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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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February 27, 2008 11:02 PM

Batista meets Kenny G

Posted by Geoff Baker

kennyg.jpg

Told you all about this little meeting last night. Miguel Batista did indeed meet Seattle native Kenny G for 20 minutes Tuesday night before the musician played his concert at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix. The pair chatted in a private waiting area. A team representative snapped this picture for Batista to keep as a souvenir. Kenny G also whipped out his saxophone and stated taking requests from the pitcher.

"He played for me,'' Batista said. "It was my favorite song, 'Alone'. Now, I feel like I've had everything. I've talked pitching with Sandy Koufax, had Kenny G play for me. Maybe if I could have an interview with God, then I'd be served. I'd be complete.''

Batista began taking saxophone lessons in Seattle last year, inspired to learn the instruments after listening to Kenny G's music in the 1990s. The pitcher also attended a Kenny G concert last year in the Dominican city of Santo Domingo. What did they talk about? You'll have to read Thursday's paper to find out. But I can tell you Batista sat through the concert. At one point, as Kenny G was playing "Havana'' he walked down from the stage and mingled with the audience. He neared Batista's seat.

"Then he pauses from playing,'' Batista said. "And he goes 'Thanks guy, it was cool today.' ''

Even if some of you aren't big Kenny G fans, you have to like a story like that. Batista's one of the good guys who does a lot for others in need. He deserves it.

What's that about Jeremy Reed, you ask?

Things don't look too promising for him with the Mariners. To hear manager John McLaren tell it today, Reed's chances of playing in right field this season are somewhere between slim and slimmer. McLaren wants to have a right handed bat in the backup outfield role, helping to spell Brad Wilkerson. The outfield is already loaded with lefty bats.

Mike Morse, Wladimir Balentien and Charlton Jimerson are all righties. Reed is a lefty. You do the calculations.

What do I think about the Joe Sheehan article on CNNSI's website? I've read a lot of Joe Sheehan's work and he's no dummy. That said, I don't see how anyone can objectively give the Mariners a D-minus for their off-season work.

But if you read this Sheehan analysis in Baseball Prospectus two weeks ago, the latest piece should not be a surprise. It's a subscription-based story, but you can tell from the headline and a few lines in the text that he doesn't think the Mariners are going anywhere this year.

And that's fine. I don't like to criticize other writers for their opinions. I'll challenge them and stuff, but I don't like to say they're flat-out wrong. Because, who knows? They may be right.

BUT...I also used to teach journalism in university, grading papers and such, passing and failing folks, making and ruining careers (OK, maybe it wasn't that extreme). I can tell you, a D-minus is the kind of grade you give someone who has been skipping class all semester, writing their papers a half-hour before they're due, producing stuff of zero quality.

None of what the M's did this off-season equates to that.

You don't have to think the Erik Bedard deal was the greatest. You don't have to think the Mariners will win the AL West. And you don't have to think this series of winter moves will help Bill Bavasi get to where he wants to be any quicker than keeping Adam Jones might have gotten him there. Is Bavasi trying to win sooner rather than later, maybe because he doesn't know if he'll be around in three years? Probably.

But about this D-minus.

Nothing I've written above equates to that.

At the very worst, you've got a pretty even-sided debate where one group thinks the winter moves make the team a contender, and the other tends to think the M's are still a .500 team. I haven't met any people who think the signing of Carlos Silva and trade for Bedard makes the M's a 70-win team. For me, that's the kind of thing that would merit a D-minus for winter moves.

In my book, the M's took what was arguably their weakest spot -- the rotation -- and made it possibly the strongest part of their team. Did they weaken the defense? From Jones, probably. From last year's team, which had Jose Guillen in right field? Not really.

So, I think the D-minus grade is a bit ridiculous. I know Sheehan's making a point. He doesn't like the trade. And I don't like being put in the position of having to sound like a team apologist. But there's a huge difference between saying you don't think a trade will work out, or make the team much stronger, and calling an off-season an abject failure the way a D-minus suggests. If it were me and I didn't like the trade, I'd still give it a C+ or even a B-minus, admitting that, given the acquisition of a potential staff ace, the on-paper upgrades of two rotation spots and the furious debate around this deal, there's a pretty good chance that some of the moves will work out. To dismiss it outright with a D-minus suggests you know almost 100 percent that the team is going down the tubes. That the moves were just awful. I can't see how anyone can come to that conclusion. Doubts are one thing. Such a firm conviction? Well, I guess we'll see when they...play the games.

We'll be keeping score here all year. If this team crashes and burns, finishing third or lower, I'll write in this space what a genius Sheehan is. Right now? I wouldn't want him as my prof.

I can't find too many people around the game who think the M's failed with their acquisitions. Some of them don't agree with Seattle's long-term strategy. Think that maybe they gave up too much in future talent. But a D-minus? I shudder to think of what the Horacio Ramirez deal would get as a grade. Maybe a Z-minus?

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