In other news, the "People's Front of Judea" is the official opposition group of this 'blog: It might surprise you to know that the Mariners have finally overcome their aversion to long-term contracts, signing a five-year deal with two free agents.
It probably won't surprise you to know that the deal is with two guys over 40: Ben and Jerry. That's right, it's now the official specialty ice cream of your Seattle Mariners.
I'm very disappointed, since I was thinking of declaring B + J "the official specialty ice cream of San Shin." But now I'd probably lose in court like those ticket scalpers did.
Also, note how it's only the official specialty ice cream. Anybody want to bet me that they sign a deal with Darigold to be the "official local ice cream," just to milk that sweet, frozen cash cow from one more teat?
Don't worry, I'm sure the money from this sponsorship (financial terms weren't disclosed) will go straight to the midseason acquisition budget. Waiting for a joke? That is the joke.
Shameless Jeff-promotion: New hiking article out about Teddy Bear Cove, a lovely spot in Bellingham.
I'm also working on a long review essay for In These Times (as well as two other outdoors pieces), so if you don't see posts this weekend, that's why.
posted by Jefflink 1:25 AM 
On Kendall and Kryptonite: In the original Superman movie, our indestructible Kryptonian hero mows through every obstacle thrown his way -- until Lex Luthor slips a kryptonite necklace over his head and tosses him into a swimming pool.
The Pittsburgh Pirates possess just such a weighty and energy-sapping danger to your Seattle Mariners. It's Jason Kendall's contract.
It's tempting to look at this deal as it is described and say "wow, we'd give up nothing -- Kerosene-armed Kevin Jarvis and either Worthless Wiki or Doghouse Davis!". But that ain't right. We'd be willingly taking on The Contract, which would burn the M's like the elf-rope does Gollum's neck.
To be fair, Kendall is still above average offensively for a catcher, and he had a very good year last year. He got on base at a near-.400 clip, finished with a fine .286 EqA and fourth among catchers in Runs Above Replacement.
Yet concerns abound. Here are his lines for the last three years (OBP/SLG/OPS):
Sure, 2003 was great, but both 2001 and 2002 wouldn't get you much more offensive production than a replacement-level player. He's got a bad defensive reputation. And, of potentially the most concern, his power seems to have tailed off dramatically. For a player who once slugged in the high .400s and low .500s to crest .400 only once in three years sets off alarm bells. As a righthanded hitter, he's not likely to get an assist from Safeco, either.
Then there's the age and injury considerations. Ever since that grisly ankle injury a few years back, he doesn't steal any more. Or rather, he shouldn't -- in the last three years, Kendall's got 36 steals and has been caught 29 times. Plus, he'll turn 30 in June, so the chances are that his best days will soon be behind him if they aren't already. And if you move him from the catcher slot, he becomes the world's most expensive below-average hitter -- well, now that Drew Henson's playing football again, anyway.
Of course, with all that said, he's certainly better than anything the Mariners have now. Forgettable as his power numbers are, they're dramatically superior to Ben Davis' devilish .666 OPS last year or Dan Wilson's shocking .339 SLG. Three-thirty-nine! Speaking of aging catchers who lose their power-stroke.
But enough about the past. What about your favorite forecasting system's predictions? PECOTA projects Kendall to produce a .264 EqA, a cut above Dan Wilson's brutal .225, Ben Davis' .249 or Pat Borders' .239.
[Parenthetically, isn't it interesting that Borders projects to have a substantially better season than Wilson?]
So here's the thing. From a purely offensive perspective, you have to expect Kendall to be a real upgrade. But how much are you paying for that upgrade?
Despite M's management's apparent antipathy for Ben Davis, he's by far the best value the team has at catcher. He makes only $1.4 million, this is the last year of his deal, and he's young enough that he might still improve. Compare that to Wilson ($3.5 million) or Wiki (owed $3.7 million over the next two years). Borders is cheaper, but over 40.
Let's base our assumptions on the most palatable possible scenario for the M's: they trade Wiki (who doesn't fit in the teams plans and has the most money left on his contract of any Seattle catcher) and Kevin Jarvis (who is a disaster still guaranteed $4.75 million). That saves the M's about $8.5 million.
Kendalls' contract still has $42 million left on it, and he's slated to make $12.5 million in the last year of his deal, 2007.
