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 12, 2003

One nation, under blogs...

A review of team blogs listed at Baseball News Blog shows nine sites devoted entirely to commentary on the Mariners, all active (or semi-active). That doesn't include Bobby or the Bremertonians, who are lumped into the "baseball-related weblogs" section a little below. By comparison, our AL West competition provides three weblogs for the Angels (one active), four for the Athletics (three active) and a measly one for the Rangers, and it's a Buck Showalter fan site.

Run over to Baseballblogs.org and the Mariners are represented by five sites, the Angels two, the A's three and the Rangers two. If only the Mariners crushed their competition by such a margin in the standings. Can't sheer volume of commentary count for something in the standings?

By my count, there's eleven active weblogs related to the Mariners (though I can't claim to be the final authority on such things). Now add three: One pines for the logo of yesteryear, one is perhaps the world's biggest Justin Leone fan, and one dares stand as the one voice of optimism in Mariner Nation.

Mariner Nation... I like the sound of that. Grand total? Fourteen Mariner weblogs at present. Still not quite up there with those rabid Red Sox and Cubbie fans, but getting there. Geez, particularly since the Bavasi signing, Mariner blogs have been multiplying like a Gremlin taking a swim in Puget Sound. They're everywhere. And that's a great thing. The more, the merrier. Just never feed a Mariner blogger after midnight.

Now if only we could find some Mariner-fan web designers to spruce up these blogs a bit and make them a bit nicer to look at... these four or five Blogger templates are getting old.

As the Curt Schilling situation with the Sons of Sam Horn illustrates, there is power in the collective fan community. There's been a discussion running over at Netshrine concerning baseball on the internet and this comment by David Pinto (of Baseball Musings) about weblogs specifically piqued my interest:
Just as fans are skirting the traditional media with web logs, I think we are fast approaching the time when players will do the same. We recently saw Curt Schilling use a chat room to check out Boston fans; it's only a matter of time before Curt goes directly to the fans with his own on-line diary. When that happens, fans will no longer need to depend reporters questions, they can ask their own questions directly.

It's becoming democratic, really. I see this in myself. I'll check out the local papers and ESPN for the news, but I won't trust their analysis and commentary for anything. I can find better on an independent website.

And sure, any 12-year-old kid can have access to a Blogger account and rant and rave his own point of view. But if this is indeed the future of baseball on the worldwide web, there's a great responsibility to those putting together these sites. With great power comes great responsibility. And the question becomes one of trust. And how long will it be before baseball blogs are held accountable for factual and accuracy? May the Mariner internet fan community continue to grow and flourish, and may we continue to educate and learn from each other.

There's a relatively new Oakland kid on the block, AthleticNation, and today he weighs in on Mike Cameron in the green and gold. Wednesday he referenced a Sacremento Bee article contemplating the future of Miguel Tejada with either the A's hated cross-the-bay rivals in San Francisco or their hated I-5 AL West rivals in Seattle. According to this A's fan:
My question to Athletics Nation is this: Which one is easier to swallow? The M's? The Giants? For me, it's, gasp, cough, gag, choke, the Giants. And only because it would mean that the A's wouldn't have to see him in another team's uniform playing in our home ballpark 8-10 times a season. He wouldn't be a factor in the AL West race.

If this is the panic of A's fans the world over, then what in the world are the Mariners waiting for? Come on, Lincoln, Bavasi and Gillick, today's my birthday.

Maybe I'll just change loyalties for a day and then I can feel like my team made a huge move on my day.
|| Peter @ 12/12/2003

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Everybody get together, try to love one another

I may be unable to attend the USSM feed, and I'm still holding my breath for a Prospectus Pizza Feed in the DC area, but in the meantime here's a dandy idea brought by the fellows of Baseball Primer. If you're in the Northern VA/DC/Maryland area, sign on up and we'll chat it up baseball style.
|| Peter @ 12/11/2003

Move along, move along, nothing to see here

According to Bob "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" Finnigan:
Against all odds, Vladimir Guerrero could wind up a Seattle Mariner.

