Boone said it's been a pretty rough year for the Mariners. Why? Because last year at this time, he had about 60 RBIs, and now he only has 20-something.
How about this? It's been a tough year because your team is 13 games under .500 and it's only June and it's already pretty much over for the Mariners.
Boone comes from a baseball family. His grandfather played, his dad played, and his brother Aaron ... just ask any Red Sox fan if he plays.
Coming from a family like that, you'd think he'd have a little more sense.
If this article were a blog -- or if The Kruk were able to operate this radical new technology known as "hyperlinking" -- we'd be able to see Boone's comments, hopefully even in context. 'Cause I sure don't remember Boone saying anything like that. I've seen him say a lot of "Gawd, what an awful year for everybody," and maybe he used his RBI stats as an example among many others ... but that's a far stretch what Kruk is trying to make him say.
The fact is, there's no shortage of numerical indicators for why this year has been brutal for the Mariners. You could make a Santa Claus-length list of them. If Boone wants to throw out his own numbers, I don't really have a problem with it, though I agree with Kruk's point (who doesn't?) that it's all about winning games.
Just one more reason not to ever, ever read the Kruk column again. Bad me.
Okay, I'm really going. Last post for a while, probably. Will try to post from the road, and will be back July 7 at any rate.
posted by Jefflink 2:49 PM 
Or, um, not. Like, never in a billion years not.
posted by Jefflink 11:32 AM 
Yankee prospects: I'm going to give it to you straight: while I'm not utterly opposed to trading Freddy Garcia, I think trading him to the Yankees is probably a very bad idea. You can judge for yourself after checking out these links, but let me just say this:
None of these guys (save Dioner Navarro, who we've covered ad nauseum) make the Baseball Prospectus' top 50 prospects list, nor even get an honorable mention. Ditto for the Hardball Times' list. And there are serious questions even about Navarro, a catcher.
So, we can trade a hot young pitcher to a dominant and hated team that has the money to sign him to a ridiculous long-term contract and damn the consequences, and we can't even get back a legitimate top-FIFTY prospect? Are you kidding? There has got to be a better option. The Mets have two prospects in BP's top 15, just traded for Richard Hidalgo, and look like they want to make a run this year. I'm not saying we could get Scott Kazmir or David Wright, but their system looks much deeper than the Yanks'. Justin Huber, a catcher, is an honorable mention guy at BP. That might be a better option -- though this Yankees prospects chat at Baseball America says Dioner is better by a wide margin.
On to the links ...
Robinson Cano: The first thing that jumps out at me from his numbers is frighteningly bad plate discipline. David Cameron, who has seen Cano play, says in this article that his throwing arm just isn't going to get it done at third base. His PECOTA card offers one or two encouraging comparisons (George Brett, Jeremy Reed) amid a veritable wasteland of washouts. He compares nicely to Bobby Valentine, which is nice, I guess, if we want a manager of the future.
Point in his favor: Cano loves his dad. Happy Father's Day!
Eric Duncan: Just 19, Duncan is a third baseman that looks like he can hit. He's mashing at A-ball in Staten Island right now, albeit in just 59 at bats. He played high school ball at Seton Hall Prep, and forswore an offer to suit up for LSU when he was taken in the first round by the Yankees last year. Baseball America called him the best prospect in the Gulf Coast League last year.
Lots of points in his favor, but read this glowing profile which lauds, among other things, his work ethic so far as a pro. He's a few years away, but looks like a solid bet.
Brad Halsey: This season, he's off to a great start at Columbus. The Minor Yankee Blog listed him as No. 9 on the top-10 Yankee prospects list. Of course, Drew Henson was at 10, so, grain of sea-salt. Word is that he has a good change-up and doesn't give up too many long balls, but his overall numbers are uninspiring. He looks like a back-of-the-rotation guy at best.
So, that's the breakdown. We may get to see Halsey start on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, so watch that if you're interested.
