A great running line in the Newman/Redford classic, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was “Who are those guys?” It was said by Cassidy/Newman when no matter what Butch and Sundance did to ditch a posse, they could not shake them. Well Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto has shaken up the Mariner bullpen and brought in a new posse. But will it be better? At the moment it looks to be their biggest weakness.
Frankly at the moment it scares me. I think Dipoto has secret Freemason analytics unknown to the rest of us. Something found in ancient knowledge of necromancy, alchemy, and witchcraft. Looking at his acquisitions I ask, “Who are those guys?”
There are 20 pitchers on the 40 man roster, six of which are starters, those being Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns, and two lefties, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley. That leaves 15 relievers, including one recently acquired for another reliever, also acquired during the offseason. By spring training all the following pitchers could trade as Trader Jerry likes to deal like a riverboat gambler.
Their are only six pitchers returning who spent any time with the Mariners and four of those are lefties. Charlie Furbush, 29, appeared in only 33 games due to an injury; Vidal Nuno, 28, another lefty was 1-5, 3.74 in 35 games (3 with Arizona), 10 starts; Mike Montgomery, 26, who began 2015 as a starter was 4-6, 4.60 and though he had two early shutouts, his 16 starts indicated a five inning pitcher at best; Dave Rollins, 26, the fourth lefty was 0-2, 7.56 and was dreadful. From the right side is Mayckol Guaipe, 25, 21 games, 5.40 ERA and Tony Zych, 25, who only appeared in 13 games with a 2.45 ERA.
Based on the five returnees Furbush and Nuno are likely to be in the pen, with Montgomery being a starter in Tacoma. Guaipe will have to compete with seven new righties and all have question marks.
Staring at the end with Steve Cishek, 29, the likely closer with 39 saves in 43 opportunities in 2014, but between two teams last season was 4 of 9 with 3.58 ERA. So a question mark as to health and if he can regain his previous form. The setup man is likely Joaquin Benoit whose only question is age at 38 as his 2015 ERA was 2.34 in 65.1 innings with San Diego. He also has closing experience. They should make the team. That makes Cishek, Benoit, Furbush, and Nuno. Along with 5 starters, that makes nine pitchers.
Assuming a 12 man staff that leaves three spots open between seven pitchers-at the moment. The odd man out of the rotation, baring another Iwakuma/Paxton/Other injury, is Karns. If he stays in the bullpen as long reliever, that leaves two spots. Besides Zych there is Jonathan Arno, 25, 6.97 in six games with Boston in 2015; Ryan Cook, 28, 8.2 innings between two teams allowing 20 hits, 18.69 era in 9 games. An aberration as he had three good years with Oakland and can also close games. Another former Oakland A is Evan Scribner, 30, 5-2, 4.21 career marks; Justin DeFratus, 28, 6-1, 5.51 with the Phillies in 2015; Cody Martin, 26, 7.92 between Atlanta and Oakland; and Joe Wieland, soon to be 26, two bad starts with Dodgers in 2015, career record 1-5 5.85 in 11 games. Anybody’s guess, so I pick Cook and Zych, or Cook and Scribner, or draw two names out of a batting helmet.
Dipoto has remade the pen and they can make or break the 2016 team, just as the 2015 pen sunk the Good Ship Mariner. I am at the moment a bit seasick and must get below deck.
What is wrong with the Seahawks?
I think they caught whatever disease plagued the Mariners this past season. Perhaps the Center for Disease Control should be notified to find a solution.
The Mariners were predicted to win their division, some even predicting they would play in the World Series against the Washington Nationals. That prediction was not close and proves why predictions should be taken with a grain of sea salt. Preseason predictions are worthless. Nonetheless there were high expectations for the Mariners, and of course, having gone to two consecutive Super Bowls, the expectations for the Seahawks were also high.
One of the Mariners big problems was the bullpen that blew games in late innings. They were charged with 36 losses and looked rotten doing it. And now the Seahawks are playing great for three quarters, then in the 4th quarter play like an expansion team, though I must pause here, because if you have watched them in the fourth quarter, they play more like dudes picked out of the stands who had a few beers too many. Who are these guys? If I were a conspiracy loony tune I would suggest, like the 1919 Chicago Whites Sox, the Hawks are throwing games.
But that can’t be. It is a mystery though, one that has local sports radio shows scratching their heads, covering everything they can think of, except that maybe they are tired. How was their off-season condition? Are the players being rotated enough so that they are not tired in the fourth quarter?