At this point, the odds are long, and a connection between the Seattle club and the former Montreal superstar, top player among this winter's free agents, is largely hot-stove speculation. But by this time next week, Seattle could be involved in trying to sign Guerrero.

"It could be, and right now it's probably not realistic," said a Mariners source. "But if things work out a certain way, we could be talking with them" (Times).

And if things work out a certain way, I could sprout wings and fly. Maybe it's just me, but when all is said and done this weekend in New Orleans I fully expect the Mariners to have pulled something out of their magician's hat that nobody expected and that will make the objective-analysis-minded Mariner crowd collectively groan. But there I go, being all cynical again.

On that note, John Hickey reports Randy Winn and Ryan Franklin have agreed to terms, details to be announced later. You have to think this is really good news in the sense that the Mariners could use some trade bait to fuel the fires for those Freddy Garcia and/or Jeff Cirillo propositions. They're both useful players, just not extraordinarily useful for the Mariners at this point. The bottom line is they're replaceable.

As already discussed about Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Ryan Franklin similarly is a pitcher dependent on the quality of his fielders behind him. His strikeout rate per nine innings last year was 4.20, nearly two fewer than the league average, which means he allows batters to put the ball in play. To be specific, he allows batters to put the ball in the air at an extreme rate. His ground ball to fly ball ratio last year was 0.76; only three other qualifed starters in the major leagues were more extreme fly ball pitchers. That's neither good nor bad. It merely points out a tendency in Ryan Franklin's game. One would expect the Red Sox to provide Derek Lowe, the most extreme ground ball pitcher, to provide him with a strong infield defense.

Yes, Ryan Franklin placed in the top 10 in the American League in ERA last year. He owes many thanks to Winn, Cameron and Ichiro. He also allowed the most home runs in the American League last year despite the advantage of a home pitcher's park. He will not repeat his top 10 ERA performance with an outfield of Ibanez, Winn and Ichiro.

Gil Meche and Jamie Moyer are also league average to below average strikeout pitchers that allowed more fly balls than ground balls. As a team, the Mariners were the most extreme fly ball pitching staff in baseball last year. Again, this is neither good nor bad, just a tendency of the team that other areas, such as the defensive unit, should be built around. Unless the M's are sacrificing their outfield defense for a huge offensive upgrade, i.e. Vlad Guerrero, this is a huge problem. Thus far, the M's have replaced Mike Cameron with Raul Ibanez, a move that critically damages the outfield defense and adds zero advantage on offense. Raul Ibanez's 2003 on-base percentage? .345. And Mike Cameron's? .344.

And cross left-handed thumper Brad Fullmer off the Christmas list. On the bright side, Rafael Palmeiro won't be making his appearances in Safeco Field in a Ranger uniform anymore. On the not so bright side, left-handed power sticks for the bench are flying off the shelves this Christmas season like Hokey Pokey Elmos. Please Uncle Bill? All the other cool kids are getting one.

I would also like to take this moment to inform the choir that Jose Cruz was worth 36 Runs Above Replacement in right field last year and won a gold glove. Ichiro was worth 29 in right field.
|| Peter @ 12/11/2003

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Giovanni Who?

I spent the first 22 years of my life in northeastern Oklahoma, the very heart of tornado country, and I ever experienced only one tornado. Six months in DC and I've already experienced a hurricane and now an earthquake. I'm still trying to figure out that one. And what's really mysterious is I've missed both of them. I slept entirely through the hurricane, and nary a wobble did I feel all the way up here in Alexandria yesterday. Maybe I'm just a focused person. Then again, maybe the locals are just making this stuff up.

Cross Matt Stairs off the Christmas list.

So the M's sign another family guy with a bright smile and a goatee. He just looks like a Mariner, doesn't he? I'm working on my cynicism. I really am. No, really.

I found this tidbit in the Times intriguing:
The Guardado deal calls for at least $13 million over three years, including a signing bonus, more than the three-year, $12 million offer Arthur Rhodes rejected last spring.

If Rhodes's asking price was indeed in excess of $4 million a season, then his nontender makes a bit more sense. I like Rhodes, I really do, but not at that price.

