Props: Special thanks to Steve at Mariners Wheelhouse for fixing my permalinks. It is much appreciated. For those tens of you frustrated by the non-working links, we've got Steve to thank: the permalinks now work. Boom.
Weekend dog bloggin':
Just to see if this works, here's a couple of shots of my faithful hound, Russell, my constant companion on hikes in Bellingham in sun and in snow:
But being the lazy land seal that he is, that's the most important part of his job.
Fool me five times in five years, shame on me: Chris Snelling broke his hamate bone today. He'll miss a month or two. It's his fifth major injury in five years.
I don't know much about the hamate except for the effect its removal had on Jay Gibbons, a mainstay of my fantasy teams. It didn't have significant lingering impacts, but did herald some regression in his power last year. From what I've read, that's a one-year thing: i.e., he's likely to be at full strength in 2005. That makes me think Jason of the mighty USS Mariner's take is probably right on.
Jenkins watch: Geoff Jenkins has set a March 4 deadline for contract talks with the Brewers, the topic of a column by Michael Hunt of the Milwaukie Journal-Sentinel. If they can't get a deal done, writes Hunt, Jenkins will almost certainly be traded. Jerry Crasnick, ESPN's MLB Insider, supports this claim as well [for subscribers only], so we may know by next week if Olympia's Own Geoff Jenkins is on the market. Here's why (and under what circumstances) I think a deal for Jenkins makes sense for the Mariners.
There's more: In an on-line chat, Hunt explained why he thinks the Beer Makers will (and should) trade their talented lefty slugger away. So you don't have to scroll through all the extraneous Brewer info, here are the two excerpts on that score:
Q: Brian of Baltimore - Hey, Mike: Jenkins strikes me as begging to be traded, because there is no way he gets a raise over $8 mil and a four year deal from the Brewers. (I don't think the fans would be too upset with his departure, either. Sexson was the big one.) Without diminishing his value, I see him as the Brewers' Tim Thomas, it's unlikely that he's the guy to carry this team to .500, let alone the post-season. Would it be more advantageous to peddle him now, or at the deadline? What might his services rendered elsewhere bring the Brewers?
A: Michael Hunt - I agree, Brian, that the posturing seems to point toward Jenkins testing free agency. I also agree that the Brewers would be better off trading him. It only makes sense for the direction of the franchise. Why pay one guy a quarter of the payroll when the future is with the farm system?
Q: Jim Haas of Kenosha - What are your feelings on the Brewers efforts resign Geoff Jenkins?
A: Michael Hunt - That was the topic of my column today, Jim. I don't see an agreement; therefore, the Brewers should look to get something for him before losing him without compensation at the end of the season.
Hey, the 'blog description says Mariners, writing and politics, so let's see if we can hit the rare trifecta.
Tanned, rested, and ready, it's Muhammad Cirillo: You know spring training has begun in earnest when the "he's in the best shape of his life!" stories start to proliferate. So thanks, Jim Moore, for continuing this annual rite:
Reporting to the Padres, [Jeff] Cirillo said it feels natural to be in the San Diego clubhouse, located at the same complex with the Mariners. "My objective is to play, and play well," he said. "I'm just glad to have a fresh start. As much as the Mariners needed it, I needed it." Cirillo looks ready to go, building upper body strength by boxing in the off-season ...
Rumors that Cirillo swung and missed the heavy bag eight out of ten times are unsubstantiated.
In other news, Moore dutifully quotes Ron Villone as saying that he is "a more experienced and better pitcher" than he used to be. Gee, Ron, are you sure you're willing to go on the record with that?
I can assure you, Senator McCarthy, that I love America: I disagree with Andrew Sullivan about a great many things, but appreciate his independence and forthrightness. Something like this, though, makes the eyes roll so fast my head sounds like a slot machine:
Question: What do you think of the Left's behaviour in all of this, especially since 9/11? What explains the psychology of people in the West who hope for the victory of Hitlerian figures like bin Laden and Hussein over the United States and the freedom and prosperity it represents?
Sullivan: I despair. For me, it revealed that the primary motivation of the far Left is hatred of the United States. And the soft Left is too cowardly in many instances to expose and oppose this.
We have an early clubhouse leader for "most asinine question-and-response grouping of the year."
It's one thing to smear people that disagree with you by saying they "hate America"; it's still bogus demagoguery, but thankfully, freedom of speech preserves even stupid speech like that. To say something so demonstrably false, though, is offensive, divisive, and counterproductive.
