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 19, 2003

Only the lonely

"And who are his peers?

"'In my mind, Ichiro stands alone,' [his agent, Tony] Attanasio said" (Hickey, P-I).

All I want is to cut through all the hype and know who just does Ichiro compare with. Is he really such a unique player that he stands apart in history?

Three years ago, the hot rumor was Johnny Damon. Well, Johnny Damon isn't making $11 million a year.

I received an email last summer suggesting Rod Carew. Here's how they compare in their age 27-29 seasons:
         G   AB  AVG  OBP  SLG   H HR XBH  BB  SO  SB CS   %  RC

Carew 445 1714 .358 .422 .470 613 23 127 200 144 114 41 74% 349
Ichiro 473 2018 .328 .374 .440 662 29 143 134 184 121 37 87% 346

Sure, by the numbers, they're kind of similar, but they're not the Wonder Twins or anything. They were both contact, slap hitters with little power, who didn't strike out much, were highly efficient baserunners and played key defensive positions on the right side of the diamond. Carew was a more patient man at the plate--fewer strikeouts, more walks. They created essentially the same number of runs for their teams, though Carew did it in half-a-season's fewer at bats.

Baseball Reference offers as Ichiro's best comparisons as George Stone, Bake McBride, Taffy Wright, Topsey Hartsel, Bill Lamar, Bill Everitt, Ron LeFlore, Dom DiMaggio, Dusty Miller and Freddy Miller. And no, I did not just pull all those out of a Dickens novel.

It doesn't take much more of a cursory glance through that list to realize it really doesn't tell us much of anything. Similarity scores are really just another ain't-that-cool, trivial junk stat of Bill James. It's a fun way to lose a few hours on the internet, but it's real value in assessing and analyzing the similarity of players is severely lacking. Sure, George Stone was a 5'9", 175-pound centerfielder, but he was also out of baseball prior to the advent of moving pictures.

The problem with Ichiro is that he's an All-Star talent who didn't first step into the Major Leagues until he was 27. Yeah, every Seattle media outlet trumpets, "He has 662 hits in his first three big league seasons, nothing any other player in modern times has come close to" (Hickey). I'm not impressed by that for the simple reason that most major leaguers enter the major leagues anywhere between 22 and 24, and some even younger than that. Ichiro had 1278 hits before even coming to America. While Hickey's statement is indeed true--nobody else recently has that many hits in his first three seasons--and praiseworthy, the inferred meaning is that this sets him apart into the upper eschelon of modern superstars. It plain doesn't. He began his career in the Major Leagues as an All-Star and professional hitter; he was not some greenhorn still learning the mechanics of hitting.

Not only that, he has spent the last three seasons as the Mariners leadoff man, meaning he sees relatively more at bats in the season than the average major leaguer. Ichiro has seen more at bats over the last three years than any other player of the same period. Of course, we should expect him to have an extraordinary amount of hits; he sees an extraordinary amount of at bats. To hit .300 in those 2018 at bats, one would need 605 hits--still more than "any other player in modern times has come close to" in his first three years.

Taking age into context, only George Sisler (who played from 1915 to 1930) had more hits--719--than Ichiro between the ages of 27 and 29, but he's 49th in batting average on the all-time list. Compared to the lead average, weighted against outs made, Ichiro slips to 20th on the hits list and 37th on the batting average list. None of that accounts for ballpark, though.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to say Ichiro is a terrible player or that the M's shouldn't have signed him to an extension or that the Mariners should get rid of Ichiro. I'm simply bored by the hype and just want to know how great Ichiro's accomplishments really are. I'm just a rather curious cuss. Why exactly? I don't really know. So maybe I'm not that curious.

As many already know, a certain weblog published some fiction as fact this past week, and it's creating, at least to me, a thoughtful discussion. Paul of the SS Mariner thinks its no big deal. The internet is for hacks, and we can say whatever the hell we want because there is no one to stop us. Will Carroll thinks it's an absolute travesty. Internet media and the genre of weblogs can only be taken as seriously as those who publish them. As Will points out, unfortunately it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and once integrity and credibility are breached it's nearly impossible to re-earn them.

As for me, I have no interest in being a news source or in scooping stories. I'm not hoping to one day earn a press pass. I just do this because writing about baseball is fun for me--that and because of the strokes my ego gets from the number hits to the site everyday. But I'm working on that.

