San Shin
This is Jeff Shaw's blog about the Seattle Mariners and writing and politics and whatever else comes to mind.

"In Marines' Way," Sierra Magazine, July/August 2004.
"The Price is Wrong," In These Times, March 31, 2004.
"Out of Burma," Multinational Monitor, Jan-Feb 2004.
"Discover Lost Lake," Bellingham Herald, April 15, 2004.
"Peruse Canyon Lake Creek Forest," Bellingham Herald, April 1, 2004.
Older articles on politics, the outdoors, etc. Poems.

The USS Mariner
Mariner Musings
Seattle P-I
Leone For Third
Mariners Wheelhouse
Mariner Optimist
The Safest Blog
Mariner Rumblings and Grumblings
One Hundred Sixteen
Sports and Bremertonians
SoDo Oh No
Cracking the Safe
Nice Guys Finish Third
Trident Fever
At Least the Red Sox Have 1918
Mariner Minors
Sons of Buhner
Grand Salami
Dead Reckoning (an M's news blog)
Olympia Mariner
Dave's Mariners Blog
Just Another Mariners Blog
Mariner Talk

Sportsfilter (community sports 'blog)
Baseball Blogs
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference

POLITICAL BLOGS Talking Points Memo
Poltical Animal
Daily Kos

Poynter (home)
50 writing tools
Reporter's Desktop

Copper Canyon Press
Academy of American Poets
Lannan Audio Archive
Atlantic Audio Anthology
Laurable poetry audio links
Slate poetry audio files
Missouri Review blog

In These Times
The Christian Science Monitor
Mother Jones
The Progressive
Z Magazine
The Japan Policy Research Institute
The Nation
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Washington Post OnPolitics
Latest AP news
LA Times
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Congressional Record

Sean Meade

Contact me: jeffmshaw at hotmail period com

"Two U.S. Banks SWIFT To Skirt Burma Sanctions," The NewStandard, March 9, 2004.
"Certifiably Insane? Wood-labeling program less green than it appears," Grist Magazine, Feb. 23, 2004.
"Review of Chalmers Johnson's Sorrows of Empire," Seattle Weekly, Feb. 4, 2004.
"A Base Draws Ire, So U.S. Looks to Sea," Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 22, 2004.
"Quietly, Bush Administration Moves to Implement Patriot II," The NewStandard, Dec. 30, 2003.
"From Worst to First: Under Pressure, Boise Cascade Agrees to Stop Logging Old Growth Forests," Multinational Monitor, Nov. 2003.
"Bioprospecting: Corporations Profit from Indigenous Genes," In These Times, Nov. 26, 2003.
?Opportunity knocks: under cover of war, the Bush administration pushes for fast track,? IN THESE TIMES, Vol. 25, No. 26, Oct. 26, 2001.
?BC Considers Putting Treaty Process to a Vote,? NATIVE AMERICAS, Vol. 18, No. 2, Summer 2001.
?Granny B: British Columbia Green Party candidate Betty Krawczyk,? IN THESE TIMES, July 9, 2001.
??Free? no more: activist Jeffrey Luers,? IN THESE TIMES, August 6, 2001.
?What goes around: an interview with Chalmers Johnson,? IN THESE TIMES, October 29, 2001.

"Bring the Family to Connelly Creek Nature Area," Bellingham Herald, Feb. 19, 2004.
Trail Report: Shadow of the Sentinels, Bellingham Herald, Feb. 5, 2004.
"A Walk to Racehorse Falls," Bellingham Herald, Jan. 23, 2004.
"Railroad Trail Passes By Scudder Pond," Bellingham Herald, Dec. 25, 2003.
Fall Hikers View Migrating [Mountain Goat] Herds," Bellingham Herald, Nov. 5, 2003.
"Catch the Colors at Chain Lakes," Bellingham Herald, Oct. 30, 2003.
"Break a Sweat on Pine, Cedar Lakes Trail," Bellingham Herald, Oct. 11, 2003.
"Panoramic view; Trail's summit reveals Mounts Baker, Shuksan," Bellingham Herald, Sept 25, 2003.
"High divide; Trail features great views," Bellingham Herald, Sept 22, 2003.

"A word with writer Russell Banks," Bellingham Herald, Oct. 11, 2003.
"The Weakerthans Grow Strong," Z Magazine, Dec. 2003.

"Prayer at the Tomb of My Wife's Grandfather," Arbutus, Summer 2003.
"Memory," Arbutus, Summer 2003.

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Saturday, February 14, 2004
MBSBL Update: I'll have a larger mid-draft recap tomorrow, since we're nearly through round 12, but I just wanted to throw out a brief note about my latest pick, Jason Phillips. Not really a sexy pick, but it fills my last glaring need and frees me up to focus on pitching the next time around.

Basically, I took Phillips because:

*He's got a significantly better EqA (.287) than the next-best catcher (Matt LeCroy at .281) and is a better defensive player to boot.

