Mariners Musings

Musings about, um... well, the Seattle Mariners as well as a love affair with this game baseball. By Peter J. White

Friday, December 05, 2003

Semantics, schmantics

I just have to love journalism. It's the clever, manipulative wordplay that makes me chuckle. Maybe I'm just cynical.

Take for instance today's Mariners piece in the Times. Headline: "M's offer Tejada 3-year contract." Hell, that got my attention.

Second paragraph:
"To that end, the Mariners are believed to have offered Oakland free-agent shortstop Miguel Tejada a contract thought to be three years at $24 million to $25 million, with an option for a fourth year" (Finnigan, emphasis my own).

Not quite the same thing now, is it? Maybe the headline writer knows something Mr. Finnigan doesn't. Who knows. The Mariners aren't talking, so what better thing to do than toss out suppositions such as this to the Mariners' faithful following whose only satisfaction in the sports page is the Mariners news (of which, I confess, I am one). But then, like I said, maybe I am just cynical.

No source even hinted, named or unnamed, simply the passive voice "are believed." Are believed by whom? Bill Bavasi? Wishful fans? A creative sportswriter? The office mailroom? The junior varsity pitching staff of Cascade High School? A band of rabid Pacific Northwestern squirrels?

Three years and $24-25 million, if true (big if, still pending confirmation from anywhere by anybody), sounds about right for Tejada. If Detroit wants to grossly outdo that (and that ludicrous Juan Gonzalez contract offer of a few winters back comes to mind), perhaps Mr. Tejada would do well to contact Mr. Rodriguez and discuss the pros and cons of selling one's soul to a last place team with a future built on a house of cards.

This quote's a gem, though, regarding New York's confirmed offer to the other shortstop: "'It appears, if that news is right, that Matsui will be a Met,' a Mariners source said." And there was much rejoicing.

Then there's the sexy rumor of Texas and Boston exchanging high-priced, disgruntled, extraordinarily talented ballplayers, as discussed in the Dallas Morning News (registration required, but if that's against your religious beliefs Bambino's Curse offers excerpts and commentary, ESPN.com quotes the meat of it, while the Bremertonians reposted the entire thing). I have every faith in Theo Epstein & Co. to pull something crazy out of their collective magician's hat sooner rather than later, and were this to happen, it would give Boston the unfortunate conundrum of carrying two superstar shortstops. What to do? The story mentions Anaheim and Los Angeles as teams looking for a shortstop. Not Seattle. Are the Mariners just not interested in Garciaparra? Or is the baseball world absolutely convinced that the Mariners will land either Tejada or Matsui? Hmm... things to ponder.

And one year, $4 million for Cameron? What a slap in the face. I'm sorry to see you go out like that, Cammie.

Which makes me wonder about something else: In centerfield, are the Mariners thinking long-term to the cream of next year's free agent crop, my favorite--and should be yours too--Carlos Beltran? Naw, couldn't be... could it?
|| Peter @ 12/05/2003

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Let's play dominoes

On the one hand, M's president Chuck Armstrong is aware that there actually is a free agent available by the name of Vlad Guerrero. On the other, and I quote: "There is some interest, but it's very down on the agenda. We have to formulate an idea what we want to do with Mike Cameron and Randy Winn in the outfield" (Hickey, P-I).

Hmm... an outfield of Ibanez/Cameron/Winn/Ichiro or an outfield of Ibanez/Ichiro/Guerrero. Decisions, decisions. Okay, someone remind me why this is a tough call? It's December 4, Chuck. I don't need to hear that you have yet to "formulate an idea" about your outfield for next year.

Meanwhile, a Yankee fan mocks us.

Many juicy tibits in the Times as well. The Phillies acquired starter Eric Milton from the Twins. That gives them a current rotation of Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, Brett Myers and Milton. Add prospect Cole Hamels to the list, and that's a pretty solid 5-man rotation. If you remember, Philadelphia was once rumored to be interested in Freddy Garcia. With the Milton trade, I believe we can scratch the Phils off the list of possible places of exile for Freddy. I can see Philadelphia making a move for a top-of-the-rotation starter, but I don't see Freddy as that starter.

What that trade does for Minnesota, though, is free them some money to retain their closer Eddie Guardado. The wrinkle here is apparently the M's are pursuing Guardado, and Guardado would like to play on the west coast. "Seattle is more serious," he says, than his other suitors. Now if this is the case, then the Sasaki-to-Japan rumors are quite serious indeed. Sasaki is history if the M's are seriously pursuing Everyday Eddie.

