I. Suzuki RF
Q. McCracken CF
S. Spiezio 3B
R. Ibanez LF
D. Hansen DH
J. Cabrera 2B
J. Olerud 1B
D. Wilson C
W. Bloomquist SS
Today is apparently being designated National Give-Up Day.
posted by Jefflink 11:06 AM 
Latin phrases not uttered by an angry Freddy Garcia: There's a logical fallacy called post hoc, ergo propter hoc. That's Latin for "After this, therefore because of this."
The term expresses the inherent silliness of correlations not driven by causation. For example, I drank margaritas and Alaskan Amber last night and the Mariners won after I did -- therefore, the Mariners won because I imbibed said potent potables, and it's in all our best interests that I do so again, and soon.
Okay, maybe there's something to that one.
You'll find no better example of the post hoc fallacy than a canard making the sports radio rounds lately, one that has also crawled its way into David Andriesen's latest. It goes like this: "Bob Melvin is too calm. He needs to fire up this team by screaming and yelling!"
Apparently, the M's won last night because Melvin yelled at the umpire.
Someone really needs to tell Joe Torre this. I mean, that's probably why the Yankees have been struggling. Forget all this noise about only having two reliable starters so far and every hitter getting off to a slow start: what he needs to do is hire a Don Zimmer look-alike to go rush an opposing starting pitcher.
[Or maybe he needs to buy Zim a ticket to Pedro's start tonight and have him come out of the stands, instructing the scoreboard operator at the Yankee game to put the encounter up on the big screen. This time, it's personal!]
Seriously, if there's only one way to manage, why do some calm, boring guys get by without taking any grief for not being Lou Piniella? I'm not saying Melvin's a great manager, but he's not winning because his team is not hitting well, pitching well, or playing good defense, not because he isn't kicking his cap around.
Besides, if Andriesen had just e-mailed me, I would've been happy to tell him the real reason the M's won last night. Mmmm, margaritas.
Griffey watch: No source linked in the post, but a Cincinnatti Reds blog says that the latest rumor is Griffey to the M's for Winn, Franklin and Rett Johnson.
Let's get older and more injury-prone!
San Shin ... It's Rejoinder-riffic!: A couple of posts have generated blogosphere replies.
My claim that Kevin Jarvis probably cost the M's two games drew a critique from your Mariner Optimist. Corey doesn't think Jarvis cost us any wins, and makes the legitimate point that Ron Villone has also been bad.
First, let me say that this doesn't dispute the larger point of my post -- the M's were apparently making personnel and game management decisions based on finances rather than what gave them the best shot to win games.
I also think, though, that Jarvis' constant inexplicable presence on the mound at crucial times probably did cost us at least one game. Sure, he didn't have a ninth-inning implosion that immediately resulted in a loss, but he did pitch in high-leverage situations where the game was close, the M's still had a shot to come back, and he ended that shot.
On April 23, where the M's clawed their way within two runs in the seventh inning against Texas. They had the momentum, they were into Texas' bullpen ...
... enter Jarvis, who gives up two runs without retiring a batter.
That said, it's impossible in a dynamic team game like baseball to say definitively, "that guy cost us that game." But it is possible to say, "our chances of winning would have been a lot better without that guy." And our chances of winning April 23 (and most every other game Jarvis pitched) would've been much better without him.
Corey's right, though, that I couldn't find a smoking-gun second game that I could pin on the dear, departed Jarvis.
Steve at Mariners Wheelhouse responds to my post about Bob Melvin's reluctance to use Quinton McCracken. I opined that Bavasi acquiring Q coupled with Melvin's refusal to play him hinted at a management disconnect. Steve took another tack, observing that Melvin beat the drum to get Greg Colbrunn last year, another former Diamondback who he also didn't play.
We don't know for sure which interpretation of events is correct -- nobosy knows what led to the McCracken acquisition disaster -- but I gotta say Steve's seems more likely. Melvin did push to get Colbrunn. Melvin didn't play him. Looks like the same deal is happening this year.
So the question remains: why does Melvin lobby to acquire players he doesn't play?
Not that I think McCracken should be playing. But why waste the resources to trade for and pay him?
Finally, tonight ...: I'll miss postings from Gabriel and Jeff at The Safe.Good run, guys, and if you ever jones to post, shoot me an e-mail ...
posted by Jefflink 7:52 AM 
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Does Melvin have a low Q rating?: When the Mariners acquired Quinton McCracken, after the gnashing of teeth stopped, most bloggers looked for a rationale. It wasn't difficult to find one: he's a nice fella, smiles a lot, is best buddies with Randy Winn, and worked under Bob Melvin in Arizona. While still whipsawed with dismay over taking on a bloated contract for a bad player, we directed equal eye-rolls at Bavasi and Melvin on the assumption that one man lobbied to bring in his guy and the other just didn't know any better.