*Gabe at The Safe also needs a catcher, and has two picks before I select again. I was pretty sure if I didn't snag Phillips now, Gabe would.

*I have a list of seven pitchers I'd be pretty pleased with, and I pick again in -- coincidence of coincidences -- seven picks.

Thought about taking LeCroy, who mashes lefties to the tune of an .874 OPS, with an eye to a catching platoon -- but with Lieberthal and Pierzynski gone, it's not all clear I'd have a righty-mashing catcher to pair him up with. Plus, EqA seems to think that LeCroy's been helped out considerably by the HomerDome.

Thus, I fill out my lineup card with Phillips, and wait to take a pitcher in lucky round 13. I consider this a Perfectly Serviceable Pick: I'm not thrilled with it, 'cause Phillips isn't overly impressive, but the fact that he's not a wretched out machine was enough at this point.
posted by Jeff link 8:26 PM [edit]

Friday, February 13, 2004

MBSBL Update, Or, "Who-se Acevedo"?: I feel a little dirty about this. But I've been thinking about doing it ever since Sodo Oh No took Wilson Alvarez. And if I don't take a flyer on this guy, somebody will, so now's the time.

And with that, I offer: The Top Ten Reasons I Took Jose Acevedo in Round 11 (alternating truth with whimsy):

10. Player performance is based on 2003 statistics. There are about 50 players left I'd love to have as a fourth or fifth starter -- but where else are you going to find a starter with a 2.67 ERA, .85 WHIP, and .599 OPS against at this point in the draft?

9. I got him confused with Juan Acevedo, my second cousin twice removed on his mother's side.

8. The fine fellows at Sodo Oh No know more about the way Diamond Mind works than anybody, and they took Wilson Alvarez two rounds ago. If the small sample size isn't too big a worry for them, it's not too big a worry for me. Granted, Alvarez made 12 starts to Acevedo's four -- but the risk of a bust is far outweighed by the potential reward, I think. If Acevedo falters, I can make up for it with two solid starters later in the draft. If he rocks, I've got a steal.

7. Three words: Friday Beer Buzz.

6. Onesixteeners' pick of Mike Piazza pretty much ensures me of an out machine at catcher, so there's no real advantage to picking one here. That leaves relievers and starters as my needs, and relievers are generally less valuable. They pitch less innings, and there are lots of quality relievers still out there.

5. Was going to pick the first starting pitcher I saw in the alphabetical list, but shrieked when I saw "Paul Abbott," and picked the name right below his.

4. Soon, someone is going to take a chance on the three small-sample-size potential studs -- and Acevedo is a fair bit better statistically than either Tony Armas (five starts) or Edwin Jackson (three). Acevedo and Armas are close in ERA, but Acevedo clearly beats him in OPS against and strikeouts per nine innings -- and blows him away in WHIP. I think Armas will make a sweet pickup for someone, since his peripherals are still very good. Jackson I'd shy away from, given that his mediocre WHIP and favorable home ballpark could combine with the sketchy sample size for some nasty surprises.

3. Got bored waiting to make the pick. Nodded off. Face fell into keyboard. Woke up with Jose Acevedo.

2. No guts, no glory. Every successful draft requires a calculated risk or two, and this was mine. I asked myself, "How upset will you be if he's not available on the flip side?" The answer was "Almost as bitter as I was after the Colbrunn trade," so I had to pull the trigger.

1. I can always trade him to Mariner Optimist after Corey finishes the draft with 25 position players.
posted by Jeff link 3:57 PM [edit]

Kiss on the lips but no tongue: The Mariners are dominating the Aughts (or the Nils, or the Dicketies)! Only the A's have a winning percentage that equals theirs!

But, um, no World Series yet.

[In other news, I never thought Jayson Stark looked very good with the Jeff Kent pornstar mustache. Looking at the column mug, though, I'm thinking of starting an email campaign for him to grow it back.]

Uh oh: While researching my fantasy draft (I play in an AL-only league in addition to the MBSBL), I happened upon this tidbit from Seattle's own Brandon Funston. Scroll down to "Buyer Beware," the part where he gives three examples of players likely to disappoint.

All three listed for first base are Mariners. Ugh.

I like Terry Francona: Contrast the M's risk-averse strategy to Francona's choices. They won't give out four-year deals, but he'll risk his freakin' life to get a managerial job. He thought he was having a heart attack, but went to his Mariners interview anyway.
posted by Jeff link 10:39 AM [edit]

Good to know Laura Vecsey is still Seattle-centric: Her Baltimore Sun column on the blossoming steroid scandal opens with Ichiro ("Imagine. A league full of Ichiros. Baseball back to its small-ball roots.") and includes Jeff Cirillo as a centerpiece anecdote.