Something to keep in mind about Eddie: He likes the Metrodome. At home last season, his ERA was 1.75 as he allowed just 7 runs, struck out 34, walked only 6 and allowed 2 home runs in 36 innings. On the road, however, his ERA was 4.30 as he allowed 14 runs, struck out 26, walked 8 and gave up 5 home runs in 29.1 innings. That's a big difference. Over the last three years, his home/road ERA split is 2.71/3.54, and his home runs allowed is 6/15. It's just food for thought to temper the hot stove fantasies.

He's a left-handed closer, and those don't exactly grow on trees. And he's death on lefties: .195/.217/.262. At 33, he's younger than both Hasegawa and Sasaki. Personally, I kind of like the sound of a bullpen tandem of Mateo-Rhodes-Guardado more than any combination involving Hasegawa and Sasaki. But that's just me.

The NY Mets have thrown out the opening bid for the services of Kaz Matsui: 3 years, $21 million. Boy, I'd hate to see the Mariners try and top that. I'd also hate to see the Mets force Jose Reyes to second all for the sake of Matsui. But it sure sounds like the Mets, don't it?

And if the Mets can do us all a favor and take Matsui off the market, that leaves Baltimore, LA, Anaheim and Seattle to battle over Tejada. And don't rule out the crafty Brian Sabean if Rich Aurilia indeed leaves for higher altitude. If the Mariners want a statement move that improves the team, and they don't care about Guerrero, Tejada is it. (Go on Jeremy, you can say it if you must.) Adding to the list of things I'd hate to see is learning that Guardado is the M's #1 priority at this point.

For those who still think Cameron should be forever banished from Seattle because of his .253 batting average, he collected more Win Shares last year than Edgar Martinez, Derek Jeter, Hank Blalock, Trot Nixon and Rafael Palmeiro. That's how valuable his defense is.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, we are all cordially invited to vote on the Internet Hall of Fame ballot. I know I will be, but also know I take these voting things far too seriously. I get frustrated because to decide whose careers should be memorialized and whose should be forgotten in the pages of the baseball encyclopedias one needs a standard. The BBWAA doesn't have one, thus the current Hall can't be one. I still haven't taken the time to come up with my own, and that's my dilemma. Ranting Mike gets the ball rolling, especially if you buy into all of Bill James's ideas, and I've still got a month to decide. Come on, though Pete, this isn't rocket science. I mean, Cecil Fielder?

Last but not least, USS Mariner prospect maven Dave Cameron will be chatting next week on Prospectus. One can submit questions in advance here.
|| Peter @ 12/04/2003

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Everybody's talkin'

All this talk and this talk (particularly posts #8 and #37, thanks to Ryan) about the Yankees brings to mind this story in the Onion from last year. It's like deja vu all over again.

Also while browsing the boards of Primer, I found this thread on Jamie Moyer. The conversation wanders toward the end, but the premise is the question: How much longer does Jamie Moyer have to pitch before he's Hall of Fame worthy? Sadly, I don't see a solid answer given. And sadly, I don't think I can provide one at the moment, either.

It's his time with the Mariners that even warrants a discussion. But even if you isolate his career to just his Seattle years, I don't know if you can qualify him as Hall of Fame worthy--very good, yes, but not Hall of Fame.

I tried to see where his ERA ranked among his peers each year, and it's not until you get to 1996-2003 (150 innings/season) that he finally cracks the top ten. Despite half that time in a very favorable pitcher's park, pitching for an excellent team, he still trails Pedro Martinez, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, Al Leiter and Mike Mussina. Certainly there are Hall of Famers on that list, and I'm sure there are still some outside of Seattle that would be surprised to hear Jamie Moyer's name mentioned in that company, but I think he'd have to pitch until he's at least 50 at his current level to warrant inclusion in the Hall. I'm just throwing that out there though. I've got all winter to ruminate some complicated formula to scientifically calcuate just how many more years Jamie should go.

It's been predicted for several years now that this is the year that Moyer loses all effectiveness, and when it goes, it will be fast and furious. If that's the case, I sure don't want to be around to see it. That will be a sad day.

And in other talk, there's a discussion out as to favorite baseball writers. Fascinating.

I suppose I can't really enter that discussion without processing exactly why I'm here and why I do this.

First of all, I just flat out love to read and write. I picked literature as my major in college, because I loved to read and write. I feel absolutely blessed to have found a job where I get paid to read all day, and interesting stuff at that (I was beginning to lose hope). There's something about language, a good story, a well-crafted image that just makes me feel alive like nothing else.

Michael Lewis quoted Bill James in Moneyball, something to the effect of--"Even if there were no baseball, I'd still be a writer. But because there is, I can't imagine writing about anything else." Something like that. One of these days I'll have to look it up again. But it echoes my sentiments exactly. Oh there are other things I think about during the day, but there's just something so much fun about baseball.