It may be time, though to play everybody's favorite game show, Rethink That Assumption!
At the beginning of the year, the Mariners trumpeted McCracken's ability to play every outfield position, saying he'd be an active fourth outfielder and the primary backup at DH.
At this point in the season, McCracken has appeared in seven out of the team's 21 games. He has nine at-bats, the fewest on the team.
In his only start, he was pinch-hit for in the sixth inning. Jolbert Cabrera -- acquired after the season started -- has more than double Q's at-bats (19) got the nod in centerfield yesterday.
I assumed that Bob Melvin pushed for the acquisition of a player he was familiar with. But it's become apparent that Melvin has no faith in The Man Called Q. Pinch-hitting specialist Dave Hansen has been in more games, with more at-bats. If Melvin wanted to get McCracken, why isn't he using him?
Somebody traded for Quinton McCracken. Somebody else isn't using him.
What this post is not:
-- An argument to get McCracken more at-bats
-- A defense of McCracken on the roster
-- An attempt to explore any positive alternative to the status quo, really -- we're stuck with Q now
What this post is:
-- Another suggestion that the front office and Melvin aren't on the same page ...
... and it ain't the front office that will pay the price.
Jarvis as proof mechanism: While the non-linear nature of human events prevents us from being 100 percent certain of this, I think most reasonable observers would agree that Kevin Jarvis cost us two games. Because the front office ordered Bob Melvin to keep him on the roster -- and, apparently, to use him for "showcase" purposes -- we can say with some certainty whose fault those two losses are.
Kevin Jarvis was only on the roster because the team didn't want to eat his high salary. If he hadn't been on the roster, it appears likely that the squad would be 9-12. No great shakes, but not 7-14.
For those of you who have argued that the Mariners are more concerned with profit than victories, here's your smoking gun.
The game: Wow, what a strange game. How often are you going to see the starters throw more than 120 pitches through two innings -- and it be a 2-1 ballgame? My other immediate impression is that Jolbert Cabrera's arm sure puts Winn's in perspective, doesn't it?
The turning of the dark tide:Greg Johns recants the "Bavasi's moves starting to bear fruit" column that I ripped a week ago. Wow, and I just wanted that "Bavasi has tubed the team" column at the end of the season. That was quick.
How can you tell when things have gone bad? When the MarinerOptimist starts to lose faith. Fortunately for all of us, Corey quickly rebounded. It's a good thing, too -- I couldn't have forgiven Bavasi for driving the most hopeful blogger to despair.
[Note to self: when you become a major league GM, you know you're in trouble when you lose The Optimist.]
in Seattle ... folks are wondering if the Mariners already have gone away.
Ouch. Those shadows aren't clouds, they're vultures circling.
The bright side: Two items I can think of.
1. This team can't possibly have played worse -- and they're still only five games out of first place. (Granted, I think it's the way they're losing that's really distressing people. But I'm trying here.)
A comprehensive accounting of Bill Bavasi's front office record: Or, we're stuck with him ... so what's he gonna do?: Before stumbling back across this hilarious David Andriesen piece from before the season, I had already decided to look into Bill Bavasi's transaction history.
Since I'm resigned to the fact that he's probably not going anywhere for a while, I wanted to see what kind of moves he likes to make. His stint as general manager of the Angels, I reasoned, should reveal quite a bit, and while I knew the basics about what he'd done there, I hadn't examined his work in any real depth. Doing so, I think, will help prepare us for how Bavasi might respond to the team's poor play with mid-year acquisitions.
Then I came across this bit in Andriesen's story:
In 1999, the Angels asked Bavasi to fire some scouts he had known for a long time. He said no and resigned, walking away from a job he had spent his life earning. In 2002, the Angels team he had primarily assembled won the World Series.
... and I had another question looking into his transactions might help answer. We hear this a lot, that Bavasi laid the foundation for that series run -- but is it true? He left three full years prior. How much did Bavasi have to do with that 2002 team?
To examine these issues, I went over every transaction (thanks, Baseball Reference) he made during his six-year term as Angels GM. To check out how much he had to do with HaloFest 2002, I looked at the rosters of both the 1999 and 2002 teams for impact players he acquired or kept around.
[To determine who was an "impact" player, I drew an arbitrary line at hitters that appeared in more than 100 games for the 2002 Angels and pitchers that appeared in more than 25 games. Made a special case for Francisco Rodriguez, who didn't show up much during the season, but made a big impression after being illegally added to the postseason roster.]
