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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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August 13, 2008 11:38 AM

Mailbag time

Posted by Geoff Baker

It's been a while since we've done one of these, so let's get to it:

In your opinion, is Betancourt the starting shortstop for the M's next year?

-- James Y.

Yes, James, I think he still is. This is a situation much like the one with Jose Lopez last year. Betancourt will have the riot act read to him in no uncertain terms, maybe have some competition brought in next spring to spook him, and then he either plays for his job and wins it in 2009 or loses it. The M's, for all the praise some like to heap on their farm system, don't have a guy ready to step in and replace Betancourt on a day-to-day basis. So, I think he gets 2009 to rebound. But I don't see a new GM putting up with this act for very much longer.


Why don't the M's try moving Clement to 1st base or DH? They have several excellent catchers ready to move up in the minors that are better defensively and now are starting to hit for average. Granted they made the mistake of signing Johjima for three more years. But that doesn't mean they can't improve their defense and hitting at the same time.

-- Brock


They may indeed move him there next year. Part of what this season is about is figuring out how far along Clement is as a catcher. He's made some defensive improvements since being up. His shift in setting up for a pitch is looking a bit more polished. He's learning the staff and their tendencies. Has a long way to go in throwing out runners. Defensively, he's a work in progress. A big one. And he still hasn't hit consistently. But the hitting, for me, is less of a concern than his defense. As you mention, this team has some solid defensive receivers moving up the minor league ranks. This winter, the new GM has to make a call on whether to move forward with Clement as a catcher. And to do that, he or she will need an arsenal of footage and evaluation in-hand, since they aren't around right now. This is where he'll get a lot of that. And in any winter action Clement sees.


Can someone explain how two HRs equals one earned run?

-- Brett in Bonney Lake


The first home run was hit by the first batter of the inning. No other hijinks occured beforehand, so it's an earned run. But the next home run didn't come until after an error by Yuniesky Betancourt. So, the error creates a baserunner. In turn, that creates an ensuing single, since the hole that groundball went through on the right side would not have been there if second baseman Jose Lopez wasn't moving to his bag to cover a runner breaking from first who should not have been there in the first place except for the error. So, you've got two guys on. A bunt moves them over for the first out of the inning. Except, it should have been the second out, since the error let a guy get on. When the guy at third scores on a groundout (the second out of the inning) it does not count as an earned run because the inning should be over. And then, when Guerrero hits a two-run homer, neither run is earned because Guerrero should never have come to bat. The pitcher does not get blamed for his fielder prolonging the inning. Sometimes, the "unearned run" thing over-protects a pitcher. If one error is made, then a pitcher gives up a ton of runs and hits, you don't get a true representation of how bad the pitcher was. In this case, the only big hit Washburn allowed (that led to any scoreboard damage) after the error was the Guerrero blast. The other base-hit likely would not have gone through had there not been a baserunner at first. So, I think the one earned run is a fair indication of what happened in the inning.


We are all being completely misled by Geoff's biased reporting to think removing Yuni magically makes Washburn learn an outpitch, or Silva magically gets a boost in talent and his exceedingly high home run rate deflates. And Geoff you can respond if you want I won't go Miller on you.

-- Resin Isn't Cheating

Why, thank you Resin. But you can come back at me if you want. No one's saying Washburn would learn an out-pitch if Betancourt makes that play. Though Washburn did use his splitter as an "out pitch'' to strike Guerrero out in the third inning after Jeff Clement failed to make a play on that foul pop up. That qualifies as picking up a teammate. But there are only so many times you're going to get away with having one of the best pure power hitters of the past quarter-century face you with men on base when it doesn't have to be. I don't care if it's Johan Santana on the mound. Playing with fire like that will get you burned.


Hey Geoff, other teams are doing things like benching key players for not running hard to first, why aren't the Mariners doing that, or something like it?

-- Bork

Good question. In some cases, they have benched guys. We saw it with Jose Lopez last weekend. Betancourt was benched just before that for a bunch of games. Richie Sexson was benched earlier this season. But no, it hasn't happened all that often, or nearly enough, in my opinion. Part of what Carlos Silva did last week was force Jim Riggleman to take the issue public and have to make an example of somebody last weekend -- especially when the team followed up Silva's comments by making him look like a genius with terrible on-field play. Riggleman is right when he says all teams slack a bit at some point. The Rays are a good team and still benched B.J. Upton for not running out a ground ball. There's a delicate balance here. You could have benched this entire team at one point or another this season. Betancourt has been so bad in the field and at the plate, you could sit him for a month. But who takes his place? Thing is, this is an outcropping of what happens when you hand eveyone a job at spring training, then let them keep that job all season regardless of performance. That has to change. It comes from the top down in any organization. Win your job, hang on to it through performance. If you don't create that expectation, set that tone, early on, it can lead to trouble down the road.


Has anyone heard anything on the Waiver Trade front? This morning I heard on KJR that someone on ESPN reported that Boston and Tampa had put in waiver claims for Ibanez, and that Chicago (White Sox) and New York (Yankees) had put in waiver claims for Washburn. Based on records this would mean that Boston would have the right to negotiate for Ibanez, and the Yankees for Washburn.

-- Big Ebu


I had breakfast with an AL scout this morning and he told me the Mariners had not put Ibanez on waivers. The scout has a message service that tells him whenever a player from any team is placed on waivers or made available for any reason (released, DFA'd etc.). Ibanez has not been put out there or he would know. His team, he said, would have put in a claim -- as would most others around the game with a shot at contending. This same scout confirmed to me that Washburn was put on waivers last week. From what I'm hearing, I may have been pre-mature in writing that he'd already cleared them.


From email:

Are the Mariners going to get a deal with Josh Fields done before this week's deadline?

You may have seen what I wrote last night, but the M's don't have to sign top draft pick Josh Fields before the Aug. 15 deadline. That deadline is for players who still have college eligibility left. Fields does not. He was a college senior when drafted. That means, in theory, the M's have until a week before the 2009 draft next June to get him signed. Or else, Fields goes back into the draft. My guess? A deal will get done long before that comes into play. As I've already written, he's a relief pitcher, not a five-tool franchise player. It's in his best interests to start his major league career, rack ip service time and make some money. Not like he's the missing piece for a franchise hoping to contend. He's no J.D. Drew. Even if his agent is Scott Boras.


Why did K-Rod get a save last night when all he had to do was record one out in a 7-3 game? What a joke!

There are glitches to the saves rule that can be somewhat embarrassing, as it was last night. The rule that applied to Francisco Rodriguez in this case was the one stating that a reliever is awarded the save if he comes into a game with the tying run at least in the on-deck circle. The theory is, that if he did not get Raul Ibanez out, thus finishing the game, the tying run would have come to the plate. In that case, the reliever "saves" the team from being in a position where the next pitch would, quite possibly, result in a blown lead.

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