherrill, and maybe even Soriano are all going to be major factors for the M's by seasons end. Franklin is going to be great in long relief, and Sele will be serviceable as a stopgap #5. One bad bullpen outing by Thornton and one injury to Madritsch won't change that (although the margin for error has been significantly reduced if Mad Dog is out for awhile).

That said, whatever the M's are currently doing to protect their pitchers health, its not working, and no one seems to know why. If you work for the Mariners front office, and you haven't read Steve Nelson's excellent piece, The Mariners Pitching Medicine Mess, head over there right now. It is time for the Mariners to be more proactive in their approach to keeping their pitchers healthy. I think its time to dedicate a little of our profits over to the folks at American Sports Medicine Institute.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bobby Madritsch Update 

Here are the latest updates on Mad Dog Madritsch

Tribune - M's Biggest Loss could be Madritsch
Times - M's Lose Another One
PI - M's Lose Game, Starter

The pitcher left the game in the fifth inning when he felt something wrong at the back of his left shoulder. He was taken to a Northgate radiology clinic for an MRI that showed he had suffered a mild strain. The club won't have a timeline for Madritsch to return until tomorrow at the earliest.

When asked if there was any hint of this coming, Hargrove responded, "It happened on one pitch, it wasn’t something he’d been dealing with. One pitch and there was a pain in the back of his shoulder."

Pitching coach Bryan Price, who went to the mound and talked to Madritsch, said the 28-year-old was unnerved. "He was scared and had every reason to be. This is a kid who’d never say anything about an ache or a pain, but this was something different."

Man, its hard to imagine Bobby Madritsch scared of anything, but there you have it. The news that it appears to just be a strain is comforting, but anything that scares Bobby scares me tenfold.

As for what the M's will do, Hargrove says that "the simplest decision isn’t always the right one. We have options." Meaning that it won't necessarily be Ryan Franklin who slides into the rotation. It could be Jorge Campillo, who has pitched well since being sent down to AAA or possibly Bryan Price favorite Cha Seung Baek.

Another possibility is that Joel Pineiro returns early, instead of pitching a rehab assignment against Fresno on Sunday. This makes a lot of sense to me, if the injury to Bobby is only going to keep him out for a couple of weeks.

Don't count on it being Felix Hernandez, who turns 19 on Friday. An injury won't be what prompts the Mariners to bring him up to the big leagues. The team should stick to its plan to get Felix experience against AAA hitters, and call him up based on El Cartelua's timeline, and no one else's.

Admirably, Ryan Franklin toed the company line... "The last time I started was March 28, and I threw 90 pitches. Could I start next week? Sure, but I can also pitch in relief again Friday. My job is to be prepared for whatever they ask of me." And in another interview, said "If they need me, I can start. Heck, the problem I have in the bullpen is that I'm still in my starting routine."

My guess at the current odds (I've been avoiding the gambling thing so far this year)...
Pineiro 2-1
Franklin 3-1
Baek 8-1
Campillo 10-1
Felix 50-1

I think Franklin is where he belongs, a great option for the M's when a pitcher can't get through the fifth inning. Pineiro is feeling good, so he could start in Bobby's spot, and Franklin or Villone will be there to finish up the game.

If Madritsch is out for more than three weeks, I think that dramatically increases the chances for it to be a non-Pineiro option, as we'll have to figure out a new fifth starter. Then, it is likely a three-way race between Franklin, Baek, and Campillo, while the chances that King Felix looks ready for the majors increase ;-)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Bobby Madritsch Hurt 

I do not know the extent of the injury yet. Bobby threw a 55-foot breaking ball and then hopped off the mound, obviously in pain.

Later in the game, the Twins announcers said it was a strained shoulder. You will hear a lot about how Bobby Madritsch pitched some extremely abusive pitch counts last year. I'm just hoping I don't hear the word "labrum" over the next two days.

The Mariners drop a second game to the Twins, 4-1. The difference between this game and yesterday, is that when we get the bases loaded with one out, Dan Wilson Valdez comes to the plate and hits into a 5-3 doubleplay. On the first pitch, no less. I about kicked a ball through the television.

Now I get to spend the night hoping that Bobby M is okay. M's get a day off and then play the Rangers on Friday in what should be a good series. Look for the M's to bounce back after running into a buzz saw of good pitching and bad breaks the last two days.