The bit about Cirillo includes a real bombshell. He blames the pressure of having to compete with juiced players for his struggles (which is no surprise, since he's already blamed Lou Piniella, Safeco Field, and Immanuel Goldstein, among other factors. What's a little shocking is this:

"Two years ago, Jeff Cirillo stood in the Mariners' clubhouse and made a telling admission about the pressure clean players face in the presence of a game altered by steroid use. Like Biggio, Cirillo is an average-size player. The difference was Cirillo was struggling.

"I told my wife I'm thinking about using steroids," Cirillo told me."

Several things spring to mind here, but for starters: Cirillo admits to a reporter he's thinking about breaking the rules? A reporter waits two years before printing it? Even if he's keeping his tongue in his cheek here -- and that doesn't seem to be the context according to this column -- doesn't Vecsey have to write it up as a "wow, look what honest players are under pressure to do" piece?

There's something you don't see every day: A Major League player serving jail time over a traffic offense. Milton Bradley gets three days.

posted by Jeff link 8:00 AM [edit]

Thursday, February 12, 2004

MBSBL Update: Call me a homer. Call me a sucker. Tell me I'm not a baseball purist 'cause of the DH-only thing. But don't tell me I had the chance to draft Edgar Martinez at the end of the tenth round and didn't.

Sure, I need pitching. Yup, Edgar doesn't own a glove. Indeed, he joins some teammates that might as well not own gloves. But I got Edgar Mister Freakin' Mariner Martinez.

Check that: I got a full season of injury-free Edgar Martinez. That's one reason I'm excited about this pick.

Another reason: Edgar was eighth in the American League in EqA last year -- and the only player in the top 20 left on the board (Brad Fullmer didn't have the plate appearances to qualify). There's only one top-20 National League player left on the board, Cliff Floyd, and Floyd is 18th in the NL with .309 rating. Edgar's .319 is dramatically better than that, and significantly better than even Chipper Jones' .314. That's just too much offensive punch to pass up at this point in the draft.

I just hope that Diamond Mind uses the same park effects calculations as the Prospectus does for these ratings. Even if they don't, hey -- I got Edgar Martinez.

Another reason I made this pick: all three teams that pick twice between now and my next turn have three starting pitchers, my biggest need. Two have a reliever, my other need. I'll bet you one of Bill Bavasi's kidneys that Cliff Floyd is gone by the time I select, but I'll almost certainly have a shot at a solid pitcher.

There's a tradeoff, of course. I was surprised when Mariners Weekly went for their fourth starter so early, and The Safe, Onesixteeners or What in the Name Of High School Football might surprise me again. Plus, this probably means I miss out on the burgeoning catcher run.

But the sun is out and I got Edgar Martinez. It's a good day.

Picks I've loved lately: Derrek Lee, The Safe. I explained here why I thought he was a great pick. Livan Hernandez, Onesixteeners. One of the top-notch hurlers as far as VORP is concerned. Chipper Jones, Fire Bavasi. Strongest offensive value at that point in the draft. Bobby Abreu, Mariner Optimist. Excellent all-around player.

A question mark: Corey Koskie, Mariner Optimist. Yes, he's clearly the best 3B available. But can he pitch? Plus, the Optimistic One will need a platoon mate for the Canadian sensation and his .636 OPS against lefties. C.C. Sabathia, Mariner Musings. Yes, Sabathia is more valuable according to VORP -- but Mark Redman is also lefthanded and has a better WHIP, better ERA, better strikeouts per nine innings, and better OPS against.

I'm not going to rate the teams' order of finish, but I will make some wisecracks about each of them and predict the next several picks:

What in the Name Of Bill Bavasi's Other Kidney, The One I Don't Sell:
Two predicted picks: Larry Walker is a big left-handed bat to fill that right field hole, and has shown he isn't afraid to draft Rockies. On the flip side, Orlando Cabrera. Needs a middle infielder, and Cabrera's got the highest OPS.
General comments: Where Dmitri Young ends up playing will determine a lot about this offense.
Two predicted picks: Carl Everett is nice value at center field. Opts for Mike Piazza on the way back around.
General comments: A truly fearsome top three for his starting rotation.
The Safe:
Two predicted picks: Needs two outfielders. Gets both with the sandwich pick, snagging Cliff Floyd and Jay Payton, who he considered last time.
General comments: One of two teams to have two lefty starters so far.
San Shin:
Predicted pick: Sonja Henie's out. We'll take Danny Noonan.
General comments: Hits and fields like a beer-league softball team.
Sodo Oh No:
Predicted pick: Matt Mantei. A flamethrower for the bullpen.
General comments: Excellent offense and two top-line starters so far.
Cracking the Safe:
Predicted pick: Rafael Furcal. Not sure if he's underappreciated, but got a hole to fill at second here.
General comments: Shaping up to be an exceptional defensive team, especially the outfield.
Mariner Optimist:
Predicted pick: Roger Clemens, but only because Brooks Kieschnick doesn't qualify for the league.
General comments: Thinking about putting Smoltz back in the rotation?
Mariner Musings:
Predicted pick: Mike Piazza. Completes the catcher run.
General comments: Mulder and Sabathia from the left side, Wood from the right is impressive.
Mariners Weekly:
Predicted pick: Angel Berroa. The best available shortstop, offensively and defensively. Which says a lot.
General comments: Best rotation in the league no matter what happens. Andruw will have to be fast to run down balls between Man Ram and Juan Gone.
Fire Bavasi:
Predicted pick: Steve Finley. Needs a CF and someone to mash righties.
General comments: Very young, strong pitching; interesting to see how offense shapes up.
posted by Jeff link 3:41 PM [edit]

