Having Joe Torre and Bob Melvin manage against each other is really a study in contrasts, isn't it? I mean, apart from the zeal with which Melvin gives away bunt outs, fails to think ahead in games ("If I bunt Ichiro over, I wonder if they'll walk Edgar to get at Spiezio and Cabrera"), and clings to baseball's imaginary "book" as if it were the conch in Lord of the Flies.
Case in point from this game today. One of Melvin's major deficiencies is his unwillingness to use our best relief pitcher a) in anything other than a save situation or b) for more than one inning. Eddie Guardado has been in 14 games; he's pitched 15 innings. As his game log shows, he's never pitched more than 1.1 innings, and he's done that only three times.
Compare that to the way Joe Torre uses Mariano Rivera. While he hasn't used Rivera for two innings as much this year, today shows that he's willing to do so if it gives his team the best shot at a win. Rivera's the best he's got, so even though the game's tied, he goes with him for two innings when a victory is on the line without hesitation.
I think J.J. Putz is a good pitcher, and I'm glad he's getting important innings. But if you're not going to use Guardado when Jason Giambi is up in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, when are you going to use him? Is there a more important game situation than this? And Giambi's even left-handed!
As I write this, though, it's the 11th inning, and Julio Mateo's in. Guardado's been sitting ever since the top of the ninth. Maybe this will work out, maybe it won't. But if Mateo faces Giambi in the 12th, especially with Matsui in there after Sheffield, something's really wrong here strategically.
Melvin's not going to have Winn bunt again, is he? Say it isn't so.
posted by Jefflink 1:30 PM 
Nope, it's 2003 Shiggy. Sorry I said anything.
posted by Jefflink 12:27 PM 
Art Thiel's column today is well worth reading beyond even its zinger of a best line. Referring to Bavasi's "I don't know if my team can hit or not" quote, Thiel writes:
The time to make judgments about who can hit was last winter.
Today's games: Now I know you didn't think the game was over when we went up 4-0 on Donovan Osborne. Donovan Osmond could be on the mound for the Yankees and I still wouldn't feel right. Fortunately, as I speak, Bob Melvin has called on Shigetoshi Hasegawa to preserve a now 7-6 lead. Why do I say "fortunately"? I'm hoping 2002 Shiggy shows up. that, and when even the Optimist's positivity sounds forced, well, you gotta do what you can.
I like David's plan quite a bit, and agree with 99 percent of it. For a while now, I've been saying that the M's payroll allows for them to be competitive again in a hurry if the money is spent wisely.
I'll wait for the snickers to die down after that last clause.
First, let me reinforce David's caveats. The GM is a lot more than transaction boy (although that's the most fun to talk about -- witness the fantasy league phenomenon). Also, the considerations I think we value highest involve creating a winning team rather than, say, a marketable one.
That said, let me present the only two things I take issue with in the post:
-- I think you could get certain clubs to see Spiezio, and even possibly Ibanez, as assets instead of millstone contracts. There are plenty of GMs in love with clutch hitters, veteran players, good clubhouse guys and World Series heroes, all of which are appellations thrown Sand Frog's way.
True, among most contenders, third and first aren't prominent positions of need. But if Darrin Erstad's hamstring tear is a chronic problem, wouldn't you think the Angels might consider taking back The Guy Who Won Them The Series? Yes, Kotchman may well be a better player right now, but he's much better than Erstad, too. We also know that Arte Moreno isn't afraid to spend money if he thinks it'll put his team over the top and that more than one personnel guy has fallen for the "You aren't starting that rookie in the playoffs, are you?" line. It's a phone call I'd make, at any rate.
Ibanez is less likely to be attractive, because his contract is so much more out of whack with the market, but many of the same points apply. Even if a contender doesn't want an enormously expensive fourth outfielder, why not try to sell him as a good example for younger players on rebuilding teams? Say it with me: "World-class human being."
-- David knows dramatically more about the minors than I do, but (as I mentioned before) I'd ask for Jeremy Reed before Joe Borchard in a deal with the White Sox. Small point, and he might even agree with me on that, but one worth mentioning.
To add another bit to something that's been bandied about recently, while I was gone, Peter Gammons wrote this:
Hats off to GM Bill Bavasi for recognizing the Mariners' problem is that they need to get younger, more athletic and energetic.