I believe the internet and the weblog phenomenon have the potential to be a legitimate voice of the fan community. I'd like to believe we can eventually live up to that potential rather than piss it all away for a cheap joke. While I myself have no inside MLB or Mariner connections, I know for a fact there are bloggers who do. To them and online publications like Baseball Prospectus, this is indeed a big deal.

If the winter meetings got you excited, I hope you've read Alex Belth's two-parter, as well as Jay Jaffe's and also Will Carroll's random overhead quotes. Mom keeps telling me wouldn't it be great to be paid for this. Well, if that would be require actually having to be a part of that culture, I would most certainly go nuts. I'm quite content to live vicariously through these guys. So thanks guys, that was fun.
|| Peter @ 12/19/2003

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The man with the golden glove

Catch the ball. Throw the ball. Easy as Scaramanga, right?

Ah defense—ever tangible but never measurable. I say “immeasurable,� but that’s not completely accurate. For some time now, the scientific baseball community has been trying to measure it, and I am pretty confident in declaring that with every new day, the boys in the white lab coats with the fancy calculators are getting closer.

In the meantime, we’re left with traditional statistics, such as errors and fielding percentage, and a bit more advanced suckers, like zone rating and range factor. Then there is Prospectus’s fielding runs above replacement and rate statistics and Pinto and his probabilistic model of range. And, love him or hate him, Bill James has his Win Shares method.

You will find discussion galore on all of this year’s postseason awards—most valuable player, rookie of the year, Cy Young. Most of the arguments revolve around very concrete arguments. Who hit the most home runs? Who was the greatest run producer? Who reached base most often? What pitcher “won� the most games?

They’re all very tangible evidence. Offensive statistics tell us very concrete things—how many balls a player hit that went over the fence, the ratio of his hits per at bats, how many bases he stole. Plug a handful of these into a spreadsheet and, shazam, you can see how many runs he creates. Likewise, a pitcher’s job is to prevent runs. Earned run average is a pretty accurate reflection of a pitcher’s success, or lack thereof. You can talk about this stuff for days. At least I can.

But defense… How many discussions have you read about the Gold Glove winners of 2003? Bueller…? Bueller…? You do not because the statistical evidence to hang your hat on is sketchy at best. Anyone who tries building a statistical case is building a house of cards in a hurricane.

But credit Tom Tippet of Diamond Mind—a much smarter man than I—for trying. And, despite all my cynicism on the subject, I think he does a mighty fine job of it.

Here are the actual Gold Glove winners compared with the most valuable according to the Win Shares method for defense compared with Tippet’s conclusion:

GG: Mike Mussina, Mike Hampton
TT: Kenny Rogers, Kirk Rueter

GG: Benji Molina, Mike Matheny
WS: Ramon Hernandez, Brian Schneider
TT: Benji Molina, Mike Matheny

Here’s a comment M’s fans may find interesting concerning the best defensive American League catcher:
"If Dan Wilson (92 starts) didn't share the position with Ben Davis, he'd get my vote. He was part of the duo that led the league in fewest steals allowed, he led the league in fielding percentage (only one error), and shared the lead in fewest passed balls allowed among catchers with at least 800 innings. But it's hard to pick a guy who caught only 57% of his team's innings…"

So not only is he a nice guy, but he plays some good defense. It’s a shame he swings the bat only marginally better than I do. It still doesn’t forgive such a vacuum in the lineup. I’m actually surprised that he caught only 57% of the Mariners innings. It felt like a lot more than that during the season.

First base
GG: John Olerud, Derrek Lee
WS: John Olerud, Derrek Lee
TT: Doug Mientkiewicz, Derrek Lee

Mets fan Eric McErlain and I discussed the value of John Olerud, not only by plate discipline, but also defense, earlier in the year. Tom adds this bit:
"Seattle had the league's lowest error total in 2003, and the lowest number of throwing errors, so it's tempting to conclude that Olerud saved his fellow infielders a lot of errors ... on the other hand, Seattle was only second best in the AL, behind Minnesota, in fewest errors by 2B/3B/SS ... unfortunately, it's very hard to measure 1Bs in this manner because our play-by-play data tells us how many throwing errors were made, but it doesn't tell us how many throwing errors would have been made if not for a good play by the first baseman."

I would really like to know how many errors Olerud saved from those Carlos Guillen airmails.