Let the Second Guessing Begin... 

After a 4-0 start against the best (or 2nd best with the arrival of the Big Unit) pitcher in the American League, the Mariners looked set to start the season with a 2-0 record.

Gil Meche was labored a bit early allowing baserunners in the first three innings, but looked to have found his rhythm by the fourth inning and had managed to pitch 4 scoreless innings, although his pitch count was a bit high.

Then came the fifth inning, which looked like a highlight film of the M's 2004 season. And in this inning, every decision Mike Hargrove and the club had made backfired. And this is where the second guessing of Hargrove will begin.

As Meche tired, he seemed to revert a bit to early 2004 form and became Gil the Nibbler, instead of Gilgamesh the power pitcher. The singles started coming, and the bullpen starts warming up. With Johan Santana dealing, this may be a critical inning, so its time to get the best pitchers in our bullpen up, and then plan on Ryan Franklin taking over to start the sixth. Shiggy gets up, and also Ron Villone. The guys you would expect in this situation. No wait, that's not Villone, that's Matt Thornton! Yes, the guy who made the roster primarily because he was out of options. Okay, maybe Villone is tired from yesterday, and we don't have another lefty, and I think there is no way that Matt Thornton should be entering this game at this time.

A couple of singles later and its 4-2, with one out, and runners on first and second. The Twins have two lefties coming up in Mauer and Morneau, so it is time to go with the strategy that worked so well on Opening Day, when Villone came in and dominated those same two hitters. Only today, its not Ron Villone, its Matt Thornton taking the hill.

Sure enough, Matt starts Mauer out with two balls and ends up facing him with a 3-1 pitch. On 3-1, the Twins send the runners and the strategy works to perfection. A grounder to short that would have been a double play to end the inning instead becomes a run scoring single. Thornton got the ball in play he wanted, but unfortunately, because of the 3-1 count, the Twins were able to hit and run.

So now the M's are up 4-3, runners are on the corners and still one out. Big lefty Justin Morneau comes up, and Thornton immediately falls behind 2-1. But another good pitch from Thornton gets a little bloop to left field. But instead of speedy Randy Winn out there, we have Raul Ibanez playing left, and the ball drops for a "single". Thornton has actually gotten two hit balls that he wanted, and has no outs and two hits to show for it.

At this point, I must say that Matt Thornton did his job pretty well. The Twins just executed better with the hit and run, and we should not play Ibanez over Winn just to make Raul happy. Grover was right to put in Thornton here. Now, with Torii Hunter coming up, its time to get out there, give Matt a slap on the behind, and bring in Shiggy.

Instead, Hargrove leaves Thornton out there to face right-hander Torii Hunter, who promptly singles. Matt is now throwing more strikes, but they are of the right-down-the-middle variety. Grover should have pulled Thornton a batter ago, as he has that dere in the headlights look to him. But now a lefty is up, and Hargrove seems to want Thornton to go out on a positive note, right. Nope, Jacque Jones crushes a pitch to right field, and a 4-4 game is now 7-4.

At this point, Hargrove comes out and puts in Shiggy who gets the M's out of the inning. Interestingly, Shiggy goes on to pitch 2 1/3 innings, while Ryan Franklin gets a single 1-2-3 inning. I wonder if Shiggy is being considered the mopup/long relief guy and Franklin more of a setup man?

Regardles, this game will go down as Matt Thornton being the goat, and don't get me wrong, he surely was. But Mike Hargrove has to take some of the responsibility. And since managers don't like to be made accountable for disasters by their pitchers, I would guess that Matt Thornton's days in a Mariner uniform are numbered at best.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Santana, Shmantana 

Get used to it. The 2005 Mariners are gonna score, even against the greatest pitchers around.

The first inning was picture perfect. Ichiro hits a single to the pitcher. Yes, to the pitcher. Unnerved pitcher (Cy Young or not) proceeds to walk rookie Jeremy Reed. In steps the first big bat in Adrian Beltre, who falls behind 1-2. The 1-2 pitch? Crushed to deep center for a 2-run double. Next comes the Freak, Richie Sexson who misses a homer with a run-scoring double.