I see two problems with this.
1. My first reaction was right in line with otherfolks: this is like saying "Hats off to the President for recognizing it would be a bad idea to attack Iraq."
I mean, if I recruit every other Mariner blogger for a plot to rob liquor stores across the state as a means to fund acquiring Carlos Beltran, and then we all get caught and go to jail, should I be saying "You know, the problem with M's bloggers is all this larceny"?
Strap in for fright, friends, 'cause I think there's something even scarier here.
2. What's a synonym for "younger, more athletic and energetic." in baseball-man-speak? If you said "toolsy," consider yourself a certified translator.
This has been a bone of contention in baseball for many years -- some judge baseball players by their vertical leap, their bench press, or other physical attributes. Perhaps this makes sense in a sport like football or basketball, but to me it's always seemed more sensible to evaluate talent based on the ability to play baseball.
This is the type of logic that undervalues players like Craig Wilson and -- in his prime -- Edgar Martinez. It's the type of logic that overvalues players like, say, Jason Tyner, who might be able to beat Ichiro in the 40-yard-dash but couldn't outhit Junichiro Koizumi.
So why does this scare me so much? His statement, I think, means Bavasi believes we need more players like Ramon Santiago.
He's young. He's athletic. He brings fire and intensity to the clubhouse. "He can pick it up and throw it." Never mind that he can't hit to save his life, and basically every defensive metric says he's not a good shortstop, either.
Note: of the previous expression of sentiments, none applies specifically to Sanitago except for Bavasi's quote about him and my snarky remarks. The whole "young, athletic, fire and intensity" spiel is what I expect to be trotted out, Bull-Durham style, when the M's acquire other players of this (skunk-like) stripe.
This is why I don't want this man trading for prospects.
Trade rumors, part two: For once, The TV Critic has written something you'd think I would agree with.
But you, like The TV Critic, would be wrong.
Oh yes, sure, I'm into the Mariners making a bold move. But to think only of trading for prospects is a bad idea. Two reasons.
First, Bavasi wouldn't know a good prospect if he walked up, said, "Hello, my name is Justin Morneau," complimented the city of Seattle's livability, bemoaned being stuck in the minors, and then homered four straight times off of Jamie Moyer.
Second, and more importantly, this team has deep pockets and a number of contracts ready to come off the books next year. With wise use of that $95 million budget -- I know, I know -- they could contend again next year.
The 2005 free agent class includes Carlos Beltran, Magglio Ordonez, Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Cabrera, Troy Glaus, Richard Hidalgo, Mike Lowell, Richie Sexson, Aramis Ramirez, Edgar Renteria and many more.
I'm not going to speculate about which players would be a nice fit, or which the Mariners would actually consider -- maybe in a subsequent post -- but with Rich Aurilia ($3.5 million) Freddy Garcia ($6.88 million), John Olerud ($7.7 million) and Edgar Martinez ($3-7 million) most likely headed off the roster, they could make a run at some top-shelf talent. Or, more likely, a lot of middle-tier talent.
My point is, as nice as getting a few top prospects would be, the M's budget enables them to compete again in a hurry. There's no reason to concede to a three-year rebuilding plan.
Fault and responsibility: Trekking down I-5 on the way back from my work trip, I thought I saw four large tires bouncing down the road haphazardly, in all different directions. It wasn't until later it occurred to me: are those the wheels of the Mariners' bandwagon that have come off, or the wheels of the team itself?
Yup, probably both.
Fortunately, the guys at USS Mariner have been especially prolific lately. I was just wondering after yesterday's loss when we'd get a new GM watch.
You've probably seen this article, with this pithy bon mot from Three Dollar Bill:
"They don't play offense," [Bill Bavasi] said of his players. "They either don't know how to play offense or they can't."
Here's what I have to add to what's already been said about this quote: why is Bavasi getting away with this craven attempt to duck responsibility? Look at yesterday's box score: Ibanez, Cabrera, Speizio and Santiago are all Bavasi acquisitions. Nearly half of the starting lineup. If this team can't "play offense," whose fault is that?
