Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
August 26, 2008 9:25 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Good morning to you all, especially you RagArm. Not sure why you're taking such personal offense to a comment that had nothing to do with you. Talk all you want. No one has ever stopped you from doing it. But if anyone else is going to come on here calling out people for points they make, they should be prepared to do more than dismiss the other person. Back it up. Add to the quality of discussion. You can do it with words, numbers, whatever you want. Otherwise, the level of discussion gets dragged down. It's something expected on any other decent blog. And it prevents an escalation into the silly insults that fly back and forth.
Other than that, good morning. The sun is shining. Mariners are riding a two-game winning streak. I'll be heading out to Everett to take in an AquaSox game tonight. Looking forward to it. If any of you are out there and want to come over and say hello, don't be shy.
So, you'd almost have had to expect what happened last night, wouldn't you? The Twins finally go out and get an eighth-inning set-up man in Eddie Guardado -- we'll call that one Plan D -- and eat up to $4 million by cutting Mike Lamb loose. Naturally, that's the night closer Joe Nathan picks to blow a save in the ninth. I really don't like these Twins' chances as a playoff team in 2008. They can't seem to hold a lead whenever I see them play.
While the Twins and White Sox battle it out in one playoff race, the Mariners are rapidly falling behind in the other one -- courtesy of their two straight wins.
That would be the "race" to land the No. 1 overall draft pick next June, which is expected to be San Diego State pitcher and United States Olympian Steven Strasburg. On April 11 against the University of Utah, he threw a one-hitter and struck out 23. See some video of that game here. At the Olympics, he struck out 11 in a rain-shortened win over The Netherlands. He's pretty good. His fastball has cracked 100 mph (goes mid-90s routinely) and his slider is a devastating college out-pitch.
So, you can imagine how he'd look in a rotation with Felix Hernandez, Phillippe Aumont and Brandon Morrow in, oh, say two or three years. Landing him might even be enough to convince Hernandez to sign long-term. I'm assuming Erik Bedard will already be gone. Call it a hunch.
Problem is, everybody knows about Mr. Strasburg. So, you really would have to finish dead last in all of baseball to get him. Or would you?
Here are the standings in The Strasburg Chase:
Washington 46-85 (.351)...
SEATTLE 49-82 (.374)...3.0
San Diego 49-82 (.374)...3.0
Kansas City 56-75 (.427)...5.0
So, as you can see, the Mariners are hanging in there despite their poor showing in winning those last two games. They had closed to within one game over the weekend but couldn't make that early deficit hold up on Sunday, nor hang on for the loss in last night's ninth inning. Adrian Beltre was the goat in both the ninth and then in extras, as you all know. Time for Jim Riggleman to have a chat with Beltre. Maybe sit him down for a night or two. Maybe the next five weeks.
But the fun thing about this type of race? Besides getting used to everything happening in reverse? It's supposed to be easier to make up ground. A three-game gap in a playoff race heading into September would be formidable. That's because good teams turn it up a notch the final month and don't give away ground. But really bad teams? They get excited this time of year because the middle-of-the-road clubs start "playing the kids" and give the really awful clubs (who've been "playing the kids" for months) a shot at actually winning some games. Before you know it, a three-game lead in The Strasburg Chase can be a thing of the past.
And as I mentioned, the Mariners might not even have to win this race outright.
This story out of San Diego today talks about Strasburg costing up to $7 million in signing bonus money. The last time the Padres were faced with such a choice, they balked at taking J.D. Drew's little brother Stephen and went for Matt Bush instead. Probably not this time. After all, Strasburg plays his college ball in San Diego. The story itself implies the Padres are quietly storing up a war chest to be able to afford Strasburg.
But might that type of thinking scare away the Nationals?
Well, it sure spooked the Nats when it came to signing their first-round pick this year, pitcher Aaron Crow from the University of Missouri. They didn't want to go much higher than $2 million for a pitcher the Nats say wanted $9 million during early stages of negotiations.
And no, they did not sign him.
So, would the Nats really want to get in on the Strasburg sweepstakes? There's an excellent chance they won't. In which case, the M's just gained three games in the standings and are now neck-and-neck with the Padres. See? I told you it's easy to make up ground in this type of race. Too bad Seattle already blew its head-to-head games in that sweep suffered at San Diego back in June. Remember, the M's did the sweeping in that one. Think backwards. In the first significant September race the M's have been part of in years, it's all about the "L'' now.