Before you can get settled with your popcorn and soda, its 3-0 Mariners again. And that's against Brad Radke and now 2004 Cy Young winner Johan Santana.

Oh yeah, then we get to the 2004 heart of the order. Bret Boone still hasn't gotten the memo that its okay to be a stud in a supporting role, but at least he makes a "productive out," moving Sexson to third. Raul Ibanez, on the other hand, understands his role, and stroked a single to drive in Sexson and make it 4-0.

Six batters into his 2005 season, Johan Santana is sporting a 108.00 ERA courtesy of your Seattle Mariners.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Double Knockers for Big Sex!!! 

Got to increase my Google traffic somehow... I promise this will be my last gratuitous use of Richie Sexson's name to drive pornhunter traffic to my site, where they will be sorely disappointed. In fact, I think the M's need a nickname for Richie that is not derived off of his last name.

For now, I'm gonna go with "Freak", as in... Richie Freakin' Sexson just hit two huge home runs to win the game for the Mariners today! How about that for a debut. Two on, one out, bottom of the first, first pitch... CRUSHED by the Freak!

Great start by Jamie, solid defense by everyone, bullpen showed big in Mateo, Villone and Eddie. But this game belonged to the Freak.

And now the Mariners sit atop the AL West standings, as is their birthright.

Get used to it.

Jose Lopez out 4-6 Weeks 

Apparently Jose Lopez broke the hamate bone in his left hand and is having surgery later this week. He will be out 4-6 weeks. Unfortunately, this is NOT an April Fool's Day joke.

Apparently, he jammed his hand into third base sliding during a minor league camp game last week. This will silence the debate on when to bring up Mr. Lopez until June at least.

How about that debut from Richie Sexson. First pitch of 2005 is a 3-run home run!!!

Oh yeah, third pitch was a 2-run home run. The man is a Freak.

Opening Day Optimism 

Gotta be true to myself. The Mariners will win stun the baseball world in 2005 and win the World Series. How will they do it? It's a mystery.

I'll pick a win total of 94 games, and the AL West crown by 3 games over the Angels.

Enjoy!

Wilson Valdez 

Fantasy baseball drafts consumed my life last week, so that I did not have time to post much on the adventures of picking the Mariner shortsop. I don't think Wilson Valdez is going to be like the Exxon Valdez for the Mariners, no matter what more pessimistic fans might think.

The M's are committed to providing the best infield defense possible. Unfortunately, Pokey Reese was going to start the season on the DL. Jose Lopez was already demoted primarily because the club thinks his glove is not ready (and they want him to get it ready without costing the M's major league service time). As it turns out he would probably not get the call anyway because he is day-to-day with a sore wrist. Willie Bloomquist does not have the glove to start at short, and neither does any other minor league bat like Justin Leone or Greg Dobbs.

Ramon Santiago has a good glove, but the M's felt that Wilson Valdez would provide more offense with a similarly good glove. Valdez batted over .300 last year in hitter-friendly Alberquerque AND in Charlotte. Admittedly, its a pretty empty .300, but we are looking at short for defense and speed, not power. And speed Valdez has aplenty, having stolen 33 bases last year, and 49 in 2003.

The M's say they have been planning for a Pokey-less Opening Day for the last two weeks. Mike Hargrove said "Had it just snuck up on us, it would have been something we'd have had to deal with. But from the middle of spring training on, we really have been preparing ourselves for this eventuality." Wilson Valdez had impressed M's bench coach Ron Hassey while both were in Florida's Spring Training a year ago, so when the opportunity came to claim him, it was a no-brainer.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Valdez performs, as he has got to feel the pressure. And it looks like the shortstop position will be one to watch all year.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Mariners Deal Winn 

And just like that, he is gone. In a move made to fortify our bullpen, the Mariners traded outfielder Randy Winn, new acquisition Abraham Nunez, right hander Clint Nageotte and "cash considerations" to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Craig Wilson and left handed reliever Mike Gonzalez.

"We felt that no lefty had stepped up in our pen," GM Bill Bavasi said, "so we took matters into our own hand. Gonzalez is one of the top lefties in the game, and could even close for us if something happens to Eddie (Guardado). And Craig Wilson can flat out hit."

The cash considerations is assumed to be $750,000 which is the difference between the salaries of Wilson and Winn.

