Sunday, February 29, 2004

I just found this gem on the Mariners' official Web site in an interview with Howard Lincoln:

MLB.com: Would you vote to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame?

Lincoln: Well, I don't have a vote. Let's just say that I don't like people that lie, and leave it at that.

The irony astounds me...
After reading the frustrating interview with Bill Bavasi on BP, you should also check out an article called "Just Another Out?" by Ryan Wilkins.
Wilkins nails it when he says:

"From a quantitative perspective, however, there is little evidence to suggest that a strikeout is "worse" than a groundout, popout, or any other means of making an out, with respect to generating runs."

If anyone can explain why Ibanez/Winn is better than Winn/Cameron - I'd love to hear it!
Plain and simple, I'm not a Raul Ibanez fan. Here is what I wrote about Ibanez v. Cameron earlier in the off-season:

"The casual fan will like Ibanez because he doesn’t strikeout as much as Cameron. However, a strikeout is the same as making any other kind of out, and since 2000, Cameron and Ibanez have had the exact same percentage of their plate appearances result in outs (67.9%). Plain and simple, Ibanez doesn’t make our offense any better, and makes our defense significantly worse."

Although it was discovered yesterday that Cameron has a bone spur on his foot. As my favorite player, here's hoping Cammy can make it through the season without needing surgery!

If you haven't seen it already, do check out the interview with Bill Bavasi on the Baseball Prospectus site today. Too many zingers to enumerate, but my favorite got saved for the end. Add Bill to the group of M's staff piling on Mike Cameron for his strikeout habit. The context is that Raul Ibanez is an upgrade offensively over Cameron because he'll swing through less pitches. First, this is bullshit. Cameron is a better hitter than Ibanez. Even in an off year last year, Cameron had similar numbers to Ibanez. Since KC is the best hitters park in the AL, look for Ibanez to be significantly worse than what we are used to. Second, look at the list of most career strikeouts. Boy, guys like Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Mike Schmidt must have really sucked, because they struck out so much. Finally, for guys like Myers and Bavasi to attack Cameron in public is low class, and seems to blame him for the past problems.
Guys, I'm only going to say this once, so pay attention: the measure of the effectiveness of a player has nothing to do with how often he strikes out. So shut up about it already.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Baseball is probably the only business where someone can reveal the trade secrets that make competitors much more efficient, only to run into a brick wall of apathy and disgust from the people and orginazations that could benefit from it the most.

There's a great article by Michael Lewis in the new Sports Illustrated that everyone should read. Lewis, who wrote "Moneyball," talks about the backlash that has taken place since the book was released last May. Most complaints stem from stubborn "baseball men" who haven't even read the book (Pat Gillick for example - whom Lewis mentions and pokes fun at a couple times), or from ass-kissing beat writers who wouldn't want to stir the pot. Here's one of my favorite parts of the article:

"...baseball is structured less as a business than as a social club. The Club includes not only the people in the front office who operate the team but also, in a kind of women's auxiliary, many of the writers and broadcasters who follow the game and purport to explain it. The Club is exclusive, but the criteria for admission and retention are nebulous. There are many ways to embarrass the Club, but being bad at your job isn't one of them."

Hey Gillick - remind me again why you signed Dan Wilson to a 2 year, $7 million contract...

Friday, February 27, 2004

Are the Mariners cursed or what? First the Soriano injury and now this --- top outfield prospect Chris Snelling has a broken hamate bone in his right hand and will undergo surgery. He'll be out 1-2 months. Snelling has now suffered a significant injury in all five of his seasons in the M's organization. It's not like the M's were counting on Snelling to make major contributions to the major league team this year, but they were hoping he'd be ready to contribute towards the end of the season. The injury was suffered yesterday, in Snelling's first batting practice session of spring training. He took three swings and that was the end of it. Interestingly enough, Dave Andriesen just had a piece in this morning's P-I titled "Snelling in Good Shape"...
Everyone's saying the Devil Rays are improved but will still finish in last, but I think they're gonna surprise this year. After six seasons in the cellar, I think Lou will make it a must that they not finish last, sort of like what he did in Seattle (on a smaller scale of course). But hey the Devil Rays should be popping corks and spraying champagne in any season they don't finish in last place.

Look at this year's bench in Tampa Bay: Robert Fick, Eduardo Perez, Damian Rolls and Deivi Cruz (and they could also have Fred McGriff, who's coming to spring training as a non-roster invitee). And they're improved in the starting lineup too, with Jose Cruz, Tino Martinez and Geoff Blum all stepping into the starting lineup. And Lou will probably be able to get something out of M's castoffs Paul Abbott and John Halama, both of whom will probably make his starting rotation.

