Tag Archives: Seattle Mariners

lordy, this Seattle Mariners timeline is depressing

From Dave Cameron at USS Mariner, a succinct account of why the Mariners have been terrible since 2004:

November 7th, 2003 – The Seattle Mariners hired Bill Bavasi as General Manager.

January 8th, 2004 – The Seattle Mariners traded Carlos Guillen for Ramon Santiago.

November 15th, 2004 – The Seattle Mariners signed Richie Sexson to a 4 year, $50 million contract.

December 22nd, 2005 – The Seattle Mariners signed Jarrod Washburn to a 4 year, $37 million contract.

June 30th, 2006 – The Seattle Mariners traded Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez.

July 26th, 2006 – The Seattle Mariners traded Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard.

December 7th, 2006 – The Seattle Mariners traded Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez.

December 18th, 2006 – The Seattle Mariners traded Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto forJose Vidro.

December 20th, 2007 – The Seattle Mariners signed Carlos Silva to a four year, $48 million contract.

February 8th, 2008 – The Seattle Mariners traded Adam JonesGeorge SherrillChris TillmanTony Butler, and Kam Mickolio for Erik Bedard.

sad Friday baseball story

Ron Wright was a baseball player who appeared in one game for the Seattle Mariners in 2002.  He had three at bats.  In his first at bat, he struck out on three pitches.  In his second at bat, he grounded into a triple play.  In his third at bat, he lined into a double play.  He was pinch-hit for when his fourth at bat came around, and after the game, he was sent down to the minors.

Oh, but his story is much worse.  Read about it here.

Why I Want Cliff Lee To Sign With Texas

The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees seem to be the two favorite suitors for Cliff Lee’s left-handed, bulldog, quietly-intense pitching services.  The Yankess have offered him a seven-year deal worth a stupid amount of money each year, and reporters think the Rangers will offer him at least a six-year deal for similarly stupid money.

The Rangers and the Yankees will both be serious impediments to the Mariners making the playoffs in the next six years.  As a Mariner fan, I root for both teams’ failure.  But in considering where I’d prefer Cliff Lee to sign, I realized a way in which my Yankee hating differs from my dislike for other teams: I can endure a Rangers title much more easily than I can suffer a Yankees title. 

The Rangers are a young team built largely around homegrown talent.  Like most teams without bottomless resources, they have a window in which to compete for a title, and that window is now open.  It may be open for another 3-4 years.  I respect “windows,” and I obviously like the implication that the Rangers’ window will eventually close, and they’ll have to rebuild.

The Yankees don’t have windows.  They keep the window open constantly by buying the best players on the market, season after season.  As such, desiring the Yankees’ failure is an exercise in year-to-year vitriol-spewing.  Any title for the Yankees is a disaster, because they are just as likely to win next year, or six years later, as they are this year.

Cliff Lee will sign a contract for about $20 million a year, for 6-7 years.  He will be, in my estimation, one of the best pitchers in the game for the next 2-3 seasons, and then he will decline.  Cliff Lee will not be worth $20 million a year in the last 2-3 seasons of the contract, and as such he will be an anchor on his team’s budget.  Unless he’s a Yankee.  The Yankees can afford to pay anybody, anything, because their resources outpace the economics of the game.  In other words, they can afford a decent 37-year old pitcher making $20 million a year.  They will still be competitive that season.

So let Cliff Lee go to the Rangers.  I will respect, and try to wait out, the next 2-3 seasons of Texas domination in the AL West.  Maybe they’ll win a World Series title, and I will probably be happy for them.  After three seasons or so, Lee will begin to weigh down their budget, hastening the closing of their window, and the Mariners will have a better shot in the division.

The lesson?  Rooting against teams in your own division is an exercise in patience and timing.  Like body surfing, you time the waves and wait for a trough to make your move.  Rooting against the Yankees is like fighting against the inexhaustible spray from a fire hose.  It will never get easier and the water smells of iron.

A Pattern of Diminishing Bedards

 The Mariners (again) signed Erik Bedard, this time to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract.  He’ll have to make the team out of spring training, or we pay him little or nothing.  This is now the third time in a row we’ve acquired Bedard, each time for less.

So far, I can’t say the relationship is working out.  But at least the trend is interesting.  Aside from a slight boost in productivity in 2009, with each year the acquisition cost decreases, our expectations dwindle, and the results diminish:

This pattern suggests the contours of future Mariner-Bedard contracts:

2012:  The Mariners sign Bedard to a minor league deal, send him to AAA Tacoma.  We expect he might make the majors at some point in the season.  Bedard gets destroyed by the Salt Lake Bees, demoted to AA in June.