Suppose the Pirates pick up half of that money, which would be a whopping (and unlikely) $21 million. And let's say they also take both Wiki and Jarvis, also unlikely. That essentially leaves the M's paying $12 million for four years of Jason Kendall.
That's the pipe dream, best possible deal for the Mariners. And it still could be a disaster. Remember, two of the last three years, Kendall's been just a hair better than what we've got already, and even if he repeats his 2003 performance (improbable) for two years (also improbable, given his likely decline with age and injury), you're still likely on the hook for two awful years at too high a price.
Would Kendall upgrade the Mariner offense? Yes, at least at first.
Is that upgrade worth the long-term nightmare his contract would represent? Not in my eyes, unless Pittsbugh is willing to pick up half of it, take both Jarvis and Wiki Gonzalez -- and even then, it's a roll of the dice.
A mild surprise: The Baseball Prospectus' newest Triple Play on the Angels includes their PECOTA forecasting system's predictions for the AL West. I wasn't surprised at where they have the Mariners slotted -- 86 wins sounds about right to me. [BTW, unlike the links below, that one's free to non-Premium subscribers.]
I was a bit surprised about the Angels being projected to finish third despite their spending spree. The article makes an interesting case, though, and it wouldn't shock me to see any one of the M's, A's or Angels win the division.
Frankly, the only thing I'm sure of in this year's American League that the wild card will come from the AL East.
A suggestion for my BP pals: The new fantasy depth charts are great. What would be really cool is if the Excel file that uses PECOTA to assign dollar values also contained an inflation adjustment feature -- that is, if you could remove certain players from the file and recalculate. That would help those of us in keeper leagues imeasurably.
Something to think about for the the next version.
posted by Jefflink 11:58 AM 
This is classic "what else are they gonna say?" material. I don't think this debunks the rumors about Griffey trade discussions any more than reports the other way confirm them.
Jason Kendall watch: Because we need a singles-hitting catcher with a contract that makes the bird in Rime of the Ancient Mariner look like a baby sparrow.
But Bangkok is the athletic mecca: Thailand's English language newspaper, The Nation (not to be confused with American liberal newsmagazine The Nation) has a column by a U.S. expatriate known as "The Ugly American." His most recent work lists the worst sports cities, and Seattle makes the list.
Without commenting on the list's merits, it really bugs me that people reference Eugene Burdick and William Lederer's book The Ugly American without having read it. The title isn't meant to be a smack at the U.S.: the Ugly American is the hero of the book, a guy who treats locals with respect and receives the same in return.
There's nothing that says "respectable columnist" like a pen name based on a misinterpreted literary allusion. That's all I'm sayin'.
Referrer report: Most of the people that visit the site come from other Mariner blogs. Some come from search engines. While a few of the search terms that end up hitting this blog are understandable (people searching for an article I've done, or people searching for stuff about Okinawa), many are just plain weird.
My two favorite searches of the last few weeks: one person found the site searching for "bikini appendectomy," and another was looking for "butchers in Bellingham, Washington."
This has been bugging me for months: How long has Dan Wilson:
been writing an ESPN column under the name Dan Shanoff?
Jarvis watch: Kevin Jarvis had far and away his best outing of the spring yesterday, giving up only six baserunners and three earned runs in three innings. In so doing, he lowered his ERA from an impressive 23.57 to a miniscule 17.50, improving his WHIP to 3.48.
Against that robust Padre spring offense, he only gave up two home runs (including an inside the park job to someone named Tagg Bozied) and managed to do the nearly impossible, walking Terrence Long.
Many said that Bill Bavasi wouldn't be able to get anything of value in return for Jeff Cirillo. He proved them wrong by getting perhaps the one pitcher that Cirillo could hit.
Seriously, the good news in all this is that both Ken Rosenthal of Fox and Tracy Ringolsby are reporting that the Mariners are considering releasing him. I really didn't think they would, given that he's still due $4.5 million, but it's the right thing to do, and I hope they do it.
What I want to know is, why do I have to do Google News searches to find a discussion of Jarvis' chances of making the team? The only local coverage I can find is a throwaway reference ("With right-hander Kevin Jarvis struggling in his comeback from arm surgery, it is likely the Mariners will carry two left-handed relievers in addition to lefty closer Eddie Guardado.") in a Finnigan piece from the 13th and a Darrin Beene (Tacoma News Tribune) note from the 11th that says he's competing with Myers, Villone, and Terry Mulholland for four spots.