The Pirates have been unhappy with their current centerfield situation for some time, and this allows them to move Tike Redman to the bench where he belongs. Daryle Ward will take over first base duties for Craig Wilson, and it is thought that Nageotte may get called up to the Pirates to take the vacant bullpen slot.

I like the move for the Mariners. Gonzalez is a premiere reliever, and he is still a year from even being arbitration eligible. Wilson hits for more pop than Winn, and provides better alternatives at first and possibly even catcher. Wilson will likely become the full time DH with Ibanez moving back to left field where he will be happier.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Mariners Claim Abraham Nunez 

In what appears to be a very curious move, the Mariners today claimed Abraham Nunez off the waiver wire from the Kansas City Royals.

Nunez used to be a highly touted prospect with the Marlins a few years back, and then age-gate added three years onto his age, and suddenly his lack of plate discipline wasn't so cute anymore. He hit for power in the minors, but it never translated into major league power (though last Spring he had serious buzz going for the Marlins by hitting 9 Spring Training home runs).

He is an average fielder with a strong arm, slightly above-average speed, and little command of the strike zone. At 28, he is in his peak years, but seems to provide very little upside as a #5 outfielder.

That the move may result in Greg Dobbs AND Ramon Santiago going to the minors and leaving Willie Bloomquist as our Opening Day shortstop further makes me scratch my head.

I don't see a logical reason for this move. Maybe the M's want to take advantage of their #3 waiver wire position to grab a player they think they can move in a trade?

Perhaps the thinking is that if they put Pokey on the 15-day DL, they can give Nunez a roster spot for that week, and then try to slip him through waivers to Tacoma, because a week into the season, most teams won't be wanting to claim a player. Its not like Nunez would be a huge downgrade over Greg Dobbs for last bat on the bench. If that's what happens, then no harm done, really.

If Pokey does start the season on the DL, and Ramon Santiago is not on the 25-man roster, that would leave us with Willie Bloomquist starting at SS and either Adrian Beltre or Scott Spiezio backing him up. That doesn't make much sense to me. Maybe Jose Lopez makes a triumphant return as the Opening Day shortstop?

The Mariners also announced that Bucky Jacobsen will start the season on the 60 Day DL. Essentially, this is retroactive to the beginning of Spring Training games and means that Bucky will not be eligible to appear in Seattle until mid May.

Two other moves included sending Dan Reichert to minor league camp, and George Sherrill to Tacoma. The Sherrill move is disappointing as George was the team's best reliever a year ago. But his lackluster Spring and the fact that he had options which fellow lefty Matt Thornton did not have spelled his doom.

The addition of Nunez was countered on the 40 man roster was countered by the move of Bucky to the 60 day DL. This means the Mariners will still have to move two players off the 40 man roster to make room for Aaron Sele and Jeff Nelson, who have made the team. My guess is that Rafael Soriano finds himself on the 60-day DL for one of the spots. Perhaps Scott Atchison goes to the 60-day DL for the other. If not Atchison, then I'm thinking a deal (Franklin?) has to be in the works, otherwise, it would have been Thornton losing his job.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the M's do next, as no one would have guessed this one.

Diamond Mind Sees Tight Race in AL West 

Diamond Mind just put out its 2005 projected standings.

Using their projections for the MLB universe in 2005, the Diamond Mind team simulated the 2005 season 100 times. In that simulation, the Mariners won the AL West 25 times, with the A's winning 31 times and the Angels 29 times.

Given 100 runs, here were the average results...

AL West         W   L   Pct  GB   RF   RA  #DIV   #WC
Oakland 85 77 .525 - 873 817 31.0 1.0
Los Angeles 84 78 .519 1 803 775 29.0 2.5
Seattle 83 79 .512 2 795 778 25.0 2.0
Texas 80 82 .494 5 852 875 15.0 1.5
Unlike most pundits who dismiss the Mariners because of their 99 loss season in 2004, Diamond Mind takes a more objective view of the Mariners talent and finds it comparable with the rest of the division.

And a 4-team dogfight to the finish looks to be the order of things. In that case, I'll give the edge to the Mariners and new manager Mike Hargrove.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Argument for Pokey 

Amongst Mariner fans, there is a lot of hand-wringing over the Mariners decision to give Pokey Reese the starting shortstop job, while sending Jose Lopez back to Tacoma.