Looking over Bavasi's record, I found three general conclusions:
1. We can answer how much he had to do with the Angels' 2002 World Series title (a little, but not much); and
2. If you're waiting for Bavasi to make a big move ... keep waiting. One could easily make the case that, save the disastrous Mo Vaughn contract, he's never made a monster signing or even a major trade. Scariest,
3. Real doubts exist about whether he has any idea how to rebuild a team.
Did Bill Bavasi build a World Series winner? Let's tackle the first question first, beginning with an obvious preliminary query: How many hitters were features of both the 1999 Angels and the 2002 Angels?
Five. Troy Glaus, Darrin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon and Orlando Palmeiro.
How many pitchers? Three, all in the bullpen: Al Levine, Scott Schoeneweis and Troy Percival. You can also count Jarrod Washburn and Ramon Ortiz if you like -- Washburn appeared in 16 games, Ortiz nine for the '99 Halos.
Of course, this isn't a totally fair metric, since all teams have turnover, and some players Bavasi drafted (like Washburn) were just coming up in 1999.
It gets at something I think is important, though -- you can't give Bavasi full credit for players he drafted that contributed in 2002, because you can't assume he wouldn't have traded them away (as he did Phil Nevin).
He deserves partial credit for those players, though ... so let's look at exactly what he did with each common element between the 1999 and 2002 teams.
Mainstay hitters of either the 1999 or the 2002 teams, or both
Full credit: Drafted Darrin Erstad
Drafted Troy Glaus
Signed Ben Molina
Partial credit: Kept (but didn't acquire)
Kept (but didn't acquire) Tim Salmon
Kept (but didn't acquire) Orlando Palmeiro
Nothing to do with: David Eckstein
Mainstay pitchers of either the 1999 or the 2002 teams Full credit: Signed Ramon Ortiz
Drafted Jarrod Washburn
Drafted John Lackey
Drafted Scott Schoeneweis
Signed Al Levine
Drafted Scot Shields
Signed Francisco Rodriguez
Nothing to do with: Kevin Appier
This is, at best, a mixed bag. First of all, there's no way you give Bavasi credit for the team's offensive performance. Of the three players he acquired for Anaheim, only one, Glaus, was a real offensive contributor. Erstad was and remains an out machine, and Molina was and is an average catcher.
By contrast, four crucial starters -- almost half of the everyday lineup -- Bavasi had zero to do with getting for the Angels. Zip. Nada. And while none of these guys are Vladimir Guerrero, they were (and are, save maybe Eckstein) major offensive contributors. All are, of course, much better than Erstad or Molina.
Bavasi looks better from a pitching staff perspective, nabbing three of the five-man 2002 rotation members. And of course, he gets the K-Rod bonus.
But he had nothing to do with two of the front four starters, and didn't acquire any of their three best relievers (Donnelly, Weber, Percival).
It's tough to argue counterfactuals -- that is, how the Angels would have done in 2002 if Bavasi were still captain of the ship. We can't say with any certainty.
We can, however, say that he was responsible for bringing in exactly one major offensive contributor, two valuable starting pitchers, a few useful relievers, and one relief phenom that emerged in the post-season.
Your definition of "primarily assembled" may be different than mine, but if that fits your definition, you need to download the Merriam-Webster toolbar.
What does history tell us about Bavasi's tendencies?:
To answer that question, I went through all the Angels transactions made during Bavasi's tenure at Baseball-Reference.com. He took over after the 1993 season and left after 1999.
I'm struck by this: Bavasi has almost never made a major move.
Save the Mo Vaughn signing and possibly bringing in Bo Jackson for Bo's last year in baseball, 1994, he's never had a signing or a trade that would make you say "wow." And you could argue whether saying "wow" in those instances was good or not.
His trades and signings have historically been low-impact moves bringing in over-the-hill players (Mitch Williams and Harold Reynolds in 1994, Jim Abbott in 1995, Kevin Gross in 1997, Cecil Fielder, Gregg Jeffries and Jack McDowell in 1998) at the end of their careers, hoping they have something left.
It is astonishing how many ancient players were given their last shot by Bavasi and left baseball shortly (or sometimes immediately) thereafter.
Reynolds, Jackson, Gross and McDowell all retired after their stints with Bavasi's Angels. Fielder hooked on with the Indians after being released mid-season, but retired after that year. Williams had a 1997 cup of coffee with the Royals after his time with Anaheim, but he was done and everyone knew it.