And c'mon, Finnigan, if the elbow surgery Jarvis had in 2002 is his excuse, how come he's never had a good year? His career ERA is 5.83 and his peripherals are awful. And that contract Kevin Towers gave him? If anyone has a phone number for Jarvis' agent, I'm hiring that guy.
Good news on good pitchers: Rafael Soriano threw a pain-free bullpen session. Larry LaRue has a good feature on Shigetoshi Hasegawa. The lead, though, leaves a little to be desired: calling Shiggy "the author of three Japanese books" makes it sound like he's written language textbooks. Books are books, whether they're written in Japanese or English, yes?
The wait is over: Since everyone wants to hear about my fantasy baseball team(s), after saying I wouldn't do this, I decided to do a brief and tongue-in-cheek recap of the Sportsfilter fantasy baseball league. Rather than roll through all 378 (!) players selected, I did a timesaving "the good, the bad, and the ugly" recap of each team. It's quick, it's dirty, it's done, and it’s here.
posted by Jefflink 7:39 AM 
I'll address the substance of the post in a minute, but first, and more broadly, I have a meta-thought about the role bloggers play in stories like this.
With traditional newspaper journalism, there's usually a vetting process for both reporters and for stories. There are good and bad things about that, and the standards are different at each publication. Generally, though, "professional" journalists have the advantage of codified rules and the presence of multiple other trained information gatekeepers to use as sounding boards.
This handicaps mainstream reporters to an extent when it comes to breaking stories in a timely fashion, since they can't just rush something into publication that might appear immediately on somebody's blog. But generally, it lends more credibility to what is published.
The Internet allows just about anybody to say just about anything just about immediately. Mike Price was fired from Alabama in large measure due to rumors that appeared on an Auburn fan site's message board. There's Justin Spiro, of course. And remember the Vladimir Guerrero to the Indians hoax? These examples are diverse -- in two cases, the reports were totally untrue, and there was apparently at least some truth to one of them -- but they all speak to the same point. When there's this much noise out there, good sourcing is often the best way to find where the signal is.
To get to the point, I like the Grand Salami, and so do people I respect -- but I don't know Jon Wells from David Wells, and I don't know the source of his information at all. This rumor might well be true, but there's also no way to tell, since the sourcing is non-existent and the details are sketchy at best in the post.
Yes, this happens in the mainstream press all the time. Baseless reports come out (Jim Bowden saying Tejada would sign with the Mariners, for example) due to faulty information. That's why anonymous sourcing is so problematic, though: I don't know Jon Wells, but I know Jim Bowden. If Jon quotes Bowden, we can assess how qualified Bowden is to be talking. Is he in a position to know? Does he have an interest in spreading this rumor, or is he an unbiased observer? These are relevant questions that you can't ask if you don't know who the source is.
Just imagine: if this were a Bob Finnigan article citing an un-named "good source," there'd be a Pamplona-style race to the keyboard to (justifiably) rip the guy. Granted, Finnigan has a singular obsession with the Junior rumor -- but isn't this exactly the kind of thing that bloggers criticize him for, pushing speculation with no way to track its credibility?
I'm not trying to say that Jon shouldn't have posted this; trade rumors are exciting, and I enjoy discussing them a lot. By all means, folks, talk about what you're hearing, especially if you actually have sources in baseball. Nor am I saying that bloggers shouldn't ever try to break stories.
I'm just saying that the bloggers I admire most (Josh Marshall, for example) hold themselves to accepted standards for story sourcing, and that lends their work a certain weight. Absent this weight, rumors stay in the "fun to talk about" realm and don't enter the "hard news" realm. Even some details about the source might add credence to this report.
Without something like that to hang my hat on, I'll remain skeptical. I could always be wrong. We'll see.
Then, there's the baseball side of things. As I've already said in a different context, I'm all for bringing Junior back in the right deal. I think he'd improve the team today, but wouldn't want his contract to cripple future flexibility.
