Seattle Mariners and general baseball discussion with Jason Michael Barker, David Cameron, and Derek Milhous Zumsteg.
Countdown for 9/22
AL Wild Card
U.S.S. Mariner Originals
The U.S.S. Mariner was a ship behind the Kingdome left-centerfield fence that would fire its cannon after Mariner home runs and wins back in the 1980s. It was crewed by actual U.S. Navy personnel, or that's what they told us.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
In unrelated news, I'm finally learning how football is played. I understand there's a team here in Seattle.
In a nice after-game ceremony we didn't get to see on M's TV, Gillick and the Box presented Billy Beane and Macha with the AL West trophy after today's game. "I don't know why I keep implying bad things about your team," Gillick said. "Especially after the last couple of years. Oh well, I'm leaving this new-fangled game anyway."
It wouldn't have made a difference, but Box Melvin's bizarre fixation on the sac bunt in crucial situations baffles me. When you need one run to win the game, fine, but why in the world would you sac Ichiro from second to third with no outs, burning an out and one of your only decent hitters in the linup?
This is a wildly boneheaded move. You can expect to get 1.17 runs in an inning if you start with 0 outs and a man on second -- and that's an average man, not speedy Ichiro, who can score from second much more readily. A guy on third and one out? .977. At best, if you were playing against a porous defense and could expect that in 10% of the situations you get the batter safely to first as well, it's a break-even move. With Oakland fielding Chavez/Hatteberg, no deal.
I don't care what kind of a high-pressure game this was, it's never a good idea to intentionally cut your own hamstrings. Play for one run if that run will win you the game, because playing for one run will get you only one run. Without knowing that's the case -- and you don't until much later in the ballgames.
Especially with Lilly shaky in the first/second, before he really started dealing -- you want to keep pushing as many batters through those outs as you can, before they can get someone else in or (as we saw today, and earlier this series with Piniero) they start to settle in.
Bonehead move by a bonehead manager.
And here's the other thing. Sometimes in life, you have to report for an ass-kicking. There's a bully who wants a few words about the snide comment about his dad you couldn't manage to hold in, whatever. What you want to do is show up, get the ass-kicking, and walk away. You don't want to get back in line for a second ass-kicking. At 5-0, 6-0, at least we could still hope.
If it wasn't over heading into this series -- and I still contend it was -- it's certainly over now. Oakland's magic number is down to a mere three, meaning the M's pretty much have to win their remaining six games (and even if they do, Oakland would only need to win two of three at home vs. Texas to force a tie). While I suppose that could happen, this team is flawed to the point where running off that kind of a winning streak seems unlikely, particularly when three of those six games are against the A's.
Strong outing by Pedro and the Red Sox win, 2-0, to move two full games up on the M's as of this moment. Not that the M's should be worried about Boston right now -- they have much more pressing matters at hand, like finishing off the sweep of the A's here in another 20 minutes or so.
Meche (15-11, 4.34) vs. Harden (5-4, 4.64). Harden, if you recall, looked like the next coming of Cy Young after his first few starts in the majors, but certainly hasn't been automatic lately. The M's haven't seen him this year. Meche has seen the A's three times, with good results: 1.86 ERA in 19.1 innings. Unfortunately, all he has to show for it is an 0-1 record. The M's are 1-2 in those three starts, but Meche pitched well all three times out.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Has 3B coach Dave Myers ever seen a runner too slow to wave around third? Sure, it was great seeing Davis bash the hell out of Ramon Hernandez, but so far this series we've seen luck bail him out of two obvious bad decisions at the hot corner waving around slow runners.
"Don't Give Up Hope" Picture of the Day (tm)
C'mon kid! The M's haven't been eliminated yet! You gotta believe!
Running Over the A's
5 games remaining against the A's
3 games remaining against the Angels (for the A's, 3 v Texas)
Ignore for the moment the Angels/Rangers
M's win all 5 remaining: M's 93-66, A's 92-67, M's by one
M's go 4-1: M's 92-67, A's 93-66, A's by one
M's go 3-2: M's 91-68, A's 94-63, A's by two
.. and so on
Let's just look at the first two:
M's go 6-0 in the last two series, it's 93 wins to 92 wins. If the A's manage to grab one more win from Texas than we do with Anahiem, it's a tie, and we go to a tiebreaker. So 0-3 versus 1-2, 1-2 versus 2-1, all result in a tie. If Oakland grabs two more wins, which seems unlikely, they take the division title.