2013:  The Mariners give Bedard $20,000 under the table to pitch for the Everett Aquasox.  Bedard steals three laptops from the press booth.

2014:  The Mariners give Bedard a restraining order.  Bedard burns down Dustin Ackley’s house.

2015:  The Mariners hire Boris “Iceveins” Amerkhanov to kill Bedard.  Bedard signs a deal with the Texas Rangers, wins the AL Cy Young award, strangles Boris in the Safeco visitor’s clubhouse bathroom, and defeats the Mariners on the final day of the season, clinching the AL West for Texas.

Griffey + Randy + A-Rod + Edgar + Ichiro + Felix = .500 Mariners baseball

Felix Hernandez’s well-deserved Cy Young Award, announced last week, places a bookend (I hope) on 20 years of maddening Seattle Mariners baseball.  Being an M’s fan over the past two decades has given me the unique and aggravating experience of watching some of the best baseball players in the world, playing on some of the most mediocre teams in the league.

The 1990s Mariners had four of the best players of the past 25 years: Ken Griffey Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Randy Johnson.  Consider what Griffey, A-Rod and Edgar did during their time with Seattle:

This does not include two second-place finishes for the AL MVP (Griffey, 1994; A-Rod, 1996).  In 1996, the Mariners scored 993 runs.  In 1997, they set the major league record for team home runs with 264.  Oh man, were they fun to watch hit.

I'm coming for ya, Kruk

Meanwhile, Randy Johnson morphed from the stuff of John Kruk’s nightmares into one of the most dominant (and terrifying) pitchers in the game.  The tallest pitcher in the history of the game (at the time), he threw two pitches: a high-90’s fastball and a sweeping 80’s slider.  He led the American league in strikeouts from 1992-1995 (as well as hit-by-pitches 92-93) and won the 1995 AL CY Young award (he finished 2nd in the voting in 1993, 4th in 1996, and 2nd again in 1997).  He.  Was.  Awesome.

What did these Mariners teams do, with four Hall of Fame-calibur players?  From 1992 through 2000, the Mariners won 695 games and lost 694.  One game over .500.  They went to the playoffs three times (1995, 1997, 2000), advancing to the AL Championship series twice (95, ’00).  A decent showing, but nothing that could be mistaken for a perennial contender.

If the 1990s Mariners were the teams of Randy, Griffey and Edgar, the 2000’s are Ichiro’s teams.  We’ve had Ichiro all decade, and now we have Felix, and the trend continues.  Ichiro won the AL MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Batting title in 2001.  He won another batting title in 2004, and has led the league in hits in seven of the past ten years.  Felix finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting last year, and won it this year.

These teams?  With Ichiro, the Mariners are dead even over the past ten years, at 813-813.  Over Felix’s last two dominant seasons, the M’s are 146-178.  Take out the miraculous 2001 season, and the Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000.

In new-fangled stat terms

What’s the takeaway here?  Mariner fans have watched, up close, the best individual pitching and hitting in all of baseball over the past 20 years.  Those twenty years have resulted in teams cumulatively one game above .500.  I’d argue that no fanbase has a better appreciation for the ways in which baseball is a team sport masquerading as an individual sport.  Would I trade Griffey’s brilliance for a trip to the World Series?  Probably not.  But would I trade Felix’s 2012 Cy Young Award for a trip to the playoffs?  Absolutely.

Top 5 sports moments of my life thus far

I normally try to avoid “whiny personal blog” entries like this.  You know the type, reminiscing or ruminating out into space without any objectively interesting content for anyone besides perhaps the author’s mother.  But I’m still floored by Roy Halladay’s no-hitter last night, and so forgive me this indulgence.

I don’t have the memory for these things that I’d like to have, but I think Roy Halladay’s no-hitter last night was the second-most exciting and meaningful sports moment I’ve ever witnessed or watched.

"The throw to the plate will be late..."

1.  Mariners-Yankees Division Series, 1995, Game 5.  Randy Johnson and Jack McDowell in from the bullpen to pitch in extra-innings.  The Yankees going ahead in the top of the eleventh.  And then Edgar’s double down the left-field line, scoring Joey Cora from third and Griffey all the way from first for a walk-off series win.  I can still recite Dave Niehaus’s call, verbatim, including the pauses and the inflections, and if my mood is right, I can give myself goosebumps.