For the record, here's the official San Shin Right Deal Criteria:
*The Reds would have to pick up quite a bit of Griffey's deal, or take back a player with a bad contract like Kevin Jarvis;
*I would give up two quality pitching prospects, not including Rafael Soriano;
*I would prefer to keep Randy Winn, since we need at least one player who can hit on the bench. Preferably more, but I think we'd all take "one" at this point.
Certainly, it would be risky to pick up a player with Griffey's recent injury history. If the deal's right, though, the reward could far outstrip the risk.
posted by Jefflink 4:41 PM 
Department of uh-oh: Joe Sheehan's Prospectus Today views baseball teams through the "seeding" lens of NCAA bracketology. He list teams that he'd seed lower than other observers, and one of them is your Seattle Mariners.
That's bad enough. Even worse, his arguments make a lot of sense to me.
There's good news, though: um, the column is free to non-Premium subscribers. So that's something. I guess. Worth reading for his pro-Tiger Cinderella take, too.
[Parse that clumsy last sentence as a "pro-Detroit argument for why their baseball team will improve" rather than an a favorable opinion about how Tiger Woods would look in drag as a fairy tale character, please. Yes, I am a professional writer. No, really.]
posted by Jefflink 12:40 PM 
Another topic I hope not to revisit: Jim Palmer weighs in on the steroid issue, accusing Brady Anderson. He also cast some aspersions Barry Bonds' way, though he later backed off from his definitive "Brady-too-steroids" assertion.
First, the gag order isn't working. Reggie Jackson's recent statements prove this, too.
Second, it looks like my worries have come true in a different way than I thought they would. Sure, it looks strange that Brady Anderson hit 50 bombs. But does "that looks strange" constitute evidence? No, not really; at best, it's circumstantial evidence that raises an eyebrow before you move on to other things. When I saw Bret Boone's non-denial denial, I was afraid that players who saw dramatic improvements in performance or in physical appearance would be hounded by the media -- even in cases, like Boone's, where there was no real reason to believe they'd done anything wrong.
As it turned out, it wasn't the media, at least not directly. It's been former players like Jackson and Palmer. And there's no reason to think it stops here. That's why I think -- however silly Dusty Baker can sound on certain issues -- he has a point about the potential for McCarthyism on performance-enhancing drugs.
When I'm thinking about posting on issues where I don't have particular expertise, and where hard evidence doesn't exist, I try to refrain from posting. Or, at least, I drop a caveat like "I'm speculating here." That doesn't mean I don't have the right to an opinion: I just think it's only fair I be honest and transparent about what, if any, evidence there is to back my opinion.
Jim Palmer and Reggie Jackson are Hall of Fame players. Clearly, they know a thing or two about baseball. But do they have intimate knowledge of how steroids work? As far as I know, nope. Do they have any evidence that the players they're accusing did steroids, other than "he looks better than he used to," or "he had a great year"? Definitely nope.
Is the commissioner's gag order stopping them from talking about this? Again, nope.
And that's a bad combination. Because if all you have to come up with is "he had one fantastic year that was better than his other years," or "he's bigger than he used to be," what's to stop someone from harassing Rich Aurilia about 2001? Or Bret Boone about his Popeye forearms?
It's a lot easier to sling mud than it is to wash it off. Hey, I'm all for serious efforts to get illegal and dangerous drugs out of the game. If this continues, though, a lot of innocent players are going to get smeared. That isn't fair, and it's not good for baseball.
[Amusing Distracting Sidenote: The Google ad that came up on top of my Boone post: "Buy Steroids Online. No Prior Prescription Needed. Free Shipping to U.S. & Canada. 75% Off." I'd say that BALCO had competition, but these are probably sugar pills cut with horse tranquilizers.]
It's apparent why this is unfair to the clean players, but it's also bad for the game. The sport's always had a tough time accentuating the positive under Bud Selig, and the more he-said, she-said there is, the longer this dominates the headlines.
So what has to happen? First, baseball has to decide if it's serious about the gag order. Honestly, though, this tougher stance would be necessary but not sufficient in terms of stopping outbursts. From the Reggie experience, it looks like all he got was a stern talking-to from Brian Cashman. He's a senior advisor to the Yankees, so baseball has some leverage over him. Realistically, they can't stop former players like Palmer from speculating in the media, though.