Second base
GG: Bret Boone, Luis Castillo
WS: Orlando Hudson, Alex Cora
TT: Mark Ellis, Marcus Giles

On Boonie, he says, "[his] range has never been anything to write home about… In fact, he was in the middle of the pack in just about every measure of range that we look at." Oooh… nobody tell that to Rick Rizzs. It will be our little secret.

Third base
GG: Eric Chavez, Scott Rolen
WS: Eric Chavez, Adrian Beltre
TT: Eric Cavez, Adrian Beltre

GG: Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria
WS: Jose Valentin, Cesar Izturis.
TT: Jose Valentin, Alex Gonzalez (Cubs)

Outfield (AL)
GG: Mike Cameron, Ichiro, Torii Hunter
WS: Mike Cameron, Carlos Beltran, Torii Hunter
TT: Mike Cmaeron, Ichiro, Torii Hunter

On the Mariners outfield:
"Seattle's outfield was far and away the best in the majors at turning fly balls and line drives into outs. They can put three legitimate center fielders out there -- Mike Cameron, the best in the business right now, Ichiro, who was a Gold Glove center fielder in Japan, and Randy Winn, who played center in Tampa Bay before he was traded to Seattle last winter."

And to those still with a chip on their shoulder about Cameron’s batting average:
"Cameron led all major league outfielders with 484 putouts, 47 more than runner- up Rocco Baldelli and 60 more than Hunter. It helps, of course, that he plays behind a fly-ball staff in a park that's very friendly to pitchers. But even when you account for those things, Cameron turned about 40 more batted balls into outs than did the average center fielder.

"Ichiro's raw net-plays figure isn't all that impressive until you allow for the fact that he shares the right-field gap with Cameron, who was about 10 plays above average in those zones. Ichiro would have made some of those plays had Cameron not reached those balls first. In addition, Ichiro's speed and arm turned a bunch of doubles and triples into singles."

Rejoice Tom Glavine and Al Leiter. Rejoice Timo Perez and Cliff Floyd. Rejoice Mets fans the world over.

Outfield (NL)
GG: Andruw Jones, Jim Edmonds, Jose Cruz
WS: Andruw Jones, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz
TT: Andruw Jones, Mark Kotsay, Jose Cruz

I find it interesting just how many unanimous picks there are between all three methods—six total, half of them centerfielders—Derrek Lee, Eric Chavez, Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Jose Cruz. As sketchy and biased as defensive stats and with the subjective nature of the Gold Glove selections, I did not expect that much overlap.

I have no doubt that the award is chosen on an entirely subjective basis by coaches. If they look to statistics they are probably fielding percentage and errors, which are in themselves subjective. Win Shares is a hodgepodge conglomeration of nearly every number you can think of associated with fielding a ball. I appreciate that Tom takes the best of both worlds, making personal observations while attempting to interpret the biases in the numbers, and there are many. If you haven’t read the entirety of the article yet, I highly recommend it.

And I very much look forward to the today when we can say, "That's it! That’s good defense!" and have some evidence to back it up with.

If you had not already noticed, I did a little rearranging last night. I hope you like it. I hope you find the site a wee bit easier on the eyes and the links a wee bit more user- friendly. If for some reason the look is entirely unacceptable in your browser, well, tough. No really, drop a comment or an email, and I will try to see what I can do. But no promises.

There really is an email link. It is in the solid blue bar between the Primer meetup link (are you coming?) and the Guest Map (pin it, I double dog dare you). Just wave your mouse thingy over it and you’ll see "email me." If any astute web savvy individual wants to check the source code and tell me what I need to change so we can all see the "email me" without waving our mouse thingies over it, that would be great, too.

And the permalinks still don't work. Crap.
|| Peter @ 12/18/2003

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Assessing the damage

Are we on double secret probation? Is that what this is?

It's something like watching a Polaroid picture develop. You wait. And you wait. And you wait. You can shake it around all you want. It doesn't make it come to life any faster. Suddenly, you take a hard look and realize this isn't the picture you took.

So I wait to see the 2004 Mariners materialize. It ain't there yet. It's still some pale bile color, but there are some vague distinguishable shapes. I've never been a patient one.

Prospectus has a stat called Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP). Essentially, it distills a player's offensive contribution, weighted for park effects, into a single number that represents how many wins in the standings a player contributed. In purpose and function, it's similar to Win Shares but without the defense and it has a 1 to 1 relationship to wins rather than 1 to 3. It comes in handy when comparing replacement players. For instance, Mike Cameron's WARP in 2003 was 8.3; Raul Ibanez's was 3.7. Swapping Cammie for Ibanez cost the Mariners 4.6 wins, essentially turning a 93-win team into a 88-and-a-half-win team.