Okinawa notes ... leaving Monday: Leaving on Monday for a two-week trip to Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu Islands. I will try to blog if I can -- including pictures -- but my Internet access situation is uncertain, so posts will become less frequent (and may even halt) until I return on July 7.
posted by Jefflink 10:19 AM 
Garcia to Yanks rumors heat up: The NY Daily News reports that the Mariners are so interested in Robinson Cano, a 21-year-old AA infielder, that they have asked the Yanks to move him to third with an eye toward a trade.
Seattle scouts have been following the Yankees' Double-A team in Trenton recently and may have asked the Yankees to move prospect Robinson Cano from second base to third to see how he'd handle the position with an eye toward a potential trade. The Yankees are interested in Seattle righthander Freddy Garcia, who is 3-6 with a 3.23 ERA this season.
Asked if Cano had been switched for a showcase, a Yankee official would not be specific but said, "Somebody wanted to see him play third, yes. You can read into that." ...
Cano, a 21-year-old who is batting .297 with six homers and 38RBI at Trenton, played third earlier this week, the first time he's played there as a professional.
In a related story, the New York Times writes that 23-year-old Brad Halsey (who may be called up to fill Mike Mussina's spot if the Moose goes on the DL) could figure in a Garcia deal. The NYT also mentions Navarro, Jose Contreras (with most of his contract paid) and Yankee first-round pick Eric Duncan, a third baseman, as players the M's are interested in.
In a subsequent post, I'll offer some links about each of those players.
posted by Jefflink 10:01 AM 
Thursday, June 17, 2004
In tight games in the future, I am going to write long posts whacking the Mariners who are batting in the ensuing inning. I will call this the "Spiezio home run principle."
Congrats, Scott, on your second extra-base hit this month.
posted by Jefflink 1:38 PM 
Sandbagging the Sand Frog: When the year began, most of the blogerati was convinced that signing Raul Ibanez was going to be a nightmare. The bloated contract, the aging player coming from a hitters' ballpark to a pitchers' park -- all the ingredients were there.
Less criticism came Bavasi's way for signing Scott Spiezio. Consensus seemed to be that this was a reasonable minor signing -- perhaps a bit of an overpay, but the grousing I saw was more "this is a low-impact move" than "albatross contract, utter disaster." Even Rob Neyer said that the $9 million contract over three years was reasonable.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle in this time of offensive emptiness is what a disastrous year this has been for Spiezio. A recent slump has driven his OBP below .300, and he's not hitting for power, either.
Come to think of it, he's not hitting much of anything. Going into today's game, he's at .228/.297./.383. In today's game, he's popped out and hit into a double play. This makes him 5 for his last 50. If you discount a 3-for-3 day he had on June 7, he's 2 for his last 47. Of those five hits, only one has been for extra bases. [Game log here.]
The explanation that makes the most sense -- other than, you know, he's not very good and he's entered the decline phase of his career -- is that the back problem we thought might require surgery is still bugging him. He's also got that oblique strain, which seems to be nagging as well.
Here's the thing, though: back problems linger. You almost never see someone just miraculously become free of them, especially later in one's career. You can put up with chronic back troubles if you've got a Scott at third base named Rolen. Spiezio, not so much.
Additionally, older players are at greater risk of injury than younger players. If the Mariner front office has learned nothing else from this season, I'd hope that the folly of relying too much on so-called "proven veterans" would be it. John Olerud's an object lesson, and I sincerely hope the plan of switching Spiezio to first base next year is being reconsidered.
People like to hold up Rich Aurilia's numbers next to Carlos Guillen's as the worst example of Three Dollar Bill's follies. I won't argue, but will add this: Bavasi's big mistake wasn't signing Aurilia. Sure, he's turned out to be awful this year, but that would have been tough to foresee. His big mistake was giving away Guillen for nothing.