The only move that will really stop the questions, though, is a steroid accord that everyone can live with. If there's a positive side to this pop-offery, maybe it'll provide incentive to get a deal done quickly. I'd much rather write about Boone knocking in runs than retired players knocking him.
posted by Jefflink 11:46 AM 
Quick hits: An interesting note in this MLB.com fantasy article: The Mariners have two of the top 10 (and three of the top 11) WHIP performers in the major leagues. You can probably guess that Rafael Soriano is up there (he's second, behind Eric Gagne), but who are the other two? Julio Mateo (.96, tied for eighth) and Eddie Guardado (.98, 11th).
The blogosphere has made the point about what a fine year Mateo had before, but this shows that some others are noticing, too.
I was going to link to Art Thiel's piece about Travis Blackley, but thought that Mariner Minors' take on it was better than mine could have been. MM is a great site for prospect reports, and a daily visit for me.
[I'm an Art Thiel fan, by the way: he's the Tom Robbins of local sports journalism. Some folks don't enjoy that style, but I do.]
I think that is even less likely than the M's bringing him back.
Will the Hall call?: I've been meaning to finish my post about Bret Boone's Hall of Fame chances for a long time, but that likely ain't happenin' this week. This article about Ichiro gives me impetus to do so, however. It reports that (barring injury, knock wood) he'll reach 2,000 hits this year.
Obviously, that's 2000 hits combined between the Japanese league and the majors -- but Ichiro is only 30, and he has 662 major league hits. If he plays seven or eight more years here, he could end up with 2,000 hits in the U.S. and almost 1,300 hits in Japan (he has 1,278). He'll be an interesting Hall of Fame case if that takes shape, too.
I'll try to have some more thoughts on their respective cases (the merits and the chances for election, which are two different things) soon.
Debunking department: I don't know who Scott Ridge is, but his credibility doesn't soar with me when he says No. 1 candidate Paul Konerko is likely going to the Dodgers. Multiple sources have already reported that Paul DePodesta has told the White Sox he has "no interest" in Konerko. [No link, but it's in the current USA Today Sports Weekly.]
Second, and more interesting, Corey at Mariner Optimist reports on a bit in the Dayton Daily News where Griffey himself says he expects to be traded back to the Mariners. In addition to a gut feeling, Junior cites Nike's releasing a pair of his shoes in a teal color scheme (like the M's) this year.
I might be proven wrong on this front, but I still think Ken coming back is remarkably unlikely.
First, even if the short-term financial burden from Griffey's contract is small, he has deferred money due until nearly 2025. Think the tightwad Mariners will take that on? Think they should? I don't think so on either count.
Also, consider the source: Ken-spiracy Griffey Jr. thinks that Nike is tipping their hand about a trade by sending him teal high-tops? Aren't we close to tinfoil hat territory here?
Isn't this the same guy who asked for a trade (and explained his rationale in public, at a press conference) and then claimed that he hadn't demanded a trade, and was forced out? Isn't this the same guy who said on Wednesday that he didn't expect to be traded, and that if it did happen, it wouldn't be until July, and might not be to the Mariners?
Look, I love Junior, but this is like asking Oliver Stone if he thinks getting the smallest slice of pie at Thanksgiving from his right-wing cousin is a coincidence.
Speaking of considering the source, remember who wrote the Dayton Daily News piece: My pal Hal McCoy, who evidently can't read a newspaper. I mean, seriously, if you can't even pull quotes out of another publication accurately, should you be taken seriously? Should you graduate from high school, even?
So, that said, do I agree with Corey that bringing Griffey back would be a good move? Yes and no. It depends on the deal.
If, as Corey suggests, we could get Junior for Kevin Jarvis, Quinton McCracken and a pitching prospect, then heck yes and twice on Sunday. It's a question of risk vs. reward. I think Junior has probably seen his last great years, but has one or two very good years left in him. Yes, he'll always be an injury waiting to happen, and yes, his contract could be an albatross, but imagine the upside for this year's team. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any way we get anyone to take Jarvis, especially not the Reds, who the Dayton paper claims are deep into salary-cut mode.
I would love to see Junior back in Seattle, but don't want to mortgage the future on him. If we can reconcile those two in the right deal, then by all means.
Since I can't find anything online about these rumors, I'm assuming they come from Derek's own sources. I trust him, but it's not like I can rationally assess the likelihood of this happening. I just don't have any available evidence.