So even if the M's sweep the remaining games, there's still a very good chance we'll end up tied and see a one-game playoff (and maybe another one with Boston if we tie them, too).
If the M's go 5-1 in the last two series, it's the opposite. If the M's manage to grab one more win from Anahiem than Oakland does with with Texas, it's a tie, and we go to a tiebreaker. So 0-3 versus 1-2, 1-2 versus 2-1, all result in a tie. If Seattle grabs two more wins, which seems unlikely, division title.
So if the M's lose one of the next five games, there's still a decent chance we see a tie.
4-2 or worse is pretty much wave bye-bye to the division title.
All of which to say is this:
Assume Oakland goes 0-3 against Texas. The M's need to go 5-3 or better to finish the season with a good shot at a tie or the division title.
1-2, the M's need to go 6-2.
2-1, the M's need to go 7-1
3-0, the M's need to win eight games in a row.
Anything can happen in this short a period of time. It's worth noting that the Angels are essentially fielding a AAAA team of their PCL team plus 3-4 major leaguers a game (like spring training, which I highly recommend). Texas, though, got whupped the last time they faced Oakland, a three-game sweep in which Oakland outscored them 24-11. Still, they have a pretty good 1-5/6 lineup...
Coming soon: more GM candidates not named Derek Zumsteg in further useless speculation about how to improve the team, and a HUGE HUGE HUGE preview of off-season turnover, or lack thereof.
Friday, September 19, 2003
I'm well stocked for tonight, with an assortment of snacks, many salty, yes, and beers, good and bad, and hopefully the game tonight is going to reverse what's been a pretty crappy day today characterized by bad customer service (brief aside: if I have a beer and then you give me incorrect change, and correct it, and I ask a question like "So, the beer was x then?" to make sure we're cool, that's no reason to tear into me for not paying attention to the particular happy hour rules of your establishment) (side note: I really miss the legendary Kelly, Greatest Bartender of All Time)).
One of the many bad qualities of the wild card playoff berth is that it's scoreboard watching, and not direct competition. While the Mariners may have a better chance that they'll come out ahead of Boston in the won-loss column, there's no way for either team to affect what the other team does on a given day. The M's can't send their best pinch-hitters (hypothetically, if they had any) to Toronto to try and steal a game from Boston. Boston can't loan Oakland a spare corner OF.
The race the M's control through 6 head-to-head matchups, starting tonight, is the one they're going to be hard-pressed to come out on top of. As far back as they are, a split is death for their AL West chances. They need to go 5-1 to make this a race, and if you've been watching these teams matchup so far this year, you know what the chances are that'll happen. And to remain in the race against Boston, the M's need go 4-2 at least while Boston faces Cleveland and likely does well there.
Friday: RHP Franklin v RHP Hudson
Saturday: RHP Pineiro v RHP Duchscherer (pronounced Duhr-ro-shcer-rer-rer, TV tells me)
Sunday: RHP Meche v RHP Harden (ESPN2, folks, and this could be an huge, pivotal game)
Thursday, September 18, 2003
I hate it when there's an afternoon game and nobody tells me. I was home all day with nothing to do and could have been listening to the game. I couldn't have watched the game, but who am I to complain? I didn't even check the schedule. Instead, I found it by accident about the 7th. Oh well.
In any event, it's too bad for the rain delay -- sounds like Freddy was pitching well once again. Since he started working with Pat Borders, he's put up the following line: 19 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 6 BB and 15 K.
As for the part of the game I did catch, I don't understand why Box Melvin refuses to use Rafael Soriano for longer stretches. He hasn't worked longer than 1 2/3 innings since August 14th, when he held the Blue Jays to one hit in three innings. Melvin should have been able to get three innings out of him again today, meaning Hasegawa -- who pitched last night -- wouldn't have had to pitch a second inning (the 10th). It's a small sample size, sure, but Shiggy's ERA this month now sits at 5.40. He also seems -- I don't have numbers to back this up -- to fail when Melvin leaves him out there for a second inning.
In the end, though, none of this should matter. You've got to score some freaking runs against Texas pitching, particularly down in Arlington. Any time you hold the Rangers to a lone run over nine innings, that should pretty much be an automatic win, no questions asked. Ugh.