The leather, linseed-oil-covered gauntlet has been thrown down: When David at USS Mariner challenged "those who pride themselves on being optimistic" to think of a worse general manager than Bill Bavasi, it seemed like a call-out of your friend on mine, the Mariner Optimist. Sho nuff, Corey responded with a post that's equal parts thoughtful and rose-colored.

In large measure, though, the two posts pass each other like two ships in the night, and I think that's largely because of definitions. "Worse" is a value-laden term, given to subjective definition. Is winning a World Series and then stinking for four years worse than always being out in the first round of the playoffs? It depends on personal taste. As the saying goes, that's why they make chocolate and vanilla -- because you like crappy ice cream.

Let me pose the question in a different way: Is there a GM in the big leagues that has done as poor a job as Bavasi, relative to the resources they've been given to work with? This is the larger issue for me and, I suspect, for most M's fans. And I don't think there's really any question that there isn't one.

[Maybe if Steve Phillips still had a job. But he doesn't, and in three years, neither will Bavasi.]

The Optimist takes on the notion that the Mariners are cheap, and I think he's right that they aren't. According to Dugout Dollars, only four teams have a higher payroll than the M's this year. That is the widespread perception, though: Just ask Jim Caple, who gets a shot in as part of a totally unrelated column.

Like many things that aren't precisely true, this viewpoint has considerable basis in reality. Howard Lincoln and Pat Gillick did say a few years back that their goal was to build a club that contends every year, lending credence to the "they won't go for it" school of thought. There have been consistent failures to make meaningful moves at the deadline, bolstering that argument further.

If you asked Gillick or Lincoln, though -- even with no microphones around -- I think they'd be honestly mystified about why people think they aren't trying to win the World Series. Their organizational philosophy seems to be composed of two central tenets: 1. Spread the money around on a host of good players, as opposed to a few exceptional players; and 2. Don't break the bank in any given year, because being a good team every year gives you the best chance to break through and win the big one at some point.

This even makes sense intuitively (though someone should study its empirical success rate): A balanced lineup full of quality hitters and a solid pitching rotation gives you a chance to win every year. If you think about it, this isn't even all that different from the Beane-inspired sabermetric mantra of "the playoffs are based on luck -- we try to get there and see what happens." The reason I'm so vexed with M's ownwership and Bavasi isn't because they won't spend money. How many teams would kill for a payroll north of $90 million?

What you can say is that they don't get value for their money, that they're penny-wise and pound foolish. And that's even more frustrating. Oakland has a little more than half our payroll. Oakland might well beat us again this year. That stings.

True, general managers other than Bavasi do stupid things -- but when you look at what he could have done with the resources at his disposal, it's all the more galling. There's a reason John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: 'what might have been.'"

True, one could interpret this year's moves as lateral moves -- but making this team older and more expensive while killing the bench doesn't bode well for any year after this.

I'm an optimist at heart, too. I had the highest of hopes entering this offseason, and think a lot of other fans did as well. But Bavasi took the blimp of rising expectations and set it on fire like the Hindenburg. That's why people are -- rightfully -- throwing stones his direction.
posted by Jeff link 10:48 AM [edit]

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

A good sign that maybe you should try a different game: When one of your new bosses busts on you before you've even suited up.

That's what M's infield coach Dave Myers did to Ramon Santiago in one of the pablum preview stories ran about the Mariners. Even more damning for Santiago, the context of the quote was basically "he isn't as good a hitter as Willie Bloomquist." Here, check it:

"Willie [Bloomquist] proved last year that he can play at the Major League level," Myers said. "He is probably the clubhouse leader right now in backing up third base and shortstop. The Santiago kid can catch, throw and run pretty well but doesn't hit much, so I'm not sure where he fits in."

Reaction the first: Willie proved he can -- do what now? If we creatively parse that as "proved he can stay in the clubhouse," then all right.

Reaction the second: When you're the lone guy that gets a shot taken at him in a piece this fluffy, you're in trouble. I mean, read the thing. Myers is quoted 11 times in this story (Note to Jim Street: One source? Way to pound the beat for a well-sourced 15 inches, buddy!). Of those quotes, 10 are completely positive.

Nine of those are the type of utterly glowing nonsense we expect out of coaches this time of year. Many of them are totally hilarious stretches in logic, too, like comparing Scott Spiezio's defense at third base favorably to offensively-challenged Jeff Cirillo. That's to be expected, and is even a bit admirable -- if you're a coach, you build up the guys on your team.