What I can do, though, is opine about whether it makes sense to acquire The Other Soriano. There, Derek and I differ a bit.
Not about whether giving up The Real Soriano for The Other Soriano is a good idea -- oh no, I haven't gone off the deep end just yet. Rafael Soriano is Roger Clemens waiting to happen, and while you never know about a young pitcher, I certainly would not make that deal.
But I don't feel, as Derek does, that flat-out "[t]he M's should not trade for [Alfonso Soriano]." If we could acquire him for two good-but-not-Rafael pitching prospects -- Rett Johnson and Travis Blackley, say -- then I think that's a deal you would have to make.
Unfortunately, we have the best second baseman in the AL already, so we wouldn't be able to maximize The Other Soriano's value. Even if Alfonso would be a below-average defensive center fielder, though, shifting Randy Winn to left and adding Ibanez' bat to the bench would be a substantial offensive -- and possibly even defensive -- upgrade. I think the offensive part is fairly noncontroversial, so let's talk defense.
It's tough to know how good an outfielder Soriano is, but he's a fast guy with a great arm that allows you to shift Winn to left, which makes Winn a significantly above-average left fielder instead of a below-average center fielder. For fielding, I'd take a Winn-Soriano-Ichiro outfield over an Ibanez-Winn-Ichiro outfield -- and it should go without saying that you'd expect the former outfield to score more runs.
Sure, Soriano is 28 instead of 26. That means he's still in his prime, and while we can't expect him to improve, we can expect him to be very productive. PECOTA expects him to have a .295 EqA this year compared to Winn's .264 and Ibanez' .265. That's not one small step, it's a giant leap.
Again, that leap isn't worth The Real Soriano. I think it is worth some of our quality young pitchers, though.
My blood pressure already went red-line afer I read his story about Rich Aurilia, who is a good player, but not for any of the reasons Newnham cited. Now, he's lauding the virtues of Quinton McCracken, who is not a good player, and even if everything B.N. said about him were true, would still not be a good player.
Neither, it should be mentioned, are Hiram Bocachica and Eric Owens, who Newnham cites with Jamal Strong as pleasant camp surprises competing for the fourth outfielder job. McCracken, though, is a cut above the rest, and clearly the fourth outfielder of choice. Why?
McCracken, 33, has played eight years in the major leagues. The switch-hitter is a lifetime .280 batter; but when given 300 or more at-bats, he has not hit below .290.
Forget for a second what you know about baseball; that is, forget that batting average is a misleading and overrated stat. Even if this ubiquitous number told you all you needed to know about a player, the preceding paragraph represents the real danger of statistics in the wrong hands.
I can't stand the arbitrary twisting of numbers to suit one's agenda. For one things, there's the ".290" figure. In his career, McCracken has reached .290 or slightly above (.292 twice, to be exact) three times. If you want to make him sound good, you set your target there.
If you want to make him sound bad (which Newnham might if the Mariners eventually trade Q), you say "in eight seasons, he's hit.300 only once".
But that's not where the faulty logic stops. See, Newnham sets another arbitrary number, implying that if McCracken gets 300 at bats in a season, he hits .290 and over. It's like magic! Just get him to 300, and he's golden.
So, for example, his .227-hitting 2002 season doesn't count since he only got a measly 203 at bats. Never mind that, in order to reach .290, he would've had to get 41 hits in his next 97 tries, a .423 clip.
This use of numbers proves Groucho Marx's maxim about statistics. Statistics, he said, "are like a girl in a fine bikini. They reveal a lot, but what they don't reveal is vital."
But don't think Blaine has gone all DePodesta on us. No, he still wants to remind us of what's really important.
McCracken is happy with life, a delightful guy who has made the clubhouse even nicer than it was.
Isn't that nice? He's nice. In fact, he's nicer than nice. He's delightful. The type of gentleman you'd feel comfortable having over for watercress sandwiches with your family. And he's made the clubhouse even nicer than it was, which, we can surmise, was very nice indeed.
Seriously, I feel a little bad about saying this, since all I read about McCracken indicates he's a great guy -- bright, personable, well-liked, has his priorities in order. But he's a nice guy that has no business getting 300 at bats for a contending team.
And -- let me leave you with an opaque double-meaning -- one way or the other, I'm pretty sure he won't this year, either.
posted by Jefflink 9:14 PM