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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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March 12, 2008 9:13 AM

Bonds ain't coming

Posted by Geoff Baker

bigisland08 052.jpg

What are these outfielders doing with coach Eddie Rodriguez? Laughing at all those rumors that Barry Bonds is about to join them in Seattle.

One more time, for posterity. Bonds isn't coming to the M's. One of you wrote in, saying this post on the Fox Sports website was actually a rumor that the M's were about to land Bonds. Truth is, an item like that doesn't even merit rumor status. It's a guy in Rochester speculating that Bonds could help the M's. Well, yeah, he could. Could also kill their playoff hopes if he brings his circus to town. I'll stick to that paper for my Orangemen news and little else.

There's no shortage of blogs and websites speculating that Bonds would be a fit for the Mariners. Here's one from last week by Dugout Daily, listing Seattle as one of only three teams that might consider him worth the headache.

It's the beginning part of that post, where the author -- a guy named Justin Wright -- describes the headache, that made me even post this. Because the headache factor is the most important part of any Bonds equation. Not his OPS, his OBP, his walk rate or his home runs per at-bat. As the author mentions, the M's have shown they are serious by trading for Erik Bedard. Why risk undoing that by bringing in a baseball pariah like Bonds?

Oh yeah, because the M's can't hit. Right. Heard that one before. If I'm the Mariners, I'll worry about that one if the team isn't hitting by May. The M's had an OPS+ of 104 last season. If they maintain that this year, they contend for the post-season.

I believe they have a shot at maintaining it if three things happen:

-- A healthy Richie Sexson produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Vidro produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Lopez manages not to completely fall apart in the second half

Oh yeah, also if the Seattle catchers block some balls in the dirt. Threw that one in to justify the photo below.

bigisland08 040.jpg

Maybe we'll even get some surprises, like Brad Wilkerson matching Jose Guillen's OPS from last year, while managing 500 ABs. But I'm not banking on that. I am banking on Ichiro logging 200 hits and scoring 100 runs. Book it.

It's on the mound where this team's season will be won or lost.

And the thing is, as was mentioned last night, spring training numbers are useless indicators to try to go by in the predictions game. That's especially true with this M's squad.

Here's why. For those of you out there with doubts the M's can contend -- and let's face it, there are substantial reasons to have doubts -- those tend to be longer term concerns, rather than short ones. There are questions about the durability of Wilkerson. Questions about whether Raul Ibanez can get through an entire healthy season. Questions about whether Vidro can produce his numbers over a full season. About whether Lopez will fall apart in the second half.

Those are not questions that are going to disappear with a strong spring by any of those players.

Wilkerson can tear the cover off the ball this spring. But unless he's still doing it as an everyday player come mid-August, the concerns about his durability will still be there. Get my point?

Same with Lopez. I couldn't care less how sharp and focused he looks in March. He looked pretty good last April and May. It was in June that his mind went on vacation the way I did last week on the Big Island of Hawaii (to answer another of your questions. Had a great time, thanks).

As for Erik Bedard and his spring numbers, once again, all meaningless.

Check out Bedard's record from last season. When the games actually began to count, in April, he was awful. Opponents hit .291 off him and saddled him with a 6.09 ERA for the month. But even with that slow start, Bedard was still a Cy Young Award frontrunner come late August. So, with this guy, you know that even a one-month Mulligan to start the year isn't fatal. Who cares what he does in spring training?

I don't. He doesn't. His coaches don't.

I covered Roger Clemens when he won a Cy Young Award in 1998 and then Roy Halladay when he did the same in 2003 after lousy opening months. Bedard hasn't even had an opening day yet. Let's wait until the games matter before hitting the panic button. Please.

By the same token, no champagne corks on Felix Hernandez just yet, no matter what he did yesterday. Remember how last season began for him, then how it ended sort of anti-climactically. Again, with him, it's the long term season outlook and not the short term results that will be most important.

Here are the lineups for this afternoon's game. Arthur Rhodes is pitching. No, I don't care how many guys he strikes out or gives up home runs to. Rhodes won't be pitching for this team until May. He won't be handling the eighth inning until long after that, if at all. If this team's fortunes depend on Rhodes, the M's are in serious trouble.

