A website devoted to serious bull on all things regarding the Seattle Mariners. We invite interesting input: send your thoughts to rickmichels@juno.com - we also invite you to join discussion at thebullpen@yahoogroups.com

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The best explanation for this year's late season fold is that the team is old. We knew going into the year the team would be old. OK, that happens. But knowing this, why on earth did we neglect to even interview Dusty Baker for the job as manager. Baker has a remarkable record of coaxing good years and winning seasons out of veterans. And sure enough, Baker has yet again taken an aging team into the postseason.

Mariner management is both complacent AND arrogant. Too arrogant to hire a Dusty Baker, too complacent to let aging veterans go before they fade.

This team would do well to have a significant drop off in attendence, because it would force it into cost cutting measures that would keep it from signing 37 year olds to 2 year contracts.

Friday, September 12, 2003

According to two sources, if you look at the runs scored and allowed by team, using variations of the Bill James Pythagorean theorem, the Mariners are the best team in the majors:

Baseball Prospectus
says we should have won 87 games and
ESPN says we should have won 89, highest in both situations among all all teams in the majors.

So what does this suggest? Poor managing? Snakebitten team? Bad decison making on the part of the players?
I don't get it - why is Armando Benitez consistently regarded as a terrible reliever?

Look at these lifetime stats:

CAREER 561 gmes 581.1 innings 391 hits 311 BB 197 saves 35 bs .189 BAA 1.21 Ratio 3.03 ERA

Certainly one could get picky over the number of walks. But a .189 opposition batting average and 1.21 ratio should make up for that. Bottom line is that this guy has been a high quality reliever.

And it isn't as if he's been terrible lately. His ERA this year is 2.96, his BAA is .222, his ratio is 1.37. He's giving up too many walks, but it's not like he's fallen apart.

The rap on him is apparently that he chokes in high pressure situations. But Arthur Rhodes does not get the same rap, even though he is most responsible for the lack of World Series appearances for Seattle, having given up key lead losing home runs in 3 different ALCS games against the Yankees.

Nobody is calling for Nelson's or Rhodes' head for giving up game winning home runs against Rondell White. But when Benitez gives up a crushing home run to Raphael Palmeiro, suddenly he stinks - as if he is the only one on this team to do such a thing.

Bottom line is Benitez is not the second coming of Bobby Ayala - not yet anyway. I think this "Benitez sucks" thing is overwrought New York media anti-hype. And Jeff Nelson is probably being over-hyped right now by the same media.

I could be wrong. But if Benitez is that horrible, I think the stats would do a better job of reflecting it. I suppose he's horrible compared to Rivera. But he isn't horrible compared to Jeff Nelson or Arthur Rhodes.

Monday, September 08, 2003

I'm probably a bigger AJ Zapp/Justin Leone fan than most Mariner watchers. Perhaps I'm too excited about the prospect of having power at the corners. It used to be a given, but the days of Olerud, Cirillo, Bell, Guillen have caused us to forget what its like. Neither of these two will probably be stars in the Majors (Leone perhaps - there aren't that many good 3rd basemen in the AL). But they can field well, and they will produce good power numbers.

And if we ever see power guys like these surround Boone and Jose Lopez - a shortstop with Tejada like power, there would be nothing wrong with pulling the left and left center fences in. They aren't set in stone.
Jose Lopez homers twice against ex- big leaguer and one time top A's prospect Mario Ramos as the Missions take game one in the Texas League championships 10-0 vs. Frisco Rough Riders. Bobby Madtrisch pitches 6 shutout innings, striking out 8 and walking 1 (control was a concern earlier this year but Bobby has really improved there in the second half). Late season callup Ramon Nivar was returned to Frisco by the Texas Rangers to add some pop to the lineup.

This kid Lopez could turn out to be something special.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

What is wrong with the offense????

I know we should have gotten more offense for the stretch run, but this team has enough offense to win all these games we've been losing lately. No one thought the offense would be THIS bad. The bench sucks and Colbrunn would have been worth a couple wins. So would a healthy Chris Snelling. Imagine if Snelling could have been spelling Ichiro over August.

Until this team is able to overcome the woeful farm system it entered the Safeco era with (exacerbated by a unusual slew of injuries), we simply are not able to deal with injuries. Our payroll is going primarily to pay aging mid level talent that other teams have youngsters fill. $3-$5 mil here for Wilson, and there for Nelson, and here for Guillen and there for Cirillo, and here for McLemore and there for Winn - it starts adds up in a hurry. I love Edgar and as long as he's willing I say he's our DH. But let's face it - if Edgar wasn't on the team we could have chased after David Ortiz and saved about $5 million without any dropoff in production. Teams with a good flow of talent feed in their prospects slowly and lop off expensive players. Teams like the Mariners (and the Mets and the Cubs) have not had a farm system and thus are forced to spend millions on the entire team. When's the last time anyone can remember the M's being able to feed in a position player prospect? Before they tried with Snelling last year, it was Jose Cruz. When's the last time the M's could even stock their bench with useful up and coming young talent? The Angels have had a real prospect, Jeff DaVanon, as their 4th outfielder all year. He's been very productive and will allow them to deal a Salmon or Erstad if they have to.