"How can that be," you might declare. "Raul's a better hitter, i.e. higher batting average, and more effective run producer, i.e. more RBIs." Well, Cameron has a significant edge in walks (which means fewer outs made) and stolen bases (singles essentially turned into doubles). They also had almost exactly the same amount of extra base hits while Cameron hit in an extremely difficult park to hit in and Ibanez did it in a relatively easy park to hit in.

Now, are we all on the same page for WARP? Great. Here's how Bill Bavasi's plan to upgrade the offense has "improved" the team:
Player lost    WARP  Player gained     WARP

John Mabry 0.5 Raul Ibanez 3.7
Rey Sanchez 1.3 Scott Spiezio 3.7
Mike Cameron 8.3 Quinton McCracken -0.8
Greg Colbrunn 0.3
Mark McLemore 1.8
Jeff Cirillo -0.2
--- ---
TOTAL 12.0 6.6

Bavasi has transformed the 93-win team he inherited and in little more than a week reduced it to an 87-88-win team. Another reason to rejoice the blundered Vizquel/Guillen deal is that the difference in the two shortstops offensively last year was 1.6 in favor of Guillen--that's another game and a half lost in a division where that's been the difference between the pennant and second place. And Mariner Nation breathes a collective sigh of relief.

Now there are numerous problems with this method. First of all, Bavasi has swapped two starters and four benchwarmers for two starters and one bencher, thus far. There's still three roster spots to add. They have to combine for about five and a half wins for the M's not even to improve, but to just break even by last year's numbers.

Secondly, it demonstrates what these players produced LAST year, and that's little help in forecasting what they'll do next year. Injuries hampered Colbrunn, Cirillo, McCracken and Vizquel, and it's fair, to a certain degree, to assume their production will increase next year. For Rey Sanchez, that's just half a season (probably to his advantage). Furthermore, Ben Davis is the single returning starter that might be reasonably expected to improve over last year. Every other starter is over 30, some more so than others.

Thirdly, it doesn't take into account defense. Swapping Cameron for Winn and then Winn for Ibanez, as mentioned numerous times before here and elsewhere, painfully weakens the left side of the outfield. While Spiezio upgrades Cirillo in the batter's box, if only because he has a pulse, he is far from Cirillo's equal at third base. The defense is clearly being compromised by Bavasi's moves thus far, and that's going to cost the team at least a couple more wins.

Despite these shortcomings, it is a place to start to objectively analyze how these moves affect the team. Bottom line... an expectation of 87 wins at this point is generous. And for the quality of baseball Seattle has been spoiled with the last five years, that's just sad.

On the bright side, the Athletics have two massives holes to fill in their lineup and bullpen, and the Rangers are on the verge of ditching the best player in the game. Meanwhile the Angels are shoring up their rotation and have signed yet another comparable outfielder for a lesser pricetag than Raul Ibanez. I'm losing count on those now.

I would ask the question whether you thought Bill Bavasi could construct a better roster for $90 million than Billy Beane with $50 million, but if you actually had to think about that one, I'd probably laugh somewhat maniacally.

I'd like to echo Dave's sentiments. The explosion of M's blogs recently (Cracking the Safe and Sodo Oh No added to the list this morning) is nothing but a wonderful thing. To me, one of the most endearing things about baseball is the limitless angles to it. You can sit and enjoy a game, a full season, while the person next to you enjoys something completely different that you missed. The internet community is a wonderful way to discover all the facets of the game that you miss. Have a blog. Write about baseball. Write about why you love this game and this team so damn much. Think about baseball. Think about baseball creatively. Anyone considered starting a blog following the specific minor league teams? I think it would be great if there were blogs devoted specifically to the Rainers, Mission, AquaSox and Sixers. I haven't seen that anywhere yet.

|| Peter @ 12/17/2003

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Ba humbug

Mariner management is fouling up my Christmas spirit. No amount of Nat King Cole or the Carpenters can undo the damage. No, not even Evie or John Denver and the Muppets. I am Scrooge. Hear me "Ba humbug."