By the way, catcher Kenji Johjima (below) apparently agrees with everything I've just said.

bigisland08 042.jpg

Brewers vs. Mariners

March 12, 2008

Milwaukee Brewers (9-5):

30 Craig Counsell 2B
22 Tony Gwynn CF
28 Prince Fielder 1B
8 Ryan Braun LF
14 Gabe Gross DH
7 J.J. Hardy SS
20 Laynce Nix RF
21 Abraham Nunez 3B
18 Jason Kendall C

12 Carlos Villanueva RHP

Other pitchers:
39 Chris Capuano LHP
57 Mitch Stetter LHP

Seattle Mariners (5-8):

5 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
3 Jose Vidro DH
29 Adrian Beltre 3B
44 Richie Sexson 1B
50 Wladimir Belantien CF
2 Kenji Johjima C
4 Jose Lopez 2B
12 Mike Morse RF
25 Charlton Jimerson LF

52 Carlos Silva RHP

Other Pitchers:

33 Chris Reitsma RHP
38 Jon Huber RHP
49 Jake Woods LHP
53 Arthur Rhodes LHP
54 Sean Green RHP
57 Mark Lowe RHP
59 Eric O'Flaherty LHP

OK, and now an 11 a.m. update...the Brewers have changed their lineup. Here it is.

30 Craig Counsell 2B

22 Tony Gwynn CF

7 J.J. Hardy SS

28 Prince Fielder 1B

14 Gabe Gross LF

27 Joe Dillon DH

20 Laynce Nix RF

21 Abraham Nunez 3B

18 Jason Kendall C

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Posted by AKMarinersFan

10:32 AM, Mar 12, 2008

I believe they have a shot at maintaining it if three things happen:

-- A healthy Richie Sexson produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Vidro produces an OPS greater than .800

-- Jose Lopez manages not to completely fall apart in the second half

Hey Geoff - You find some Maui Waui in Hawaii???

Yep this team needs Bonds...or several replacements for the players named above.

Posted by AKMarinersFan

10:35 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Also for those who really don't thing spring training performance is reflected in regular season performance, you should actually look at the the data.

I have compared the M's numbers for the past several years and the numbers are MUCH closer that you all think.

And don't cherry pick a few that make your case.

Posted by bnich

10:43 AM, Mar 12, 2008

How about an update on how Sexson is doing, or how the experts think he is doing. I have been kind of stunned at the lack of information on this considering how critical it is. Is the press just leaving him alone so that you don't spook him? Is it really bad and you don't want to say just yet?

Posted by AKMarinersFan

11:07 AM, Mar 12, 2008

I disagree with your interpretation of the first photo. It looks like Ichiro is wondering who these guys are and why they are standing next to him.

BTW lets stop using Ichiro's struggles as the reason why spring training doesn't matter. Everyone knows that Ichiro is the exception to every baseball rule. He will have a great year I am sure. He may have reached his peak but he will be great for many years.

The concern is everyone else with a bat.

Posted by I.C. M's Fan

11:11 AM, Mar 12, 2008


I can usually deal with your negative outlook because your analysis is usually insightful. You have interesting comparison numbers? What are they?

Posted by Ziasudra

11:22 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff - welcome back. Jose did a terrific job filling in, but your photos are a very nice feature. (Jose explained why he didn't have them.)
Lookijng at the first month's schedule, I'd be disappointed if the M's didn't go 20 and 8 against the competition (if it doesn't snow in Baltimore, etc.) 18 and 10 is a bare minimum. Maybe we can get a lead before the mid-season slump sets in (the one warned us against).

Posted by Ziasudra

11:25 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Geoff - welcome back. Jose did a terrific job filling in, but your photos are a very nice feature. (Jose explained why he didn't have them.)
Looking at the first month's schedule, I'd be disappointed if the M's didn't go 20 and 8 against the competition (if it doesn't snow in Baltimore, etc.) 18 and 10 is a bare minimum. Maybe we can get a lead before the mid-season slump sets in (the one warned us against).

What is this:

Publish error in template 'Comment Response': Error in tag: Can't find included template module 'rightcolumextras'

Posted by Court Jester

11:35 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Sexson and Vidro with an 800 OPS?

I hope that's not what they need to contend, because that is not gonna happen.

Lopez giving us a full season? I think that can happen. He is young, and he's made his mistakes, but I think he can be an elite 2nd Baseman if he puts his mind to it.

I think there is a better chance of Wilkerson matching Guillen's HR and RBI totals then Sexson or Vidro having an 800 OPS.

Posted by Mike

11:37 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Seems to me that asking for an .800 OPS out of the two premium power positions isn't enough even though it would be a marked improvement for those two, especially Sexson. I think last year an .800 OPS would have ranked 11th or 12th among first basemen and would also have moved Vidro out of last among full-time DHs but not by much.

The Ms are counting on a lot to go right, especially regarding the health and production of several guys on the wrong side of their careers who all have some history of injury. Does anyone really see Ibanez, Sexson, Wilkerson and Vidro all healthy and productive enough to get 500 at bats each?