One thing I like about position the Mariners are in is that if they are smart, they can restock over the next two years, and not go through two years or more of non-contention like we see happening in Cleveland. We can release the Oleruds and Sasakis and Moyers and Edgars little by little and remain a team in contention. And we'll be able to make our big push, and when we do, it won't be a "mortgage the future for a shot at a ring" kind of deal, but something done in a position of strength. We'll give up surplus prospects and keep some in reserve so that if it does not work (ala Houston and Randy Johnson, or Boston and Larry Anderson) we are ready to reload and go at it again the next year, and the year after that. We have no surpus right now, because so many have been getting hurt.

I'm looking forward to the year in which we are going into the season with a solid team predicted to contend, $5-$10 under budget, and young prospects ready to move up if needed. If we never get there, I'll blame management. When we are there, and management sits on its collective butts and collects income, I'll blame management. But for management to stand back this year because the talent was either too expensive in dollars, in risk, and/or prospects, and so it held back - I'll give them a pass. This team was good enough to go 4-2 or 5-1 on this road trip. That it didn't is its own fault and not Gillick's. Not this time.

Friday, September 05, 2003

A second good outing by Meche. Six innings, two earned runs (should have been 1 but for a botched double play and a bloop). Five K's. Meche is getting his second wind. He and Franklin continue to impress, and are shouldering the load Freddie and Pineiro can't hold up right now.

Ichiro makes the offense go. When Ichiro produces, we win. When he sucks, we suck. Is it really that simple?

Sunday it's a rematch of Seattle's AA vs. Texas's AA when the Missions take on Frisco for the Texas League championship. Last year the stars of the series were Raphael Soriano and Mark Texiera (Seattle won btw). But as you can see, the series can have interesting ramifications for the immediate future.

As you look over the Mission roster, you can see the possible outlines of a future Mariner roster, in 2004 and/or 2005

3rd base - Justin Leone (Texas League Player of the Year)
ss - Jose Lopez - Texas league All Star at age 19
1st - A.J. Zapp ( a lefty slugger! Hooray!)
LF - Strong/Snelling -
CF - dare we dream for 2005? Shin Soo Choo

Starting Pitchers:

Nageotte (R)
Blackley (L) - Texas League Pitcher of the Year
Madstrich (L - a *power* lefty)

And you never know what you may get out of excellent yet hurt pitchers like Rett Johnson, Matt Thornton, Jeff Heaverlo or a guy like Craig Anderson, a crafty lefthander who pitches well at every level. There is real depth here.

Surrond these guys with Ichiro, Boone, Soriano (closer), Meche, Pineiro, and free agent bucks to buy a real stud when Garcia, Sasaki, Wilson, McLemore, and Cameron (a great player but who has no use for Safeco) are gone - and you've got a team with payroll AND flexibility. It is my strong contention that what a player does in his first year in AA is what he can be reasonably expected to do in the Majors, once he establishes himself. If I am right, we have some damn good players, even studs, and at bargain prices.

It is possible the Mariners can save the millions they spend on servicable middle relievers and aging catchers and third basemen, and go and blow the wad on a real STUD. With the Mariners growing their youngsters slowly, paying their dues in AA and then AAA, not rushing them, the chances are excellent the serviceable spare parts are right here - young and cheap. These guys are playing long seasons in the high minors. They are learning, and winning. Now, if they can stay healthy.

We all wanted a big bat this year. But the fact is, you never really know if that big bat will produce like you want or need it to. And mortgaging your future for a quick hit is a very serious concern. Next year, if the Mariners are smart, they can trade lower level and spare prospects for all the additional help they need.

I want the M's to win it all this year. But I also want the M's to be in a position to win it all year after year for the next decade. Since Safeco opened, we have been a big market team with a depleted farm system. We could spend the bucks, but not at the level that others could. We'll be in a better position next year with the bucks and a slew of young players, ready to contribute.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

With runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs in the 8th, down 1-0 and trying to lay down a bunt, why not pinch hit Ichiro for Wilson? Surely Ichiro can lay down a bunt, and he may even end up with a base hit out of it. It was very painful watching Wilson miss pitches that Ichiro could bunt all day long.

It was the perfect assignment for your best hitter, getting a much needed rest. Ichiro would have gone 0-5 tonight, but he would have placed that bunt.

Score another one for Lou over Melvin.

Lou also has the luxury of throwing his best arms in the system into the starting rotation. And guys like Sosa and whatever the hell his name is have the ability to post complete game shutouts. They also have the ability to get rocked, and they will. Jorge Sosa has a hell of an arm, and watching him fire 96 MPH heaters in the 9th made one think of what Soriano could do in the rotation.

But Sosa and Whosit will get rocked before the season is out, probably by Boston. Soriano would have some rough outings as well. Sosa was excellent, but it isn't as if we didn't get some nice raps against him. They just didn't fall in, and the Rays put up some nice leather. I thought Franklin pitched a better game. The M's were hitting Sosa harder than the Rays were hitting Franklin, and right now the Rays are a better hitting team. It's a shame.

The A's get to face Joe Kennedy this weekend, who has been just awful. Let's hope he has his one good game coming up.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Can Oakland falter? Tim Hudson getting rocked by a tepid Oriole lineup is a good sign. But it's only one start. Thank God we didn't fall behind them by yet another game.

Boston is playing real inspired ball lately. They refuse to lose, to dust off an oldie. It's frightening. Their confidence grows daily - you can feel it. It's something lacking in our present Seattle lineup.

If this is the best Freddie and Joel can give us, Lackluster performances against bottom dwellers, then we are mere pretenders to the pennant. You hope it turns around - but without a productive Ichiro, it's hard to see how.

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