As I see it, my options are three:

1) Apostasy. I'll convert to Red Sox Nation. I confess: I'm a closet Red Sox fan. With visions of A-Rod in red stockings dancing in his head, Cosette today ruminates, "It's going to all work out. Have faith." Meanwhile, thanks to the Times my computer is glaring at me with a picture of a 36-year-old, $7 million, .321-OBA-in-2003 shortstop accompanied by the headline "Vizquel deal all but done for Mariners." I have lost faith. It's not going to work out. Since an 11-1 roadtrip that culminated on June 8, 2003, good news in Mariner Nation has been slim to absolutely none--six months. It's just not fair. I've every right to jump ship, don't I?

2) Delirium. I can abandon all objective analysis and acquiesce to the philosophy of Seattle management and media that "Good People Equal Good Players." If you can't beat them, join them, right? This quote is absolutely priceless:
McCracken, 33, was a double major at Duke University, graduating in four years with degrees in political science and history. He started every game in his college career and played football for the Blue Devils under coach Steve Spurrier (Stone, Times).

Yes! Wonderful! He's not only a great guy, but an intellectual athlete connected with the Redskin's head coach! Perhaps he can discuss the Federalist Papers with Troy Percival when he's pinch hitting with the game on the line. He sounds like a bright guy, no?
"It's a good deal for both clubs," [McCracken] said. "I have a history with the manager there (Bob Melvin), and I have some friends there, particularly Randy Winn. I've always liked the ballpark, the fans and the city, so it should be a good fit.

"What any player wants is a chance to play and win. I'm looking forward to that" (Hickey, P-I).

Sounds like a great deal for Quinton. It'll be a shame if Winn gets traded now, right? I'm still waiting to here how he specifically thinks this is a "good deal for both clubs," though.

So, I can throw reason out the window. Just believe. Just have faith. Maybe Howard Lincoln & Co. can give me one of those blue pills like the rest of the Seattle media.

3) I can resign myself to predestination. A friend yesterday sent me a link to the five points of Calvinsim. This had nothing to do with my baseball ramblings yesterday, but I couldn't help be read them through my Mariner pessimist-stained eyes. John Calvin's ideas are central to the Protestent Reformation in the 16th century and thus extremely influential to Western Christian thought. One of these ideas is the concept of predestination, or God's Election:
In our Confession, Chapter 3, Sections 3, 4, and 7, we have this description of it: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death."

"These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished."

I'm definitely not here to debate theological doctrine. But might the Mariners be predestined to mediocrity? Might my fate as a fan be everlastingly chained to this ship going nowhere? Might all these free agents, trades and nontenders be part of some diabolical, "particularly and unchangeably designed" plan?

On that note, if still hunting for the perfect Christmas gift for the Mariners fan in your family, might I recommend Art Thiel's Out of Left Field: How the Mariners Made Baseball Fly in Seattle. It contains no sharp objects nor removable pieces that might become choking hazards, though I suppose the jacket could be if wadded up small enough. In it, Art taps into the amazing story of how the Mariners went from losers--not doomed Red Sox losers or lovable Cubs losers, mind you, but losers that nobody cared about--into one of baseball's most profitable franchises in less than a decade. It's a phenomenal story. However, there's only one logical conclusion for the story: A championship. But it doesn't happen. It hasn't happened. It's getting mighty clear it won't happen in 2004. And as long as the current regime is in place, it will never happen.

I don't like this ending to the story. Good stories have good endings. This one doesn't.

At least maybe some good is coming out of this: Like I said last week, they're like gremlins swimming in the Sound. Mariner bloggers, that is. There's three more of them this morning:

The MarinersWeekly Weblog - Ryan's concept of "weekly" is a tad unorthodox, but he's a "lifelong M's fan," and for that he has my utmost pity.
Mariner Talk - Tim has his eyes on Adrian Beltre.
MFan4Life_24's Blog - Not only does Trent win the award for longest URL in the M's blogosphere, but he also wins the award for "Blog Title Most Likely to Appear on a License Plate." He's also currently studying sports management and economics, so I look forward to that perspective.

Now to come full circle with the Dickens reference, I let Aimee Mann serenade me:
Well, today a friend told me this sorry tale
As he stood there trembling and turning pale
He said each day's harder to get on the scale
Sort of like Jacob Marley's chain.

Then again, with the M's making the moves they are and the imminent news of Lil' O, I should probably keep the John Denver and the Muppets coming and the Mann and Elliott Smith far, far away.