Accoring to Michael Wolverton's Adjusted Runs Prevented for relievers, Guardado exceeded Rhodes 11.8 to 5.1 (that scale runs Eric Gagne 32.6 to Jaret Wright -28.3). By this metric neither of them ranked among to best 30 relievers in baseball. Rhodes was better in 2002 (14.4 versus 13.2) and also in 2001 (23.9 versus 19.9). Both seem to be in steady decline.

The problem, of course, with relievers' stats is that it takes just one bad start to skew a whole season, and sometimes just one pitch. Oh, it's painful to bring this up, but June 29 in San Diego Rhodes faced five batters and all five scored, the clincher being Rondell White's walk-off grand slam. That still stings to remember. But if you take out those five earned runs from Rhodes's line, his season ERA drops from 4.17 to 3.33. One pitch, nearly a full run on the season ERA. Too bad for Arthur that's just the nature of his job.

Oh, and my favorite quote from Guardado: "I like it that I'm on Edgar's side now," he quipped. "I don't have to face that guy no more" (MLB.com). Beautiful. And according to this headline, all I can deduce is he's bringing a third baseman and an entire bench with him.

Bob Finnigan is just on a roll this week. Today he's suggesting Freddy Garcia and Jeff Cirillo to San Diego for Phil Nevin. Ha! An oft-injured, 32-year-old, right handed hitter? It's so crazy managment might actually go for it. If we're going to dream about sunny southern California, Bob, let's ask for Sean Burroughs: left-handed and 23.

And Matt Welch has yet another Moneyball review to add to the collection.
|| Peter @ 12/10/2003

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Puzzle pieces

Sometimes I'm really glad I'm not a general manager. To me, constructing a roster, and add to that an entire organization from the majors to rookie ball, is every bit an intimidating endeavor as one of those 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles--the ones where the pieces are no bigger than a contact lens.

How does he fit in the offense? How does he fit in the defense? How does he fit in the payroll? How does he fit in the clubhouse? How does he fit in the organization next year, and the year after that? All these jagged sides that have to match precisely. And if you're not on your toes, you wind up with the 2004 Brewers.

Man, I appreciate all GMs do. I can't imagine foregoing Thanksgiving with my family for work, as Theo Epstein did, especially when that work is making a sales pitch to a ballplayer to join my team.

That said, I'm quite content to sit back at my comfortable desk and play computer-chair-GM, to think of myself as some twisted incarnation of Waldorf & Statler.

Now I look at the Mariners and see holes at shortstop and/or third base and two spots on the bench. Maybe a starting pitcher. Maybe. Fourth outfielder definitely.

So, looking at the list of players not offered arbitration, I see promising candidates (thank you Transaction Guy). The bench currently contains Davis/Wilson, Willie Bloomquist and Greg Colbrunn. That takes care of catcher, all-purpose infield sub and pounder of left-handed pitching. So I'm in the market for a fourth outfielder and a pounder of right-handed pitching. Vlad Guerrero is the obvious first name, and its nice to finally see some mainstream Seattle media jump on the Vlad bandwagon.

Just remember what Michael Corleone once said: If history has taught us anything it's that we can sign anyone. No wait. Maybe that was Theo Epstein.

But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Then there's Pokey Reese. He may hit like a girl, but I'm told his defense is on a historic level. (And I've decided that my New Years resolution will be to finally figure out what all those numbers mean.) He steal bases and doesn't get caught. Pat Gillick has been infatuated with Pokey for years . And just imagine Rick Rizzs: "Pokey to Miggy (or Boonie to Pokey)! Double play!" Yeah, that'd be golden. Edgar's caddy, right here.

Jose Cruz, Jr. is still available. The one and only Offically Endorsed (apologies to USSM) Outfield of Mariners Musings is Raul Ibanez in left (by necessity), Ichiro in center, Jose Cruz in right. I've explained this in detail before.

There's Ben Grieve. He's hit .255/.366/.414 versus righties over the last three years. Those aren't blow-me-away numbers, but it's more than what John Mabry gave last year as the leftie off the bench.