There might be help in triple A but would Balentien be ready or are the Ms ready to put Clement's catching career on hold to let him DH or play first?

Posted by Ben

11:45 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Betancourt has been hitting first or second a lot this spring, is the general consensus that he is going to be hitting second behind Ichiro this year (at least to start the season)? Has anything about his approached changed and is there any worry that he might not be the same hitter at the 2 spot rather than the 9 spot? Are they looking to have him steal more times (he only stole 5 bases last year)?

If he hits .289 or better this year at the 2 spot, that would be great. Then you don't have to rely on Vidro to score as many runs and you can put him at the six spot or so.

Posted by Ben

11:48 AM, Mar 12, 2008

Yeah i got that
"Publish error in template 'Comment Response': Error in tag: Can't find included template module 'rightcolumextras'"
thing as well. I just pressed back and my comment had posted...

Posted by Mike

11:56 AM, Mar 12, 2008

I don't think you want someone with a below average on base percentage hitting second. His BA looks okay but he's not that good an offensive player. I think Yuni is going to give us great D but he is too undisciplined to get that many ABs.

Posted by Ben

12:00 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Well isn't that the story of last year's mariners? They hit a decent average for the most part (not sexson) but their OBP wasn't too far off their batting average? The guys just swing and make contact.

But that is a good point - Yuni does swing a little erratically. I know the mariners are talking about stealing bases and being selective with pitches they hit, but how is that all going? Is there any insight into what they're doing to see more pitches and draw more walks?

Posted by Mike

12:05 PM, Mar 12, 2008

I think what you see is what you get. You hear McLaren talking about being more patient but I think it is hard to change your approach at the major league level. So we'll rock when we string singles together and struggle offensively when those balls find gloves.

I just looked up Yuni's walks last year. 15. That's a walk every 10.8 games.

Posted by Adam

12:08 PM, Mar 12, 2008

I posted this a couple of weeks ago. This team was in the bottom-eight in all of baseball in 2B, 3B, HRs, and was dead-last in walks. Yet it had the 12th-best OPS and was fourth in hits. In other words, this team hit a ton of singles. It also had the fourth- or fifth-highest groundball rate. Also, its BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was more than ten points above the league average.

In other words, the only reason this team was above-average offensively was because it hit a bunch of GB singles. Ichiro can contribute to a lot of those, but the rest of the lineup has to be guilty as well.

So, can we hope for a lineup with Sexson, Wilkerson, Ibanez, Vidro, and Johjima to continue to hit a ton of GB singles? I hope not.

Can we hope for Sexson to rebound to league average? Personally, I wouldn't count on it. He's clearly not the same hitter he was in 2005, and despite all the optimistic talk of how in shape he is, let's face facts: He's one year older, and his body-type isn't one that will age well. He's got a long swing and he's an aging hitter. Not a good combination.

Vidro? Again, how much can we rely on a guy whose body doesn't allow him to play in the field? Will he continue to put up an above-average BABIP? Can we be sure that the July 14-September 14 Vidro is the real Vidro? Is he going to get his paltry 32 extra base-hits again?

Lopez? I don't mean to make light of his brother's death. But he also collapsed in the second-half of 2006. He's got a poor work ethic. So while we should expect some rebound from a horrid 2007, the jury's out on whether he'll make the offense that much better.

Wilkerson is an unknown. Of course he says he's in good shape. Raul and Vidro each said the same thing last spring. A best-case scenario is that he matches Guillen's production.

Bonds will make this team the favorites in the AL West. He'll provide real on-base and power production to the lineup. He'll fit perfectly behind Beltre in the lineup. And putting Vidro on the bench makes the bench better. Give Bonds an incentive-laden contract (one that includes behavior clauses) and take away all his previous perks.

From what I've read from former teammates, it wasn't Barry who was the problem, it was the entourage, the press, etc. The team can cut down on a lot of this with the proper contractual clauses and an understanding from the beginning about what his role will be.

But, the hypocrites in the front office will refuse to take on Bonds. I get that.

So while the rotation is improved, the bullpen is worse, the defense is the same at best (and that's not a good thing), and the offense is still mediocre.

So we are hoping that Bedard and Silva make up the difference. Fat chance. Bonds could probably do it.

Posted by scrapiron

12:08 PM, Mar 12, 2008

I love that you posted your big 3 reasons the M's can contend, because it also points out exactly why we need Bonds.

1. Sexson OPS > .800. Check. He's done that 4 times in the last five years, twice in Seattle and as recent as 2006. Very doable.

2. Jose Lopez = complete season. Check. They've brought in Cairo to push Lopez and coaches to help him focus. I believe this is doable.