But the one time he talks about Santiago, to his credit, he speaks the utter truth. Santiago can't hit.

Sidenote: Isn't this an oblique way of saying "Bill Bavasi traded Carlos for nothing"?
posted by Jeff link 8:02 PM [edit]

Obligatory Yankee-bashing: Apparently the Yankees are close to signing Travis Lee. At $2 million, he'll be a pretty expensive defensive replacement.

This suggests one potentially significant thing to me: The Yankees must be much more concerned about Jason Giambi's knee than we've previously been led to believe. They already have Tony Clark under contract, and now they need a third guy? I'm sure Red Sox fans and Yankee haters (like, well, me) are salivating at the prospect of a Clark-Lee platoon.

Irresponsible speculation and groundless, unfounded optimism department: Okay, let's take the Mariners' funky math at its word. We got $9.5 million when Sasaki headed home (Nihon ni Sasaki-san wa kaerimashita). Allegedly, the M's were $1 million over budget, so we've got $8.5 million left. If we let the Mariners get away with the fiction that they've always counted contract buyouts for next year against the current year's budget, Kazu's $1 million payoff and potential $500,000 in incentives bring us down to $7 million. That's the story Finnigan was telling for the Mariners initially, anyway.

That story also mentions plans to keep a $2 million buffer for potential in-season acquisitions. That's important for two reasons: one, it gets us down to $5 million for "now" acquisitions, and another reason I'll discuss in a second.

We have to count Ron Villone at $2 million. I'm assuming he'll make the roster for the first million, and whether he qualifies for incentives or not, the M's will say they have to budget for that.

Now, it gets a little sticky. Adding Terry Mulholland and Eric Owens may cost up to an extra $1.475 million in salary and bonuses. It's difficult to prognosticate at this point whether they'll stick, but let's be conservative and assume they will.

Doesn't this scenario mean we'll have at least $3.525 million budgeted for in-season acquisitions? And isn't that (gulp) good news?

Remember, these numbers are as conservative as we can possibly get. We've given the M's the benefit of the doubt on their creative accounting; we've assumed that Villone, Mulholland and Owens will all make the team (shudder), that they'll qualify for their bonuses, or that they won't, but the Mariners will use those bonuses to massage the numbers; we've taken the numbers from Bavasi's lips to Finnigan's pen to our eyes and ears.

Now, consider that a mid-season acquisition cuts the salary bill in half. Think about players likely to be available at the trade deadline: Carlos Beltran ($9 million), Geoff Jenkins ($8.25 million), J.D. Drew ($4.2 million) and others we can't foresee. All of these players are in the last year of their contracts; all of them were identified by Larry Stone as potential trade matches. Though that three-and-a-half million isn't likely to stretch enough to acquire Magglio Ordonez and his $14 million deal, it's definitely enough to get a bat like Drew's and almost certainly enough to get Jenkins. Also, consider the pressure the Mariners will be under from the fanbase this year: After years of grumbling about trade deadline failures, we get the Sasaki windfall -- and nothing to show for it? There will be substantial pro-trade sentiment in the community.

Of course, things can happen. The Mariners could be out of the race by then. We could sign Andres Galarraga to a $3 million deal tomorrow.

But I want to feel optimistic on this sunny Washington day, so forget those potentialities for a minute; forget even whether you have any confidence in Bavasi to use that money wisely.

We're going to have at least a shot at adding a player this year. It could be better. But it could be a lot worse.
posted by Jeff link 2:18 PM [edit]

MBSBL Update: I really wanted Derrek Lee with my round nine pick, but The Safe beat me to it. Oh well. One reason I took Zito is that I figured a solid starting first baseman would be available on the come-around. There are only three first basemen left that you wouldn't want to platoon -- Jeff Bagwell, Nick Johnson and Mike Sweeney -- so I wanted to get one of those if Lee was taken.

Sweeney is a notch down from the other two in my eyes, since back problems sapped a bit of his power last year. Why Johnson and not Bagwell? Three main reasons. He's lefthanded, and I'd like to have another lefty stick in my lineup to guard against situational lefties. Along the same lines, first basemen that mash lefties are still readily available, while Johnson is the only one available with an OPS of more than .900 against righthanders. Finally, both Sweeney and Bagwell seem to have profited from their home parks more than Johnson. Nick's EqA is a phenomenal .318, significantly better than Bagwell's .297 (or Lee's .307, for that matter -- but Lee's fielding and basestealing ability were enough for me to lean toward taking him).

I still need a catcher, a DH, and pitching. My next two selections will probably be the best available hitter (for the DH spot) and the best available starter (to fill the #3 hole).

Taking a cue from the Mariner Optimist, I'll try my hand at prognosticating the remaining Round Nine picks.