Hey look, Al Martin's available. (snicker)

Every Mariner bloggers favorite pick, Matt Stairs is there. For the uninitiated, he's hit .270/.375/.517 against right-handed pitching over the last three years. The Royals want Stairs. Bill Bavasi, you should want him more.

We can cross Eduardo Perez off the list. He just signed a two-year, $1.7 million deal with the Devil Rays. Perez has hit .320/.418/.657 in 172 AB against left-handers the last two years. That's not a glaring need for the Mariners, but Perez is a primo, cheap role player.

Bob Finnigan takes a column today to speculate all the various scenarios for centerfield if Winn gets non-tendered. That is, all the scenarios except moving Ichiro to center. He does get bonus points for talking about Cruz, though, but Cruz in right, Ichiro in center makes much more since than vice a versa.

Not to be outdone by their cross town rivals jumping with gun with the Tejada offer last week, the P-I's lead Mariner story is "M's land Twins closer," which then goes on to say that sources confirm Guardado will be a Mariner by the end of the week. Now, I'm not anti-Eddie, but this is a bum deal. Only if Sasaki gets shipped to Japan for a couple of Orix Blue Wave Ichiro jerseys will this turn out with a happy ending, at least for we fans. The M's just paid $3+ million for a right handed setup man, and now $3+ million for a leftie setup man. When I said I wanted the M's to rival the Yankees I did not mean it in the category of most overpaid middle bullpen. Now if Sasaki is out of the picture, this is a more effective closer for half the price. If he's not, it's a scam. Did Arthur Rhodes have some kind of vicious falling out with management? There's no way he would have cost three years and $14 million. And Eddie's home/road ERA split (2.71/3.54) over the last three years concerns me just a little, though Safeco Field may help that.

I get this eerie feeling that Bavasi is a bit hasty to put his own fingerprints all over this team. But what do I know? I'm just the heckler.

My endorsed lineup as of today, December 7:

RF-Junior Cruz
SS-Miggy Tejada

And the Mariners come to Pittsburgh June 18-20, and that means one thing: Road trip!

Friday's my birthday, Bill Bavasi. I want to see Miguel Tejada in Mariner blue and teal.
|| Peter @ 12/09/2003

Monday, December 08, 2003

They paved centerfield and put up a parking lot

"It's weird what happened. It's crazy this feeling I'm left with," Cameron said after speaking with Bavasi. "It's like your dad tells you to get the hell out of the house. 'We still love you, son ... but you can't come back'" (Finnigan, Times).

I'm sad. I'm going to miss that goofy grin, that cap askew, that untucked jersey the moment the final out of each game was made, and those quotes like the one above. Watching Mike Cameron, I'm reminded that baseball is indeed a kid's game, and that there is nothing more fun in all the world than playing baseball.

And for that, Mike Cameron, I thank you.

Every fly ball to the outfield in Safeco became a race: the baseball versus Mike Cameron. Who would reach that plot of grass first? My money was never on that ball. More often than not, the baseball never even had a chance. Faster than a speeding double in the gap, able to pull back home runs with a single leap, Mike Cameron plays centerfield with the virtuoso skill of a master artist.

How many times did I watch over and over on my computer Torii Hunter's home run to left field, Randy Winn country, when all of a sudden Cameron at full speed leaps against the wall and pulls it back? Too many to count. The picture was my monitor's wallpaper for weeks after. Were I 8 years old again and playing Little League, I'd want to be a centerfielder, after watching Mike Cameron.

In in interview with Rick Rizzs in Spring Training 2002, Cameron was asked what the clubhouse music for the new season was going to be. "Same as last year," he replied. "Off the Wall by Michael Jackson." Indeed, Cameron. Life ain't so bad it all when you live it off the wall... especially if it's the wall with the big yellow "405" on it.

Cameron finishes his 4-year career in Seattle with a batting line of .246/.358/.448 with 87 home runs, 115 doubles, 296 walks, 353 runs scored, 344 runs batted in, 106 stolen bases in 133 tries (80%) in 2162 at bats, and yes, 601 strike outs.