(Also, is this the first use of the phrase "play offense" in reference to baseball? I feel like going all Bobby Knight here, like that time where he ripped a reporter for using the term "the other side of the ball" in reference to hoops. But if I could fix one thing about Bavasi, it wouldn't be his rhetorical flourishes, so I won't bother.)
Even Bob Finnigan knows that the problem is rooted in this team's penchant for the one-bagger. Why do I have a feeling Bavasi's going to go and get us another aging singles hitter like Jason Kendall?
Sure, this isn't all Bavasi's fault. there have been injuries; players have underperformed.
But it's more his fault than anyone else's. He brought in those players. He chose to supplement an aging lineup with old players and younger players who can't hit.
Last post until Thursday. Couldn't resist posting this bit about Johnny Damon, who keeps looking cooler (and crazier) to me. In the midst of an otherwise boring "he'll shave the beard for charity" story, you'll find this:
When he arrived in Fort Myers, Fla., Damon talked about his unusual after-dark training regime: racing cars on the Orlando street where he lives, which has a 25 mph speed limit.
"Once a car starts coming, I'll just race it to my house," he said. "I scare the cars to speed up a little more, seeing a caveman-looking guy with long hair running at 10 or 11 at night."
So this explains how the Sasquatch rumor got as far south as Florida.
posted by Jefflink 7:39 AM 
Monday, May 10, 2004
"QUITE A KETCH – The acquisition of pitcher Ryan Ketchner from the Seattle Mariners on April 3 is paying off huge for Jacksonville. In six starts, the left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA, which ranks fourth in the Southern League. He has allowed 28 hits and 12 walks with 29 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. In his last start, on May 6 vs. Huntsville, Ketchner yielded one run in 6.0 innings of a 7-2 Suns’ triumph."
But hey, we got an over-30 utility player in the deal. Who can complain about that? Except of course me.
Also, Ken Rosenthal teases me by including the M's in a list of Carlos Beltran suitors. Why do you mock me, Ken? At least he admits that Beltran is likely to become a Yankee.
Unless Brian Cashman performs the ultimate heel turn on Steinbrenner, guides Beltran to Seattle, and then displaces Bavasi next year. Now THAT would be cool.
As I often remark to friends, one of the real shames about the Bavasi regime is that, if we'd just waited a year -- appointed an interim GM, or even did it ad hoc for a season -- Cashman was ours. I mean, it was money in the bank. Seven months ago, he was saying things like this:
"I don't think there's anybody in baseball who wouldn't want that job," Cashman told the Post-Intelligencer. "The Mariners have a terrific fan base, a beautiful stadium and a thriving farm system. And when you mix in with that that there aren't many better places to live, there's no question (Seattle) is a great job."
Translation: "Steinbrenner's micro-managing is killing me. Get me the hell out of here, give me a budget one or two steps down, and I'm yours. Please? I'll even say nice things about the rain."
In my dreams, this whole Bavasi business is just a trumped-up ruse. Cashman's deal is up at the end of this year. C'mon, Howard, you know what you have to do.
posted by Jefflink 3:55 PM 
Trade rumors: Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun-Times has some trade speculation of interest.
Closer: Eddie Guardado might be dealt before the deadline if the surprisingly awful Seattle Mariners don't rebound quickly in a competitive American League West. Guardado entered the weekend with five saves, a 1.38 ERA and a .163 batting average against.
Of course, De Luca also wrote that "Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and White Sox GM Ken Williams have shown they can be aggressive and shrewd before the deadline," perhaps the first usage of "shrewd" in the same sentence with Williams' name. So take it for what it's worth.
Of more concern might be Ken Rosenthal's musings that the Mariners might make a run at Lyle Overbay. Lyle's from Centralia, which immediately gives credence to the rumor.
Not that we couldn't use a player like that -- a 27-year-old hitter who has proven he can get on base, at the very least -- but this scares me. That early-season power could easily be a mirage, and first basemen that can hit aren't (shouldn't be) hard to come buy.
Also remember, this is Bill Bavasi we're dealing with, and "Overbay" is just one letter removed from "Overpay."
Another tidbit I found amusing from that article:
Time will tell if Ken Griffey Jr. is truly reviving. Griffey took three called strikes in a recent pinch-hitting appearance against Brewers RHP Brooks Kieschnick with runners on first and third and one out. "He doesn't look like he enjoys himself," one G.M. says. "That fastball inside you would have been scared to death to throw him before, now you can get it in there on him." . . .