We'd kill for that bench in Seattle, wouldn't we?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Most teams have reported to Spring Training and I just got home from class and watched Baseball Tonight. Life is good. Now I'm watching the explosion of the infamous Bartman ball. It's too bad the Mariners can't blow up what has kept them from the playoffs for the second year in a row...
That's a great Ryan Franklin quote! Another clip that had me laughing today was from David Andriesen's piece on Ichiro in the PI (which was voted one of the top 10 daily sports setions in the country!).
Ichiro said that with Cameron going to the Mets, he's worried about the future of the music played in the clubhouse.
Unfortunately, Dave Niehaus will not be making the Hall of Fame this year. Former Giants and A's broadcaster Lon Simmons was awarded this year's Ford C. Frick Award today (click here for press release) and will be inducted into the Hall this July along with Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley. Oh well, maybe next year...
Larry Larue had this amusing note from Ryan Franklin in his News Tribune article this morning. Someone asked Ryan Franklin if the two-year contract he signed in the offseason was his first multiple-year contract. "No," he said. "I had one with my cell phone company, too."
We'll find out later today (Thursday) if longtime Mariner broadcaster Dave Niehaus will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. One announcer each season receives the Ford C. Frick Award. Niehaus, who has called Mariner games since the club's inception in 1977 (and Angels games from 1969 - 1976 before that), is one of ten finalists for the award. Last year's winner was Brewers announcer Bob Uecker and longtime Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas won the award in 2002. Niehaus finished second in the voting to select the finalists, with former Giants/A's announcer Lon Simmons receiving the most votes. Reds announcer Joe Nuxhall, whose partner Marty Brennaman won the Frick Award in 2000, finished third in the voting. The award is named for former sportswriter, radio broadcaster, Babe Ruth ghostwriter, National League president (1934 - 1951) and baseball commissioner (1951- 1965) Ford Frick.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The keyword was *trying.* There's so much to be bummed about this off-season, you have to search for things to be optimistic about - like one of the best young pitchers in the game being hurt in February and therefore (hopefully) not August.... Dill Dumbvasi wasted a lot of money and didn't make the team any better (here's betting they win less than 93 games next season) and they still freakin' raised ticket prices! Ugh...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

What the #$&#!%# are you doing looking on the bright side?!!??? This isn't one of those "optimist" blogs! Ah, never mind, someone has to be optimistic...
Trying to look on the bright side...this will give Soriano's arm a little rest after pitching 42 innings in winter ball. Hopefully he won't become restless and try to speed up his return or it could become a nagging injury that might put him on the DL when it counts.
The news isn't good --- after an MRI this morning, Rafael Soriano was found to have an "internal oblique strain" and will be out of action approximately 30 days. This means he could be back on the mound late in spring training, or if things don't heal that quickly, he might have to start the season on the disabled list.
I've done a little housekeeping on the blog, added some new links to the left-side, including links to blogs from the rest of the teams around the AL plus the Cubs/Mariners blog, Just North of Wrigley Field. The rest of the National League to follow soon. Now that spring training is finally here, posting should be a daily thing from here on out. Also, I'll be heading to spring training in Arizona next week so I'll be providing daily updates from Peoria for a couple of weeks. Check back early and often!
Bad news already? The M's have been working out just two days now and already one of the key pieces to the ballclub is hurt. Now this may end up being a minor thing but Rafael Soriano suffered a strained oblique muscle today. Those with a memory of such things might recall that this is the same injury Dan Wilson suffered last spring. Wilson got hurt early in spring, before exhibition games had started, but still wasn't ready to begin the regular season, going on the DL and missing the first five games of 2003. Hopefully this won't be serious but wouldn't we all feel much better if it were Kevin Jarvis and not Soriano?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

An article in Sunday's Seattle Times exemplifies exactly what is wrong with the Seattle Mariners organization. The article, by Bob Finnigan, reveals that the Mariners would have tried to bring Alex Rodriguez back to Seattle if only they'd known that Texas would be willing to pay as much of his salary as they did.

Asked if Seattle would have gone after Rodriguez, Mariners president Chuck Armstrong called it "a no-brainer." Why didn't the Mariners try to work out a deal like that with the Rangers? "We would have, but we had no idea Tom Hicks would take on that much money," Armstrong said of the Texas owner. "After seeing the Red Sox unable to work out a deal, we didn't think Hicks would want to pay that much. In fact, our reports were that he wasn't willing to take on that much money."