The arguments against Pokey and for Lopez are many:
1) Pokey stinks at the plate.
2) Pokey gets hurt too much and will force us to keep Ramon Santiago over Greg Dobbs.
3) Pokey is being handed the job without winning the Spring competition.
4) Jose looked good on defense this Spring.
5) Jose looked great at the plate this Spring.

Essentially, the argument is that Jose Lopez will help the Mariners win more games in 2005 than Pokey Reese will.

The defense of Pokey has not been convincing. Jeff at Lookout Landing provides a nice numeric analysis comparing the runs created of Pokey Reese's defense to the less predictable runs created of Jose Lopez' offense and defense. But you can't get that excited about vague zone rating metrics that few people understand.

But again, I caution the Mariner faithful to have patience. The Mariners management has a plan here, and it is one that is attempting to win now AND win in the future.

Remember that Bill Bavasi preaches the need for flexibility in how the M's win. This use of flexibility is shown by the front office when the M's are able to recover from being spurned by Carlos Delgado, and are able to move quickly when Adrian Beltre practically falls in their laps.

The Mariners wanted to get two big bats and one good pitcher (they went hard after Pavano and Odalis Perez, but to no avail) this offseason. Because they failed to add a pitcher, they felt that the next best thing would be to improve their defense.

This offseason, the Mariners found that they had not only acquired two big bats, but two of the better defensive players in baseball. 3/4 of their infield now had won or will win Gold Gloves. The only question mark was 20 year old Jose Lopez, who had been sent to the Winter Leagues to work on his defense, and had not improved.

At this point Bavasi gets creative, and says, hmmm... we have improved the defense already, lets go even further. Lets add the best glove in baseball at shortstop, since our current shortstop is light on defense. Jose Lopez would be better on offense, but we've already made substantial gains there by adding Sexson and Beltre, and we're hoping for improvements from Boone, Olivo (and of course, Ichiro! who will be hitting .400 this year).

And, by putting Jose Lopez in AAA, he can use the time away from the spotlight to work on his defense. In fact, we may even use this to plan for 2006 when we may need both a shortstop and second baseman. As a bonus, we save a year of service time for the phenom.

And if we need more help offensively, OR Pokey breaks down, OR Jose Lopez shows much improvement defensively, THEN we can bring up Jose Lopez, and move Pokey into the defensive replacement role that he had with the 2004 Red Sox.

So, for now, the Mariners will put out the best defensive lineup in baseball, and hope that it helps their pitching staff rebound from a disastrous 2004. In fact, we'll even use or Non Roster Invites wisely to bring in pitchers most likely to benefit from improved infield defense by adding Dan Reichert and Aaron Sele to the mix. No improvement on defense is gonna help us keep Ryan Franklin pitches from being blasted into the seats, so lets give him some competition.

And here we are. Despite an excellent Spring from Jose Lopez, the Mariners are sticking to the plan and sending him down. Lopez (and Reese) certainly made the decision a tough one, and the Mariners will likely be quicker to call Lopez back up as a result of his Spring.

Enjoy the brilliant glovework of Pokey Reese this April. If he gets hurt, or if the offense falters, he may not be our starting shortstop for long. But if we are winning in April (we will be), and Pokey stays healthy (that's the $64,000 question), you might get to see him all season long.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Franklin Tanks It 

What a pathetic performance from Ryan Franklin last night in the Mariners 11-7 win over the Cubbies. He just looked like a beaten man out there from the get go. Perhaps losing his rotation spot (seemingly) to Aaron Sele has worn him down. He gave up seven runs on nine hits and three walks in 5+ innings.

But his body language is what concerned me most. He just looked dejected and slumped, rather than the fighter we've gotten used to seeing out there.

After his last wind-addled start, Franklin said, “My versatility makes it (him going to the bullpen) an issue, and the team might be better with me in the bullpen, I don’t know. But I don’t think I’ve pitched badly enough to lose my job. I’ll accept it if that’s what they tell me to do – but I’ll say what I have to say first." Five days later, Franklin spoke a mouthful with his performance. I hope Ryan takes a good look at that last performance and decides he doesn't want to see that anymore. Otherwise, he's not even going to do us much good in the bullpen.