In the end it is the coaches that are the problem. It is their job to prepare players for 60 minutes, not 45. It is their job to fix the problems that arise. Seattle could be 5-1, but the fourth quarter has killed them and their 2-4 record could easily be 1-5 with the Lions game a shaky win on the last play that perhaps should have given Detroit the win.
Super Bowl hangover from blowing the lead against the Patriots? Has it gotten into their heads? Who knows.
As I said the coaches are their to fix problems and as yet they have not and the Mariner coaches and manager had trouble correcting the pitching. At least Edgar Martinez solved the hitting woes that beset them the first half of the season.
If the Seahawks lose to the 49’ers Thursday night in Santa Clara you might as well say, “Wait till next year.” I know Mariner fans are waiting. Will the Seahawks continue to follow their neighbors?
Before the infield dust had settled following Mariner GM Jack Zduriencik’s dismissal, interim GM, Jeff Kingston, sent Mike Zunino to AAA Tacoma, calling up catcher John Hicks. He threw out 49% of base stealers in 2013 and was doing close to that in Tacoma.
Coming so soon after Jack’s departure, they door barely closed, makes one wonder if it was Jack keeping Zunino in Seattle despite two consecutive seasons batting under .200, with this season being particularly worrisome with a .174 average and 132 strikeouts in 350 at bats (37.7 rate). He was striking out two times for every rare hit he got. Jack should have sent him down months ago.
An even bolder move is that when rosters were expanded for September, Zunino was not recalled. Instead he was ticketed for the Arizona instructional league to work on his swing, to reshape, rebuild, remake, re-everything. He is an excellent defensive catcher, but he desperately needs to get his hitting on track if he wants a major league career.
Centerfielder Austin Jackson who would be a free agent was traded to the Cubs, where he joins former Mariners Fernando Rodney and Chris Denorfia. They said they wanted to get a good luck at Brad Miller in center, but that is misleading. Miller has more value as the role Mark McLemore, someone who can play on a regular basis, but playing different positions on a nightly basis. Miller has already tied McLemore’s mariner record for most positions played in a season. Miller has played all three outfield spots along with third, short and second.
Kingston also traded Justin Ruggiano, whom Zduriencik signed prior to the season, was released, cleared waivers, sent to Tacoma, and now is helping the Dodgers win games.
It would be easy for Kingston to do nothing and let the new GM make decisions, but Jeff is, as one might expect, auctioning for the job. So far so good. This his sixth season with the Mariners after nine seasons with San Diego, having been hired as an intern in 1999. He is young and the Mariners would be wise to avoid the usual in hiring a big name experienced candidate. A bolder, younger man, one with 15 years of experience already in the books might be a good hiring.
I was listening to Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler on KJR the other day. He said now that Seahawks camp is open and the Mariners have waved the white flag of surrender they would no longer be talking about the Mariners. I am sure the station may mention the M’s from time to time, but there will be little or no talk about them. That was certainly my impression. I am a big fan of Softy’s, but that really pissed me off.
I understand the Seahawks are a big story with two consecutive trips to the Super Bowl and everyone loves to talk Hawks. I also understand that radio is a ratings game. But if you are a ‘sports talk’ station then you should talk all sports relevant to the city and any national stories that have merit. If you don’t talk about the Mariners you are excluding a part of your audience.
KJR should change their identity to football radio and talk Seahawks, Huskies, Cougars and Pee Wee football. Don’t get me wrong, I love football, and was a Seahawk season ticket holder for eight years., but sports talk jocks like to denigrate fans who are frontrunners, and by essentially blackballing talk about the Mariners, KJR is nothing if not being a front runner. Seahawks win; Mariners don’t. We talk Hawks; we don’t talk Mariners. That is a front runner.
If I played for the Mariners, and next year during spring training and the opening of the season, if KJR came down from their front-running high horse and condescended to ask for an interview, I would say go to talk with Doug Baldwin.
The other sports talk station in town, 710 ESPN Seattle, is also spending more and more time talking Hawks. They are the flagship station of the Mariners, but they too want Hawk talk. At least they had Jayson Stark discuss why the Mariners were doing so poorly.
I don’t know what happens in other cities, but I hope to explore that as my cities sports talk stations will spend more hours talking about Russell Wilson’s contract than they will spend on a years worth of Nelson Cruz talk.
It might be a good thing the Sonics are gone and that the NHL is not coming anytime soon. There is no room for them on the airways. Unless they might win of course, but then the Seahawks would first have to lose.
It is difficult to report, but it must be told how the Mariners ignore the 300 section in Safeco while they cater to the 100 level. The Mariner’s are a class conscious corporate slumlord. Yes it is true. Read on felloe baseball fan.