Baseball's the only part of my life where I'm superstitious at all, which is why I'm reluctant to post this but... maybe the M's should take Freddy to arb, kick his butt this time, get a 10% pay cut, and then spend the Useless Roster Spot on Borders, who gets signed for not a whole lot.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
In divisional rival news, by watching the A's-Angels game today I managed to see the entire AL West in one day. Sweet game, too:
Zito: 8.3 IP, 2H, 2BB, 6K
Shields: 8 IP, 4H, 6K
Shields really looked good -- so far this year he's been badly roughed up as he gets deep into games after converting from relief. And Zito's got that huge-breaking curve ball that looks like something out of a cartoon.
And then I watched a bit of the Braves v. Expos game, and saw something extraordinary. The team was getting pounded by the Braves, and in the 7th if I remember, Alou pulls Vlad Guerrero from the field. The crowd loudly applauds Vlad at length -- it may be the last time he plays in an Expo uniform, and 17,000 people showed up for the last game of the season. Then they start booing and chanting "Guerrero" and they're loud. Later in the inning Frank Robinson comes out to pull the pitcher and the crowd just gives it to him. I called Jonah Keri ("Official U.S. Mascot of the Montreal Expos") and he said they've got the loudest small crowds in the league, and I have to believe him. Those fans were nutty. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, MLB should be ashamed for so utterly failing to support baseball in Montreal.
Also, for all the talk about what a great job Frank Robinson does, the one thing he has not been able to drill into that team is baserunning acumen. They make more mistakes running around the diamond than a high school team should.
Thanks for the win guys. I appreciate it. M's win, I had nice dinner out* with the wife... all in all, a good birthday.
By the way, Dave, as long as we're talking about guys Gillick wanted, don't forget Gookie Dawkins.
(*) If you haven't already, check out the Library Bistro. It's at the Alexis Hotel on 1st and Madison; used to be the Painted Table. Good food, good atmosphere, great desserts. I also know they're baseball fans (or at least someone there is), because they advertise in the Grand Salami.
And they come through for Jason on his birthday. Nice job, Jamie.
Can anyone else believe we're only 1 1/2 games out of the wild card? Does anyone really think this team could win a playoff game right now? Would Justin Leone be on the roster if he was born in Port Orchard? These are the things that keep me up at night.
In other news, a pretty weird "Bob Melvin may be fired" rumor is apparently circulating. Besides the fact that he deserves to come back next year (as shocking as you may think that is, I actually kind of like The Box), there is no way ownership is going to pay him to not manage. If they won't cut bait on Jeff Cirillo's contract, they certainly won't pay someone to take Melvin's job next year. Lest we forget, Melvin is a rookie manager, and despite his warts, I think he's done a decent job. He has some flaws, but he improved as the season went along, and I don't think anyone could have managed to make the playoffs with Ichiro turning into Roger Cedeno in the second half.
Speaking of Roger Cedeno, I find it amusing how people forget that he was a guy Gillick wanted. How many moves has Gillick been saved from by someone else? Cedeno, Juan Gonzalez, Jose Contreras, Aaron Boone. Even the guys that Gillick doesn't get suck. But, he'll be leaving shortly, so we can finally bury that hatchet. Hooray.
And, to answer the most commonly asked question I hear, no, I don't think there's even the slightest chance that the M's hire Paul DePodesta. Personally, he wouldn't be my top choice anyways. Give me Chris Antonetti (Cleveland's Asst. GM), Tim Purpura (Houston's Asst. GM), or Derek Zumsteg (USS Mariner's President, CEO, and Hall of Fame writer).
Alright, lets all chime in:
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birhtday to You
Happy Birthday to Jason
Happy Birthday to You
I don't do this very often, but here goes -- I'd like a win today for my birthday. Is that too much to ask?
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Although it's only postponing the inevitable, I will say "thank you" to the Angels for scoring three runs in the bottom of the 9th tonight to beat the A's.
Particularly embarassing: Oakland may use the last series against the M's to re-set their rotation going into the division series, gifting Seattle with some mercy wins against the Sacramento Rivercats.
Congratulations to the 2003 American League Western Division Champions, the Oakland Athletics.
If you'd like to look on the positive side, you can always view the countdown on the left as the time remaining in Pat Gillick's tenure in Seattle.
From the "Too little, too late" file: The A's have lost OF Jose Guillen for the rest of the season with a broken hand.