I will keep them far, far away along with the sharp objects, choking hazards and expensive office equipment I could be held responsible for, too.

|| Peter @ 12/16/2003

Monday, December 15, 2003

King of the Dodger hill

There must be some law. Maybe it's some Jungian tendency hard-wired in the collective subconscious. If you are a Dodger fan, and your name is John, then you must blog about the Dodgers.

I credit my former college roommate for a number of influences on my life. I blame him for my addiction to internet fantasy baseball. Last February, after I myself had spent the winter reading over the now newly resurrected Only Baseball Matters and Baseball Musings, I received an email from John pontificating his witty and sardonic crystal ball predictions for the 2003 season. It simply cried out for a response. And that was the genesis for what you see here.

And now there's Dodger Hill. Say hi. Be kind. A native Arkansan will only take so much crap. I know this by experience.

Oh and John, you may want to upgrade that crystal ball you were using last year. I think someone may have conned you into a shiny bowling ball with that thing.
|| Peter @ 12/15/2003

Whu happen'd?

This is all a bad dream, right? This is all a product of too many late-night eggnogs mixed with repressed psychological stimuli, and I can wake up now, right? This isn't happening, right?

Miguel Tejada is an Oriole this morning. Whoever said Peter Angelos was fiscally responsible? There's rejoicing in the Post today, and rumors are the O's aren't finished:
The Baltimore Orioles have not had a recognizable public face since Cal Ripken's retirement in 2001, a true slugger since Albert Belle's demise in 2000 or a winning team since their division-champion 1997 edition. By signing free agent shortstop Miguel Tejada to a six-year, $72 million contract on Sunday -- and moving closer to at least one other major signing -- the Orioles believe they have gained all three (Sheinin).

Yeah, I can't wait for the water-cooler talk in the office today. *sigh*

Good for Miggy. He'll be cashing a significantly bigger paycheck in Baltimore than he would have in Seattle, and he gets to be the face of a franchise that's been lost in the wilderness of identity crisis since the retirement of Cal Ripken. Rather than thwart the playoff attempts of his former club by signing in Seattle, Miggy will instead see plenty of days battling for fourth place staring up at the behemoths in New York and Boston and the sabermetric underdogs Toronto in the standings. For his sake at least, he won't be seeing the Big Three of Oakland 19 games a year as he would in Seattle. Instead, he'll most often see the pitching of New York and Boston, who are both stockpiling ace pitchers as if they were Cold War era nuclear warheads. But good for Miggy.

Junior Cruz is a Devil Ray this morning. A Devil Ray. For less money than the M's paid for Raul Ibanez. The Devil Rays. It's still sinking in. This isn't happening, is it?

In his treatise of theology to the first-century Roman Christians, St. Paul says "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed..." (Romans 4:13, NIV). Abraham obviously never experienced a day in the life of a Seattle Mariner fan.

So where do the M's go from here? Speculation abounds. Speculation like Quinton McCracken. Like Scott Spiezio. Like Omar Vizquel. Like Rich Aurilia. Like Jose Valentin. Like Billy Beane picking up Arthur Rhodes.

It is Decemeber 15 and my hope for the 2004 Mariners already wanes. Pitchers and catchers report in 67 days. The first exhibition game takes place in 80 days. Opening day is a good three and a half months away. There's still plenty of time to perfect the roster, no?

On the bright side, the reigning AL West champions have lost there former MVP and plan on replacing him with a 23-year-old with 12 at bats of major league experience. On the bright side, the Athletics also lost thier ace closer Keith Foulke to their hated Red Sox while losing out on Mike Cameron. Today can't be a good day to be an A's fan. That's a plus, right? On the bright side, the Rafael Palmeiro will not be swatting homers into section 108 of Safeco Field in a Rangers uniform. On the bright side, the Angels are on the verge of losing Scott Spiezio. No wait...

A figid, snowy white blanket covers the DC metro area this morning. Yesterday's slush is today's ice, and it caused me to miss my usual 7 o'clock train. My hope in my Mariners is trickling to a standstill, threatening to freeze in this desolate December landscape.

Why do I put up with it? Why do we as fans endure it as we recklessly place our child-like, passionate faith in a ballclub destined for complacent mediocrity, for a congenial face, for a steady buck? I believe the plight of the Seattle Mariner fan is succinctly articulated by the 17th-century French philosopher and theologian Blaise Pascal. By all accounts, he was indeed a Mariner fan:
Thus we never live, but we hope to live; and always disposing ourselves to be happy, it is inevitable that we never become so (Pensees).

|| Peter @ 12/15/2003