If this is sounding uncomfortably familiar to you, you aren't alone.
What about my allegation that he doesn't make impact moves? The biggest moves (loosely and unscientifically defined) I found include:
* He both traded for and traded away Phil Nevin, getting him and Matt Walbeck for Nick Skuse, then sending him away the next year with Keith Volkman to the Padres for Andy Sheets and Gus Kennedy.
* Traded Brian Anderson to the Cleveland Indians. Received Pep Harris and Jason Grimsley.
* Signed Lee Smith in 1995, then traded him in 1996 to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Chuck McElroy.
* Traded players to be named later to the New York Yankees. Received Jim Leyritz. The Anaheim Angels sent Jeremy Blevins (minors) (December 9, 1996) and Ryan Kane (minors) (December 9, 1996) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.
If you consider Phil Nevin a star player, Nevin is the only star player that's ever been included in a trade Bavasi made. If you don't, then Nevin is still the best-performing player in terms of future value that he's ever dealt away, or dealt for.
The only star player he's ever signed as a free agent (unless you count any of the current Mariners, and I don't) is Mo Vaughn, and we all know how that turned out. You could count Bo Jackson -- but you'd only count one year of Bo and his rickety hip.
But what has he done when faced with a losing team? Did he make a move for a big addition so they could compete immediately, or did he look to move aging players for young talent?
Soberingly, he did neither.
During two of the three worst seasons record-wise for the Angels, Bavasi did the following: he made one mid-year trade in 1994, sending Dwight Smith to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later, minor-leaguer Bo Ortiz.
In 1996, with the team foundering, Bavasi had his busiest (and most revealing) summer. Bavasi made nine trades. When the players he acquired had birthdays in 1996, here are the ages they turned: 33, 33, 29, 29, 29, 28, 26, 25, 24.
He bravely traded aging reliever Lee Smith for ... not-quite-as-aging reliever Chuck McElroy. He traded such names as Mike Aldrete and Ben Van Ryn, garnering such names as Rich "retired a year and change later" Monteleone and Pat "then a spry 33" Borders.
Then he traded Borders again for 26-year-old journeyman pitcher Robert Ellis, traded Damion Easley for 29-year-old journeyman pitcher Greg Gohr, and traded Don Slaught for minor-league catcher Scott Vollmer. Not exactly impactful, eh? None of the acquisitions bore any fruit, and most were gone within a year or so.
Again, this looks familiar to me: make a series of moves and hope something sticks. It's what he's been doing with the M's so far, all the while exhibiting a real lack of a winning gameplan -- or any gameplan.
I don't know what the thinking was at the time, true, but in retrospect, these read like moves for the sake of moves. What rebuilding team wants a 29-year-old non-prospect pitcher?
This makes one section of Andriesen's article really funny, where he tries to defend his penny-wise and pound-foolish approach:
"This organization was built over a long period of time and built the right way," Bavasi said. "Being somewhat conservative or careful, you can be a playoff team or nearly a playoff team every year without having to survive those gruesome stretches of years, like what the A's have gone through twice in my lifetime. They've been one of the biggest embarrassments in baseball, in order to become good.
"You take Atlanta. They used to be the epitome of failure in baseball. But they've put together a system where they can sustain being competitive even while being somewhat conservative financially."
So, if you take this conservative (read: get mediocre players) approach, you don't have to endure a losing team.
Then why, pray tell, did Bavasi's Angels finish more than 20 games under .500 three times in six years? (47-68 in 1994, 70-91 in 1996, 70-92 in 1999).
Note also that his last year there was also the worst, blowing up the alibi that he inherited a stinker. Note furthermore that Bavasi's Angels never won more than 85 games, never made the playoffs, and bestowed upon him a career 434-473 record as a GM.
Friends, that's not good.
This isn't a small sample size -- it's six seasons. And it doesn't bode well for either a) the chances of a big move happening or b) the chances of said move working.
To recap, after Bavasi took the Angels job:
* His teams didn't win, reaching 85 wins at their peak;
* He didn't make big moves to help them win, apparently reasoning that a lot of little moves would work;
* When he did make "big" moves, they didn't work out (Vaughn);
* And when they weren't winning, he didn't trade away veteran players for young talent.
From his record, we can draw the following conclusions about the moves he'll make this year:
* Bavasi will continue to make lateral moves, trading for its own sake. These moves may appear to fill a need or be redundant -- the Jolbert Cabrera deal serves as a template for what we can expect.
* He will target neither first-tier players nor very young prospects of other teams. He will trade moderately valuable players for moderately valuable players around or above age 30 that may or may not fill a need.