Sodo Oh No: Hideo Nomo. They need a #2 starter to follow Schilling, and Nomo's my top-rated starter left.
Cracking The Safe: Rafael Furcal. The best available second baseman.
Mariner Optimist: It is pretty staggering that Chipper Jones is still available. He won't be after this.
Mariners Musings: Needs a shortstop. Orlando Cabrera only one left with OPS over .800.
MarinersWeekly: Has a great pitching staff; time to take the top position player. I want Larry Walker, so he'll probably take him.
Fire Bavasi.: With holes at 1B and the outfield, snags Jeff Bagwell and Cliff Floyd with the sandwich pick.

Okay, I'm having fun doing this. Let's take it through the first part of round 10, until my next pick.

MarinersWeekly: Bob Abreu. Solid all-around player fills multiple needs. Might take Edgar, but Edgar doesn't own a glove.
Mariners Musings: Needs: catcher and reliever. Considers Mike Piazza, takes Mariano Rivera.
Mariner Optimist: Finally scores a starting pitcher with Carlos Zambrano.
Cracking The Safe: Continues the all-underrated theme by taking Corey Koskie, shifting Huff to RF.
Sodo Oh No: Mike Piazza. The Mariner Optimist says they want him, and who am I to argue?
posted by Jeff link 9:31 AM [edit]

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Another Werewolf?: David Andriesen's story today sets up like a predictably boring "welcome Ron Villone to town" P.R. stooge piece. It takes two twists, though.

First, Andriesen reports an inconvenient fact that your Loyal M's Blogosphere has been trumpeting: Villone can't get lefties out. Last year, lefties hit 11 homers against him in 101 at-bats. Gulp.

Second, for all those of you who loved singing along to Warren Zevon when Raul Ibanez strode to the plate, Andriesen has more news -- we're pursuing another Raul, Raul Mondesi.

This would be an unusual move for the Mariners because Mondesi is a well-known malcontent as opposed to the nice-guy, baby-kissing, double major in philosophy and art types they like to bring in.

But is it a good idea? Probably not. Mondy's agent has already said that he'd expect to start, and the only real value he'd have for us is if he came off the bench. He would solidify that bench if he would accept such a role, and that would make sense at the right price -- but if you think Raul Mondesi is willing to be a bench player, or that Bavasi would be able to sign him to a reasonable contract, I have a G.M.'s kidney to sell you.

What about Mondesi in the starting lineup? The player he'd replace would be Ibanez, and frankly, I'm not convinced that Mondesi is a better player. Last year was the first in the past three seasons where his OPS has crested .800, and Ibanez' past three years (during the Ibanez Renaissance) compare favorably. Mondesi will take a walk, and that's good, but I'm afraid his power is in decline. The Other Raul's even a year older than Ibanez, which is probably why they're considering him: If you can't get the "leadership," then get the "veteran" part.

A platoon might make sense. While Mondesi hits lefties and righties equally well, Ibanez can't hit lefties at all. Again, though: Would Mondy accept this role? Wouldn't Safeco cripple a righty stick like Mondesi's? Wouldn't Bavasi overpay for this type of production? And wouldn't this be another nail in the coffin of a midseason move?

Mondesi would be a valuable player in the right circumstances. But I can't see either him or our G.M. making those right circumstances happen.
posted by Jeff link 7:51 AM [edit]

Monday, February 09, 2004

MBSBL Update: I really thought I'd be taking a starting pitcher with my round seven pick. I had a list of four that I would have been happy with, and I was ready to pull the trigger on one of them.

But then I looked at Mike Lowell. And then I looked at every third baseman left other than Mike Lowell.

At first, Lowell's advantage in OPS over the next-best player doesn't seem so steep: .880 to Alex Cintron's .848. But park effects really did a number on Lowell, says the Baseball Prospectus' EqA rating. He's just slightly below Morgan Ensberg in that regard (.300 to .299), and Cintron's way down there at .280. Plus -- and this is what really sealed the deal -- Lowell's the only 3B left without a very significant dropoff in his splits. Corey Koskie is the next-best player, and his OPS against lefties is a miserable .636. If I waited, I'd almost certainly have to work a third base platoon, something I didn't want to risk.

There was risk here in waiting, too -- my offense is looking pretty sweet already, and I only had one pitcher. But I figured I'd rather take a chance on one of those four pitchers being available than end up with Aaron Boone pre-ACL tear.

As it turned out, the risk kind of paid off. Only the fourth pitcher on my list, Barry Zito, was available when the draft snaked back to me. In a probably fortunate event, Cracking the Safe drafted Richie Sexson, the best offensive player available, before I could be tempted to draft him for my first base slot. [The Mariner Optimist was right again about a player I had my eye on.] If I had taken him, I would have titled this post, "OK, I'm just trying to outscore you."

