I don't mean that the ever-polite Seattleites are longing for someone to boo. I mean that the last time we acquired a highly-touted infielder as a free agent, then heard incessantly about his grit and work ethic, he was awful.
It's the same phenomenon behind people being over-critical of Kaz Sasaki -- after years of Ayala and Mesa, people expected the bullpen to stink, so when Kaz was bad, people didn't notice that he was bad much less often than the aforementioned kerosene merchants.
I think Aurilia will be fine -- I expect him to produce at a comparable level to Carlos Guillen -- but fans are being told that he's a slugger, and he's not. Rising expectations coupled with the ghost of Jeff Cirillo may mean the boo birds continue until Rich really shuts them up.
posted by Jefflink 2:32 PM 
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The one good thing about this is that we got to showcase Kevin Jarvis.
The Mariners haven't played yet, so it's still before opening day as far as I'm concerned. And that means I get to offer ...
THE FIRST ANNUAL SAN SHIN STANDINGS PREDICTIONS!
Feel free to use this for wagering, but given my NCAA pool this year, you'd probably better not.
AL EAST 1. Boston. They return most of the bats from that record-setting offense of a year ago, and they've added Curt Schilling. They also have the best hair in the major leagues, so that has to count for something.
2. New York. [Wild Card] I'm actually not as high on the Yankees as most people are. I think they look old and brittle, like year-old English toffee or your Seattle Mariners. Indeed, if things go right for the Blue Jays (and the Highlanders suffer a few torn ACLs), I could see them shocking the world and sneaking into this spot. But we all know Steinbrenner will buy Jose Vidro, the best available starting pitcher, and any movie studio considering producing a Ben Affleck film at the trade deadline.
3. Toronto. Almost top-to-bottom, this club can mash. Carlos Delgado. Vernon "You Forgot I'm Only 25, Didn't You?" Wells. Josh Phelps, whom we haven't seen the best of. Eric Hinske, primed for a rebound year. The list goes on. True, their pitching staff after Halladay is full of question marks, but this team has a bright future.
4. Baltimore. A team that could be on the rise if their young arms turn into phenoms, but more likely the world's most expensive fourth place team. Eric DuBose is their number two starter. He's so good, Yahoo doesn't even have a picture of him for their game preview. Today, it's Curt Schilling versus The Man Without a Face. Kurt Ainsworth has a face, and some upside, but he starts the season as their number three in the rotation. Not exactly Derek Lowe or Joel Pineiro, eh?
5. Tampa Bay. I'm truly sorry, Lou, but your best pitchers are Vic Zambrano and Jeremi Gonzalez. Things will be better next year.
AL CENTRAL 1. Kansas City. We all have our meaningless fascinations. Mine is with Jimmy Gobble, 22-year-old twirler for the Royals. Add him to the mix with blister-free Jeremy Affeldt and Darrell "A Very Poor Man's Old Greg Maddux" May, and this could be the best rotation in the division. It's Carlos Beltran's contract year, and if Mike Sweeney's back doesn't go all Sand Frog on them, this offense could produce.
2. Minnesota. Has there ever been a more improbably named manager than Ron Gardenhire? If that was your name, would you call attention to yourself with ubiquitous wrap-around shades? I hope not. Anyway, this is probably the most talented team in the division, but you've gotta pick upsets -- hopefully like Manhattan over Florida, not SIU over Alabama.
3. Chicago. Would anyone be surprised if they won the division? No. Would anyone be surprised if they finished third? No. If I were even lazier than I actually am, I'd just past those previous sentences as entries for the top three clubs in this division. They go here because the Pale Hose always seem to underachieve, I don't believe Kenny Williams when he says Maggs Ordonez won't be traded, and I'm confident Ozzie Guillen will lose them at least three games. The only question in my mind is whether, when Billy Koch's straightballs are deposited in the centerfield bleachers, to blame that on Guillen or the weak bullpen.