Really, are there any "people in the West" who "hope[d] for the victory" of bin Laden and Hussein? If there are, they sure aren't members of "the left," hard or soft. We tend to be the first to criticize theocratic fascists like bin Laden and vile dictators like Saddam. The left and the right may disagree on how to deal with those threats, but that's a separate issue; no war opponents I know were rooting for Saddam Hussein in the Iraq conflict. I suspect that no "leftists" Sullivan could point to were either.
Quick distinction: Personally, I think the current President is more concerned with punishing his political enemies than with keeping America safe. I think, as criticism of his focus and policy choices, that's fair game to say. If I were to say, though, that the President is intentionally subverting America's security out of contempt for America, that would be, well, crazy. If I were to say such a thing, I'd be (rightly) bashed from all sides. Yet the converse passes without comment, let alone condemnation, when it goes the other way. It ought not.
Equal parts useful and amusing: As a freelance writer, the stories I choose don't automatically find a market: I have to "pitch" them to publications. This is a great resource a friend just sent me that includes tips from editors of certain publications about how to craft such pitches.
The content requires a $49 subscription, because this type of information is often very valuable -- but the free teaser descriptions of some magazines are hilarious, reminding me of Robert Burns' line about the ability to see ourselves as others see us. For example:
Details: This ain't no "lad mag." It's a serious publication for serious young men; a younger version of Esquire or GQ.
The "ain't no" shows us their gritty toughness; and in case you didn't know, they're very, very serious.
FHM: Editor Ed Needham is off to Rolling Stone, but this leading lad mag continues its winning sex/humor formula.
Though hopefully the sex and humor don't happen at the same time.
Reader's Digest: With a new editorial team, including veterans of People, Maxim, and George, your grandmother's magazine is spiffing itself up—and still paying top dollar.
Veterans of People, Maxim, and George. Working together at Reader's Digest. The more I read that, the more it looks like the plot of a reality TV show. Bring in someone from National Review and someone from Ms., and it's an "Odd Couple" for the 'aughts.
YM: Obsessed with boys, stars, and style? If you think like a teen girl, maybe you should be writing for them.
Is this a backhanded compliment for some writer or the most accurate possible assessment of the magazine?
More Buck O'Neill: Reading that interview with Buck made me want to hear more from him, so I did some searches and came across Love of the Game Productions, a site which includes a 'blog and interviews by Bay Area sports broadcaster Marty Lurie.
I'm also looking forwarding to listening to Happy Chandler, Rachel (widow of Jackie) Robinson, Larry Doby, Rod Carew -- and a "This Day In Baseball History" with your friend and mine, Jamie Moyer.
posted by Jefflink 8:50 AM 
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Old School: I found this excellent interview with Buck O'Neill via Ahoy. Fantastic stuff, and I was pleased to see him name-drop Willie Wells of the Newark Eagles as a comparable player to Alex Rodriguez. On a day that I'm rockin' the Newark Eagles lid, no less! Buck is one of the epic figures in the game's history, and a great ambassador. Read this and tell me he shouldn't be made commissioner of baseball tomorrow.
[While I'm thinking about it, the Cooperstown Ballcap Company rocks for classic hats. Check out their factory seconds for some great deals.]
How much is your sense of smell worth?: The Yankee bullpen brawl with a Red Sox groundskeeper might have left a bad taste in your mouth, but it didn't do much for one of this guy's senses.
The Fenway Park groundskeeper who was involved in a bullpen brawl with two former New York Yankees has sued the players for more than $33,000 for medical bills, lost wages and his sense of smell.
If I could no longer smell baking bread, a perfectly-poured Guinness or hibiscus flowers after a warm rain, I'd be after a lot more than 30 large. Of course, it'd be a lot easier to stomach the morning-after-bar smell of stale beer and cigarettes. Wouldn't miss that.
MBSBL Update: I added Chris Capuano (lefty specialist) and Moises Alou (right-handed bench bat) to my squad. Analysis here. I'll ound out my team with one final pick later today.
posted by Jefflink 11:40 AM 
Just kidding. And Corey, don't move me out of "wanna-be optimists" just yet. Pete, awash in the glee of newfound spring, thinks the M's are the team to beat in the AL West in 2004. The fact is, he might be right. I don't think he is, really, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Mariners won the west this year. That's the good news.
On paper, the Angels are the best team in the division. They dramatically improved themselves with a spending spree, acquiring the best available free agent. But if you go position by position, including the rotation, things start to look up. Their bullpen should be better than ours; our starters should be better than theirs. Their outfield should be better than our outfield; our infield will likely be better than their infield.