And it's those strikeouts that his critics are running him out of town with. But if we counted groundouts to second or maybe benign lazy flyballs to left maybe your favorite player wouldn't look so great anymore. An out is an out, and there is no such thing as a "productive out." An offense is allowed just 27 chances, and to swing and miss three times is no different than a ground out on the first pitch. John Olerud has grounded in 76 double plays over the last four seasons. That's nearly double what Edgar, the next guy, has (47), and no one's running him out of Seattle.

The thick irony here is that the hacking-est Mariner of all is a beloved Pacific Northwest icon. Matt over at his blog has a pretty damning theory on this. For the sake of controversy, it's a pretty cheap shot. Pulling the race card is a bit like walking into a Pentecostal church and proclaiming, "Thus saith the Lord." I mean, what can you really say in response? I, for one, don't feel qualified to comment as I missed out on the Buhner years in Seattle.

I do know the objective evidence, and here's the career Mariner leaders watching strike three go by:



1 Jay Buhner 1375
2 Edgar Martinez 1095
3 Ken Griffey Jr. 984
4 Jim Presley 713
5 Dan Wilson 672
6 Alex Rodriguez 616
7 Mike Cameron 601
8 Alvin Davis 549
9 Phil Bradley 448
10 Dave Henderson 439

Obviously longevity with the club affects that list. So here's the list versus the league average:



1 Jay Buhner 521 1375 854
2 Jim Presley 231 713 482
3 Mike Cameron 203 601 398
4 Dave Henderson 128 439 311
T5 Phil Bradley 115 448 333
T5 Ken Phelps 115 337 222
7 Mike Blowers 114 351 237
8 Russ Davis 113 395 282
9 Lee Stanton 89 195 106
10 Gorman Thomas 81 208 127

So Cameron is third on the all-time Mariner strikeout list versus the league average, and less than half of Jay Buhner.

Mike, I'll miss you. Please don't sign with Oakland. Be afraid, Ryan Franklin. Be very afraid. You too, Shiggy.

"He's just a little bit out of reach for us if we want to, like I said, build up a more complete offense" (Andrieson, P-I).

Ah, Bill Bavasi, way to step up and play with the big boys. I know, I know, that pseudo-$92 million just isn't enough, is it?

And I've got to say goodbye to Arthur Rhodes. Wait for it. Wait for it. I know it's coming. "Yankees sign leftie setup man Arthur Rhodes." You can't convince me it's not coming.

Rhodes has that classic bulldog look you love to see come out of the bullpen. It's not a look I'd like to see in a darkened alley. Flashy diamond earring. Furrowed brow. Scowl that would make small children cry. Mid-90s fastball. Hard, hard slider. And, Bill, you're telling me you've got better, cheaper options at hand? I've gotta see this because I'm missing something.

Like Cameron, Rhodes was another Gillick acquisition in the winter of 2000. Arthur's four-year Mariner career: 261 innings, 3.07 ERA, 289 strikeouts (9.97/9 IP), 72 walks (2.48/9 IP), 19 home runs (0.66/9 IP). Not too shabby at all.

It's a sad day in Seattle. Except for the Pat Borders family. If the above transactions were not disturbing enough to my faint heart, that the "club has a special relationship with" a third string catcher who has seen a grand total of 24 at bats over three season with the organization makes me hang my head in shame. Was Borders orphaned as a youngster and raised by the Gillick family? Did he save Gillick's life in the war? Is he privy to information that would compromise the character of Mr. Gillick? On second thought, I don't need to know any specifics of their "special relationship."

And the P-I has confirmed Finnigan's assumptions from Friday, though their writers can't exactly agree on it. On Saturday, John Hickey quotes Bavasi, "'I don't know that that kind of market exists anymore,' Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said in confirming the offer to Tejada."

In today's edition, David Andriesson writes, "Bavasi also confirmed publicly for the first time yesterday that the Mariners were bidding on Oakland free agent shortstop Miguel Tejada, though he stopped short of saying Seattle had made a formal offer."

With Kaz Matsui now a Met, I'll be disappointed if Tejada is not a Mariner by the end of the week. That is, unless the now teamless Vlad Guerrero falls in our lap.
|| Peter @ 12/08/2003