If he hadn't, we'd have had a servicable left side of the infield practically no matter what. Aurilia flops? Fine. Stick Carlos back out there. Aurilia performs as expected, but Spiezio flops or gets hurt? Guillen played third last year. We'd have had options.
As it stands, it looks like we're stuck with an injury-prone, below-average player at a power position whose expensive contract will be a drain on the budget for the next three years. That limits options. It takes up a roster spot that could be used to give a shot to younger, cheaper players like Justin Leone, Bucky Jacobsen, or Greg Dobbs. And by the end of his deal, we may see Spiezio's contract hamstring the budget worse than we feared Ibanez' would.
Punch, meet Judy: We're in a National League park today, so the pitcher bats. The lineup looks like this:
As I type this, Randy Winn doubles and Jolbert Cabrera hits his first homer of the year, breaking up Capuano's no-hitter and shutout. Yes, I was starting to worry.
Look at that lineup, though! At this point in the season, is there anyone you expect to get a hit when they step to the dish except Ichiro? Is there anyone who you look at other than Ichiro or Boone and think, "that player is a definite starter in the big leagues"?
It's gotten to the point where a shutout is a real possibility every time this team takes the field. That's great for the self-esteem of opposing pitchers: not so much for the ol' winning percentage.
posted by Jefflink 11:33 AM 
Am I seeing things, or did Chris Capuano just sit down the top of the order with SIX PITCHES? And that includes a three-pitch strikeout of Ichiro.
That's right, the Mariners' one and two hitters (Randy Winn and Jolbert Cabrera, yech!) saw a total of three pitches between them. By way of contrast, Scott Podsednik saw 10 pitches leading off the bottom of the frame for the Brew Crew -- nearly twice as many pitches as all three Mariner hitters.
Way to preach patience at all levels of the organization, guys. And remember, Cabrera is a guy Bavasi loves. Ugh.
posted by Jefflink 11:16 AM 
As I've said before, Overbay's a nice player, but I'd be very concerned about overpaying for him. His gap power might be developing, or his performance over the last year might be fluky. He slugged just over .400 in 200-some at bats last year, and is slugging over .550 this year so far.
Reason he will probably come to the Mariners: he's from Centralia.
Reason he will probably not come to the Mariners: he turned 27 in January, so he might counteract clubhouse chemistry by refusing Geritol, Matlock and hands of canasta.
Besides, with first basemen that can hit hardly in short supply, there's an issue of position scarcity to consider. For the right price, sure, I'd take Overbay. But I don't think an organization like the Brewers is gonna give up a relatively young, cheap player with talent for what I'd consider the right price.
Via Tyler at Oly Mariner, Wiley's Page 2 colleagues also remember him. I leave for Okinawa on Monday. If one of my planes goes down or I get eaten by a hammerhead shark, I hope I have had one-tenth the impact on my friends and family that he apparently did.
Tyler tells a story about being encouraged by Wiley via email. I have a similar experience, though he didn't compliment my writing. I IM'd him out of the blue with a fanboy message. He had every right to ignore me, or even play the do-you-know-who-I-am card, since he didn't know me from Adam Everett.
He didn't. He was kind and gracious. That impresses me almost as much as his body of work does, because it seems like everyone has a similar story about Ralph Wiley the man.
posted by Jefflink 12:02 PM 
One sheet to the wind in this series so far: No one ever likes to be shut out, but when a pitcher the quality of Ben Sheets puts the clamps down, you just have to tip your cap to him. He had that near no-hitter (which I watched, due to the magic of MLB.tv) a few weeks ago, and now authors a masterful two-hitter against the M's over seven innings.
Wait a second. You saw that wasn't Ben Sheets? It was Victor Santos?
Carlos Guillen is bitter and enjoys rubbing his great season in the Mariners' collective face.
Three Dollar Bill Watch: What is up with people I respect writing about how Bavasi is a man "trying to save his job"?