A few interesting things I've found recently. One commentor pointed me to Sportspyder, which is an excellent place to go for recent Mariner headlines. What we need is one aggregator that does news AND blog entries to one place.

I was worried when I saw the title of John Hickey's latest piece, Reluctant M's stopper Putz prefers to setup than finish. That sounds like Putz wants no part of the closer role. Reading the article, you find that Putz just says he learned a lot last year, and thinks he has more to learn in the setup role. He also thinks the Mariners are a better team with Eddie Guardado closer. Neither of these is a startling revelation. A better title would have been, "Putz looks forward to setting up Guardado." I do, too.

Finally, InsideThePark has a look at 20 Reasons the M's Will Win it All in 2005. There's pretty much a bullet for every player, but I think they missed one or two. One that I think will happen is that when the Mariners are contending this summer, Bill Bavasi WILL pull the trigger on a deal to pull in a major piece to the championship puzzle. And I think it will be important that Raul Ibanez continues to hit like he has all Spring. Ibanez is going to feast on the slew of righties this lineup should face.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Felix Falters 

Felix Hernandez got roughed up for the first time, giving up 6 runs while unable to finish his third inning of work, but the M's still beat the White Sox, 15-9.

Felix will supposedly get the final start of the Spring for the Mariners on Saturday against the Cubs in Las Vegas. Coach Hargrove says that the chances of Felix breaking camp with the Mariners is remote, but "he's still in the mix." I'd love to be a fly on the wall for conversations between Hargrove and Bavasi about Felix.

The good news for the Mariners is that Matt Thornton arrived to bail Felix out of the third inning, and collected the win with 2 1/3 innings of solid relief with, get this, no walks. That, combined with Scott Atchison's elbow pain, may be enough to squeeze Thornton onto the roster in April. The bad news for Atchison, is that the M's need a roster spot to accomodate at least Aaron Sele and possibly Jeff Nelson, and they may find this spot by putting Atchison on the 60-day DL. The good news on Atchison is that his MRI showed no damage, and that he might be throwing again by the end of April. Rafael Soriano (reasonable) and Bucky Jacobsen (NO!) are also mentioned as candidates for the 60-day DL.

And, oh yeah, Ichiro is good. He is hitting a ridiculous .518 this Spring. This is going to be the year that Ichiro breaks .400, I tell you. He has hit in 16 consecutive games this Spring. He ended 2004 with 13 consecutive games. Will we see Joe DiMaggio's magic number of 56 straight games threatened? Sure would be fun if Ichiro could run off a big hit streak to start the season, just to hear sportswriters debate whether or not last year's 13 games should count toward the current streak.

Middle infielders are being purged. Mickey Lopez was sold to the Giants for cash, and he will get to play for the Giants AAA Fresno team. Benji Gil and Ricky Gutierrez have both been told that they will not make the club, so they will begin searching for a new gig. Jose Lopez was sent down to Tacoma, and Pokey Reese celebrated by leaving yesterday's game with a sore shoulder.

With all of the ailments that hinder Pokey, I sure hope that Mr. Lopez starts hot in Tacoma, and gets back to Seattle quickly. (For many diatribes against the cutting of Jose Lopez, go here). I don't want to see as much of Willie Bloomquist at short as I'm afraid I will with Pokey's ability to be hurt, tired, or just feelin' yucky 3 days out of every 7. One thought is that hot hitting (another triple yesterday) Ramon Santiago might slip into the backup spot, which at least would be a defensive improvement over Willie.

Finally, we'll end with a last bit of good news, is that the Mariners got Rule V pick Ryan Rowland Smith back from the Twins today. The Twins couldn't keep the pitcher on their 25 man roster, and the M's were unwilling to make a deal. Smith will work to build on his 5-3, 3.79 ERA at Class A Inland Empire last year.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Opening Day Roster 

For those of you who haven't read Grandpa Mariner at ST thread, here's an update. Grandpa has surveyed a collecion of knowledgeable Mariner insiders, and for the first time there appears to be consensus on what the M's Opening Day Roster will look like.

Rotation
Moyer
Meche
Mads
Sele
Franklin (until Joel comes back)

Franklin probably won't get any starts unless there is an injury or Joel suffers a setback.