Here's where I have a bit of uncertainty about how Diamond Mind will play out: Does it have its Voros McCracken Engine enabled? Does it go strictly off ERA, or does it pay attention to other indicator stats? I decided the best course of action was to pay attention to the biggies (ERA, WHIP) and also consider peripheral stats, especially OPS against.

Regarding Zito, some folks have concerns about his drop-off in certain peripherals (his strikeout rate, one of the factors I looked at, dipped to 5.7/9 innings last year). But his WHIP is as good or better than any starter left; his ERA stacks up well; and hitters only achieved a .616 OPS against him last year, which sealed the deal for me. That's fifty points lower than any other pitcher I would consider here (Joel Pineiro's OPS against is .667; Mark Redman's is .660), and most others are significantly higher than even those two. True, Zito made half his starts in a pitchers' park -- but so did Pineiro and Redman. The WHIP and OPS against numbers tell me Barry's the best available pitcher.

Plus, he's lefthanded, so now I don't have to draft Ron Villone in the later rounds.

Picks I love, round seven: Milton Bradley, Cracking the Safe. I took Brian Giles in round four to play centerfield. Milt Bradley was the next on my list. Very good OPS, superb EqA, and plays great defense. This is a steal. Jason Giambi, Sodo Oh No. Frank Thomas went in round four: Giambi is, in my mind, on a par with him. I've also gotta give props to the teams who took the pitchers I wanted: Kerry Wood, Mariner Musings; and Roy Oswalt, Mariners Weekly.

Super sleeper alert: OK, it's not accurate to call Rafael Soriano a "sleeper." We all know who he is, and we all know how good he is. But Gabe at The Safe may have pulled off a coup by picking him here.

The only reason I don't list this under "picks I love" is that we don't know how Soriano's eye-popping numbers will translate into Diamond Mind production if Gabe sticks him in the rotation. (Can he even do that if Raffy's listed as a reliever under "roles"?) I suspect they'll turn out pretty freakin' good, though, and I suspect I'll regret not picking him myself.

A question mark: Jason Varitek, Fire Bavasi. Gotta pick a catcher sometime, I guess, and Varitek is arguably the best one available. But is he that much better than the eight other catchers left with an OPS above .800?

Picks I love, round eight: (So far) Another pitcher I wanted: Brandon Webb, Fire Bavasi. With the first pick of round eight, Webb is an especially sweet pick: hitters had a .601 OPS against him last year. Six-oh-one! The Mariner Optimist scores with Matt Stairs and his .950 OPS. Cracking the Safe gets another steal with Sexson.

Another update after round eight finishes and I make my round nine pick ...
posted by Jeff link 7:55 PM [edit]

Good news, bad news department: It appears I and others jumped the gun in one sense when we ripped the Villone signing. The AP is reporting (skip down to the sixth 'graph) that Villone's base salary is not guaranteed.

If this is the case, the signing is slightly less awful than it first appeared. At least the M's could theoretically cut Villone loose with no repercussions if he flames out in spring training.

On the other hand, it's highly unusualy for a major-league contract to be non-guaranteed. The union usually screams bloody murder about that, and with good reason. I have no reason to doubt this report, but it seems unusual.

Also, it calls into question exactly what the other million bucks in "performance incentives" (beyond the apparently non-guaranteed million in base salary) entail: I just wrote some rhetorical questions about what performance incentives you would give an extra lefty in the bullpen. The non-guaranteed bit casts a further pall of weirdness over this whole scenario: Does he get the extra million if he gets saves? Makes starts? Or does he get it if he (gulp) makes the opening day roster?

I hope and pray that the latter isn't the case. But you never know.

The part of this that is definitely bad news is the bit where Bob Melvin says that Villone "gives us some security as far as out starting goes." Jason Barker has already pointed out why this is a bad idea. I'll just add that now we have two apparent spot starters (Villone and Kevin Jarvis) that have no business in such a role.

The silver lining? Villone is a lefty, so he and Jarvis can stink up the joint from whatever side of the plate is required. And to Villone's credit, he probably belongs on a major league roster, while Jarvis really doesn't.
posted by Jeff link 4:43 PM [edit]

Other than overpaying for easily replaceable talent -- something we've come to expect from Bavasi -- two things kill me about the Villone signing that I've got to get off my chest.

Here's what kills me, part one: pitchers and catcher report on Feb. 20. That's less than two weeks away.

Does it seem like any other team is interested in signing this guy? No? Then why commit to anything more than "come to spring training, and we'll see what happens" -- or at the very most, offer a minor league deal with the promise of an open spring competition? McLemore took one of those recently, as did David Wells.

Seems to me the only reason you'ld give him $1 million, plus another million in incentives is to be sure he signs. And you'd only do that if you were very sure he was a significant upgrade over your other options. If you aren't sure -- and the numbers don't seem to offer any reason to be -- then you don't offer this kind of deal. If he walks, you say "good luck to you," and invite Bobby Madritsch, Travis Blackley, Dan Plesac -- maybe even Terry Mulholland or Graeme Lloyd, if you want to get older as much as Bavasi does -- to join Mike Myers at spring training.