The teams that get the players they want, that make the best deals are the teams (and GM's) that work the hardest, that are constantly on the phone, talking to
other GM's, other team owners, agents and the like. The Mariners claim they would have made the deal to reacquire A-Rod but even though they were well aware that Texas wanted to move him (and Seattle had close to $9 million to play with from the Sasaki windfall) ,they didn't even bother to inquire, instead relying on "their reports" that Tom Hicks wouldn't be willing to pay that much of A-Rod's salary. Welll it's pretty freaking obvious that the Mariners "reports" suck. Why the hell would they rely on second-hand sources when Tom Hicks and Texas GM John Hart were only a phone call away?

Some will say that A-Rod would never have come back to Seattle, with the booing from the fans and the bad blood with management over his departure. Some say that the only team he would have waived his no-trade clause for was the Yankees, cause that's where he wanted to go. But you can't say for sure until you try -- and the Seattle Mariners as an organization, just don't try hard enough. What I wouldn't give for a GM like Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein or the new man in LA, Paul DePodesta, who the M's didn't even bother to interview. Those guys are the future of the game, but we went with the old-school Bavasi, who's quickly proven this winter that he's overmatched.

The Mariners need to make a bold move this spring training, to acquire an impact hitter to fill out their club. They've got a solid pitching staff, with an embarassment of riches in pitchers that won't make the big club. It's time to move some of that surplus talent to land the stud bat for the middle of the order.
Texas needs pitching, which they somehow didn't get in the A-Rod deal. Offer them one of our starters and two of our top prospects. A deal could be done. Elsewhere, Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins is available, Jim Edmonds could be had from the Cardinals and Chicago's Magglio Ordonez is also on the block. Even though the Rangers are in our division, Soriano might make the most sense, both because of his comparitively low salary ($5 mil) and Texas's need for pitching. And Soriano has reportedly told the Rangers he wants to play second base and doesn't want to move to shortstop or center field. Incumbent 2B Michael Young has also told manager Buck Showalter that he wants to stay at second.

Time to get off your asses Mariners and make the big move your fan base has been waiting for!

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Bucky looks like a better hitter, but strictly from a TTO point of view, AJ Zapp is the man. In 528 ABs last season he had 26 HRs, 178 Ks and 47 BBs. He also hits from the left side of the plate, had 35 2Bs compared to Jacobsen's 24 and is 2 years younger.
When the M's start spring training this year, they'll have a shit-ton of NRI's to sort through. I know which one I'll be pulling for: Bucky Jacobsen. For those of you unfamiliar with him (whaddya mean you have heard of Bucky?), he is an injury prone, right handed hitting minor league first baseman. With his own fan club, no less. The Bucky Backers.
The guy is a classic three true outcomes player: in 450 AA ab's last year, he had 31 HR's, 56 BB's, and 91 K's. (13 HBP's - how did the Backers feel about that?) The M's haven't had a TTO player since Buhner retired (well, Cameron was close). Having been a fan of the original model, you know I need a regular fix.
I was really cheesed to see us not bring in Russ Branyan on a NRI contract as he was such an obvious fit to a gaping hole. Jacobsen could potentially fill most of the same roles, minus positional flexibility. And he'd do it for cheap.
The M's have made some pretty poor NRI invites this off-season, but here they might have made a good one. Must have been a clerical error, or something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

If we didn't already know that Bob Melvin is an idiot, this little gem from Bob Finnigan's Sunday article in the Sea Times proves it.

This year, I'll make the moves I feel are needed whenever they are needed. I will hit for guys. Last year, I didn't. I let someone like Cameron hit because he was a guy who was going to be out there for us and I was trying to get him started and I didn't want him to get ... down. "Well, this time I'll do whatever I feel I have to do to win a game." ---BOB MELVIN

There were quite a few situations last year that screamed for Melvin to make a move. For example, when Cirillo was still starting Melvin wouldn't hit for him, even in the ninth inning of a game the M's trailed by a run. He'd never hit for Olerud, even with a tough lefty in and Colbrunn on the bench (before he got hurt). But no situation called for a pinch-hitter any more than in Game 149 of Melvin's first season as a big league manager. It was September 14th, the M's entered the day a half game out in the Wild Card and Boston had lost their game earlier in the day. The M's were primed to move into the Wild Card lead. Ryan Franklin had an awesome day, carrying a three-hit shutout into the eighth, when the Angels got two runs off him to take a 2-1 lead.