* He will bring in players on the verge of retirement to see if they have something left.
* Many, perhaps even most, of the new acquisitions will fail to make an impact and be gone within two years.
But wait! There's one more conclusion we can draw.
For segue purposes, I'll also mention one of the first things he did as GM. According to Larry Stone, Bavasi "fired popular manager Buck Rodgers 39 games into the '94 season and replaced him with Marcel Lachemann."
And finally ... Bob Melvin watch?: As indicators go, you might consider this a big move. Maybe you know about it, but I didn't:
"July 22, 1994
Selected Bob Melvin off waivers from the New York Yankees.
Traded Bob Melvin to the Chicago White Sox. Received Jeff Schwarz."
That's correct: Bavasi has already gotten rid of Bob Melvin once.
Chances are good that he does so again at the end of this season, making Melvin the fall guy for a disastrous offseason that's Bavasi's fault.
posted by Jefflink 7:20 AM 
Jon's post actually gives me comfort, if nothing else. Since it's early, I've been trying not to appear alarmist -- but I'm not the only one thinking this way, and it looks now like we've actually underestimated the havoc wreaked by the Bavasi regime on this team's chances.
At least I'm not alone in believing, without a major move, this is at best a third place team with no playoff shot. Even finishing ahead of Texas can no longer be taken for granted.
What's more frightening is that if a major move is to take place, Bill Bavasi will be the one making it. Which, given the record, is at least an even-money bet to make things worse.
I agree with Steve at Mariners Wheelhouse that trading for Jason Kendall is a disastrous move that Bavasi is likely to consider -- he's old, a "good clubhouse guy," and is superficially productive. Also, Bavasi has demonstrated an antipathy for Ben Davis and a willingness to give or take on huge contracts for aging, injury-prone players. Realistically, we're looking at getting a guy like this, not Carlos Beltran, if Three Dollar Bill makes a move.
Unfortunately, I also agree with Steve that Bavasi isn't like to be fired for at least another two years. I have no idea what the shortest tenure for a general manager is, but I've never heard of a one-and-done GM.
Still, it's worth pointing out that the M's won 93 games last year, and that the new GM came in and made wholesale changes to the roster. Bob Melvin's substitution patterns are questionable at best, Randy Winn can't catch or throw, and Willie Bloomquist is Willie Bloomquist -- but if this team comes in last, it's pretty clear the blame shouldn't go to them.
My favorite reactionary's "Decision Tracker" shows just how many moves Bavasi made in an attempt to put his mark on the team. Bavasi kept an aging core in place and surrounded them with more over-30 guys. He traded away value for no return. The buck stops with him.
Now, the bright side.
The Mariners are a big-budget team. Their payroll approaches $100 million. A team with that kind of resources can reload in a hurry, if judicious moves are made.
The Mariners are chock-full of young pitching. This is a valuable commodity. The Mariners are chock-full of "proven veteran" players. This is also a valuable commodity.
So even though I don't see anything good happening with the current roster configuration, things could turn around in a hurry, this year or next. The next month is going to be critical for determining which it's gonna be.
I don't think any of us was prepared for the possibility that the M's would be trading veteran hitters for prospects at the deadline. And I don't think that's a foregone conclusion. Yet.
But if there's no movement between now and, say, June 1, I think it will be.
posted by Jefflink 5:30 PM 
A brief wail: Under mounting deadline pressure (I'm doing a five-story package for Multinational Monitor), I haven't had much blogging time this weekend.
And frankly, the games have been depressing -- getting shut out by Joaquin Benoit? The only Benoit I fear is Chris.
Today, though, is a real rip-your-heart deal, though the game's still in progress. This offensively-challenged team scraps and claws to get back in it, scratching out a rally to get within three runs with three innings to play.
And then, Kevin Jarvis. I could've swarn I heard a collective "Nooooooooooooo!" from every Mariner fan. We all knew what was coming next.
Or rather, we didn't. We've seen Jarvis stink, and we could predict that. But three home runs in a row? Three? Back-to-back-to-now five games back.
What is going to take to get rid of Kevin Jarvis? Is he going to have to mug Bob Melvin? Is he going to have to rob a bank? Go out to clubs with Leonard Little? Let me know, and I'll make it happen. I'll make a Kevin Jarvis mask and do whatever I have to.
The Mariners desperately, desperately needed this game. Contending teams can't afford to get swept at Texas. Yes, it's early, but I don't think it's too early to say this:
Seattle won't contend this year without a major roster move. And if one isn't in the offing, we could well be sellers -- not buyers -- at the trade deadline.
posted by Jefflink 1:32 PM