Or maybe there's another reason for this contract.

Here's what kills me, part two: If you don't want to hear some real Mariner cynicism, read no further.

Okay, everybody still with me? I am certain that we will hear this contract as justification for not making a major move at the deadline.

They'll treat the million dollars in incentives as money they're definitely committed to. They'll repeat the mantra that "if only Sasaki had told us earlier, we'd have been able to do something -- but we had to sign Villone to fill his spot!" In this fashion, the windfall of Sasaki's $9.5 million will have been totally reversed into a burden.

A caveat: I don't know what incentives they've set up for Villone. But I will say that, if he has a snowball's chance in the Texas League of reaching them, it's an even worse contract for the M's than I surmised. I'm assuming that isn't the case, and that there's no way he'll qualify for the bonus.

This might sound like a conspiracy theory, but giving a guy a million bucks in incentives that he won't likely reach seems like a way for the top brass to say "we have another million committed to Ron Villone" when justifying why they aren't making a trade at the deadline (again).
posted by Jeff link 4:09 PM [edit]

Once is an accident, twice is a trend: A bit ago, I quickly dismissed speculation from Scott Miller at Sportsline that Bob Melvin was on the hot seat this year. Now comes another story, this time from Dayn Perry of FoxSports, that rumbles in a similar fashion.

Miller's piece argued that the hiring of Paul Molitor (widely considered managerial material) was bad news for BoMel. This Perry piece claims (with no real evidence) that, as a new GM, Bavasi will likely want to bring in his own guy.

True, both of these pieces are just speculation. Also, the rationale of the two pieces for why Melvin could be in trouble are very different. Still, if you were Bob Melvin, would this help you sleep at night? An even scarier thought: What manager is Bavasi's type of guy? Speaking of which ...

Craptacular, underwhelming, and inevitable: Ron Villone is a Mariner. He has a left arm, so he must be good, right?

But here's the part that stings. Paying a guy who should merit a non-roster invitation to spring training $1 million is bad enough. Apparently, though, he can make an extra million in performance bonuses. What the incentive standards in his contract are isn't specified, and your guess is as good as mine. By what metrics does one evaluate the second lefty out of the bullpen? [For that matter, what second lefty merits a $2 million deal?]

Bavasi wasting money on bloated contracts for mediocre players that other teams don't want isn't news. What this suggests to me, though, is that he wants Villone to play a larger role in the pitching staff than we previously thought. And that makes me shudder.

posted by Jeff link 12:18 PM [edit]

Baseball in Portland watch: According to an Oregonian story, the TV package offered may determine whether major league baseball comes to Portland or northern Virginia.

As a Mariner fan who would also love to see baseball come to Portland, I'm interested in what the impact of an Oregon franshise would have on the M's. Specifically, I wonder if scare-tactic claims like the ones in this article are true: That is, that the Mariners would lose a ton of broadcast revenue and a ton of fans as a result of the new Portland franchise.

One source in the article claims that the M's would lose 800,000-one million viewing households, also taking hits in radio revenue.

Possibly. I don't know if I buy that the impact would be so extreme on the fanbase, though. For one thing, the Portland team would be a National League team, and the article implies that a lot of the broadcast territory would be shared. Hardcore fans will always want to watch the other league's stars play, and if there isn't too much "exclusive-access" language in the deal, the M's won't get nailed too badly from that.

The real impact, it seems to me, is that Portland-area fans wouldn't make the occasional trip north to see the Mariners, instead watching their new team -- and I can't imagine that would undercut the fan base or gate take in any real way.

Of course, there's an elephant in the room here. We really don't have much concrete information about Mariner finances -- how much revenue they generate from Asia, for example, and other basic facts about what the balance sheet really looks like -- so it's hard for an outside observer to really quantify how much of a problem the lost TV money would be.

Additionally, I think this hints at a source of fanbase frustration -- the Mariners are a high-revenue team now, and most people understand that. When people see Oakland beating us with half our payroll, that highlights how the offices at Royal Brougham manage to do a little with a lot. The party line has been the Mariners like to spread dollars around on a lot of good players rather than getting one exceptional, exceptionally expensive player and surrounding him with below-average talent. If this were actually what was happening, I'd have no problem with that: I like the idea of a balanced team.

Instead, though, you have a very wealthy team that could compete for the Vlad Guerreros of the world pleading poverty while they overpay for the Scott Spiezios on the market. Every Raul Ibanez contract we give out just serves to emphasize this.

Also: If you haven't already, do check out Nathan Fox's interview with Theo Epstein (part one) over at the Baseball Prospectus. What I know of Epstein I like a lot, and he comes off very well here. I especially appreciate that he acknowledges getting his job -- in addition to hard work and brainpower -- in part through "the sort of horses*** Ivy League connection that you're supposed to feel guilty about."
posted by Jeff link 11:36 AM [edit]