I must've missed Griffey being whiffed by Kieschnick. That's funny. And I hope those rumors are dead, since the last thing this team needs is to get older and more injury-prone.
Turn out the lights, close the dome:Steve Kelley throws in the towel on the Mariners' season.
In fact, he even goes Machine Gun Kelley on the team, in one of the grimmest columns bright-side Seattle has given rise to. Some lowlights:
This wasn't just a loss yesterday. It was the early death knell to a lost season.
It was the beginning of the end of an era. The end of packed houses ...
This team can't hit. Can't field. The starting pitching is erratic. And the bullpen is a mess. ...
The question no longer is whether the M's can win the American League West. They can't.
But can they avoid the cellar? Are they better than Oakland? Are they better than Texas?
Someone pass the Prozac.
Seriously, though, this is a great column, well worth reading in its entirety, despite its utter melancholy. Why? Because Kelley (and how often are you going to say this about a local sports columnist?) nails every problem with this team, and lays the blame where it belongs -- on an awful off-season.
I like the P-I much more than I like the Times, even though Larry Stone's power rankings are worth the price of admission on their own (check out the snap after the Mariners listing). But this might be the best column I've read about the M's this year, and it comes mere days after The TV Critic urged Bob Melvin to see the solution right under his nose -- Willie Bloomquist.
Why does the proud P-I let The TV Critic write about sports? Levesque as in wreck, indeed.
posted by Jefflink 8:28 AM 
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Well, at least Osborne didn't get the win:Art Thiel ably sums up today's debacle for tomorrow's paper:
Not only did they lose, and in agonizing fashion, they tossed away a solid start by Jamie Moyer and failed to take a game started by the Yankees' Donovan Osborne, an oft-injured journeyman lefty making his first major league start in five years. Osborne was predictably awful, allowing all the Mariners scoring in a six-run second, but the Yankees got away with starting him.
That's about right, especially since the M's were lucky enough to dodge both Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez this series. If we'd hit those two and Mussina, does anyone doubt we'd be staring a three-game sweep straight in the face?
Thiel even comes pretty close to putting a full-on broadside toward Bavasi:
The one good personnel move since spring training began appears to be the acquisition of Jolbert Cabrera, the utilityman of almost no profile, and he's not playing often enough.
Of course, then he follows that up with a paean to the skills of Mr. Cabrera, a decent enough utility player, but not the guy we ought to be looking to for answers.
Hey, at least we beat Tommy John's favorite pitcher, Jon Lieber.
And speaking of Tommy John ...: Aaron Looper, the doctor will see you now. According to tomorrow's TNT (sorry, no link yet), he's set for the same surgery that cost Lieber a year-and-a-half.
I think the whiplash on his arm from the rapid trade turnaround he's faced this year can reasonably be blamed.
Not enough hand-wringing over this: Story in the Oregonian today about Bret Boone's aching (aging) back. Considering how long this team's shortcomings have spent under the microscope, I'm surprised we haven't talked more about this. Boone's back trouble has me shaking in my boots.
Just imagine the Mariner offense with 400 at bats from Cabrera instead of Boone. Or, all that's holy forbid, mama Bloomquist's baby boy.
Back in the saddle: Apologies for recent sporadic posting. I've been drawn away by a host of recent writing projects, one of which I've been supremely excited about.
Ever since I got the news I'd be going back to Okinawa in late June/early July, I've ben immersed in preparing for it. Plus, I get to try my hand at underwater photography with this bad boy, a gift from my uncle.
There could be some reasonable debate over whether a swimming, sea-borne ray in the wild is more or less inspiring than the 2001 version of the Seattle Mariners. But Bill Bavasi's 2004 version? I'll take the ray. Or the sea turtles. Aye, sea turtles!
From June 21 until early July, I'll be visiting the main island of Okinawa, the largest of the Ryukyu chain, along with southerly islands of Ishigaki and Iriomote. Though I won't be stopping on Yonaguni proper, I'll be close enough that I may try to photograph this underwater 'city', about which there is much mystery and debate.
I've also got a work trip I've got to take from Tuesday-Thursday, so no postings those days.
posted by Jefflink 9:43 PM