The M's had managed just three hits on the day and Troy Percival was coming on for the ninth. Seattle looked dead. And then they had a shot. Edgar walked to lead off the ninth and pinch-runner Chad Myers stole second on an Olerud strikeout and moved to third on an error. The M's suddenly had an opportunity to tie the game without even getting a hit! A fly ball would do it, a well placed ground ball, perhaps a suicide squeeze even... But Mike Cameron was coming up. A look at the stat book showed that Cameron was not only 0-for-7 lifetime against Percival coming in, but that all seven at-bats had resulted in strikeouts!! Melvin had options on the bench, guys who obviously make contact on a more regular basis than Cameron, like Mark McLemore. But Cameron stepped up -- and struck out on three pitches. Randy Winn followed with a pop fly and the M's lost the game, one of their more crushing defeats of the season.

Melvin's comments to Finnigan indicate that he didn't even consider pinch-hitting for Cameron in that situation. Every fan in the ballpark that day knew that Cameron was going to strike out. And it sounds now like Melvin knew it too. But somehow, in Game 149 of the season, in the middle of a tight pennant race, Melvin was more concerned about how Mike Cameron might feel if he were pinch-hit for than winning the ballgame. And that's just pathetic. Suddenly Melvin now realizes that he was wrong but after managing the club for 5 1/2 months of the regular season he couldn't figure out what to do last September 14th. What the hell did Melvin think he was being paid to do except manage the team and put the best players out there to give the club a chance to win?

---Pat Gillick's had a Hall of Fame career as a General Manager---

Do you really think so, Jon? I don't.

Admittedly he's been successful at all three stops (Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle), though not wildly so. His Blue Jays teams won back-to-back world
championships, but no prior or subsequent Gillick team won even a league championship. He certainly built a successful team in Toronto, but in both
Baltimore and Seattle he inherited teams with a lot of good talent -- he certainly did a great job adding some missing pieces in both cities.

I don't think he's been much of an innovator (though he does get credit for being one of the first GMs to methodically mine the Caribbean talent base),
which is one criterion for consideration of a club executive by the HOF.

The most interesting thing about Gillick is how quickly franchises collapse after he departs. You can take that as evidence of his genius -- i.e. once
he's no longer around to tinker with the machine, the whole thing falls apart. Or you can take that as evidence of his efforts to achieve short-term success by mortgaging the future, then being smart enough to get out at the right time.

Good GM? Sure.
Better than Woody or Bill? Absolutely.
Hall of Fame? Not on my ballot.

Interesting news on the Pat Gillick front --- according to a story at Mariners.org, Gillick now says he's "disappointed, but not depressed" that he's not going to be the new GM of the LA Dodgers. After skirting around the issue for weeks, indicating he wouldn't be interested in the job and was happy consulting Bavasi, he now says "I thought it was a good franchise and would be a challenge. I had some interest." The article reveals that the Mariners granted the Dodgers permission to speak with Gillick last week.

I guess this shouldn't surprise anyone. After all this is the same man who was quoted in an ESPN.com article two days before the 2003 trade deadline that the Mariners wouldn't be making any moves at the deadline unless they could trade dollar for dollar (i.e. they would not be adding to their payroll). Then after the firestorm surrounded the club when they made no moves at the deadline (for the second year in a row), he insisted that "money wasn't an issue" and "we had financial flexibility to make a deal".

Pat Gillick's had a Hall of Fame career as a General Manager but what I'll remember most about his tenure in Seattle is his refusal to stand up to Howard Lincoln, et al, people who know less about the game than he's forgotten and his refusal to be straight up with the media about it. For the good of the franchise Gillick needed to explain to the bean counters that own the ballclub why the team needed to make moves for the stretch run (in '02 and '03) and how it would benefit the franchise in the long run. But instead he just sat back and acted like he didn't care. Maybe it's cause he's too old and not interested in a fight, maybe he just didn't care. But Seattle Mariners fans deserved much better from a Hall of Fame baseball man.