Here is what I have learned. I sit in the first few rows of the 300 level, have done so for years, usually right behind home plate. Great seats. During the game the Mariners, along with one of their corporate partners, have some give away or contest. On the huge scoreboard in center field you see what looks like a slot machine. The first number comes up with the section, the second with the row, and if needed the third is the seat. The Mariners will tell you it is random. It is partially true. The randomness is about which section in the 100 level wins something. Every game I go to it is always the same. The 300 level fans may as be in the deep gray sea of Elliot Bay being eaten by sharks.
But that is not all. In the 100 level you see many types of vendors, though never one selling hot dogs, which to me is a crime against baseball fans. But I digress. The only vendor I have seen in the 300 level is selling cotton candy. That would be okay if I were eight years old, but I was that age in the last century, and I mean very far back in the century. The other night I did see someone selling ice cold lemonade. Just what I want in the chill of the night. Any hot chocolate? Laughter fills the air.
The point is that the ballpark is a set up as a class structure where the rich people in the 100 level are catered to, fawned over, and loved, while the people in the 300 level are considered like people in a tenement. We are in the slum of Safeco Field. I find that odd that we sit in the Penthouse of the Park, but are considered third class steerage like passengers on the Titanic.
A revolution is needed. A protest must be organized. I want my hot dog vendor. I want the chance to win something. I want equality. I don’t want to sit in the back of the bus. There will be a class war. It is coming.
It is not the .210 batting average that bothers me. Though the Mariners are 26th in baseball and 12th in the American League is not the problem. Their on base percentage does bother me. At .258 they are 14th in the American league, ahead of only the Twins at .249. The reason for that is the same as last season and that is the inability to draw walks.
They are 13th in the league in walks with 18 in nine games. The Twins have 17 and the White Sox have 13, but they have played eight games. Last season the M’s drew 396 walks, last in the League. Oddly Kansas City was last with .380. who finished with a 89-73 record. The difference was Kansas City hit .263 while Seattle hit .244 and that is why the Mariners finished dead last in on base percentage at .300.
The Mariners survived a poor offensive output in 2014 because their pitching was one of the best in baseball. It is early, but through nine games they have had only two good starts, one from Felix, the other from J.A. Happ. Paxton, Iwakuma, and Paxton have either struggled or floundered. And closer Fernando Rodney has blown up the last two games.
Everything looked good in spring training, but there is no pressure in those games; once the bell rings, high expectations can cause things to go wrong. I don’t know whether they feel the pressure of expectations or not. They say no, but what do you expect them to say. It could be the pitchers are not in their rhythm, are having trouble locating.
The focus of the everyday players has not been there. Cano thought the bases were loaded when there were runners at second and third and began walking home from third when a batter walked and Cano was thrown out. Logan Morrison forgot how many outs there were in consecutive innings. Brad Miller Forgot to cover second base once.
The 3-6 record is disappointing and while the starting pitching has been poor, it should not mask the Mariners inability to get on base. Homers alone will not win games. You need to be patient, get pitchers deeper into counts, draw walks, and get clutch hitting. The M’s are doing none of that.
It is time for the Mariners to step and during this nine game home stand. Forget expectations and start playing fundamentally sound baseball.
Seattle has won on opening day eight consecutive years. They open at home with King Felix Hernandez on the mound before a full house and a jammed packed King’s Court. Felix is 6-0 on opening day. It looks like the Mariners have everything in their favor.
Normally home field advantage in baseball is not as strong as home field in the NFL and neither is as strong as home court in the NBA. But the King’s Court always pumps up Felix and he will also be pumped up for the opening of the season. If he can settle in during the first two innings he should be alright and that will be the key.
The Angels and Mariners should battle for the division title all season, so the game will be important as any game in September and the Angels will pitch Jeff Weaver who always seems to pitch well against Seattle. But Weaver is not the reason the Angels will win. No I take the blame for the loss by pointing out the obvious.
The obvious is that everything is in Seattle’s favor. Playing at home; eight game win streak on opening days; Felix 6-0 on opening day; an excited sellout crowd at Safeco; the rapid King’s Court. When everything is in your favor karma rears its head like a cobra and strikes you in the caboose. That’s why.
All that and the fact I am revealing everything in the M’s favor will be a jinx, a hex, a win killer.
So it will be my fault. I will take the loss.
On the other hand it could be that blaming myself for what has yet to happen may upset the karma cart. By telling you that karma will change for the M’s and they will lose might make karma show me up by changing its mind and making the M’s win. As a baseball fan I know the players have nothing to do with winning or losing. It is which fan base is using or abusing karma; how we work sub-rosa trying to outfox karma.
Monday will tell if I am right or if I am right.