New Big Board. Not much doing... the M's called up Luis Ugueto, and that's about it. That should be all she wrote as far as callups go, unless they get creative and bring up Bobby Madritsch. I don't think they will, though.
Since there's nothing good going on with the M's right now, it's time for...
Last Game at Everett, redux
The field at Everett Memorial Stadium. I've always thought it looked like a suped-up little league field, though I will admit it looks nicer than what you get down in Tacoma. And that's AAA baseball!
Aaaaand we're underway. Sam Hays delivers the first pitch of the game.
Despite it being the last game of the season, the stands down the third base line weren't exactly packed.
"Kids, Lionel Hutz no longer exists. Say hello to 3B Nick Orlandos!"
Adam Jones, the M's first round pick this June, waits for his turn to hit.
"Garbage, garbage, garbage!" No joke -- there's a high school kid in a tux who collects garbage. I couldn't make this sort of thing up.
More to come...
Monday, September 15, 2003
M's lost, Boston won and Oakland's up 7-0 in the 7th. If you're keeping track, that drops them 1.5 games back in the WC and will drop them 4.5 back in the division once the A's wrap things up. I'm ready to call the division a done deal, even if some people keep pointing to those magical six games with the A's in the next two weeks. Remember, even taking 4 of 6 only nets you two games in the standings.
Is anyone else out there enduring Ron Fairly's play-by-play? I start to entertain thoughts of ending it all when I have to listen to this for more than an inning. Teams have September call-ups -- can anyone seriously argue that with the Rainiers season over the team couldn't get (U.S.S. Mariner-endorsed) Mike Curto to sub in?
Let me attempt to stave off a few more emails and answer the questions that are popping up about my post this morning:
1. Yes, I realize the bench sucks, and needed to be improved. I started the Matt Stairs brigade. After we learned Colbrunn was gone for the year, I made a post explaining why the M's now needed to acquire two bats.
2. No, I don't think Pat Gillick should be given credit for Rey Sanchez hitting like he has. It is an obvious outlier, based on a bunch of seeing-eye singles, and it will not continue. Sanchez is still a pile of crap hitter. He just happens to be hot right now.
3. No, I don't believe that we can assume that Gillick could have reasonably acquired people who weren't traded. They weren't traded for a reason. Perhaps the asking price for Stairs, Sanders, or Vander Wal was simply too high. Perhaps their teams didn't want to trade them, fearing that it would scare off their last few remaining fans. Perhaps the Cardinals couldn't stomach trading J.D. Drew with Jim Edmonds already ailing. Regardless, there is too much we just don't know to assume that Gillick could have made a trade that no one else was able to make either.
4. And, to answer the most frequent point raised, no, I don't buy into the lack of a move "crushing the team spirit" and causing the struggles we've seen from Ichiro, Cameron, Olerud, and Boone. I don't believe that picking up a role player would have inspired them to hit .300 instead of .200, and I don't believe there is any proof that this is occurring anywhere else. I don't believe that Randy Winn is the only player on the team able to overcome this blow from management. Every at-bat, every inning, these guys give 100 percent. Adding Matt Stairs to the roster wasn't going to energize the team any more than adding Rey Sanchez did.
Players Who Should Play Shortstop Ahead of McLemore
Fully healthy Guillen
Chad Myers (put that UT to use)
Cirillo (I'm entirely serious)
Also, you'll note that Dave somehow manages to become the first one of us to post a beautifully formatted set of statistics.
We've done quite a bit of Pat Gillick bashing around here, and it is no secret that all three of us are hoping he retires at seasons end. His inability to fix the Mariners obvious holes is frustrating, and it has become quite common to read that the Mariners recent failings are directly tied to their inactivity at the trading deadline. This, of course, lays even more blame at the feet of Gillick.
However, we try not to be activists of a cause as much as seekers of the truth, and in this case, the truth does not support that claim, as much as we may want it to. The Mariners inability to make a move at the deadline, while all the other contenders "loaded up" for the stretch run, has had absolutely nothing to do with the August-September swoon.
Below is a chart of the players that were acquired by other contenders at the deadline at the M's two perceived upgradable positions (third base and left field). Below that is a chart of how Rey Sanchez and Randy Winn have done since August 1st.
Put simply, no other contenders have gotten more from their big acquisitions than the Mariners have from Sanchez and Winn. The M's failings lie at the feet of Ichiro, Cameron, Olerud, and Boone.