The pen looks to be:

Eddie
Shiggy
Putz
Nelson
Sherrill
Villone
Thornton/Mateo


Reese looks to start at SS. This is the first day that I have asked that there has been universal agreement among those I corralled for an answer.

Bench:

Spezio
Wilson
Bloomquist
Dobbs
The disappointments/surprises are:
1) Aaron Sele over Felix Hernandez. My head says this is probably the best move. My heart can't wait for the Felix Era to begin.
2) Pokey Reese over Jose Lopez. The defensive specialist get his shot, and hopefully Jose Lopez gets motivated to crush AAA pitching and force his way back to Seattle. I'm guessing he is the starting second baseman in Tacoma.
3) Ryan Franklin over Jorge Campillo. Campillo's changeup is a thing of beauty. Ryan Franklin throws eight different pitches, none of which inspire poetry.
4) Jeff Nelson over Mateo/Thornton loser.

In all four cases, the Mariners took the safe, known veteran over the higher upside, but unknown youngster. This may disappoint some Mariner fans, but I look at this as the smart move for several reasons.

First, and foremost, all four players (except Thornton) can be sent to Tacoma and still be an asset to the team. Pokey, Sele, Nelson, or Franklin would be looking elsewhere for work.

Second, is that none of these "losers" with the exception of Mateo, have ever proved themselves against AAA competition. Just because we can see their upside is high, there is no proof that they are ready to reach their potential this year. Many young players have been hurt mentally by being called up to early. Let them prove it in AAA, at least for a month or two.

Third, is the BUZZ factor. The Mariners already have serious buzz working for them, in the forms of Ichiro, Beltre, and Sexson. Fans are going to be there for the month of April. If the Mariners struggle out of the gate like they did in 2004, there are 3 or 4 serious pick me ups ready to be called up over the course of the season. King Felix, Jose Lopez, Jorge Campillo, Rafael Soriano, and of course, Bucky Jacobsen. If these players were already in Seattle, and the M's got off to a terrible start, from where would the hope and just as importantly, the BUZZ come?

The M's are playing to win in 2005. We can turn around this team on the basis of returning to the norm, much improved defense, two big bats, and Ichiro being a .400+ hitter right out of the gate. And if one of these veterans falters, his replacement will likely be waiting in the wings. If these veterans excel, and the rookie is still tearing it up in AAA, then you've got a veteran available for trade. When you are managing a roster, flexibility is very important.

The Mariners ARE making the safe moves. They also happen to be the right moves, for the individual players, for the franchise, and yes, for the 2005 season. Opening Day is just 10 days away!

"It's Vladimir Guerrero... I have to strike him out." 

That may be the coolest quote I've ever heard out of Spring Training.

Skipper Mike Hargrove's quote was pretty sweet too.
"I'm not sure that Superman could have hit that ball. That was some serious cheese in a tough spot. It's one of the better pitches I've seen this spring."
The Felix Hernandez Era cannot start too soon.

With the M's hiding the next starts of 3M (Madritsch, Meche, Moyer) against minor leaguers, Hernandez will get at least one more chance this Spring to shine against big league hitters.

The iPod Shuffle 

Aaron Gleeman's latest is a challenge to other baseball bloggers to list the first 40 songs that come up on random on their iPod. I'm not much of an iPod guy, but I've downloaded most of my CDs onto my computer at work so that I always have music going, so I'll use that instead.

As for his comment on Maroon 5, and having to admit that he liked one of their songs, I must say that I've enjoyed EVERY Maroon 5 song I've heard, which I think is all of them. Heck, I even went to see them live at the Austin Rodeo (now, that was an interesting crowd) about a week ago. Good show, and I had had no idea that lead singer Adam Levine not only played the guitar, but also played the drums for their cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." They played one new song, and I am eagerly awaiting their sophomore album. I hope y'all can still respect me in the morning.