2.  Roy Halladay’s no-hitter, 2010 Division Series.  Less drama than the Mariners game, but more mind-bogglingly astounding.  One of my favorite players, and one of the most impressive pitchers of the past ten years, in the playoff start he’s been aching for for more than a decade.  And he throws a no-hitter.  There weren’t even any great defensive plays to save it either.  Complete domination of a very good hitting team.  I keep trying to think of analogies and I keep failing.

3.  Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon Finals, 2008.  Federer was this demigod, an untouchable genius of tennis for whom Wimbledon was his most sacred altar.  I always rooted for him.  But everyone had seen Nadal coming for a couple years, like a massive freight train you spot from a long way off.  Both player’s storylines were perfectly complimentary, they collided in the best possible scenario, and then both men played tennis that lived up to the impossible hype.  One of the best tennis matches, both in terms of play and of significance, ever.

4.  Phillies winning the 2008 World Series.  The World Series wasn’t particularly dramatic (in fact, thanks to the weather and Bud Selig, it was almost anticlimactic), but it’s here for me for two reasons.  First, the first sports team I’ve cared about that’s won it all.  Second, that weekday night’s walk to Broad Street.  My housemates and I walked from West Philly to Broad Street, and the spontaneous public celebration of thousands of baseball fans was something I’d never experienced before.  In a city I felt was dominated by a “get out of my way” street mentality, the public street happiness that night blew me away.

"Randy points to the sky..."

5.   Seattle Mariners – Anaheim Angels one-game playoff, 1995.  After Luis Sojo’s bases-clearing double the game wasn’t particularly close.  But Cy Young-winning Randy Johnson pitching a dominating complete game (3 hits, 12 k’s) against the pitcher we traded to get him (Mark Langston) was only half of it.  It was the first time the Mariners had ever made the playoffs, it was the season that kept baseball in Seattle, and, well, things are just more meaningful when you’re 12.

Also up there:

  • 2005 Champions League final, AC Milan vs. Liverpool: watched it while on study abroad in my tiny London dorm kitchen.  Best soccer match I’ve ever seen and the moment I “got it.”
  • 2002 US Open Final, Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi.  Last time they ever played each other.
  • 1996 Summer Olympics Women’s Team Gymnastics Final: had an 11 year old’s crush on all the girls on that team.
  • Michael Phelps, 2008 Summer Olympics (in particular the 4×100 meter freestyle relay where we beat France)

Russell Branyan hits it a country mile

Another glimmer of fun in a Mariners season filled with gloom: back on August 21st, Russell Branyan became the first hitter to hit a home run into the upper (3rd) deck in right field of the new Yankee Stadium:

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=11208945

The link above is a nice, high-def video of a home run in a game the Mariners somehow lost anyhow.  Hell, despite two home runs in the top of the first, we weren’t even winning by the top of the 2nd.

Disappointed in the Mariners Again, Somehow

Posting here about the Mariners’ firing of manager Don Wakamatsu is about as far away from the ears of anybody who cares or has sway in the situation as one can get.  I guess I could write my thoughts on a post-it note and stick it on a bathroom stall, but WordPress is closer than the bathroom. 

credit: Jim Bates, Seattle Times

 

In short: the Mariners have a poorly constructed roster, and the bright spots are by and large underperforming.  There have been questions all year about certain players’ respect for Wakamatsu, or their willingness to play hard for him.  Firing the manager is the traditional baseball scapegoating for a miserable season.  But I can’t help thinking that without holding the players responsible for their lousy play, it sends the message that the players are more important than the manager.  And if the next manager benches them, or does something they don’t like, they can grouse and get him fired, too. 

It’s trendy in some baseball analysis circles to dismiss chemistry as a byproduct of winning, and to ignore psychological theories explaining underperformance and focus on definable characteristics like inability to hit a curveball.  But I think too little effort has been put into the idea of letting a manager establish himself in a dugout for several seasons.  Baseball players are not generally the coddled crybabies that NFL players are, but they are still million-dollar athletes who have spent most of their lives being told they’re terrific. 

Great managers like Torre, Cox, Scioscia and La Russa are great in part because they are the senior man in the dugout.  They command the respect of their players because management gave them time to establish themselves.  Would Figgins, or John Lackey, have barked at Mike Scioscia in the dugout?  Maybe not, and if he did, Scioscia would have the credibility to play the disciplinarian because his track record is longer than that specific roster.  Wakamatsu was an unproven manager but had great success his first season.  Now we’ll never know if he could have found success here, because GM Zduriencik showed less patience with his manager than he did with the roster he built. 

On this subject, here is a great little post at Fangraphs about the inconsistency with which teams seem to judge managers.