If things go right for the M's -- if Edgar stays reasonably healthy, and players meet or exceed expectations -- I wouldn't be shocked to see the M's beat both the A's the Angels and win the division. That's not even considering that things could go wrong for the other teams (Vlad's back injury, which could really cramp the Halos' chances if it flares up; the question mark that is Bobby Crosby replacing Miguel Tejada, and the total uncertainty of Jermaine Dye bouncing back for the A's).
When you have a payroll as high as the Mariners do, you can make up for a lot of mistakes. We aren't the Yankees, but we aren't the Royals, either. That's the positive side.
This is where the ominous music kicks in.
Bavasi's moves this off-season, I believe, will really start to cause problems next year. Granted, it's a little early for you and me to be getting concerned about 2005 -- let's enjoy 2004 first -- but look at the following as if you were an executive in the Mariners' front office.
Here are the players under contract for 2005, their salaries and ages as of opening day next year (with thanks to Dugout Dollars):
Bret Boone, $9 million*, 36
Wiki Gonzalez, $2.25 million, 30
Ryan Franklin, $2.40 million, 32
Eddie Guardado, $4.5-6 million*, 34
Shigetoshi Hasegawa, $2.98 million, 36
Raul Ibanez, $3.75 million, 32
Kevin Jarvis, $.50-$5.25 million*, 35
Jamie Moyer, $1.5-7.5 million*, 42
Joel Pineiro, $5.25 million, 26
Scott Spiezio, $3.10 million, 32
Ichiro, $10.5 million, 31
Randy Winn, $3.75 million, 30
*Boone's contract vests at $9 million if he makes 450 plate appearances in 2004; Guardado's has closer incentives that it looks like he'll reach now; Jarvis has a $500,000 buyout that they'll almost certainly take; and Moyer has games-started bonuses that there's no reason to assume he'll miss out on.
All told, that's at least $49.48 million -- and perhaps as much as much as $61.13 million -- for between 10 and 12 roster spots. I say "between 10 and 12" because I'm assuming that Boone's contract will vest, and that they'll buy out Jarvis' deal while paying Wiki not to play. Of course, all of those things are subject to change.
That's a lot of money for about half a team, only one of whom (Pineiro) will be under 30.
Let's assume the most likely scenarios happen -- Boone comes back at $9 million, Jarvis and Wiki hit the bricks as sunk costs, and Moyer and Guardado get their incentives. That leaves us with 10 roster spots filled for $56.98 million.
The Mariners also have rights to three players (by my count) that will almost certainly be with us in 2005, but aren't under contract for that year: Willie Bloomquist, ($300,000 in 2003), Rafael Soriano ($300,000 in 2003) and Gil Meche ($1.95 million this year). Let's be super-conservative and assume very modest pay raises all around: I think $3 million total for these three players is a solid low-end figure. Call it $3.02 million so I can have a round number.
Upshot: That gives us 13 players for a cool $60 million. A little more than half the roster for not quite two-thirds of the budget. Gulp.
But wait, there's more: Almost all of these guys under contract are old guys, guys that we can probably expect to decline more than we can expect them to break out. Boone has been amazing, but he won't get better, and Moyer has to age sometime, doesn't he? Unless Spiezio becomes the next Bret Boone, these guys aren't getting better. We might see the Ichiro of 2001 again, but that's about it for improvement, I fear.
Of the young guys, it's possible Pineiro makes a leap, but it's hard to see how Soriano could get much better, and the chances of the farm system producing an explosive position player that Bavasi will give a shot seem slim. Justin Leone and Bucky Jacobsen aren't getting any shorter in the tooth themselves. Meche had a good year, but has also missed two seasons with arm injuries. I think expecting what we got last year is probably his ceiling, and I think there's a greater chance he'll go down for the year than the chance he gets better.
Now, all of this is quite speculative, for a lot of reasons -- we don't know if any trades will happen, we don't know what the free agent market will look like next year, and we don't know what Bavasi will do with the money he has available. I understand this. But consider two things:
First, if you look at this like you're an executive, how many of these players do you think have a chance to be worth more than you're paying them in 2005? For my money, there aren't any solid bets to do so except Rafael Soriano. There are three others where I wouldn't consider it a shock if they outperformed their dollar values: Boone, Pineiro, and Spiezio. Moyer is a possibility, I suppose, but I'd only bet on it if he failed to meet contract incentives next year and we got him on the cheap.
Second, Bavasi doesn't seem to have a track record of getting value at a reasonable price. This is not encouraging when he'll be tasked with spending about $3 million per player -- less than he paid Ibanez or Spiezio -- to fill out the roster.