1) Chris DeBurgh - Don't Pay the Ferryman
2) Barenaked Ladies - Light Up My Room
3) Pink - Just Like A Pill
4) The Wallflowers - 3 Marlenas
5) Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl
6) Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For?
7) Alanis Morissette - Baba
8) Bruce Springsteen - Out In The Street
9) Billy Joel - You May Be Right
10) Poison - Every Rose Has its Thorn
11) Uncle Kraker - Memphis Soul Song
12) Berlin - The Metro
13) OutKast - Spread
14) Tonic - Lemon Parade
15) Black Eyed Peas - The Apl Song
16) Don Henley - You Can't Make Love
17) Heart - Will You Be There (In the Morning)
18) Robert Plant - Why
19) Elton John - I'm Still Standing
20) Chris Deburgh - Spanish Train
21) Dire Straits - Private Investigations
22) Fiona Apple - Criminal
23) Matchbox Twenty - Black & White People
24) John Mayer - Wheel
25) Icicle Works - Whisper to a Scream
26) Green Day - Basket Case
27) Garth Brooks - The Thunder Rolls
28) Night Ranger - Four In the Morning
29) Billy Joel - Prelude/Angry Young Man
30) Eminem - Kill You
31) The Killers - On Top
32) Bryan Adams - Heaven
33) R.E.M. - Tongue
34) Modest Mouse - Bukowski
35) Counting Crows - Perfect Blue Buildings
36) The Beatles - A Day in the Life
37) No Doubt - Hey Baby
38) Cake - Going the Distance
39) Robert Earl Keen - Feelin' Good Again
40) Queen - We are the Champions

Whither now, el Cartelua? 

Felix Hernandez certainly knows how to wow 'em! He went after one of the best hitters in baseball, and sat him down with a whimper. Vladamir Guerrero never knew what hit him. If this is the last outing for King Felix before he heads to Tacoma to fine tune his game, he certainly left a fine calling card.

What if the M's don't send Felix to Tacoma, but instead decide that the best way to baby his arm is to put Felix in the bullpen? What would your reaction be? Each outing this Spring has been of the two inning variety. Its not an unprecedented path, taken successfully most recently by Johan Santana and less successfully by Rafael Soriano (at least I hope they were planning to get him into the rotation). Maybe we'll see the same from Felix? Part of me likes the idea, but then I'm afraid they wouldn't make the transition from pen to ace by the end of the year like they should (say, about the time Rafael Soriano returns). Or worse, the transition would never happen. That would be criminal.

Jorge "Popeye" Campillo also looked strong last night with a nasty slicing curveball. However, he appears to nibble with the fastball rather than attack with authority. After the evening was over, Campillo was sent to AAA Tacoma. But he will be back this season. Count on it.

In other news, hearts throughout Marinerland raced with excitement at the news that Aaron Sele had been sent to the minor league camp. Unfortunately, this was just a Jim Street case of mistaken Aarons, with confused Sele with Looper. Just in case they edit the article in the link above, here is the quote for anti-Sele fans to savor.
Two more roster cuts made: The Mariners reassigned catcher Wiki Gonzalez and right-handed pitcher Aaron Sele to the minor league camp. The move leaves 43 players in camp, including nine non-roster invitees and pitcher Travis Blackley, who is on the 60-day DL.
Actually, I'm firmly in the "give Sele a chance" camp. If there is one pitcher who has looked ready to go all Spring, its been Sele. Let him hold down the 5th starter spot until King Felix or Popeye are ready to take it over.
He is only 34 years old, and looks 100% healthy for the first time since 2001 when he last wore the M's uniform. Many complain that at his peak, he was just "league average" and took advantage of luck and excellent defense. Well, if no one has noticed, our defense looks excellent again, and our luck has got to turn from 2004. Give Aaron a chance.

Finally, some good news for Bucky and his Backers. After weeks of being restricted to riding a stationary bike and getting physical therapy on his surgically repaired knee, Bucky Jacobsen will begin hitting off a tee Saturday. Heal Bucky!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The King's Final Spring Appearance? 

Tonight might be a good night to set your VCRs to Fox Sports Network. Felix Hernandez is scheduled to appear on tonight's televised game, as the second pitcher after Jorge Campillo. It is assumed that after this start, Felix will be sent to AAA to fine tune his game and save his service time before making a June 1 debut.

Kirby Arnold gets some insight from Bill Bavasi. From this article, it sounds like Matt Thornton's days are numbered, Aaron Sele will make the rotation, and Ryan Franklin better get used to being a reliever again.

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