3. Vidro OPS > .800. Here's where it falls apart. Vidro has only done this twice in the last six years, never in Seattle, and the last time was 2004. This isn't going to happen.

So you point to the exact reason why we can't contend this season. The DH production. Bonds getting an OPS over .800? Please. You'll only challenge him if you set the bar at > 1.000.

Posted by Ben

12:13 PM, Mar 12, 2008

I don't think Vidro being a DH who can't play teh field is that big of a deal - Edgar Martinez's body didn't allow him to play the field for a long time. Not that Edgar and Vidro are anywhere the same in terms of hitting - but the not being able to field thing doesn't really matter as long as the player can hit.

The problem is Vidro hits too many singles and not enough doubles. Edgar was Mr. Double.

And as for Bonds - this could benefit us in terms of hitting, but i just don't think the powers that be would even consider doing this. So i don't really see the point in discussing it.

Posted by Get Griffey

12:42 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Again with the Bonds stuff?? How is he going to help this team from JAIL?? THAT IS A POSIABLIATY PEOPLE!

There would be major bad publicity if we sigh Bonds and he is then convicted. The front office has to consider this, and apparently many teams have decided that the third rail of baseball that is B BONDS would not help. The message that, "We are so desperate to win that we sighed a cheater who lied and is now in jail" is not too appealing.

Again, before everybody kills me I state the fact that most teams have taken this view so I am not stupid for pointing it out.

Posted by scrapiron

12:51 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Look, I'm not saying that Bonds is the only answer, just the best one. Sammy Sosa is also available and has a better chance of outproducing Vidro. You could put Ibanez at DH and Balentien in left field and he could outproduce Vidro. But your putting a lot of your playoff hopes on a guy that hasn't put up the types of numbers you're looking for in 3 years, and he's body is too brittle to play the field, so where's the hope that he can get better? You've got the worst DH in MLB, and there's a real solid chance that could repeat in 2008.

Here's an outside opinion. Here's what Rotowire has to say about our DH:

"Rarely has a .314 average meant so little. Vidro is a slow-footed singles hitter with no power who doesn't drive in runs - pretty much the opposite of the ideal designate hitter. Not only was Vidro's .394 slugging percentage the lowest of any player with at least 250 at-bats as a DH, but only three major league regulars - all middle infielders - had fewer XBH than Vidro's 32. And, stunningly, only 16 of those extra-base hits drove in runs (nine one-run doubles, a two-run double, four two-run homers and two solo homers). Vidro had a mere five extra-base hits with runners in scoring position and grounded into 21 double plays. He had a sub-.700 OPS in mid-July but got hot for six weeks following the All-Star break, hitting .370/.437/.481 with 12 XBH, which disproportionately inflated his season numbers. What's more, he was just inches off his career-high BABIP (.343 in 2000) at .342, which suggests counting on another .300-plus average is folly. All this for $12 million and two traded prospects. What a deal."

Posted by downinthegroove

12:58 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Not using spellcheck is a crime.

What part of desperation are you unable to see out of this season? We traded away the future for a rental pitcher. This team must win now. We have already put all cards on the table saying the window is now to win.

Bonds would be the missing piece and we will see that clearly by the trade deadline. We needed a big bat....

And being truly desperate would be bringing back Griffey...

Oh yeah. Love that trade Bavasi made for Ramirez. Boy, good to be able to have faith in the front office to do the right thing and point to that as an example.

Posted by Mike

1:00 PM, Mar 12, 2008

Scrap---Your Vidro to the bench, Raul to DH and Balentien idea is about the best the Ms can do at this point. Sosa wasn't much better than Vidro last year.

Even if Wlad isn't quite ready to put up an .800 OPS himself, he'll make up for it by not being as bad as Raul in left.

Then we could platoon Raul as well and get even better.

But Bonds accomplishes more, with one move. Would major leaguers actually perform worse if Bonds were on their team? Really?

Posted by flyaway24

10:48 AM, Mar 13, 2008

I'm all for Bonds bringing his bat to Seattle. Normally I'm not for this guy being anywhere near anyplace he has to interact with anyone but himself, but the upside on this one outweighs the downside really because of one reason I think. I know it sounds kinds elementary and primitive, but the fact that Bonds is coming into OUR turf instead of Sexson, Beltre, Johjima, (insert Mariner here), walking into the Giants clubhouse whose turf has been ruled and defined by Barroid for the better part of the past twenty years. Now, Barry is indeed a different cat, whom I believe does not care much about others' opinions, but it's just like if any of us walk into a job for the first day. We're a little lower on the totem pole than the place we just left of 15 years, right? This tiny bit of what seems to be almost animal instinct will keep his giant melon in least for the most part.

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