Look, I wish it were true. I also wish I could speak seven languages, that trans-Pacific airfare was free, and that I lived on a ranch populated by Basset Hound puppies.
There's no question Bavasi did not deserve this job. In six seasons with the Angels, he never made the playoffs, and Angels fans as an aggregate (justifiably) laughed loud enough when we hired him that I could hear it up the I-5 corridor. And yes, his performance as GM so far would be laughable if it hadn't crossed that line from "funny bad" to "miserable bad."
Yes, he deserves to be fired.
But I don't see it happening, and I don't see his moves as acts of desperation. Here's why we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the Pink Slip Delivery Service:
1. When was the last time a general manager was fired after one year -- in any case? As a corollary question, who has the shortest tenure as a GM in MLB history? I have a hard time believing that slow-to-react, give-him-a-chance-to-bring-in-his-players baseball showed anybody the door in under three years.
2. When was the last time the Mariners' front office had a shakeup? This is not an organization that, for better or for worse, acts hastily. They may not have interviewed people that I thought they should have (Paul DePodesta and Kim Ng being only the most prominent examples), but there's little doubt they got the guy they wanted. I can't see them giving up on him after one bad year. He's a Good Baseball Man, after all, with Baseball in His Blood.
3. Bavasi's efforts strike me as the moves of a deluded and misguided man who honestly believes he's doing what's best for the franchise, one who may even believe (due to 1995, his best shot to make the playoffs as a GM) that the Mariners can compete this year. He's not grasping at straws because he thinks his neck's on the line -- he really thinks that they can get back in the race this year.
If he weren't ruining my favorite team, such naivete would be charming.
In summary, I do think Bavasi will ultimately be fired. However, I think it'll take at least three years to get rid of him, and his moves might wreak havoc on the team for years beyond that.
I'd love to be wrong. Anybody want to prove me wrong? If I get some interesting replies, I'll post 'em or link to 'em.
posted by Jefflink 11:06 AM 
Monday, June 14, 2004
Letter of the year: My friend and former debate student Jon Helfgott has a great letter in the Seattle Times as a response to Steve Kelley's "is this really a baseball town?" column. Well worth reading.
Moore on Alaska update: Wow, that generated a lot of e-mail. Jim Moore e-mailed with a mea culpa, which is cool of him.
So let me reciprocate with one of my own: Jeremy of Sports and Bremertonians fame informs me that Cliff Lee was born in Benton, Arkansas -- so I was wrong about that. Guess the Alaska sports website I consulted got a little overzealous about claiming somebody from near their fair state in the alphabet.
And, thanks to Brian Curtis, we find the source of Moore's info. This Juneau Empire article writes that Chad Bentz is "the second player to have played either high school or American Legion baseball in Alaska to make the major leagues." In a sense, then, Moore was right: players like Josh Phelps and Curt Schilling were born in Alaska, but evidently didn't stay long.
RIP, R-dub.: Shock is the barest approximation of how I felt when I heard that Ralph Wiley had died.
I was getting out of the water from a scuba dive with my uncle when I heard the news. At best, surfacing from a dive is like a jarring return from another planet. This time, I felt as if I'd return to a planet poorer than the one I left.
Ralph Wiley was a wordsmith with a social conscience. That rubbed some people the wrong way, which is understandable: the artist's role is not just to inspire, but to provoke, to challenge. If we're convinced the world we've got is perfect, we never progress. No one begs to be reminded of social evils, but it is necessary work -- work Wiley did as well as anyone.
He told stories through the lens of sport, of film, of the arts. He brought a polymath's touch to his writing that made me appreciate pastimes (like boxing) about which I truly couldn't care less. Those long, flowing lines with their incisive asides, thrown off with what seemed like no effort, made me aspire to write better, to know more, to be more.
The Road Dog has traveled on to the most mysterious place there is. Safe travels, R-dub. I will miss you.
posted by Jefflink 8:43 PM