So, to recap, here's what we know for sure:
*To start 2005, we'll probably have 13 major league spots filled for about $60 million, about two-thirds of the budget.
*Of the six hitters likely to return, only one, Bret Boone, either had an OPS above .800 or hit more than 20 home runs. To be fair, Ibanez did have a .799 OPS -- but that was in hitter-heaven Kansas City.
*Only four of the players coming back are under 30; only three of those (Pineiro, Soriano, Meche) can be expected to play roles of any significance; and one of those three has a history of season-ending surgery.
* If the M's stick to their self-imposed payroll, they'll spend an average of about $3 million per player to fill the remaining holes -- less than Bavasi paid either Spiezio or Ibanez. Given the Mariners' penchant for not pursuing top-tier free agents, this probably means acquiring 7-8 players in the $3-4 million range (Ibanez/Spiezio money) and the remainder in the $1-$2 million range (McCracken money).
For perspective, adding an impact bat (which I'd think the lineup would need) would almost certainly have a price tag in the $10 million range -- just under one-third of the remaining payroll budget -- and Bavasi isn't likely to do that. Even if he chose to splurge, that would leave $20-25 million to sign 10-11 players. Again, gulp.
Bottom Line: I think the bad contracts Bavasi gave out this offseason will come back to haunt us in 2005, hamstringing payroll flexibility in a big way.
My point isn't to rain on the parade before the season starts. My intention is to point out the lack of long-term thinkin' that seems to go on in the Hallowed Halls of Royal Brougham. I sincerely hope that I'm wrong in my projections, but for my money, this team needs to get younger and cheaper, sooner rather than later. So let's hope Edgar stays healthy, Soriano gets healthy, and we make a big run this year. This might be the year the window slams shut.
posted by Jefflink 1:47 PM 
Non-baseball, must-see sports-related content department: When I've seen people propose at sporting events, I've always wondered -- what would happen if the answer was "no"?
Moyer time:Jamie Moyer's guest column on MLB.com was a really neat read for me because I remember with great fondness the early days he talks about -- watching a Cubs' rotation including Rick Sutcliffe, Scott Sanderson and Steve "Dizzy" Trout on WGN.
Jamie also exhibits a pretty snappy sense of humor:
Sutcliffe and Sanderson were the two guys that took me under their wings. I didn't know how far under Steve Trout's wing I wanted to get.
If you don't root for Moyer -- who throws just a bit harder than I do, but works harder (by all accounts) than anybody -- I think there must be something wrong with you.
Totally irrelevant, but: It occurs to me that since the name of the 'blog is "San Shin," I should refer to new MBSBL acquisition Andres Galarraga as "Okii Neko" rather than its francophone equivalent, "Le Grand Chat."
Soriano's injury: Everyone's saying the injury is minor, and I'm sure that's correct. Just thought I'd share one thing: When I hear "strained oblique muscle" and "willowy, slender right-hander with explosive stuff" I think Pedro Martinez. Read into that whatever you will.
A tip o' the cap: If the Mariner Optimist's first glass half full preview is any indication, there's going to be some good reading there over the next several days.
posted by Jefflink 7:35 PM 
MBSBL Update: Welcome to the squad B.J. Ryan, mower-down of southpaws, Andres "Le Grand Chat" Galarraga, and Ramon "Reverse Platoon" Hernandez. Analysis here, at the league 'blog.
Article of the Day:Aaron Schatz' effort in The New Republic, where he makes a compelling case that the sabermetric revolution may ultimately widen the gap between rich and poor teams as the haves catch up to the have-nots' approach. An excerpt:
But this league-wide rush to statistical analysis has created a problem for those optimistic that sabermetrics would have a leveling effect: Rich teams are discovering that they can play the sabermetric game, too. In the short-term, this is actually worsening the gap between some rich and poor teams, as rich teams with sabermetric approaches extend their advantage over poor teams without them. And, in the long-term, once everyone is using sabermetrics, every team will correctly value players, and there won't be any more inefficiencies to exploit. Suddenly major league baseball will be right back where it started: With the richest teams buying up the best players, and the poorer teams settling for the dregs.
It's a thought-provoking must-read.
Here's an interesting Chicago Tribune story about Shingo Takatsu, Japan's all-time saves leader and new White Sox reliever. Registration is required for the link.
Also, Jim Street's latest is a feature on the Mariners' rotation, stressing the fact that no one missed a start last year. Personally, I'd rather we hadn't missed the playoffs, but oh well. That's what this year's for. Right?
posted by Jefflink 9:01 PM