4. Cleveland. Bradley-gate aside, they're headed in the right direction. This is the year Travis Hafner and Ben Broussard become 25 homer players, they've got a bunch of fine young outfielders -- and Matt Lawton -- and if you were building a starting rotation, you'd take C.C. Sabathia over any starter from the Tigers or White Sox, wouldn't you?
5. Detroit. If the Tigers had a "pick our slogan" contest this year, my entry would be: "Better. Still brutal." Hey, do me a favor. Look at Bobby Higginson's numbers over the last two years. Now look at his contract on Dugout Dollars. Cirillo-esque, no?
AL WEST 1. Oakland. Yes, Barry Zito's strikeout rate is falling. Would you rather have him as your third starter this year or Kelvim Escobar? Come to think of it, would you rather have him as your number one starter or Bartolo Colon?
2. Anaheim. Arte Moreno's money buys them a competitive race for the division and the wild card. They slip in September when Vlad Guerrero tweaks his back. This bad luck is offset in July, when Darrin Erstad strains his hammy, improving their offense.
3. Seattle. They didn't have enough hitting last year, and the one place of improvement is now an injury-riddled Bloomquist pit. (Maybe Spiezio should name his next band "Injury Riddled Bloomquist Pit.) They're old, they don't have a bench. They need to make a trade to compete -- and worse, Bill Bavasi might just make one.
This prediction is my inoculation against irrational exuberance, and I'll be thrilled if I'm wrong. Of course.
4. Texas. It's one day into the season. They're in last already. They should get comfortable there.
I was planning on doing both the AL and NL, but I've only got time for the AL today. Maybe tomorrow.
"I don't want to say right now what they're calling (the injury)," Spiezio said. "I'll be able to do that after I see this next doctor."
That would be the third back specialist he's seen. If the first two opinions didn't offer any good news, well ...
I think this might be karma for all the McCracken-bashing. This is the one position that's thinner than the outfield, thanks to Bob Melvin's fixation with the truly brutal Bloomquist. If the game's on the line, who do you want up: Willie or Quinton?
A Sophie's Choice, yes, but at least McCracken's had a good year in the big leagues some years ago in Colorado.
It's never good when a pitcher is "shut down," but at least the team has the depth to handle Eddie Guardado's injury. Willie Bloomquist, Starting Third Baseman is a luxury a playoff contending team really can't afford.
posted by Jefflink 7:48 AM 
Monday, April 05, 2004
Lots o' things afoot ...: Many of them in the ol' personal life. My mom's in town, and I'm taking the week off from work to show her around. Might even catch a game with her! That's why I've refrained from postings on the eventful last few days.
Some quick hits:
* The Cabrera trade has to be considered a major disappointment when you consider that:
a) the same players might have brought us Milton Bradley;
b) that Cabrera is a minor at best upgrade above the utility players we had, and probably won't be used in the role (lefty masher) where he'd be most useful;
c) that Cabrera's million-dollar salary is another step toward depletion of the Sasaki Fund For MidSeason Acquistions (SFMSA) -- or at least that's the excuse we'll hear.
I think David Cameron's dissenting voice about how this move does make the Mariners a better team in the interim is true. I also think that this a kind of straw-grabbing truism, though. Cabrera's another north-of-30 player that you can find without giving up two young pitchers. His joining the team is a microcosm of why I expect real risk of disaster in the next two years -- get enough old guys, some of them are going to break down. Enough of them break down, your $95 million payroll will only do so much.
* The Royals-White Sox game shows one of the reasons I love baseball. I was casually monitoring it, assuming that the Sox had it in the bag ... until the R's came roaring back in the ninth, winning it by getting six runs. That includes three against Damaso Marte, who didn't retire a batter.
I'm still looking forward to the real opening day, though, tomorrow night. With the unbalanced schedule, a hot start is important -- so let's go kick some Halo butt.
posted by Jefflink 10:15 PM