I had a teacher my senior year of college who encouraged me to never stop writing. So this is my outlet. And, I guess in a Joseph Campbell sort of way, it offers me a connection with my dad. Dad's no sports fan, but he's a huge writing fan. He's had numerous short stories published and still working on finding a publisher for that children's novel. He's a student of the craft, and while we can't talk baseball (at least in terms of numbers of any kind), we can talk about the creative process of writing. I'd have to say the highlight of this year for me has been Game 6 of the World Series, and not just because the Yankees lost. More importantly, it was because I experienced it in a cabin in the woods of central Virginia, just me and my dad. I am 25 years old and that was the first time I have ever experienced a game just me and Dad.

So what writers do I enjoy most? My favorites are the ones where I find a my own love affair with this silly game reflected back to me. I find myself attracted to true writers, and not just fans with opinions and internet savvy. So in no particular order...

Ed Cossette - Talk about passionate love affair. What Ed communicates to me is both the community and star-crossed destiny that is New England baseball. So many blogs spend their time number crunching (I'm guilty as charged), it gets numbing after a while. I love the morality play that Ed articulates and the literary angle he offers to the blogosphere. That and I'm also fascinated by the lore of Red Sox tradition, that whole idea that I'm a fan because dad was a Red Sox fan and grandpa was a Red Sox fan, that concept of baseball community. That doesn't exist in Seattle, and the closest parallel where I came from is Sooner football, and I know that's a reach of a comparison.

Alex Belth - Yankees/Red Sox matchups are priceless just to read these two side by side. His interviews with writers fascinate me to no end, and his man-on-the-NY-street anecdotes are some of the best writing on the internet.

Derek Zumsteg - I've been reading Prospectus for about five years now, and Derek was the first to really stand out to me, mostly because I could tell he was a Seattle fan. I find his best work on Prospectus when his Mariner fandom comes out. His column on Edgar's last at bat I'd say was my favorite column/article to come out this year. How are you going to top that when Edgar really retires, D?

Joe Sheehan - I must confess I'm not a current Prospectus subscriber (I'm still working on that), but nothing makes me want to be more than the opportunity to read more Sheehan. A more insightful fan/writer of baseball you will not find.

Alan Schwatz - I got addicted to his interviews on ESPN this past year. Through him I had the epiphany that a player is not an OPS (or pick your favorite stat), but they are human beings with stories to tell. Good stories, bad stories, tragic stories; every player is a story. Not in a journalistic sense, but more a Greek tragic hero sense. At least to me.

Steven Goldman - Yes it's the freakin' Y*S network, but a co-worker introduced me to the Pinstriped Bible, and well, every team deserves a writer that makes so much damned sense. But maybe not the Brewers.

Jon Weisman - Maybe for this post alone:

But my god, this site is nowhere near the quality I want it to be. It is thrown together, rapid-fire, a machine gun barely under control, spraying bullets every which way. It has the potential to meet or surpass what others do, but I can't seem to make it happen. I can't find the resources to take the extra base when it's there - and god, it's right there, all the time. So little time is spent refining the writing, which means so much to me. I settle for the obvious words. I let stand a turn of phrase that's an obvious stretch.

It's not enough to wipe away the blessings, but it's frustrating. I crave doing better. I want to be the storyteller, the unequivocal storyteller.

I'll second that, Jon. I'll second that.

So how about you? What do you read and why? Feel free to join Will's discussion or leave a comment below. Just be wary of the machine gun bullets.

So to Dad, and all the names mentioned above that might see this, I must take a mushy moment and say thanks for writing, and thanks for writing about baseball.
|| Peter @ 12/03/2003

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

You gotta know when to hold 'em

As I stated yesterday, I'm all for the M's competing for free agents with the Yankees and Red Sox. The trick, it seems, is in picking the right free agents to get into a bidding war over.

So Shiggy Hasagawa's agent is countering the M's offer, and he's got those two little words--Yankees and Red Sox--to throw in the negotiating fire.

Just how much would you overpay for a 35-year-old right-hander coming off a career year despite a career-low strikeout rate?

In nearly every facet of his game, Shigetoshi Hasegawa put together a fantastic 2003. His ERA was a career-best 1.48. For the first time in his career he was given the Closer role and saved 16 of 17 games. He allowed just 5 homer runs, 18 walks and a measly 12 runs in 73 innings.

One might say that the reason the Mariners lasted as long as they did in the pennant race was Hasegawa's phenomenal pitching. He allowed just 4 runs, walked 7 and struck out 21 the entire first half. His ERA at the All-Star break was 0.77. He was allowing runs like Bud Selig allows common sense.