Which reminds me of a story about another baseball man who did care --- in spring training of 1995, Mariner ownership, distressed over the financial losses from the just ended 7-month baseball strike, told GM Woody Woodward that the team had to cut several million dollars from the payroll. Stories appeared in the local papers about the possibility of Edgar or Randy Johnson (or both!) being traded to meet the team's budget. Lou Piniella, then entering his third season as Seattle manager, went nuts -- he and Woodward went to ownership and pleaded their case, that the team needed to stay intact if there was going to ever be a chance for the team to get a new stadium, to stay in Seattle. If Gillick had any balls or if he gave a damn, the M's would have spent the money necessary to have taken two shots at the World Series in '02 and '03...

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

As if there wasn't enough already this off-season to piss off any discerning M's fan, now comes this. ESPN's Peter Gammons is reporting that Oakland assistant GM Paul DePodesta is going to be hired as the new GM of the LA Dodgers. Yes, that's the same Paul DePodesta that your Seattle Mariners didn't even bother to interview for their open GM job in October and November. Before hiring Bavasi the Clown, the M's asked for permission to talk to A's GM Billy Beane, who's signed with Oakland through 2008, and were turned down. If the Mariners were impressed enough by what Oakland has done on a low-budget the past five years (who wouldn't be?) to be interested in Beane, it's puzzling why they weren't the least bit curious to talk to Beane's assistant, DePodesta, who would have come at a much lower cost than it would have taken to hire Beane (and potentially they also would have to have given Oakland some compensation). The kicker is Seattle wouldn't have even had to ask permission to interview DePodesta -- his contract with the A's expired on October 31st.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

It'll probably take me some time to figure out all the technical blog stuff, like how to put up links, etc. but in the meantime I figured I'd jump right in and discuss the M's latest moves.

On the heels of overpaying for Ron Villone yesterday, today the M's signed two veterans to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training, lefthander Terry Mulholland and outfielder Eric Owens. Given the awful winter Bavasi's had, overpaying most of his signings (3 years of Scott Spiezio --- OUCH!, bringing Ibanez back on a 3 year contract and paying him roughly what Juan Gonzalez got on a one-year deal from KC, signing Randy Winn to a three-year deal, not even taking a sniff at Vlad Guerrero or trying to get creative in the trading market and the insane Colbrunn for Quinton F McCracken deal), these signings are among Bavasi's best moves since he's been on the job.

Of course that's not saying much...These are no-risk deals though. Both can be cut loose in spring training and the contracts are not guaranteed. Mulholland will get $600K if he makes the team with another $150K in incentives possible. Owens will get $525K if he makes it, with another $200K in possible incentives. Mulholland may be 40 but he's still a servicable lefty out of the pen and comes cheap. Where were Mulholland, Mike Meyers and even Villone in 2002 and 2003 when the bullpen desperately needed a second lefty to take the load off of Rhodes???? Owens is OK, but may not even make the team, given that Quinton McCracken has a guaranteed $1.8 mil contract. Owens is a better player than Q but even if he outplays McCracken in Arizona will Melvin et al have the balls to cut McCracken after trading Colbrunn for him??? Hmmmm....Had they signed Owens and not traded for McCracken, Owens would have come to camp battling with Chris Snelling and Jamal Strong for a backup spot in the OF. As it stands now unless they find a taker for Q (right!), Snelling and Strong have little chance to make the opening day roster...

Back to the Villone signing. When the financial terms of the deal were announced yesterday, my suspicions were immediately aroused. $1 million with another $1 million possible in incentives? Even though he was signed as a set-up guy, those incentives have to be STARTER incentives (nobody gives those type of incentives to a non-closing reliever) and my hope yesterday was that this meant that Bavasi might have something up his sleeve (yeah, like he's pretty shrewd) to deal either Ryan Franklin or Freddy in a package for a big bat. The signing of Mulholland heightens those suspicions a bit. We shall see...

The overlooked part of the Ron Villone signing is that the Mariners actually signed a Scott Boras client! Sure, they traded for Rey Sanchez, a Boras client, last summer, but Boras wasn't involved, and yes, he took them to the cleaners in the Villone deal (Players signed a week before pitchers and catchers don't typically get guaranteed deals, let alone a possible $2 mil for a player of Villone's caliber), but it's the first time they've even dealt with Boras since the nasty A-Rod dealings after the 2000 campaign. The arrogant Howard Lincoln had basically ordered Gillick, etc. from even talking to Boras about any of his clients since the A-Rod "negotiations". While Boras is definitely a pain it's never a good idea for an organization to be precluded from acquiring certain players -- and Boras has a lot of great clients.
Welcome to Grand Salami Blog, intended as a forum for writers and contributors of Grand Salami Magazine. Any comments please e-mail me at grandsalami@comcast.net. Thanks!

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