But a contributing factor to the wheels coming off in September was Hasagawa. In the month of September, Shiggy went 1-3, with his only blown save and a 5.06 ERA. He allowed as many runs in September as he had the entire rest of the season. He walked 7 and struck out only 4 batters.

For his career, he's posted a 3.49 ERA, been an above average pitcher, despite a strikeout rate below the league average. While with the Angels, he struggled for consistency. When his strikeout rate decreased, his ERA went up. When the strikeouts went up, the ERA went down. Upon coming to the Mariners, both went down.

              ERA   K/9

1997 Angels 3.93 6.40
1998 Angels 3.14 6.75
1999 Angels 4.91 5.14
2000 Angels 3.58 5.55
2001 Angels 4.04 6.63
2002 Mariners 3.20 4.99
2003 Mariners 1.48 3.95

All this to say that Shiggy's success is a direct result of the defense behind him. As his ability to overpower batter's decreases precipitously, his reliance on his teammates increases dramatically. Or maybe he already trusts completely in the eight guys behind him as the best defense in baseball, and feels all he needs to do is let the hitter put the ball in play, just inside the ballpark.

Either way, by all accounts, Mike Cameron will not be tracking down fly balls in center next year. Rey Sanchez will not be sucking up grounders at short. Jeff Cirillo will not be handling the hot corner. Shiggy's pitching and the Mariners defense last year were outstanding, but there's a symbiotic relationship there that I hope the front office realizes. You can't sacrifice defense, which the Mariners are in the process of doing, and expect a pitcher like Hasegawa to maintain his same level of effectiveness.

And Shiggy's not going to be a Closer in Seattle next year. Not with Kaz Sasaki on the payroll for $8 million. And just how wise is it to throw $3-4 million at a right-handed set-up man with right-handed pitching a dime a dozen sitting in Tacoma and San Antonio?

The Mariners need to step to the plate when it comes to negotiating with free agents against Boston and New York. But Shigetoshi Hasegawa is not that free agent.
|| Peter @ 12/02/2003

Monday, December 01, 2003

A new day

Today's December 1. I love December. I love the Advent season. I can remember as a kid having those Advent calendars, opening one of those little windows for each day of the month. And as a kid, December was the greatest month of the year. First, there's my birthday, and then Christmas. Now, as an adult baseball fan, there's the rumor-fest that is the winter meetings. And this year mark your calendars for December 20. That's the last day teams can offer arbitration-eligible players a contract, and all our free agent speculation gets thrown out the window.

But most importantly Advent represents a season of new hope, a season when the shackles of darkness are shattered and a new dawn breaks. With the news that Curt Schilling will be pitching in Boston, Gary Sheffield will be manning right field in Yankee Stadium, and this gnawing feeling that I'm a sucker to be a Mariner fan, today's a pretty good day to turn the calendar and start fresh. (sigh)

Wouldn't it be grand if the Mariners just came swooping out the sky and snatched up Vlad Guerrero? (And I mean that in the free-agent signing sense, certainly not the kidnapping sense of the phrase.) (sigh)

Yes, in a perfect world the Mariners front office would match those Big Meanies, the Sox and Yanks, if not dollar for dollar, then pound for pound in crafty resourcefulness, guile and urgency for a championship. While both this weekend's major moves are bold statement moves, they are also moves that address gaping holes. That Yankee linuep, 1-8, is going to be one scary lineup. And Schilling in Boston takes an enormous load off Pedro's shoulders.

Hey Bill Bavasi, your opponents out East just countered your silly Ibanez move and put you in check. It's your move. Don't blow it.

And the more I think about, the more I'm crumbling to the idea of making a serious move for Miggy Tejada. Network Coliseum suppressed offense more than Safeco Field did. Over the past three years, Tejada has hit .304/.361/.499 on the road. If he can rack up 100+ RBI hitting behind the likes of Terrence Long, Chris Singleton and Scott Hatteberg, he should lead the league batting fifth behind Ichiro, Boone and Edgar. And Tejada and Boone would make the most sure-handed double play combo in baseball. Three years for $25 million? Money is not my specialty, so I really shouldn't go there. He'd be a deal at that price, but I'd be very concerned to see more than that go on the table. By all accounts, Anaheim, LA and Baltimore, especially, seem like they're eager to go much beyond that. Let them, but I'm convinced Kaz Matsui isn't even in the same ballpark as Tejada, both offensively and defensively.

Is it too much to ask for a bold statement that improves the team? The options are slim, few and far between at this point already.
|| Peter @ 12/01/2003